Tag Archives: Blues

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

Reverend Gary Davis

The discography of the Reverend Gary Davis is longer than the four albums he recorded at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Much longer.

And there are recordings that some of his students did while they were trying to learn the guitar playing intricacies that Davis could do.

I will stick with the four recording sessions that he did at Van Gelder mainly because of that studio’s fame for so many classic recordings, particularly jazz.

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

Gary D. Davis

Gary Davis was born on April 30, 1896 in Laurens, South Carolina. He was the oldest of eight children and the only one to survive.

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

In his 20s he moved to Durham, North Carolina and barely supported himself busking in its streets mainly the blues until he was ordained a minister in 1937. At that point, despite requests, he tried to get away from “secular” music, particularly when recording.

He moved to New York in the 40s where he continued busking and living in poverty. To supplement his income, he gave guitar lessons. $5 a lesson.

Van Gelder Recording Sessions

While he had been recorded several times earlier than his first Van Gelder session, the highest quality recordings came from those in Englewood Cliffs.

August 24, 1960

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder
Harlem Street Singer

Matt Fink in his All Music review says, “…Gary Davis laid down 12 of his most impassioned spirituals for Harlem Street Singer. Starting off the session with a version of Blind Willie Johnson’s “If I Had My Way I’d Tear That Building Down,” here renamed “Samson and Delilah,” Davis is in fine form. His vocals are as expressive as Ray Charles’ while similar in richness to Richie Havens’ work. Harlem Street Singer features his inspired country blues fingerpicking as well. Many moods color the selections, from the gentle “I Belong to the Band” to the mournful “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” only to be followed by the joyous shouting of “Goin’ to Sit Down on the Banks of the River.” Overall, the collection is well worth the purchase and should be considered essential listening for fans of country blues or gospel.”

Track listing

Unless noted otherwise, all compositions are by Davis:

  1. Samson and Delilah” (Traditional) – 4:02
  2. “Let Us Get Together” – 3:08
  3. “I Belong to the Band” – 2:54
  4. “Pure Religion” (Traditional) – 2:57
  5. “Great Change Since I Been Born” – 4:03
  6. “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” – 4:41
  7. “Twelve Gates to the City” (Traditional) – 3:08
  8. “Goin’ to Sit Down on the Banks of the River” – 2:55
  9. “Tryin’ to Get Home” – 3:46
  10. “Lo I Be With You Always” – 4:17
  11. “I Am the Light of the World” – 3:34
  12. “I Feel Just Like Goin’ On” – 3:29

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

August 10, 1961

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

A Little More Faith

Again Bruce Elder from AllMusicGary Davis’ second album for Prestige Records is a confusing affair, at least as far as its title — Little More Faith is how it’s listed in lots of reference sources, but its front cover calls it A Little More Faith, while its spine (at least for the CD issue) calls it Have a Little Faith. But by whatever name it’s called, it’s a masterpiece: its dozen songs recorded on one day in August of 1961 are nothing less than priceless. Davis presents an easy virtuosity on his solo guitar, and runs his voice across a surprisingly wide range in what is mostly gospel repertory. Not that any blues fans will mind his approach: Davis was one of those figures where the sound and feel of blues becomes indistinguishable from those of gospel. He was just doing what came naturally on this record, laying down 12 songs he knew well from across decades of performing, including a raw and affecting “Motherless Child” and the upbeat, inspiring “There’s a Bright Side Somewhere.” And his easy, unselfconscious approach demonstrates that he never once thought twice about his contributions to an already classic body of music. Included among the jewels here are some of the roots of the blues revival of the next generation, including Davis’ rendition of “I’ll Be All Right Some Day,” a song that Jorma Kaukonen parlayed into a killer opening for his solo magnum opus, Quah, about 13 years later. And speaking of natural, the stereo mastering of this album works amazingly well, despite the fact that it puts Davis‘ voice on one channel and his guitar on another; mono sound might be more authentic, but this way you can fully appreciate his playing and his singing, each on its own terms.

