© March 8, 2013 Bear Family Records (CD) 500/200rpm BCD 17310 (1-8) mono digital
THE SUN BLUES BOX 1950 - 1958

The greatest-ever blues box now significantly upgraded! During the 1950s Sun Records founder Sam Phillips captured many of the finest post-War blues artists of all time, including B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Little Milton, Rufus Thomas, Junior Parker, Rosco Gordon, Sleepy John Estes, Earl Hooker, Walter Horton, James Cotton, and Ike Turner. Among the noteworthy original recordings are Jackie Brenston-Ike Turner's ''Rocket 88'', Junior Parker original ''Mystery Train'', Rufus Thomas's ''Bear Cat'', B.B. King's ''She's Dynamite'', Walter Horton's ''Easy'', Howlin' Wolf's ''Moanin' At Midnight'', Rosco Gordon's ''Booted'', and Honeyboy Edwards' early Robert Johnson-styled recording of ''Sweet Home Chicago''. All of them are here in newly restored sound, together with many other rare and collectible songs by now-classic Fifties blues singers like Doctor Ross, Joe Hill Louis, Willie Nix, Billy Love, and Charlie Booker who brought the ageless soul of the Delta into modern times. As the electric guitar came to fore, it became the predominant sound of post-War blues, and Phillips knew how to record it like no other producer ever had. Here are blues guitar titans Pat Hare, Willie Johnson, and Floyd Murphy, and of course B.B. King, Little Milton, Earl Hooker and Ike Turner at the dawn of their careers.

Sam Phillips also recorded Southern gospel and vocal groups. In the 1950s, Memphis was home to many of the finest Southern gospel groups, including the Brewster, the Southern Jubilee Singers, and the Jones Brothers. Their most enduring work is here. Among the vocal group classics is the Prisonaires' original recording of ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''.

Several significant caches of unissued recordings have come to light since the 1980s LP edition of this set. Among them are Sam Phillips' commercial for a cure-all patent medicine; a primitive John Lee Hookerstyles singer named J.C. Cole; and never-heard recordings by Walter Bradford, the Jones Brothers, Billy ''Red'' Love, and many more.

In all, there are 10 CDs featuring 306 recordings, 14 of them previously unissued. Additionally, renowned experts Steve LaVere, David Evans, and Jim O'Neal have made decades of research available, including biographical information and – above all – breathtaking photos from the golden era of Memphis blues. The essays and photos are housed in a 184-page, hardbound book authored by Hank Davis, Colin Escott, and Martin Hawkins.

Producer:
Sam C. Phillips
Re-Issue Producers:
Hank Davis, Colin Escott, and Martin Hawkins
Disc/Metalpart Transfer:
Christian Zwarg and Steve LaVere
Source Research and Comparison:
Hank Davis, Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins
Mastering:
Jurgen Crasser
Liner Notes:
Hank Davis, Colin Escott, and Martin Hawkins
Additional Notes:
Steve LaVere, Rob Bowman, and Bez Turner
Discography:
Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins
Transcription/Editing:
Evelyne Gerstenberger

Photos and Illustrations:
Steve LaVere, Victor Pearlin, George Paulis, David Evans, Doug Seroff,
The Showtime Music Archive (Toronto), R.A. Andreas, Colin Escott,
Hank Davis, Martin Hawkins, Cilla Huggins,
Dick Shurman, Bill Greensmith 

Photo Scans:
Andreas Merck and Steve LaVere
Photo Restoration:
Sam Malbuch
Artwork
Mychael Gerstenberger 

Thanks to:
David Evans, Jim O'Neal, Bill Greensmith, Chris Bentley, Cilla Huggins,
Peter Guralnick, Bill Millar, Eric LeBlanc, Bob Eagle, Terry Stewart,
Jim Cole, Joe Filisko, Dale Franklin, Robert Loers, Doug Seroff, and
John Singleton and Phyllis Hill at Sun Entertainment, Nashville's 

Special thanks to the late Sam Phillips and the late Shelby Singleton 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

MEMPHIS BLUES AT 100It went undocumented at the time. In January 1950, Sam Phillips opened the Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union Avenue, one mile or so east of the Mississippi River. Beale Street dead-ended one block south, and the heart of Memphis's African American community lay close by. Looking at photos of Phillips from back then, you'd never guess that his soul belonged on Beale Street. He looked like a poster boy for the but-toned-down orthodoxy of early fifties suburban America. Even in impromptu snapshots, he's wearing a sports jacket and tie, and not a hair is out of place. But Phillips grew up around blues and gospel, and, in 1939, he and some friends drove to Memphis from their home in northwest Alabama. Fifty years later, the memory was still vivid: "We drove down Beale in the middle of the night, and it was rockin'. It was so active, musically, socially, God, I loved it''! The blues resonated with his unconforming soul. If his immediate goal was to make a going concern of the studio and possibly quit his day jobs, his ambition was to capture the sound of Beale Street.

Memphis sits atop a vast alluvial plain, the Mississippi Delta, and the Delta bequeathed us the blues. Outside the towns and cities, African Americans vastly outnumbered whites, and their number and their apartness (an apartness enforced by law and custom), ensured that their music became a dialect that drew upon their ancestry and experience. Paradoxically, this music, created for a relatively tiny audience, has influenced the popular music of the world like no other.

As mechanization reduced the need for field labor and as a life freer of bigotry beckoned, vast numbers of African Americans left the Delta. Journalist Isabel Wilkerson gave the reason simply and succinctly as "the warmth of other suns''. Memphis was often the first stop. Sam Phillips was ideally positioned to capture Delta musicians making their way north. It was no coincidence that the vast majority of musicians heard on this collection were from the Delta, neither was it a coincidence that most of them settled elsewhere, principally Chicago. The first anthology of Sun blues recordings, ''The Blues Came Down From Memphis'', should have been ''The Blues Came Up To Memphis''.

Sam Phillips could not handle all the riches offered to him. B.B. King, Ike Turner, Howlin' Wolf, Walter Horton, James Cotton, Junior Parker, Rosco Gordon, Rufus Thomas, and Little Milton, all at the down of their careers, walked into Phillips' studio. So did numberless others. Many of them were drawing on primordial Delta blues, reshaping it for a new era. This book and the ten accompanying CDs reveal the story of the blues, rhythm and blues, vocal group, and gospel recorded by Sam Phillips between 1950 and 1958. This music is, without exaggeration, one of the cornerstones of popular music.

Thirty years have passed since we started work on the LP version of this box set for Charly Records. Nearly all of the artists on this set who were still living back then have died, as have Sam Phillips and his only employee when these recordings were made, Marion Keisker Macinnes. Phillips' partners from those years, Jud Phillips and Jim Bulleit, have died, too. James Cotton and Dennis Binder still perform as of this writing, and Johnny London still lives in Memphis. Although no longer a kid or even a performer, Billy ''The Kid'' Emerson reportedly preaches at a church in Oak Park, Illinois. As far as we know, all other principal artists have died.

A few years after the original LP boxed set was released, Martin Hawkins and Hank Davis produced a series of six LPs and CDs, ''The Sun Blues Archives'', comprising more unissued songs and alternate takes. In 1996, after CDs had supplanted LPs, Charly's Neil Slaven and Roger Dopson reissued the original boxed set on CD, adding some of the ''Blues Archive'' tracks and removing some of the songs from the original box including the vocal group and gospel songs. Leaving aside the very questionable ethics of revising our work without our knowledge or permission, we decided to reinstate the deleted songs while retaining the songs they added, thus replacing both the LP box and its dishonorable CD counterpart. Our title not with standing, we felt all along that the set should include the full spectrum of black music recorded at Sun. We have included many additional unissued recordings that have come to light of late together with others issued on Chess, RPM, and Trumpet that were unavailable to us for contractual reasons in the 1980s. The fact that a hitherto unknown Memphis Recording Service acetate by the Jones Brothers would show up at a flea market in Ohio in 2011 proves that there's still more to find.

We kept the cut-off at 1958. Blues and rhythm and blues were recorded at Sun during the 1960s. Billy Adams, Bill Yates, the Jesters, even Charlie Rich and Jerry Lee Lewis, sang the blues from time to time, but they were white guys who'd come up in the rock and roll era. Frank Frost was the lone throwback, and, as a companion volume, Bear Family has reissued his Phillips International LP. The blues that Sam Phillips recorded in the fifties was the music that the African American community created for itself when few in the broader community knew or cared. It made no concessions to mainstream sensibility because pop airplay and acceptance were out of the question. Phillips' achievement was to document this music in all its rawness and often its technical imperfection.

Over the years covered here, Sam Phillips developed recording techniques that enhanced the music, and he put them to good use when the rockabillies showed up.

This new compilation was wrapped up in August 2012, one hundred years to the month after the first 12-bar blues song by an African American to use ''blues'' in the title was published. It wasn't by W.C. Handy but by the otherwise unheralded Arthur ''Baby'' Seales. Several other blues were published that year, including Handy's ''Memphis Blues''. Surely as good an anniversary as any to celebrate one of the truly significant caches of the blues.

- Colin Escott on behalf of the producers: Hank Davis, Colin Escott, and Martin Hawkins.

THANK YOU

The original LP version of this box made in the 1980s reflected the contributions of Cilla Huggins, Bez Turner, Rob Bowman and Dave Booth. For this new edition we have drawn at length upon the erudition and expertise of Dr. David Evans, Steve LaVere, and Jim O'Neal. Others who have read the texts and to whom much is owed include Cilla Huggins (again) and Chris Bentley. Those forthcoming with information include Bill Creensmith and Peter Guralnick, and we checked much of the biographical information against Eric Leblanc and Bob Eagle's ''Blues: A Regional Experience'' (ABC-CLIO/Praeger Publishers, 2013). Terry Stewart at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gave us access to Sun Records' check register for 1951-1953. As ever, Bill Millar's archive was invaluable. Jim Cole at the Mississippi Valley Collection, Wayne Dowdy at the Memphis Public Library, Joe Filisko, Dale Franklin, and Robert Loers helped us, too. Back in 1985 we hoped the original 151-track LP box would serve as the definitive account of Sam Phillips' recordings of black music in Memphis. When it first came out, Phillips' partner, Sally Wilbourn, sent Martin Hawkins a note saying "Sam's so proud of this''. We believe he would be prouder of this greatly expanded new edition.

- Hank Davis, Colin Escott & Martin Hawkins, September 2012

SAM PHILLIPS AND THE INDEPENDENT RECORD INDUSTRYA few months after opening the Memphis Recording Service, Sam Phillips was recording blues, gospel, and country music with the intention of selling the masters to the independent labels that had proliferated after the War. After selling several titles to Bill McCall's 4-Star Records, Phillips began working with the Bihari brothers who owned Modern and RPM Records. Nine months later, Phillips switched abruptly to the Chess brothers, giving them a major hit, ''Rocket 88''. By late 1952, Chess Records and Sam Phillips were falling out. Phillips had already made two faltering attempts to break into the manufacturing end of the business. In August 1950 he had started ''It's The Phillips'' in partnership with Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips, but the sales on the first and only release weren't encouraging. In the spring of 1952 he launched Sun Records with the one record that fared little better, but, as Phillips' disenchantment with Chess grew, he saw he had no option but to go it alone. He took on some new partners: his brother Jud and Nashville record man Jim Bulleit. Sun was relaunched in January 1953 with recordings originally intended for Chess.

Between Sun's false dawn in March 1952 and its relaunch nine months later, Meteor and Duke Records started in Memphis, as did a label of uncertain ownership, Wasco Records. Although incorporated separately from Modern-RPM, Meteor was owned by Lester Bihari and scored a sizeable hit with Elmore James' ''I Believe'' when Sun was on hiatus. Duke was owned by WDIA's David James Mattis and Music Sales' Bill Fitzgerald. It, too, got off to a strong start between Sun's launch and relaunch with Johnny Ace. It was clear that Meteor and Duke would attract all the best artists if Phillips did not act quickly. After Duke was acquired by Peacock Records in 1953, The Phillips, Meteor, Duke, Sun, Starmaker, and Wasco all recorded blues and rhythm and blues.

''I don't know what made me take that very brave step which, from a strictly business standpoint. I'm not sure anyone in their right mind would have taken. I was at radio WREC and I had worked hard to get there. A little country boy that wasn't too good of an announcer, I guarantee you that'', recalled Sam Phillips.

If the statistics left to us on fading issues of trade papers are to be believed only a fool would have entered the rhythm and blues record industry in the early 1950s. An increasing number of companies were chasing an impossibly small market, reportedly less that half the size of the kiddie record market. Those with their ears closer to the ground must have known differently. The market must have been bigger than reported. Wartime shellac rationing had forced the major labels to let go of artists in every genre who didn't have a national profile. As shellac restrictions eased, the majors slowly rebuilt their rosters, and independent labels sprang up. The indies saw that the majors were slow to move back into blues/rhythm and blues swiftly cornered the market. The bottom line was that 30,000 was a good sale in rhythm and blues compared with 300,000 in pop, but indies could make money on 30,000 sales. The artists rarely had agents or lawyers and weren't contract savvy; the musicians union had only a marginal presence at sessions; sales could be made in places where regular record distributors didn't go. In every way, blues/rhythm and blues suited nimble, cost-conscious independent labels.

''The guys who owned these little labels were great people. They were funny people. These were family businesses. It was very casual. If you came up with a song the Biharis liked, they'd say, 'Well, let's get a session together, call so-and-so, get a rhythm section and make a record'', recalled Jerry Leiber.

Indie label owners were unafraid to pay kickbacks, or payola, to disc jockeys. ''R&B Flapjack Turners Get Malodorous Moola Aplenty'' ran a Billboard headline in January 1951. Sam Phillips was entering a cutthroat market: too many records in search of too few dollars. When Jud Phillips revamped Sun's distributor network in November-December 1953, undoing some of the initial setup arranged by Sam's first partner, Jim Bulleit, he found that disc jockeys liked yellow Sun records but were, as Ray Charles put it, looking for ''Lincoln and Jackson to start shaking hands''. Phillips' check register for 1953 logs quite a few payments to disc jockeys, from as much as $200 to Gene Nobles on Nashville's powerhouse WLAC down to $4.74 in cigarettes to Eddie Teamer on Memphis's WHHM.

''This distributor in New York showed me what they were paying disc jockeys. They had four disc jockeys on the payroll and said they could feel the difference in volume since they started paying them'', wrote Jud Phillips in a letter to Sam.

Sam Phillips was a man apart in the independent record business. He was as personally involved in production and sound engineering as in the business. Some of his artists say he cheated them: Phillips insisted vehemently that he didn't. Very infrequently, his name appears in the composer credits when there's reason to suspect that he had little to do with the composition of a song, but his files show a scrupulous concern for logging session fees, advances and royalties. ''My honestly and integrity are everything to me. I know what it is to be cheated... There were just very few people in the business who were as honest in their accountings as I was'', Sam Phillips told. It's not for loaning Joe Hill Louis five dollars that Sam Phillips is remembered, though; it's for the music he made with Louis and the others who passed through his studio. Phillips brought genuine insight to his dealings with musicians. He worked hard to get the best out of them. He usually knew when they were trying to play something just to please the white guy behind the glass. He wouldn't yell at them if they arrived late. When other labels might do two takes and call it a day, Phillips would sit behind the recording equipment until dawn if he thought that the musicians on the studio floor would capture the sound he heard in his head. This music isn't special by accident.

- Colin Escott

TIME HAS MADE A CHANGEWhen Colin Escott and I arrived in Memphis in August 1971 to work on a book about Sun Records, we visited Sam Phillips' brother, Tom, at Select-O-Hits on Chelsea Avenue. There was an air-conditioned store in the front of the building and an un-airconditioned warehouse out back where most of the unsold Sun records were stored. We gorged ourselves to the extent of our limited budgets, hoving to clamber over discs that would attract a good price today. We followed in the wake of a few other, mostly European, record collectors and we were just a little too late to find the really rare items. We noticed that the warehouse also contained acetate discs and boxes of paperwork relating to Sun and the Memphis Recording Service, but we had neither the time nor the authorization to study them fully. As we discovered later, fans and dealers had already removed acetates and paperwork, but some of both became available to us for this set.

We knew that the Sun master tapes and session tapes had been transferred to Nashville after the catalog had been sold in 1969, but we made contact with Steve LaVere, who'd been granted access to the tapes. At that time, Steve was running a store in Memphis's midtown hippie enclave. Forty years on, we asked him to summarize his role in cataloguing and analyzing the Sun blues tapes and you can read his part of the story here.

In 1973, we made contact with Shelby Singleton who'd bought the Sun catalog and allowed us access to the tapes. We started to compile reissues for release in England and gradually became aware of the number of unissued recordings available to us. Tantalizing gaps made us aware of recordings that had been recorded over, lost or stolen through the years. Nevertheless, we pieced together a passable Sun discography and began programming a number of reissues that started to give a fuller reflection of the music Sam Phillips had captured at 706 Union Avenue. In recent years we have renewed our research and produced a number of single-artist CDs and CD boxes that provide an indepth account of singers recorded by Sam Phillips. Now, with this box, we have been able to provide a more comprehensive picture of all Phillips' blues, rhythm and blues, vocal group, and gospel recordings than ever before.

- Martin Hawkins

CD 1 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

DOWN SOUTH BLUES

During the early years of the Memphis Recording Service, Sam Phillips recorded a wide range of blues, rhythm and blues, gospel and hillbilly. The first CD shows his early bias toward the blues of earlier times. Phillips made recordings in the spring and summer of 1950, placing titles with 4-Star, Modern Records. He also released two titles on a label he co-owned, ''It's The Phillips''. Although we don't associate Sun with country or pre-War blues, this is the music that Phillips remembered from his childhood. That music he said, was the reason he established a recording studio.

Lost John Hunter & His Blind Bats

1 - Cool Down Mamma (2:13) 1950 (Lost John Hunter) > 4-Star 1492-A <
(John Hunter-Lyndell Woodson) (Music Clearance)
Recorded Probably May 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Lost John Hunter (vocal and piano), The Blinds Bats Unknown (guitar, bass, drums)

There was considerable confusion for many years surrounding the actual place and date that these tracks were recorded, although the mystery now seems solved. Sam Phillips sold the sides to 4-Star Records, whose numerical system indicates that they were issued around May/June 1950, whilst this title was registered with B.M.I. shortly after its release, in September 1950. This seems to confirm that the Hunter titles were indeed the first blues recordings made by Sam Phillips - certainly, they were the first he placed with a third party. Technicalities aside, this remains a fine performance under any given circumstances driven along by the prominently recorded piano and Lost John's grainy vocal.

This track is essentially a jumping city blues, without the horn section. Hunter's backup group, the Blind Bats, make their presence felt as they chant their responses. Billboard reviewed Hunter's single at the beginning of August, in between, Sam Phillips wrote to Nashville's pre-eminent rhythm and blues disc jockey, Gene Nobles, stating (probably with some exaggeration) that the record was already moving well in Memphis. The Hunter titles were among the very first blues recordings made by Sam Phillips; the first he placed with a third party.

2 - Schoolboy (2:50) 1950 (Lost John Hunter) > 4-Star 1492-B <
(John Hunter-Lyndell Woodson) (Music Clearance)
Recorded Probably May 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Lost John Hunter (vocal and piano), The Blinds Bats Unknown (guitar, bass, drums)

Lost John Hunter joins the long list of unlikely "schoolboys'' which includes the likes of Jimmy Reed, Peppermint Harris, and Fats Domino. A slower, but no less full-blooded performance, Hunter's confident vocal soars over the trio accompaniment, and its clear from both his vocal and piano styling that he's more at home at a slower tempo like this

3 - Y-M And V Blues (3:05) 1950 (Lost John Hunter) > 4-Star 1511-A <
(John Hunter) (Music Clearance)
Recorded Probably May 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Lost John Hunter (vocal and piano), The Blinds Bats Unknown (guitar, bass, drums)

Following one further 4-Star single this local blind musician lived up to his name and went AWOL, a great shame as his talent shines through the surface noise. Just a few weeks after Lost John's first release came the second. It was a common enough practise in those days, albeit one that seems inexplicable today.
4-Star had been in business since 1945 when it was launched as a subsidiary of Gilt-Edge. The label's biggest selling rhythm and blues single was Pvt. Cecil Gant's ''I Wonder'', and part of Lost John's appeal to 4-Star/Gilt-Edge owner Bill McCall might have been his similarity to Gant. This mellow blues was named for the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad, a subsidiary of the Illinois Central, so it should have been Y&MV, not Y-M And V. The locomotives ran several different routes from Memphis to New Orleans, and were familiar sight in the Delta.

4 - Boogie For Me Baby (3:11) 1950 (Lost John Hunter) > 4-Star 1511-B <
(John Hunter) (Music Clearance)
Recorded Probably May 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Lost John Hunter (vocal and piano), The Blinds Bats Unknown (guitar, bass, drums)

''Label's to be congratulated for being honest enough to say this disking's not suited for radio broadcast right on the label copy'', noted Billboard in its review dated September 9, 1950. ''It's a crude boogie blues that might pick up some Southern juke coin''. And it was true that someone at 4-Star believed that this side was unsuitable for broadcast, while the other was okay. Phillips brought the electric guitar way up in the mix, and the guitar drives the show. Lost John starts playing the solo but stops abruptly as if he'd just remembered that this was the guitarist's space. The song's energy is accentuated by the stop rhythms, and makes up in commitment what it lacks in originality. Lost John appears to have made no other recordings anytime, anywhere except for the unissued Memphis Recording Service acetate here on this session, an acetate that was essentially another version of this song.

Charlie Burse

5 - Shorty The Barber (2:24) 1985 (Charlie Burse) > Not Originally Issued <
(Chuck Matthews) (Cromwell Music)
Recorded Probably May/June 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charlie Burse (vocal probably guitar), Mickey Mathis or Lotis Stevenson or Bunny Hall (saxophone),
Probably Robert Burse (drums)

Charlie Burse belongs to a far older musical tradition, having first recorded with the Memphis Jug Band in 1928. This, his last commercial session, yielding this vaudeville-flavoured song reminiscent of the rollicking music prevalent among the jug bands in which he once worked. Despite his twenty-five years' experience Burse sings the light-hearted lyric with gusto, as if relishing the change to record one more - and they lively "knocked-out" piano is particularly appropriate. Dispute this, the song remained unissued for some thirty-five years. The song was of more recent vintage, composed by C.G. ''Red'' Matthews. A label owner (Von, OJ, Ekko), Matthews also wrote one of the biggest songs to emerge from Memphis, ''White Silver Sands''.. a hit for Brother Dave Gardner on OJ and the Bill Black Combo on Hi Records. Shorty was based on a character from Amos 'n' Andy, while the song itself owed a pretty considerable debt to 1949's big hit, ''Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy''. Burse sings the light-hearted lyric with gusto as if relishing another chance to record, and the lively knocked-out piano is particularly appropriate, if way too far up in the mix. Despite this, the recording remained unissued for some thirty-five years. Phillips had high hopes for the song, writing to the publisher, Spencer Music, several weeks after the Burse session to inform them that he intended to record it with ''Joe Hill Louis, an ex-Columbia recording artist (Negro)''. Spencer Music referred him to the Harry Fox Agency for a mechanical license, and Phillips, wrote back, ''We do not know Mr. Harry Fox or where we can reach him. We assumed he worked at BMI''. At this point in his career, Phillips was evidently quite clueless on how to clear songs for release. He would get smarter.

Red Matthews eventually placed the song with a hillbilly singer, Lou Millet, who recorded it rockabilly style for Republic Records in 1955.

Joe Hill Louis

SAM PHILLIPS TALKING ABOUT JOE HILL LOUIS - "I had heard of Joe Hill Louis before I ever met him. I cannot remember where, but I do know that I was aware of him. I knew that he was this blues singer, this one-man-band, who would be seen and heard around town back in those days. It was well known that he played various places within a 30 or 40 mile radius of Memphis.

Matter of fact, if I am not mistaken, the first time I ever saw Joe Hill he was on his way to play a show at Moscow, Tennessee, about forty miles away. He played there a lot, it turned out. On this occasion, I was down at the studio working on getting the building right. This was before we were open for business, before we got all the walls built right to our needs. Joe just called in.

He had heard something was happening and he wanted to know what was going on. I said, 'I'm going to build a recording studio here once I get the building into shape'. He said, 'Man, that's just what we need here in Memphis'. He explained to me that he was a recording artist - for Columbia - and that he was ready to make some more records.

So Joe was in even before the beginning. He was the first black artist, I believe, to make contact with me at that time. Then, later on, after I had recorded him, he would help me out by spreading the word around the community that here was a man who might be able to do something in music. I think he was responsible for suggesting to Jack Kelly and Charlie Burse and other musicians that they should come to see me.

Joe Hill was a very likeable person. He was the kind of person to just drop in and say 'hi' and then keep out of the way if it was not his session. He would just remind you he was around in that way. Joe Hill was always well dressed, sharp, a dapper man. He was well organised. He was a treasure, to me. He was a very entertaining man, and by that I do not mean a lot of jokes, just that he put on a good show and was very personable. He was fairly unique. He was a kind of a loner, but extremely friendly. He enjoyed being around and being involved, he liked to have an attachment to what was happening, but never in a way that was too closely involved. He was a loner, but not lonesome, if you understand me. He was his own person. I never saw him look defeated or unhappy about anything. Everyone liked Joe Hill that knew him. Joe was a sweet guy. When I had the studio finished and invited him in to record, he said, 'Well, man, this is going to be nice'. Then he sat down at his equipment and played me everything he knew, which was quite a lot.

Joe Hill had some very interesting approaches to things. He was a complete individual as a musician - he had his own style that he had evolved himself. I believe that he was self-taught as a musician, and he played things just however he saw them, or heard them, and I liked that. He liked to listen to Arthur Crudup and T-Bone Walker, to my memory, from the records, but he also knew many of the local musicians. He wrote many of his own songs, though of course a lot of it was taken from something or other somewhere. But again it often came out very personal to him.

Joe played guitar and harmonica and bass drum all at the same time. He had a harmonica holder around his neck. At times he would get the effect of singing through the harmonica into the mike. It was a style he had developed. He was that kind of person. He would go his own way. When I first heard him, I just thought, 'this is a guy that deserves to be heard', even though I realized that it was basically a novelty kind of thing. When we were in the studio, usually it was just Joe and me on our own. He would play something and we would talk and then he would play another and we would decide what to record. Joe really did not like to record with anyone else. He had developed his one-man show and his instrumentation and that was what he liked to do. He would never have said to me that he would not work with other people, but I quickly found out that he really wanted to record on his own.

But I always thought I could do a little better with Joe Hill than I did do. I liked unusual things in music, and 1 was always looking for that spark of individuality. The problem was that he had gotten so used to doing his own thing. Recording Joe was a challenge to me. With Joe Hill, most everything he wanted to play was in 4/4s. He had to play those fast 4/4s at his clubs and around town. That was what drew the crowd, and Joe couldn't adapt really. Joe never could really get a hold of a ballad - I mean a low down dirty blues ballad now - because the mechanics of the instruments he was playing were against that. I did try to get him into some more 2/4 time, and we did try different people working with him. I felt I could have miked him better or arranged the instruments differently, and the fact that we didn't was really my fault.

Because I think I did get a better sound with Doctor Ross, for instance. Ross had a very special sound. He had a great command of his music and a real instinct for what was going on around him. 'Chicago Breakdown' is one of the better records I think ever heard in my life, if I am allowed to say that.

Joe Hill, though, had certain limitations, vocally, in truth, but they were never so much as to prevent us doing something with him. It did make me want to record him just with his harmonica though, without the other instruments to distract him. You can hear on ''Eyesight To The Blind'' that his vocal is so much more focused and upfront, for instance. The piano gave that recording a much more solid rhythmic foundation. Ford Nelson was an accomplished piano player. He worked at WDIA along with Joe Hill and he was an easygoing guy, the perfect accompanist. ''Eyesight'' was a song that was very popular locally and we really wanted to get a good cut on it. It was a song Joe brought in that he had learned from Sonny Boy Williamson.

The first record with Joe Hill came about because had been fooling around recording him and mentioned this to disc jockey Dewey Phillips. Now Dewey liked Joe Hill very much, and Dewey was on the air. He wanted to promote Joe, he really wanted to do something with him, so that was when we decided to go into the record business. The song Dewey liked was ''Boogie In The Park''. It was a song Joe played a lot, and it was associated with him.

Though I am not sure whether he first played it in Handy Park or the other little park along there, or whether it was Russwood Park where Joe used to play when the Memphis Red Socks were in town. They were the black baseball team in those days. The white team was the Memphis Chicks.

Another of Joe's songs was ''Gotta Go Baby.'' It had a clapping accompaniment by a friend of Joe's who used to do a tap dance routine with him sometime where he played. ''I Feel Like A Million'' is the song that really tells it all about what there is to know about Joe Hill's music. He played infectious, good time blues. That was him. ''Street Walkin' Woman'' is another one remember, because of the fine guitar solo on that one. ''Heartache Baby'' was about as good a slow blues as I think I ever recorded on Joe. But maybe ''Cold Chills'' was the best slow one, that was another song he said he had taught to him by Sonny Boy Williamson. Joe would also play that John Lee Hooker riff that was very popular at the time.

Saul and Jules Bihari had found out from Don Pierce at 4 Star that I was building a recording studio, and they wanted me to record some music for them. So I did do that for a little time. It was on a shake-hand deal. I had shake-hand deals with everyone. But it turned into being a problem with Saul and Jules. We had a misunderstanding, you could say. And there was no place in my life for that kind of thing. So went back to recording Joe Hill and the other artists for my own label, and Saul and Jules arranged with Lester Bihari to make recordings for them. Les was all right and we had no problems between us, though I am not sure how well the three of them got on together in fact.

All the time Joe was a musician, he also had a day job with the Canale family, who I knew slightly but never really in connection with Joe. They were wealthy and well thought of, and knew that they could depend on him. He was the perfect person to have around. That was why he only played his own little circuit within 30 miles or so. He would always be back in time to work the next day.

I never did see Joe Hill play his music outside of my studio. I promised him I would go out to watch him, but I was so busy with the studio and with Radio WREC and one thing and another. After a while I got where it was so busy that Joe just drifted off. Then, later on, I heard he had stepped on a rusty nail and died. That was really sad. Too many good people die for no good reason in this world. It was a real shame''.

- Interview by Martin Hawkins, May 1, 2000

6 - Boogie In The Park (2:45) 1950 (Joe Hill Louis) > It's The Phillips 9002-A <
(Joe Hill Louis) (Copyright Control)
Recorded June/July 27, 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal, guitar, harmonica

The sole release on Sam and Dewey's eponymous Phillips label: although issued as the flip side of Louis' disc, this was the first side cut at his first Union Avenue session (he'd recorded for Columbia the previous year). It has a percussive quality similar to that of the topside, but the tempo is slowed to allow a greater prominence to the lyric, which tells the tale of an unfaithful woman upon whom our hero has lavished molar aplenty, but received precious little in return. A common enough blues theme, the chanted vocals add considerably to the air of malice generated by the harsh guitar lines. Nominally the plug side of It's The Phillips' release, this "boogie" is a rough stomper, driven along by some percussive guitar work, and punctuated by squeaky harmonica. Louis returned to this theme on several occasions, but never again with quite the same force and conviction as he did on this recording. ''The song Dewey liked was ''Boogie In The Park'', Sam Phillips told Martin Hawkins. ''It was a song Joe played a lot, and it was associated with him. Though I am not sure whether he first played it in Handy Park or the other little park along there, or whether it was Russwood Park where Joe used to play when the Memphis Red Sox were in town. They were the black baseball team in those days. The white team was the Memphis Chicks''. 300 copies pressed by Plastic Products on August 30, 1950.

7 - Gotta Let You Go (2:42) 1950 (Joe Hill Louis) > It's The Phillips 9001-B <
(Joe Hill Louis-Sam Phillips) (Copyright Control)
Recorded June/July 27, 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal, guitar, harmonica

''Gotta Let You Go'', the flipside of Louis first disc is wildly percussive, too, but the slower tempo allows the words to shine. It's a splenetic blues: our man has lavished money and gifts upon his woman, and is getting nothing in return. Joe Hill rants in one chord through the verses. It's a common enough theme, but he's riled up, and the harsh guitar accentuates his malice. Many extremely rare records are often found to be extremely rare for a reason; this one, almost certainly unheard by all but a few hundred people in and around Memphis at the time of release, is a jewel of high octane juke joint blues. 300 copies pressed by Plastic Products on August 30, 1950.

Sleepy John Estes

8 - Registration Day Blues (3:09) 1976 (Sleepy John Estes) > Not Originally Issued <
(John Estes) (Tristan Music)
Recorded April 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sleepy John Estes (vocal and guitar), Lee ''Tennessee'' Crisp (harmonica),
Possibly Hammie Nixon (washboard)

This topical blues is clearly about the Korean War, although Estes may well originally have written it about World War II. It shows off his unique style to good advantage, and it is interesting to note that he is using an electric guitar. From his very first to his last recordings, Estes employed an anguished delivery in which he would forcefully project the first half of a line or verse, and then breathlessly slur the remainder. Some of Estes noted biting observations can be found here: "Now let's go boys/hold up for your town/if you ever get back home/you'll be on your same old paved ground". Or the last verse: ''Now if you go to the camp, boy / Hopin' to act rough / They'll put you in that ol' guardhouse / Make you pick up cigarette butts''. As is often the case with Estes, every line repays close listening, but Estes doesn't make it easy. His longtime sidekick, Hammie Nixon, claimed to be on this session, but Marion Keisker noted that Lee ''Tennessee'' Crisp played harmonica. Eminent harmonica scholar Joe Filisko confirmed that it's not Hammie on harmonica, but it's possible that he's playing the washboard heard on some songs. Keisker's notes indicate that both Peacock and Chess showed an interest in "Registration Day Blues" and "Rats In My Kitchen", but it seems that neither deal was ever finalised.

9 - Policy Man (2:51) 1985 (Sleepy John Estes) > Not Originally Issued <
(John Estes) (Tristan Music)
Recorded April 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sleepy John Estes (vocal and guitar), Lee ''Tennessee'' Crisp (harmonica),
Possibly Hammie Nixon (washboard)

Although the sales pitch for an insurance company (!) this track offers the closest glimpse of Estes' pre-War style. According to David Evans the song was a sales for Al Rawls' funeral home in Brownsville, Tennessee. Its original working title was "Burial Insurance Blues", for only $3 you get full benefits - just give up some whiskey money every week, and they bring you home with a sheet over your face, you'll be all set. Whoopie! Its easy to see why Sam Phillips sought to capture Estes on record, as this is indeed exceptionally pure blues music.

Bo Carter's ''Policy Man'' calls on the insurance man to pay out so he can sustain his gambling, while Sonny Boy (John Lee) Williamson's ''Insurance Blues'' is almost a coda to Estes' song in that it spells out the perils of not keeping up with your payments. At this stage Sam Phillips could not have foreseen the early 1960s Folk Boom, which led to the resurrection of Estes and many other old timers: at the time Sam recorded these sides he must have though that Estes/ back-country blues was on the very verge of extinction. (The take used here is different to that used on the original Sun Blues Box).

10 - Rats In My Kitchen (3:05) 1985 (Sleepy John Estes) > Not Originally Issued <
(John Estes) (Tristan Music)
Recorded April 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sleepy John Estes (vocal and guitar), Lee ''Tennessee'' Crisp (harmonica),
Possibly Hammie Nixon (washboard)

The rats are so mean in Sleepy John's kitchen that he needs a mountain cat! When Estes cut these sides he was only 48 years old - yet his voice conjures up the image of a wizened old blues survivor in his 1970s. In fact, when compared with his early 1940s Bluebird sides, one is left with the impression that the intervening decade had not been kind to Estes - or perhaps his chops had just become a little rusty. Recorded at the same session as its companion sides here, the harp player would appear to have sat this track out. Estes seems to have taken his cue from Blind Lemon Jefferson's 1928 ''Maltese Cat Blues'' which starts, ''Rats is mean in my kitchen, I done lost my Maltese cat''. Beyond that, the song is pure Sleepy John Estes. The last verse, for those who want subtitles, probably goes as follows: ''I'm gonna call a 42 squad car for to protect me in my home (x2) / You know the rats 'stroying my groc', (yodel) work on my D-Con'' (a rat killer). In later years, ''Rats In My Kitchen'' became a part of Sleepy John's campus repertoire. To a generation raised on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, it was an unsettling snapshot of another America.

11 - Runnin' Around (3:02) 1985 (Sleepy John Estes) > Not Originally Issued <
(John Estes) (Tristan Music)
Recorded April 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sleepy John Estes (vocal and guitar), Lee ''Tennessee'' Crisp (harmonica),
Possibly Hammie Nixon (washboard)

Estes is not best known for uptempo material, but this track proves he could easily accommodate them into his idiosyncratic style. Estes and washboard/harp-player Lee ''Tennessee'' Crisp generate considerable energy between them, and there is some fine interplay between the guitar and harp. Estes' vocal has something of a plaintive feel, which adds to the overall appeal. Structurally, the song is very similar to Estes' pre-War hit, ''Someday Baby'', better known to nearly everyone as ''Worried Life Blues''. (The take 2 used here is different to that used on the original Sun Blues Box).

