Silas Hogan
& other Swamp Blues artists

 

SWAMP BLUES #5 – PART 1

TrackSingle / Album
Trouble At Home Blues (Silas Hogan)Excello 45-2221
Dark Clouds Rollin' (Silas Hogan)Excello 45 2251
I'm In Love With You Baby (Silas Hogan)Excello 45 2251
I Didn't Tell Her To Leave (Silas Hogan)Swamp Blues
Naggin' (Jimmy Anderson)Excello 45 2220
I Tried So Hard ("Whispering" Smith)Excello 45 2250
Sittin' Here Cryin' (Leroy Washington)The Legendary Jay
Miller Sessions Vol.25
If I Had My Life To Live Over (Vince Monroe)Excello 45 2089
I Would Be A Sinner (Charles Sheffield)Excello 45 2205
One More Chance (Carol Fran)Excello 45 2175

Whispering Smith – – Silas Hogan – – Carol Fran

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Guitar Gable – – Charles Sheffield – – Jimmy Anderson

 

 

Contributors: Dave Stephens – with Cal Taylor

 

SILAS HOGAN AND OTHER EXCELLO/CROWLEY ARTISTS

Silas Hogan wasn’t quite as individualistic as any of the ‘big four’ Swamp Blues guys but any one of those records he made at Crowley, Louisiana could serve as an excellent illustration of the idiom making him almost the archetype swamp blues man. He had the gravitas (and his own version of the slow blues) of Lightnin’ Slim, the Jimmy Reed soundalike harp sound on his medium tempo chugalongs, a compositional style that emphasised the down and out aspects of life – rats and roaches get mentions as do chemicals, bearing in mind this was oil country – and he wasn’t even averse to the odd foray into swamp pop territory.

But he was no spring chicken when the first record proudly bearing the name “Silas Hogan” rolled off the Excello production line in 1962. Its A-side, You’re Too Late Baby, was one of those near throwaway but still satisfying chuggers that I mentioned above. That’s Sylvester Buckley on the high pitched harp – though to be fair to the good Sylvester, he was but one of a long line of great harmonica men who passed through the Crowley studio and the Reed soundalike stuff on that record doesn’t do him full justice. Along with him in the studio were a couple of members of the original Hogan band, the Rhythm Ramblers, Isaiah Chatman on second guitar and Buckley on harmonica, with the original drummer Jimmy Dotson replaced by Silas’s son Samuel or Burnell Hayney on drums (depending on which discography you read). The original band had stayed together for years. They had a reputation as a very tight outfit and reportedly – John Broven in his excellent “South To Louisiana: The Music Of The Cajun Bayous” – played versions of numbers on the road which didn’t differ at all from the studio takes and that was a tradition that carried on even with band changes. The flip was even better. Conforming to the tried and trusted practice of coupling a slowie with a fast(ish) one, Trouble At Home Blues was just about as slow as you could get. After complaining that “I’ve got roaches in my kitchen”, Silas closed the first verse with the declaration “looks like these rats and roaches gonna drive me outta my room”. This one is up there with Lightnin’ Slim and Lonesome Sundown in terms of blues quality and originality.

Silas was born way back in 1911 and that record I’ve just been talking about was released when he was 51. He lived in Westover, ten miles south of Baton Rouge until the age of 39 when he moved to Scotlandville, near Ryan Airport (which might have suggested another of his evocative slowies, Airport Blues). He cites a gentleman called Frank Murphy as being the man who taught him guitar. Sometime in the fifties he started playing in a duo with Arthur “Guitar” Kelley but in ’56 started to get the band together which became the Rhythm Ramblers (source for these statements: the John Broven book which has been well thumbed in the production of this series).

He actually found his way onto record prior to his ‘official’ arrival at Crowley/Excello. In 1959, the Rhythm Ramblers with drummer Jimmy Dotson on vocal, recorded a single at the Crowley studio and it saw release on Zynn Records, one of several labels set up by Jay Miller (see the Lightnin’ Slim Toppermost for more on Jay Miller and the relationship between his Crowley studio and Excello Records). There was a second Crowley recorded Jimmy Dotson single, this time on Miller’s Rocko Records, and Silas provided support again. This one appeared in the following year. All of which might sound like little more than filler but those records were of interest, and Mr Dotson gets a paragraph or two further on in this document.

According to the fine Stefan Wirz discography/sessionography on Silas, our man recorded three tracks – Train I Ride, Born In Texas, Let Me Be Your Hatchet – for Lloyd Reynaud’s Reynaud Records in 1961 but they weren’t released at the time. Tracks 2 & 3 later saw the light of day courtesy of Flyright Records but unfortunately neither is on YouTube.

Between 1962 and 1965, Silas cut eight singles for Excello. He then fell foul of the disagreement between Jay Miller and the new owners of the label and left music altogether, returning to an old job at the Exxon refinery near Baton Rouge. His early sparring partner, Arthur “Guitar” Kelley tempted Silas back into music in the early seventies, recording for both Arhoolie and Excello again, with the latter attempting to recreate those early sixties sounds. However it’s for those sides at Crowley that he’ll be remembered. I suspect I’ve written something very similar in the other essays on Excello artists. There was just something about that studio and Jay Miller’s production which brought out the best in his artists.

My favourite of all the Hogan Excello tracks is Dark Clouds Rollin’ from 1964. It’s a Jimmy Reed style slow blues but that statement doesn’t do any justice to the record. It’s easily as good as, if not better than, any Reed slowie that I can think of. On mouth harp this time is Moses “Whispering” Smith and he’s economical but still says more than Jimmy, and Silas demonstrates that he’s a swamp blues master. The metaphor may be obvious but it’s ideally suited to the delivery.

Dark clouds rollin’ and I know it won’t be long (repeat)
Before the rain starts a’fallin’ and here I am alone

I’m In Love With You Baby just happens to be the flip of Dark Clouds Rollin’ but that wasn’t why I chose it. Emotionally it’s also the other side of “Dark Clouds” – an up tempo dancer and one to just wash those blues right outa your hair. The band is supertight with the interplay between Silas and Moses almost telepathic and, from the second verse onwards, a twin guitar attack which shows similar understanding and versatility. Good time blues and rocks like the clappers.

Silas was actually considerably more versatile than a brief spot of listening might suggest. This was more than amply demonstrated by both sides of single #5. The A-side, Just Give Me A Chance, kicks off like a two chord, almost latin choogler which nudges the brain into wondering “where have I heard that rhythm before?”. At pretty close to a minute in when Silas – well I assume it’s him – breaks into dialogue with a certain ‘Slim’ (or it could even be that Silas is Slim, I’m not sure), the answer crystallises: this is a kind of swamp take on Bo Diddley’s proto rap Say Man. There’s less than 30 seconds of chat and I’d see this more as a homage to the famous Diddley record rather than a straight crib. The flip is equally interesting. Everybody Needs Somebody is an example of what I’ve referred to elsewhere (in the Lightnin’ Slim Toppermost in fact) as the blues version of swamp pop. Both Silas and band do an excellent job and if the reader is partial to this rather more sentimental form of blues, then he or she should love this one.