Track listing

Unless noted otherwise, all compositions are by Davis:

  1. You Got to Move” (Traditional) – 3:18
  2. “Crucifixion” – 4:57
  3. “I’m Glad I’m in That Number” – 2:58
  4. “There’s a Table Sittin’ in Heaven” – 3:28
  5. Motherless Children” (Traditional) – 4:12
  6. “There’s a Bright Side Somewhere” (Traditional) – 3:12
  7. “I’ll Be All Right Some Day” – 3:03
  8. “You Better Mind” – 3:26
  9. “A Little More Faith” – 3:40
  10. “I’ll Fly Away” (Albert E. Brumley) – 4:32
  11. “God’s Gonna Separate” (Traditional) – 3:35
  12. “When I Die I’ll Live Again” – 3:28

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

Late 1961

Say No to the Devil

Bruce Elder in his AllMusic review states, “His second Prestige album of 1961 shows the Rev. Gary Davis not breaking stride for a second, even in the wake of the triumphant A Little More Faith. The repertory here is perhaps a little more traditional gospel in orientation, and the songs more cautionary in nature — but that doesn’t stop Davis from displaying some overpowering dexterity, and if anything his singing is even more exuberant here. And this time out, in addition to his six-string guitar, he treats us to his powerful 12-string playing on “Time Is Drawing Near” and “Lost Boy In The Wilderness,” the latter a shimmering five-minute showcase for the instrument that’s almost worth the price of admission by itself; and he also shows off his considerable harmonica dexterity — of a distinctly old-school style — on “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand” and “No One Can Do Me Like Jesus.” The stereo mix on this album, when compared to its predecessor, is also a bit more naturalistic, without sacrificing any detail in the finely nuanced playing or singing, and the result is an album as fine as its predecessor, and an equally worthy part of any serious acoustic blues collection.

Track listing

Unless noted otherwise, all compositions are by Davis:

  1. “Say No to the Devil” – 4:01
  2. “Time Is Drawing Near” – 4:26
  3. “Hold on to God’s Unchanging Hand” (Traditional) – 4:35
  4. “Bad Company Brought Me Here” – 3:38
  5. “I Decided to Go Down” – 4:25
  6. “Lord, I Looked Down the Road” – 4:20
  7. “Little Bitty Baby” (Traditional) – 4:32
  8. “No One Can Do Me Like Jesus” – 3:40
  9. “Lost Boy in the Wilderness” – 5:01
  10. “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven in Due Time” – 4:24

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder

March 2, 1964

The Guitar & Banjo of Reverend Gary Davis

From Richie Unterberger at AllMusicBecause this is an all-instrumental recording, it’s an offbeat entry into the catalog of a performer known both as an important guitarist and as a singer. Some might miss Davis‘ vocals on this 1964 recording, but on the other hand there are plenty of records with him singing around. This gives listeners a chance to hone in on his dexterous guitar skills, blending ragtime, folk, and blues, usually on guitar (though he plays banjo on a couple of songs, and harmonica on one). “Maple Leaf Rag” is a natural showcase for Davis’ talents, and “Candy Man,” which may be his most well-known song, is here presented without words, making for an interesting juxtaposition with more commonly heard versions on which he (or others) sings. As further evidence of his eclecticism, there’s a version of “United States March aka Soldier’s Drill” — not the best format for his strengths, certainly, but an illustration of his ability to adapt his style to unexpected material.

Track listing

Unless noted otherwise, all compositions are by Davis:

  1. “Maple Leaf Rag” (Scott Joplin) – 2:58
  2. “Slow Drag” – 2:27
  3. “The Boy Was Kissing the Girl (and Playing the Guitar the Same Time)” – 2:42
  4. “Candy Man” – 2:54
  5. “United States March” (Traditional) – 6:31
  6. “Devil’s Dream” (Traditional) – 3:50
  7. “The Coon Hunt” (Traditional) – 3:32
  8. “Mister Jim” – 4:15
  9. “Please Baby” – 3:18
  10. “Fast Fox Trot” – 2:22
  11. “Can’t Be Satisfied” – 2:55

 

Rev Gary Davis Van Gelder
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Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

January 11, 1962

The Tokens’ unusual single, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” remained at #1 on Billboards Top 100 list. In two days Chubby Checkers’ “The Twist” would come back to be Billboard’s #1 single nearly a year and a half after hitting that same spot in August 1960.