Doctor Ross & His Jump And Jive Boys

12 - Doctor Ross Boogie (2:36) 1952 (Doctor Ross) > Chess 1504-B <
(Isaiah Ross) (Burton Limited)
Recorded November 29, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Isiah Ross (vocal, harmonica, and footstomping), Wiley Gatlin (guitar)

Courtesy of Sam Phillips' developing relationship with Chess Records in Chicago, the good Doctor and his small band were able to treat the wider public to the hypnotic one-chord style that cured all ills. Ross was just out of the Army and came into the Memphis Recording Service as a singer and harp player accompaniment by his Jump and Jive Boys; guitarist Wiley Gatlin and Robert Moore aka Mook who used a broom to make a percussive sound. Ross would soon develop the ability to play rhythm guitar, harmonica, and drums simultaneously, but he and his boys already had the formula down pat. It ain't Gershwin or Charlie Parker but it sure is hard to resist. Can you imagine how Sam must have felt the first time he listened to this music coming through the speakers in his tiny studio? Probably much the same as when Joe Hill Louis began to play, because in some respects they were quite similar. One possibility is that Sam Phillips feared he might lose Louis to Modern in the fall-out from ''Rocket 88'', and saw the Doctor as a replacement. This is fact happened; Modern recorded a session or two with Louis away from Phillips' studio before dropping him. Ross bases this song on Pinetop Smith's 1928 classic ''Pinetop's Boogie Woogie'', the record that jump started the boogie, but his approach goes back to the African dance music that underpinned the blues as we know it.

13 - Country Clown (2:52) 1952 (Doctor Ross) > Chess 1504-A <
(Isaiah Ross) (Burton Limited)
Recorded November 29, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Isiah Ross (vocal, harmonica, and footstomping), Wiley Gatlin (guitar)

Just as ''Doctor Ross Boogie'' was based on Pinetop Smith's ''Pinetop Boogie Woogie'', so ''Country Clown'' was more of a country clown. In all but title, it was Li'l Son Jackson's ''Bad Whiskey, bad Women'', released on Gold Star three years earlier. That doesn't mean there isn't much to love. The long harmonica intro on an earlier version had been trimmed in the interest of sales, but the urgency remains. Phillips noted Ross's guitarist as 'Wilie Gallatin' but no one of that name appears to have been living around that time, and Ross later confirmed that he was really Wiley (or Wylie) Gatlin. Ross, Gatlin and Robert Moore aka Mook had played together for some years on Arkansas radio stations either side of Ross' stints in the Army and they'd found themselves a slot on WDIA, where A.C. Mooha Williams dubbed Ross the Medical Director of the Royal Amalgamated Association of Chitlin' Eaters of America.

14 - Cat Squirrel (2:22) 1985 (Doctor Ross) > Not Originally Issued <
Isaiah Ross) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November 29, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Isiah Ross (vocal, harmonica, and footstomping), Wiley Gatlin (guitar)

On ''Cat Squirrel'', this intriguingly named track, Dr. Ross moves away from his usual incessant one-chord boogie. This is shaped after Robert Petway's ''Catfish Blues'', recently revived by Bobo Thomas on the flip side of Elmore James' ''Dust My Broom''. Muddy waters' revival of the song as ''Rollin' Stone'' was still on jukeboxes as well. The Doctor recorded ''Cat Squirrel'' several more times in later years, and the version for Fortune was especially fine, arguably better than this. In 1966, Cream featured ''Cat Squirrel'' (retitled ''Cat's Squirrel'' and credited to Trad. Arr. S. Splurge) on the flip side of their first single, ''Wrapping Paper''. True, Clapton's solos were pretty spectacular, but the song's energy, not to mention its signature riff, came straight from the Doc. Soon after, Jethro Tull covered Cream's cover. Cream certainly didn't hear this recording, which went unreleased until Krazy Kat bootlegged it in 1985, but they might have heard Ross play it on the 1965 Folk Blues festival. If so, they should have realized that he needed the money more than they did.

15 - Little Soldier Boy (2:56) 1972 (Doctor Ross) > Not Originally Issued <
Isaiah Ross) (Copyright Control)
Recorded November 29, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Isiah Ross (vocal, harmonica, and footstomping), Wiley Gatlin (guitar)

The second of two takes, this version is slightly faster than the previous take and features the prominent foot-tapping also present on "Country Clown". Those with a mania for classification could argue endlessly over which musician is providing pedestrian assistance or whether a third party, like Willie Johnson, might have wandered into the studio to help. The song refers to Ross' two bouts of Army service, from which he'd recently been demobbed. Having served in the Philippines and the Southwest Pacific, he got out in 1948 but was recalled two years later. In his own words: "He kept on playing/he would say/Everything's going to be alright after awhile'/and he would keep a smile on his face/pointing his finger and blowing his harmonica/all of the girls loved Doctor Ross".

16 - Shake 'Em On Down (2:50) 1972 (Doctor Ross) > Not Originally Issued <
(Bukka White) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charles Isaiah Ross (vocal, harmonica, guitar), Henry Hill (piano), Reuben Martin (washboard)

Of the three takes of this number, this first one is the most confident and full-blooded. A pair of brief tape faults happening just before Ross' vocal begins are obviously the reason for the subsequent retakes. The tune is a Mississippi blues standard: Bukka White recorded "Shake 'Em On Down" in September 1937, Big Bill Broonzy replied with a "New Shake 'Em On Down" in the following May, and Tommy McClennan chose the same title for his recording two years later. Doctor Ross gives it a new dimension with some sterling harmonica work, including a lung-testing single note held for several measures. Henry Hill's piano is frequently lost during these takes, but he's able to make his presence suitably felt here. This is dance music at its best, proving that lyrics are overrated, and sometimes one chord is all you need. Alan Lomax recorded a woman named Lucille Walker singing it in the Sewing Room at the Women's Camp at Parchman. After the War, it survived in one form or another. Led Zeppelin included bits of it in ''Hats Off To (Roy) Harper, Savoy Brown'' and Fred McDowell cut it, and Jim Dickinson's early sixties punk blues version is an under-regarded classic. And this is as good as any of them.

17 - Down South Blues (aka Lacey Belle) (2:54) 1972 (Doctor Ross) > Not Originally Issued <
(John Lee Williamson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charles Isaiah Ross (vocal, harmonica, guitar), Henry Hill (piano), Reuben Martin (washboard)

Once again, the Doctor proved himself a skilled adapter of earlier works. The first part of ''Down South Blues'' is Sonny Boy (John Lee) Williamson's song about his wife, Lacey Belle. He deliberately mush-mouths the woman's name in the first verse to obscure the song's origins. By the second verse, he has decided to call her Miss Elvira. Did Doctor Ross own this 1947 record? we vote yes because he also recorded the flip side, ''Polly Put The Kettle On''. In an anthology titled ''Ramblin' On My Mind'', Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff wrote, ''The creative process of Southern folk blues songs construction was initially guided by the capacity for unrestricted recombination of commonly shared ingredients''. In Doctor Ross's case he brought that approach to recorded and copyrighted music, and in today's litigious world, his ass would have been sued repeatedly. The slow, deliberate tempo leaves little for Reuben Martin to do and as usual Henry Hill's piano only makes an impression when Ross pauses for breath. Even with strong amplification, its possible to assess the effort that goes into his harmonica playing, since many of the notes are sounded on the intake of breath, the only time that a note may be 'bent'.

18 - Texas Hop (2:43) 1978 (Doctor Ross) > Not Originally Issued <
(Isaiah Ross) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably March/April 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charles Isaiah Ross (vocal, harmonica, guitar), Reuben Martin (washboard)

This was one of Doctor Ross' generic boogie workouts that all seemed to follow a roughly equivalent course. There is little to choose between the two takes he recorded of this piece - the significant difference being that he plays some three choruses of harmonica before chanting the title, whereas on the second take, plagued by interference from the guitar's amplifier, he chants the title after just one. The Doctor took this title from Pee Wee Crayton's 1948 hit of the same name, but the two songs otherwise had nothing in common. After Ross's Chess single did no business, Sam Phillips decided to persevere with him, recording this very soon after relaunching Sun Records. The nest session, six or seven months later, would yield Ross's first Sun single.

L.B. Lawson & James Scott's Blues Rockers

19 - Can't Love Me And My Money Too (2:28) 1985 (L.B. Lawson & James Scott) > Not Originally Issued <
(Latge B. Lawson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1951/1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Latge B. Lawson (vocal and tube), James Scott Jr. (guitar), Charles McClelland (guitar),
Robert Fox (drums or tub bass)

The Blues Rockers had been played together for three or four years in Mississippi before their one session at Union Avenue and they had a distinctive style based on the twin guitars of James Scott Jr. and Charles McClelland. Nothing much is known about L.B. Lawson, who sings in deep measured tones on this cacophonous boogie, and is dramatically countered by the coruscating guitar lines of James Scott Jr. Drummer Robert Fox is strangely subdued throughout, and so the rhythm is rather dictated by Charles McClelland on rhythm guitar who evinces an assurance which, one imagines, comes from playing regularly in the same tight combo. It is unclear whether Sam Phillips intended to pitch this group to Modern or Chess, but you can't help feeling that with a little more rehearsal the twin guitars could have made this pretty special.

20 - Flypaper Boogie (2:23) 1989 (L.B. Lawson & James Scott) > Not Originally Issued <
(Latge B. Lawson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1951/1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Latge B. Lawson (vocal and tube), James Scott Jr. (guitar), Charles McClelland (guitar),
Robert Fox (drums or tub bass)

In the main, the artists that Sam Phillips recorded had at least some elements of sophistication about them: however, there were exceptions, and these tracks recorded by Lawson and James Scott Jr's Blues Rockers make three. This is juke joint music at its ragged, rugged best: Scott's lead guitar lines are almost primitive in their simplicity, whilst the vibrato on Charles McClelland's amplifier helps to double the rhythm that Robert Fox's drums do little more than sketch. Its tempting to hear elements of "Boogie Chillen" in amongst the interplay - hardly surprising since he grew up with John Lee Hooker. But this is generic boogie music, a juke joint workout that's got aerobics licked.

21 - Got My Call Card (3:25) 1989 (L.B. Lawson & James Scott) > Not Originally Issued <
(Latge B. Lawson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1951/1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Latge B. Lawson (vocal and tube), James Scott Jr. (guitar), Charles McClelland (guitar),
Robert Fox (drums or tub bass)

The Korean Was was still providing material for future M.A.S.H. scripts when this session took place, so its hardly surprising that L.B. Lawson should have got his 'questionary'. "Yes, my brother's gone to the Army and they're tryin' to get me too". The lyrics also refer to a chilling new dimension that hovered over this war with 'Communism': "You know, I had a friend 'cross the water/he was so dear to me/now that Atom Bomb done exploded/so he done disappeared, don't you see". The funereal tempo poses problems for drummer Fox, who compensates by making sundry excursions around his limited kit. The interaction between the guitars is notable for the way in which Scott constructs lines that double the rhythm that McClelland doggedly maps out.

22 - Scott's Boogie (2:22) 1989 (L.B. Lawson & James Scott) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded Probably 1951/1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Latge B. Lawson (vocal and tube), James Scott Jr. (guitar), Charles McClelland (guitar),
Robert Fox (drums or tub bass)

On ''Scott's Boogie'' some nice lead guitar work fronts this otherwise ordinary 12-bar boogie. A perfect flip side to an unreleased single. The two guitars play sweetly off each other, but once again the drummer is mixed further back than you would think possible in that tiny studio. The piece didn't have a theme or a signature lick, and it timed out around two-and-a-half minutes but you get the feeling that in clubs it would have gone on until someone in the band needed a leak or a smoke. Scott told a couple of interviewers that the tune was their theme, and the Sun Recording was tested on the radio. The relative facility with which James Scott Jr. plays here suggests that this might have been a part piece, the one that was guaranteed to get everyone up and dancing. Both McClelland and Fox seem to know their parts here too, although the latter's drum-kit has once again been relegated a distant comer of the studio, so that all we hear of him is his bass drum and hi-hat. Once again, the musicians' enthusiasm sets them off like a snowball rolling down a hill, but everyone arrives at the bottom, happy and unhurt.

William ''Talking Boy'' Stewart

Years ago, it was assumed that the William Stewart who recorded unamplified blues at Sun was the same guy who played unamplified acoustic guitar with the Prisonaires. Even Sam Phillips claimed to remember Stewart playing cotton-patch blues. This, we're certain now, is not the case. For one thing, the guitarist with the Prisonaires was a harmonically sophisticated player; Talking Boy Stewart was most assuredly not. And a newly-discovered note in the tape box dates the session 1951 when the Prisonaires were securely confined elsewhere. That said, we know very little of William Talking Boy Stewart. These were, as far as we know his only recordings, and he sounds as if he came up from points South without listening to much of what happened in blues after about 1929.

23 - They Call Me (2:21) 1977 (William Stewart) > Not Originally Issued <
(William Stewart) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably May 14-15, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Stewart (vocal and guitar)

It don't get much more primitive than this. This is back porch music to the extreme: one foot, one guitar. Like many bluesmen of this style, Stewart changes chords when he wants to, and that muse seems to be pretty erratic. The lyrics are a string of blues cliches, and the title is possibly a Sam Phillips concoction. This track is more a documentary than an attempt at commercial recording. This song is a calling card, ''They call me Talking Boy/but that's well understood/it ain't my name/my name is William Stewart''. As with several of these songs, some verses are wholly unintelligible.

24 - County Farm Blues (1:54) 1985 (William Stewart) > Not Originally Issued <
(William Stewart) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably May 14-15, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Stewart (vocal and guitar)

The presence of old Mississippi looms heavy over ''Country Farm Blues''. With a layer of crackle and hiss, you could easily believe that it had been recorded twenty or more earliers. In fact, Son House recorded a more-or-less unrelated ''Mississippi County Farm Blues'', as did Bukka White and others. Both House and White knew whereof they sung because both had served time at Mississippi's Parchman Farm (as had Elvis Presley's father), but Stewart leaves no clue to tell us which country farm is on his mind. true, John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Hopkins were selling records rooted in rural blues around 1951, but they brought a sheen of modernity (and in Hooker's case electricity) to their music. William Stewart gave every indication of having just arrived from the late 1920s.

25 - Forty-Four Blues (3:00) 1985 (William Stewart) > Not Originally Issued <
(William Stewart) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably May 14-15, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Stewart (vocal and guitar)

This is performed at a faster tempo than most of his repertoire and doesn't follow the verse structure of the familiar "Forty Four Blues" in other bluesmen's songbooks: "Well I said 'Good mornin' Mr Pawnshop man'/just as I rapped upon his door/I ain't in no hurry but I need my 44". William Stewart even manages to put a macabre turn on the one verse tag he does use: "I wore my 44 so long it made my shoulder sore/after I find that woman (and) kill her, won't wear that thing no mer". In the light of Pat Hare's later "Gonna Murder My Baby", is there an added dimension to this verse?

Other verses are his own, but he's trying his damndest to set them to the famous. ''44 Blues''. Some reckon that song originated before Little Brother Montgomery and Roosevelt Sykes popularized it in the 1920s, but it has had a long afterlife with recordings by Johnny Winter, Little Feat, the Black Crowes and many others, most of whom take their cue from Howlin' Wolf's 1954 version. If this were the only version, the song wouldn't have had so many takers.

26 - Rattlesnakin' Mama (2:48) 1985 (William Stewart) > Not Originally Issued <
(William Stewart) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably May 14-15, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Stewart (vocal and guitar)

Another figure from the past is evoked here, this time the shade of Blind Boy Fuller, who recorded "I'm A Rattlesnakin' Daddy" back in 1935. By dying in 1941, Fuller was spared the horror of hearing this, quite possibly the worst ever adaptation of this song. This time the accompaniment is strummed but the untutored air remains intact. Stewart sings in a curiously adenoidal tone, which again poses the question, is he imitating someone else's delivery? He also lapses into a coarser vocal tone at times, before retreating back up his nasal passages.

Woodrow Adams & The Three Bs

27 - Pretty Baby Blues (2:10) 1952 (Woodrow Adams) > Checker 757-A <
(Woodrow Adams) (Burton Limited)
Recorded May 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Woodrow Adams (vocal and guitar), Sylvester Hayes (harmonica), Fiddlin' Joe Martin (drums)

With Howlin' Wolf presumably selling well, Sam Phillips pitched Woodrow Adams to Chess Records, and Chess took one single. Like Wolf, Adams worked in a riff-driven groove with flashes of falsetto, but Adams lone Checker single sold so poorly that must one copy is known to survive. For one thing, Adams doesn't have Wolf's commanding presence. The eerie falsetto is straight out of Tommy Johnson via Howlin' Wolf, although Adams told David Evans that he wasn't familiar with Johnson. ''Pretty Baby Blues'' breaks down at the end, and it's quite easy to visualize Phillips in the control room gesticulating wildly to get Adams and the 3 Bs to bring the song to a halt. Three minutes and ten seconds was about the limit of a 78rpm disc in those days. Adams name checks Sylvester Hayes at one point, confirming his presence.

28 - She's Done Come And Gone (2:43) 1952 (Woodrow Adams) > Checker 757-B <
(Woodrow Adams) (Burton Limited)
Recorded May 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Woodrow Adams (vocal and guitar), Sylvester Hayes (harmonica), Fiddlin' Joe Martin (drums)

On ''She's Done Come And Gone'', this time, Adams and the Three Bs (Boogie Blues Blasters) take on Elmore James, randomly stringing together lines from other songs. In a bar on a Saturday night with a buzz from an adult beverage or two, this might sound pretty fine. In the cold light of day, Adams shortcomings come into sharper focus, and hardly need pointing out. Woodrow Adams was pretty much doomed to local stardom around Robinsville, Mississippi, where he could be seen on weekends well into the 1970s.

29 - If You Don't Want Me (1:04) 1989 (Woodrow Adams) > Not Originally Issued <
(Woodrow Adams) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Woodrow Adams (vocal and guitar), Sylvester Hayes (harmonica), Fiddlin' Joe Martin (drums)

''If You Don't Want Me'', this minute-long fragment is the second half of a song that tends to underline Adams' avowal that he prepared for this session by writing down the words, practising each piece and timing then. Without Hayes' harmonica, his guitar-work follows a fairly tight boogie pattern with a couple of forays into lead lines that have a prepared air about them. This session rivals that by L.B. Lawson and James Scott Jr. for the most primitive that Sam Phillips ever recorded. Woodrow doesn't seem to be too concerned that his guitar is out of tune, so perhaps we shouldn't either. He's taken the tune from "Bottle Up And Go" and put together some "Dirty Dozens"-style verses. Having told us there are two kinds of people he just can't stand - "a nappy-headed woman and a bald-headed man" - he goes on: "I woke up this mornin'/I woke up soon/saw a bald-headed man/and I thought it was the moon". Sylvester Hayes blows some mean amplified harmonica, while Fiddlin' Joe Martin kicks Billy-be-damned out of his bass drum.

30 - Last Time (2:51) 1985 (Woodrow Adams) > Not Originally Issued <
(Woodrow Adams) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Woodrow Adams (vocal and guitar), Sylvester Hayes (harmonica), Fiddlin' Joe Martin (drums)

''Last Time'' is a standard 12-bar blues that's played in time and in key. That's the good news. The bad news is that it is utterly undistinguished. It features the familiar blues theme of a cheating woman and the singer needing to set some limits on how badly she can continue to treat him. The record has absolutely no bottom. Occasional audible slaps suggest that a bass player may have been present on the session, although he might have been standing out on Union Avenue for all we can hear him. As on many of these stock arrangement goes to hell in a hurry when it comes time to end the track. It's plain these boys have not discussed the realistic possibility that after two and a half minutes they may actually have to stop playing.

31 - Train Time (2:47) 1989 (Woodrow Adams) > Not Originally Issued <
(Woodrow Adams) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Woodrow Adams (vocal and guitar), Sylvester Hayes (harmonica), Fiddlin' Joe Martin (drums)

This standard train blues is a bit tidier, helped no doubt by the slower tempo. "Porter blow the whistle/fireman rung the bell/you know ever time I think about my baby/my poor heart begin to swell". Woodrow has picked up his slide and has a fair stab at the riff which was soon to patented by Elmore James. Since he knew both Robert Nighthawk and Houston Stackhouse, its tempting to speculate on what other slide pieces were in his repertoire. In the second of his solo choruses, Sylvester Hayes plays a couple of Rice Miller licks in between imitating the train whistle. Once again, the ending unravels before out very eyes. You should feel honored: this recording wasn't intended to be heard by the outside world. I was never a candidate for release.

32- Train Is Comin' (3:05) (Woodrow Adams) > Not Originally Issued <
(Woodrow Adams) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Woodrow Adams (vocal and guitar), Sylvester Hayes (harmonica), Fiddlin' Joe Martin (drums)

Essentially, this is another take of "Train Is Comin'", with Hayes doing a very brief train imitation before the bands starts. This time around, "I hear the whistle blow/it blow just like me baby is coming home", whereas in the previous take, his baby was about to leave. There are some other minor textual-differences but the principal distinction is the better understanding between the three musicians.

Where was Sam Phillips while all this was going on? You'd think he would have come out from behind the glass to talk to these guys, trying to stir them from their lethargy, assuming, of course, he hadn't nodded off while the tape was rolling.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <  

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 2 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

EVERYBODY'S IN THE MOOD

This CD features a selection from the early recordings by one of Phillips' greatest discoveries, Howlin' Wolf, and encompasses some early recordings by harmonica giant, Walter Horton. Others on this CD capture the blues in its transition from country to city, and from pre to post-War. In the post-War era, the harmonica was usually channelled through an amplifier, the guitar was almost invariably amplified, and the amp was usually jacked up to the point of distortion. The RCA, Columbia, and Decca engineers who'd recorded most of the blues sessions in the 1930s were trained to eliminate distortion. Sam Phillips embraced it.

Phillips undoubtedly had the last word on the tracks here by Howling Wolf when he told journalist Robert Palmer, "The greatest thing you could see today would be the Howling Wolf doing one of those sessions in my studio. God, what it would be worth to see the fervor in that man's face when he sang. He cut everything out of his mind and sang with his damn soul. I mean his eyes would light up and you'd see the veins come out on the back of his neck. Awww, how different. How good. I would love to have recorded that man until the day he died. I never would have given up on him''. Phillips' assistant, Marion Keisker, was equally in awe of the Wolf. One of her most vivid memories was of being on her hands and knees in the studio when she looked up to see the largest human being she'd ever seen looming in the doorway. She hung onto just a few mementos of her years with Phillips, but one of them was a Howlin' Wolf acetate. It's worth bearing in mind that without Sam Phillips, we may never have heard Howlin' Wolf. Those who believe that the Wolf would have ended up on record sooner or later should remember that he was past forty when he began recording.

The Howlin' Wolf

1 - Moanin' At Midnight (2:55) 1951 (Howlin' Wolf) > Chess 1479-A < 
(Chester Burnett- Carl Germany) (Arc Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums)

Many words have been devoted to unraveling just how and why this is among the truly seminal recordings in the almost 100-year history of recorded blues. Some have written elegantly about it, some inelegantly, but all have been transfixed by the emotional impact of the eerie, wordless moan and the one chord vamp over which Wolf sing his song. The sub-par recording quality only enhances the enigma. It's as if you're hearing voices of the dead rising through a miasma of sound. Musicologist Ted Giola made a detailed analysis of the song, exploring Wolf's uncertain tonality and guitarist Willie Johnson's ability to shuttle between ''a predictable rhythmic figure and acerbic inter actions that push and prod Wolf in his bristly vocal''. Even parsed and analyzed, it retains its inscrutability.

Later in life, Sam Phillips would sometimes place a retrospective spin on what he'd done, but he was clearly high on Howlin' Wolf from the beginning. Writing to Nashville disc jockey Gene Nobles on September 2, 1951... three days after this record was released, Phillips said, ''Moanin' At Midnight'' is the side - I know I'm partial, but it is the most different record I ever heard''. Wolf still had his radio show on KWEM and was probably plugging the record heavily. Phillips told Nobless that it was already the top-selling blues record in Memphis. On November 10, it entered the national Rhythm And Blues Charts, the first of Wolf's six charted hits.

2 - How Many More Years (2:41) 1951 (Howlin' Wolf) > Chess 1479-B <
(Chester Burnett- Carl Germany) (Arc Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums)

'I was totally blinded by the sound of his voice'', Sam Phillips told Peter Guralnick many years later. ''I'm not sure I heard anything in the way of instrumentation''. Those are the words of someone attuned to every aspect of recording, and that alone speaks to Howlin' Wolf authority. Even a list of all Wolf's obvious and not-so-obvious influences, like Tommy Johnson, Charley Patton, and Jimmy Rodgers, doesn't half-way explain the ageless wonder of his debut. He was so much more than the sum of those parts. This is one of those records that could have come from nowhere but Mississippi. There's a piano on ''How Many More Years'', suggesting that it might have been recorded at a different time from ''Moanin' At Midnight''. And there were earlier versions of ''How Many More Years'', suggesting that it was the presumed A-side until Wolf suddenly cut loose with ''Moanin' At Midnight''. One possibility is that the pianist though ''Moanin'' was a run-through and sat it out. The identity of the pianist has never been nailed beyond doubt, but there seems to be common assent that it's Ike Turner, even though Phillips didn't recall Turner ever working with Wolf. Guitarist Willie Johnson later insisted that he had a hand in writing the song on the way to the studio. ''I'm the one (who)... printed it and put the words in his mouth'', he said. Wolf disputed that claim, but it was a moot point at first because the putative composer of both sides was Carl Germany, who was also credited with writing several other songs on Chess, including some of Sax Mallard's records and one of Jackie Brenston's song, ''Hi Ho Baby''. It wasn't unknown for Chess to use composer credits to repay favors. Alan Freed was often thus rewarded, and Russ Fratto, who ran a Chicago stationary company, received one third of Chuck Berry's ''Maybellene'' in return for who knows what. Rufus Thomas's first single, ''Night Walkin' Blues'', was credited to Marty Witzel, who'd introduced Leonard Chess to his wife. Carl Germany, a mid-western dance promoter and Chicago disc jockey, was similarly blessed. These days, though, the composer credit read as it always should: Chester Burnett.

3 - Mr. Highway Man (2:26) 1976 (Howlin' Wolf) > Not Originally Issued <
(Chester Burnett) (Burton Limited)
Recorded: January 23, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
L.C. Hubert (piano) Unknown (saxophone)

Like all the genuine greats whom Sam Phillips recorded, Howlin' Wolf arrived at 706 Union with a style which he neither cared to alter, not could possibly have improved. He plays and sings with such bite and attack on this track he sounds like he could have saved the South at Gettysburg! Sure, its something of a "Rocket 88" spin-off, but it has an added sparkle and vitality which owes nothing to any other record. Louis Calvin Hubert 's piano is rock solid, whilst Willie Johnson's guitar fairly bristles with energy - and although Wolf pops his "p's" into the mike, that merely adds to the abandon of the recording. The original working title of the song was "Cadillac Daddy", which was arguably stronger. So Howlin' Wolf played the blues at Chess Records while Chuck Berry played rock and roll, but this rocks harder and with more abandon than just about anything else on Chess.. or Sun, come to that.

4 - My Troubles And Me (Howlin' Wolf) > Not Originally Issued <
(Chester Burnett) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded: January 23, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
L.C. Hubert (piano) Unknown (saxophone)

On ''My Troubles And Me'', Wolf's own performance is matched - if not overshadowed - by Johnson's guitar work, with its jazzy inclinations and distorted tone. In fact, Johnson is allowed full rein on this one and seems determined to steal the show, bursting forth not only around Wolf's stirring vocal, but under it as well, whilst the mellow tone of Wolf's harp offers a stark contrast, despite being rather overshadowed early on in the proceedings. During the first four bars the guitar and piano seem to be at cross purposes, whilst there is a sax buried way back in the mix somewhere, to little effect.

5 - Getting Old And Grey (2:39) 1951 (Howlin' Wolf) > Chess 1510-A < 
(Chester Burnett) (Burton Limited)
Recorded: January 23, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), Willie Steele (drums),
L.C. Hubert (piano) Unknown (saxophone)

Amazingly, ''Getting Old Grey'' consists of just two vocal verses split by one instrumental chorus. Like the previous track, this is very much a vehicle for Willie Johnson's supercharged block chords and fidgeting single string runs. Both verses have Wolf concerded with encroaching old age - after all, he was 41 at the time of this session. When he sang, "I've got to look out for my older days", he had no idea of the international fame that lay in wait for him. Sam Phillips juggles with his microphones during the solo chorus, beginning with Wolf's stereo typical harmonica phrases and then pumping up Willie Johnson's intense lead. Far in the background a pair of tenor saxes riff contentedly. In his final verse, Wolf reckons "I've got to find me a place to stay". That place would be Chicago.
Johnny Temple's ''Getting Old Blues'' doesn't fret like this, and neither does any other blues song that comes to mind. Just as Sleepy John Estes extolled the virtues of the burial policy, Wolf almost seems intent on selling you a retirement account. Nevertheless, this track becomes a timing nightmare pretty quickly and despite Wolf's distinctive and spectacular voice, it could have used another couple of takes.

6 - My Baby Walked Off (2:57) 1978 (Howlin' Wolf) > Not Originally Issued <
(Chester Burnett) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: January 23, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar),
Willie Steele (drums), Unknown (saxophone)

Wolf's vocal performance on this number is damn near faultless, containing all that feral energy and menace which he regularly generated at his very best. However, the pianist seems to have real problems keeping up during the first chorus, before settling in unobtrusively. Wolf contributes some genuinely bizarre lines: "You know she's just my colour/she's just my kind/ I'm crazy 'bout the woman/she just walked off and died". His vocal inflection on the repetition of "colour" is simply magical.

7 - Everybody's In The Mood (2:57) 1978 (Howlin' Wolf) > Not Originally Issued <
(Chester Burnett) (Copyright Control)
Recorded April 17, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar),
Willie Steele (drums), William Johnson (piano)

By April 1952 Sam Phillips was sending out dubs to Chess once again. But with their differences out in the open once and for all (Sam's declaration of independence, however short-lived, did not go unnoticed), things were not about to be put back together again. On every issue, it seemed, Sam and Leonard vehemently disagreed, from the whole business of the bus, which continued to fester, to the proper way to record the Howlin' Wolf. Sam had another session with Wolf in the middle of the month, but of the eight sides he sent the label, Chess put out only one, and between April and December, out of all the other material Sam sent them, they released just four singles by any of his other artists.

8 - Decoration Day Blues (3:07) 1976 (Howlin' Wolf) > Not Originally Issued <
(John Lee Williamson) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded April 17, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar),
Willie Steele (drums), William Johnson (piano)

Wolf turns his band to Sonny Boy Williamson his pre-war hit, which he latter has originally recorded back in 1938. As prolific as Sonny Boy was, he didn't originate the song. Teddy Darby aka Blind Darby recorded it first in 1935... although it's unclear if he wrote it. Curtis Jones recorded it next, but Williamson's was the version that Wolf and others copies nearly word-for-word. Following an exceedingly tenuous start - which suggests that Wolf knew exactly where he was off to, but neglected to tell the band - the accompanists struggle to find a point of access into this three-chord jungle. A shift in the recording level during the first verse indicates that not even Sam Phillips was sure what was going down. However, once Wolf gets into his vocal, things settle into a fairly conventional mid-tempo blues distinguished by some excellent harp heroics, and an impassioned vocal.

9 - Bluebird Blues (2:47) 1978 (Howlin' Wolf) > Not Originally Issued <
(John Lee Williamson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded April 17, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar),
Willie Steele (drums), William Johnson (piano)

It would seem that even at this early point in his career Wolf's thoughts were already turning North to Chicago, as evidenced by the imagery in this song. Although far from representative of Wolf's best work, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of his style (although when Wolf finally made his move North, it was in a late model Buick rather than on a bluebird). Sam Phillips duly sent these cut to Chess Records, although they remained unissued at the time - the original acetate of ''Bluebird (Blues)'', this side eventually finding its way onto a bootleg in 1979.

This vintage blues was popular during the late 1930s and early 1940s, Tommy McClennan's gravel-voiced version from 1942 even bearing a superficial resemblance to Wolf's version. Musicologists Robert Dixon and John Godrich have suggested that the "Bluebird" in McClennan's version referred to the label for which it was recorded: fanciful speculation or not, all such meaning was lost by the time Wolf annexed the song making it his own.

10 - Well That's Alright (2:54) 1976 (Howlin' Wolf) > Not Originally Issued <
(Chester Burnett) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded April 17, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar),
Willie Steele (drums), William Johnson (piano)

Well, actually, things are not alright! This ain't no technical masterpiece by a long shot - although by way of compensation Wolf proffers a standout vocal, and there is an infectious spirit to this recording which transcends most of the technical flaws. There's some rather sloppy timing and the track appears to have been little more than a loose jam - in fact the introduction provides a further example of Wolf kicking into gear without cuin in his sidesmen.

11 - Come Back Home (2:11) 1978 (Howlin' Wolf) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded October 7, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Howlin' Wolf (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar),
Willie Steele (drums), William Johnson (piano)

'Come Back Home'' (take 3) is a standout. There is evidence that, this time around, Wolf and his sidemen had worked out an arrangement and agreed the tempo and material up front. The lovely countryish guitar figure that kicks off this track weaves its way under and around Wolf's vocal and provides continuity, not to mention a considerable hook. In fact, it is the single two bar guitar figure that one recalls even after the memory of Wolf's vocal has faded. It's blues combo man Willie Johnson, who made his greatest mark as Howlin' Wolf's lead guitar player.

Walter Horton

12 - Little Walter's Instrumental (2:55) 1976 (Walter Horton) > Not Originally Issued <
(Walter Horton) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably January 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Horton (harmonica), Billy Love (piano), Joe Willie Wilkins (guitar), Unknown (drums)

It's widely assumed that this tour de force is Walter Horton's first known recording as a featured artist, although the acetate is undated and the recording isn't noted in Marion Keisker's logs. It first appeared in the early 1970s on the grammatically challenged Memphis Blues at Sunshine LP. Was it really recorded in January 1951? Who are the guys behind him? On both counts, we're unsure. The other side of the acetate held a white female singing Mitt Addington's ''Without Him Blues''. Addington first saw his name on Sun in 1953 when he co-wrote both sides of Big Memphis Marainey's record, but he was a pal of Keisker's and could have demo'd songs earlier than 1953. All we know for sure is that Walter Horton wasn't known as Little Walter after Walter Jacobs appropriated the name in September 1952, so this tune probably predates the fall of 1952. Adding a further layer of confusion, another ''Walter Instrumental'' was issued on Bear Family's Joe Hill Louis CD. The questions surrounding provenance and the marginal quality of the acetate notwithstanding, this recording pretty much defines what Walter Horton could do with a harmonica. You get the sense that he could have carried on awhile without running short of ideas. If this indeed dates to early 1951, it's easy to see why the Biharis accepted two complete sessions of Horton's material after hearing this test. Mention, too, must be made of the guitar playing which echoes the harp in places and acts as a counterpoint in others.

According to harmonica player Walter Horton and had recently formed a duo with Riley B. King, ''I was just walking around one day and decided I'd go up to his studio. Joe Hill Louis was playing, and so I stopped in there and played a couple of numbers, and after that, Sam Phillips wanted me to record for him''. As if to bear out this account, Sam Phillips immediately dubbed the thirty-three-year-old Horton ''Mumbles'' as much for his dreamy nature as his manner of speech, but the instrumental sample that he sent to Modern on January 17, 1951, is a masterpiece of sound and tone, mixing a kind of ethereal lyricism with a focused attack, and while Horton's melodies may have derived from familiar tunes, in everything else his playing represented just what Sam was looking for, a free-flowing feel that had its origins solely in the artist's imagination.

13 - In The Mood (3:02) 1985 (Walter Horton) > Not Originally Issued <
(Andy Razaf-Garland) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 8, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Horton (harmonica), Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Albert Williams (piano)

On ''In The Mood'' Walter Horton thrived at this steady mid-tempo. As on the prior track (from the September session), you get the sense that he could have gone on awhile without repeating himself. He digs into the simple changes, spinning out variation after variation. The tune was one of the most familiar in American popular music after Glenn Miller popularized it in 1939 as ''In The Mood'', The signature riff that everyone can hum was older, though, and can be found in tunes going back to the dawn of recorded jazz, emerging fully formed on Wingy Manone's 1930 record of ''Tar Paper Stomp''. If not for Miller it's doubtful if Walter Horton would have lit upon it, though. The guitarist repeats the lick, giving Horton a solid underspinning.

14 - We All Gotta Go Sometime (2:57) 1985 (Walter Horton) > Not Originally Issued <
(Walter Horton-Joe Hill Louis) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded December 8, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Horton (vocal and harmonica), Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Albert Williams (piano)

It seems as if December 8, 1952 was a busy day at 706 Union Avenue. Marion Keisker logged a session with Walter Horton that yielded ''In The Mood'' and five or more cuts of ''We All Gotta Go''. Horton was backed by Joe Hill Louis and Albert Williams. That some day, there was a Joe Hill Louis session with Williams on piano. Marion noted ''Walter Horton, harp'' and then crossed it out. Joe Hill's recording of ''We All Gotta Go Sometime'' has never dated, but it seems as if Horton might be playing on Louis's record because there is harmonica under the vocal on a couple of spots. So the best guess from sixty years' distance is that both Horton and Louis recorded ''We All Got To Go Sometime'' on the same day, and Phillips chose Joe Hill's for release the following month. On release, the song was credited to Louis, but he'd done little more than add a few lines to (John Lee) Sonny Boy Williamson's 1941 song, ''Shotgun Blues''. A Big Bill Broonzy record from that year, ''I Feel So Good'', provided the bits of the melody that Williamson didn't.

15 - West Winds Are Blowing (3:07) 1952 Walter Horton) > Chess 1529-B Unissued <
(Walter Horton) (Burton Limited - Tristan Music)
Recorded September 15, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Horton (harmonica), Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Willie Nix (drums), Jack Kelly (piano)

Why Chess shelved this and its projected flip is baffling, as musically it is extremely powerful, the combination of harp and lead guitar from Joe Hill Louis during the break being particularly effective. The instruments blend together perfectly, and the musicians play with an empathy which is notoriously difficult to capture in a studio setting. Chess scheduled a presently unidentified take of each of the above for issue on Chess 1529, but it was never released.

