ODDENDA & SUCH: #104

“An accidental folklorist!”

During my decades in the blues trenches, as it were, I was able to accomplish a number of admirable things over that time beginning in the mid-sixties, things of which I am extremely proud. The record label is almost one of them, but lacking any sales ability, I consider that only a partial success. As one can see by my multi-position business card from back then, there is nothing about sales or anything remotely related to same on there, and that represents my true abilities in the music business realm! There are many albums that I produced for the label of which I am still proud over and above having accomplished it at all! And doing it pretty well from the standpoint of the various “positions” I held and listed on my business

cardcard (see above) of that time, and having a certain limited positive public response to my efforts.

Of the eighteen LPs that eventually came out, some “feel” better and more important than others today, but all were worthy of being released. Certainly the Henry Johnson album stands out in the first four I simultaneously issued back in 1973, but all of the other three have their strengths (Peg Leg Sam, solo Eddie Kirkland, Frank Edwards). The second batch of four albums came in 1974 and were of equally worthy individuals, with my first studio album by Eddie Kirkland (with band), and the Robert Lockwood LP. That one was a big surprise to all in its time in part because it consisted solely of “field recordings” done in a couple of living rooms, even the band sides! Willie Trice, and Guitar Shorty made up the remainder nicely for the year’s package. I did this album-bundling as I felt putting albums out one at a time would not be treated seriously and they would get lost in the sauce… nice try!

The third batch in 1975 consisted of an unique and important collection of Detroit pianists recorded “in context”, plus an LP of Tarheel Slim as a solo artist. They were joined by individual albums from guitarist/singers Pernell Charity, and Roy Dunn. In 1976, I released a mixed bag – a stunning Homesick James LP (his first as an acoustic solo artist), one from pianist Big Chief Ellis with Tarheel Slim, Brownie McGhee, or John Cephas backing him on guitar in parts, and an attempted “folk” album by my now sadly late friend, Dan DelSanto before he moved to Austin.

1977 was blessed with a fine studio album from Robert Lockwood and his band, equally as good as the previous band sides I did, if not better! 1978 gave us Honeyboy Edward’s first released solo sessions (with Walter Horton on harmonica, or Eddie El on guitar) as a single release. I had cut back to one album per annum by then due to fatigue. Other collections were planned for release, but I was getting shy of spare change and decided to temporarily put off the likes of John Cephas, and Maurice Reedus (my first and only jazz production) until later. Cephas, as an artist, was eventually picked up by various folks in the DC region after doing two sessions in 1976 and 1980 for me and his story became a long and true success. Reedus kept playing with Lockwood and basically spent his life in Cleveland… I regret greatly not getting that one out for him; it came that close, as did the Cephas LP, but no go.

There is heaps of additional material recorded by me over my ten years “out there” still to be tapped – if there is enough interest, I would get to work again doing what I do best: assembling and programming good blues collections. With enough stuff from my decade in-the-field for at least fifty more CD’s, there is no lack of good available material! There is a serious doubt in my mind that there are enough folks interested in it all if the past poor sales performance of Trix Records output is to be taken into account. But I have here pointed out the high points in a very high-quality sequence of album releases that kind of flopped as commercial entities back then.

I also did some contextual recordings (like the Detroit set) in addition to the “controlled” field recordings, of which there is a lot to be tapped for release as well. I recorded two years in succession (1972 and 1973) in Detroit, and aside from the barber/blind pig operator, there was no duplication of artists at all in those two afternoons. So far, only the one album has been released, but hold onto your hats for there is way more there that could come! I was extremely fortunate for the aid of Kip Lornell, plus Bruce Bastin and the UNC Folklore folks in late 1972. Kip and I tracked down Peg Leg Sam and Chief Thundercloud doing their two-man medicine show at a fair in Pittsboro, NC. There I recorded both the Friday and Saturday night shows in toto, and the UNC folks tried to videotape the one on Saturday night (only semi-successfully as nobody had used such heavy “portable” video equipment before!). It was literally the only “organic” medicine show still on the road, and, unfortunately, it was also to be the last of its kind, as the Indian died that winter[1].

