"Memphis Bounce" b/w ''Sixty Days'' (Gilt-Edge 5026) by Slim Rhodes is released and reviewed in Billboard. It is the second of four discs to be culled from the two Sam Phillips' sessions.
Over the course of the next month Sam Phillips worked out a deal with the Bihari brothers for both of his new artists, and on March 1 he sent sides by both Rosco Gordon and Walter Horton with some assurance, he felt, that the Biharis would pick out at least one single by each for release. In the fall of 1950 they had finally put out the first Joe Hill Louis single, ''I Feel Like A Million'' backed with ''Heartache Baby'' (Modern 795), but from Sam's point of view it hardly made up for the way they had treated him previously. From his perspective, one release over a period of six months did not exactly constitute a binding marriage. The Bihari brothers might think they were the only game in town, but he'd be damned if he'd be yoked to those pissants for life. So when he met Leonard Chess, who just happened to show up in town on a Southern promotion swing the very day that Sam sent off his new sides to the Biharis, Sam listened carefully to what Chess had to say.
Leonard Chess was a tough-talking hustler from Chicago with a record company that he ran with his younger brother, Phil. Not quite thirty-four-years old but looking older, with thinning hair and a gaunt, wiry body, he and his brother had arrived from Poland at eleven and seven, five years after their father had established a junk business in Bronzeville, on Chicago's teeming South Side. He had gotten into the record business in 1947 after running a tavern on the 3900 block of Cotton Grove Avenue and realizing that the live entertainment that he was presenting was in any cases as good as the records that he had on the jukebox. After buying out his original partners, at Buster Williams' suggestion he changed the name of the company from Aristocrat to Chess in June of 1950 (Buster said the new name, an Ellis Island simplification of the real family name, was short, sharp, and direct, and everyone knew the game of chess), and his first two releases were modest hits. The first, by jazz saxophonist Gene Ammons, was by far the bigger seller, but the second set the trend. ''Rolling Stone'' by Mississippi-born blues singer Muddy waters, was very much in the vanguard of the new down-home blues market, a trend that had in effect begun with the astounding success of John Lee Hooker's ''Boogie Chillen'' on the Modern label just one year earlier. When his tavern burned down in the fall of 1950, Leonard received a much-needed infusion of capital from the insurance, and the new label was enjoying its first big blues hit with Muddy waters' ''Louisiana Blues'', which in contrast to Hooker's improbable million-seller, was unlikely to sell more than twenty-five or thirty thousand copies. Leonard, in fact, was in town to promote that record and Muddy's upcoming release, ''Long Distance Call'', when Sam Phillips met him for the first time over at Dewey Phillips' show called ''Red Hot and Blue'' on WHBQ.
Sam Phillips could sense from the start that Leonard was different from the Bihari brothers. For one thing, with a new company just struggling to get under way, he was hungrier. For another, he was less smooth, less sure of himself. But like them, he was a smart street hustler, driven, intense, and like Dewey Phillips he spoke the language of his artists informally and without affectation (''Hey motherfucker'' could be the easygoing greeting of either one, but then Leonard might lapse into Yiddish if he was in the company of a landsman).
According to Sam Phillips, ''I kind of liked Leonard, he didn't really have very much money at the time, but he'd heard about my studio, and he came by, and we talked, and he said, 'Man, I'd give anything to work with you'''. And then, right on the spot, he proposed a deal, they'd split the profits 50-50 on any recording of Sam's that he released, so long as he had the rights of first refusal. ''And the first thing I gave him was ''Rocket 88''.