Elvis Presley’s Blue Moon album was Billboard’s #1 mono album and Stereo 35/MM by Enock Light & the Light Brigade was the #1 stereo album.

Pete Best was The Beatles drummer, though by that August Richard Starkey replaced Best.

There was no band called the Rolling Stones, but there was an amazing guitarist singer: Howlin’ Wolf.

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

Chester Arthur Burnett

Chester Arthur Burnett was born on June 10, 1910 in White Station, Mississippi. The adults in his childhood years caused constant disruption in Chester’s life. His parents separated and his mother left him with an abusive uncle. When he was 13, Chester ran away to live with his father where they worked on a Delta farm.

It was there that Chester’s love of music found the Delta blues. His father bought a guitar for him when he was 17 and Chester began to get lessons from Charley Patton–the first of many Delta blues stars.

When he wasn’t working on the farm, he traveled with other musicians performing with them. He stood at 6′ 6″ and had a booming voice. Not surprisingly the he got the nickname Howlin’ Wolf.

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

Howlin’ Wolf

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf
Chester Burnett on left, serving in the US Army.

He served in the Army during World War II, was discharged after a “nervous breakdown,” moved in with a girlfriend, and eventually returned to his father’s farm after she, too, suffered the same ailment.

Burnett also returned to music and when not farming, Howlin’ Wolf toured throughout the South.

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

Sam Phillips

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

Sam Phillips with his Memphis Recording Service was on a mission: find musicians who had IT.  In 1951 Fortune crossed the paths of Phillips and Wolf. Phillips recorded Wolf and as was typical at the time, sold the singles to another company. In this case, Chess Records in Chicago run by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess.

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

Chess Records

Much to Phillips’ dismay, he lost Wolf to the Chess brothers, Wolf moved to Chicago, and became part of that city’s immeasurable electric blues legacy.

On January 11, 1962 Chess released the Wolf’s so-called “rocking chair” album. Its actual name was simply the eponymous Howlin’ Wolf. The album consisted of the A and B sides of six previously released singles, but what a collection of songs this album had. Looking at the dozen songs (nine of which Willie Dixon wrote), one realizes (again) the influence American blues, particularly Chicago’s electric blues, had on those young British musicians.

Side one
  1. “Shake for Me” – 2:12
  2. “The Red Rooster” – 2:22
  3. “You’ll Be Mine” – 2:25
  4. “Who’s Been Talkin'” – 2:18
  5. “Wang Dang Doodle” – 2:18
  6. “Little Baby” – 2:45
Side two
  1. “Spoonful” – 2:42
  2. “Going Down Slow”  – 3:18
  3. “Down in the Bottom” – 2:05
  4. “Back Door Man” – 2:45
  5. “Howlin’ for My Baby” – 2:28
  6. “Tell Me” – 2:52

Note how nearly every song is under three minutes–typical of course for singles of the time but still great examples of how much power Wolf packed into such a small space.

Legacy

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

While the album was not an instant classic, Time has crowned it such. So many great covers brought deserved attention to Wolf’s first powerful recordings combined to make it so.

Rolling Stone magazine ranks it at #238 of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” and describes it as “Chicago blues at its raunchy best, “The Rocking Chair Album” features an outrageous set of sex songs written by Willie Dixon, including “Shake for Me,” “The Red Rooster” and “Back Door Man.” In 1971, on The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions, Wolf finally taught an enraptured Eric Clapton how to play “The Red Rooster.”

If you have time today (or tomorrow?) give a listen (or two) to this amazing album.

Wolf died on January 10, 1976. Numerous music halls of fame have inducted him and even the US government issued a commemorative stamp on  September 17, 1994. (Mississippi Writers & Musicians site obit)

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf

Note that the second song on the Rolling Stones recently released album, Blue & Lonesome,  is a cover of Howlin’s “Commit a Crime.” Here is Mick and Jeff doing the song at the White House. I don’t think we’ll be hearing anything like it anytime soon.