Everybody needs somebody
Everybody needs to love
Every child needs a mother
Every boy needs a girl

I referenced a ‘late period’ Excello album wherein the label and producer – Britain’s Mike Vernon – corralled a number of Louisiana blues artists together and attempted to recreate those sounds that came out of the Crowley studio. The artists involved in addition to Silas were “Guitar” Kelley, “Whispering” Smith, Clarence Edwards and Henry Gray. The results were released in the form of a double LP in 1970 with the title Swamp Blues. It received mixed reviews: AllMusic loved it and gave it 4½ stars but John Broven (in the aforementioned book) wasn’t so impressed. I can find no fault whatsoever with the Hogan tracks and have nominated another self-penned number, I Didn’t Tell Her To Leave as my final Silas selection. That lovely rolling piano work comes from Henry Gray.

 

Other Excello/Crowley Artists

None of the Excello label/Crowley Studio recorded artists outside of Lightnin’ Slim, Lonesome Sundown, Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester and Silas Hogan laid down a body of work at the label that gave them serious recognition in the history of blues music. But that doesn’t mean to say that there weren’t other artists and records of interest. Below are some of those good folk and their records in no particular order (as they say in those television shows).

The name of Jimmy Reed has cropped up several times in this series. In part because many of the Louisiana guys shared his slurred and distinctly non-urgent mode of vocal delivery. However, that sonic mixture of bass riffing (from Eddie Taylor on those Reed records) plus the squealing harmonica that was one of Jimmy’s trademarks, cropped up on many Crowley records too. The most guilty party, if that’s the right word, was Jimmy Anderson who was born in Natchez but moved to Baton Rouge at the age of 16 to find work. An early influence prior to the move to Baton Rouge was Alexander “Papa” George Lightfoot (source: Mississippi Folklife & Folk Artist Directory) but it wasn’t long before the more commercial approach of Jimmy Reed attracted Anderson’s attention. He formed a band called the Joy Jumpers and their first record appeared on Jay Miller’s Zynn label. Miller then switched Jimmy and the Jumpers to Excello, the label he used largely for blues artists. They made three singles in total of which Naggin’ is undoubtedly the most memorable.

Compare and contrast with Jimmy Reed’s I Love You Baby though I have to say that Mr Anderson makes Mr Reed sound almost hyperactive! What is undeniable is that the age old male/female conflict theme gave an interesting chunk of subject matter to stick in the mind of a potential buyer. Jimmy’s way with words also featured strongly on his Goin’ Crazy Over T.V. but on the debit side, that debt to Jimmy Reed that was an ever present on his records, is also very apparent.

Jimmy Anderson’s Naggin’ appeared on the Stateside LP Authentic R&B (released in ’64) which was where I first heard it (see the Lonesome Sundown Toppermost for more on the album). Also present on that vinyl was a track called Mean Woman Blues from a gentleman called Moses “Whispering” Smith though the Moses didn’t usually appear in his credits. Born in West Deephaven, Mississippi, he like Anderson, moved to Baton Rouge to find work. Like Anderson also, he was a harmonica player though considerably less indebted to Jimmy Reed. He made five singles for Excello and while it was tempting to select Mean Woman Blues, Smith’s debut single, I’ve gone instead for I Tried So Hard which was single #3. Both are solid slow blues with excellent mouth harp, good guitar work and a powerful vocal from Smith. No gimmicks, this is straight blues.

A glimpse of Smith’s versatility can be seen/heard on some of the tracks on the album mentioned earlier, Excello/Blue Horizon’s Swamp Blues. Three of the tracks feature Moses minus support band. Storm In Texas is one of them. Don’t fail to click on that link or you’ll miss something rather good.

Wild Cherry from Leroy Washington stood out on Authentic R&B by not being laid back, slurred and, indeed, swampy. There was an edge to it helped by the fact that, on every version I’ve heard, there seems to be some slight variation in speed and tone. But even without any fault in the recording process, that opening metallic guitar and the frantic piano playing (probably from Tal Miller, another unsung Excello hero) plus the man’s voice which was more in plummy Roy Brown territory than, say, that of Lightnin’ Slim, make this record unusual to say the least. I confess to something of a love/hate relation with Wild Cherry – love what they’re trying to do but the imperfection of the sound sets my teeth on edge. However, in terms of selections we’re in luck. Jay Miller tried out Leroy on several more tracks than saw release. These eventually appeared on a Flyright album entitled Wild Cherry: The Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Volume 25 from which a couple of tracks found their way onto YouTube. These comprise a fine up tempo blues You Can’t Trust Nobody with some dashing guitar work, plus the slower Sittin’ Here Cryin’ which, with its Jay Miller echo approach and unusual percussive backing, sounds more swampy than anything else by the man. And it’s a good record to boot.

After a couple more records – one each on Zynn and Rocko – Leroy died in 1966 (aged only 34) after a club performance in Oakdale (source: the John Broven book).

Most of the other Crowley artists appeared on a few or even a single record only (though that’s not necessarily a comment on quality). Tabby Thomas made three records for Excello and several for other labels but his sound differed from the majority of the Crowley blues men with influence more from the Crescent City. His most famous single was undoubtedly the near novelty Hoodoo Party which you could have sworn emanated from New Orleans. Cal drew my attention to the B-side of a later Zynn single, Tomorrow (I’ll Be Gone), a fine blues ballad verging on swamp pop, particularly when the horns have themselves some fun in the middle eight.

The splendidly named Blue Charlie recorded one single only, with the equally splendid title, I’m Gonna Kill That Hen which was recorded in Crowley but saw release on Excello’s sister label Nasco Records. Jay Nelson made three singles for Excello between the start of 1959 and mid 1960 plus a few for other labels. My favourite of these records is Do You Want A Man Like Me (though he actually sings Don’t You Want A Man Like Me). Jay wasn’t the greatest of singers but the fuller than usual support band help to make the record a good little jumper. The name Guitar Gable has appeared in the Swamp Blues series before. His band, with King Karl on vocal, recorded a nice up tempo blues effort, Cool, Calm And Collected but you couldn’t really call it swampy. I’ve already mentioned Tal Miller. His fine Life’s Journey for Goldband isn’t on YouTube but one that is present and correct is B-a-b-y, which was recorded at Crowley but leased to another Nashville based label, Hollywood Records. It’s another good record but hardly typical of the swamp sound.