88'', an original number by a young group out of Clarksdale, Mississippi called the Kings of Rhythm, was a song that came to Sam Phillips indirectly through his association with B.B. King. King had met the kid who led the group, nineteen-year-old Ike Turner,
a few years earlier, when B.B. Was still Riley King, still living in Indianola, Mississippi, with his wife, Martha. He was playing a little theater in Clarksdale, and this kid had a full-scale band, the Top hatters, and asked if he could sit in on piano. As
young as he was, he had obviously gone to school on boogie-woogie, he had both energy and imagination to burn, and at his invitation Riley stayed with him for a night or two at his mother's house. Just two years later, unbeknownst to Turner, Riley was making
records, and the Top Hatters had split unto two groups, the uptown Dukes of Swing, who could all read music and played the kind of swing that Sam broadcast from the
Skyway at the Peabody, and the Kings of Rhythm, a small Louis Jordan-type of jump combo, tenor and baritone sax, plus a three-man rhythm section, that specialized in just wrecking the point. They were coming back from a gig in Greenville when Ike saw all these cars parked by the side of the road at a big roadhouse outside Chambers, Mississippi, with a sign that announced that B.B. King was playing there tonight.
Ike Turner had seen the posters on telegraph poles all over Mississippi, he said, with that same''peculiar name'' on it, but for some reason he had never attached it to the man he knew as Riley King. When he walked into the roadhouse, ''it was B.B., man, and we asked him, could we play a song? Hey said, Yeah, and, boy, we tore the house down. So he said, 'Man, you guys need to be recording'. And we said, 'Well, what do you do to record? How do you do it? Hey said, 'Well, man, this guy in Memphis has a studio, that's where I record'. He said, ''His name is Sam Phillips, and what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna tell him to give you a call, man, on Monday for you guys to come up and record'. I said, 'Just like that'? He said, 'Yeah. And sure enough, Monday Sam Phillips called. He wanted to know how soon could we come up. I told him, 'Right now'. And we had no idea, none, what we were gonna do when we got there'' .
Ike Turner arrives in Memphis with The Kings Of Rhythm, including Jackie Brenston. Sam Phillips signs them to Chess contracts. Brenston is under age and his mother signs as his guardian. "Rocket 88" and three other titles are shipped to Chess Records in Chicago.
As the bands and singers on Beale Street began making records, it was natural for everyone to get the idea that they ought to record their own music. The growth of small local record labels provided the opportunity for many of the performers. Memphis musicians all wanted the same thing - a hit record.
When there was a success, as occurred in 1951 when Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm hit the charts with Jackie Brenston singing lead on "Rocket 88", everyone's enthusiasm was renewed. This song, with the musical revolution on Beale Street as a backdrop, helped bring rock and roll to life. Memphis was not only the cradle of this new black music, it was the central focus of an emerging white style.
MARCH 1, 1951 THURSDAY
''Silver City Bonanza'' opens in Theaters. The movie's cast includes Rex Allen, Buddy Ebsen and The Sons Of The Pioneers.
MARCH 3, 1951 SATURDAY
Songwriter Bob DiPiero is born in Youngstown, Ohio. His hits include Tim McGraw's ''Southern Voice'', Montgomery Gentry's ''Gone'', George Strait's ''Blue Clear Sky'' and The Oak Ridge Boys' ''American Made''. He marries, and later divorces, Pam Tillis.
MARCH 4, 1951 SUNDAY
Pee Wee King recorded ''Slow Poke'' during the afternoon at RCA Studio A in Chicago.
Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm. Back: Jackie Brenston, Raymond Hill, Eddie Jones, Fred Sample, Bill Gayles. Front: Jesse Knight, Ike Turner, Eugene Washington >
MARCH 5, 1951 MONDAY
A little known band drove to Memphis from Clarksdale, Mississippi to audition for Sam Phillips in the studio. The band was ‘Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats’, (who were actually Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm) which included Willie Kizart on guitar, Raymond Hill on Saxophone, and Ike Turner on piano.
During the drive to Memphis, Tennessee, was not without incident. Everyone was in great good humor when they first set out in the pouring rain, all five crowded into a little sedan with their saxes, guitar, and drum set, and the trunk secured with a rope to accommodate the guitar amp and bass drum. Neither the weather nor the close quarters could dampen their enthusiasm, and they couldn't stop talking about what they were going to do when they got to Memphis.
They were relatively unfazed when they got stopped by the highway patrol and hauled into some little country court. It was just another case of ''too many little niggers in the car'' they joked after they paid the fine, they were more frustrated when they subsequently had a flat tire and then went and dropped the guitar amp on the pavement in their hurry to dig out the spare. But they quickly returned to their rapid-fire banter, a combination of nervousness, anticipation, boastfulness, and verbal competition entered into freely on all sides, except when their twenty-year-old leader Ike's glowering stare stopped one of them in their tracks.
