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What Are Those Schlocky Pop 78s Doing in My Blues Record Collection?

Posted by Sherwin Dunner, June 22, 2012 06:50pm | Post a Comment

Over the years I've shared my favorite vintage 78s with friends who are not part of the hard core 78 collector crowd. While we might share a taste for the same films, books and restaurants, we're not quite on the same page with music, at least not yet. Since I'm fondest of music from the 1920s and 1930s, and that's a long way from the 21st Century, it's a challenge to break in those who live with contemporary sounds. Not that I'm hoping to make full converts, but if I share some of my favorite 78s, maybe some will cross the accessibility threshold and they'll acquire a taste for more. Inevitably, when it comes to 1920s jazz, most fall flat – it all apparently sounds like cartoon music. With blues singers, the all too familiar refrain is that it's three chords and the same song over and over. Even though I always play those I consider "can't miss winners," in principle I can't totally disagree with them as I've spent many hours squirming my way through what I consider “formulated” blues 78s by lesser, second tier blues singers.

The great country bluesmen seldom recorded a formulated dud, but in acquainting myself with their body of work, I discovered that those few 78s where country blues singers chose to work their magic on popular tin-pan-alley hits were some of my favorite 78s. It was refreshing to hear the different tempos, more varied melodies, and new notes coming out of the instruments of these masters once outside the confines of the blues idiom. The best selling sheet music for these songs could be found sitting on pianos in middle class homes. Orchestras in every podunk town were playing stock arrangements of them at dance halls. And in a few rare cases, they made it onto “race” records by blues singers. Some of my purist blues collector friends pointed out with a sneer, those were POP records, eyeballing me like there was a cancer hanging over my blues collecting impulse, yet I prized these performances over many of the straight blues sides, and whenever possible I would swing a trade for some of these pop records by blues singers. So I'm of a different ilk, not strictly a blues collector, but a music collector who likes great blues singers, especially when they are not singing the blues.
 

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Otis Rush: Unheralded Blues Master!

Posted by V.B., June 7, 2012 06:34pm | Post a Comment
To check out extensive LP label and price guides plus cover art, head to the Vinyl Beat website!

Otis Rush

In 1956, Willie Dixon was lured from Chess Records to be the musical director of the newly formed Cobra label.  He signed the relatively unknown Otis Rush, and the stage was set for some of the deepest Chicago blues ever recorded.  Otis had amazing pipes and played a mean left-handed blues guitar.  Perhaps more importantly, Willie Dixon was able to get an otherworldly sound on his singles.

Otis Rush Cobra
 Otis Rush in a 1957 Cobra publicity shot.


All Your Love


Keep On Loving Me Baby


Women of the Blues Part II

Posted by Billyjam, March 31, 2012 06:31pm | Post a Comment

Etta James "I'd Rather Go Blind" (live 1992)

As part of the ongoing Amoeblog series honoring Women's History Month (Which ends today, March 31st), this blog is the second part of the two celebrating women blues artists. The first, earlier this week, focused on women from the classic blues era (circa 1920s), while this one takes a look/listen at women blues artists spanning the decades since.


Koko Taylor "Blues Never Die" (1975)


Big Mama Thornton "Bumble Bee Blues" (with Muddy Waters Band, 1966)

"When you in trouble blues is a girl's best friend" sings Koko Taylor on her 1975 recording of "Blues Never Die" (audio above). Taylor, like many of the longtime blues women here (including Big Mama Thornton, whose track "Bumble Bee Blues" with Muddy Waters Band is also above) have also been categorized over the years as rhythm and blues, rock & roll, and jazz. The late great Etta James, who we lost just two months ago, is an example of a blues artist who was also classified as jazz, rhythm & blues, rock n roll, and gospel too. A 1992 concert version of her singing "I'd Rather Go Blind" - written by Ellington Jordan and co-credited to Billy Foster but first recorded by Etta James in 1968 - appears above. As we know, the moving song has in the years since become a standard for countless artists to cover.

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Black [gay] History Month, 2012

Posted by Job O Brother, January 29, 2012 04:30pm | Post a Comment
black history gay

Ethel Merman’s voice makes my stomach acids sour and the very idea of shopping for clothes gives me a panic attack; despite these and other suspicious facts, I am a member of the LGBT community. For this reason, the issue of equal rights is ever-present in my mind.

There’s been a lot written and said about comparing the history of intolerance between racial minorities and the gay community, most especially in late 2008 when Prop. 8 was passed in the state of California amidst reports that large numbers of black people, urged by their church heads, voted to end the briefly instituted marriage equality of the state.

There were, of course, many exceptions to this and I don’t mean to angle this as a blacks-versus-gays situation – it's far more complicated than anything I'll do justice to here – but it did shine a light on an issue that often ruffles feathers. Knowing my place here on the Amoeblog as “light entertainment,” I will eschew any prolonged essays on the matter (for great, long-winded crap like that you should check out Charles Reece’s blog), but I will say that equal rights for all people is not only a victimless proposition, it’s one that benefits all people. Whether you think it’s appropriate to compare the struggle for gay equality with those of racial minorities, the fact is that everyone should have the same basic, human rights.

It would be one thing if a child was struck with bone marrow cancer every time two lesbians kissed, but kids, that’s just not the way it is and the sooner we let the gays get married, the sooner they can set up homes that will raise the property value of your block.

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New R. Crumb Robert Johnson T-Shirt Exclusively at Amoeba

Posted by Amoebite, December 15, 2011 05:47pm | Post a Comment
Amoeba Music is now carrying an exclusive new T-shirt with artwork by the King of Underground Comics, R. Crumb, featuring the King of the Delta Blues, Robert Johnson!

Amoeba Music has partnered with filmmaker Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Ghost World, Bad Santa) in producing a T-shirt of iconic Delta blues singer Robert Johnson drawn by underground comic artist R. Crumb from the first found photo of Johnson. This T-shirt is an Amoeba Music exclusive, available only through Amoeba.com or at all three Amoeba stores.

R. Crumb Robert Johnson t-shirt

Here's a brief history of the image on the shirt. Up until 1973, there was no known photo of Robert Johnson, the haunting, mysterious Delta blues singer lionized by countless rock and roll bands. A postage stamp size photo taken by Johnson himself in a photo booth in the early 1930s turned up in 1973 and was published in Rolling Stone in 1986. After it was published, underground comix artist R. Crumb, a life-long 78 collector and blues fan, drew it as a cover for a highly specialized collector's publication called 78 Quarterly, a magazine specializing in stories on rare pre-war blues and jazz artists and their impossibly rare, highly coveted 78s. 
78 Quarterly Robert Johnson

After publication of the 78 Quarterly issue with the Robert Johnson R. Crumb drawing, Terry Zwigoff got permission from both the publisher and Crumb to produce T-shirts with the image, and they were available for a few years in the mid-1990s. Since then, the T-shirts with the R. Crumb rendering of the Robert Johnson photo have been unavailable. Terry is a friend of Amoeba and recently a deal was struck to produce the shirt again. It is now available on a high quality 100% Egyptian cotton T-shirt as an Amoeba exclusive.

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