One of these records warrants a little more attention. The sole Excello release from Vince Monroe coupled Give It Up (Or Tell Where It’s At) with If I Had My Life To Live Over. The A-side was a sax driven medium tempo R&B effort on which my verdict would be, good but not swampy. The saxes reappear on the flip, a slow blues on which Vince’s voice and compositional ability come more to the fore. For me this one just about makes it into the swamp arena even if I’m stretching it a little. There’s more to come on Vince in Part 2 of this Toppermost so I’ll say no more for the moment.

I’ve left one artist till last and that’s Charles Sheffield. Although he made several records for Excello, he’s not that easy to categorise. His records don’t sound swampy – they’re more uptown or R&B if you want to slot them in some kind of genre – though he wasn’t averse to throwing in verbal references to swampland. He came from Lake Charles rather than the Baton Rouge area and his first record appeared on the Lake Charles’ domiciled Goldband Records – more on them later. That record was entitled Mad Dog and it gave Charles a nickname that stuck with him. A lovely record even if it’s little more than a semi novelty jumper. It had that curious mix of genres that you sometimes found at Goldband: blues, zydeco, R&B and maybe even early rock‘n’roll are in the mix, and this one certainly isn’t uptown. He followed this with releases for Rocko and Jin Records before settling for a while at Excello. His first release for the label, the minor key It’s Your Voodoo Working gave him a regional hit. In terms of overall approach this was more akin to something that might have been created by Bobby Bland in his later days at Duke Records, with its latin rhythm and sax dominated backing.

Sheffield’s second single, I Would Be A Sinner, which was released in 1961, uses broadly similar stylistic tropes to It’s Your Voodoo Working but is more clearly a blues and a very good blues at that. It’s not swampy but I felt that this was one that just couldn’t be ignored in giving the overall flavour of Jay Miller produced Crowley output:

The flip to that little baby was an attempt to introduce a new dance to the nation entitled The Kangaroo and it’s not as hackneyed as you might suspect, benefitting from a New Orleans style backdrop. After a few more records for other labels under the nom-de-plume of Prince Charles, Sheffield decided to call it a day in the music business. Which might have been the music business’ loss; Charles definitely showed promise.

 

The Excello Ladies

All the focus so far in this series has been on Swamp Blues men. The only lady who’s got even a mention has been Katie Webster and she’s only featured as an accompanist, albeit a very good one. Unfortunately for Katie that’s not going to change under this heading. Excello didn’t record her fronting a band though she did make records for other labels. But there’ll be more on the great Ms Webster in Part 2.

Carol Fran from Lafayette fared somewhat better with Jay Miller who evidently saw her as a Louisiana version of one of the pre-soul Atlantic divas, LaVern Baker or Ruth Brown. Her Excello debut single One Look At You Daddy coupled with Emmitt Lee was released in 1957 and the flip, a good blues ballad, sold very nicely locally. The A-side was rather more poppy but attractive for all that with doo-woppy backdrop. It also showed off Carol’s voice well (and it had a snorting sax solo for those connoisseurs of such things). Carol’s third and final single, One More Chance, was the best of her Excello bunch. Another blues ballad but with greater emphasis on the blues than Emmitt Lee. It was a shame that Jay Miller wouldn’t put Carol in the same room as a real blues but I have no regret in including this track in the list even in the full knowledge that it would be a real stretch to call it swamp blues.

There’s an irony in the fact that, in 1983, Carol married session guitarist Clarence Hollimon, famed for providing significant support to Bobby Bland among others, and a decade or so later the couple starred in two Black Top albums which demonstrated that Carol could not only sing the blues, she could do it damn well. Prior to that, in the late sixties, Carol starred on a number of singles for New York’s Port Records wherein she showed a fully convincing mastery of the soul idiom but either no one was listening or Port had distinct lack of promotion nous.

In addition to Carol Fran I’ve discovered a mystery lady who recorded for Excello. The lady is/was called Sally Stanley and from the sound I’m guessing she cut her tracks at the Crowley studio rather than Nashville (though I could be totally wrong). Two singles came out with her name on but none for any other label. Only the two sides comprising the first single are on YouTube: I’ll Have To Let You Go and What It Means To Be Lonely and both sit somewhere in that hinterland between blues and R&B. Not terribly swampy but given the shortage of ladies at Crowley I felt that Ms Stanley had to at least get a mention.

A gentlemen who is going to get a mention is Clarence Locksley. He’s so little known that he gets only a single fleeting reference in the John Broven book. But he’s here because he recorded an instrumental called Crowley Blues, which seemed to be a nice piece of punctuation between Part 1 and Part 2.

 

 

SWAMP BLUES #5 – PART 2

TrackSingle / Album
Blues River Rising (Juke Boy Bonner)Blues Scene U.S.A. Vol.2
What In The World Are You Gonna Do
(Katie Webster)
Bayou Blues Blasters
Broke And Hungry (Hop Wilson)Goldband G-1078
Cliston Blues (Clifton Chenier)Imperial X5352
Bon Ton Roula (Clarence Garlow)Macy's 5002
Foggy Blues (Clarence Garlow)The Legendary Jay
Miller Sessions Vol.28
Ain't Broke, Ain't Hungry (Polka Dot Slim)Instant 3269
Bad Luck And Trouble (Boogie Jake)Minit MR-601
Looking For My Baby (Jimmy Dotson)Zynn NO. 511
I've Grown So Ugly (Robert Pete Williams)Free Again

Juke Boy Bonner – – Katie Webster – – Clarence Garlow

 

Hop Wilson – – Clifton Chenier – – Jimmy Dotson

 

LOUISIANA SWAMP BLUES BUT NOT FROM EXCELLO/CROWLEY

Before starting on Part 2 which is intended to survey the rest of Swamp Blues other than that recorded in Crowley and sent to Excello Records in Nashville for distribution, it would be helpful to put some definitions in place on what I mean by “the rest of Swamp Blues” and specifically, “Swamp Blues” in a wider context than Crowley. The records that I’ve discussed so far have a broadly similar sound coming from both the artists themselves and the studio/production environment within which they operated. Over time that sound got labelled “swamp blues”. Other than by Excello artists moving to other labels – which didn’t actually happen all that much in the second half of the fifties or early sixties – or by outright copying, it’s unlikely that we would hear too much of the Excello/Crowley sound coming out of other studios. Consequently, I’ve broadened my definition of Swamp Blues in this section to include down home style blues music recorded in Southern Louisiana studios in that same time frame, and preferably those which sound at least a tad “swampy”. This does let in artists who weren’t Louisiana born or even resident. It also assumes a much greater chunk of subjectivity than hitherto and, yes, I’ll even break those rules when I want to when I feel the music warrants inclusion.

