Detroit Blues: The Early 1950s
Like Chicago, Detroit saw an influx of Southern African-Americans in the post-war years who moved there to try to get work in the booming automobile industry. And, of course, they brought the blues with them. But Detroit’s blues scene was overshadowed by both the Chicago blues scene and the Motown sound that sprung up in the 60s. John Lee Hooker was the only Detroit bluesman to reach the top tier of blues superstars, but there were plenty of other artists that did good work during that era. This compilation was put out by Arhoolie Records in 1966 to document the Detroit sound & scene, which was already in decline at that point. The fidelity isn’t great, as this is vinyl rip of a compilation from ’66 that was taken from tracks originally recorded in the 40s and 50s. Sometimes there’s two layers of static, one from my rip and one from the original master. Still, everything is listenable and the great music comes through.
Baby Boy Warren’s four tracks are all good, if a bit conventional. Dr. Ross was originally from Memphis and cut a few sides for Sun before moving to Detroit. He was also a one man band, handling guitar, harmonica and vocals, which gives him a unique sound. Bobo Jenkins is Detroit blues legend, who helped keep it alive during the post-Motown era. Eddie Kirkland was born in Jamaica, but there’s no reggae in his sound. Just raw as hell electric blues.
On side two, things start off with blues pianist Detroit Count’s two part single from ’48, “Hastings Street Opera”, which recounts all the rough bars and lounges along Hastings Street, the center of black culture in Detroit. These two cuts are classics and totally essential. L.C. Green’s track is gritty and has more of a Delta feel to it. Big Maceo, who died in ’53, lived in both Detroit & Chicago and was key in the development of blues in both cities. You know who John Lee Hooker is. “I Need $100” by One String Sam is one of the weirdest blues tracks I’ve ever heard. In 1956, One String Sam recorded two tracks, this one and “My Baby Ooo”. He played a one stringed instrument he built himself that he fretted with a baby food jar. It’s an eerie and unforgettable take on country blues. “Alabama Bus” is about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and is a piano blues with very interesting percussion. It sounds like broken cymbals or something. Very strange. I don’t know anything about Brother Will Hairston, but this track is great.
1 Baby Boy Warren – Sanafee
2 Baby Boy Warren – Babie Boy Blues
3 Baby Boy Warren – Mattie Mae
4 Baby Boy Warren – Chicken
5 Dr. Ross – Thirty Two Twenty
6 Bobo Jenkins – 10 Below Zero
7 Bobo Jenkins – Baby Don’t You Want to Go
8 Eddie Kirkland – No Shoes
9 Detroit Count – Hastings Street Opera pt. 1
10 Detroit Count – Hastings Street Opera pt. 2
11 L. C. Green – Remember Way Back
12 Big Maceo – Big City Blues
13 John Lee Hooker – House Rent Boogie
14 One String Sam – I Need $100
15 Brother Will Hairston – Alabama Bus
Rate Your Music
Here’s two singles that I found in my parents big pile of old 45s. They don’t remember anything about either of them, but must have picked them up when they were living in Louisiana in the late 70s and early 80s. Information on these two is kinda scarce, but I dug up a little.
Lloyd Price – Bad Conditions/The Truth 7″
Lloyd Price is a New Orleans R&B legend best known for his 50s hit “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”. This single is from 1969 and was releases on Price’s own label, Lloyd Price’s Turntable. In 1968, Lloyd Price recorded a couple of tracks in Jamaica. One of which was “The Truth” and was released as a single on JAD records in ’68. (see this blog post for more information on that single). “The Truth” was recycled as a b-side for “Bad Conditions”, which was (apparently) recorded during those same Jamaican sessions. Information on this stuff is pretty scarce on the internet. Allmusic Guide says that “Bad Conditions” was a sizable hit, but that’s the only reference to it that I can find outside of the aforementioned blog post.
“Bad Conditions” is a reggae inflected soul/funk number that is a goddamn fireball. Lyrically, it’s a “What’s Going On” kind of thing, but the real draw here is the bangin’ reggae beat, Price’s passionate vocals and, my favorite part, a strange Morse code sounding organ line. “The Truth” is just a hair less compelling. Where “Bad Conditions” is reggae influenced, “The Truth” is just straight reggae, albeit reggae with New Orleans R&B vocals.
The Coasters – Act Right/The World is Changing 7″
The Coasters were a doo wop/R&B group best known for their 1958 hit “Yakety Yak”. This single is from 1969 and was their sole release on Lloyd Price’s Turntable. At this point, their lineup was Carl Gardner, Billy Guy, Ronnie Bright, and Earl Carroll. (This and this have more information)
“Act Right” is good soul number with doo wop vocals (‘natch) and is pretty nice. There’s some great string backings and killer guitar. “The World is Changing” has a funky, driving rhythm and is a late 60s social consciousness type thing. The best part is the cascading wordless vocal intro.
Les Rallizes Denudes – High or Die LP Bootleg
If you’re not familiar with Les Rallizes Denudes, this is as good a place as any to start. They were a Japanese psych/noise band that formed in ’67, played few shows, recorded even less and released almost nothing. But they were highly influential on Japanese underground music. Think the Velvet Underground at their jammiest, but with even more primitive rhythms and even more feedback.
Its practically impossible to buy any Les Rallizes Denudes official releases, and even bootlegs are rather hard to come by. “High or Die” is an LP bootleg that I bought. I know nothing about what’s on it other than that it rules.
So I decided that I am going to start doing some record sharity on this here blog. I’ll still use it to post my radio show playlists, but about once a week or so, I’ll throw up an album or some singles. I’m not sticking to any genre or theme. Instead I’ll be posting vinyl from my collection that is rare and out-of-print. I’m going to start out with a double shot: a Les Rallizes Denudes bootleg and a pair of singles on Lloyd Price’s Turntable from ’69.