When they got to Memphis, naturally they drove down Beale Street, past all the clubs and pawnshops and the New Palace and the Hippodrome skating rink, which had just started to bring in all the big-name rhythm and blues acts. Then, going out Union, they couldn't find the studio, they must have driven by it three or four times at least, because they were looking for something. Well, they didn't know what they were looking for. None of them had ever seen a recording studio before, but they thought it had to be something to match their dreams. Instead it turned out to be this sorry-ass storefront that looked more like a barbershop than anything else, with one of those neon signs in the window, but when they went in to ask the lady at the desk if she knew where the studio was, she told them this was it.
MARCH 5, 1951 MONDAY
Decca Released Ernest Tubb's ''Don't Stay Too Long''.
MARCH 7, 1951 WEDNESDAY
Webb Pierce conducts his first recording session for Decca Records, at the Castle Studio in Nashville. The session includes ''Drifting Texas Sand'', which he re-recorded nine years later.
MARCH 9, 1951 FRIDAY
Ernest Tubb and Red Foley recorded ''The Strange Little Girl'' at Nashville's Castle Studio.
MARCH 11, 1951 SATURDAY
''As per our telephone conversation'', Sam Phillips wrote to Jimmy Connelly, just four days after making the recording, ''I am enclosing herewith a copy of the letter to 'Atomic Boogie' DJ Bob Umbach about the sensational new record, ''Rocket 88'' which is going to make my first million for me. Seriously, Jimmy, this is one of the best race records I have ever heard, and I think you'll agree with me when you hear it''.
MARCH 12, 1951 MONDAY
Columbia released Carl Smith's ''Let's Live A Little''.
MARCH 13, 1951 TUESDAY
Johnny Bond recorded ''Sick, Sober And Sorry'' at Hollywood's Radio Recorders.
The Southern Baptist Convention buys Ward Belmont College in Nashville. The school opens a music business program in the 1970s, providing a link to the business for students Trisha Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack, Josh Turner, Brad Paisley and others.
MARCH 14, 1951 WEDNESDAY
Zella Lehr is born in Burbank, California. After starting her career on ''Hee Haw'' she gains a Top 10 hit with a version of Dolly Parton's ''Two Doors Down'' that is recorded three months before Parton's version.
MARCH 15, 1951 THURSDAY
Ray Price his first recording session for Columbia Records at the Jim Beck Studio in Dallas, Texas, leading with what becomes his debut single, the Lefty Frizzell-penned ''If You're Ever Lonely Darling''.
Gene Autry plays a lawman disrupting a bogus Mexican lottery in the debut of the movie ''Texans Never Cry'', featuring his sidekick Pat Buttram.
MARCH 16, 1951 FRIDAY
Ray Benson is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He forms Asleep At The Wheel, which emerges as the strongest modern advocate for western swing. The group wins multiple Grammys but earns just one hit, ''The Letter That Johnny Walker Read''.
Hank Williams recorded ''Hey, Good Lookin''', ''I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)'', ''Howlin' At The Moon'' and ''My Heart Would Know'' in an afternoon session at Nashville's Castle Recording Studio.
MARCH 17, 1951 SATURDAY
Hawkshaw Hawkins recorded ''I'm Waiting Just For You'' in Cincinnati.
MARCH 19, 1951 MONDAY
Columbia released Left Frizzell's ''I Want To Be With You Always''.
MARCH 21, 1951 WEDNESDAY
Bass player Conrad Lozano is born in Los Angeles. He joins Los Lobos, a Tex-Mex band whose 1985 record ''Will The Wolf Survive'' ranks among country's all-time greatest singles in the Country Music Foundation's ''Heartaches By The Number''.
MARCH 22, 1951 THURSDAY
Jimmy Wakely and Margaret Whiting recorded ''When You And I Were Young Maggie Blues'' at the Capitol Studios on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
Ernest Tubb and his second wife, Olene, have their first daughter, Erlene Dale Tubb.