16 - Little Walter's Boogie (1) (2:26) 1952 Walter Horton) > Chess 1529-A Unissued <
(Walter Horton) (Burton Limited - Tristan Music)
Recorded September 15, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Horton (harmonica), Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Willie Nix (drums), Jack Kelly (piano)

An alternate take of the track originally earmarked for the other side of Chess 1529 (i.e. "West Winds Are Blowing") - and perhaps the title of this side gives a clue as to why Chess pulled the plug on this release, as they were having huge success with Little Walter Jacobs at the time. Mind you, they could easily have retitled this powerful instrumental (what would have been wrong with "Big Walter's Boogie"?) - but it seems that this coincided with their decision not to take any further product from Sam Phillips anyway. Instead they began to concentrate more on in-house productions, and Horton didn't get another chance with Chess Records until 1964.

Little Walker

17 - Off The Wall (2:15) 1977 (Little Walker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Walter Jacobs) (Tristan Music)
Recorded July 15, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Little Walker (harmonica), Earl Hooker (guitar), Unknown (bass), Willie Nix (drums)

Here's a mystery that may never be solves. There's an Earl Hooker tape from July 15, 1953, and at the end of the reel, are several takes of ''Off The Wall''. Little Walter (Jacobs) recorded ''Off The Wall'' in March 1953; it charted in April on the flip-side of ''Tell Me Mama'' and charted in its own right in mid-May. Phillips' logbook noted that Hooker's group included Little Walker, and it appears as if Walker was a harmonica player introduced on-stage to play a few of Little Walter's songs and confuse people into thinking that they were seeing the real deal. As far as we know, there's no other recorded evidence of Walker, but according to Hooker's biographer, Sebastian Danchin, he could sound eerily like Walter Jacobs. Much of Hooker's repertoire that day was other people's songs, so ''Off The Wall'' was certainly consistent with that.

Previously this track was issued as by Walter Horton. On May 28, 1953 Horton was in Phillips' studio with Pat Hare, Joe Hill Louis, and Albert Williams. The tunes recorded that day were not noted (although $1.28 for food was logged), so it's just possible that Horton recorded ''Off The Wall'' because Little Walter's song was popular then. The guitarist doesn't play enough for us to be sure if it's Hare or Hooker, thereby placing the issue beyond doubt, but we're betting that this was recorded by Little Walker.

Also present on the tape from this session is the crude combination of two incomplete takes included here to show how the arrangement was developed. The first of these takes runs just over a minute and shows how the drummer - be it Willie Nix or Edward Irvin - had started with Fred Below's machine-gun snare figure. Horton is noticeably less inventive at this stage but Earl Hooker pushes thing along, playing boogie pattens close to the bridge of his guitar. When this take falls apart, another cuts in at a roughly equivalent place. This time Horton is playing with a much more muted tone, whilst Hooker maintains his precise rhythm. The band once again attempt an ending worthy of the musicians they are copying.

Jimmy DeBerry

18 - Party Line Blues (3:08) 1977 (Jimmy DeBerry) > Not Originally Issued <
(Jimmy DeBerry) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 16, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jimmy DeBerry (vocal and guitar), Mose Vinson (piano), Raymond Jones (drums)

Sam Phillips brought Jimmy DeBerry back into the studio to cut a solo single. For the benefit of younger listeners, party lines weren't sexual hook-up call-in numbers, but a fact of life, especially in rural communities. Two or more telephone subscribers were on the same loop and could hear each other's calls, even though every subscriber had an individual ring tone. Billy Murray satirized them on 1917 Edison cylinder as did Hank Williams on his 1949 hit ''Mind Your Own Business'' (''The woman on our party line's a nosy thing/She picks up her receiver when she knows it's my ring''). Over Mose Vinson's jangly piano, DeBerry lays down a very spare and soulful performance, and it's more effective when Vinson lays out, leaving DeBerry alone. DeBerry had a true blues voice, even it it was more of a pre-War blues voice: mellow and wracked with emotion. We should have heard more from him.

Willie Nix

19 - Midnight Showers Of Rain (3:01) 1985 (Willie Nix) > Not Originally Issued <
(Lowell Fulson) (Copyright Control
Recorded: - April 25, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Willie Nix (vocal and drums), Walter Horton (harmonica),
Billy Love (piano), Willie Johnson (guitar)

''Midnight Showers Of Rain'' was one of Lowell Folsom more obscure songs, recorded in Oackland around 1946 and leased to Swing Time/Downbeat Records in Los Angeles. It might have been coincidental (but probably wasn't) that B.B. King also recorded ''Midnight Showers Of Rain'' around the same time. King obscured its origins, calling it ''Some Day, Some Where''. Truthfully, Nix wasn't a great vocalist, but he has some fine accompanists compensating for his shortfall, notably Willie Johnson on guitar and Walter Horton on harmonica. ''Midnight Showers of Rain'' was recorded at the session that yielded Nix's Checker single.

20 - Prison Bound Blues (2:39) 1977 (Willie Nix) > Not Originally Issued <
(Leroy Carr) (Cop Cont - Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded: - April 25, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Willie Nix (vocal and drums), Walter Horton (harmonica),
Billy Love (piano), Willie Johnson (guitar)

If we didn't know for sure it was Willie Johnson playing the guitar on this session, we would recognize some of the licks he'd played earlier on Howlin' Wolf's sessions. Here, Nix takes a shot at Leroy Carr's 1928 ''Prison Bound Blues'' reportedly inspired by Carr's spell inside for bootlegging. The song must have been a hit because it was revived before World War II (Amos Easton, Josh White, etc.) and after) Robert Nighthawk recorded it for Aristocrat in 1950 although it wasn't issued at the time, Muddy Waters sang it in concert, and Sunnyland Slim recorded it). O n this track the same band - this time at mid-tempo - exhibit an irresistible swing and drive as Johnson floats occasional licks over Love's stomping piano-playing, all under pinned by Nix's solid drumming.

21 - Ridin' In The Moonlight (3:14) 1985 (Willie Nix) > Not Originally Issued <
(Chester Burnett) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: - April 25, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Willie Nix (vocal and drums), Walter Horton (harmonica),
Billy Love (piano), Willie Johnson (guitar)

Howlin' Wolf's first RPM classic is re-interpreted by Willie Nix, and whilst it lacks the tension and menace of Wolf's original is nonetheless interesting. taken at a slower pace and given a softer treatment than Wolf, Nix's vocal lies across the beat and occasionally battles with Willie Johnson's forceful guitar licks. Walter Horton takes a relatively minor role, confining himself to squeaky, high-register work.

22 - Take A Little Walk With Me (2:40) 1977 (Willie Nix) > Not Originally Issued <
(Robert Lockwood) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded: - April 25, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Willie Nix (vocal and drums), Walter Horton (harmonica),
Billy Love (piano), Willie Johnson (guitar)

''Take A Little Walk With Me'', this traditional song gets a thunderous updating with a stomping drum beat, wailing harp, and a fiery rhythm. Johnson's guitar chops have a nasty edge to them and add an air of brooding tension to an already gloomy performance.

This song got two grounds on Sun. Jimmy DeBerry recorded it as ''Take A Little Chance'', but it's Nix who takes us closer to the song's root, Robert Lockwood's first-ever single for Bluebird in 1941, ''Take A Little Walk With Me''. Coincidentally or not, Walter Horton, who is on this session, recorded Lockwood's B-side, ''Little Boy Blue''. Lockwood's more nuanced performance has Nix beat on every level except energy.

Henry Hill with Doctor Ross

23 - That Ain't Right (2:54) 1977 (Henry Hill & Doctor Ross) > Not Originally Issued <
(Henry Hill- Isaiah Ross) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Henry Hill (vocal and piano), Charles Isaiah Ross (guitar), Reuben Martin (washboard)

From Doctor Ross's ''Shake 'Em On Down'' session, the doc allows his pianist, Henry Hill, to step into the spotlight. Every one of the eight takes has a different spoken intro. On this version (Take 1), Hill has got a bottle ''of that old kitchen stuff'', one for him and his baby, and one for Doctor Ross too. Armed thus, he tells his girl, ''we gonna play these woogies baby, just for me and you''. And they made good on the promise. The wonderfully jaunty rhythm section comprised Ross, Reuben Martin playing the washboard, and Hill himself filling in erratically on piano. The song is a litany of grievances, and must have gone down well on club dates.

At least eight takes of this song exist and each one begins with a different Hill soliloquy: "Yeah, Doctor Ross, you know one thing?/Boy, I want you to cut it out, 'cos you done stole my girl from me/but, anyway, I want you to get on down on these here woogies with me". Which is exactly what Ross does, maintaining the rhythm when Hill confuses himself with his verbal asides. Reuben Martin's washboard is so closely miked that a time it sounds as though he's tap-dancing rather than thimble-picking. Later takes find Hill obsessed with bottles of Woldcat, one of which may well have bitten the dust before the session started.

Doctor Ross

24 - Deep Down In The Ground (2:44) 1985 (Doctor Ross) > Not Originally Issued <
(Sonny Boy Williams) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably March/April 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Doctor Ross (vocal, guitar, drums and harmonica), Reuben Martin (washboard)

Researchers are occasionally prone to effect a curious selectivity when it comes to decihering the labels on old tape boxes. Whilst "Housten Boise" is silently amended to "Houston Boines", this title - clearly identified on its as "Tailor Mae" - was identified on the original Sun Blues Box as the incomprehensible "Terra Mae". It is in fact a word-for-word recreation of the opening verses from John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson's record "Deep Down In The Ground", recorded for Bluebird in June 1938. In a 1965 interview, Doctor Ross even referred to this recording by Williamson's title. Williamson took this version of the song from Sleepy John Estes, and Ross repeats Sonny Boy's mishearing of Estes' line, "That woman is tailor made, she ain't no hand-me-down".

James Banister

25 - Ain't Gonna Tell You No Lie (2:27) 1985 (James Banister) > Not Originally Issued <
(James Banister) (Copyright Control)
Recorded May 3, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
James Banister (vocal and drums), Bobby Fields (tenor saxophone),
Dennis Binder (piano), Johnny Smith (bass)

In March 1951, Ike Turner had brought his band from Clarksdale, Mississippi, to 706 Union: this market the start of a whirlwind period when Ike was working for Sam Phillips, Chess Records, and Modern (but essentially for himself), putting bands and sessions together, and generally hustling the Memphis scene. Not long after the success of "Rocket 88" Jackie Brenston upped and quit, whereupon Ike regrouped the band and continued bringing various aggregations along to Sam Phillips. This side emanated from a session in May 1952, which largely featured singer/drummer James Banister and singer/pianist Dennis Binder. James Banister later years as a preacher up in Gary, Indiana and clearly lifted this number from the risqué blues favourite "Dirty Mother Fuyer", cleaning it up along the way: there is some jazzy piano in the stops, but this rhythmic gimmick soon becomes wearisome. The sloppy ending suggests that this was a far from final take.

Dennis Binder

26 - Love You, Love You Baby (2:21) 1985 (Dennis Binder) > Not Originally Issued <
(Dennis Binder) (Copyright Control)
Recorded May 3, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Dennis Binder (vocal and piano), James Banister (drums), Bobby Fields (tenor saxophone),
Johnny Smith (bass)

This jumping track is essentially a loose pack age of blues clichés and raw tenor honking and squawking - the sax player Bobby Fields sounding truly wired, and contributing some wild primal screams. If it's the same guy who honked and screeched with experimental jazz man Sun Ra in the late 1950s, he got in some good practice here (and it could well be the same guy because Ra was recording songs like ''Great Balls Of Fire'' and ''Teenager's Letter Of Promises'' alongside freakier outings like ''Message To Earthman''). The overall feel of Binder's record approximates a jam session which builds to a roaring climax, whatever this racket is, it sure's hell ain't blues. The overall feel is one of a loose jam, which builds to a roaring climax: it was no doubt hugely enjoyable for the musicians involved, but is considerably less so for the listener. It could just be coincidence, but Rosco Gordon recorded a very similars song a few months earlier, ''I Love You Better Than I Love Myself (''I love, love you baby better than I love myself...''). As Rosco's cut was unissued, it's hard to know how Binder could have heard it, although both songs might have had a common ancestor.

Elven Parr & His In The Groove Boys

27 - Baby Child (3:26) 1989 (Elven Parr & His In The Groove) > Not Originally Issued <
(Eddie Snow) (Copyright Control)
Recorded April 14, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Luther Taylor (saxophone), Bennie Moore (saxophone),
Elven Parr (guitar), Carl Tate (drums)

Guitarist Parr's band took its name from a WMC radio show that broadcast 15 minutes of suitably 'groovy' records every day. They worked the circuit which moved up and down the Mississippi from Memphis to Cairo, via clubs like M.C. Reeder's 199 Club in Osceola, Arkansas. Pianist Eddie Snow worked with them regularly, as did for a while the lanky Albert Nelson before he changed his last name to King. "Baby Child" is a slow blues with a lusty if slightly winded vocal from Snow. ''She's got me going round in circles, crying just like a baby child". The balance favours Luther Taylor and Bennie Moore's saxes at the expense of their leader's guitar. Sam sent dubs of this 1952 session to Chess, who sent back a ''What else you got''? letter.

28 - I'm A Good Man (2:29) 1977 (Elven Parr & His In The Groove) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded April 14, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Luther Taylor (saxophone), Bennie Moore (saxophone),
Elven Parr (guitar), Carl Tate (drums)

Elven Parr seems to have turned his amp up for this enthusiastic boogie, but the capering saxes still get in the way of what might be one of the great guitar solos recorded at Sun Records - if only we could hear it. Eddie Snow sounds a touch frantic as he claims he wants to live "the right kind of life". Even so, "Let me tell you one ting I want to know/if you have any children (they) got to look like Snow". Chances were, with the lifestyle of a touring band being what it was, there were a few of those already.

29 - In The Groove Rumba (2:51) 1989 (Elven Parr & His In The Groove) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded April 14, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (piano), Luther Taylor (saxophone), Bennie Moore (saxophone),
Elven Parr (guitar), Carl Tate (drums)

30 - Skin And Bones Woman (2:51) 1989 (Elven Parr & His In The Groove) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded April 14, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Luther Taylor (saxophone), Bennie Moore (saxophone),
Elven Parr (guitar), Carl Tate (drums)

This ''Skin And Bones Woman'' in contrast, this is a very different alternate take used on the 1990's box after being first issued on the Sun Blues Archive CDs in the 1980s. It's the fast version of the song issued on the original LP boxset.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <  

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 3 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

REAL GONE ROCKERS

Sam Phillips' first hit came nine months after he started pitching masters to the independent rhythm and blues companies... and it was a big one. Jackie Brenston's ''Rocket 88'' on Chess Records became the second biggest selling rhythm and blues record of 1951, beaten out only by the Dominoes' ''Sixty Minute Man''. Its spectacular untamedness marked it out, if only subtly, from other rhythm and blues records of the period and pointed toward rock and roll. Here are Brenston and his contemporaries, including Billy Love, Rosco Gordon and Rufus Thomas on Chess, together with the last recordings that Phillips made for Modern-RPM. By the end of the CD, we see Phillips giving thought to starting his own label.

Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats

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''.

''Rocket 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.

1 - Rocket 88 (2:48) 1951 (Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats) > Chess 1458-A <
(Jackie Brenston) (Arc Music Corporation)
Recorded March 5, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jackie Brenston (vocal), Ike Turner (piano), Willie Kizart (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass),
Willie Sims (drums), Raymond Hill (saxophone)

The story had become muddied in the re-telling, but a front-page article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal dated march 28, 1951 was so soon after the event that it's possible: ''B.B. King of Memphis, one of the race artists of Sam Phillips has been recording, passed the word along to Ike Turner, a negro band leader of Clarksdale, Mississippi, that the marked was open. Ike brought his band up for audition''. In one of Ike's accounts, they had only covers when they set out, but arrived with four original songs. If they'd driven across country, we might believe that, but they's driven 75 miles. That said, ''Rocket 88'' was almost a cover. Most of the melody and even some of the lyrics were lifted from Jimmy Liggins' 1947 recording of ''Cadillac Boogie''. The different lay in ''Rocket 88'' explosiveness, and for that some credit must go to Sam Phillips. Willie Kizart inadvertently created fuzz toned guitar when his amp either fell off the back of the car en route or was rain-damaged in the trunk. Turner insisted upon the latter, but the sound is more consistent with a sliced speaker cone. Phillips recalled, ''WE had no way of getting it fixed so we started playing around with the damn thing, stuffed a little paper in there and it sounded good. Sounded like a saxophone''. In a later interview with Richard Buskin, he explained how Ike Turner & The Kings of Rhythm became Jackie Brenston & the Delta Cats: ''I had to tell Ike that I wanted to know if he had somebody in his band who could sing. Ike was singing and of course he was a hell of a talent, but I knew his voice was not quite what I was looking for. Anyway, he told me that Jackie Brenston had a song called ''Rocket 88''. Jackie played the sax, but I put a mic in front of him and, man, as a singer he was a natural''. The distorted guitar and piano created a thunderous rhythm track, although Tuner thought nothing of it at the time: ''Man, we were just tryin' to cut a record the way we thought one was supposed to be cut. I had the boogie-woogie bass movin' on the bottom, Willie was tryin' to play guitar like Robert Nighthawk, and we were fond of Joe Liggins in those days, so that's how Jackie sang''. Brenston's vocal drips confidence and Raymond Hill's sax solo builds in momentum to a screeching climax. After the session was over and the paperwork underway, Phillips realized that Brenston was underage and the contract had to be signed by his mother, which seems wildly at variance with the carefree, hedonistic image he was projecting.

The Biharis believed that they had first call on ''Rocket 88'' by virtue of their pre-existing deal with Phillips. Joe Bihari told John Broven that Leonard Chess was in town and paid spot money for ''Rocket 88'', but it's likelier that Chess had left town with a better offer on the table. The Commercial Appeal stated that Phillips sent out a lacquer to Chess by Air Express the night of the session. it was a 16-inch acetate because, as Phillips told Nadine Cohodas, ''I wanted all the little nuances to be conveyed to them''. Apparently the Chesses couldn't handle 16-inch discs and called to ask for a 12-inch, but once they heard it, they jumped on it. The Commercial Appeal article talked as if the record was already out and gaining traction. This was on March 28, just three weeks after the session. On March 30, Brenston was back at Phillips' studio to pick up an $85 advance and was back again on April 10 for another $200, suggesting that ''Rocket 88'' was already selling well. On May 7, Brenston got another $100 and the same day Phillips fronted him $165 for a PA system. ''Rocket 88'' finally charted on May 12, and hit number 1 on June 9. Five days later, a then-unknown Pennsylvania hillbilly bar band, Bill Haley and the Saddlemen, recorded what was probably the first cover version. On June 28, an entry in Phillips' logbook states that Brenston assigned all future royalties on ''Rocket 88'' to Phillips in lieu of the $910 already advanced to him, but Brenston's name is still on the song. When ''Rocket 88'' became a not-very-valuable copyright in the later 1050s and 1960s, it's conceivable that Phillips simply forgot that he owned it. Under then-existing American copyright law, the song came up for renewal in 1979, and at that point, Phillips as the songwriter could have grabbed the publishing for his company, but didn't.

Sam Phillips and Chess Records had their first hit; Brenston had his first and last. The longstanding, unenforceable claim that ''Rocket 88'' was the first rock and roll record is borne out by Little Richard, who ought to know. Richard liked it so much, he stole the intro for ''Good Golly Miss Molly''. Phillips' original acetate was auctioned in 2002. It contained ''Rocket 88'' and one of the Ike Turner songs. In recognition of its totemic status, it fetched nearly $14,000.

Ike Turner & His Kings Of Rhythm

2 - I'm Lonesome Baby (3:00) 1951 (Ike Turner & His Kings Of Rhythm) > Chess 1459-B <
(Ike Turner) (Arc Music Corporation)
Recorded March 5, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jackie Brenston (baritone saxophone), vocal), Ike Turner (vocal and piano),
Willie Kizart (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass), Willie Sims (drums),
Raymond Hill (saxophone)

From the same session that produced ''Rocket 88'', this is session leader Ike Turner working in the then-popular mambo groove with faint intimations of ''Rocket 88''. Phillips should have cranked up Ike's vocal in the mix. Willie Kizart's fuzztone guitar at the end adds an interesting touch. The lyrics were quite mundane, and the rolling rhythm (could Ike have heard Professor Longhair'?) is the best thing about the performance. In fact, looking back on the session, Sam Phillips remembered how Ike wanted a record out as a vocalist. ''He was desperate for that. I said, 'but man, you can't sing. You're a hell of a player, but you can't sing''. The Biharis were more forgiving, it seems, allowing Ike to appear as a featured vocalist after he jumped ship.

3 - Heartbroken And Worried (3:05) 1951 (Ike Turner & His Kings Of Rhythm) > Chess 1459-A <
(Ike Turner) (N.M.P.C.)
Recorded March 5, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jackie Brenston (baritone saxophone), vocal), Ike Turner (vocal and piano),
Willie Kizart (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass), Willie Sims (drums),
Raymond Hill (saxophone)

If you buy into the myth, then this is what it sounded like thirty minutes before rock and roll was invented. Even with Willie Kizart's distorted guitar, ''Heartbroken And Worried'' was still a mundane cocktail blues, and it's pretty evident why Sam Phillips wanted to get Ike Turner away from the mic. Ike was a middling vocalist, and his best Charles Brown impersonation simply isn't good enough. Kizart's funky tone is by far the best thing about a record that's only interesting these days because we hear what the ''Rocket 88'' session sounded like before ''Rocket 88''.

B.B. King

4 - B. B. Blues (2:26) 1951 (B.B. King) > RPM 323-A <
(Riley B. King-Jules Taub) (Wabash Music Corporation)
Recorded January 8, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
B.B. King (vocal and guitar), Solomon Hardy (saxophone), Ford Nelson (piano),
James "Shinny" Walker (bass), E.A. Kemp (drums)

B.B. King had recorded for Bullet Records at the WDIA radio station in 1949 before recording three singles for RPM at Sam Phillips' studio. This was the fourth. Phillips' willingness to court the unusual betrayed itself on ''B.B. Blues'', recorded at a session on January 8, 1951 and pulled for release six months later. Solomon Hardy's wailing sax punctuated B.B.'s vocals to striking effect. While B.B. seemed quietly resigned to his misery, Hardy screamed in anguish. Pianist Ford Nelson was one of B.B.'s fellow disc jockeys on WDIA and performed with him as an on-air duo.

5 - She's My Dynamite (2:29) 1951 (B.B. King) > RPM 323-B <
(Hudson Whittaker) (Wabash Music Corporation)
Recorded May 27, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
B.B. King (vocal and guitar), Richard Sanders (tenor saxophone), Phineas Newborn Jr. (piano),
Calvin Newborn (guitar), Unknown (baritone saxophone), Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums)

If there was a potential hit among B.B.'s earliest singles it was this explosive cover of Tampa Red's ''She's Dynamite'', cut on May 27, 1951. Talking to John Broven and Colin Escott, Joe Bihari said, ''I was in Atlanta and our distributor Jake Friedman said, 'RCA is getting a lot of jukebox plays on ''She's Dynamite'', but people can't buy the record'. So I went up to Memphis to Sam Phillips' studio''. What emerged was a record that almost said more about Sam Phillips than B.B. King. Unlike the restraint of Red's original, this was modeled on the giddy, hormonal rush of ''Rocket 88''. The thunderrous rhythm track and the sax teetering on the edge of atonality were Phillips' trademarks, not B.B.'s. It was rock and roll in all but name. The guitarist was certainly not B.B. because he plays under the vocals... something B.B. never did. We're probably hearing Calvin Newborn on guitar and his brother, Phineas, on piano. Phineas's trademark was finesse, not the jackhammer left hand called for here. Upon release, the Biharis left the composer credit ominously blank, as they usually did when they didn't own the publishing. Phillips noted that he sent out seven dubs of ''She's Dynamite'' to disc jockeys, emphasizing the rapidity with which the record was released (ordinarily, the Biharis would have taken care of this). It showed up on some local charts (Richmond and New Orleans), but surely deserved to do better.

Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats

6 - Independent Woman (2:52) 1951 (Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats) > Chess 1472-B <
(Jackie Brenston) (Burton Limited)
Recorded March 5, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jackie Brenston (vocal), Ike Turner (piano), Willie Kizart (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass),
Willie Sims (drums), Raymond Hill (saxophone)

A musical clone of ''Rocket 88'' without the automotive hook. Chess coupled it with ''Juiced'' and released it as Brenston's third single. His career lost further momentum as a result. As before, he shouts encouragement to Raymond Hill during the sax solo. In fact, there's so much saxophone, it's almost a Raymond Hill record. One possibility is that dissension had already set in between Brenston and Ike Tuner's band, leading Phillips to retrieve this substandard cut and pair it with ''Juiced'', a song that didn't even have Brenston on it, even though it was credited to him.

Lou Sargent

7 - Ridin' The Boogie (2:19) 1951 (Lou Sargent) > Chess 1465-A <
(Sam Phillips-Leonard Chess) (B.L.P.C)
Recorded Probably May 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Lou Sargent (Luther Steinberg) (trumpet), Tot Randolph (saxophone, Phineas Newborn Jr. (piano),
Les Mitchell (Wilbur Steinberg) (bass), Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums)

Lou Sargent' was a pseudonym for Luther Steinberg, although, in a broader sense, the names covered the entire aggregation. Steinberg himself was unaware that he acquired a new identity until the record appeared. This could almost have been the backing track for ''Rocket 88''. Small wonder because the group was Brenston's touring band after his split from Ike Tuner. The track is driven by the piano of Phineas Newborn, Jr., whose clear preference even in this context was for refinement. The nominal leader, Luther Steinberg, is barely audible on trumpet. Lou Sargent's brother, Wilbur, played bass and provided the vocal on the flipside under another pseudonym, Les Mitchell. The unlikely listed composers were Sam Phillips and Leonard Chess.

Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats

8 - My Real Gone Rocket (2:27) 1951 (Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats) > Chess 1469-A <
(Jackie Brenston) (B.L.P.C.)
Recorded Probably July 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jackie Brenston (vocal), Unknown (trumpet and saxophone), Ike Turner (piano),
Willie Sims (drums), Willie Kizart (guitar)

If there were any doubts that Phillips' recordings with Jackie Brenston prefigured rock and roll, this should silence them. The piano is mixed way up front as Brenston continues the ''Rocket 88'' saga. It's a wild ride that almost goes out of control... as rock and roll should. Once again the pianist thunderous left hand is bolstered by an electric guitar. The identity of the group is unclear. Brenston seems to identify the saxophonist as Clint, and the presence of a trumpet suggests that we;re hearing the Steinberg outfit. The neatly executed section work similarly seems to imply skilled musicians, not honkers and screamers. The energy is contagious and some of the line are good: ''When I cruise through your town like that great Northwestern / You can tell everybody there goes mighty Jackie Brenston'', Yes, indeed.

9 - Tuckered Out (2:29) 1951 (Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats) > Chess 1469-B < 
(Larry Meeks) (Burton Limited)
Recorded Probably August 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jackie Brenston (vocal), Unknown (saxophone), Phineas Newborn Jr. (piano),
Calvin Newborn (guitar), Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums

Songwriter Larry Meeks is a white, Colorado-based lounge pianist and tunesmith who worked at one time or another with Benny Goodman, Les Elgart, and Tennessee Ernie Ford. In 1951, he was in the Navy, based in Millington, Tennessee... just north of Memphis. ''I was a pianist with the Navy band'', Meeks said recently. ''I wrote this song for the score of a musical comedy titled, Prearie Navy'' which had only two performances at the Auditorium in Memphis. I wrote it for me to sing in the show and I made a demo recording of the song at Sun studios and later learned it was recorded at Sun with a group or performer whom I didn't know''. ''Prairie Navy'' ran in March 1951, so Phillips must have sat on the song for a few months. The riffing horns are mixed way down; in their place, the band chants the refrain. Calvin Newborn's guitar solo is jazz all the way. The often unreliable Chess matrixing system indicates that this title was recorded after ''My Real Gone Rocket''. Brenston himself recalled that it was touted as the A-side and he felt that his career lost momentum as a result. After sixty years, Meeks finally heard Brenston's record and declared that any resemblance between the way he heard the tune and Brenston's performance was accidental. We'll take that to be a negative verdict, but there's a case to be made for saying that ''Tuckered Out'' is as tight and organised as ''Real Gone Rocket'' is loose and unbridled, and together they made a fine pairing.

Billy Love

10 - Juiced (2:29) 1951 (Billy Love) > Chess 1472-A < Issued as Jackie Brenston
(Milton Morse Love) (Burton Limited
Recorded Possibly July 24, June 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Love (vocal and piano), Possibly Charles Walker (saxophone),
Calvin Newborn (guitar), Unknown (bass and drums)

This record is most certainly deserving of more than a passing footnote in the annals of Rhythm & Blues. A cryptic entry in Phillips own session files states that Billy Love was paid $100 for the composition, session piano, and vocal, but the irony was, of course, that this track was released under Jackie Brenston's name as a follow-up to "Rocket 88". It's uproarious from start to finish. Love mimics Brenston's habit of yelling the soloist's name and wooping throughout the solos. It might even be his own nickname, Red, that he yells during the intro. Roy Brown was the godfather of this performance, but Love takes Brown a step beyond. There's prodigious energy here... Love's rock solid left hand anchors and drives the recording, playing in unison with the bass. Guitarist Calvin Newborn fills incessantly around the vocal and takes an extended solo. Charles Walker's sax is buried until the solo. Sam Phillips remembered the day vividly: ''Ike Turner took Jackie Brenston's band away from us, and so we had a problem. At that time Chess was screaming for some more top notch product so I recorded Billy Love singing ''Juiced'' and we used that as the follow up song. It was the best song around and I bought it off Billy for, release as, Jackie'' Released around October 1, 1951, ''Juiced'' was the finest record Jackie Brenston ever made

Rosco Gordon

11 - Booted (3:06) 1951 (Rosco Gordon) > Chess 1487-A <
(Courtney Harris-Robert Henry) (Arc Music Corporation)
Recorded August 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rosco Gordon (vocal and piano) Rosco Gordon's name is misspelled on the label.
Willie Wilkes (saxophone), Willie Sims (saxophone),
Unknown (bass), John Murry Daley (drums)

In an interview with John Floyd, Rosco Gordon said that WDIA's David James Mattis set up the meeting for him at Sam Phillips' studio. In our biographical entry, Rosco gave two other accounts of how he came to Memphis Recording Service, but the account given to Floyd seems more plausible. ''The only reason I did it was for the wine money'', said Rosco. ''I didn't have sense enough to be nervous. Sam was very nice and he had this song that Courtney Harris wrote called ''Booted'' and he asked if I could play it'' Turns out he could. The mystery of Courtney Harris's identity has never been solved. The original composer credit said T. Courtney & R. Henry, the latter being a Beale Street bar owner, Robert Henry. Today, the song is registered to J. Courtney and David Henry. It's also registered as a Rosco Gordon composition. If it's ever featured in a movie, some lawyers will doubtless figure it out.

It's not hard to see why Chess grabbed this title from the stack of dubs Sam shipped north. Rosco's bibulous vocal is irresistible and his amateur-night piano sounds just right. The drummer manages to stay off-beat here (accenting 1 and 3 instead of 2 and 4) for a surprisingly long time. Rosco's charm covers a lot of musical sins. By conventional record-making standards, everything was wrong: Rosco was barely adequate on piano and sounds sloppy drunk. Phillips changes levels on the fly. Couplets are randomly re-used. And it's hard to suppress the feeling that Phillips faded the ending because it fell apart. But it's so wrong, it's right. And it was deservedly a huge hit''.

L. J. Thomas & His Louisiana Playboys

12 - Sam's Drag (2:51) 1952 (L.J Thomas & His Louisiana Playboys) > Chess 1493-A < 
(Lafayette Jerl Thomas) (Burton Limited)
Recorded October 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Lafayette Jerl Thomas (guitar), Unknown (saxophone, bass, drums)

This instrumental is anything but a drag with its tough, grainy-toned guitar. Clearly, Lafayette Thomas had no shortage of talent, but at this stage in his career he over-reached occasionally. The off-key passage near the end indicated that he had some way to travel along the road to becoming a West Coast guitar star. Although Thomas was from Shrevenport area, he was already based in Oakland, California when this was recorded. Recording as a side-man since 1948, Thomas was touring with Jimmy McCracklin in 1951, so it's at least possible that McCracklin tour stopped in Memphis, and then stopped at the Memphis Recording Service. Certainly, Thomas and McCracklin recorded together in Houston a few months later with two saxes, piano, and rhythm section... in other words, the same line-up heard here. The tune hits a sweet groove, but not an original one; it was based quite closely on the hugely influential ''Junior Jives'', a hit for Roy Milton a few months earlier. Thomas' next solo record came in 1955. His only other oblique connection with Sun came in 1960 when he joined two other Sun alumni, James Cotton and Pat Hare, for one song on ''Muddy Waters At Newport'' LP.

13 - Baby Take A Chance With Me (2:46) 1952 (L.J Thomas & His Louisiana Playboys) > Chess 1493-B < 
(Lafayette Jerl Thomas) (Burton Limited)
Recorded October 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Lafayette Jerl Thomas (guitar), Unknown (saxophone, bass, drums)

Thomas' pinched vocal is clearly from the Texas tradition but his fluid guitar fills and inventive solos point clearly to the prime place such playing was to occupy in the post-war blues. His band plays in a wonderfully doomy vein in counterpoint to their leader.

Billy ''Red'' Love

14 - Drop Top (2:40) 1952 (Billy ''Red'' Love) > Chess 1508-A <
(Milton Morse Love) (Burton Limited)
Recorded Possibly October/November 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Love (vocal and piano), Charles Walker (saxophone),
Calvin Newborn (guitar), Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums)

''Rocket 88'' spawned many sequels, a fair number of them emanating from Phillips' studio (''My Real Gone Rocket'', ''T-Model Boogie'', ''Mr. Highway Man'', ''Hydramatic Woman'', etc.). This time it's the turn of Billy Love to follow in the slipstream of ''Rocket 88'', and using his own name too. He's cruising around town in his fantasy convertible. Musically, it's a simple 8 to the bar boogie driven by Love's rock solid left hand and hugely confident vocal. Once again, his debt to plummy-voiced Roy Brown is clear. The automobile becomes a metaphor for nookie by the halfway point. As a songwriter, singer, and pianist, Billy Love was a triple threat.

15 - It Ain't No More (2:18) 2013 (Billy Love) > Previously Unissued <
(Milton Morse Love) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Possibly November 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Love (vocal and piano), Charles Walker (saxophone),
Calvin Newborn (guitar), Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums)

Apparently from the same session as ''Drop Top'' and ''You're Gonna Cry'', Sam Phillips shows that ''It Ain't No More'' was sent to Chess along with the other two titles. There was a delay of some months before a record was issued and in that time Chess decided to go for the other titles. At one point, Chess asked for another copy of the ''Drop Top'' master and somewhere along the line the tape of ''It Ain't No More'' was lost but, here an acetate copy from Steve LaVere who had kept it for over forty years.

If it were not for the greater saleability of the ''Drop Top'' lyric, this recording would have been a real contender for release. It is a storming performance, from Love's opening piano chord and the pushing drumbeat of Phineas Newborn through the unison riffing of sax and guitar and on to the superior guitar solo from Carlvin Newborn. The song itself consists of Love telling his girl the reasons why she's got to pack everything and go and perhaps this downbeat message being delivered at such a rocking tempo weighed against the track when Chess 1508 was being planned.

Rosco Gordon

16 - T-Model Boogie (2:26) 1978 (Rosco Gordon) > Not Originally Issued <
(Rosco Gordon) (Lion Publishers)
Recorded December 4, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rosco Gordon (vocal and piano), Willie Sims (saxophone),
Willie Wilkes (saxophone), John Murry Daley (drums)

Rosco Gordon recorded at least three versions of this, two for Sam Phillips (the other take first appeared on CR 30101) and a speeded-up version for Duke Records, with automobile noises spliced into the intro and outro. The song is patently another "Rocket 88" spinoff, but has an engaging spirit of its own - although things begin to fall apart rhythmically during the third verse after Rosco attempts to cram a couple of gratuitous extra beats into the mix. The tenor sax player suddenly springs to life during his solo, exhibiting a surly blues tone - his sustained note during the last verse being particularly effective.

17 - Wade Through Muddy Water (3:02) 1978 (Rosco Gordon) > Not Originally Issued <
(Rosco Gordon) (Copyright Control)
Recorded January 23, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rosco Gordon (vocal and piano), Willie Sims (saxophone),
John Murry Daley (drums) Richard Sanders (baritone saxophone)

John Murry Daley's drums beat like a sepulchral metronome throughout this dirge-like song, the designated B-side of "Decorate The Counter". Sam Phillips recut "Decorate" with Rufus Thomas, but this track - retitled - had to wait 25 years to be released. Its original title comes from the second verse, when Rosco describes what he's prepared to do for the woman who's deserted him. Richard Sanders' baritone sax solo is perfectly recorded, catching the full eruptive depth of those bass notes. His wheedling tone sounds like Lewis Carroll's Walrus coaxing virgin oysters from their shells.