I should also mention a self-imposed constraint. I have omitted musicians who were living and recording in New Orleans for much of their recording career though inevitably the shadow of that great city does loom in places. My reasons for the omission are twofold, (1) there are significant stylistic differences (though inevitably some two way interflow) and (2) there would have been too many musicians to fit in. Even as things stand, a number of musicians didn’t make this document. Both Cal and I feel that we were scratching the surface.

 

Artists who were associated with Goldband Records

Eddie Shuler, founder and hands-on manager of Goldband Records in Lake Charles, was Jay Miller’s biggest competitor in Southern Louisiana. Like Jay, Eddie had started out by spotting an opportunity to record and, in his case, distribute country and cajun music – he was originally a musician himself with a band that played a mix of western swing and Cajun. However, again like Miller at Crowley, it didn’t take long before the original brief of Goldband started to widen to include blues, R&B, swamp pop and even rockabilly (there’s more on Goldband in the Footnotes).

An artist’s route to Lake Charles would typically be along “Interstate Highway 90 linking Houston and New Orleans in a four hundred mile ribbon by way of Beaumont, Lake Charles, Crowley and Lafayette, dipping south round Grand Lake to Houma and Thibodaux.” Those words come from the excellent sleeve notes written by the esteemed blues writer Paul Oliver, to an LP entitled Blues Scene U.S.A. Volume 2: Louisiana Blues which was released by the Danish company Storyville Records in 1975. Mike Leadbitter is also thanked on the sleeve for his “invaluable help in connection with the LP” which suggests that he was significantly involved with making the selections. Leadbitter died in 1974 so it might have been one of his last involvements in the music we love, besides being a tribute from Paul Oliver.

Weldon “Juke Boy” Bonner is one such person to have made the trip from New Orleans to Lake Charles, with an unnamed pianist in tow, asking if he could record for Goldband Records. Bonner was something of a one man band, playing rack-mounted harmonica as well as guitar. He was born in Bellville, Texas but he travelled a lot and when he was in Sacramento, California he saw a Goldband record in a jukebox and, there and then, he decided he wanted to make a record for the label. Bonner had already spent considerable time gigging around Southern Louisiana often relying on Greyhound bus for transport, so some of its sounds had already found their way into his musical style (source for this delightful story: those same Paul Oliver penned sleeve notes but see also Footnotes).

Eddie Shuler released one Goldband single from Juke Boy and that unnamed pianist. It paired Call Me Juke Boy and Can’t Hardly Keep From Crying. The A-side was an infectious romp but the flip, a slow blues, regrettably isn’t on YouTube, otherwise it might well have been my selection. However, I should continue the Storyville tale: their researcher was overjoyed to find that there were more Bonner tracks in the Goldband vaults, all recorded at the same session. The compiler was so impressed with this material that six previously unreleased tracks plus the two issued ones went to form the whole of Side 1 of Louisiana Blues.

The highly evocative Blues River Rising is one of those tracks (though I strongly suspect that the “s” got mistakenly added to “Blue”):

Bonner largely continued his nomadic career until his death in 1978 at the age of 46 of cirrhosis of the liver. Record producers managed to pin him down occasionally and several albums and singles on a variety of labels emerged, some of which are still in print. Most well-known among his singles, mainly because of the fact that it was covered by the Fabulous Thunderbirds, was his version of the song usually known as Down In The Bottom. Weldon’s version, which saw release in ’67 was called Runnin’ Shoes and it’s absolutely glorious with mucho enthusiasm and near ferocity from Weldon.

Another gent to receive an over the odds representation on the Storyville/Goldband LP was Ashton Savoy. He got three tracks but they were all outtakes – Shuler seemed to record a lot more than he released. All three were sub Jimmy Reed affairs demonstrating that the man’s influence was even more widespread than one might have suspected. Unfortunately not one of the three is on YouTube but I can assure the reader, you’re not missing anything sensational even if, according to the sleeve notes, Katie Webster was on piano and there’s speculation that Lazy Lester might have been on harp. Savoy definitely was from Louisiana, indeed he was born in Sunset, LA. in 1928 (source: the Times obituary on Ashton) but spent a lot of his working life in Texas.

One record that did see release from Ashton (on another tiny label, Kry Records) was Baby Baby/I Want You To Love Me, which was apparently recorded at Crowley. For the first time we get to hear Katie’s voice, with the A-side featuring one of those splendid female/male slanging matches over a heavy Jimmy Reed beat. Katie gets to open it and then Ashton arrives with a “Hello baby, it’s so good to see you now”. Curiously the record was billed as being by “Katie Webster and Ashton Conroy”. Conroy in fact was Ashton’s middle name so whether this was a deliberate alias or a mistake, we don’t know.

While the semi rap cum conversational style of ‘singing’ on that record didn’t really illustrate the finer aspects of the Webster voice –though it did show her to be one seriously sassy lady – another track which was recorded at Lake Charles, What In The World Are You Gonna Do, gives us an absolutely marvellous example of the lady’s abilities.

Came home this morning, found my baby gone

A slow blues and an absolute classic which not many people seem to be aware of – only 413 views on YouTube at the time of writing. Once again, Eddie Shuler didn’t help himself by not releasing at the time. It eventually saw the light of day via one of the Ace UK CD’s focussing in on the Goldband Records legacy and entitled Bayou Blues Blasters.

Katie eventually did get something of a break. According to John Broven, when the Otis Redding band played at the Bamboo Club in Lake Charles in 1966, Katie was persuaded by the audience to get up on the bandstand and sing with the band. Otis, apparently, was in the dressing room at the time in his shorts but came hurtling out to see who was singing. He was so impressed that he took her on tour with him, which led to her working with other soul artists like James Brown, Sam & Dave and more. After Redding’s death, Katie dropped back to singing in bars and clubs in the Lake Charles area. In common with some other blues artists of that time frame, she eventually saw a little bit more of the limelight via albums from the likes of Alligator in the eighties and nineties, however the feeling remains that this lady never received the kind of attention that was lavished on the likes of, say, Etta James, let alone some of the ladies who operate in the current, so-called R&B field who she could probably eat for breakfast. I’ll leave Katie with a long track from an album called Katie Webster Has The Blues from 1979 which resulted from a return to Goldband. The track is called simply, Katie’s Blues. There’s a hefty dose of the conversational style on this one plus tributes to gents like Little Johnny Taylor, B.B. King and more.