MARCH 27, 1951 TUESDAY
Red Foley recorded ''(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)'' in Nashville.
Songwriter Kent Blazy is born in Lexington, Kentucky. He authors Garth Brooks'''If Tomorrow Never Comes'', Gary Morris' ''Headed For A Heartache'' and Chris Young's ''Gettin' You Home (The Black Dress Song)'', among others.
MARCH 28, 1951 WEDNESDAY
Sam Phillips was in the process of formalizing an ''iron-clad'' agreement with Leonard Chess and getting a letter of ''consent and confirmation'' from Jackie Brenston's mother on behalf of her not-yet-twenty-one-year-old son, he was determined this time not to be taken advance of. When the record came out, though, it caused considerable consternation among the musicians once they saw the label credit.
They had all assumed it would say something like The Kings of Rhythm, Vocal by Jackie Brenston, Ike had never doubted it would say Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm, just like it should have, but instead, the label copy read ''Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats'', a name nobody had ever heard before. ''I was kinda teed about it'', said Ike, who saw it as a clear betrayal, but when he raised the point with Sam, the skinny, strangely intense little white guy wouldn't back down, he insisted it was because they were going to put out a release on Ike, too, and it wouldn't look right to put out two releases under the same name.
In any case, by the end of the month the record had taken off beyond anyone's expectations. ''Rocket Becomes Flying Disc, Spins Toward Record Glory'' was the headline in the front-page story in the Commercial Appeal on march 28, 1951, which not only celebrated the record's sales but trumpeted the accomplishments of the hitherto unknown and unsung Sam C. Phillips, the young ''recorded behind the Rocket'', a recording engineer and talent scout who had ''agreements with two record companies to locate and record hillbilly and race music''. Sam, wrote reporter Lydel Syms, ''is convinced the Rocket will move out of the race field into general popularity. He says Jackie will get 31/2 percent of the retail record sales, plus whatever his contract calls for on the sheet music. Jackie, when I talked to him about it, said that if he makes enough out of it he's going to buy one of those cars''.
Sam Phillips sent a copy of the story to Gene Nobles the day it came out, along with his sincere thanks to ''fellows like you'' and Bob Umbach and Dewey Phillips and pioneering black disc jockey Al Benson in Chicago, not just for playing the record but for believing in it. Sam also enclosed a new release ''by another artist that I have scouted for Leonard''. This was the single featuring Ike's two vocals 0credited, as promised, to ''Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm''). It had, in fact, been released virtually simultaneously but, despite Sam's claim to Gene that it was ''going good in this territory'', with far less fanfare than ''Rocket 88''.
Sam Phillips records B.B. King for RPM Records.
Sam Phillips records Rufus Thomas for the first time and sends the dubs to Chess Records.
"Rocket 88" enters the Billboard's Rhythm and Blues charts at number 4. Jackie Brenston's back-up band, featuring Wilbur & Luther Steinberg, cut two sides for Sam Phillips, who forwards the dubs to Chess Records. "Ridin' The Boogie" b/w "She Really Treats Me Wrong" is rush-released as a single on Chess 1465 under the pseudonym "Lou Sargent".
Joe Hill Louis returns to the studio to cut a cover version of "Eyesight To The Blind", a regional hit for Sonny Boy Williamson on Trumpet and the Larks on Apollo.
And then at the beginning of May 1951 it all seemed to catch up with Sam Phillips. He was working eighteen to twenty hours a day, he was down to 123, 124 pounds, fifteen pounds less than what he normally carried on his slender fivefoot-nine-inch frame; and just like in Decatur he could feel the onset of the panic attacks that he had experienced from time to time ever since he was a boy. At what should have been his moment of greatest triumph he simply ran out of physical and emotional steam. Just as before he couldn't turn his mind off, the worries kept whirring and whirring around, and he finally told his wife Becky he couldn't stand it anymore, he needed to be admitted to GartlyRamsay Hospital out on Jackson, they were the best psychiatric hospital in the city, he told her, and he thought he needed some more electroshock.