18 - Decorate The Counter (2:29) 1977 (Rosco Gordon) > Not Originally Issued <
(Robert Henry-Courtney Harris) (Copyright Control)
Recorded January 23, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rosco Gordon (vocal and piano), Willie Sims (saxophone),
John Murry Daley (drums) Richard Sanders (baritone saxophone)

Its hard to be critical of a record like this, which is infectious good-time music, pure and simple. This is the second, looser take with the band getting bawdy in the background, and is a vast improvement on Take 1 (which was released on CR 30133). This version was actually mastered for release on Chess as the follow-up to "Booted", however, legal warn glings between Chess and RPM/Modern over Rosco's contract led to it being withheld. Since Leonard Chess had felt so strongly about the song he requested another version with the same sound and feel: Phillips immediately reassembled the same studio band and brought in another artist - who, like Rosco, had a good-time, good-humoured vocal style. Enter Rufus Thomas: Phillips rushed the resulting acetate to Chess Records in April 1952, and the disc was in the stores within weeks.

Rufus Thomas

19 - Decorate The Counter (2:24) 1952 (Rufus Thomas) > Chess 1517-B <
(Robert Henry-Courtney Harris) (Burton Limited)
Recorded April 21, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rufus Thomas (vocal), Willie Wilkes (tenor saxophone), Richard Sanders (baritone saxophone),
Billy Love (piano), John Murry Daley (drums)

When Rufus Thomas come into the studio on April 21, he would have been able to hear two versions of this song on a tape by Rosco Gordon. They contained a number of vocal asides and had a generally anarchic sound, faithfully reproduced by Rufus. If anyone was going to be able to carry off the required histrionics on this sloppy-drunk song, then Rufus Thomas - the consummate entertainer - was probably the man. There is little wonder that the difference between the two men's recordings was small because with Rufus were Willie Wilkes, Richard Sanders and John Murry Daley - the same players Rosco used. Rufus calls ''What you say Richard'' as Sanders is about to take his solo, as had Rosco. Only Rosco himself is missing, replaced by Billy Love on piano. Rufus's vocals are slightly more prominent and assured than Rosco's even though it is not his own song. According to the session logs, Rufus recorded four other songs at the ''Decorate'' session. One of these was the intriguing ''Beale Street Bound'', a recording that has not apparently survived.

20 - Married Woman (2:39) 1985 (Rufus Thomas) > Previously Unissued <
(Rufus Thomas) (Copyright Control)
Recorded April 21, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rufus Thomas (vocal), Willie Wilkes (tenor saxophone), Richard Sanders (baritone saxophone),
Billy Love (piano), John Murry Daley (drums)

Two final songs from the session was "Married Woman" which is presented here in a alternative take. Rufus' baby left him on Saturday, March 1. On April 21 he was in Phillips studio telling the world about it. It is a thumping blues about Rufus sitting around trying to drink his blues away. His baby's leaving - "she was a married woman" - and how loving a married woman will do you no earthly good. The first version contains a storming sax solo by Willie Wilkes, and the second is similar except that Rufus adds some slurred speech at the start to emphasize the depth of his plight. According to Marion Keisker's session logs, Rufus recorded four other songs at the "Decorate" session. One of these was the intriguing "Beale Street Bound", a recording that has not apparently survived.

Houston Stokes

21 - You'll Be Sorry Someday (2:19) 1985 (Houston Stokes) > Previously Unissued <
(Houston Stokes) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: - November 18, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Houston Stokes (vocal and drums), Frank Strozier (alto saxophone), Gilmore Daniels (tenor saxophone),
Matthew Garrett (trumpet), Evans Bradshaw (piano), Erskine McLellan (guitar)

Houston Stokes was one of several singing drummers in Memphis, and proves to be a competent vocalist as he fronts what was, in many respects, a Memphis junior all-star jazz band. Trumpeter Matthew Garrett was an educator at Manassas High School (the city's preeminent school for music, where Jimmie Lunceford once taught). Garrett taught modern jazz trumpeter Booker Little as well as avant garde hero Charles Lloyd, and he's the father of jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater. The Garretts left Memphis for Flint, Michigan soon after this session, but it was Garrett who assembled this band for Stokes, and it features some of the kids he taught. Alto saxophonist Frank Strozier was just fifteen years old. After leaving Memphis, he became a renowned hard bop jazzman and a sideman for Miles Davis, Chet Baker, among others. Pianist Evans Bradshaw was once touted as highly as Phineas Newborn. He made a couple of fine LPs for Riverside in 1958 and 1959, and died in 1978. Saxophonist Gilmore Daniel was born in Memphis in 1935, and gigged around the city with Rufus Thomas before leaving town with Percy Mayfield and Lowell Fulson.

After some years in Milwaukee, he returned to Memphis in the early 1970s and recorded for David Evans' Highwater Records. He died in Memphis in 1986. Gilmore, incidentally, told Evans that the pianist on Stoke's session wasn't Bradshaw, but another jazz titan-in-training, Harold Mabern. It's unlikely, though, that Marion Keisker would have logged Bradshaw if Mabern had actually been there. The mystery man is guitarist Erskine McClellan, of whom we know nothing. Gilmore told Evans that McClellan moved to New York and changed his name. Colin Escott talking at length about the sidemen in part because most of them went on to carve out in careers in music and in part because their arrangement is the best thing about this record. The chart behind the sax solo is deftly executed Clearly, these were some very accomplished guys.

22 - We're All Gonna Do Some Wrong (2:17) 1989 (Houston Stokes) > Not Originally Issued <
(Houston Stokes) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: - November 18, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Houston Stokes (vocal and drums), Frank Strozier (alto saxophone), Gilmore Daniels (tenor saxophone),
Matthew Garrett (trumpet), Evans Bradshaw (piano), Erskine McLellan (guitar)

From the deliberate, loping beat set by Bradshaw's piano, this would seem to be an attempt to emulate the Rosco Gordon school of blues. The cliché in the title is the singer's ham-fisted way of trying to get his baby back: "Now I know you didn't mean a word you told him/don't cry about that/you were just excited, baby/you were talking through your hat". Exit baby, hatless. After a suitably intense crescendo, Gilmore Daniels steps up for another solo, this one struggling to get away from its home chord. By the last verse, Stokes' self-justifying belief that his baby will return only reinforces the message in the song's title.
So, in fact, what a record! So why didn't this find a home with one of the labels Sam routinely pitched product to? The voice is fine. The piano cloned Rosco Rhythm which was doing business at the time. So what's left? Could it have been the message? was it too progressive for its time?

Walter ''Tang'' Smith

23 - Hi-Tone Mama (2:47) 1952 (Walter ''Tang'' Smith) > J-B 606-B < 
(Walter "Tang" Smith) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 27, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter "Tang" Smith (vocal), Unknown (trumpet), Jewell Briscoe (tenor saxophone),
James Luper (tenor saxophone), Charles ''Chas'' Chinn (saxophone),
Harry Gibson (piano), Unknown (bass), L.T. Lewis (drums)

This track first appeared on Jim Bullet's label out of Nashville. Bulleit and Sam Phillips were in the process of consummating a deal in which Bulleit would invest in the Sun re-launch of January 1953. As part of the deal, Bulleit would also acquire some masters from Phillips. There must have been very little room to breathe at 706 Union when they recorded this agreeable track in October, 1952. It features a rolling piano and full horn section riffing behind Smith's vocal. There is a double length instrumental break led by a very aggressive Jewell Briscoe on tenor sax. Briscoe unleashes his arsenal of honks and double honks during the second instrumental chorus. For the uninitiated, Walter Smith's middle name, ''Tang'' is a short of Poontang, which is, in turn, a colloquialism for pussy.

24 - Every Monday Morning Blues (3:10) 1952 (Walter ''Tang'' Smith) > J-B 606-A <
(Walter "Tang" Smith) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 27, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter "Tang" Smith (vocal), Unknown (trumpet), Jewell Briscoe (tenor saxophone),
James Luper (tenor saxophone), Charles ''Chas'' Chinn (saxophone),
Harry Gibson (piano), Unknown (bass), L.T. Lewis (drums)

This too was issued in late 1952 on Jim Bullet's J-B label. This side presents a fuller, more sophisticated sound than virtually anything in the Sun blues catalog, not to mention the sides Sam Phillips recorded for release on other labels. We actually have a band chart here (likely composed by sax man Jewell Briscoe). Pianist Harry Gibson switches to shuffle rhythm during the tenor sax solo to good effect, and Smith's shouted encouragement adds energy. One of those sax-men (there are three of them listed on the session personnel) should have considered investing in a new reed for the session.

Billy Love

25 - Early In The Morning (3:01) 1978 (Billy Love) > Not Originally Issued <
(Milton Morse Love) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 11, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Love (vocal and piano), Tuff Green (bass), Nolen Hall )drums), Charles McInstry (trombone),
Walter ''Tang'' Smith ''Trombone), Floyd Shannon (trumpet),
Robert Hamp (saxophone), Charles Walker (saxophone)

On December 11, 1952, Love came in with another band altogether to record his new song, ''Early In The Morning''. Schoolteacher and bassist Tuff Green was one of the longest established bandleaders in town and often supplied groups to Sam Phillips and other record companies. It may have been Green who put this group together, including drummer Nolen Hall, sax players Robert Hamp and Charles Walker, trombonists Walter 'Tang' Smith and Charles McKinstry, and trumpeter Floyd Shannon.

From the session tapes it seems likely that Sam Phillips also recorded two versions of a song called ''You Could Have Loved Me'' and and two early versions of ''Gee I Wish'' at this session. ''You Could Have Loved Me'' is a reflective blues about a man who has sat alone too long and now doesn't want his baby's loving. Charles Walker takes a breathy sax solo that complements Love's vocal.

''Gee I Wish'' was a tune Love would return to later and he recorded it in a number of styles. This early version has a slightly Latin rhythm that alternates with boogie piano and riffing saxes. It's one of those songs that strings together a few vocal phrases in praise of a little girl walking by - themes Rosco Gordon, Billy Emerson and others also recorded for Phillips - but is really a vehicle for the band to rock on out, On this version there is an extended sax solo by Charles Walker and a Trumpet solo by Floyd Shannon.

''Early In The Morning'' was a strong song about how the blues come tumbling down after hours. Love's voice starts quietly while he employs band members to is along to give the effect of a vocal group. His voice then strengthens and, while the full band comes in with impressive sax solos and horn riffs. There is a good sax solo from Charles Walker or Robert Hamp and the song swings along to its conclusion.

Nothing apparently came of the December session and Phillips' files are completely silent on Billy Love for almost the whole of 1953. It was a strange year for Phillips because his deal with Chess fell apart at the end of 1952 and he relaunched Sun Records in earnest in the spring of 1953, soon hitting chart success with Rufus Thomas and others. Phillips issued a wide range of material on Sun in that first year and the fact that he had accumulated recordings by Billy Love but not issued them seems odd, particularly given his expressed admiration for Love's music. Again we can only conclude that Love was touring or playing music somewhere on his own account or with Rosco Gordon or others.

Tiny Kennedy & Elmer The Disc Jockey Rooster

26 - Early In The Morning, Baby (2:28) 1952 (Tiny Kennedy) > Trumpet 187-A <
(Jesse Kennedy) (Music Diam)
Recorded September 25, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jesse Tiny Kennedy (vocal), Calvin Newborn (guitar), Alfordson Nelson (piano),
Richard Sanders (saxophone), Bill Fort (saxophone), Robert Hamp (saxophone),
Wilburn Steinberg (bass), Houston Stokes (drums),
Elmer, the disc jockey Rooster (crowing)

Sam Phillips did some mastering and copying for other labels, but very little custom recording. He made an exception for Lillian McMurry at Trumpet Records in Jackson, Mississippi. McMurry had signed Tiny Kennedy but couldn't get the result she wanted at the WHBQ studio in Memphis. After that, he'd failed to show up for a session in Jackson, so she must have booked time at Phillips' Memphis Recording Service with some trepidation. She'd signed Kennedy after seeing him at Jackson's Alamo Theater when he fronted Tiny Bradshaw's orchestra. Kennedy was a mountain of a man with a voice to match, and he was from Chattanooga, as this song attests. Sam Phillips placed him with the cream of musicians on the session, which produced the fine "Strange Kind Of Feelin'," "Early In The Mornin', Baby" (with overdubbed crowing by "Elmer, the Disc Jockey Rooster"), and "Blues Disease," included guitarist Calvin Newborn and saxophonist Richard Sanders. After the session, McMurry lit upon the idea of dubbing a rooster onto the intro. In nearby Hattiesburg, Chuck Thompson was the early morning man on WFOR, and he had a pet rooster, Elmer, who crowed on cue and was sufficiently well known for Minnie Pearl's ''Pickin' And Singin' News'' to do a little feature on him. Phillips added Elmer to the tape, and McMurry crudely collaged him to Kennedy's promo photo.

27 - Strange Kind Of Feeling (2:29) 1952 (Tiny Kennedy) > Trumpet 187-B <
(Jesse Kennedy) (Music Diam)
Recorded September 25, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jesse Tiny Kennedy (vocal), Calvin Newborn (guitar), Alfordson Nelson (piano),
Richard Sanders (saxophone), Bill Fort (saxophone), Robert Hamp (saxophone),
Wilburn Steinberg (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

The rhythm section of Wilbur Steinberg, Calvin Newborn, Ford nelson, and Houston Stokes propels this jumping blues. Add three saxophonists and an obese vocalist, and 706 Union must have been very full that day, so full that Phillips might have been the saxes or Kennedy out in the lobby. Lillian McMurry told researcher Marc Ryan that she grew tired of trying to nail down Tiny for sessions, and let him have his release. Three years later up in New York, Kennedy recorded ''Strange Kinda Feelin'' once again, this time for RCA's Groove imprint. For neither label was ''Strange Kinda Feeling'' a hit.

28 - Blues Disease (2:27) 1952 (Tiny Kennedy) > Trumpet 188-B <
(Jesse Kennedy) (Globe Music Incorporated)
Recorded September 25, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jesse Tiny Kennedy (vocal), Calvin Newborn (guitar), Alfordson Nelson (piano),
Richard Sanders (saxophone), Bill Fort (saxophone), Robert Hamp (saxophone),
Wilburn Steinberg (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

Sam Phillips' multitracks the backing vocals for an unusual effect at the intro of Kennedy's second Trumpet single, ''Blues Disease''. On some level, the song is fairly mundane, but the rhythm section, accented by a very busy Calvin Newborn on guitar, is so tight and slick, it redeems the record. 

29 - Don't Lay This Job On Me (3:05) 1952 (Tiny Kennedy) > Trumpet 188-A <
(JesseTiny Kennedy) (Globe Music Incorporated)
Recorded September 25, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jesse Tiny Kennedy (vocal), Calvin Newborn (guitar), Alfordson Nelson (piano),
Richard Sanders (saxophone), Bill Fort (saxophone), Robert Hamp (saxophone),
Wilburn Steinberg (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

Thieving clergymen had been a staple of black vaudeville from the get-go, and Kennedy draws on that long tradition with a narration inexplicably titled ''Don't Lay This Job On Me''. Specifically, Kennedy seems to be drawing on vaudevillian Bert Williams' ''Elder Eatmore'' narrations. The Money to build a new church has been purloined, and the threat of damnation hangs over everyone. Ford Nelson carries the accompaniment in an oddly inappropriate cocktail blues style. If this was an anomalous entry in the music recorded at 706 Union, it was a good one. It all comes down to Kennedy, and he pulls it off.

Sherman Johnson & His Clouds Of Joys

30 - Hot Fish (2:24) 1952 (Sherman Johnson & His Clouds Of Joys) > Trumpet 190-A <
(Sherman Johnson) (Globe Music Corporation)
Recorded September 30, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sherman ''Blues'' Johnson (vocal), More Details Unknown

During the very brief period when Sam Phillips was doing custom work for Lillian McMurry's Trumpet Records, he was handed Sherman Johnson, an undistinguished shouter who took his band's name from Andy Kirk's ''Clouds Of Joy'' and his style from Wynomie Harris. As was the case with Tiny Kennedy, McMurry tried to record him elsewhere before paying Phillips to handle the session. Was ''Hot Fish'' a double entendre blues? Almost certainly. It was based quite closely on a saucy old vaudeville number best known as ''Get 'Em From The Peanut Man'' and sung by Lil Johnson and Georgia White back in 1936. As Sherman Johnson was a disc jockey on WTOK in Meridian, Mississippi, McMurry might have thought she could move sufficient copies in south Mississippi to pay for the session. She might have been wrong. Johnson was clearly discouraged when he wrote to McMurry soon after the record was released, but she admonished him, saying, ''You are about the nicest guy and we do appreciate your attitude, but I feel like spanking you because you seem to have given up''.

31 - Pretty Baby Blues (2:53) 1953 (Sherman Johnson & His Clouds Of Joys) > Trumpet 189-A <
(Sherman Johnson) (Music Diam)
Recorded September 30, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sherman ''Blues'' Johnson (vocal), More Details Unknown

No more distinguished on his other Trumpet release, Sherman Johnson coupled a Korean War novelty song with the paint-by-numbers ''Pretty Baby Blues''. Newborn Sr's band swung professionally, and Richard Sanders rocked out on baritone sax, but they can't compensate for the ordinariness of Johnson's voice and song. Even with a strong local following as an rhythm and blues jock in Meridian, Johnson gave Lillian McMurry no incentive to schedule another session; if anything, he gave her incentive to sue him. In 1853, he pitched ''Saving My Love For You'' to Johnny Ace. Problems was that in October 1951, McMurry had recorded Johnson singing that song and she'd copyrighted it. In November 1953, Ace's producer, Don Robey, wrote to McMurry to inform her that he had acquired all rights to the song, and that the earlier copyright was invalid. McMurry chose not to fight Robey or sue Johnson.

Unknown Artist
Possibly with Rosco Gordon's Band

32 - Got Me A Horse And Wagon (2:53) 1989 (Unknown Artist) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Unknown Artist Probably Rosco Gordon of Erskine McClellean (vocal)
Probably the band of Rosco Gordon

In 1969, the Sun tapes were shipped from Memphis to Nashville. Some of the tapes boxes were falling apart and many of the old 7-inch tape reels were spliced together to create new 10'' reels. Some of the old reels were copied onto new reels as well. Teddy Paige of the Jesters did some of this work, as did researcher Steve LaVere. Someone copied an apparently unmarked tape with ''Got Me A Horse And Wagon'' and two other songs onto the end of a Houston Stokes reel. It was probably Paige who wrote ''Roscoe... good against Got Me A Horse And Wagon''. When Martin Hawkins and Colin Escott compiled the Sun discography in 1987, they didn't hear the tape and took their word for it, attributing this song to Gordon. Later, Martin and Hank Davis issued the song in their Blues Archive series on Charly Records and decided that, because the tape box said ''Rosco and Erskine'' and this song was on a reel with Houston Stokes, the singer must be Stokes' guitarist, Erskine McClellan. Now, on further review, there are several compelling reasons why this isn't from Stokes' session. First, the ensemble is different... notably lacking a guitar; second, the musicians on this song are nowhere near as good as the slumming jazz men on Stokes' tape with McClellan; and third, Stokes' session was held in 1952 and this song talks about 1952 and maybe even 1953 in the past tense. Our current best guess is that LaVere and Paige were half right: it truly does sound like Rosco Gordon's band, and it even sounds as if Rosco himself might be on piano. Who is singing? We have no idea. Why didn't Rosco sing if it's band? Possibly because he was under contract to Duke or RPM. One certainly: this is a fine song that places an exclamation point at the end of the car songs.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <  

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 4 Contains
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SELLING MY STUFF

Sun Records was launched in April 1952 with Johnny London. It folded almost immediately and was relaunched in 1953 with Handy Jackson, Joe Hill Louis and Willie Nix. Later that year, Rufus Thomas' ''Bear Cat'' gave Sun its first certified hit, apparently justifying Phillips' decision to break out from the frustration of dealing with Chess, Modern and other third parties. Soon after, Little Junior Parker gave Sun its second major hit of the year with ''Feelin' Good''. Then came success in the rhythm and blues and pop markets with the Prisonaires' ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''. But, as this CD attests, Phillips was willing to try many, many styles, trying to find something that would click.

Jackie Boy & Little Walter

1 - Selling My Whiskey (Incomplete) (1:11) 1985 (Jackie Boy & Little Walter) > Sun 174-B <
(Jack Kelly-Walter Horton) (Copyright Control- Promotional Copies Only)
Recorded February 25, 1952 at Memphis Recording Services, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jack Kelly (vocal and piano), Walter Horton (vocal, harmonica, kazoo),
Joe Hill Louis (guitar and drums)

In the Memphis Recording Service logbook, under Walter Horton, Marion Keisker wrote, ''2/25/52, Session with Joe Hill, Jack Kelly and -, ''Cut several sides on tape''. Best were with Jack Kelly doing vocal and Mumbles (Horton) on harmonica. Tentatively billed on these number as 'Little Walter' and Jackie Boy''. Under Kelly's name, she wrote that two cuts were made that day, crossing out and changing both titles, ''Sellin' My Stuff (Ain't Had A Drink)'' and ''Wanderin' Woman (Blues In My Condition)''. On March 5, dubs of Kelly-Horton, Johnny London, and Walter Bradford were sent to Chess, but on March 8, Marion noted that dubs of Kelly/Horton were sent to ''Teamer, Aired on WHHM as intro to Sun''. Teamer was WHHM's 9 p.m. to midnight rhythm and blues jock, Screamin' Eddie Teamer, who got Walter Bradford's sides, too. A dub was also sent to 'Jack The Bellboy' at KWEM. On March 10, masters of Kelly-Horton and Johnny London were shipped to the Shaw record planting plant in Cincinnati. The following day, dubs were sent to Rufus Thomas and Walter Bradfort in Forrest City. At some point very soon thereafter, Phillips decided to pull the plug on Kelly-Horton and Bradford, and launch Sun with Johnny London. Presumably, it was the disc jockeys' reaction that precipitated this change of heart.

And so Sun 174 remained unseen and unheard until Robert Loers found an acetate bearing the label Sun 174 and Steve LaVere later found a fragment of the song on another acetate. It's a rollicking Saturday night song, harking back to Kelly's roots in the South Memphis Jug band. Horton apparently played a Prince Albert tobacco can, accounting for the kazoo-liked sound. There's a very busy drummer, so Joe Hill Louis cannot be playing drums and guitar simultaneously and it's hard to determine which instrument he's playing. The identity of the fourth guy, indicated by Marion with the blank line, can only be guessed at.

Johnny London - Alto Wizard

2 - Drivin' Slow (2:58) 1953 (Johnny London) > Sun 175-A <
(Johnny London) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 8, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hall (piano), Johnny London (alto saxophone), Charles Keel (tenor saxophone),
Julius Drake (drums)

This is the first Sun record to hit the streets, apparently part of a batch of three scheduled in April 1952 but the only one to be pressed for commercial sale. London was a local rhythm and blues and jazz musician who walked in to make some demos and was snapped up by Sam Phillips. His marvellous sinewy alto sax is heard to great advantage here. There are the inevitable shades of Charlie Parker and Earl Bostic, but London is essentially his own man. With minimal support from tenor sax player Charles Keel and pianist Joe Louis Hall, London unleashes a tortuous improvisation drenched in blue. If London's performance and Phillip' approach to recording it had a forebear, it was Johnny Otis's 1945 hit record of ''Harlem Noctume'' with Rene Bloch's wiry alto sax weaving in and out of the gloriously simple arrangement. Phillips achieved a recording balance here that creates the illusion that London is playing in the next apartment, all of which adds to the discs after-hours charm. London never had another record out, but his pianist, Joe Hill Hall, recorded with Willie Mitchell's combo, and played piano on Hi Records' first hit, Bill Black's ''Smokey''.

3 - Flat Tire (2:30) 1953 (Johnny London) > Sun 175-B < 
(Johnny London) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 8, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hall (piano), Johnny London (alto saxophone), Charles Keel (tenor saxophone),
Julius Drake (drums)

So the automobile imagery continues on this flip-side. Charles Keel is a busy man, honking the same riff repeatedly as London wails over the top. It's short on finesse and long on mood, ''Flat Tire'' wasn't Phillips' first choice for a flip-side. Initially, it was to be a song called ''When I Lost My Baby'' sung by his wife, Becky, to London's accompaniment. Dewey Phillips aired the two tunes on the day were recorded, and dubs were mailed to Chess. Three days later, March 8, 1952, Phillips re-recorded ''Drivin' Slow'' together with ''Flat Tire''. Within the space of the next two days he decided to launch Sun with that coupling. On March 10, he sent masters to Shaw record plating in Cincinnati and shipped the pressing parts to Plastic Products in Memphis. Rufus Thomas played the tunes on one of his WDIA shows the following day. The first Sun records were pressed on March 27. It was a brave step releasing an instrumental as the first offering on Sun but it signaled Phillips' intention to do it differently. According to London, the records reached number 1 on some local charts (WHBQ, he remembers), and a copy of the 78 was affixed to the studio entrance at 706 Union for years. But London's principal recollection of the session is that Phillips had holes in his shoes when he put his feet up on the desk. ''He was scuffling''.

An undated entry in Phillips' check register notes that he paid Plastic Products $135. For most of the 1950s, Plastic Products charged $0.135 per pressing so it seems as Phillips ordered one thousand copies of the first Sun record.

Walter Bradford & The Big City Four

4 - Untitled Blues (Incomplete) (1:10) 2013 (Walter Bradford) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded February 23, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Bradford (vocal), Louis Calvin Hubert (piano)
Pat Hare (guitar), Jerry Lee Walker (drums)

At this point we really should be writing about Sun 176 (''Dreary Night'' / ''Nuthin' But The Blues), but many people have spent many years searching for Sun 176 without finding it, and it seems fairly certain that it was scheduled but not pressed. Walter Bradford was a disc jockey in Forrest City, Arkansas and Phillips recorded him on February 23, 1952 with hopes and placing the titles with Chess. He noted the titles of three songs (the third being ''Five Days Rain''). After Chess rejected the recordings, Phillips slated ''Dreary Night''/''Nuthin' But The Blues'' for Sun's initial launch in April 1952. One day perhaps, one of the few acetates of Bradford's Sun 78 will show up, but this untitled song from a Memphis Recording Service acetate just might be half of one of the to missing songs. We know that acetates were made and shipped to disc jockeys locally but we do not know their fate. From what we can hear, this recording features the musicians listed by Phillips at the 'lost' February session. It is clearly Pat Hare on guitar, making this his first known recording. Could the lyrical pay-off have been dreary nights, or nuthin' but the blues? Possibly. Something else entirely? Equally possible. Barring the discovery of a copy of Sun 176, we'll never know.

Handy Jackson

5 - Got My Application Baby (3:05) 1953 (Handy Jackson) > Sun 177-A <
(Sam C. Phillips-Handy Jackson) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably December 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Gaylord Garth – (vocal and piano), Willie Wilkes (saxophone),
Robert Carter (guitar), William Cooper (drums)

Sun's false dawn in April 1952 produced just one commercial-issued record and two intended releases that somehow never made it to the retail counters. This was the second Sun record, issued at the end of January 1953 along with discs by Joe Hill Louis and Willie Nix. The flow of records ended fifteen years later in January 1968.

Frustratingly, there remains some mystery about the singer and about the attribution of both sides of this disc to Handy Jackson. Sam Phillips logged ''Got My Application'' by a man named Gay Garth, and in 1984 he told Martin Hawkins that he ''remembered'' Gay Garth as ''a local musician who had potential for making both blues and jazz''. Sam said that he ''did not recall'' Handy Jackson and, surprisingly, couldn't remember why the recording appeared as by Jackson. At first, he said Garth was Jackson, and then said he wasn't for sure. When Gaylord Garth was finally interviewed in 2004, he confirmed that he was indeed the singer and pianist on this song but he didn't know Jackson's name. He recorded ''Application'' with another song, ''Screamin' And Cryin''', at the end of a session where he was part of a band led by saxophonist Willie Wilkes. Garth and Wilkes were employed to back s singer who was not part of their band and whose name Garth had forgotten. ''Application'' opens with saxophonist Wilkes playing plaintively and Garth comes in sounding appropriately an quished about his baby's delay in singing his application papers. If she doesn't hurry up, he'll begone again. It is not clear what he's applying for; perhaps for a stay from armed service duty, perhaps even for marriage. The Korean War was on and if a man was a woman's sole support or the father of her children he could claim an exemption from the draft. Garth plays some piano fills around the sax solo and the band was, according to Garth, anchored by guitarist Robert Carter, who'd played but not recorded back in the jug band era, and drummer William Cooper who, Garth recalled, ''used to do tricks with his drumsticks'', Garth said that all these men played with Rosco Gordon and, if so, they may have been on Gordon's early session. The drummer certainly sounds familiar. It is surprising then that the players wander in and out of synch with each other, making chord changes at different times, one still in 8b while another has switched to Eb. It is also noticeable that whereas Sam Phillips always mic'd his classic sides to perfection this sound as though he had just gathered four guys around a mic placed in the middle of the piano.

6 - Trouble (Will Bring You Down) (2:49) 1953 (Handy Jackson) > Sun 177-B <
(Sam C. Phillips-Handy Jackson) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably December 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Gaylord Garth – (vocal and piano), Willie Wilkes (saxophone),
Robert Carter (guitar), William Cooper (drums)

Sam Phillips did not log this song as one of the two Gay Garth sang for him, but he put the name handy Jackson after the titles. So Jackson was presumably the man Wilkes and Garth had come in to support that day. His name appears as songwriter on both sides of the record label and while he may have just been the writer whose name somehow became the artist credit, more likely he was the singer on this side of the disc. If Jackson was sufficiently well known around Memphis to have come to Phillips' attention, none of that fame has been recorded for us in newspapers or in the memories of other Memphis based musicians, or even in the memory of Sam Phillips himself. What we are left with is a fairly standard slow blues about the singer's baby leaving town. Garth's jazzy piano is mixed upfront and there is an echoey, insistent, alto solo played either by Willie Wilkes or, Garth thought, by Richard Williams, a member of Wilkes band at the time. The Unbalanced sound makes this second Sun disc a first cousin to Johnny London's release six months earlier.

Joe Hill Louis

7 - We All Gotta Go Sometime (2:42) 1953 (Joe Hill Louis) > Sun 178-A < 
(Walter Horton-Joe Hill Louis) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded December 8, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal and guitar, drums), Walter Horton (harmonica), Albert Williams (piano)

On December 8, 1952, Walter Horton recorded ''We All Gotta Go Sometime'' backed by Joe Hill Louis, pianist Albert Williams, and a drummer reputed to be Willie Nix. That same day, Joe Hill Louis recorded with Williams and a drummer. Marion noted ''Walter Horton, harp'' and then crossed it out, but it's possible that Horton is playing on this because there is harmonica under the vocal when Louis sings ''got grandfather told''. Sixty years on, our best guess is that both Horton and Louis recorded ''We All Gotta Go Sometime'' on the same day. Louis's version has considerably more vigor, and Nix, if indeed it's him, kicks the record along in tandem with the piano. As noted above, the song was credited to Louis, but was essentially (John Lee) Sonny Boy Williamson's 1941 song, ''Shotgun Blues'' (Williamson offered his woman twenty dollars to return, while Louis held the line at ten). A Big Bill Broonzy record from later in 1941, ''I Feel So Good'', provided the melody for the chorus. But Williamson's and Broonzy's records were cleanly and precisely executed. This, in comparison, is folk art.

8 - She May Be Yours (But She Comes To See Me Sometime) (3:01) 1953 (Joe Hill Louis) > Sun 178-B <
Joe Hill Louis-Sam C. Phillips) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded November 17, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal and guitar), Albert Williams (piano), Willie Nix (drums)

Playing harmonica fills between vocal lines while playing guitar necessitated a harmonica rack and the rack was positioned squarely between Joe Hill Louis's mouth and the microphone, hence the distorted vocal. Drummer Willie Nix and pianist Albert Williams were always perfectly attuned to Joe Hill Louis's music, never more so than here. It's hard to know which side of Sun 178 was considered the A-side, assuming Phillips even thought in those terms back then. Certainly, both were excellent rowdy blues. In its issue of March 28, 1953, Billboard picked this as a A-side, commenting on what was then the suggestive nature of the subtitle. The vocal sounds a little distant on the other side, ''We All Gotta Go Sometime'', but doesn't have the distortion heard here because there's almost certainly someone else playing harmonica. It's clear that Sam Phillips had his eyes on the prize with this one. Instead of using Louis in his customary One Man Band role, Phillips added a drummer and piano player to the session and the effect is quite positive. There's no mistaking the presence of a full drum kit and a musician who was able to concentrate on drumming, rather than singing, playing harp and guitar at the same time. The piano is far more in balance on this issued version as well. The One Man Band routine may have increased Louis's fortunes on the street, but when it came time to record, bringing in some other musicians to fill out the sound was a wise decision.

Willie Nix - The Memphis Blues Boy

9 - Seems Like A Million Years (2:41) 1953 (Willie Nix) > Sun 179-B <
(Willie Nix-Sam C. Phillips) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 9, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Willie Nix (vocal and drums), Joe Willie Wilkins (guitar), Albert "Joiner" Williams (piano),
James "Jimmy" Cotton (harmonica)

Willie Nix seems to have endeared himself to Sam Phillips. Phillips recorded him first for RPM, then for Chess/Checker, and finally for Sun. Recorded on October 9, 1952, this and ''Baker Shop Boogie'' were destined for Chess, but Nix's first Chess/Checker single had sold very poorly and things were falling apart between Chess and Phillips. And so on January 30, 1953, it appeared on Sun. ''Seems Like A Million Years'' was given appropriately serious treatment, from the cascading piano work of Albert Williams to Joe Willie Wilkes' taut guitar. Nix's vocal is measured and his drumming simply follows the rhythmic line.

10 - Baker Shop Boogie (2:43) 1953 (Willie Nix) > Sun179-A <
(Willie Nix-Sam C. Phillips) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 9, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Willie Nix (vocal and drums), Joe Willie Wilkins (guitar), Albert "Joiner" Williams (piano),
James "Jimmy" Cotton (harmonica)

We're hearing Nix and his KWEM cohorts. Joe Willie Wilkes makes one of his rare appearances at Sun together with James Cotton and Albert Williams. Cotton is an especially busy man. As imitated as Nix as a vocalist and as insufferable as he was personally, ''Baker Shop Boogie'' rocks out. This wasn't the first baker-sex analogy, and it's not as well known as Lonnie Johnson's ''He's A Jelly Roll Baker'' or even Blind Lemon Jefferson's ''Baker Shop Blues'', but it's irresistible nonetheless.

Jimmy DeBerry & Walter Horton

11 - Easy (2:58) 1953 (Jimmy DeBerry & Walter Horton) < Sun 180-A <
(Walter Horton) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 25, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Horton (harmonica), Jimmy DeBerry (guitar), Houston Stokes (drums)

Every Sun release from inception had been good, but this was the label's first classic. Walter Horton disingenuously denied knowledge of Ivory Joe Hunter's 1950 hit ''I Almost Lost My Mind'', but that's most assuredly what he's playing. He repeats the theme with mounting intensity, making ''Easy'' one of the most-erro-neously titled songs ever. As it progress, Horton assumes total control with a long, slow build-up as he climbs the harp's register to blow a harsh passage as the tune's bridge. There is often a saxophone quality to his playing, belying the cheapness of the harp, but what impresses most are his perfect sense of time and the create reverb, and the increment of tape delay seems to increase in tandem with the intensity of Horton's performance. Shimmering blue perfection. Truly a masterpiece, as well as the first known Sun release to be pressed on both and 45 rpm. Phillips was high on this release, judging by his check register. Two days after the session, he was running off dubs to send out to disc jockeys. It seems that he hand-delivered a dub to Eddie Teamer at WHHM because he charged back the cigarettes he gave Teamer. On March 2, he mailed out another four dubs in advance of finished copies.

Jimmy DeBerry

12 - Before Long (2:57) 1953 (Jimmy DeBerry) > Sun 180-B <
(Jimmy Dewberry) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 25, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Horton (harmonica), Jimmy DeBerry (vocal and guitar), Houston Stokes (drums)

This song refutes Sam Phillips' assertion, made to musicologist David Evans, that he never got a good cut out of Jimmy DeBerry. Perhaps Phillips heard something in a demo session that DeBerry never recaptured, but surely the blues comes no purer or blues than this profoundly moving record. Without prompting, Marion Keisker remembered these lines 30 years after DeBerry had sung them in the studio. ''Woman I love dead and in her grave / Woman I hate, I see her every day''. True, DeBerry was adapting some old blues lines (on ''I Will Turn Your Money Green'' back in 1928, Furry Lewis sang, ''Woman I hate see her every day (x2) / Woman I love, she so far away'') but he delivered them with undeniable feeling. ''Before Long's'' more immediate for beat, though, was Tony Hollins' 1951 Decca recording of ''I'll Get A Break''. Hollins was a barber in Clarksdale and later in Chicago whose ''Crawlin' King Snake'' was an influential recording from ten years earlier when he also made ''Married Woman Blues'', another song with the ''before long'' refrain. None of this subtle or not-so-subtle plagiarism devalues DeBerry's record. It's spartan, even for 1953, but the performance is masterful. He crafted a beautiful poised country blues, vocal and guitar meshing perfectly with rudimentary support from Houston Stokes on drums. Not a note or vocal inflection is wasted; no other instrument is required.

Rufus ''Hound Dog'' Thomas Jr.

13 - Bear Cat (The Answer To Hound Dog) (2:51) 1953 (Rufus Thomas Jr.) > Sun 181-A < 
(Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded: - March 8, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rufus Thomas (vocal and piano), Joe Hill Louis contributes some stinging guitar work especially
during his extended 36-bar solo, Houston Stokes (drums), Tuff Green (guitar and acoustic bass
soon to be known as ''slap'')

Later pressings without the ''answer to Hound Dog'' statement for copyright reasons.