So far almost all the Goldband tracks I’ve referenced have been outtakes, so it must be time to mention one that did see release. Harding “Hop” Wilson was born in Grapeland, Texas but usually operated out of Houston. According to the “Virgin Encyclopedia Of The Blues” his nickname was a corruption of ‘harp’ since he played harmonica in his early days but then switched to the unusual choice of steel guitar. And when I say “unusual” I mean in the context of the blues. Hop travelled to Lake Charles to see if Eddie Shuler would record him, and the result was the instrumental Chicken Stuff released in ’58, with the occasional vocal intervention from Hop. It was billed as being by Hop Wilson And His Chickens.

A much better example of Hop’s ability to handle a slow blues came on the flip side of his second Goldband single. That steel on Broke And Hungry may sound pretty strange initially but for me it fits well in the swamp context.

Guitar Jr. was born Lee Baker Jr. in Dubuisson, LA in 1933 but moved to Port Arthur, just across the border in Texas in the fifties. After several discs for Goldband he got snapped up by Mercury due to the success of his swamp pop single, Family Rules. He moved to Chicago in 1960 and changed his name to Lonnie Brooks after discovering there was already a Guitar Jr. in existence. I used almost identical words about Guitar Jr./Lonnie Brooks in the Swamp Pop #2 Toppermost, the one on Cookie and the Cupcakes plus other black swamp poppers. Guitar Jr. singles for both Goldband and Mercury followed a regular pattern of up tempo rollicking blues on one side and contrasting lugubrious swamp pop on the other. Roll Roll Roll, the A-side of his third Goldband single, is a fine example of Jr. in upbeat mode but it’s hardly swampy so doesn’t make the list.

Big Walter (Price) who was born in Gonzales, TX but based in San Antonio and then Houston, achieved local success with his first single, Calling Margie, an up tempo monologue, purporting to be one side of a telephone conversation. He also dabbled in early swamp pop – Shirley Jean recorded for Peacock Records is a good example. Walter recorded a couple of singles for Goldband and Eddie hedged his bets by putting a jumper, San Antonio, on the A-side and a swamp popper on the flip. The follow-up was a rambunctious affair titled Oh Ramona but neither disc was startling and the relationship didn’t continue.

Clarence Garlow, who probably deserves a Toppermost of his own, also recorded for Goldband for a spell but I’ve decided to cover him in the next subsection, the one dealing with …

 

Zydeco and The Blues

Zydeco, which is often rather simplistically seen as the black form of Cajun music, is actually somewhat more complex in its make up. While it did start out in the early days as the folk and dance music of portions of the black creole population and was indeed influenced by the music also being developed by the white Acadian settlers, it also took on board blues and R&B plus those even wider influences which were evolving in New Orleans from the multiple ethnic strains in the population. That looseness in form has continued as the years rolled forward. The final sentence in the Wiki article on zydeco states “Today, zydeco integrates genres such as R&B, soul, brass band, reggae, hip hop, ska, rock, Afro-Caribbean and other styles, in addition to the traditional forms.”

It is not my intention in this essay to delve into Zydeco music per se but its presence in Southern Louisiana cannot be ignored, nor can the fact that artists from the area, and from South Eastern Texas, didn’t confine themselves to neat, tidy genres. Within the last few paragraphs we’ve had examples of artists performing both blues and swamp pop often across the two sides of a single, so the fact that there were some who happily straddled any boundaries that might have been perceived to exist between blues and zydeco should come as no surprise whatsoever.

Clifton Chenier, another who’s well deserving of his own Toppermost, has appeared in the Swamp Blues series before. He was the man who employed Lonesome Sundown as guitarist prior to that gentleman recording for Excello. Clifton is arguably the biggest name in zydeco, moving the music from something that largely existed in little pockets of Southern Louisiana to much greater awareness. He was born in Opelousas, LA in June 1925. His first record in 1954 on the Elko label (but rereleased on Imperial in ’55) was Louisiana Stomp/Cliston Blues. The odd spelling of what should have been “Clifton Blues” was in line with the error strewn credit: Cliston Chanier. The A-side was a jumpy 12 bar blues instrumental driven along with enthusiasm by Clifton’s accordion. The flip rammed home the blues connection, this was authentic southern slow blues but with that accordion taking the most prominent role in support of the vocal, “I’m just a lonely boy, I’m about to lose my mind”.

A single from Clifton released in ’55, Ay-Tete Fee (Hey Little Girl in English), on the Specialty label with something akin to a New Orleans rhythm was more clearly in zydeco territory. It clicked with the record buying audience and went on to become his biggest selling record (source: “The Virgin Encyclopedia Of The Blues”). From there on Clifton didn’t look back. That’s not to say he didn’t record blues again. He did and there are examples of such throughout his subsequent career. To their credit the source I mentioned include him in their pages; other such documents have sometimes ignored Clifton’s blues side.

Rockin’ Sidney is sometimes perceived as being a later generation zydeco star due to his hit with My Toot Toot in 1988 which crossed over to the US pop chart (and, according to Wiki, went on to world wide renown). In fact Sidney – full name Sidney Simien and born in Lebeau, LA in 1938 – had been recording since 1957 on labels like Carl, Jin and Goldband. That Carl record was his recording debut at the age of 18. It coupled I’m Never Right and Make Me Understand. The A-side was a rather ponderous slow blues which had more than hints of swamp blues and the more sentimental swamp pop in its make up. The flip was a more bouncy affair and is my preference. A later record, 1961’s No Good Woman which was another mix of blues and swamp pop (on Jin Records) gave Sidney some regional success. However it’s the flip to that record, the romping You Ain’t Nothin’ But Fine which achieved longer term success with a cover from the Fabulous Thunderbirds (see also Footnotes).

Sidney’s range of material was even wider than zydeco at the time. In those early days he hadn’t as yet even picked up an accordion. However, although often displaying no lack of southern charm I see him as too lightweight to be a serious swamp blues contender.

Clarence Garlow certainly wasn’t lightweight. Born as far back as 1911, he predated the vast majority of artists covered in this series. His birth location was Welch, Louisiana but the family moved to Beaumont, Texas when Clarence was 11. It’s odd how frequently both Beaumont and Port Arthur have featured in this series – though I didn’t mention it above, Clifton Chenier was living and working in Port Arthur when he made his first single. The presence of so many blues artists operating out of these locations was very largely down to the fact that there were big potential daytime employers based there, due to the heavy involvement with the oil industry in both cities.

Clarence got himself discovered while working in a club in Houston. The discoverers were Macy Lela Henry and Steve Poncio, owners of the Macy’s label (source: Blackcat Rockabilly Europe). His first single, Blues As You Like It/She’s So Fine came out in 1949 on the Macy’s label of course. The A-side was a showpiece for Clarence’s excellent but strongly T-Bone Walker influenced guitar. That influence, incidentally, frequently appears in biographies of other Texas/Louisiana guitarists like Lonnie Brooks and Phillip Walker. The flip, She’s So Fine gave the world the first hearing of the Garlow voice. With its slightly laconic tone there were even hints of a T-Bone debt here too. All in all, an excellent debut though both sides with their uptown arrangements and dated sound might be perceived as somewhat ‘forties blues’ to today’s listeners.