Dr. Dick McCool, director of Electro-convulsive Therapy at Gartly-Ramsay, agreed. But, he told Sam, there was no guarantee of the results. Sam had eight electroshock treatments, one each day, with another five or six days in the hospital to recuperate. Marion Keisker was able to keep the business going and took over some of Sam's duties at the WREC radio station. She had been in a terrible state when Sam first went into the hospital, she had frantically besieged Becky the initial results, but she was no more surprised than Becky, she had seen it coming all along.
When Sam Phillips went back to work, everybody at the station seemed to treat him like he was just going to fall apart, and Becky confided that Dr. McCool had told her in confidence he really shouldn't be pressed too much at this point, maybe ever. He pored over the therapeutic papers that Dr. McCool had given him, papers with titles like ''Therapeutic Relaxation Treatment Procedures'', which advocated fifteen minutes of Bibliotherapy followed by half an hour of Educated Therapy and then capped by reciting the expression ''Feeling fine'' twenty times each day. But it was Dr. McCool's lack of faith that in the end Sam felt was the best therapy of all. Everybody tiptoeing around him like he was some kind of damn invalid only challenged him to find that inner strength he had always possessed, ''the strength that says, Okay, I can do it''.
The United States performs the first thermonuclear weapon test during May of 1951 as a part of “Operation Greenhouse.” The test was conducted at the Enewetak Atoll and the blast, named “George,” was the first successful small-scale demonstration of a non-weaponized hydrogen bomb. The test confirmed to scientists working on the project that the foundation of their design worked and it would be possible to create a large-scale hydrogen bomb. The U.S. would go on to to test the first full-scale thermonuclear hydrogen bomb during November of 1952 with “Ivy Mike” in “Operation Ivy''.
MAY 2, 1951 WEDNESDAY
Bass player Mike Fleming is born in Evansville, Indiana. As a member of the bluegrass band The Steel Drivers, he takes part in recording ''Blue Side Of The Mountain'', a country Grammy nomination in 2009.
MAY 6, 1951 SUNDAY
Johnny and Jack recorded ''Cryin' Heart Blues''.
MAY 9, 1951 WEDNESDAY
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs recorded ''Don't Get Above Your Raisin'', covered some 30 years later by Ricky Skaggs.
MAY 12, 1950 SATURDAY
Hank Williams ''Cold Cold Heart'' reaches number 1 on the Billboard country singles chart.
The first demo session for Howlin' Wolf at Memphis Recording Service framed by the small group he had assembled in West Memphis. There are records of some 60 complete tracks recorded by Howlin' Wolf at Sam Phillips' studio in Memphis and down the road in West Memphis, Arkansas, about two and a half years. Most of this material founds its way to Chess Records in Chicago, although the open double-dealing whereby tapes also went to RPM/Modern lingered for a while, as with the 1952 RPM single "My Baby Stole Off'/"I Want Your Picture". But it meant that Leonard Chess need not hurry the Wolf into a Chicago session, even though that initial hit was not repeated in such Memphis Chess releases as "The Wolf Is At Your Door", "Saddle My Pony", "Oh Red" and "All Night Boogie", all of them powerful witnesses to the singers' outstanding talent. sales ticked over while the Wolf established his club reputation, and Chess was kept busy with hits by other members of his growing blues stable.
But he knew he could do better, once the initial spell began to wear off. He knew the Wolf had even more to offer than just the elemental energy that poured out of him, he knew he could do more to bring it out, not by complicating things by by simplifying them, by helping to frame all the contradictory ingredients that constituted the uncategorizable whole.
He did add a piano in subsequent sessions, if only to fill out the bare bones of the sound, and they continued to work on the same two songs, always subtly changing, and sometimes not so subtly. Sam Phillips continued to be overwhelmed by the sheer force of the music and by the intensity of its presentation. He was fascinating by the Wolf, mesmerized each time the man sat down at the mike with his harps spread out all around him.