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WC Handy Memorial Concert

WC Handy Memorial Concert

or the official full name…
The Fourth Annual Memphis Country Blues Festival
and the
First Annual WC Handy Memorial Concert

1969 festival #8

Mississippi Fred McDowell – “Goin’ Down to the River”

WC Handy Memorial Concert

WC Handy Memorial Concert

Memphis Sequicentennial Inc

The poster reads: The Memphis Sesquicentennial Inc. in conjunction with The Memphis Country Blues Society proudly presents The Fourth Annual Memphis Country Blues Festival and First Annual W.C. Handy Memorial Concert The Festival will officially begin Friday June 6 and Saturday June 7, 1969 with three daytime concerts and two evening concerts all in the Overton Park Shell, culminating with the W.C. Handy Memorial Concert in the Mid-South Coliseum on Sunday June 8th. Tickets for the Shell concerts will be available at time of performance only Tickets for the W.C. Handy concert will be on advance sale at many Memphis locations ($2.50 to $5.00) Claude Mabel (artist?)

WC Handy Memorial Concert

Some line-up!

Those who played at this comparatively unknown 1969 festival were:   Johnny Winter, Canned Heat, Backwards Sam Firk, Bukka White, Carla and Rufus Thomas, Insect Trust, Fred McDowell & Johnny Woods, Nathan Beauregard, Sun Smith and the Beale Street Five, Elder Lonnie McIntorsch, Sleepy John Estes, Blues Band, Lum Guffin, The World Greatest Jazz Band, Albert King, The Bar-Kays with Toni Mason, Jo-Ann Kelley, Furry Lewis, Slim Harpo, Rev. Robert Wilkins, John Fahey, Southern Fife and Drum Corps, Booker T. and the MGs, Moloch, Casietta George, Sid Selvidge, Soldiers of the Cross, Robert Pete Williams, Rev. Ishmon Bracey, and Wild Child Butler.

Just as white teenagers had inadvertently discovered so-called race music in the early 50s by way of Elvis and other white artists covering black artists’ songs (albeit often “sanitized” to white standards), many white teenagers had wandered into the Delta blues.

WC Handy Memorial Concert

Father of the Blues

WC Handy is called the Father of the Blues because it was his style of the Blues that became the dominant one in America. It happened in Memphis, Tennessee. Specifically on Beale Street. He did all this in the first part of the 20th century.

As festivals became a way to present lots of music to lots of listeners,  it was natural that a blues-themed festival would happen. The first Memphis Country Blues Festival was in 1966 and in 1969 it’s fourth time was combined with the First WC Handy Memorial Concert.

WC Handy Memorial Concert

Woodstock not

Two names that would appear throughout the summer and particularly at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair were Canned Heat, featuring the vocals of Bob Bear Hite and the guitars of Alan Blind Owl Wilson and Harvey Mandel and Johnny Winter. Both were not just blues enthusiasts, but men who studied the history of the blues.

In other words, this festival featured those who had discovered the blues and those who had helped invent it. And while many of the name are far from household names, their contribution to the art is still important.

WC Handy Memorial Concert

 Speckled Bird not impressed

The Great Speckled Bird was an alternative newspaper based in Atlanta, Georgia. had some less than flattering things to say about the way the festival was managed, especially the time when National Educational Television was recording for a future show. “…the TV crew…had no understanding (much less love) of the music and certainly none for the medium of television. Emcee Rufus Thomas had to read insipidly ‘humorous’ announcement before each ‘act’ ; musicians had to stop…so that ‘sound levels’…could be met.” The article continued, “What could have been a groovy, informal recording of the sights and sounds of country blues and electric rock performances…all was lost in a third-rate stage show.”

The presence of uniformed police did not add to the vibe. The article also pointed out that the older musicians were given short shrift sets compared to younger bands who sets organizers allowed to go on much longer.

One young performer that the Bird felt was OK was John D Loudermilk. Many of us know his…

The purpose of the WC  Handy component was to raise scholarship money.

WC Handy Memorial Concert
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