Additionally, via UNC-Chapel Hill’s folklore people (including Bastin then), a few additional “firsts” were recorded by me on campus: one was a concert of secular black music on campus that took place in late ’72 with Henry Johnson, Willie Trice, and Peg Leg Sam. It was such a major success that we followed up over a weekend in March of ’73 over Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. This was a blockbuster, as they say these days including many folks that we had located in our field-work as before, plus known (but appropriate) people who lived outside the SE like Eddie Burns, and J.B. Hutto[2]. Lots more albums could come from those tapes today as well.

 

Also, in May of 1972, I was involved with the Spring Weekend concerts held at SUNY-New Paltz… some of my biology students involved asked me to suggest some blues performers. This I successfully did, bringing Baby Tate from Spartanburg, SC via the classic Greyhound, Larry Johnson from NYC via Adirondack Trailways, and Eddie Kirkland from Macon, GA in his own car. Tate, and Larry played solo, or together, while Eddie worked with members of a local band from the Hudson Valley[3]. I recorded each of their sets and have not listened to them since – there may be too much wind noise on the microphones, a problem with outdoor concerts, but time will tell. 1972 was a year for “contextual” recordings by yours truly and they were generally successfully done.

 

Of course, Trix Records was not the only outlet for my album production and/or liner-note writing efforts over the years. Maybe the “outside” album of which I most proud is one that which finally came out in 1972 from Atlantic Records – a collection by Blind Willie McTell material from a 1949 recording session done in Atlanta by Ahmet Ertegun. My god, what a talent was Willie, folks! Parenthetically, in case you didn’t know, I’m not and never have been a Bob Dylan fan in the slightest, but I agree with his sung evaluation that, “Nobody can sing them blues like Blind Willie McTell”. Of the six albums I put together for Atlantic, this is my favorite of all of them, and a major coup for my efforts with the label. The other five were good collections, but that one is the jewel in the crown for me![4]

My favorite in another realm would be the complete Brownie McGhee set for the Columbia Roots ‘n’ Blues “Legacy” series head-manned by Larry Cohn. In this case, it’s something that was not fully published[5]! I did the booklet notes, but most of my historical/contextual material was edited out (to my great disappointment). Such is life. I also did notes earlier for the Buddy Moss LP on Biograph, although that fact could be missed in the small typeface used on the back! It was my first free-lance assignment, too!

 

 

In the jazz realm, there is the LP that came out as “The Clean Machine” on Muse 5116, produced by Bob Porter – he and Joe Fields agreed that I was the man for the job since I would be in CA then on other matters. I did the photography and the notes and they can be found in this site as well. That led to covering a later gig at Sandy’s in Beverley, MA that Joe Fields was producing. I was to photograph everyone and later write the liner notes for three LP’s on Muse Records each one featuring a different Texas saxophone player. They were Buddy Tate (ts), Eddie Vinson (as), and Arnett Cobb (ts), and they played together with a fine local Boston area rhythm section. It went so well, that Joe later issued a second “tripod” helping from the week-end’s tapes! Some nights be’s like that!! (My sister lived then in Beverley as well, so I was covered for a bed, board, and some expenses on the weekend.) Like Duke Ellington said, there’s two kinds of music… good music, and the other kind. This was good music, well received and appreciated by the patrons.

 

So, the life of an accidental folklorist grew over time to take over my life… in a good way, I might add. I was fortunate to have met some fine people (Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Bobby Bland, Muddy Waters, Rufus Thomas, Redd Foxx, Wynonie Harris, a.o.), some of whom became friends on some level or another (B.B. King, Sonny Freeman, Tarheel Slim, Eddie Kirkland, Willie Trice, Robert Lockwood, John Cephas, Baby Tate, a.o.). I dearly love the music involved and hate the business aspect of it all, which is no doubt because I am a lousy salesperson! Such is life.

 

 

PETER B. LOWRY                                                                                                                          Sydney (2018)

 

[1] Bruce Bastin saw to the release of a two-LP much edited version of the med show on Flyright Records #507/508 in a 99 pressing set.

[2] Flyright Records released three albums from that week-end on their LP’s #504, 505, and 511 back in the day.

[3] The Arm Bros

[4] See in my site O&S #15.

[5] I hope to publish the full McGhee piece here whenever I tackle my past files brought over from the States in 2016 and add to the essays here.

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