Sam was so struck by his differentness, he was so drawn to the particularity of his demeanor, but he didn't want to over promise anything. He simply suggested that maybe Wolf could come in with his band sometime, they could try a few things, just see what they could get. Wolf showed up several days later with a guitarist and drummer in tow, plus an assortment of harmonicas, and before long the trio was just blowing as if Sam wasn't even in the room, encouraging one another with unrestrained shouts while he switched the mikes around and adjusted the levels to get the absolutely maximum out of each individual sound. Most of all, though, he was just stunned by the uniqueness, the overwhelming thrust, subtlety, and power of the Wolf's voice, as riveting an instrument as he had ever encountered in all his life.
According to Sam Phillips, ''He would set in the middle of the studio and he would stretch those long legs and his feet out in front of him, his feet had to be a number sixteen shoe. And when he opened up his mouth to sing, this guy hypnotized himself along with you. To see him on a session, it was just the greatest show, the fervor in than man's face, his eyes rolling up into his head, sweat popping out all over, setting up on the front of his chair and locked into telling you individually about his trials and tribulations. He's the only artist I ever recorded that I wish I could have had a camera on, the vitality of that man was something else''.
STUDIO SESSION FOR B.B. KING
They kept fooling around in the studio, working not so much to refine the music, really, as to bore down into its molten core. Sam Phillips could experiment with mike placement, he could improve the engineering, and he did. He switched to an omni-directional mike because of the way Howlin' Wolf constantly moved his head from side to side, and he kept cranking up the sound to the point where it was just on the edge of distortion, sometimes past it, so that the music could jump right out of the jukebox but the needle would still stay in the groove, if only barely. He tried to give the piano player more confidence, the piano part may at this point have been merely filling out the sound, but it still didn't have the muscularity that the music called for. He tried to get the band to forget his presence in the studio, hanging back behind the glass as they just jammed, coming out only to indicate approval or make a slight mike adjustment that might be accompanied by an equally unobtrusive suggestion. But most of all, he knew he needed to get the Wolf so comfortable in the studio that he could just kick off his shoes, both figuratively and literally, and reach down for that part of him that was buried somewhere deep within.
Sam sent auditions to both Modern and Chess, even as he continued to work with the band. He had no intention of stopping before he reached a point that declared, this is the core of what you are looking for. This is the pure essence. For the first time he felt as if he had in Marion Keisker a full partner in his enthusiasm for the music. Despite the indifference she had always shown toward not just the music but its practitioners (they were for the most part, in her view, an ill-behaved lot who trucked in mud on the linoleum floor without the slightest regard for all the effort she put in to keep things clean), she was utterly charmed by Wolf, by the spontaneity of his style and the gentleness of his demeanor. Marion put it down initially to the single-mindedness of Sam's focus. ''Sam played Wolf over and over. I have some marvelous old discs of Howlin' Wolf that have maybe fourteen sets of lyrics to ''How Many More Years''. You couldn't be in the presence of Sam's intense motivation and drive and hear him making all these comments about, the music, without picking something up. But Sam's favorite Wolf story was my Wolf story. I was over at the studio, one night, either painting the floor or woodwork, totally absorbed in what I was doing, and all of a sudden I heard this voice, sounding like it was coming down from the sky. 'Miss Marion, what you doing down there on the floor?''', according Marion Keisker. She was scared to death at first, of course, but then she realized Wolf had been passing by and, when he saw the lights on in the studio, had come in out of concern for her. And she retained her fondness for both him and his music all her life.
Although the Wolf will always be remembered in tandem with his later Chicago guitarist Hubert Sumlin, it is clear that the younger man learned much from Willie Johnson's belligerent, driving guitar style. There is little to suggest that, if Johnson had been willing to travel north a couple of years later, the Wolf catalogue would be any the weaker. Musically, that is - though one of them might well have killed the other before too long. "Willie and Wolf would just argue all the time like cat and dog", said James Cotton. "Willie could be pretty mean, too. It just got to be too much trouble for the old man".
The tape of the Howlin' Wolf sessions went to Chess Records in Chicago, but a next second version, produced on a session in September by Ike Turner over KWEM radio in West Memphis, Arkansas, also included a version of "Moanin' At Midnight" (''Morning At Midnight'') (RPM 333) and was sent to the Biharis, appearing on RPM Records. This situation could clearly not last, and by the following year all Howlin' Wolf sides were going to Chess, and Sam Phillips had burned his boats as far as the Biharis were concerned.