Billboard was not joking when it noted that ''Bear Cat'' was ''the fastest answer song to hit the market''. Big Mama Thornton's ''Hound Dog'' was recorded in August 1952 and shipped in January or February 1953. ''Bear Cat'' was recorded on March 8, 1953 and was in the stores by the end of the month, if not before. On April 4, Duke/Peacock Records boss, Don Robey, whose Lion Music published ''Hound Dog'', wrote to Sam Phillips informing him that the Harry Fox Agency, which issued mechanical song licenses, had not received a request for ''Bear Cat'' as an answer disc to ''Hound Dog''. Routinely, writers and publishers of answer songs had to surrender at least 50% of the composer and publisher share to the original composer and publisher. Phillips claimed 100% of both. By not securing permission ahead of time, Phillips left himself open to Robey claiming 100% the publisher and composer's share, and that was happened. Robey instructed Fox to issue a mechanical license for ''Bear cat'' giving him 100%, and Phillips refused the license. ''Bear Cat'' entered the carts on April 18 and reached its high point to number 3 on May 2. On May 18, Phillips paid Robey's Lion Music $1580 together with another 4500 to a law firm, Shepherd Tate, suggesting that he'd already bowed to the inevitable. His first hit on Sun left him with a sour taste, and very financial benefit.

Gimmickry aside, ''Bear Cat'' is a very primitive record. It is driven by Tuff Green's very percussive string bass and Joe Hill Louis's spare electric guitar. Louis has an extended 36 bar solo, after which Rufus elbows his way back in. To his credit, Louis does not run short of ideas, many of which were borrowed directly from Pete Lewis, who played on the original record. The real problem is that gimmickry can't be put aside and as such this record hasn't weathered as well as some of the commercially less successful recordings from the same period. Thirty years later, Sam Phillips' only comment was, ''I should have known better. The melody was exactly the same as theirs but we claimed credit for writing the damn thing''.

14 - Walkin' In The Rain (2:23) 1953 (Rufus Thomas Jr.) > Sun 181-B <
(Rufus Thomas) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded: - March 8, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rufus Thomas (vocal and piano), Joe Hill Louis contributes some stinging guitar work especially
during his extended 36-bar solo, Houston Stokes (drums), Tuff Green (guitar and acoustic bass
soon to be known as ''slap'')

Rufus does a credible job on his own minor key blues. Joe Hill Louis plays aggressively in the now famous over-amplified and distorted style perfectly at 706 Union. He's supported by an under-recorded acoustic guitar, probably played by bassist Tuff Green, and a comping piano probably played by Albert Williams. The song only makes a brief two-bar foray into a major key.

D.A. Hunt

15 - Greyhound Blues (2:36) 1953 (D.A. Hunt) > Sun 183-B <
(Daniel Augusta Hunt) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably March 11, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Daniel Augusta Hunt (vocal and guitar)

Lightnin' Hopkins was clearly Hunt's model, right down to the pinched vocal, spoken asides and signature four-note closing lick. It was an almost eerie recreation of Hopkins' sound. From sixty years' distance, it's hard if not impossible to penetrate the logic behind what got released or remained unreleased on Sun. Lightnin' himself was becoming a tough sell by 1953, so Phillips certainly wasn't jumping on a bandwagon as he was with ''Bear Cat'', Perhaps he simply liked Hunt's record. Perhaps a distributor around Hunt's home town of Anniston, Alabama guaranteed a sufficiently big order to justify a small run. Perhaps... we'll never known.

16 - Lonesome Old Jail (2:59) 1953 (D.A. Hunt) > Sun 183-A <
(Daniel Augusta Hunt) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably March 11, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Daniel Augusta Hunt (vocal and guitar)

This performance is even gloomier than Hunt's first as he reflects on his woman while locked up in his cell. The similarity to Lightnin' Hopkins is almost uncanny: the little flash of falsetto at the end of the line, the sour spoken asides, the interplay between vocal and guitar. According to researcher Steve LaVere, Hunt actually served time in one of Memphis's jail, but that was later. In 1953, his address was noted as Anniston, Alabama, and he was to be contacted via the Reverend Noble Ulynn. Hunt was probably recorded in March 1953 and was back in Memphis in August to collect a nine dollar loan from Sam Phillips. As far as we know, he never recorded again.

Big Memphis Marainey - Onzie Horne Combo

17 - Call Me Anything (But Call Me) (3:00) 1953 (Big Memphis Ma Rainey) > Sun184-A <
(Dubrover-Mitt Addington) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded April 19, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
"Big Memphis" Lillie Mae Glover (vocal), Pate Hare (guitar), Houston Stokes (guitar),
Onzie Horne (piano and vibes), Tuff Green (bass),
Houston Stokes or T.S. Lewis (drums)

Lillie Mae Clover's style has its origins in a different tradition from most of the tracks on Sun Records. Her full throated delivery is straight out of vaudeville blues and the lady obviously considers herself an their to this tradition by virtue of her pseudonym. For this recording she was paired with Onzie Horne, an arranger who worked for Sam Phillips transcribing songs for copyright. A schooled musician and an educator who tutored Phineas Newborn and Charles Lloyd, Horne hosted a talk show on WDIA. At one time or another, he was the musical director at the Beale Street theaters where Glover plied her trade, and, for a time, worked with Duke Ellington's arranger, Billy Strayhorn. One of his last arrangements was Isaac Hayes' 'Theme From Shaft''. Horne died in 1973, aged 49, Clover's record is at best a curious mishmash of styles. Pat Hare's decidedly blue guitar vies uneasily for space with Horne's sophisticated vibes.

A few weeks after this song was recorded, one of its writers, Milton ''Mitt'' Addington, pitched another song, ''Burned Fingers'', to western swing star Wade Ray, who did fairly well with is. One year or so later, Sam Phillips asked him to write songs for Elvis Presley, but he demurred. In 1965, he wrote a by-god hit, ''Laurie Strange Things Happen In This World)'', during the short-lived craze for death discs. performed by another Sun alumnus, Dickey Lee, it was published by yet another, Jack Clement. Around the same time, Lee and Addington combined to write ''Memphis Beat'' for Jerry Lee Lewis. Addington, who made his career as a psychologist, died in 1979, aged 55.

18 - Baby, No No! (2:41) 1953 (Big Memphis Ma Rainey) > Sun 184-B <
(Marion Keisker-Mitt Addington) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded April 19, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
"Big Memphis" Lillie Mae Glover (vocal), Pate Hare (guitar), Houston Stokes (guitar),
Onzie Horne (piano and vibes), Tuff Green (bass),
Houston Stokes or T.S. Lewis (drums)

This is a considerable improvement on its A-side, being a standard jump blues complete with stops in the verse, although performed with none of the usual instrumentation. Here, Ma Clover's husky vocal is backed only by a trio - fronted by the ubiquitous Hare, who sounds a little less distorted than usual. On balance, this disc is a real oddity: it seems to have been aimed squarely at the black habitues of the local nightclub scene, and Sam Phillips probably had little ambition of selling it outside Memphis - hence its phenomenal scarcity value (at the time the original Sun Blues Box was being compiled, Ms Glover commented that she was unable to get a copy). The song had been composed by Milton "Mitt" Addington, a consulting psychologist who also wrote Sonny Burgess' "Restless", and amateur songwriter, together with Marion Keisker, who typed it out at her desk in the front office at 706 Union. Almost until her death in April 1985, Lillie Mae Glover was still performing without a marked diminution of exuberance. Records never really mattered to her.

Jimmy DeBerry

19 - Take A Little Chance (2:21) 1953 (Jimmy DeBerry) > Sun 185-A <
(Jimmy DeBerry-Rebecca Sam Burns) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 16, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jimmy DeBerry (vocal and guitar), Mose Vinson (piano),
Raymond Jones (drums), Raymond Jones Combo

On the face of it, Jimmy DeBerry does not deserve the obscure status into which he seems to have been consigned. his entire recorded studio output was restricted to two pre-War singles for Vocalion and OKeh, together with his two Sun singles - a meagre output for someone possessed of such obvious talent. This side showcases his abilities as a superbly expressive vocalist: however, it also serves to demonstrate his biggest problem, i.e. one of timing - which is further exacerbated by some asthmatic-sounding groans during the solo. The song, credited to DeBerry and Sam Phillips (under the name of Sam Burns), the song was based quite closely on Robert Lockwood's 1941 recording of ''Take A Little Walk With Me'', itself based on ''Sweet Home Chicago''.

20 - Time Has Made A Change (2:42) 1953 (Jimmy DeBerry) > Sun 185-B <
(Jimmy DeBerry-Rebecca Sam Burns) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 16, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Jimmy DeBerry (vocal and guitar), Mose Vinson (piano),
Raymond Jones (drums), Raymond Jones Combo

The fuller instrumentation suggests that this song may have been the plug side but it is markedly inferior to its flipside. This arguably the least affecting and sloppiest of DeBerry's recordings for Sam Phillips. The lead instrument, Mose Vinson's bar-room piano, competes with rather than complements DeBerry acoustic guitar. The timing surrounding the stops is so noticeably ragged in places that it is surprising Phillips saw fit to release this track. Again, the ''Burns'' who claimed half of the composer credit is none other than Phillips, whose wife's maiden name was Burns. In January 1954, DeBerry's contract was up, and Phillips wrote to him in Jackson, Tennessee, saying, ''Even though to be commercial (from a sales point of view) we still believe we can come up with something''. At that point, DeBerry was owned $12.45 in back royalties, but never, as far as we know, recorded at Sun again. In fact, he made no further recordings, except a comeback session for Steve LaVere.

The Prisonaires

21 - Baby Please (2:27) 1953 (2:27) 1953 (The Prisonaires) > Sun 186-A <
(Robert S. Riley) (Warner Chappell Music Limited)
Recorded June 1, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Bragg (tenor vocal) Ed Thurman (tenor vocal), John Drue (lead tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal),
Possible Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Willie Nix (drums)

According to a July 1953 report in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, a country music publisher and promoter, Red Wortham, went to the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville to check out a hillbilly songwriter, and was asked to listen to a group of inmates who called themselves the Prisonaires. Back in his Nashville office, Wortham played a tape of the Prisonaires to his cousin, Jim Bulleit, who had become a minority partner in Sun. They particularly like a song called ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' written by singer Johnny Bragg and another inmate, Robert Riley. Bulleit persuaded Sam Phillips to record the group, while Wortham retained the music publishing. And so, early on the morning of June 1, 1953, a prison vehicle made its way from the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville down Highway 70 toward Memphis with five convicts, an armed guard and a trusty, ''Gee look at that funny cemetery'', said Bragg, as they passed an empty drive-in movie theater.

At 10:30 a.m., they grouped themselves around a microphone at Sun while the guard and trusty went next door to Taylor's Restaurant. The Prisonaires usually featured Bragg as lead singer but one of the songs they recorded ''Baby Please'' was led by another tenor, John Drue. After the Prisonaires had sung ''Baby Please'' for Sam Phillips, he called over to vending machine operator, Drew Canale to ask if his houseboy, Joe Hill Louis, could come and sit in on guitar. Louis was at the polar opposite extreme of black music; raw, unsophisticated and bluesy. ''You guys are good'', Louis said to Bragg, ''but you've got to stick together''. Bragg replied that, with three of the group in for 99 years, there was not much chance of doing otherwise. It took until 8"30 p.m. to finish the two songs. Louis imparted a tough, bluesy edge to ''Baby Please'', for which he was paid $10.00, but the group persuaded Phillips that Louis should sit out ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''. They didn't want its poignancy destroyed by his slash-and-burn guitar. Upon release, Phillips saw ''Baby Please'' as the plug side, and was surprised when ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' became a hit.

22 - Just Walkin' In The Rain (2:43) 1953 (The Prisonaires) > Sun 186-B <
(Robert Riley-Johnny Bragg-Buddy Killen) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded June 1, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Bragg (lead tenor vocal) Ed Thurman (tenor vocal), John Drue (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal),
Possible Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Willie Nix (drums)

Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley were walking to the prison laundry when Bragg remarked to Riley, ''Here we are walking in the rain. I wonder what the little girls are doing''. ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' was the song that stemmed from that observation, and it played to Bragg's strengths as a vocalist. He sang exquisitely and with deep feeling, both on the Nashville demo and on the master version. The bridge (''People come to window...'') perfectly captured the yearning and regret he must surely have felt on so many occasions during his long incarceration. Although no lover of close harmony groups, Phillips released ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' on July 8, 1953. On July 28, Sam Phillips' brother, Jud, went to Nashville to meet Bulleit and the Prisonaires. Jud had joined Sun a few months earlier to work on promotion and distribution. ''The boys are getting from 10 to 25 letters a day from all over the country'', wrote Jud. ''They plan to bring all of them to you they come over. They make me think of a bunch of baby birds. They are fine boys all of them. I get great joy out of helping people like that... I know you do too''. Phillips also got great joy from watching the orders roll in. Ebony magazine reported that the record sold over 200,000 copies, and the group started making personal appearances on day passes throughout the state, and - with considerable complication - outside the state. They were held up by warden James Edwards and Tennessee Governor Frank Clement as shining examples of rehabilitation. ''The hopes of tomorrow rather than the mistakes of yesterday'', gushed Clement. Although it didn't chart, ''Just Walkin' In The rain'' was a hit. One who took notice was Joe Johnson who worked for Columbia's country artist and repertoire man, Don Law. Johnson soon moved to California to work for one of Law's acts, Gene Autry, and told him about ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''. Autry acquired the music publishing from Wortham, who probably thought the song had run its course. Johnson pitched the song to Don Law in 1956, who recorded it with one of his act, Dick Richards. law gave Richard's disc to Columbia's New York artists and repertoire man, Mitch Miller, who produced Johnny Ray number 2 pop hit version. Bragg was invited to the annual BMI banquet in New York, but found himself otherwise engaged that night.

Little Junior's Blue Flames

23 - Feelin' Good (2:57) 1953 (Little Junior's Blue Flames) > Sun 187-A <
(Herman Parker) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded June 18, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Herman "Little Junior" Parker (vocal), James Wheeler (tenor saxophone), Floyd Murphy (guitar),
William "Struction" Johnson (piano), Kenneth Banks (bass), John Bowers (drums)

Sun Records' first charted hit. It always sounded as if two guitars were on the session, but Sam Phillips recalled that Floyd Murphy exhibited amazing dexterity on the guitar. ''He could make it sound like there were two man playing at one''. The whole performance owes a debt to the king of the one-chord boogies, John Lee Hooker. Junior saw himself as a slick uptown singer and disavowed Hooker's sound. Phillips did not like the material that Junior was offering, and so, when Phillips went out to answer the telephone, the boys in the studio agreed to give him a taste of down home music. To Hooker's template, Parker added some vocal finesse and an effective wall going up from flatted 7th to 8 similare to that he had already used on his very earliest recording (''You're My Angel'') for Modern. Phillips was thrilled and to Parker's surprise ''Feelin' Good'' became his first hit. On November 14, Phillips paid $50.23 in royalties to both Parker and the session's pianist, William ''Struction'' Johnson, suggesting that Johnson might have been the co-leader of the Blue Flames (certainly, when Parker began recording for Duke, his group was billed as Bill Johnson's Blue Flames).

In 2011, an Austin, Texas-based garage soul band, Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, revisited ''Feelin' Good'' almost not-for-note as ''Mustang Ranch''. So someone's still listening.

24 - Fussin' And Fightin' Blues (2:58) 1953 (Little Junior's Blue Flames) > Sun 187-B < 
(Herman Parker) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded June 18, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Herman "Little Junior" Parker (vocal), James Wheeler (tenor saxophone), Floyd Murphy (guitar),
William "Struction" Johnson (piano), Kenneth Banks (bass), John Bowers (drums)

This very mellow outing based on Eddie Boyd's 1952 hit ''Five Long Yours'', stands in marked contrast to ''Feelin' Good''. When Junior revived Boyd's hit in 1958 for Duke, his vocal was almost a note for note copy of this performing. This recording is notable for Floyd Murphy's omnipresence; he fills between vocal lines, plays under the vocal, and takes a solo. Add his work on ''Feelin' Good'' and Phillips got good value for Murphy's session fee that day. 

Rufus Thomas Jr.

25 - Save That Money (2:44) 1953 (Rufus Thomas Jr.) > Sun 188-B <
(Rufus Thomas) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded June 30, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rufus Thomas (vocal), Floyd Murphy (guitar), James Wheeler (tenor saxophone),
William "Strutcher" Bill Johnson (piano), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Houston Stokes (drums)

This ranks alongside Rufus Thomas's very finest recordings. The theme, no money equals no friends, is familiar enough, but Rufus sounds a passionate and engaged as he ever did, making the very most of his limited vocal chops. He tells his listeners to remember the Depression of 1929-1930 and put pack some money from their paychecks. Just about all of Thomas's hits were novelties, so it shouldn't be a surprise that he kept going back to that well, but it's really too bad he didn't take a shot at writing a few more songs like this.

26 - Tiger Man (King of the Jungle) (2:47) 1953 (Rufus Thomas Jr.) > Sun 188-A <
(Joe Hill Louis-Rebecca Sam Burns) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded June 30, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rufus Thomas (vocal), Floyd Murphy (guitar), James Wheeler (tenor saxophone),
William "Strutcher" Bill Johnson (piano), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Houston Stokes (drums)

Rufus' menagerie was starting to fill out, although the Dog and the Funky Chicken were still some years away. Joe Hill Louis and Sam Phillips (aka Sam Burns) were obviously wearing their hit maker's hats when they concocted ''Tiger Man''. Louis also played the insistent lick on the guitar. Rufus comes across as an engaging personality but a limited singer with ragged timing. Joe Hill takes a primitive solo that hints at some rather than stating them, but is no less effective for that. On some level, this panders to African stereotypes, but Houston Stokes' simulation of tribal drums, was pretty far out for its time. Red Saunders' 1952 hit ''Hambone'' had a proto-Diddley beat, but was tame compared with this. Surprisingly, the record failed to reach the charts and Rufus moved on to Phillips' local competitor, Les Bihari at Meteor. Phillips eventually got a payday from ''Tiger man''. In 1968 when Elvis Presley filmed his comeback TV special, ''Elvis'', he received ''Tiger Man'', replicating Louis's guitar lick as closely as he could. It was dropped from the show and the accompanying LP, but soon appeared on a budget LP. The likeliest scenario is that Phillips had given it to him back in 1954 or 1955, suggesting that he might like to cover it for Sun. Introducing the song on-stage in 1970, Elvis said, ''This was my second record, 'cept no one got to hear it''. Louis would have benefitted if Elvis had revived it in 1954 (he might even have made enough for the tetanus shot that would have saved his life), but he wasn't around to collect his share of the 1970s bounty.

Houston Stokes was Sun's versatile all-purpose house drummer in the early days. He played behind hillbilly piano player Red Hadley and bluesmen Jimmy DeBerry and Walter Horton, as well as rhythm and blues icon Rufus Thomas. In this ''Tiger Man'', after an introductory scream, Rufus proudly announced himself to be the ''king of the jungle''. What sort of drumming does that cal for? Probably something that sounds like what got played in the era-s B-movie about jungles - steady beats on tom-toms. And that is just what Houston Stokes provides - an unrelenting series of eighth notes with accents on all four beats in every measure. Once it starts, it just doesn't stop. Occasionally, toward the end of the record, Stokes puts some accents in some other (by this time, more interesting) places and he even gets to have something of a drum solo at the record's end. Once the sound of the drum grabs you, it becomes almost hypnotic. Four years later, Jerry Allison would take the same approach to drumming when he accompanied Buddy Holly on ''Peggy Sue''

Houston Stokes was one of the few drummers who was also a vocalist, and he made several unissued blues recordings at Sun as a singer. When not recording, Stokes played in a Memphis jazz band led by Al Jackson and taught the leader's young son something about drumming. That worked out well for Al Jackson Jr. He grew up to become the drummer in Booker T's MGs - the house band at Stax Records who also had some hits under their own name. The first and biggest being ''Green Onions''.

Little Junior's Blue Flames

27 - Mystery Train (2:25) 1954 (Little Junior's Blue Flames) > Sun 192-A <
(Herman Parker-Sam C. Phillips) (Memphis Music)
Recorded August 5, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Herman Parker (vocal), Probably Raymond Hill or James Wheeler (tenor saxophone),
Floyd Murphy (guitar), William "Bill" Johnson (piano),
Kenneth Banks (bass), John Bowers (drums)

Only rarely can two versions of a song be hailed as classics, even less often are they on the same label. This beautiful poised blues tone poem is one of the finest of Phillips' early recordings, and Elvis Presley's striking re-imagination of it is, of course, is among rock and roll early defining moments. Everything meshes on Junior's record so that the end result is much greater than the sum of its parts. And the parts are really disarmingly simple' Junior's melodic composition and smooth, high pitched vocal; the gentle train rhythm established by the bass and drums; a breathy saxophone; and the instantly memorable guitar riff. In fact, it's the rhythm that provides the songs's hook. A piano is buried in the mix to no great effect. It's a deeply affecting, personal and atmospheric blues that stood little chance of repeating the success of its predecessor, ''Feelin' Good'', at least in part because the title appears nowhere within the song. When it originally appeared, ''Mystery Train'' was credited solely to Junior Parker and published by Memphis Music. By the time Elvis Presley recorded it in 1955 Sam Phillips had appended his name to the copyright (possibly in part settlement of Junior Parker's contract dispute) and the publishing had been transferred to Phillips' Hi Lo Music.

The guitar work on ''Mystery Train'' is by Floyd Murphy, a Memphis native. Sam Phillips said that Floyd had an amazing ability to make one guitar sounds like two, and that ability is in evidence on this track. While Junior is singing and Floyd is accompanying the vocal with a simple figure, the record quite full. But when Floyd plays the melodic single-note lines in his solo, the sound thins out as if some band members had stepped out for fresh air. Those simple melodic lines are a variation on the song's tune and they fit integrally into the record.

28 - Love My Baby (2:36) 1954 (Little Junior's Blue Flames)  > Sun 192-B <
(Herman Parker-Sam C. Phillips) (Memphis Music)
Recorded August 5, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Herman Parker (vocal), Probably Raymond Hill or James Wheeler (tenor saxophone),
Floyd Murphy (guitar), William "Bill" Johnson (piano),
Kenneth Banks (bass), John Bowers (drums)

This extraordinary track is certainly one of the earliest rock and roll records. It is arguably one of the earliest rockabilly as well. The song originally appeared on the flipside of ''Mystery Train'' often overshadows it. When Jud Phillips went on the road in November 1953, disc jockeys were picking ''Love My Baby'' as the follow-up to ''Feelin' Good''. The recording sports an instantly catchy guitar riff, although the guitarist loses was momentarily and blows one chord change during the third verse. Parker's high creamy tenor soars over the instrumental back drop. Three years later, when Sun's blues era was firmly consigned to the past, Phillips would play Parker's uptempo records to his rockabilly artists, asking the guitarists to duplicate Floyd Murphy's riffs. The guitar playing on this track crept into the consciousness of a whole generation of rockabilly and rock guitarists who have never heard of Junior Parker, much less guitarist Murphy. Perhaps the first to be influenced by this solo was Sun's most famous sideman: Scotty Moore. When Hayden Thompson recorded it for Sun in 1957, Roland Janes was handed the task of replicating Murphy's work. An interesting footnote to this track is that it once again reveals that, despite his eminence as a producer, Sam Phillips was totally uncomfortable with fadeout endings. He either shunned them or never mastered the rudimentary skill of producing one during Sun's peak blues years.

Doctor Ross

29 - Come Back Baby (2:48) 1954 (Doctor Ross)  > Sun 193-A <
(Isiah "Doctor" Ross) (Memphis Music)
Recorded October 3, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Doctor Ross (vocal, drums, harmonica), Wiley Galatin (guitar),
Reuben Martin (washboard), Robert Moore (broom)

The music of Dr. Isaiah Ross is instantly recognisable. True to form, this track is totally engaging. It's not music to sit still through. The song's enduring appeal surely has nothing to do with the totally forgettable lyric or the one-chord backing. Once again, the good Doctor riffs off another song; in this case, the verses (''I got a gal...'ect) come from ''Step It Up And Go''. But somehow Ross, with his warm delivery and back country dance rhythm charms the hell out of all us patients. A fine track. Fine then; fine now.

30 - Chicago Breakdown (2:58) 1954 (Doctor Ross) > Sun 193-B <
(Isiah "Doctor" Ross) (Memphis Music)
Recorded October 3, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Doctor Ross (vocal, drums, harmonica), Wiley Galatin (guitar),
Reuben Martin (washboard), Robert Moore (broom)

This time out, Doc Ross plagiarizes himself. The ''Chicago Breakdown'' lick is much the same as his ''Texas Hop'' lick. He's promoting ''Chicago Breakdown'' as the next dance craze to follow Red Saunder's ''Hambone''. It didn't happen, of course, but what a wild, percussive joy this song is. Up in Detroit some ten years later, Ross recycled ''Chicago Breakdown'' almost note-for-note and word-for-word as ''New York Breakdown''. He even re-used the wonderful colloquialism ''all y'all''.

Hot Shot Love

31 - Wolf Call Boogie (2:35) 1954 (Hot Shot Love) > Sun 196-A <
(Coy Love) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 8, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Coy "Hot Shot" Love (vocal and harmonica), Pat Hare (guitar), Mose Vinson (piano),
Kenneth Banks (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

This engaging track was recorded in January 1954 with the help of several of Sun's stalwart session men, including guitarist Pat Hare and drummer Houston Stokes. A note under the session reads, ''Transportation for Stokes and Pat from P.C. $4.75''. Was P.C. an acronym for penal colony, prison camp, police custody, Plantation Club? We'll never know, of course. The inspiration for this record was probably Sonny Boy Williamson's ''Jivin' The Blues'', but Phillips might have been drawn to it because of its passing similarity to ''Feelin' Good''. Love blows his harp and jive talks his way along the bar of a juke joint that sounds like the distant prototype of a singles bar. His style is irrepressible. At the time he made this record, Love as an itinerant musician based on Gayoso Street in Memphis. Before his death in 1980, he earned his living as a sign painter and played for tips on Memphis's Mid American Mall. Both his jacket and his bicycle were emblazoned with epigrams. A man who did his own thing fifteen years before doing your own thing became a hippie mantra.

32 - Harmonica Jam (2:38) 1954 (Hot Shot Love) > Sun 196-B <
(Coy Love) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 8, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Coy "Hot Shot" Love (vocal and harmonica), Pat Hare (guitar), Mose Vinson (piano),
Kenneth Banks (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

The title tells it all. It sounds like one of those sessions where the wine flowed and everyone had a fine old time. Love does his patented shtick here, jive talking and shouting through his harp in the style popularized by Sonny Terry. Guitarist Hare manages to hit one clam but, as Sam Phillips would tell you, all was forgiven by the overall feeling.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <  

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 5 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

LISTENABLE WAX FOR
THE SOUTHERN MARKET

This CD features many of the mainstays of the local blues scene in and around Memphis in the early 1950s. Although Sun Records did not capture all of the significant blues guitarists active then, the tracks included here include the influential if little-recorded Joe Willie Wilkins (with Albert Williams), the slide guitar of Honeyboy Edwards, and Joe Hill Louis. The Walter Bradford sides contain some of the earliest solos by Pat Hare... Sam Phillips' favourite guitarist. James Cotton's ''Cotton Crop Blues'' is Hare's tour de force, and it's followed by Hare's only known recordings as vocalist.

The CD also features some of the harmonica and guitar-led blues combos of the Memphis area. Both Doctor Ross and the Lewis-Johnson combo had the hard-driving approach that Sam Phillips loved. Isaiah Ross recorded in a country style, based on pre-war Mississippi music while Lewis and, in particular, Willie Johnson, brought an altogether tougher, contemporary sound to the same tradition.

Walter Bradford & The Big City Four

1 - Reward For My Baby (3:02) 1977 (Walter Bradford) > Not Originally Issued <
(Walter Bradford) (Delta Music Incorporated
Recorded June 14, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Bradford (vocal), Louis Calvin Hubert (piano), Pat Hare (guitar), Jerry Walker (drums)

Walter Bradford was a 17-year-old disc jockey in Forrest City, Arkansas, and Sam Phillips cut these sides with the hopes a placing the titles with Chess Records. (A couple of months earlier, Bradford's "Dreary Nights"/"Nuthin' But The Blues" had been paired up release on Sun 176, but had been withdraw).

''Reward For My Baby'', this, however, is a powerful and arresting track and it bears an uncanny resemblance to James Cotton's "Cotton Crop Blues", recorded a couple of years later. Both titles feature guitarist Pat Hare, and it is Hare's work which enhances the similarity. This would only seems to have been Hare's second session - and if it was, then its readily apparent that he'd emerged from Arkansas with a fully- formed style, which already incorporated that familiar distorted tone. The sheer uninhibited force of his playing here really is quite remarkable - and to complete the parallel with "Cotton Crop Blues" there is the same ominous piano played by Louis Calvin Hubert , and an anguished vocal delivery by Bradford which is surprisingly similar to Cotton's version.

2 - Love For My Baby (2:16) 1985 (Walter Bradford) > Not Originally Issued <
(Walter Bradford) (Delta Music Incorporated
Recorded June 14, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Bradford (vocal), Louis Calvin Hubert (piano), Pat Hare (guitar), Jerry Walker (drums)

Like Willie Nix and Jimmy DeBerry a couple of months earlier, Bradford tackles Robert Lockwood's traditional ''Take A Little Walk'' - albeit with a slightly amended lyric. His high-pitched vocal delivery rather betrays his youth, and on this side he is frequently overshadowed by Pat Hare's merciless guitar chops. If a complete acetate of Bradford's Sun 78 is ever found, perhaps we'll hear something that Sam Phillips heard, and something we don't hear in the unissued sides.

3 - Too Blue To Cry (2:46) 1989 (Walter Bradford) > Not Originally Issued <
(Walter Bradford) (Delta Music Incorporated
Recorded June 14, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Bradford (vocal), Louis Calvin Hubert (piano), Pat Hare (guitar), Jerry Walker (drums)

Other than Pat Hare's dominant and unmistakable guitar playing on ''Too Blue To Cry'' there is little to commend this side to your attention. Hare's playing is usually cause for celebration. This is no excepted, although you have to put up with Bradford's unremarkable singing, consistently erratic sense of timing, and the presence of somebody ( Louis Calvin Hubert , perhaps?) crying incessantly throughout the track. This title, recorded in 1952, was part of the ''crying blues'' tradition that enjoyed some popularity in the early 1950s (see Rosco Gordon's ''Weeping Blues'' for a local example) before it mercifully wore itself, and many listeners, out. Again, Pat Hare offers a solo that comes close to his playing on ''Cotton Crop Blues'', two years before that iconic work with James Cotton was recorded.

L.C. Hubert & The Big City Four

4 - Lucy Done Moved (2:27) 1985 (Walter Bradford) > Not Originally Issued <
(Louis Calvin Hubert) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded June 14, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Louis Calvin Hubert (vocal and piano), Pat Hare (guitar), Jerry Walker (drums)

Although listed in the files as a Bradford vocal, the singer here on ''Lucy Done Moved'' is quite obviously older than the one heard on the previous songs. As we know what Pat Hare sounds like as a singer, we're guessing that pianist Louis Calvin Hubert takes the vocal here. It's a Joe Tuner-style blues without Turner's commanding presence, but still a solid performance highlighted by Hare's coruscating guitar. Hubert was the pianist on some of Howlin' Wolf's recordings, and made his last appearance at Sun with another Arkansas-based combo, Sammy Lewis and Willie Johnson. From there, his trail goes cold. Bradford reportedly moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and evokes just the faintest memories from those around at that time. He died in 1995. Drummer Jerry Lee walker later worked sessions in St. Louis and played with Oliver Sain and Little Milton... both of whom were based there, but he too is now deceased. Hare's story is recounted elsewhere on this sessions website.

Honeyboy Edwards

5 - Sweet Home Chicago (2:55) 1977 (Honeyboy Edwards) > Not Originally Issued <
(David Edwards-Sonny Boy Williamson) (Arc Music Corporation)
Recorded Possibly End 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Honeyboy Edwards (vocal and guitar), Albert Williams (piano), Joe Wilkins (guitar),
Dickie Houston (drums), James Walker (washboard)

In February 2012, President Obama hosted a musical evening at the White House that featured Buddy Guy and B.B. King. After a little prompting, Obama got up and sang a verse of ''Sweet Home Chicago''. That's how well known it is. Robert Johnson recording ensured its status as a totemic blues song, but Johnson didn't originate it. Kokomo Arnold reckoned that he wrote it as ''Old Original Kokomo Blues'', but its roots go back even further... almost to the dawn of recorded blues. That said, the song wasn't anywhere near as omnipresent when Honeyboy Edwards recorded it. It wasn't until Roosevelt Sykes recorded it in 1955 that the song began to be revived with any frequency; in fact, Junior Parker's 1958 record credits Sykes as composer. Edwards repeats Johnson's confusing geography: ''that land of California, sweet home Chicago''. His edgy slide tone precisely complements his coarse singing. It's hard, make that impossible, to date this recording. Edwards himself dated it to October 1952, telling Tony Burke and Norman Darwen in 1992 that he was living in Hughes, Arkansas, and came to Memphis with a harmonica player named Blue and Blue's brother Jesse. He remembered that Boyd Gilmore was there that day.

As far as we know, Gilmore only recorded once at Phillips' studio, and that was with Earl Hooker in July 1953, but of course he could have been present at other times. Compounding the confusion, Edwards' tape was credited to Albert Williams, and this song was first released on Charly Records under Williams' name. It almost certainly features some of the players who are on Williams' songs, heard on Williams session, though. One of those songs, ''Rumble Chillen'', seems to have been a purpose-built sequel to Junior Parker's ''Feelin' Good'', a hit in the late months of 1953. So October 1952? July 1953? Late 1953? Some other date? There's really no way of knowing.

About the song itself, David Edwards' searing slide guitar all but overwhelms the backing here. A much- travelled, favourite song among Mississippians - Chicago was often their goal - this is a particularly powerful version with Honeyboy's hoarse, declamatory vocal creating a strong country feel.

You don't have to be a musician to notice the odd style of drumming on display here. Drummers normally accent on 2 and 4. For some reason this one punches the beat on 1 and 3. The effect is both leaden and unsetting. It's truly amazing that nobody, from Sam Phillips to one of the other musicians didn't run screaming from the room. This is more than a simple mistake. It changes the effect of the entire recording, and not for the good. This is the slightly different 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box.

Albert Williams

6 - Rumble Chillen (2:31) 1977 (Albert Williams) > Not Originally Issued <
(Albert Williams) (Tristan Music)
Recorded Possibly 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Albert ''Joiner'' Williams (vocal and piano), Joe Willie Wilkins (guitar),
James Walker (washboard), Dickie Houston (drums)

All the elements are here: even the vocal cry from flatted 7 back up to 1 (it's in Bb - an odd key for a guitar record - so it goes from Ab up to Bb). In every way, it's ''Feelin' Good'' redux. Joe Willie Wilkins is charged with playing Floyd Murphy's part, and covers almost as much territory. Previously, this was issued as ''Rumba Chillen'', but it seems pretty clear that Williams is saying Rumble. ''Ramble'' would make more sense, especially as Junior Parker's own ''Feelin' Good'' sequel was ''I Wanna Ramble'', but 'rumble' it appears to be. In fifties-speak, a rumble was a street fight (making lines like ''old folks rumblin', young 'uns too'' doubly incomprehensible), so perhaps it was a dance. One thing is for sure, Williams hews even closer than Parker to the progenitor of ''Feelin' Good'': John Lee Hooker. In fact, Williams' version is titled after Hooker's ''Boogie Chillen'' rather than Parker's Sun hit. He even starts by taken us to Johnny Curry's Tropicana club on Memphis's Thomas Street, much as Hooker took us to Henry's Swing Club on Detroit's Hasting Street.

7 - Hoo Doo Man (2:50) 1985 (Albert Williams) > Not Originally Issued <
(Albert Williams) (Tristan Music)
Recorded Possibly 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Albert ''Joiner'' Williams (vocal and piano), Joe Willie Wilkins (guitar),
James Walker (washboard), Dickie Houston (drums)

Albert Williams' vocal is rather more reflective on this - which is presumably his theme song - and he accompanies himself with swinging, but solid piano-playing. Joe Willie Wilkins' guitar solo is quite remarkable, being at once both forceful and lyrical.

Joe Hill Louis

8 - When I Am Gone (She Treats Me Mean And Evil) (3:44) 1952 (Joe Hill Louis) > Checker 763-B <
(Joe Hill Louis) (Burton Limited)
Recorded March 31, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal and guitar), Nolen Hall (drums)

Originally issued on Checker in an edited version as ''When I Am Gone'', this slow, menacing, free-form blues is driven by Louis's back-in-the-alley guitar and anchored by drummer, Nolen Hall, who keeps time with a steady thud. It's among the nastiest of Louis's blues, and the mood of the song is uncharacteristic. He's not singing through his harmonica and he's focusing on one instrument instead of two or three, so this is a very different Joe Hill Louis record in every way. It dates from a session in March 1952 and was noted in Phillips' files as Slow Blues (Echo) ''I'm Going Over The Sea'', which is as good a title as ''When I Am Gone'' or ''Treat Me Mean And Evil''. All three convey the dystopic atmosphere that Louis creates and sustains.