Single number 2 released only a few months later was nothing like the first. Take a listen:

Bon Ton Roula was little short of a masterpiece. It got labelled zydeco which it may or may not have been. Yup, the French connection was there, also an insinuating rhythm which could only have come from the Crescent City. Clarence was belatedly competing with Louis Jordan’s 1946 original, Let The Good Times Roll, but confusingly it was a different song even if the title was a bowdlerised French version of Jordan’s one. And yes, I know I’m taking a liberty in calling this swamp blues but it was mighty influential particularly in Crowley where oddball percussive effects, sometimes with a latin touch were not at all unusual.

I can’t leave Clarence without mention of a couple more records. In 1954, he cut a single for the obscure Detour label (subsequently Flair Records) coupling Crawfishin’ and Route 90 and both tracks were so good they must have made the young Chuck Berry jealous. Note also the reference to Interstate Highway 90 near the start of Part 2.

Circa ’58, Clarence hied himself to Crowley – he had been before but nothing of note emerged – and recorded some tracks with Jay Miller in control. Those tracks then sat in the can for years until Flyright issued Foggy Blues in 1976 (on The Legendary Jay Miller Sessions Volume 28). If you were waiting for swamp blues from Clarence then your wait is now over.

 

More Swamp Blues artists

They keep coming but there was no meaningful heading for this grouping, hence the catchall.

Name changing was not unusual at Crowley or indeed elsewhere, witness Lee Baker/Guitar Jr./Lonnie Brooks. However there was one gentleman who took this to an extreme. We’ve come across a Vince Monroe. That wasn’t his name, it was actually Monroe Vincent. He cropped up again at Miller’s Zynn label under the name Mr. Calhoun, presumably to tie in with one of the tracks, They Call Me Mr Calhoun. Much to my disappointment, Mr Calhoun is almost too obscure for YouTube. The reason I say “almost” since one Mr Calhoun number, I’m Ragged And Dirty can be found, at 08:52 in on this rather good clip containing a compilation of Louisiana music (16 tracks in total).

Monroe cropped up again in 1964 on the Instant label, this time under the alias Polka Dot Slim. The single coupled Ain’t Broke, Ain’t Hungry with A Thing You Gotta Face with both sides written by producer Sax Kari. Both sides were very good but I’ve limited myself to one only and that’s “Ain’t Broke”, another great fit to the swamp blues template even if PDS would appear to have spent considerable time listening to a certain Chester Arthur Burnett. And the record was made by the intensity of the Slim delivery, a feature that wasn’t common among the swamp artists.

Slim/Vincent made one more single for Instant which was more in an R&B vein and less interesting, and that was it.

Jay Miller held one recording session with Boogie Jake, real name Matthew Jacobs, originally from Marksville, LA but didn’t release the results (though tracks like I Don’t Know Why and Early Morning Blues later appeared under the Flyright label). Jake, meanwhile, went on to record for New Orleans’ Minit label. His Bad Luck And Trouble/Early In The Morning got picked up by Chess and made a few waves. I’m partial to the A-side which shows a delivery that’s oh so deliberate but the repeat of the first line conveys an element of playfulness that saves the performance from toppling over into ponderousness.

Another pianist, Henry Gray, who was born in 1925 in Kenner, LA was one of the earliest of the Louisiana musicians to head to Chicago which he did in ’51. His skills on the keyboard were such that he soon found session work accompanying many of the musicians who went on to be recognised as Chicago blues greats. From 1956 to 1968 he worked with the redoubtable Howlin’ Wolf Band both on stage and in the studio. He did manage to make records under his own name but they were relatively few (see Footnotes). However, in 1970, Mike Vernon got him in a studio for the delightful slow You’re My Midnight Dream and, according to John Broven, that’s Lazy Lester on harmonica.

Drummer Jimmy Dotson was another whose principal role was accompanist (within the Silas Hogan band). In harness with that same band including Silas on guitar, he got recorded by Jay Miller before any records came out with the Silas Hogan name on (see also reference in Part 1 of this essay). The credit on the record read “Jimmy Dotson And The Blue Boys” and it saw release on Miller’s Zynn label. Both sides give us a marvellous reprise, if that’s the right word, of the Excello sound with Sylvester Buckley up there on the Jimmy Reed style harp. The flip, I Wanna Know, was good but I’ve gone for the A-side Lookin’ For My Baby as a selection.

Jimmy made a couple more records including a New Orleans rhumba styled I Need Your Love which unfortunately isn’t on YouTube. I would be cautious looking Jim up on YT because there was another Jimmy Dotson, with a more soul oriented style who operated from the mid sixties till the early seventies.

 

And finally

In Swamp Blues #3 (on Slim Harpo), we came across a blues man called Robert Pete Williams who predated the majority of artists in this series with a style that was forged before swamp blues, as we now know it, existed. Williams in fact was in the Angola State Penitentiary for murder during the early period of evolution of the new genre (see also the Footnotes to Swamp Blues #3 wherein Cal provides a brief biography of Williams and records the fact that the shooting was claimed by Williams to be self-defence).

I thought it would be fitting to close with a number from Robert Pete which some readers might know via a later version: I’ve Grown So Ugly:

 

Footnotes

1. The Swamp Blues series on Toppermost covers discs from four of the key artists who recorded blues at Jay Miller’s Crowley studio from the mid fifties to the early/mid sixties. The artists are Lightnin’ Slim, Lonesome Sundown, Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester. This one, Swamp Blues #5, contains four tracks from another Crowley/Excello artist, Silas Hogan plus six tracks from other Excello artists who are generally viewed as less important but certainly still of interest. In addition there’s a ‘Part 2’ containing tracks from artists whose records appeared on other Louisiana labels. The latter grouping are just as deserved of the ‘swamp blues’ label but have tended to receive less attention than the Excello artists.

The Lightnin’ Slim Toppermost contains discussion on the genesis of swamp blues and information on the Nashville based Excello Records label plus J.D. (Jay) Miller and his studio in Crowley, Louisiana.

2. The Wiki article on Jay Miller states (correctly) that in the sixties he produced and released several racist recordings on his own Reb Rebel label. John Broven put this point to him in “South To Louisiana” and Miller’s response was that there was a market out there for such “humorous” records and if he didn’t exploit it, someone else would.

