Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jesse Lockett on Gold Star 650

Jesse Lockett (with the) Will Rowland Orchestra - Run Mr. Rabbit Run / Cold Blooded Woman (Gold Star 650)

"Run Mr. Rabbit Run"

Jesse Lockett is strangely absent from the extensive literature devoted to Texas blues history. It's strange because Lockett made the first blues record released by a Texas label ("Blacker the Berry" on Gulf 3000, 1945) and was apparently well-known on the Houston black music scene in the 1940s. But, as far as I know, none of his four singles have ever been reissued; all are rare and pretty much forgotten today. The only mention of Lockett on the web is not for his commercial records but instead his April, 1939 Texas prison recording for John Lomax (heard here). This makes Lockett one of only two performers recorded at a Lomax Texas prison field session who later had a commercial recording career. (Who was the other? Hint: it wasn't Leadbelly.)

Lockett was out of jail by the early '40s. The Houston Informer wrote on July 31, 1943, that "Jesse Lockett, the blues shouter and composer, has returned to the Lincoln Theatre stage show after filling an engagement at the exclusive ofay nitery on the outskirts of town. Returning on the zoom, Lockett has knocked up some more of his low down numbers and (is) really blowing his tops."

"Run Mr. Rabbit Run" was singled out for praise by John "Sid" Thompson, the Informer columnist who wrote a weekly column ("Ye Nite Lifer") devoted to the nightlife of black Houston in the 1940s. Sid, somewhat confusedly, observed in his January 8, 1949 column that “Jesse Lockett, hefty blues singer, who is a native Houstonian, has returned to the city from California, where he went to cut a few records. Jesse is still doing the blues and his latest, which should get somewhere, is 'Run Little Rabbit Run' (sic ). A catchy tune with lots of blues tempo it still has a bit of be-bop. Have him sing it when you see him.” Elsewhere in the column, Sid notes the presence of an out-of-town band, Will Rowland, but doesn't specify that they were the backing band on "Rabbit": “Listen to the traveling band of Will Rowland, who came to Houston via Beaumont from Los Angeles. A seven piece combo, the band did jump a little but not in the class of recent small bands heard here. One of those fine girls (of the Jane Russell type). Elsie Jones, entertained with the group.”

(Sid's implication that Locket recorded "Rabbit" in California would appear to be false. Bill Quinn only rarely released masters that he didn't record himself at his Telephone Road studio.)

The title of Lockett's other Gold Star release with Rowland, "Reefer Blues," may provide a clue as to why he was in jail in 1939.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Smokey Wood on Tu Bill 500

"Smokey" Wood with Joe Sanchez and his Orchestra - Lucille / Joe Sanchez and his Orchestra - Spirit of '65 (Tu Bill 500)


Pianist John "Smokey" Wood (1918-1975) is best remembered for his two 1937 sessions as lead vocalist for the Modern Mountaineers and Ross' Rhythm Rascals (disguised as "The Wood Chips") for Bluebird. His post-1930s career is far less known or documented, mainly because he drifted from band to band and gig to gig for the next 20 years or so, rarely (if ever) actually leading a band or singing. Dickie McBride, Adolph Hofner, Cotton Thompson, Cliff Bruner, Benny Leaders, and Spade Cooley were among the many bands he briefly worked with in the 1940s and early '50s. Well-respected for his piano skills, he was less respected for his endless cons (like "borrowing" band members' instruments which he'd turn around and pawn) and it was generally recognized that Wood's eccentric behavior was the result of his staying high all the time.

Smokey Wood in San Antonio, c. 1946.

After his father died, Wood inherited some farm property in Meridian, Texas (near Waco), and this was where he settled for the last 20 years of his life. For awhile, he ran a flea market, and got into cockfighting, but for many years he also had a regular gig with a Dixieland jazz band in Waco, the Joe Sanchez Orchestra. With Sanchez he recorded "Lucille" (seemingly oblivious to the recent Little Richard hit of the same title) in Fort Worth for Tu Bill, an early Major Bill Smith production/label. The date is hard to pin down here, but perhaps the "5900" matrix number translates to 1959. (It is definitely not from 1965 -- the flipside, a version of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," refers to 1865.) Sock Underwood said of Smokey that "there wasn't a hillbilly bone in his body," so while "Lucille" is hardly a great record, at least Smokey was playing the kind of music he wanted to. This is Wood's final known studio recording.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Joe B. and Charlie Davis on TNT 9033

Joe B. and Charlie Davis - Shut Your Big Fat Mouth / Mississippi Central (TNT 9033)

"Shut Your Big Fat Mouth"

Bluegrass meets rockabilly on this 1963 oddity, one of the last releases on the TNT label. TNT's 9000 series was designated for custom pressings, meaning that Joe B. and Charlie paid for this release themselves.

Thanks to Al Turner for the label scan and sound files.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Glenn & Jody on Eagle no #

Glenn and Jody, The Singing Buddies with Larry Nolen and the Bandits - Herby Remington, steel guitar - I'm Even With You / Misty Windows (Eagle no #)

"I'm Even With You"

Western swing never died in San Antonio. If you needed further proof of that, look no further than the duo of Glenn and Jody, "The Singing Buddies" -- who else in 1959 was thinking that it would be cool to make a record that sounded just like a Bob Wills MGM record from ten years earlier? And went to the trouble of not only hiring Herb Remington to play steel, but gave him a rare label credit, as well, just in case the listener hadn't made the connection?

Glenn and Jody's real names appear to have been Glenn Hoffman and Jody Sizemore, but I don't know anything beyond that. Larry Nolen and the Bandits had already recorded for Sarg and Starday prior to this.

This is ACA master #3772 from March 16, 1959.