9 - Dorothy Mae (2:05) 1952 (Joe Hill Louis) > Checker 763-B <
(Joe Hill Louis) (Burton Limited)
Recorded July 18, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal and guitar), Walter Horton (harmonica),
Jack Kelly (piano), Willie Nix (drums)

There's no shortage of blues (or hillbilly songs, for that matter) about women who don't come home at night, but it's unusual the name the woman who doesn't come home... and then marry her one week later, as Joe Hill Louis did when he married Dorothy Mae Pearson on July 25, 1952. Walter Horton played harmonica, presumably because Phillips realized that he got a better performance from Louis when he wasn't trying to play everything in sight and sing through his harmonica. Jack Kelly and Willie Nix round out the all-star combo. This is about as commercial as Joe Hill Louis ever was. Phillips must have had high hopes when he shipped off the masters to Chess, but it didn't sell and Chess took nothing else by Louis, and very little else from Sam Phillips.

10 - Keep Your Arms Around Me (2:57) 1985 (Joe Hill Louis) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joe Hill Louis) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 8, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal, harmonica, guitar, drums), Albert Williams (piano)

If it was chilly on December 8, 1952, Joe Hill Louis did his best to heat up the studio with what is probably his most rollicking cut. He blasts away on vocals, guitar, and possibly drums. Never long subtlety, he works to his strength: pure, joyous rhythm. The logbook only notes Albert Williams on piano, suggesting that Louis might even play the harmonica, although, it's more likely that we're hearing Walter Horton.

11 - I'm A Poor Boy(2:59) 1985 (Joe Hill Louis) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joe Hill Louis) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 8, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal, harmonica, guitar, drums), Albert Williams (piano)

By the time this song was recorded on December 8, 1952, Sam Phillips may well have decided that Joe was going to relaunch Sun Records, and he'd begun to zero in on the sings which would make up the eventual single. In the meantime, he was also exploring other avenues. One, perhaps inspired by Howlin' Wolf's contract going to Chess Records, was to get Joe sing "like Wolf", something Sonny Boy Williamson was to do some years later at Chess. Joe even came up with a set of lyrics that Wolf would have had no trouble in learning: "Well, I'm lonesome and I'm troubled/I ain't got no place to go/I ain't got no mother/and my father throwed me out". Despite a strong performance by Joe, this remained unissued for several decades. Clearly, it's Albert Williams on piano, but there's also a lead guitar, harmonica, and drums. If Louis was truly singing and playing all instruments but piano, he was the hardest-working man in show business that day. Singing, playing rhythm guitar, harmonica, and drums is just about do-able, but playing lead guitar, harmonica and drums is damn near impossible. Louis played on a Walter Horton session that day, so it's likely that Horton hung around to play harmonica.

12 - She May Be Yours (Sweetest Gal In Town) (2:53) 1985 (Joe Hill Louis) > Previously Unissued <
(Joe Hill Louis) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 8, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal, harmonica, guitar, drums), Albert Williams (piano)

Joe Hill Louis took two shots of ''She May Be Yours''. The first, recorded on November 17, 1952, was eventually chosen for release on Sun 178. The second, noted in the logs as ''Sweetest Gal In Town'', was recorded December 8 and features some different lyrics. In place of Willie Nix's kick-ass drumming, we have Louis keeping time, and once again we have lead guitar and harmonica playing simultaneously, suggesting that Walter Horton hung around for this song as well. This is a notable alternate take (2). Aside from a very different kick-off, Louis's vocal is far more spirited. You've gotta love the way time rhymes with town.

13 - Hydramatic Woman (2:30) 1985 (Joe Hill Louis) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joe Hill Louis) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: - May 27, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal and guitar), Albert Williams (piano),
Probably Walter Horton (harmonica), Unknown (percussion)

Joe Hill Louis had previously recorded ''Hydramatic Woman'' as "Automatic Woman", both terms referring to the automatic transmissions found on early 1950s General Motors cars - whilst the song's lyrics consist of a series of clever car / woman metaphors. The solo works is shared by both harmonica (Horton) and Joe's guitar, although this distortion tends to blend the two instruments together.

Joe Hill Louis's ''Hydramatic Woman'' and ''Tiger Man'' are on the same tape as Mose Vinson's recordings, and Louis was noted as being present on Vinson's session, leading us and others to assume that the Louis recordings stemmed from one of the Vinson sessions. On closer examination, this is unlikely. The piano playing is more structured than Vinson's eccentric style, and at the beginning of ''Tiger Man'', Louis says, ''Albert, start it off'', suggesting that it's Albert Williams. Additionally, Rufus Thomas's version of ''Tiger Man'' was on the street when one of Vinson's sessions took place in September 1953, so it would make little sense to reprise it. In many ways, ''Hydramatic Woman'' was a belated ''Rocket 88'' spinoff. Louis's band hits a sweet groove as he places yet another spin on the car-sex metaphor... just when you thought there couldn't be another. ''Hydramatic Woman'' didn't earn a spot on Phillips' release schedule, but another recording by Louis with saxophone appeared in 1954 on Bob Geddins' Big Town Records (slogan ''every one a hit'').

14 - Tiger Man (3:14) 1985 (Joe Hill Louis) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joe Hill Louis-Sam Burns) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Recorded: - May 27, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal and guitar), Albert Williams (piano),
Probably Walter Horton (harmonica), Unknown (percussion)

Beyond Albert Williams, it's tough to be certain of the identity of Louis's group. Clearly, it's not Louis playing harmonica because we hear it under the vocals. The drum part is simple, but still too complicated for Louis to be playing while he's playing guitar. The harmonica playing is splendid... some of the best we've heard, elevating this recording above Thomas's in many respects. Walter Horton seems to be the likeliest candidate. Louis references ''Bear Cat'' in the lyrics, so this was probably recorded in May 1953, after ''Bear Cat'' was a hit before Thomas's ''Tiger Man'' session. Beyond that, we know little for sure.

15 - Shine Boy (2:25) 1985 (Joe Hill Louis) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joe Hill Louis) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: - May 27, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal and guitar), Albert Williams (piano),
Probably Walter Horton (harmonica), Unknown (percussion)

According Mose Vinson, he was adamant that this wasn't cut at his session, and it's sufficiently odd that he would have probably remembered it. Audibly, it seems to hang with ''Tiger Man'' and ''Hydramatic Woman''. Certainly, it's on the same tape. We could be hearing Louis's drummer performing the narration and percussion, but it could as easily be a shoe shine boy they brought in off the street to do his rap. There's just one take, suggesting that Phillips wanted to take it no further.

Mose Vinson

16 - Mistreatin' Boogie (2:33) 1985 (Mose Vinson) > Not Originally Issued <
(Mose Vinson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded September 9, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mose Vinson (vocal and piano), Joe Willie Wilkins (guitar), Walter Horton (harmonica),
Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass), Isreal Franklin (drums, hand-clapping),
Possibly Thomas ''Beale Street'' Coleman (drums)

Pianist Mose Vinson worked some sessions at Sun. If nothing else, he had the virtue of proximity, living upstairs at Dell Taylor's Restaurant Fine Food, next door to the studio. Rooted in earlier times, he was nowhere close to the cocktail blues piano combos and equally far removed from Ray Charles, Amos Milburn, and their uptown ways. Tracks all emanate from a session which took place on September 9, 1953, largely devoted to pianist Mose Vinson. All eight sides are of a uniformly high standard, which makes it all the more surprising that they should have languished unheard and unissued until the appearance of the original Sunbox.

"Mistreatin' Boogie'", a fairly straightforward rip-of of "Pinetop's Boogie-Woogie" - is classic stuff (although drummer Isreal Franklin occasionally muffs the tempo along the way), pumped along by Vinson's powerful left hand and repeated righthand triplets. Indeed, Mose really shines on this track, taking no less than five solo choruses, running through the whole gamut of tremelos, triplet figures, and other classic boogie devices.

17 - Worry You Off My Mind (3:11) 1985 (Mose Vinson) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded September 9, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mose Vinson (vocal and piano), Joe Willie Wilkins (guitar), Walter Horton (harmonica),
Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass), Isreal Franklin (drums, handclapping),
Possibly Thomas ''Beale Street'' Coleman (drums)

Several takes of this track were recorded, this version being the first. It is clearly a close relative of "44 Blues", being a fairly basic 12-bar blues carried by Mose's characteristically high, nasal, and somewhat garbled vocals. Joe Hill Louis vamps aggressively in the background, chiming in with the occasional set of slashing notes behind the first phrase of the verse, whilst a harmonica presumably, Walter Horton - although aural evidence would suggest perhaps not) is also present.

18 - Reap What You Sow (2:46) 1985 (Mose Vinson) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded September 9, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mose Vinson (vocal and piano), Joe Willie Wilkins (guitar), Walter Horton (harmonica),
Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass), Isreal Franklin (drums, handclapping),
Possibly Thomas ''Beale Street'' Coleman (drums)

''Reap What You Sow'' is a medium-tempo blues with a typically fine Vinson vocal and a sprightly piano solo, marred only by Joe Hill Louis' difficulty in figuring out what key the rest of the band are playing - which particularly shows up in his low end runs. Nevertheless, the track is worth hearing for Mose's vocal and sprightly piano solo.

19 - 44 Blues (2:33) 1985 (Mose Vinson) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded September 9, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mose Vinson (vocal and piano), Joe Willie Wilkins (guitar), Walter Horton (harmonica),
Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass), Isreal Franklin (drums, handclapping),
Possibly Thomas ''Beale Street'' Coleman (drums)

This title was Mose's signature tune: "It was an old song way back in my father's day, and I just put some words to it". The ringing authority of Mose's opening descending line immediately announces that this is something special. The band generally just vamps along behind Vinson, double-timing everything, giving the impression that they are playing a 24-bar blues, whilst Mose sings a 12-bar over the top. The nett effect is a non-stop backbeat which sounds as though the drummer is hitting the offbeat of all four beats in the bar! Louis takes the solo playing out some call-and-response with himself. During the solo, Sam Phillips boosts the level of the drums and bass - and this, coupled with the bass playing double-time, gives the effect of speeding the track up.

20 - Come See Me (aka My Love Has Gone) (2:06) 1985 (Mose Vinson) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded September 9, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Mose Vinson (vocal and piano), Joe Willie Wilkins (guitar), Walter Horton (harmonica),
Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass), Isreal Franklin (drums, handclapping),
Possibly Thomas ''Beale Street'' Coleman (drums)

This is the second of three takes of this track. It opens with piano, bass, and hi-hat doodling on a variation of "Shortnin' Bread", and ''Hucklebuck'' riffs. The hi-hat is hitting all four beats while the bass accents 1 and 3. After a couple of 12-bar vamp verses, Vinson takes two solo choruses rooted in the swing style, throwing in a little boogie at the beginning of the second. Overall, the amount of variety in his playing throughout this session is quite remarkable.

In 1954, Phillips assigned two master numbers to ''44 Blues'' and ''Come See Me'' (which he titled ''My Love Has Gone''). In the event, the record wasn't issued, and it's doubtful if it would have eased Phillips' pitiful financial situation at the dawn of 1954. And so Mose Vinson had to wait another thirty years for his Sun recordings to be issued.

Little Junior's Blue Flames

21 - Feelin' Bad (2:43) 1978 (Little Junior's Blue Flames) > Not Originally Issued <
(Herman Parker-Sam Phillips) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 5, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Herman Parker (vocal), James Wheeler (tenor saxophone), Floyd Murphy (guitar),
William "Bill" Johnson (piano), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Houston Stokes or John Bowers (drums)

It didn't take much thought to switch moods for this repetition of "Feelin' Good". Audibly, this is Floyd Murphy once again, although he takes a less demonstrative role, both in his solo and throughout the performance. The cause of Junior's malaise is his woman - naturally. Seems "some other guy was holdin' her tight" and Junior's solution is to slink off home and call her on the telephone. The idea of making your own answer record was a good one but the end result is rather mechanical. With Junior's defection, Sam Phillips might have considered putting this out to scotch any Duke releases - although perhaps his previous troubles with Chess and RPM Records dissuaded him from going down that road again. Looked at another way, this is the weakest ''Feelin' Good'' squel in the Sun vaults. Sammy Lewis' and Willie Johnson's ''I Feel So Worried'', Hot Shot Love's ''Wolf Call Boogie'', and Albert Williams' ''Rumble Chillen'' ate better. Without ''Feelin' Good'', this would have been listenable, but as a sequel it offers nothing new.

James Cotton

22 - My Baby (2:23) 1954 (James Cotton) > Sun 199-A <
(James Cotton) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded: - December 7, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
James Cotton (vocal), Tom Roane (tenor saxophone), Harvey Simmons (tenor saxophone),
Pat Hare (guitar), Billy Love (piano), Kenneth Banks (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

Its not known whether James Cotton's pronunciation (i.e. in "My Vavy") was slurred by his Mississippi origins, or the contents of a bottle of sauce - but its readily evident that he must have attended the same school of diction as Jimmy Reed. Nonetheless, Cotton manages to crank up a pretty rocking opus out of a fairly modest riff, whilst the saxes of Harvey Simmons and Tom Roane, and guitar of Pat Hare, cover the ground that might normally have been handled by a full horn section. Both solos evince distinct jazz feelings.

23 - Straighten Up Baby (2:20) 1954 (James Cotton) > Sun 199-B <
(James Cotton) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded: - December 7, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
James Cotton (vocal), Tom Roane (tenor saxophone), Harvey Simmons (tenor saxophone),
Pat Hare (guitar), Billy Love (piano), Kenneth Banks (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

It really is unclear which side of SUN 199 was the designated plug side, as arguably both this and "My Baby" are competent performances with solid riffs. However, neither side quite possesses that special excitement which would distinguish them from the other thirty or forty rhythm and blues releases of that particular week in April 1954.

24 - Cotton Crop Blues (2:58) 1954 (James Cotton) > Sun 206-A <
(James Cotton) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded: - May 14, 1954 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
James Cotton (vocal possibly percussion), Pat Hare (guitar),
Mose Vinson (piano), John Bowers (drums)

By any criterion, this is one of the finest blues records ever made, easily transcending its origin as a barely disguised rewrite of Roosevelt Sykes' ''Cotton Seed Blues''. Here, country and city merge. The words are so deeply rooted in the Delta and the sharecropper's grimly predictable life, it's surprising that ''Cotton Crop Blues'' even got as far as Memphis, but Pat Hare's vituperative guitar seems born and bred of the city. hare plays the intro and under the vocal, he plays fills between the vocal lines, taken the solo, and has the last word. He's so omnipresent, ''Cotton Crop Blues'' is almost a guitar solo with guest vocal. Cotton replicated Sykes' lyrics, throwing in brooding asides like ''so dark and muddy on this farm''. It's Hare, though, who elevates the record to greatness. The Ominously pounding drums and piano underscore the mood. The solo was obviously preconceived (parts of it are reproduced note for note on other Hare recordings) but the fact that Cotton gave Hare the solo and allowed him to play under his vocal suggest that Cotton knew he was hearing something special.

25 - Hold Me In Your Arms (2:45) 1954 (James Cotton) > Sun 206-B <
(James Cotton) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded: - May 14, 1954 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
James Cotton (vocal possibly percussion), Pat Hare (guitar),
Mose Vinson (piano), John Bowers (drums)

Every note of this song, from Pat Hare's intro to the simulated fadeout, is borrowed from Little Junior's ''Love My Baby'' although Cotton claims that he had guitarist Floyd Murphy first conceived ''Love Me Baby'' and played it over radio KWEM. In truth, if one had to plagiarize this is as good a place to start as any. In an interview, Cotton vividly recalled this session down to the fact that he had contributed to the rhythm section by playing ''drums'' on a cardboard box. Billboard picked it as the A-side, calling it ''listenable wax for the southern market''.

Pat Hare

26 - Cheating And Lying Blues (aka I'm Gonna Murder My Baby) (2:55) 1977 (Pat Hare) > Not Originally Issued <
(Clayton) (Copyright Control)
Matrix number: - None - Take 1 - Not Originally Issued
Recorded: - May 14, 1954 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Auburn Pat Hare (vocal and guitar), Billy Love (piano),
Unknown (bass), Isreal Franklin (drums)

Back in 1941 when Doctor Clayton recorded ''Cheating And Lying Blues'', his murder threat was lighthearted and the lyrics were intentionally funny. Even without knowing the tragic coda in which life imitated art, nothing about this record was funny. Hare was not a great vocalist, but this is distinguished by his guitar solo and his psychopathic rewrite of Clayton's song. As recorded, it could almost be court evidence. In the light of what transpired interjections like ''Gonna kill her tomorrow'' are chilling. Violence probably lay close to the surface in hare's life. His guitar-shredder style seems to imply as much. Jim Dickinson once said that Pat Hare played guitar like he was in Hell. Some of his cohorts from the good days in Memphis remembered him quite differently, but others remembered a mean drunk who was capable of committing the act prefigured in this recording.

27 - Bonus Pay (2:09) 1977 (Pat Hare) > Not Originally Issued <
(Eddie Vinson) (Cherio Music)
Recorded: - May 14, 1954 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Auburn Pat Hare (vocal and guitar), Billy Love (piano),
Unknown (bass), Isreal Franklin (drums)

''Bonus Pay'' although not titled as such on its initial release (it originally appeared as "Ain't Gonna Be That Way" on Charly Records Sun LP 1061, this is Hare's version of Eddie ''Cleanhead'' Vinson's 1946 Mercury single. In comparison with much of his earlier work the guitar solo is quite restrained, although it certainly features Hare's fondness for over-amplification to the point of distortion. Perhaps the major problem here is that Hare was constrained by having to sing and play guitar fills at the same time - i.e. without the benefit of latter-day overdubbing techniques.

Hot Shot Love

28 - Harpin' On It (2:29) 1989 (Hot Shot Love) > Not Originally Issued <
(Coy Love) (Copyright Control)
Recorded January 8, 1954 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Coy "Hot Shot" Love (vocal and harmonica), Pat Hare (guitar), Mose Vinson (piano),
Kenneth Banks (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

In the real world, an instrumental recording needs a signature riff or theme, even if it's not as memorable as ''In The Mood'' or ''The Hucklebuck''. Phillips omitted to tell Hot Shot Love about the little requirement, with the result that ''Harmonica Jam'' and the slightly slower ''Harpin' On It'' don't leave you humming. Pat Hare did his best to follow Love, but it's doubtful if even Love knew where he was going. The call-and-response between the falsetto voice and the harmonica is often reckoned to be Sonny Terry's invention, but you can hear it on blues and hillbilly records back in the 1920s, so it probably stems back beyond that. The title ''Harpin' On It'' was assigned by reissuers. On tape, it had no title.

Houston Stokes

29 - Blue And Lonesome (2:03) 1989 (Houston Stokes) > Not Originally Issued <
(Houston Stokes) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 4, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Houston Stokes (vocal and drums), Pat Hare (guitar), Billy Love (piano),
Kenneth Banks (bass), Tom Roane (saxophone)

In the original LP box notes, Bez Turner noted that, on the evidence of ''Blue And Lonesome'' and ''Baby's Gone And Left Me'', guitarist Erskine McClellan was as good as Pat Hare. So good in fact, it probably was Pat Hare. Houston Stokes actually recorded two sessions for Sam Phillips. The first in November 1952 featured the cream of Memphis's young jazz turks. The second, over one year later on December 4, 1953, featured Pat Hare, Billy Love, and Kenneth Banks. No titles were noted, but it's almost certainly the latter group we're hearing on this and ''Baby's Gone And Left Me''. The slow, grinding piano and fiery guitar certainly sound like hare and Love. There's evidence of what McClellan sounds like on ''We're All Gonna Do Some Wrong'', and it ain't like this. The day before this session, Stokes signed a one-year contract with Phillips, but nothing was ever released. On the log sheet, two phone numbers were noted, one between 9 a.m. And 6 p.m., and another after 6 p.m., so presumably he had a day job, but Phillips offered him no incentive to quit.

30 - Baby's Gone And Left Me (2:09) 1989 (Houston Stokes) > Previously Unissued <
(Houston Stokes) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 4, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Houston Stokes (vocal and drums), Pat Hare (guitar), Billy Love (piano),
Kenneth Banks (bass), Tom Roane (saxophone)

Taken at a very last clip and with a galloping drumbeat, this ''Baby's Gone And Left Me'' is essentially a workout for guitarist Pat Hare. The latter is something of an unknown quantity, which, given his evident virtuosity, is a great shame as he would appear to stand shoulder-to-shoulder beside men like Billy Love and Kenneth Banks. His solo here is particularly violent and of considerable length, which may just indicate that Stokes had precious few lyrics prepared.

Kenneth Banks

31 - High (2:22) 1977 (Kenneth Banks) > Not Originally Issued <
(Kenneth Banks) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 8, 1954 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Kenneth Banks (vocal and bass), Mose Vinson (piano), Jesse Knight (bass),
Pat Hare (Guitar), Houston Stokes or Willie Sims (drums)

Of Kenneth Banks, we know next to nothing. Back in the 1940s, he worked at the Plantation Inn in West Memphis, Arkansas, with Phineas Newborn Sr's eight-piece band, and he worked quite prolifically for Sam Phillips around 1954. On the same day that he played bass on Hot Shot Love's session, Kenneth Banks also crooned three takes of this Charles Brown-inspired opus. Perhaps he was at the quiet end of the bar in which Love whooped it up. After some trenchant opening piano chords from Vinson, Hare is uncharacteristically restrained in his accompaniment, even during the staccato chorus - "Oh, what's the matter? Why all this chatter?". Both musicians than play a restrained solo chorus. This first take repeats the vocal chorus, whereas both subsequent takes omit it.

32 - Blue Man (3:19) 1989 (Kenneth Banks) > Not Originally Issued <
(Kenneth Banks) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 8, 1954 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Kenneth Banks (vocal and bass), Mose Vinson (piano), Jesse Knight (bass),
Pat Hare (Guitar), Houston Stokes or Willie Sims (drums)

Kenneth Bank's roots in the supper club scene are apparent here. He should have pitched this to Charles Brown, Floyd Dixon, or another of their ilk, or - failing that - a doo-wop group. The guitar-piano interplay followed the Nat King Cole - Johnny Moore - Charles Brown template. A little edgier perhaps, but not much. In the right hands, this could have amounted to something, but Banks was simple too weak as a vocalist.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <  

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 6 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

KINGS OF RHYTHM

After the success of ''Rocket 88'' in 1951, Ike Turner probably wondered "Why Jackie Brenston, not me''? After splitting from Brenston, Turner was an employee of RPM-Modern Records, scouting and recording artists in the Delta. Piecing together his activities isn't easy, and Ike probably liked it that way. You know his autobiography won't be much help when it includes lines like, "It was Ike who discovered Little Walter and Muddy Waters''. Ike toured the South, seeking and recording talent where he could. He married, toured and recorded with a pianist named Bonnie, and then divorced her. He married Johnny O'Neal's girlfriend, Alice, and took up with another pianist, Anna Mae Wilson. This CD features a number of singers and musicians associated with Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm.

Raymond Hill

1 - Long Gone Raymond (2:40) 1976 (Raymond Hill) > Not Originally Issued <
(Raymond Hill) (Copyright Control)
Recorded October 6, 1952 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Raymond Hill (vocal and tenor saxophone), Evans Bradshaw (piano), Willie Kizart (guitar),
John Ed Nash (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

Raymond Hill quit Jackie Brenston's Delta Cats to launch his own group. In October 1952, he returned to Sun with yet another ''Rocket 88'' alumnus, guitarist Willie Kizart. By all accounts Raymond Hill began to record solo for Sam Phillips because he felt he wasn't getting his financial due from previous efforts with Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston. Here he honks his way tunefully through a straight ahead outling, ably supported by pianist Evan Bradshaw, and mercifully confirming that not all sax-players of the era were obsessed with replicating hippo farts. Although this track was never released, Sam Phillips was sufficiently impressed with Hill's sax style to continue recording him over the next couple of years. In 1954 Raymond Hill finally saw a Sun release, "Bourbon Street Jump"/"The Snuggle" (SUN 204). On this 1952 session, Hill and Kizart were joined by yet another of Ike's Kings of Rhythm, bassist John Edward Nash. It might have been Phillips who supplied two local Memphis musicians, pianist Bradshaw and drummer Houston Stokes. Bradshaw played the steady roll behind Hill. If Hill had something on his mind, when he concocted this tune, it was probably Jimmy Forrest's ''Night Train''.

2 - My Baby Left Me (2:26) 1977 (Raymond Hill) > Not Originally Issued <
(Raymond Hill) (Cop Cont-Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 6, 1952 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Raymond Hill (vocal and tenor saxophone), Evans Bradshaw (piano), Willie Kizart (guitar),
John Ed Nash (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

It is, of course, a well-worn cliché, but as a vocalist Raymond Hill makes a pretty good sax player. Here, alongside several of his confrères from the "Rocket 88" session, Raymond reworks Elmore James' riff. Willie Kizart's guitar is outstanding and the backing is rock solid, but there is no getting away from the shortcomings of Raymond's vocal - which is doubtless why it was not released at the time.

3 - I'm Back Pretty Baby (2:41) 1977 (Raymond Hill) > Not Originally Issued <
(Raymond Hill) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 6, 1952 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Raymond Hill (vocal and tenor saxophone), Evans Bradshaw (piano), Willie Kizart (guitar),
John Ed Nash (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

A made-to-order B-side. The song was undistinguished, although Raymond gets high marks for jumping from vocals to sax solo back again without taking a break. Once again, guitarist Willie Kizart is the backbone.

4 - Somebody's Been Carryin' Your Rollin' On (2:09) 1976 (Raymond Hill) > Not Originally Issued < 
(Raymond Hill) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 6, 1952 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Raymond Hill (vocal and tenor saxophone), Evans Bradshaw (piano), Willie Kizart (guitar),
John Ed Nash (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

Two very distinct versions of ''Somebody's Been Carryin' Your Rollin' On'' were recorded. This (take 1) is the unadorned track, but at some point Phillips added echo and a vocal group to another take, making a polished master that went some way toward disguising Raymond's weak vocal. The other version (take 2), audibly dubbed from acetate, appeared on an early 1970s Redita Records collection, Memphis Blues at Sunshine''.

Chess Records was sufficiently interested in the overdubbed version and another song that has disappeared from the vault, ''Hold Me Baby'' to assign master numbers, but the release was cancelled in the disagreement that set in between Chess and Phillips. Earlier, Sam Phillips had sent a dub of this song to Lillian McMurry at Trumpet, who's refused it.

Bonnie Turner

5 - Love Is A Gamble (2:09) 1976 (Bonnie Turner) > Not Originally Issued <
(Ike Turner) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 2, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Marion Louise ''Bonnie'' Turner (vocal and piano), Ike Turner (guitar), Jesse Knight Jr. (bass),
Willie Sims or Bob Prindell (drums), Raymond Hill (tenor saxophone),
Possibly Thomas Reed and James Wheeler (saxophones)

Following the success of ''Rocket 88'' on Chess in 1951, and the ensuing arguments about money and artist credits, Ike Turner spent much of the next three years employed by the Bihari brothers to help find and record blues musicians across the South. Starting with Howlin' Wolf in September 1951, Ike recorded in Memphis with various singers, he produced sessions in Little Rock that November. During 1952 he recorded with Houston Boines, Boyd Gilmore, Charly Booker, Elmore James, Junior Parker and others. In January 1952 he was in Greenville, then in Canton, and during that year he was recording in makeshift studios in Memphis, Little Rock, West Memphis and Clarksdale. He was also touring with the Kings Of Rhythm. According to a future King, Eugene Fox, Turner came back to Clarksdale sometime in the summer of 1953. In July, Ike brought Little Milton to Sun; in August, he returned with Johnny O'Neal. And now, Ike's Sun recordings with Bonnie are most likely to date from around the same time, although, as always with Ike, you're never really sure.

Off the back of his involvement in a raft of pre-Sun recordings made at 706 Union Avenue by rhythm and blues pioneers like Jackie Brenston, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King, Ike Turner was periodically apportioned studio time for his own needs. As the itinerant leader of The Kings Of Rhythm, he introduced into the ranks a coquettish piano-player conveniently known as Bonnie Turner. One of the less-chronicled female acquaintances in Ike's life, she nevertheless showed great promise on the spirited "Love Is A Gamble". In March, 1953, pianist Bonnie Turner traveled from Clarksdale, Mississippi to Memphis with her then boyfriend/husband Ike, and recorded these titles for Sam Phillips. ''Love Is A Gamble'' showcase Bonnie's stacato delivery, and her pleasant, nondescript voice. The pianist was a very emphatic boogie player. If, as seems likely, it was Bonnie, she was good, as Ike has said she was. Or it could be Ike. His adventures with the whammy bar and the cocaine spoon sometimes lead us to forget how good he was on piano.

6 - Old Brother Jack (2:48) 1976 (Bonnie Turner) > Not Originally Issued <
(Ike Turner) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 2, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Marion Louise ''Bonnie'' Turner (vocal and piano), Ike Turner (guitar), Jesse Knight Jr. (bass),
Willie Sims or Bob Prindell (drums), Raymond Hill (tenor saxophone),
Possibly Thomas Reed and James Wheeler (saxophones)

To the ''Rock Me Baby'' riff, Ike set some new words. Presumably he's playing guitar, with Bonnie at the piano. The result, as Sam Phillips and probably Ike himself knew, was not releasable. Bonnie's vocal just wasn't that good. Fast forward to 1962. Bluesman Frank Frost was in the new Sun studio and recorded ''old brother Jack he was a jelly roll king'' as ''Jelly Roll King'', this time to a Jimmy Reed beat. Fast forward again to 1969. With Bonnie long gone and Tina fronting the band, Ike revisited ''Rock Me Baby'' for their ''Outta Season'' LP. It proved that Ike's idea of how to approach the song hadn't changed much in sixteen years; it also proved how much he needed Tina. ''Outta Season'' by the way, was a neglected classic, at least in part for the jacket. On the front, Tina ate watermelon in whiteface; on the reverse, Ike did the same. The message that Ike and his producer, Bob Krasnow, wanted to get across was that in 1969 if you wanted to play the blues, you had to be white.

Tot Randolph

7 - Blues Train (2:36) 1985 (Tot Randolph) > Not Originally Issued <
(Theautry "Tot" Randolph) (Copyright Control)
Recorded June 23, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Tot Randolph (baritone saxophone), Charles Lloyd (alto saxophone),
Willie Dodson (tenor saxophone), L.C. Hubert (piano),
Willie Johnson (guitar), Tuff Green (bass),
Junior Blackmon (drums)

The success of Jimmy Forrest's ''Night Train'' in 1952 extended hope to saxophonists everywhere. It seems to have inspired Raymond Hill's ''Long Gone Raymond'', and probably this track, too. A rare sax instrumental outing as executed by Theautry "Tot" Randolph. There's plenty of energy and enthusiasm here as the "Blues Train" rolls along, although it must be admitted that the baritone sax is an unusual instrument to find occupying a solo role. Here, Randolph's baritone is pretty impassioned in comparison to Raymond Hill's earlier tenor style - but compared with Willie Johnson's guitar work on this track, even Raymond is asleep at the wheel! Johnson literally tears the session apart, ranging from some fiery unison work to a solo lead-in which borders on the atonal. Although not audible, alto man Charles Lloyd is credited with being on the session. Lloyd would have been fifteen at the time but was already an accomplished musician. If he's heard on this recording, it's probably in the cheerleader section. Twenty-five years later he would become the flower child of the jazz world.

Johnny O'Neal

8 - Ugly Woman (Peg Leg Baby) (2:22) 1976 (Johnny O'Neal) > Not Originally Issued <
(Johnny O'Neal Johnson) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 2, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny O'Neal (vocal), James Wheeler (saxophone), Thomas Reed (saxophone),
Bonnie Turner (piano), Ike Turner (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass),
Willie Sims (drums)

Johnny O'Neal had been in an earlier incarnation of the Kings of Rhythm, but left prior to ''Rocket 88'' to sign with King Records. Around the time that Turner returned to Clarksdale in the summer of 1953, he brought O'Neal back into the fold. Eugene Fox joined in October and remembered that O'Neal left soon after. Sometime in-between, Turner married O'Neal's girlfriend, Alice. "He was a fighting son-of-a-bitch'', said Turner. "If I married her, he couldn't do nuthin'. One day, she thought I was going to Memphis, but the job was cancelled and I caught her on the porch with Johnny O'NeaI's head in her lap''. Turner's memory of O'Neal as a "fighting son-of-a-bitch" is borne out by Eugene Fox's nickname for him "Scarface brother''.

Turner and O'NeaI came to Memphis on August 2, 1953, and Turner hung around to play on a Prisonaires' session the following day. ''Ugly Woman'' drew on a long tradition of African American comic insults ("Your woman is so ugly that...''), memorialized by Bo Diddley among others. This time, it's married to the ''Rocket 88'' riff. Politically incorrect maybe, but funny for sure. "When I look into her face, I could almost faint/She could get behind a tombstone and scare your haint (ghost)''. Ike turns in one of his stinging solos. ''Ugly Woman'' deserved to be on a record, and if Phillips' bankroll had been a little fatter, it might have been. Turner waited a couple of years before trying it again. With Billy Gayles aka Willie King singing, it finally appeared on Vita Records as ''Peg Leg Baby''.

9 - Dead Letter Blues (3:30) 1976 (Johnny O'Neal) > Not Originally Issued <
(Johnny O'Neal Johnson) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 2, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny O'Neal (vocal), James Wheeler (saxophone), Thomas Reed (saxophone),
Bonnie Turner (piano), Ike Turner (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass),
Willie Sims (drums)

The opening verse is an adaptation of one of the most celebrated stanzas in the blues. Ida Cox's 1924 ''Death Letter Blues'' became part of Son House's 1930 ''My Black Mama Part ii'', and was in turn adapted into Muddy Waters'1950 recording of ''Sad Letter Blues''. (The tape box calls this song ''Death Letter Blues'', but a dead letter was one that was undeliverable; it should have been titled ''Death Letter Blues''). This variation on an immemorial theme genuflects toward the Kingdom of B.B. As impassioned as O'Neal's vocal is, he's overshadowed by Ike Turner on guitar. This was a commanding performance that did not deserve to languish so long on a shelf.

10 - Johnny's Dream (2:54) 1985 (Johnny O'Neal) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded August 2, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny O'Neal (vocal), James Wheeler (saxophone), Thomas Reed (saxophone),
Bonnie Turner (piano), Ike Turner (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass),
Willie Sims (drums)

This was a routine that Ike Turner cooked up for his nightclub act. He'd do it with the stage lights out, and only the amp lights on. As a song, it had its roots deep in vaudeville and in records like Bessie Smih's ''Blue Spirit Blues'' in which she dreamed she was dead and led into hell. When Phillips first logged the song, he called it ''Devil's Dream''. It could be Ike as the Devil and the Doctor ONeal seems to call the Devil ''Ike'' at one point, and he wouldn't be the last to do that. It's certainly Ike playing guitar and Phillips' notes indicated that Bonnie Turner was at the session so she is probably playing the part of ''Mary.'' Phillips liked the song well enough to schedule it for release as ''Johnny's Dream'' but either didn't have the money to press it or had a run-in with Turner prior to release. Turner believed in his little play let and re-recorded it in February 1954 as ''Sinner's Dream'' with Eugene Fox and Anna Mae Wilson for Checker Records. Fox, Turner, and Anna Mae recorded it again in 1954 for RPM as ''The Dream''. Ike was keen on recording little play-lets; at the Bonnie Turner session she and other vocalists sang and talked their way through a strange drama about life in the Congo.

Little Milton

11 - Beggin' My Baby (2:28) 1954 (Little Milton) > Sun 194-A <
(James Milton Campbell) (Memphis Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 28, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Ike Turner (piano), C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone),
Jesse Knight (bass), Willie Sims (drums)

''Ike Turner had a little three or four piece band'', Little Milton told Jim O'Neal. ''Himself, Junior (Jesse Knight) who was his nephew, Willie Sims who we called Bad Boy. And I took the saxophone from my band, C.W. Tate. Ike introduced me to Sam Phillips. 'You want to cut a record'? 'Yeah', So start singing and playing'. We had not rehearsed anything, but two or three of those tunes I was doing with my Playmates of Rhythm. Sometimes you'd get in (to Sun) around one or two o'clock in the afternoon and we'd be there all night, sometimes into the next day. Nobody worried about the time. Ike, he'd be playin' piano, showin' you different things. Sam Phillips, he'd be running the board'', said Milton. From the rolling and melancholy 4-bar piano introduction, it was clear that ''Beggin' My Baby'' was a winner. As Little Milton's Sun legacy reveals, the man was truly a chameleon at this point in his career, capable of turning his talents to a variety of contemporary styles. Arguably, this was not the kind of artist that lawsuit-prone Sam Phillips needed on his roster. Here Milton turns his attention to a barely disguised version of Fats Domino's 1953 hit ''Going To The River''. Despite its derivative nature, Milton's performance is totally arresting. Even Billboard concurred given ''Beggin' My Baby'' highest marks and observing in January 1954 ''Here's a sock rendition of a most melodic new effort by Milton over a pounding backing. The lyric has suspense and Milton sings it for all he's worth. A solid slicing that could easily break out for the big coin''.