I wouldn’t dream of defending this activity but would remind the reader that during the Jim Crow era in the south, Jay Miller operated a studio wherein the sight of an interracial support band was commonplace and this was at a time when the much vaunted Stax Records, with its mix of black and white musicians, was still half a dozen or more years down the line. In addition, Miller’s artists were relatively faithful to him compared with the track records of artists at many other independent labels/studios. I know there’s an argument that his was ‘the only game in town’ but that doesn’t hold water when you take into account that New Orleans and Houston were not short of labels and the big Los Angeles indies were often sniffing around Southern Louisiana.

3. The album Swamp Blues was originally released by Excello in the US and Blue Horizon in the UK. It’s currently available in CD format from Ace UK. The studio used for the recording was Deep South Studio in Baton Rouge and the dates were August 13th to 15th 1970.

4. Jay Miller gave Moses Smith the name “Whispering” due to the strength of his voice which was anything but whispering, apparently.

5. Roy Brown was a jump blues singer who was born in New Orleans. His main identifying feature was a rich voice of the kind that’s sometimes described as plummy. He’s particularly remembered for writing Good Rocking’ Tonight, though it was Wynonie Harris who hit the number one spot in the R&B Chart with it; Roy only made #13. The Elvis version ‘stiffed’ – well that’s the word Wiki use.

6. My original intention in putting together the various parts of this essay was to include a section on ‘the rest of Excello’ i.e. the Excello music that didn’t get recorded in Crowley. I changed my mind though, in order to stick to the swamp blues topic only – well almost – in the main text, with anything else, or anything non-essential, relegated to these Footnotes.

Almost by definition, music emanating from the Excello Nashville studios could hardly be called swamp blues, but that didn’t mean that Excello Nashville didn’t record blues. They did, and that’s in part why Jay Miller got involved with them in the first place. Most famous of the blues names who were signed to the Nashville operation was Arthur Gunter. 1954’s Baby Let’s Play House was the first of a series of singles he recorded for the label stretching out until 1961. This clip has it plus the flip, Blues After Hours. I suspect that very few fans of the Presley single have ever heard this record which sounds almost like jug band music in comparison to the streamlining achieved by Scotty Moore and Bill Black behind Elvis.

The Nashville reputation for sophistication and polish (or maybe polishing off rough edges) certainly didn’t apply to some of the early blues records that came out of the Excello Studio. 1955’s Calling All Cows from the Blues Rockers and the following year’s Things Ain’t Right from Jerry McCain and the Upstarts are good examples. Check out the rather spectacular mouth harp note bending on the latter. I’m grateful for Cal for pointing me towards the excellent Roscoe Shelton’s We’ve Been Wrong which wasn’t totally unlike swamp but with more than a pointer in the direction of soul.

The label also established a reputation for doo-wop in the second half of the fifties with the best known example being the original version of Little Darlin’ from the Gladiolas.

In the following decade Excello became known as a formidable purveyor of soul music; Roscoe Shelton wasn’t an isolated example. Indeed Ace UK have three CDs in print in their Excello Soul series. I’m grateful also to Cal for drawing my attention to Kip Anderson who recorded for the label. This is his You’ll Lose A Good Thing, a superb deep soul record from 1967.

7. Three of the records referenced in the footnote above on non-Crowley Excello appeared on a Blue Horizon double LP, The Excello Story, which was released in 1972.

8. Edward “Eddie” Wayne Shuler founded Goldband Records in 1945, initially to record and release records from his own group, Eddie Shuler’s All Star Reveliers. Other labels followed including Folk-Star and TNT. His first diversification of artists was with accordionist Iry Lejeune and his Lacassine Playboys. By 1956, he was recording rockabilly – not a big leap from country music – then R&B, blues and so on. His biggest hit was the swamp pop classic Sea Of Love from Phil Phillips (recorded at the Goldband studio but released on Khoury’s Records) but other notable records included Cleveland Crochet with Sugar Bee and Boozoo Chavis with Paper In My Shoe.

9. That mention of Paper In My Shoe prompted some observations from Cal:

Boozoo Chavis’ Paper In My Shoe, made in 1954, is sometimes cited as the first true Zydeco record. At face value, its lyrics seem quite innocuous but, maybe, it has a hidden meaning as it could be a reference to a hoodoo practice designed to keep a rival or enemy under control. There are many examples of voodoo or hoodoo referenced in Blues from Louisiana; Hoo-Doo Blues (Lightnin’ Slim), Hoodoo Party (Tabby Thomas), It’s Your Voodoo Working (Charles Sheffield) and Hoodoo Woman Blues (Lonesome Sundown) to name a few from artists in this Swamp Blues series. It seems to be a common theme. Even back in 1925 Ma Rainey was singing Louisiana Hoo Doo Blues and Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup sang, “you know they tell me in Louisiana, there is hoodoos all over there” in his Hoodoo Lady Blues from 1947. Louisiana of all the states in the US is most associated with voodoo/hoodoo and it seems Blues singers have always been keen to use it as subject matter.

10. Cal managed to dig out a feature on Goldband Records which contained an informative interview with Eddie Shuler. In it, Eddie confirmed the story about Juke Boy Bonner seeing a Goldband record in a jukebox in Sacramento and deciding that he wanted to record for the label. Eddie also answered a question that might have occurred to the reader: what was a record from a pretty tiny indie doing in a jukebox in California? The record was Jimmy Wilson’s Please Accept My Love, a swamp pop goodie which sold rather well but Eddie never managed to get round to agreeing distribution rights with a bigger label. I can further inform the reader that this track appears on a fine compilation from Ace UK called The Story Of Goldband Records: Eddie’s House Of Hits.

11. The Fabulous Thunderbirds, a more than competent white blues band who started out in 1974 in Austin, were particularly keen on swamp blues and Louisiana music in general. For example, their second album What’s The Word contained Juke Boy Bonner’s Runnin’ Shoes, Rockin’ Sidney’s You Ain’t Nothin’ But Fine, Lazy Lester’s Sugar Coated Love, Guitar Jr.’s The Crawl and Slim Harpo’s Scratch My Back.