Summarize, it was only after the Bihari brothers had indicated a final and irrevocable break with their Billboard announcement that they had signed all of Sam's discoveries to exclusive contracts at the end of July that Sam at last turned in a record to Leonard Chess that he felt did full justice to Wolf's talents. This time he got Rosco Gordon's mentor, Billy ''Red'' Love, for the piano chair. Fair-skinned, freckle-faced, and barely twenty-one, Billy was comfortable in every style, and it was his distinctive piano figure that served as the intro to ''How Many More Years'' before Willie Johnson's thunderous guitar chords and Wolf's inexorable vocal took over the play. The other side, oddly enough, was not ''Baby Ride With Me'', the track they had been working on all these weeks May 14, 15, but an entirely different number, which dispensed with piano altogether and led off with a feature not present in either of the other songs, Wolf's howl. In this case it took the form of an almost unearthly moan, starting low and gathering force over the first eight bars of the song, until it coalesced in a single focused blast that seemed capable of ripping the innards out of Sam's prized omni-directional mike.
''Moanin' At Midnight'' was the very embodiment of all the loneliness and all the ferocity implicit in Wolf's music. The howl came from the ''blue yodel'' of Jimmy Rodgers, the so-called father of Country Music, whom Wolf always acknowledged as a direct influence, and Crystal Springs, Mississippi bluesman Tommy Johnson, whose delicate filigreed style, punctuated with wordless falsetto ululations, was the point of origin for much of the subtle lyricism underlying Wolf's otherwise extroverted approach. But the performance itself was inimitable, with the same hypnotic power that Sam himself had experienced from the very first time he had heard the Wolf but imbedded now in the grooves of a record in a way that the world itself could fully apprehend it. There may never have been a more powerful example of blues committed in the pure Mississippi style, not by Wolf's mentor, Charley Patton, widely acknowledged as the progenitor of Delta blues, nor by anyone else who has arrived on the scene before or since. ''I can take one damn record like 'Moanin' At Midnight''', Sam told Wolf co-biographer James Segrest, ''and forget every damn thing else that the man ever cut''. Not that he ever would. As far as Sam was concerned, there was no question at that moment that he was going to go on recording Wolf until the day that one of them died. But there was equally little question that they had achieved something together that would be around for the ages. No less than if it had been carved in marble, in granite. It would be there, Sam Phillips was convinced. It would be there. As big as life itself.
STUDIO SESSION FOR HARMONICA FRANK FLOYD
STUDIO SESSION FOR JACKIE BRENSTON
The card measures approximately 2.25 x 4" with round edges. Dr. Ross's full name, Issiah Ross, his written on the card in black felt tip marker - it is unlikely the signature of Doctor Ross, but probably written in by whoever issued him the card. It shows normal wear (considering that it was probably carried around in Doctor Ross' back pocket for a year) but is in overall good condition. At the time that Doctor Ross was issued this card, he was only 24 years old and had not yet signed his first recording contract. A year later Ross would join the Army. In 1952 he would release his first single with Sam Phillip's legendary Sun Records label.
Studio sessions for Rosco Gordon at the Memphis Recording Service in Memphis, Tennessee.
Hank Williams is sued for copyright infringement, charged with stealing the melody for ''Cold, Cold Heart'' from the T. Texas Tyler recording ''You'll Still Be In My Heart''.
The Maddox Brothers & Rose sign with Columbia Records.
DECEMBER 4, 1951 TUESDAY
Studio sessions for Rosco Gordon and Bobby Bland at the Memphis Recording Service in Memphis, Tennessee.
Guitarist Gary Rossington is born in Jacksonville, Florida. In his teens, he becomes a founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose ''Sweet Home Alabama'' receives billing in a Country Music Foundation book among country's 500 all-time greatest singles.
STUDIO SESSION FOR ROSCO GORDON
Name (Or. No. Of Instruments)
STUDIO SESSION FOR J.C. COLE