12 - Somebody Told Me (1) (2:58) 1954 (Little Milton) > Sun 194-B < 
(James Milton Campbell) (Memphis Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 28, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Ike Turner (piano), C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone),
Jesse Knight (bass), Willie Sims (drums)

Once again Milton contributes a highly charged blues performance, but it lacks the punch of his best Sun work because he is constrained by the mambo rhythm. Milton's vocal phrasing is ill-suited to the lathin beat and his guitar doesn't get a chance to shine. Fortunately, the band shucks the mambo during the chorus and extended instrumental break. Just as fats Domino inspired one side of Milton's first single, so this side was ripped from B.B. King's 1953 hit ''Woke Up This Morning''. King used an almost identical arrangement down to the stinging guitar-over-mambo intro, and the switch to 4/4 on the chorus and break

13 - I Love My Baby (2:59) 1976 (Little Milton) > Not Originally Issued <
(James Milton Campbell) (Memphis Music Incorporated)
Recorded December 23, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Little Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Lawrence Taylor (alto saxophone),
C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone), Ike Turner (piano), Jesse Knight (bass),
Lonnie Hayes (drums)

The day before Milton's first Sun single was shipped, he was back in the studio with much the same line-up. This time, five songs were recorded together with two more by Houston Boines, but nothing was released. early in his career, Milton almost had it all; he was a guitar titan; he was young and good-looking; and his voice dripped emotion at any tempo. All he need was some really fine original songs. This, like the others he recorded that day, was unmemorable. ''Back then, I didn't know who Little Milton was'', he concluded. But it's still clear why Phillips gave him more releases than any other blues artist on his label with the exception of Billy Emerson.

Houston Boines

14 - Carry My Business On (2:31) 1976 (Houston Boines) > Not Originally Issued <
(Houston Boines) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded: - December 23, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Houston Boines (vocal and harmonica), Milton Campbell (guitar), Ike Turner (piano),
Jesse Knight (bass), Lonnie Hayes (drums)

Houston Boines remains something of an enigma, as very little is known about him. Even Little Milton, who played on this session and was responsible for bringing Boines along to the studio, knew little about him - as he recalled in a 1982 interview: "I met him in Leland, Mississippi... he played harmonica. I don't know where he is now - nobody seems to. He was quite an old guy when we recorded... he would be at least 70 by now". Nonetheless, Boines achieved an interesting feat: he wrote and performed the song which may well be the most lyrically noteworthy in this entire collection. (This is an alternate take to the version which appeared on the original Sunbox). However, we will probably never know, because his diction and delivery are sufficiently inaccessible to tempt, but ultimately frustrate, the listener. Its clearly a backwoods story/song, and it contains some fascinating couplets that can be instilled with as much (or as little) significance as you like - e.g: "I rode a white horse called Silver Streak one day/I met Old Man Quiggle and Old Boston along the way". There again, he could merely have been at the juice.

Undoubtedly, the song is rich in detail and rather obscure imagery - but you'd need an honours degree in deep South patois and backwoods mythology to get it all. Even Milton, from almost thirty years' distance, recalled during a Blues Unlimited interview: "We could never get the clarity on his recordings... we could never understand what he was saying. Sam Phillips didn't think it was good enough to release. We were supposed to go back into the studio and re-do the stuff because it was unfinished... but we never got back. We were in there all day long and part of the nights". Failing that, you can just sit back and marvel at the solid guitar work of Little Milton, or Ike Turner's fine piano - however, its Jesse Knight's simple slap bass which really propels this side along.

You might also notice that the disc is a strange paradox: a tale with roots way back in the country, yet sung to a modern-sounding blues backing. (The take used here is different to that used on the original Sun Blues Box). The melody was replicated from Boines' 1952 recording of ''Relation Blues''.

15 - Standing In The Courthouse Crying (3:02) 1989 (Houston Boines) > Not Originally Issued <
(Houston Boines) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded: - December 23, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Houston Boines (vocal and harmonica), Milton Campbell (guitar), Ike Turner (piano),
Jesse Knight (bass), Lonnie Hayes (drums)

It seems as if Milton of Ike Turner sent the saxophones home when Boines stepped up to the mic, leaving Ike Turner playing doomy piano chords and Milton on lead guitar. There are no worries about diction with this slow blues, of which two takes exist. Whereas the second take starts straight in with the first verse, this starts with an instrumental chorus centred around the dolorous metronome of Ike Turner's piano, with sundry outbursts from Little Milton's guitar and some tentative harmonica phrases off-mike by Houston Boines.

Despite lasting just under three minutes, there are only two verses of lyrica, both of which are notable for their stark imagery. "Took me 'way, took me 'way in the mornin' soon/when I couldn't see nothin' but just the stars and moon". In the second take, the singer is taken away on the morning train, "I was handcuffed and shackled with great long lengths of chain". A further verse adds a poignance missing here: "Wasn't it sad when I left my baby crying?/she said, 'Daddy, I can't go with you, but you'll be always on my mind".

Little Milton

16 - If You Love Me (2:32) 1954 (Little Milton) > SUN 200-A <
(James Milton Cambell) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 30, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Ike Turner (piano), C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone),
Lawrence Taylor (alto saxophone), Cleophus Johnson (bass), Lonnie Haynes (drums)

Milton display his gift for imitating bordering on plagiarism. This time it barely matters that he was plowing someone else's furrow. He borrowed the irresistible intro from Elmore James' ''Dust My Broom'' which, in turn, was the inspiration for B.B. King's 1953 hit, ''Please Love Me''. And, like B.B., Milton didn't play slide but approximated it with perpendicular-to-the-neck vibrato. Milton turns in a strong vocal, ably assisted by Ike Turner's piano and some persuasive percussion. B.B. King remembered Turner as one of the finest pianists he had heard and these tracks by Milton bear him out.

17 - Alone And Blue (3:09) 1954 (Little Milton) > SUN 200-B <
(James Milton Cambell) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 30, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Ike Turner (piano), C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone),
Lawrence Taylor (alto saxophone), Cleophus Johnson (bass), Lonnie Haynes (drums)

So who was Little Milton channelling this time? Percy Mayfield's lugubrious ballads, most likely. Sam Phillips certainly saw promise in Milton's sharp-tip rhythm and blues, but it's hard to know why Ike Turner, who functioned as Milton's mentor-producer-session pianist didn't inject some of his fabled commercial logic into Milton's anonymous songs. Milton was tantalizingly close to success in commercial rhythm and blues. Just one great song was all he needed, but ''Alone And Blue'' wasn't it, and he wouldn't find it until ''We're Gonna Make It'' eleven years later.

18 - She's My Queen (2:31) 1985 (Little Milton) > Not Originally Issued <
(James Milton Cambell) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 30, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Ike Turner (piano), C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone),
Lawrence Taylor (alto saxophone), Cleophus Johnson (bass), Lonnie Haynes (drums)

This straightforward blues outing which doesn't really distinguish itself until Milton unleashes a stinging guitar solo, after which it really soars. There are shades of Guitar Slim here, but Milton remain essentially his own man. No one would ever want to deny Milton his 1960s and 1970s successes, but its a shame he had to achieve it in a musical style which wholly submerged both his blues roots and magnificent guitar playing. During the 1960s when Milton didn't bring his guitar to recording sessions, someone should have started a petition to keep the solos coming.

19 - Re-Beep (Previously issued as Re-Beat) (2:35) 1985 (Little Milton) > Not Originally Issued <
(James Milton Cambell) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 30, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Ike Turner (piano), C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone),
Lawrence Taylor (alto saxophone), Cleophus Johnson (bass), Lonnie Haynes (drums)

Unquestionably the most unusual track Little Milton recorded for Sun. If Sam Phillips was looking for hybrid material, he should have stayed with this effort. It's got a clear streak of hillbilly running right through it and the title suggests a throwback to the 1940s. Originally logged and issued as ''Re-Beat'', this song has an engaging rhythm and a sixeable hook. This is about as far as Milton ever strayed from traditional blues during his early career. Talking to Steve LaVere, Milton was adamant that the song was called ''Re-Beep'', though he didn't say what he meant by that, and if you listen closely that is indeed what he's saying.

20 - Lookin' For My Baby (2:53) 1954 (Little Milton) > Sun 220-A <
(James Milton Cambell) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 30, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Ike Turner (piano), C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone),
Lawrence Taylor (alto saxophone), Cleophus Johnson (bass), Lonnie Haynes (drums)

There is not a level on which this track does not succeed, except that the title wasn't hammered home sufficiently often for jukebox and radio play (in fact, the title was more an abstraction from the lyrics). Perhaps more than any other song in Milton's Sun catalog it emphasises what a terrific guitarist he was: his sense of timing and drama shine. This is a working definition of stinging guitar. There are other delights, notably Milton's spoken intro (''...see can't I find her'') and aside (''conductor, what state is this''?). Additionally, the whole group supplies a rhythmic hook by accenting the first beat in key measures.

21 - Rode That Train (Lookin' For My Baby) (2:48) 1985 Little Milton) > Not Originally Issued <
(James Milton Campbell) (Memphis Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 30, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Ike Turner (piano), C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone),
Lawrence Taylor (alto saxophone), Cleophus Johnson (bass), Lonnie Haynes (drums)

On the tape box, Sam Phillips logged this song as ''Rode That Train All Night Long'' but issued it as ''Lookin' For My Baby''. The first take was unusable because Phillips changed levels on the fly, first during Milton's guitar intro and again when the horns came in. By the second take, issued first on Zu-Zazz and reissued here, Phillips had his acte together and Milton was still on fire. His guitar has a filthy tone, and he's really buston' out his licks, taking two choruses instead of the single chorus on the released version. More than that, there's a spectacular untamedness to this take that was lost by the time they reached the issued fifth take. For yet another very different take, go to CD 9.

22 - Homesick For My Baby (2:50) 1985 (Little Milton) > Not Originally Issued <
(James Milton Cambell) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 30, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Ike Turner (piano), C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone),
Lawrence Taylor (alto saxophone), Cleophus Johnson (bass), Lonnie Haynes (drums)

A straightforward blues outing, this is an alternate take of the original B-side of Sun 220. Distinguished by yet another superlative guitar solo - once again demonstrating Milton's flair for aggressive phrasing - the saxes (Lawrence Taylore and W.C. Tate) weight in with some rather soulful notes, whilst Ike Turner really shines in his somewhat limited supporting role on piano. The only sour note in the performance is literially the last - which is probably why it remained in the can. The only sour note in the performance is literally the last but, as Sam Phillips would have told them, ''It's the feeling that counts''.

Earl Hooker

Earl Hooker, a cousin of John Lee Hooker, learned to play the guitar as a child in Chicago. He recorded widely in the early 1950s, sometimes as a sideman and sometimes under his own name as either guitarist or vocalist. Hooker came to Sun and ran through his on-stage repertoire hoping to impress Sam Phillips and get a recording contract. He got his contract but never had a release on Sun. Happily for us, Sam kept that audition tape where it could be discovered decades later.

23 - Steel Guitar Rag (2:51) 1977 (Earl Hooker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Leon McAuliffe) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 15, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Earl Hooker (guitar), Joe Willie ''Pinetop'' Perkins (piano), Little Walker (harmonica),
Unknown (bass), Willie Nix (drums)

Earl Hooker's Sun recordings are cloaked in some mystery. Sam Phillips' log notes two sessions, on July 15, 1953 and another on August 8. The personnel noted on the first session (above) was Boyd Gilmore, Little Walker (Hooker's warm-up act) on harmonica, Pinetop Perkins on piano, and saxophonist Adolph Duncan, all of whom worked together in Cairo, Illinois. For the second session, Phillips only noted session bassist Kenneth Banks. Hooker left two tapes mostly full of instruments. Clearly, he was running down his set-list, checking to see if Phillips hear anything he liked. And Phillips liked Hooker enough to offer a one-year contract at the time of the first session, but not enough to release anything. The second session was marked non-productive, and Hooker never returned. We're figuring that all the titles here except ''The Hucklebuck'' and ''Pinetop's Boogie Woogie'' stem from the first session, which is notable for the presence of an electric bass, an instrument that had only been introduced in November 1951. The bass apparently belonged to Hooker, making him an early adopter. It seems likely that Little Walter plays ''Off The Wall'' (see CD 2, song 17 and CD 9, song 16) a songs attributed on earlier compilations to Walter Horton, and, as the electric bass isn't audible on ''Off The Wall''', it's at least conceivable that Walker played it.

In Europe toward the end of his life, Earl Hooker was filmed backstage playing and singing Ernest Tubb's 1941 hit ''Walking The Floor Over You'' and he recorded Bill Monroe's ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky''. Here he's taking a shot at ''Steel Guitar Rag'', Bob Wills'1936 feature for Leon Auliffe. Hooker probably didn't know or care, but ''Steel Guitar Rag'' was originally a blues tune recorded by Sylvester Weaver back in 1923. Hooker undoubtedly thought he was playing a hillbilly song. He takes it considerably faster than Wills, almost treating it like a polka. The electric bass is especially busy, but the whole show falls apart at the end, which was okay with Phillips because he wasn't about to release an instrumental he didn't publish anyway.

24 - Blue Guitar (2:45) 1989 (Earl Hooker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Earl Zebedee Hooker) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 15, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Earl Hooker (guitar), Joe Willie ''Pinetop'' Perkins (piano), Little Walker (harmonica),
Unknown (bass), Willie Nix (drums)

A variation on this theme eventually appeared under Hooker's name on Ace Records in Chicago circa 1961. At that time, it was called ''Blue Guitar'', so that's the title we're using. The electric bassist is very busy but Hooker is the star of this show. His limpid slide tone is sometimes reminiscent of his mentor, Robert Nighthawk, but make no mistake Earl Hooker was a guitar star in his own right.

25 - The Drive (2:21) 1989 (Earl Hooker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Earl Zebedee Hooker) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 15, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Earl Hooker (guitar), Joe Willie ''Pinetop'' Perkins (piano), Little Walker (harmonica),
Unknown (bass), Willie Nix (drums)

On the evidence of this track alone, Phillips might have thought about bringing Earl Hooker in to push of those early rockabilly sessions. God knows what kind of hybrid music might have raised the rafters at 706 Union if he had.

26 - Move On Down The Line (2:16) 1977 (Earl Hooker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Earl Zebedee Hooker) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 15, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Earl Hooker (vocal and guitar), Joe Willie ''Pinetop'' Perkins (piano),
Little Walker (harmonica), Unknown (bass), Willie Nix (drums)

There's a lot of energy here, but it resulted in nothing that Sam Phillips could release. In essence, it was two minutes of rejuggled blues cliches interspersed with some gloriously inventive guitar. The structure of the song is similar to Jimmy Rushing's 1937 outing with Count Basie, ''Don't You Miss Your Baby''.. itself a compendium of rejuggled lines. If Phillips had called for an earl Hooker vocal, this is what he got, and this is why he didn't call for another. The playing rates Hooker a mention in the same breath as the Kings (B.B., Freddie, and Albert), but his singing was never that strong. Perhaps that's why Boyd Gilmore was there. In 1953, Sam Phillips had very little money to spare, but he gave a thirty dollar advance to Hooker, another five to his manager, plus $4.75 for whiskey and another three bucks in gas to get them from and to Cairo, Illinois. By this point in the afternoon or evening of July 15, 1953, he must have seen that money slipping through his fingers.

27 - The Hucklebuck (3:06) 1977 (Earl Hooker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Paul Williams-Andy Gibson-Alfred) (Tradition Music)
Recorded August 10, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Earl Hooker (guitar), Willie "Pinetop" Perkins (piano), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Edward Lee "Shorty" Irvin (drums)

In 1945, be-bop giant Charlie Parker recorded ''Now's The Time'', in 1948, Lucky Millinder began playing an adaptation of it called ''D-Natural Blues'', and Andy Gibson adapted Charlie Parker's "Now Is The Time" and called it "The Hucklebuck". Baritone saxman and bandleader Paul Williams recorded it in December 1948 and it remained in the Rhythm and Blues charts for 32 weeks after its entry on February 11, 1949. Earl Hooker manages to give some idea of the original when he moves from playing the main melody on single strings to a riff that approximates the sound of a horn section. The lyric exhorted dancers to "start a little movement in your sacroiliac", at a time when 'ignorance with style' ensures that the young can hardly pronounce the word, let alone spell it, its lucky that Hooker's version is purely instrumental. Accordingly, Hooker plays riffs where the horn section should have been, and he plays single string fretted lead instead of slide. This was probably a set-opener to get folks in the mood to drink, dance, and place some money in the kitty, but it was never going to be a Sun record.

Boyd Gilmore

28 - Believe I'll Settle Down (3:07) 1978 (Boyd Gilmore) > Not Originally Issued <
(Boyd Gilmore) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 15, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Boyd Gilmore (vocal and Guitar), Joe Willie ''Pinetop'' Perkins (piano),
Adolph Duncan (saxophone), Earl Hooker (guitar),
Little Walker (harmonica), Unknown (bass),
Willie Nix (drums)

An altogether churchier song than Memphis Slim's 1940s song of the same name, this is the high water mark of one of the Earl Hooker's Sun sessions. A fine rolling blues in the tradition that B.B. King was busy making his very own. Gilmore's vocal, although huskier than B.B.'s, follows the same familiar pattern, and Earl Hooker's guitar contrives to sound like a disciple - or at the very least, a close relative - of "Lucille". There's some fine two-handed piano from Gilmore's childhood buddy, Pinetop Perkins, but the tentative nature of the track is revealed at the end when Gilmore stops singing midway through the last verse, and we get a rather unexpected 4-bar instrumental ending. This take notable because Gilmore forgot the last line. As it turned out, Hooker didn't record again until 1956 and Gilmore never recorded again, as far as we know.

Pinetop Perkins

29 - Pinetop's Boogie Woogie (2:45) 1978 (Pinetop Perkins) > Not Originally Issued <
(Clarence Smith) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 15, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Willie ''Pinetop'' Perkins (piano), Earl Hooker (guitar), Unknown (bass),
Willie Nix (drums)

So what changed between December 29, 1928 when Pine Top Smith recorded the original ''Pine Top's Boogie Woogie'' and when Pinetop Perkins recorded this version? Not much. Perkins had an electric guitar and drums reinforcing the beat, but his tempo and arrangement were much as Smith's. Sam Phillips visited enough disc jockeys and distributors to know that, as charming as this music was, it couldn't compete with Ray Charles and the other top sellers in rhythm and blues circa mid-1953, and so it remained until 1977 when the archivists came calling. Perkins' first recording under his own name wasn't released until 1988. That album, ''After Hours'', included ''Pinetop's Boogie Woogie'', a version that was, if anything, even closer to Pine Top Smith than this/ No one could accuse Perkins of pandering to fads and trends. By the time he died in March 2011, he was one of a handful of jazz/blues fans/musicians to remember the stir Smith's record created in 1929.

Sammy Lewis & Willie Johnson Combo

30 - Gonna Leave You Baby (2:19) 1985 (Sammy Lewis & Willie Johnson) > Not Originally Issued <
(Sammy Lewis-Willie Johnson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded March 28, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sammy Lewis (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), L.C. Hubert (piano),
Joe Nathan Franklin (drums)

There are some absolutely magnificent moments on ''Gonna Leave You Baby'' - and also, a couple of real bummers. The decidedly rural sound of Lewis' harp introduction is both poignant and haunting, setting us up for something of a minor classic - but unfortunately it is so out of tune with Johnson's guitar, that the performance loses much of its potential impact. One noteworthy feature which survives even this discordant pall is Lewis' extremely melodic vocal reading of the first verse. It is a gem which shows just how musical the blues can be, despite the chordal restrictions of the form.

31 - I Feel So Worried -1 (2:06) 1985 (Sammy Lewis & Willie Johnson) > Not Originally Issued <
(Sammy Lewis-Willie Johnson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 28, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sammy Lewis (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), L.C. Hubert (piano),
Joe Nathan Franklin (drums)

This alternate take of SUN 218 made its first appearance on the original Sunbox, and was erroneously passed off as a "slower warm-up version". However, it differs only slightly from its rather better-known counterpart - mainly lyrically, being a lot closer to the number which inspired it, viz: "Feelin' Good". Which merely suggests that Sammy Lewis was having trouble in remembering the words! For one thing, the guitar on this version is again out of tune, as it was on ''Gonna Leave You Baby''. It must have been a long night at 706 Union to get from this tentative take to the released version.

32 - I Feel So Worried -2 (2:36) 1955 (Sammy Lewis & Willie Johnson) > Sun 218-A <
(Sammy Lewis-Willie Johnson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 28, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sammy Lewis (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar), L.C. Hubert (piano),
Joe Nathan Franklin (drums)

Sam Phillips tried yet again in recapture the success he had found with Little Junior Parker's ''Feelin' Good''. His most obvious attempt was with Little Junior himself, but Phillips never deemed ''Feelin' Bad'', worthy of release. Although ''Feelin' Bad'' was by no means a weak record, this track is truly the ultimate sequel. In fact, in many ways, it eclipses the original. ''I Feel So Worried'' differs in some ways from Parker's original; the tempo is a touch slower and ''Worried'' is performed in a minor key, or at least comes close to being in a minor key. More on that below. The song also retains the vocal effect (the cry for a flatted-7 note to 8: for example, from B-flat to C) that made ''Feelin' Good'' so memorable, and it captivates the listener once again. Like many of Sun's best blues recordings, this track announces itself and demands attention within the first two bars. Sammy Lewis talk/sing style engaging throughout, and the brief and sudden appearance of a second harmonica at the end of the guitar solo is quite a strong tough.

Not knowing whether this record is in a minor key adds much to its appeal. Without getting too technical, the song is laced with blues notes (flatted-thirds). It's hard to know whether the song is actually written in a major key and features more than its share of blue notes, or whether those flatted thirds are actually part of a minor scale. There's no real way to be sure and whether you're a musician or not, that confusion creates a lot of appealing tension. A fairly well-known example is Dale Hawkins ''Susie Q''. The verdict is no clearer there than it is here. Lewis' vocal, like Parker's before it, is strikingly Southern. In this case, its back country ways may have restricted the disc's urban potential, although it is surprisingly that ''Worried'' didn't grab more attention even in rural venues. Nevertheless, the track is a gem deservedly regarded as one of Sun's best blues records.

33 - So Long Baby Goodbye (2:09) 1955 (Sammy Lewis & Willie Johnson) > Sun 218-B < 
(Sammy Lewis-Willie Johnson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 28, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sammy Lewis (harmonica), Willie Johnson (vocal and guitar), L.C. Hubert (piano),
Joe Nathan Franklin (drums)

This well played blues tune might have had a better fate had it not been buried as the flipside of one of the best records released on Sun. it's not as exceptional as the flip, to be sure, but there is plenty to like here. It's a rock solid 12-bar blues with a fine groove, but unexpectedly there's more than that. The line that has probably remained ingrained in those of us who heard this record as impressionable youths is Willie's immortal entreaty, ''Well all right Sammy, blow the back off it''. It's truly hard to get that image (or those words) out of one's consciousness.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 
 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 7 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

RED HOT RHYTHM

Sam Phillips began recording blues and gospel in 1950. Starting with artists who were already twenty years out-of-date, he swiftly realized that he had to accommodate the changing times. By the mid-fifties when the recordings on this CD were made, commercial blues had morphed into rhythm and blues. Live music on the radio had been largely supplanted by disc-jockeys, and the disc-jockeys found an ever-increasing audience among white kids. Phillips' challenge was to record music that combined the radio-friendliness of pop with the soul of the blues and rhythm and blues' big beat. The payoff for anyone who got it right was immediate and immense. Not only would the original record sell more copies than rhythm and blues records had sold in years past, but pop music song publishers would pick up the publishing and push the song to pop acts. By 1955, the cover version era was well underway. None of Phillips' rhythm and blues songs became pop hits, except ''Just Walkin' In The Rain''... and that was three years after the original, and Phillips didn't own the publishing. But Phillips went one better: he found a white kid with an authentic take on black music.

Billy Love

1 - Gee I Wish (2:14) 1978 (Billy Love) > Not Originally Issued <
(Milton Morse Love-Sam Phillips) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 19, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton ''Billy'' Love (vocal and piano), Harvey Simmons (saxophone),
Jewell Briscoe (saxophone), Lucian Coleman (saxophone),
Charles McGowan (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Houston Stokes (drums)

After an absence from the studio of over a year Billy Love returned to cut a marathon session in January 1954. He'd tried to cut ''Gee I Wish'' back in 1952 with a Latin beat and a very jazzy sax soloist and now the big guns were out again; three saxes, together with a full rhythm section. The session cost Phillips $92.50 to put together, compared with the average cost of $20.25. Lyrically, ''Gee I Wish'' didn't boil down to much, but it was a rambunctious performance. Guitarist Charles McGowan was the hardest working man on the date. The sax soloist leaned toward jazz in the first half of his solo but later returned to join the riffing band, almost as if someone had leaned over and whispered "Too close to jazz, man''. No one can predict hits, but this was entirely congruent with the uptown blues hits of 1954, all of which makes its non-appearance a mystery.

2 - The News Is All Around Town (2:09) 1978 (Billy Love) > Not Originally Issued <
(Milton Morse Love-Sam Phillips) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 19, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton ''Billy'' Love (vocal and piano), Harvey Simmons (saxophone),
Jewell Briscoe (saxophone), Lucian Coleman (saxophone),
Charles McGowan (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Houston Stokes (drums)

This beautifully poised after-hours blues featured Billy Love as himself, rather than in his more customary role of resident chameleon. His vocal was assured and kept pace with the standout lyric ("She shows me no mercy, she feels no shame''). The slow rolling piano is another delight. There is a fluid and jazzy tenor sax solo, and Phillips mic'd the acoustic bass very prominently for an unusually ballsy sound. About the only liability is the drummer, who could have used a short course in subtlety. Fans of Sun ephemera will enjoy the distant ring of the telephone at the end of the first line, a phenomenon most classically associated with Jimmy DeBerry sessions but one opt to appear at any time.

3 - Hey Now (2:43) 1989 (Billy Love) > Not Originally Issued <
(Milton Morse Love-Sam Phillips) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 19, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton ''Billy'' Love (vocal and piano), Harvey Simmons (saxophone),
Jewell Briscoe (saxophone), Lucian Coleman (saxophone),
Charles McGowan (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Houston Stokes (drums)

The master numbers show that this song backed with ''Way After Midnight'' were slated as a single between Raymond Hill's single and James Cotton's first single. Surely, it was at least as commercial as those two. With Ruth Brown's ''Mambo Baby'' and the Drifters' ''Honey Love'' hitting number 1, rhythm and blues was still fooling with Latin rhythms, and Love and his rhythm section had no problem with that. If ''Hey Now'' didn't boil down to much as a song, it hit a sweet groove. The Ray Charles-sized combo included alto saxophonist Lucian Coleman... younger brother of sometime Miles Davis tenor saxophonist George Coleman. A few years later, Lucian tutored Isaac Hayes. Guitarist Charles McGowan was another skilled musician who schooled Fenton Robinson and accompanied him on his first record for Meteor a few years later.

4 - Way After Midnight (2:48) 1985 (Billy Love) > Not Originally Issued <
(Milton Morse Love-Sam Phillips) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 19, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton ''Billy'' Love (vocal and piano), Harvey Simmons (saxophone),
Jewell Briscoe (saxophone), Lucian Coleman (saxophone),
Charles McGowan (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Houston Stokes (drums)

Somber perhaps, but wonderfully intense. The group wailing in the background gives it an immediately charged atmosphere. Love's vocal is hugely confident and his piano work is every bit a match. Alto player Lucian Coleman seems destined for outer space during his solo, working some jazz changes into Love's basic 12 bar blues. Such a pity that Love never lived to see a little belated recognition. Phillips registered this copyright with BMI in May, 1954, and it was to be the other side of ''Hey Now''. In retrospect, one line rings especially true, "I'm drinking whiskey like water''. Right there was Love's problem. Alcohol ruined his
career, and might have played into Phillips' decision to shelve this single.

5 - Hart's Bread Boogie (2:42) 1978 (Billy Love) > Not Originally Issued <
(Milton Billy Love) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Possibly May 3, 1954
Recorded January 19, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Love (vocal and piano), Pat Hare *guitar), Unknown (bass and drums)

Bakeries and flour manufacturers had an almost religious belief in the ability of hillbilly and blues musicians to shift their products. There was King Biscuit, Mothers Best, Martha White, and even a local Memphis bakery, Hart's. As far back as 1950, Harts was sponsoring Willie Nix on KWEM and a talent show at the Hippodrome on Beale Street. Presumably, the company commissioned this song, bankrolling hillbilly versions by Curley Hickson and Slim Rhodes and this one by Billy Love. As Hart's didn't deliver far outside Memphis, it's at least possible that the hillbilly versions were recorded at Sun as well. Love delivers the song in the half-spoken, insinuating style that Ray Charles had employed on ''It Should Have Been Me''. The grainy-toned guitarist is all over the recording, sounding for all the world like Pat Hare. A marginally different version appeared at the time on the Hart's label.

A chronicler of old Memphis, Vance Lauderdale, wrote this about the Hart's Bread bakery at Summer and Mendenhall. '''The sign stood like a beacon. It was a combination neon and mechanical. You had a huge bright-red heart mounted on a fluted aluminum pedestal, On each side neon-shaped hearts, arranged one inside the other, which got smaller and smaller as they reached the center. These were in yellow, and as the neon tubes flashed on and off, in and out, in sequence, the heart seem to pulse or beat. At the exact moment when every tube of neon was illuminated, the giant cursive letters spelling out ''Hart's'' across the sign. Then they turned off, and the whole ''heartbeat'' started again. Mounted on top of this, was a full-color Volkswagen-sized loaf of Hart's bread''. So even the sign did the ''Hart's Bread Boogie''.

Little Junior's Blue Flames

6 - Sittin' At The Bar (2:32) 1978 (Little Junior's Blue Flames) > Not Originally Issued <
(Herman Parker-Sam Phillips) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 2, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Herman Parker (vocal), Pat Hare (guitar), Unknown (alto saxophone),
Raymond Hill (tenor saxophone), James Wheeler (tenor saxophone),
Bill Johnson (piano), Kenneth Banks (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

For those who wondered what ''Love My Baby'' would have sounded like with Pat Hare instead of Floyd Murphy, this half-way supplies the answer. Mystery envelops these unissued-at-the-time recordings by Parker. Did he deliberately plagiarize himself, knowing he had to deliver a few more recordings to get out of his contract? Not wanting high quality Sun singles competing with his new Duke records, did he purposely leave sub-standard songs? Was Phillips enjoined from releasing these songs as part of the settlement with Don Robey? Sixty years on, the answers are no clearer.

7 - Sittin' At My Window (2:00) 1978 (Little Junior's Blue Flames) > Not Originally Issued <
(Herman Parker-Sam Phillips) (Bluesman Music)
Recorded March 2, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Herman Parker (vocal), Pat Hare (guitar), Bill Johnson (piano),
Kenneth Banks (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

This appears to be a one-off session with a prominent piano and at least two saxophonists, one of whom wanted to play jazz. If there's a guitarist, he's confined to rhythm. The instrumental line-up and overall sound is closer to Junior's Duke recordings than his two Sun singles.

B.B. King's ''Woke Up This Morning'' must have turned a lot of heads because this is yet another recording that shuttles between mambo on the verses and 4/4 on the chorus and solo. Junior was always a consistent seller so it's hard to penetrate Phillips' reasoning in not issuing this, unless, as mentioned earlier, he was legally enjoined from doing so.

The great unanswered and unanswerable question is what would have happened if Phillips had been able to hang onto Parker and perhaps Bobby Bland. Together with Rosco Gordon, Little Milton, and Billy Emerson, he would have had the core of an rhythm and blues label to match Duke-Peacock if not Atlantic.

8 - Sittin' Drinkin' And Thinkin' (2:09) 1978 (Little Junior's Blue Flames) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded March 2, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Herman Parker (vocal), Pat Hare (guitar), Bill Johnson (piano),
Kenneth Banks (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

This too comes from an unknown session. We know that ''Mystery Train''/''Love My Baby'' was issued on or around November 1, 1953, and four weeks later Parker and a full band were in Houston recording this song and three others for Don Robey's Duke Records. We don't know if this was recorded before or after the Duke session, but it was mastered and scheduled for release with ''Feelin' Bad'' around February 1954. The guitarist on both versions was audibly Pat Hare. Here, he fills incessantly around Junior's vocal and takes a marvelously jazzy solo. Junior's too-cool-for-the-room vocal is broken up by a couple of Roy Brown moans.

Junior had been part of Johnny Ace's revue, but in January 1954 Don Robey made him the headliner of his own show, later adding Bobby Bland to form Blues Consolidated. Clearly, Robey knew he was courting trouble by recording Junior in December 1953 because he held back ''Sittin', Drinkin' And Thinkin''' until June 1954, and by then there had been a lawsuit from Phillips. Upon release of the Duke version, 'Billboard' said, "Ork weaves a moody backdrop. A good blues etching that can easily move into the money''. In 1958, Junior recorded the very similar ''Sittin' And Thinkin''' for Duke (credited to Joe Scott and Don Robey), and in 1977 his Sun recording finally appeared.

Raymond Hill

9 - The Snuggle (3:00) 1954 (Raymond Hill) > Sun 204-B <
(Raymond Hill) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded April 12, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Raymond Hill (tenor saxophone), Bobby Fields (tenor saxophone), Billy Emerson (piano),
Ike Turner (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass), Robert Prindell (drums)

On April 12, 1954, Ike Turner A&R'd a Billy Emerson session at Sun that yielded ''The Woodchuck'' b/w ''I'm Not Going Home''. Before or after Emerson took the vocal mic, Turner persuaded Sam Phillips to let his longtime saxophonist, Raymond Hill, cut a couple of instrumentals. When Hill had recorded earlier at Sun he was a vocalist as well as a reed man, and the result can best be described as mixed. As a saxophonist, he's on safer turf, and so keen to show off his chops that he hardly lets anyone else squeeze in. This, the slow and greasy side, was probably the flip. The session costs, $112.50, were split between Emerson and Hill. For some reason, Phillips took fifty percent of the composer's share of both sides of this single. He did the same thing when Billy Love recorded a few weeks earlier; otherwise, he rarely cut himself in.

10 - Bourbon Street Jump (2:39) 1954 (Raymond Hill) > Sun 204-A <
(Raymond Hill) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded April 12, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Raymond Hill (tenor saxophone), Bobby Fields (tenor saxophone), Billy Emerson (piano),
Ike Turner (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass), Robert Prindell (drums)

In the late 1940s, there was a vogue for muscular sax instrumentals, and Savoy Records cornered the market with Wild Bill Moore, Big Jay McNeely, Hal ''Cornbread'' Singer, Paul Williams, and Sam ''The Man'' Taylor. The honkers' hey-day earned a swift reprise here. It's possible that Phillips saw ''Bourbon Street Jump's'' simple riff as a radio theme tune, and hoped that he would make back in BMI radio airplay money what he lost in session and pressing costs. And perhaps that's why he uncharacteristically grabbed fifty percent of the composer's share.

Billy ''The Kid'' Emerson

11 - Shim Sham Shimmy (2:21) 1979 (Billy 'The Kid' Emerson) > Not Originally Issued <
(William R. Emerson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded October 27, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Billy Emerson (vocal and piano), Bennie Moore (tenor saxophone),
Luther Taylor (alto saxophone), Charles Smith (trumpet),
Elven Parr (guitar), Robert Prindell (drums)

The version "Shim Sham Shimmy" presented here is an alternate to that issued on the Sun Blues Sunbox 105. It remains a real mystery as to why this side was never released: it's among the most instantly catchy of Emerson's songs, made all the more memorable by the band chanting the refrain. Admittedly the pure blues content here is low, but this was a solid commercial effort - and was resurrected by Emerson as "Do The Chicken" some three years later at a Vee-Jay session. (The take used here is different to that used on the original Sun Box).

No music stands still without atrophying and dying, and this bears evidence of the changes overtaking rhythm and blues. White kids were picking up on the music.. In fact, a few weeks after this session, one of them would walk into Phillips' studio. Rhythm and blues disc jockeys loved the commercially savvy music pouring forth from Atlantic Records in New York. As the gutbucket era receded into the past, Billy The Kid Emerson could and made it.

12 - When It Rains It Pours (3:11) 1954 (Billy 'The Kid' Emerson) > Sun 214-B <
(William R. Emerson) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 27, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Billy Emerson (vocal and piano), Bennie Moore (tenor saxophone),
Luther Taylor (alto saxophone), Charles Smith (trumpet),
Elven Parr (guitar), Robert Prindell (drums)

Marion Keisker remembered Elvis Presley coming into the Sun studio asking if he could cover versions of the day's top hits. Sam Phillips had two good reasons for refusing: he didn't own the publishing and there were already enough versions competing for airplay. Thus, Phillips led Presley copyrights form his Hi Lo Music catalog whenever possible. Among these was Billy Emerson's ''When It Rains It Pours'', recorded by Emerson three months after Presley's first session. Presley duly recorded it for Sun in November 1955, although it wasn't finished. During the Million Dollar Quartet session in December 1956 Presley sung a couple of lines of ''When It Rains It Pours''. As the tape ran, he said he'd put it on an album if he could get a good enough cut. When Phillips asked if he had the record, Elvis asked for one. Phillips said he'd go look, and you can bet he did. Elvis cut it in February 1957, but Phillips wouldn't gave up a piece of the music publishing so Elvis publishers, Hill & Range, prevailed upon RCA to sit on the master until 1965. Presley unfinished Sun recording wasn't issued until 1983.

Emerson's record is by no means overshadowed by Presley's. Talking to Stuart Colman in 1980, he recalled the song's origin. ''We came all the way down from Chicago to record this record. We brought some fellas, some musicians, all the way down, car broke down, rain storm - It rained like water pouring out of a barrel, never seen it rain that hard... And you're talking about when it rains it pours, I sang that song from my heart that day''. Emerson went to describe how the car broke down and they stopped at a club they knew in Arkansas. The owner drove them to Memphis the next day to make the session. By then, Emerson had the song written. The instrumental break is a beautiful moment in Sun rhythm and blues history. Emerson's cry of ''All right''! sets up Bennie Moore's powerful solo, beginning with a tense sustained note. Moore was angry with Phillips for having to do so many takes and his frustration was vented here. Elven Parr's guitar had a fine dirty tone and his incessant chording ramped up the tension behind Moore. Emerson recorded the song again in 1959 for Chess (although the tape was lost) and for Mad Records in 1960. On the latter occasion, he changed the slightly bizarre line ''You really opened up my nose'' to ''You really opened my door'', and wrote a very appealing bridge. 