12. Juke Boy Bonner’s Runnin’ Shoes (1967) and the Willie Dixon-written Down In The Bottom (recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in May 1961) are the same song but it had been in circulation for at least forty years by then. A month before Wolf did Down In The Bottom, Pink Anderson, who was 61 at the time and had recorded as far back as 1928, cut an old-time version called Meet Me In The Bottom. The previous recordings were called Oh Lordy Mama or Hey Lawdy Mama (sometimes with Oh/Hey and Lordy/Lawdy interchanged). Curley Weaver recorded it in 1933 (unissued) and again in 1935, Buddy Moss recorded it in 1934 and Amos Easton did it in 1935. Amos Easton has been mentioned before in a Toppermost (see Cyril Davies Footnote 10) and it was him as Bumble Bee Slim who recorded it again a few months later in February 1936 with a slight change of words. It was newly titled Meet Me In The Bottom, which I believe was the first time the song was so called. On Pink Anderson’s 1961 recording there’s still the “hey lawdy mama” phrase but it was dropped in the Wolf and Bonner versions. Pink recalled that he remembered the song “from just after the first World War”. A version of Hey Lawdy Mama by Andy Kirk & His Clouds Of Joy, with jazz singer June Richmond taking the vocals, got to #4 in the R&B Charts in 1943. What’s Pink Anderson also known for? Well … Pink Floyd got their name from the Pink in Pink Anderson and Floyd from another Piedmont blues singer Floyd Council, who recorded as Dipper Boy Council in 1937. The group had previously been called The Tea Set and The Abdabs but Syd Barrett decided on a change of name and thought of using names from his record collection, Pink and Floyd. He obviously had good taste! (The reader won’t be surprised to learn that those words came from Cal.)

13. Lonnie Brooks played on Jimmy Reed’s Big Boss Man (source: AllMusic on Lonnie Brooks).

14. Lonnie Brooks cut an album with Phillip Walker and another fine Texan, Long John Hunter, in 1999 called Lone Star Shootout. The lead off track was an updated version of Roll Roll Roll. Along with new numbers, the album also contained versions of Clarence Garlow’s Bon Ton Roula, Lightnin’ Slim’s It’s Mighty Crazy and Lonesome Sundown’s You’re Playing Hookey.

15. There are connections between Clifton Chenier and other artists who’ve had walk-on parts in this series. Guitarist and singer/composer Phillip Walker was a member of his band for a spell, and was part of the studio support for Ay-Tete Fee (source: The Stefan Wirz discography for Phillip Walker) and other Chenier records. Sax man Lionel Prevost, star of many Excello sessions, also went on to feature regularly on Chenier sessions.

16. I found the usually reliable 45cat somewhat lacking in terms of completeness for Clarence Garlow so turned instead to the one from wangdangdula.com which was of major assistance in filling in the gaps.

17. I’m conscious that I covered Clarence Garlow in slightly more depth than other artists. Hopefully, if someone wants to do a full Toppermost on the man, my words in this document shouldn’t prevent that occurring.

18. Clarence made at least three different versions of Bon Ton Roula, one of which was titled New Bon Ton Roula. He was also credited as Clarence (Bon Ton) Garlow on several singles.

19. In the few words on Henry Gray I referred to the fact that he had moved to Chicago. Two other musicians to make that move were Buddy and Phil Guy. Both were born in Lettsworth, LA. Buddy performed briefly with bands in Baton Rouge before moving to Chicago in 1957. His younger brother Phil played in Raful Neal’s band and then moved to Chicago in 1969.

As a footnote to a footnote, I can add the fact that, according to an article written by Lisa Mallen entitled “Remembering Phil Guy”, Lightnin’ Slim gave Phil his first chance to play an electric guitar (source: info. kindly forwarded by Andrew Shields).

20. Though not mentioned in the main text, Henry Gray did manage to get recorded in the relatively early days, 1953 in fact, under the alias of “Little Henry” for Chess Records. The intended single – it didn’t actually see release – would have coupled his very fine version of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Match Box Blues with That Ain’t Right which I believe was a new number. Cal’s digging unearthed this snippet.

21. The song Grown So Ugly was performed by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band on their 1967 debut album Safe As Milk. The arrangement on the Beefheart version of the number was by Ry Cooder (source: the album).

22. Any reader who has ploughed through the entire Swamp Blues series, or even looked at just one or two, is likely to have come away with the correct impression that the first port of call for purchase of Excello, Goldband and swamp blues in general, is Ace UK. Not only do Ace have CDs devoted to individual artists which they’ve had in their catalogue for many years, they also have a wide range of compilations some of which have gone on the market relatively recently. Another good source is Flyright Records who get several mentions in the text. For someone who just wants an overview there’s a 4xCD set from JSP called Louisiana Swamp Blues which conveniently contains a relatively small amount of tracks or even nil from some of the bigger names, hence minimising later duplication if the purchaser fancied digging a bit deeper. Many of the names I’ve featured in this final Swamp Blues essay are present in this set plus others I couldn’t manage to fit in.

23. The essays in this series have focussed on the blues that came out of studios in places like Crowley and Lake Charles, Louisiana and have totally ignored the fact that before, during, and after recording such stuff, a whole stream of other music entirely was emerging from these places. For example, in July 1952, Jay Miller cut three sides with country music’s new hero Lefty Frizzell in the Crowley Studio, though they didn’t see release at the time – they eventually saw light of day on the reliable Flyright label. Miller even managed Lefty for a brief period and wrote a couple of songs for him (information courtesy of Andrew Shields). Eddie Shuler in Lake Charles went one better. In ’59 he cut the very first single from a 13 year old Dolly Parton, Puppy Love c/w Girl Left Alone. This is the flip which I prefer of the pair.

24. As always, I’m exceedingly grateful for Cal’s assistance. With such a wide spread of artists and plenty of their records not showing in the usual sources, there was more scope for error than usual. While I wouldn’t claim this document is totally error free (and differing accounts appear from a range of sources), Cal has been the one who’s kept that error count as low as humanly possible.

 

 

Silas Hogan discography

“South To Louisiana: The Music Of The Cajun Bayous” by John Broven (1983)

Excello singles discography

Excello albums discography

Silas Hogan biography (iTunes)

Swamp Blues toppermost series
#1 Lightnin’ Slim
#2 Lonesome Sundown
#3 Slim Harpo
#4 Lazy Lester
#5 Silas Hogan

Swamp Pop toppermost series
#1 Rod Bernard
#2 Cookie and the Cupcakes
#3 Jimmy Donley
#4 Bobby Charles
#5 Freddy Fender

Dave Stephens is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is described by one reviewer as “probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across”. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX

Cal Taylor has avidly collected records since the early 1960s, gravitating to deep soul and blues. As time went on he got more and more into studying pre-war blues and accumulated a vast record collection. Cal saw many such artists live in the sixties. He has written several posts for this site including Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Redding and Betty Harris.

The Stephens/Taylor toppermosts include Johnny Ace, Arthur Alexander, Cyril Davies, The Falcons, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Alexis Korner, Johnny Otis, Junior Parker, T-Bone Walker.

TopperPost #722

1 Comment

  1. Andrew Shields
    May 29, 2018

    Dave & Cal, thanks for this brilliantly comprehensive piece. There is so much in here that it will require some time to take it all in. Was particularly impressed by Katie Webster. What a fabulous record. On a side point, I actually saw Rocking Sidney play live in Dublin in the late 1980s – a surprisingly great gig. Had no idea he had been recording for so long before that.

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