Tommie Bradley

Guitarist Tommie Bradley and his guitar- and fiddle-playing colleague James Cole were both active at the Gennett recording studios in Richmond, IN during the years 1929-1932; Cole got there first with a session that took place in 1928 and seems to have involved Caucasian musicians. That was a big deal in the segregated recording industry of the late ‘20s, and the issue of race has continued to affect the legacy of these African American artists, simply because their blend of Southern rural blues, black vaudeville, hillbilly, country fiddling, and Tin Pan Alley/jazz repertoire has made them difficult for critics and historians to pigeonhole. While no verifiable data has emerged to pinpoint where these men originated, educated guesswork suggests possible linkage with central or western Kentucky. The recorded evidence brings on a host of parallel contemporaries. Bradley/Cole and their various ensembles are comparable with the Memphis Jug Band, the Mississippi Sheiks, the Alabama Sheiks, the Beale Street Sheiks, the Mississippi Mud Steppers, the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, the Dallas String Band, Whistler & His Jug Band, Ishman Bracey and Charley Taylor, Eddie Anthony and Peg Leg Howell, Georgia Tom Dorsey and Tampa Red, Al Miller, and Charlie and Joe McCoy. An even larger comparative span would include the rest of the jug bands active in Louisville and Memphis at the time as well as eastern bluesmen like Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, and Mississippi John Hurt. A fairly thorough examination of Bradley and Cole's recorded output was compiled and released by Document in 1993.