13 - Move Baby Move (2:47) 1954 (Billy 'The Kid' Emerson) > Sun 214-A <
(William R. Emerson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 27, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Billy Emerson (vocal and piano), Bennie Moore (tenor saxophone),
Luther Taylor (alto saxophone), Charles Smith (trumpet),
Elven Parr (guitar), Robert Prindell (drums)

Emerson himself admitted that this song owed more than a passing nod to the influence of Big Joe Turner (how could he seriously claim otherwise?). In fact, the melody is a note for note copy of Big Joe's hit of the day, ''Shake, Rattle And Roll'', and would surely have earned Phillips another lawsuit if it had been successful. For all its lack of originally, ''Move Baby Move'' is irresistibly rhythmic. Once again, Emerson sets up Bennie Moore for a fine sax solo. It's just as well that the rhythm was abetted by hand clapping because this is not one of Phillips' better efforts in the art of crisply recorded drums. Upon release in January 1955, Billboard picked ''Move Baby Move'' over ''When It Rains It Pours'', saying, ''This hand-clapping, foot-stomping opus is tailor made for the current trend... solid, irresistible beat sells this side.

14 - Red Hot (2:25) 1955 (Billy 'The Kid' Emerson) > Sun 219-A <
(William Robert Emerson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 31, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Billy Emerson (vocal and piano), Jewell Briscoe (tenor saxophone),
Moses Reed (tenor saxophone), Calvin Newborn (guitar),
Kenneth Banks (bass), Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums)

Emerson derived this song from a cheerleader chant ''Our team is red hot...'' and recorded it with a band put together by Phineas Newborn, Sr. Rock and roll was clearly the coming thing when Emerson and Newborn settled down to record this in May 1955. A Little over eighteen months later, Sam Phillips pitched the song to one of his rockabilly singers, Billy Riley, who stripped down the lyrics and goosed up the tempo while retaining Emerson's classic retort ''Your girl ain't doodley squat''. Bob Luman covered Riley's record, but from that point the song remained untouched until Sam the Sham recorded it in 1966 in Phillips' new studio at Madison Avenue. Ten years later Robert Gordon turned in a sizzling rockabilly, rather than rhythm and blues classic. (H

15 - Satisfied (2:12) 1989 (Billy 'The Kid' Emerson) > Not Originally Issued <
(William Robert Emerson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded May 31, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Billy Emerson (vocal and piano), Jewell Briscoe (tenor saxophone),
Moses Reed (tenor saxophone), Calvin Newborn (guitar),
Kenneth Banks (bass), Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums)

The presence of an electric bass and the song's position on the original reels suggest that ''Satisfied'' dates from Emerson's first Sun session in January 1954 with Ike Turner and the Clarksdale guys, not, as previously assumed, from the ''Red Hot''/''No Greater Love'' session with the Phineas Newborn band. If, as seems likely, ''Satisfied'' was an unpublished Emerson song, he thought outside established rhythm and blues tropes. Perhaps the song's only weakness is that the title isn't immediately apparent. ''Satisfied'' is one of several titles it could have had. The electric bass contributed far more than subtle underscoring. Working with the drums, it created a swampy bed track for Ike Turner's pinched guitar lines. Everyone seemed to be in search of something different.

16 - Something For Nothing (2:49) 1956 (Billy 'The Kid' Emerson) > Sun 233-B <
(William Robert Emerson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded November 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Billy Emerson (vocal), Billy Love (piano), Jewell Briscoe (tenor saxophone),
Moses Reed (tenor saxophone), Calvin Newborn (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums)

In November 1955, Billy Emerson was back at Sun to record what would prove to be his last session. On the twenty-second of the same month, he was recording for Vee-Jay in his newly adopted home town, Chicago. For his last Sun session, he was reunited with Phineas Newborn, Sr's nightclub band. Emerson rated his work on ''Something For Noting'' very highly, and with good reason, ''That was the best'', Emerson said later. ''That was when I really found my style. You're listening to the real Billy The Kid Emerson''. Talking to Jim O'Neal later, he was a little more forthcoming. ''That song came about from a Butterbeans and Susie routine. 'Now looka here, Susie, you sure is tight, you ain't never gonna treat yo' papa Butter right. 'She made a reply and he would sing, 'Something for noting seems to be your/You oughta get yourself a monkey 'cause you sure don't need no man''. He's remembering Butterbeans & Susie's 1930 record of ''Papa Ain't No Santa Claus (And Mama Ain't No Christmas Tree)''. Talk about handling it on. 

17 - Little Fine Healthy Thing (2:35) 1956 (Billy 'The Kid' Emerson) > Sun 233-A <
(William Robert Emerson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded November 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
William Billy Emerson (vocal), Billy Love (piano), Jewell Briscoe (tenor saxophone),
Moses Reed (tenor saxophone), Calvin Newborn (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums)

This is a catchy, melodic composition with more spice and variety than most rhythm and blues titles from the period. It also shows up Emerson's limitations as a vocalist, he was competent, even distinctive, but lacked the aggressiveness of many of his contemporaries. Emerson seemed to have a penchant for woman who could make ''a bulldog hug a hound...'' a familiar line after Johnny Temple popularized it on ''Big Leg Woman''. Emerson, though, prided himself on being a songwriter, not just another reshuffle of blues cliches. What he says here is both loving and lecherous; a combination. She should have been flattered, who ever she was.

Billy the Kid Emerson's last Sun single was sandwitched between Johnny Cash's ''Folsom Prison Blues'' and Carl Perkins' ''Blue Suede Shoes''. Even before those two records became hits, Emerson saw the writing on the wall, and was gone from Sun Records.

Charlie Booker

18 - Baby I'm Coming Home (2:37) 1985 (Charlie Booker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Charlie Booker) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Chris ''Charlie'' Booker (vocal and guitar), Oliver Sain (saxophone),
Otis Green (saxophone), John W. ''Big Moose'' Walker (piano),
Willie Dodson Bass), Junior Blackmon (drums)

Charley Booker had previously recorded for Modern Records under the auspices of Ike Turner... not Sam Phillips, and it was Turner who arranged Booker's solitary Sun session. Dating that session isn't easy. It was assumed to have followed swiftly on the heels of Booker's Modern recordings as leader and sideman in January 1952, but it was recorded over an out-take of the Prisonaires ''Baby Please'' from June 1953. It seems likelier that this dates to late 1953 or more likely 1954. In Greenville, Mississippi, Jesse ''Cleanhead'' Love and ''Little Bill'' (Walace), had a band with Otis Green and Willie Dotson on tenor saxes, J.W. Walker on piano, T.J. Green on bass, and Junior Blackmon or Blackman on drums, and it seems as if those were the guys who accompanied Booker on his trip to Memphis.

This bears the hallmarks of having been based on B.B. King's recent single, "Woke Up This Morning", which juxtaposed mambo and fast 4/4 rhythms. It was, of course Booker who played the grainy electric guitar. Oliver Sain and Willie Dodson's saxes riff away happily and its probably Sain taking the brief tenor solo. Charlie sounds completely at home in this modern setting. This first take is marred, but only slightly, by drummer Junior Blackman neglecting to return to a mambo rhythm over the final verses.

19 - Walked All Night (2:42) 1977 (Charlie Booker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Charlie Booker) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Chris ''Charlie'' Booker (vocal and guitar), Oliver Sain (saxophone),
Otis Green (saxophone), John W. ''Big Moose'' Walker (piano),
Willie Dodson Bass), Junior Blackmon (drums)

The harsh vibrato in Charlie's voice and his penchant for singing minor notes against the major tonality of the piece adds to the tension instilled by the deliberate tempo. In many ways, this track epitomises all that is excellent Sun blues. Taut and urgent, this song's spiritual home was in the Delta. Booker said it was his shot at updating Charley Patton, and it was indeed rooted in Patton's 1929 recording of ''Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues'', issued under the pseudonym of the Masked Marvel. Most of the lyrics and the guitar vamp come from that Patton record. Clearly, the Masked Marvel's identity was no secret to Charley Booker. It's really too bad that Booker's Sun recordings weren't issued. They prove once again how capricious the music business can be. As good as he clearly was, Booker didn't record for nearly twenty years.

Eddie Snow

20 - Don't Dog Me Around (2:46) 1989 (Eddie Snow) > Not Originally Issued <
(Eddie Snow) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Late 1954/Early 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Probably Eddie Davis (saxophone), Bennie Moore (saxophone),
Floyd Murphy (guitar), Jeff Greyer (drums)

Eddie Snow first appeared on the doorstep at 706 Union in 1952 as the pianist and vocalist with Elven Parr's In The Groove Boys. They had journeyed from Osceola, Arkansas to make a demo for Chess. Snow reappeared at least twice more without Parr, probably once in 1954 and again at a logged session in 1955 that yielded his only Sun single. Seemingly taking his cue from Ray Charles' ''Mess Around'', on this track Snow kicks off three songs that probably come from this 1954 session. All of his songs are on tape together, but the mix on this and the two songs that follow is too sloppy and the recording quality too muddy for it to belong with the single. And it's unlikely that Phillips would have cycled Snow's vocal through tape delay on the single, but left it dry on these three cuts. The guitar is way upfront in the mix and takes a two-chorus solo. There's a lot of energy here; more energy than clarity, in fact.

21 - Mean Mean Woman (3:01) 1989 (Eddie Snow) > Not Originally Issued <
(Eddie Snow) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Late 1954/Early 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Probably Eddie Davis (saxophone), Bennie Moore (saxophone),
Floyd Murphy (guitar), Jeff Greyer (drums)

Although not assigned to a specific session, its fairly safe to identify the proto-rockabilly guitar style of Floyd Murphy on ''Mean Mean Woman'', although he seems to have lost the fighting edge to be heard on Junior Parker's sides. The other possibility is that this is another guitarist attempting the Murphy style. The song's sentiments are roughly equivalent to the preceding track, and Snow makes it clear that if he can't be his woman's boss, he won't be her man at all. On those terms, he's likely to have remained a bachelor for the rest of his natural life. Before Floyd Murphy was sidelined by a stroke, he remembered working a session with Eddie Snow, so it could very well be him. Snow was an unsubtle vocalist without much range, and on the evidence here his act probably worked better in clubs than on records, a judgment underscored by the fact that he didn't record again until late in life.

22 - Stay With Me Baby (2:37) 1978 (Eddie Snow) > Not Originally Issued <
(Eddie Snow) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Late 1954/Early 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Probably Eddie Davis (saxophone), Bennie Moore (saxophone),
Floyd Murphy (guitar), Jeff Greyer (drums)

Snow doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind whether to sing "Stay" or "Stick with me baby" he sings both during the course of this take and on the one that succeeded it. With the exception of a verse about the adverse consequences of playing the numbers, the singer spends his time ruing his previous actions in a manner that seems to guarantee his baby's departure. As the performance falls apart at its end, the drummer goes into whirlwind mode to prove it wasn't his fault. The sax man, probably Eddie Davis, here sounds so fluent and brimful of ideas that he could very well be jazz titan Eddie ''Lockjaw'' Davis. In 1956, Davis made some solo recordings for King Records. In New York leading a prototypical sax-organ combo, and he worked on and off with Count Basie from 1952 until 1955, so it's at least possible that it's him. It's clear that Eddie Snow had solidly commercial songwriting chops, but simply didn't have the distinctiveness as a singer needed to compete in rhythm and blues circa 1955.

23 - Who's Been Drinking My Wine (3:08) 1989 (Eddie Snow) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 19, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Floyd Murphy (guitar), Eddie Davis (tenor saxophone),
Bennie Moore (alto saxophone), Jeff Greyer (drums)

''Who's Been Drinking My Wine'' this song is drawn from the ''Mama Don't Allow'' style book. The core theme is stated (in this case, the mysterious disappearance of Eddie Snow's wine) and everyone in the band comes forward for his moment of suspicion. This kind of performance can be fun, but generally works betters at a live gig than on record. The track features riffing horns and some stop rhythms, as well as an incessant beat not unlike an uptempo version of Smokey Joe's ''The Signifying Monkey''. Snow reveals yet again that he ain't much of a vocalist. Curiously, he alternates between being off-mic and pushing the needle into the red zone. The end is a raggedy mess, suggesting this was simply a warm-up track that managed to get taped and preserved, with no serious thought given to release at any time.

24 - Sorry Little Baby (2:54) 1989 (Eddie Snow) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded July 19, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Floyd Murphy (guitar), Eddie Davis (tenor saxophone),
Bennie Moore (alto saxophone), Jeff Greyer (drums)

The first 12 bars really lay down a fine instrumental groove and Eddie's vocal just slides right in and takes full advantage. During the 120bar break things are turned over to Eddie's piano. Unfortunately he doesn't have very much to say. Stay tuned: that problem is about to be addressed in the next take.

25 - Got To Put You Down (2:59) 1977 (Eddie Snow) > Not Originally Issued <
(Eddie Snow) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 19, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Floyd Murphy (guitar), Eddie Davis (tenor saxophone),
Bennie Moore (alto saxophone), Jeff Greyer (drums)

Despite the different title, you've probably figured it out. This is an alternate take of the same song (''Sorry Little Baby''). One law of songwriting is that you can't copyright a title. As you can see here, a brand new title didn't change anything. But there are important musical changes as you're about to hear. Take a listen to just how important the balance between vocal and band can be. Sam had adjusted the dials et voila! This is what mixing is all about. Another change worth noting: gone is Snow's pointless noodling on the piano, replaced this time by a lovely fluid sax solo. This is an appealing combination of grit and class. The player was very much more than just another honker, lending credence to the belief that it's future hard bop star Eddie ''Lockjaw'' Davis. Once things get going, Snow uses the rolling rhythm to show off his limited vocal chops. He also brings in some unusual vocal lines (''my nose is on the ground'' is a highlight). So is that final verse about ''like a baby loves his milk''? Just where is Eddie going with that? What's going to rhyme with milk? There aren't that many options and Snow chooses a rather strange one: something about how a silkworm feels about his silk. The only other songwriter to come close to invoking this image was W.C. Handy in ''Loveless Love'' (''From milkless milk and silkless silk/We are growing used to soul-less souls''). Just how does a silkworm feel about his (or her) silk? Is it a close relationship? One thing for sure: of the thousands of recording done at 706 Union Avenue, it's the only one that has ever invoked images of silkworms.

26 - Bring Your Love Back Home (3:14) 1955 (Eddie Snow) > Sun 226-B <
(Eddie Snow) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 19, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Floyd Murphy (guitar), Eddie Davis (tenor saxophone),
Bennie Moore (alto saxophone), Jeff Greyer (drums)

This was the leading contender from Snow's 1955 session, issued on Sun that August. It was a rolling blues with a catchy tune, and it might have done quite well but for Phillips' lack of resources and the fact that Sun was now touting itself in the trade papers as ''America's number 1 Country Label''. As well as saxophonist Eddie Davis, Snow featured another Elven Parr alumnus, Bennie Moore. It's pretty clear from Moore's sax solo here that he had spent long nights listening to Charlie Parkers 78s.

27 - Ain't That Right (2:35) 1955 (Eddie Snow) > Sun 226-A <
(Eddie Snow) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 19, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Floyd Murphy (guitar), Eddie Davis (tenor saxophone),
Bennie Moore (alto saxophone), Jeff Greyer (drums)

This side of his only Sun single, Eddie Snow tried a semi-talking misogynistic blues in the manner of Willie Mabon and, more recently, Ray Charles. This was slick, commercial rhythm and blues, and just the sort of thing that Sam Phillips should have been recording if his head hadn't been turning in an altogether different direction. When Billboard got around to reviewing it in October 1955, it said ''Snow walls some salty philosophy in this potent talking and refrain effort. Should do well in many sectors. Good down-to-earth stuff''. Indeed.

Rosco Gordon

28 - That's What You Do To Me (2:48) 1978 (Rosco Gordon) > Not Originally Issued <
(Rosco Gordon) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably February 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rosco Gordon (vocal and piano), Billy Duncan (alto saxophone), Charles Taylor (alto saxophone),
Richard Sanders (baritone saxophone), Willie Wilkes (tenor saxophone),
Foree Wells (guitar), Tuff Green (bass), John Murry Daley (drums)

The result of this later session by Rosco Gordon give clear evidence of the advent of rock and roll. Rosco's style had evolved since his first session for Sam Phillips four years earlier. At the least, the lyrical content of these songs, while not timeless poetry, was still beyond the primitive rantings of ''Rosco's Boogie''. This used the irony of opposites to make its point... a lyrical device he'd first used earlier on ''Saddled The Cow (And Milked The Horse)''. Rosco's well known sense of humor resurfaces in lines like ''I wear oil on my face, powder on my hair / I'm a strange acting man, but I just don't care''. His second reading of ''That's What You Do To Me'' of the title line in each couplet is especially melodic. The song rolls along nicely with the loping shuffle Rosco made his own. The recording features a surprisingly active guitar player. When Rosco moved on to Vee-Jay Records three years later, the song was still buzzing around in his head. He recorded it for that label in 1959, with a considerably different arrangement, and that's when it finally saw commercial release.

29 - I Found A New Love (3:03) 1985 (Rosco Gordon) > Not Originally Issued <
(Rosco Gordon) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably February 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rosco Gordon (vocal and piano), Billy Duncan (alto saxophone), Charles Taylor (alto saxophone),
Richard Sanders (baritone saxophone), Willie Wilkes (tenor saxophone),
Foree Wells (guitar), Tuff Green (bass), John Murry Daley (drums)

''I Found A New Love'', this title is a very effective version of Rosco's trademark shuffle. The man turns in a slick and confident vocal performances, bringing an unexpected measure of variety into his phrasing. The instrumental highlight of the cut is Richard Sanders' baritone sax which provides a solid bottom, ample rhythmic thrust, and an ending that must have pushed Phillips' VU meter into the red zone.

30 - I'm Gonna Shake It (1:59) 1985 (Rosco Gordon) > Previously Unissued <
(Rosco Gordon) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably February 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rosco Gordon (vocal and piano), Billy Duncan (alto saxophone), Charles Taylor (alto saxophone),
Richard Sanders (baritone saxophone), Willie Wilkes (tenor saxophone),
Foree Wells (guitar), Tuff Green (bass), John Murry Daley (drums)

It's pretty clear that Little Richard had appeared on the scene by the time Rosco recorded ''I'm Gonna Shake It''. This is a rollicking performance, if not one of Rosco's lyrical masterpiece. It's rhythm and blues on the cusp of rock and roll, mirroring the changing musical times. Richard Sanders provides a solid anchor with his guttural baritone sax, but the real instrumental highlight comes from drummer John Murry Daley, who offers some standout counter-rhythms in the 2-bar break between verses.

31 - Let's Get High (2:35) 1978 (Rosco Gordon) > Not Originally Issued <
(Rosco Gordon) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably February 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rosco Gordon (vocal and piano), Billy Duncan (alto saxophone), Charles Taylor (alto saxophone),
Richard Sanders (baritone saxophone), Willie Wilkes (tenor saxophone),
Foree Wells (guitar), Tuff Green (bass), John Murry Daley (drums)

Following his patented "No More Doggin'" introduction, Rosco and the boys launch into a confident arrangement which features prominent drumming John Daley, and a riffing baritone sax played by Richard Sanders. A strong song and performance throughout, only an inappropriate major seventh ending reveals the likely spontaneous nature of the arrangement. Interestingly, when Rosco went back into the studio in 1984 to record a moving tribute to his late wife, he cut a new version of "Let's Get High" for the flip.

Guitar Red

32 - Go Ahead On (2:14) 1977 (Guitar Red) > Not Originally Issued <
(Vincent Duling) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Vincent ''Guitar Red'' Duling (vocal and guitar), Dennis Binder (piano), Al Smith (bass),
Aaron Corthen (saxophone), Robert Prindell (drums)

The two tracks by Vincent ''Guitar Red'' Duling clearly date from the rock and roll era. Duling's bent-note guitar style belongs in the later era and drummer Robert Prindell keeps rock-steady time behind him. The song bears a similarity to Johnny Fuller's 1958 Checker recording of ''All Night Long'' and it could have been recorded that late. This was Dennis Binder's group, and in 1956 he was joined by saxophonist Aaron Corthen, who worked in Chicago and later sprang to prominence as A.C. Reed. This incarnation of Binder's group hung together from 1956 until 1960 or 1961, so this session almost certainly dates from those years. After toiling in anonymity for some years, Reed came to the fore with Buddy Guy during the 1970s. He left Guy in 1977, touring with Albert Collins before going out on his own. Reed died in 2004. Guitar Red died in 2001. Dennis Binder is still among us as of this writing.

33 - Baby Please Don't Go (2:43) 1977 (Guitar Red) > Not Originally Issued <
(Vincent Duling) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Vincent ''Guitar Red'' Duling (vocal and guitar), Dennis Binder (piano), Al Smith (bass),
Aaron Corthen (saxophone), Robert Prindell (drums)

If Fats Domino could do it, why not Guitar Red? The shadow of Fats looms over this track. It's not the New Orleans piano and sax; Red's vocal is a note for note done of Fats' melody lines. This song compresses the familiar elements of about five Fats Domino hit records into one tune but ultimately sounds undistinguished. At best it was a B-side looking for a hit.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube < 
 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 8 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

THERE IS LOVE IN YOU

The early years of Sam Phillips' studio focused primarily on small blues combos, back porch singers, and rhythm and blues bands. But that was not the whole of the black music story in and around Memphis, and it was not the whole of the story at 706 Union Avenue either. This CD features some of the secular vocal groups and the gospel quartets that made their way through Phillips' studio in those years.

Despite his own liking for gospel music and the wealth of talent that Memphis offered, Sam Phillips was essentially uncertain about his ability to market vocal groups, and gospel groups in particular. Black harmony
groups were generally easy to record and the Prisonaires gained some success with their secular songs and their newsworthy story but only 11 of these 32 tracks were issued at the time.

The Prisonaires

1 - Just Walking In The Rain (2) (The Prisonaires) > Not Originally Issued <
(Robert Riley-Johnny Bragg-Buddy Killen) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date Spring 1953 at Tennessee State Penitentiary, Nashville, Tennessee
or Possibly WSIX Radio Studio, Nashville, Tennessee
Johnny Bragg (lead tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal), John Drue (tenor vocal).
William Stewart )baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal)

A newscaster on Nashville's WSIX, Joe Calloway, was at the Tennessee State Penitentiary when he heard the Prisonaires and arranged for them to perform on the station. He brought them to the attention of producer Red Wortham who taped the group and pitched them to Sam Phillips via their mutual partner, Jim Bulleit. Pat Boone was also on WSIX at the time hosting a Saturday morning show called ''Youth On Parade'' with Joyce Paul. In a figurative act of revenge for his future cover versions of rhythm and blues songs, the Prisonaires were taped over Boone, who can be heard between songs. The tape made its way to Sam Phillips and was mistakenly used as the master on some early 1970s reissues when the original master couldn't be found. Although not a Sun recording here. Johnny Bragg's vocal on the released version was a little more orotund, but the recordings were otherwise very close, suggesting that the Prisonaires had put their plentiful rehearsal time to very good use, working and reworking every syllable and nuance

2 - A Prisoner's Prayer (The Prisonaires) > SUN 191-A <
(James Proctor) (Memphis Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 3, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Bragg (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (tenor vocal), William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar),
Marcell Sanders (bass vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal), Ike Turner (piano and guitar),
Possible Ike Turner (bass)

Only in the most technical sense is this a gospel recording. The subject matter is only remotely spiritual. More cynically, this is a pop record designed to capitalize on the unique status of the group. The composer was a white member of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Jim Proctor. As prison music, this is certainly a long way from work songs and field hollers, and it makes the penitentiary seem like a place of monastic calm and quiet contemplation. The reference to Cell Block 23 certainly brings it down to a nuts and bolts level. The vocal performance owes little to the classic quartet tradition, and equally little to then-current vocal group music. It centres more upon the lead singing of Johnny Bragg, dueting occasionally with bass singer Marcell Sanders. Sparse and effective instrumental support was provided by Ike Turner on electric guitar and William Stewart on acoustic guitar. The problem was that Sam Phillips had been the coverage of ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'', and decided that the Prisonaires' story was more significant than their music. In pandering to that, he got it wrong. After a gospel single pairing ''Softly And Tenderly'' with ''My God Is Real'', this was another commercial mis-step.

3 - Don't Say Tomorrow (The Prisonaires) > Not Originally Issued <
(Robert Riley) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded February 2, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Bragg (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (tenor vocal), William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar),
Marcell Sanders (bass vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal)

Sam Phillips certainly brought an idiosyncratic approach to recording vocal group. It was one style for which he had little feeling, possibly accounting for some of the incongruous, if pleasant results. This may be the finest unreleased track the Prisonaires left behind at Sun. ''Don't Say Tomorrow'' is a lovely, melodic performance with strong harmony and driving rhythm. Basser Marcell Sanders is the standout performer here, although everyone was in fine shape. One can only guess at the joyous sounds that flowed from the car as the Prisonaires and their guard drove back to the Nashville pen after the session in Phillips' studio. If this track had been recorded in New York the simple acoustic guitar would probably have been replaced by a riffing sax section and some piano boogie. As it is, the sound owes more to earlier quartet styles than the uptown sound of the Drifters or the Clovers. ''Don't Say Tomorrow'' is a little masterpiece caught out of time. The song was composed in 1953 by Robert Riley, but not registered with BMI until 1957 when Riley pitched it to the Hollyhocks on Excello's teen-slanted labels, Nasco.

4 - There Is Love In You (The Prisonaires) > Sun 207-A <
(Johnny Bragg-William Stewart) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 8, 1954 at Tennessee State Penitentiary, Nashville, Tennessee
Johnny Bragg (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (tenor vocal), William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar),
Marcell Sanders (bass vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal)

In May 1954, Sam Phillips went to the Tennessee State Penitentiary with his portable recording equipment and cut what would be their last Sun single, "What'll You Do Next" and "There Is Love In You". It was released on July 1, 1954, a few days before Sam Phillips found the path towards commercial salvation with Elvis Presley. If Phillips had his ear a little closer to the ground, he would have known that the sound of doo-wop was changing.

Governor Frank Clement was running for re-election, and his political opponents, not to mention the newspapers, had been jumping all over him for his irresponsible ideas on prison reform ever since the Prisonaires had starting making outside appearances the previous July. Sam Phillips entered the prison gates not without a certain amount of trepidation, it was a maximum-security prison designed to hold twelve hundred with a population of a thousand more. But Sam knew that if he were to show fear, he would only be drawing further attention to himself. So, with the warden accompanying him, he ate in the prison chow line. ''Man, I can tell you, I didn't eat a whole lot. Because I tried to speak with as many of the men as I could'', said Phillips. And Sam put forty or fifty prisoners to work hanging canvas with him to deaden the sound in the prison's concrete-block movie theater. Sam didn't want any extra guards. He just wanted as many prisoners as possible to participate in the process. And he left the prison at 2:30 the following morning with two songs for the Prisonaires' next and, as it would turn out, last single release.

Sam Phillips also left the prison with an acetate that had been set aside for him by Red Wortham, the song publisher who had steered the Prisonaires to Sun Records. A devotional, if you will. Love, faith, hope, trust, peace... all those qualities most of us wish we had a little more of in our lives. Whether we get them from lovers of friends or deities differs from person to person. Bragg's lyric is unusual only because he seems to shuttle back and forth within the same song until we don't know just whom he's adoring. And so the lyric stands in all its unorthodox ambiguity and honesty. Just the way Sam Phillips would have liked it.

The Prisonaires saw three singles issued from sessions in Memphis, but the two songs that appeared as their fourth and final Sun single were made on portable recording equipment in the auditorium of the penitentiary. The alternative take of ''What'll You Do Next'' has never been issued before and is marginally slower than the issued version while retaining the bongo beat probably provided by prison band drummer Hubbard Brown and the clever interplay between the bass voice and the tenors.

Is worth a long second listen. The big question is simply, is this a secular or a religious recording? To whom is Bragg singing? His girlfriend or God? While artists like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke or Aretha Franklin have made careers of blending gospel and secular music, it has been done like this. Initially, it seems a safe bet that Johnny Bragg is singing about God. There is joy, there is peace, there is hope, and there is rest in the object of his affection. These are not usually qualities associated with one's girlfriend, at least in popular music. The idea that he follows in the footsteps of his adored being, further suggests a religious theme.

By then, suddenly, the other shoe falls, "There is rest in you/When you're in my arms". Hardly the place one expects to find the Big Gut: in Johnny Bragg's arms. The version of the slow ballad ''There Is Love In You'' is similar to the issued version but with the group's voices more prominent behind Bragg's heartfelt lead vocal. Music writer Hank Davis has pointed out the confusion in the lyrics, which never make clear whether this is a secular or religious love Bragg's heart feels. The song was written by Bragg with co-composer, guitarist William Stewart.

Has appeared both with and without percussion on different anthologies. Sam Phillips expended considerable time recording it and rightly so. It is a fine song, worthy of his effort. The final released version is superb, if a bit thin on the bottom end. With the addition of a string bass to drive it, this record would have been a classic. As it is, the recording features fine interplay between the bass singer and harmony vocals. The arrangement build considerable tension going into the final release, "Don't tell me you're not giving...". Sam Phillips picked the correct take for release; virtually every element meshes in this effective and minimalist recording.

What has happened here? Perhaps the most reasonable account is that somewhere in his lonely cell, Johnny Bragg thought about those things most missing in his life and wrote a simply love song to them. A devotional, if you will. Peace and Love are simple things, rendered that much more desirable by their absence. Both God and woman are ways to achieve them, and the distinction between these sources was of secondary importance in Bragg's lonely soul.
And so the Lyric stands, in all its unorthodox ambiguity and honestly. Just the way Sam Phillips would have liked it.

The Five Tinos

5 - Gonna Have To Let You Be (The Five Tinos) > Not Originally Issued <
(Five Tinos) (Copyright Control)
Recorded May 26, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Luchrie Jordan, Melvin Walker, Marvin Walker, Haywood Hebron, Melvin Jones (vocals),
Phineas "Calvin" Newborn Jr. (guitar), Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums),
Jewell Briscoe (tenor saxophone), Moses Reed (tenor saxophone),
Robert Garner (piano), Kenneth Banks (drums)

''Gonna Have To Let You Be'', this unissued comes from the same session that yielded the group's lone Sun single. Its vocal highlight, if such exists, was a brief appearance by the falsetto singer. Instrumentally, there is one surprise; the appearance of a 16-bar guitar solo by Calvin Newborn. Most of the competition would have paraded a sax player up to the mic, and this session had some on the floor. Newborn doesn't seem quite sure whether to reach into his bag some rhythm and blues or jazz, and so we get a touch of both. It's not likely this track was a strong contender when it came time for Sam Phillips to decide which tracks to issue.

6 - Don't Do That (The Five Tinos) > Sun 222-A <
(Five Tinos) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 26, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Luchrie Jordan, Melvin Walker, Marvin Walker, Haywood Hebron, Melvin Jones (vocals),
Phineas "Calvin" Newborn Jr. (guitar), Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums),
Jewell Briscoe (tenor saxophone), Moses Reed (tenor saxophone),
Robert Garner (piano), Kenneth Banks (drums)

The Tinos recorded a total of eight tracks for Sun, two of which were released on Sun 222. ''Don't Do That'' features a cutesy, ersatz sexy vocal, mambo rhythm and double length honking sax solo. If this record had been issued at the follow-up to the Turbans' ''When You Dance'', on the Herald label from New York. not on eyebrow would have been raised. In short, this was neither typical Memphis nor typical Sun fare. Its appearance in the fall of 1955 in the same batch of releases that included Elvis's ''Mystery Train'', came at a transitional time in Sun Records' history. The blues were on the wane evolving and the presence of side burned hybrid music was becoming a greater factor with each passing day.

7 - Sitting By My Window(The Five Tinos) > Sun 222-B <
(Five Tinos) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded May 26, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Luchrie Jordan, Melvin Walker, Marvin Walker, Haywood Hebron, Melvin Jones (vocals),
Phineas "Calvin" Newborn Jr. (guitar), Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums),
Jewell Briscoe (tenor saxophone), Moses Reed (tenor saxophone),
Robert Garner (piano), Kenneth Banks (drums)

The Tinos' weaknesses come into sharper focus on the slower tempo. The lead vocal isn't sufficiently commanding and the harmonies aren't as seamless as the idiom demands. In its depiction of idealized love, ''Sitting By My Window'' was conventional doo-wop, but if it had been on a conventional doo-wop label, it would be viewed as a lesser entry. On Sun, it's an anomaly. The backing group was led by the father-and-son team of Phineas and Calvin Newborn. By 1955, Phinea, Jr. was making a name for himself in New York; replacing him on piano was another Memphis legend, Honeymoon Garner. At that time, Garner was a disc jockey on WDIA, but in later years led a sax-organ combo with Fred Ford.

Rosco Gordon

8 - New Orleans (Rosco Gordon) > Previously Unissued <
(Rosco Gordon) (Copyright Control)
Recorded October 25, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rosco Gordon (vocal and piano), Phillip Walker (guitar), L.W. Canty (bass),
Joe W. Payne (drums), James Jones (tenor saxophone),
Lionel Prevost (tenor saxophone)

Another example of Rosco's Vee-Jay output having its origins in his Sun recordings, this early version of "New Orleans" boasts a full production and could quite easily have been released as a single. The opening couplet is derived from Stick McGhee's earlier opus about the Crescent City's lifestyle - viz: "Drinkin' Spo-Dee-O-Dee" - whilst the general background anarchy puts one in mind of Gary U.S. Bond's early 1960s hits. Whatever, Sam Phillips never saw fit to release this infectious track, which remained in the can until its inclusion in the original Sun Box.

9 - Shoobie Oobie (Rosco Gordon) > Sun 257-B <
(Rosco Gordon) (Knox Music Incorporated)
Recorded October 25, 1956 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Rosco Gordon (vocal and piano), Phillip Walker (guitar), L.W. Canty (bass),
Joe W. Payne (drums), James Jones (tenor saxophone),
Lionel Prevost (tenor saxophone)

When Rosco Gordon made his triumphant return to performing in Memphis in 1981, ''Shoobie Oobie'' was one of his featured numbers. He turned in a dazzling performance and, as he must have done in Phillips' studio, he left his trademark ''blood on the keys'' from playing so hard. The first twelve bars of this track are incessant and memorable. It's a bit surprising that all of this musical tension and power abates so soon and the song resolves itself into a playful and scat-nonsense lyric with the band joining in the backing vocals. This track, and its utterly bizarre flipside, ''Cheese And Crackers'', attracted a fair bit of southern attention during its original release in November 1956. Billboard noted that it ''had some flash'' and was ''good for a few spins''. There had been seismic changes in blues, rhythm and blues and popular music in general in the six years since Gordon first recorded at Sam Phillips' studio. His shambolic, loping rhythms were framed differently... but not much differently. The core of his music was still essentially and delightfully the same.

Ed Kirby

10 - Mean Old Gin (Ed Kirby) > Previously Unissued >
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded April 3, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ed Kirby (vocal and saxophone), Leroy Beckton (vocal), Jimmy Ballard (vocal),
Chelsea Taylor (bass), Lindberg Nelson (piano), Charles Ballard (drums)

In the increasingly sanitized world of rhythm and blues circa 1957, songs about gin, mean or not, weren't to get played. That doesn't mean this isn't appealing performance with an inebriate charm all its own. The 12-bar structure made it a different kind of blues; a boozy vocal group blues. Ed Kirby and his group played for a black-only crowd at the Fiesta Room in Memphis, and the exact circumstances under they came to record at Sun Records are unclear, and likely to remain so.

11 - Blue Nights (Ed Kirby) > Not Oridinally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded April 3, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Ed Kirby (vocal and saxophone), Leroy Beckton (vocal), Jimmy Ballard (vocal),
Chelsea Taylor (bass), Lindberg Nelson (piano), Charles Ballard (drums)

Sam Phillips saved himself and his label a heap of embarrassment by not releasing this record in 1957. It's not clear what was going on here. The plodding vaguely jazzy band work, the 1940s proto-doo wop style, and the decidedly non-teen fare would have sunk the release like a stone and had critics talking in wonder about it for years. Nothing jells here. There are doo wop cliches, like the pervasive 1 - 6 minor - 4 - 5 chord changes, but teens wouldn't have been caught dead dancing to or buying music like this. Someone forgot to clue in the sax player at the end of his solo that the song was headed back for the release. Likewise that augmented chord near the end (at 2:44 sec) is so jarring that the track almost becomes surreal. These may sound like technical criticisms, but their effect on even non-professional listeners is disorienting. The kindest thing that can be said about ''Blue Nights'' is that it is a (mercifully unissued) oddity in Sun's history, and a rather late one, at that

Big Lucky Carter

12 - Gonna Break That Lock (Big Lucky Carter) > Not Originally Issued <
(Levester Carter) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 16, 1957 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Levester Carter (vocal and possibly guitar), Lindberg Nelson (piano),
Clarence Beaton (bass), Charles Ballard (drums)

Levester Carter's recording is a throwback to the early 1950s era of jump blues and illustrates exactly the style from which soul emerged. This track: Not really blues, not really doo-wop, and not really rock and roll, but an appealing blend of all three. Add a touch of barrelhouse. Carter and his cousin, Ed Kirby, in company with pianist Lindberg Nelson had a group that tried to stay abreast of what was happening... hence another of their songs ''Diggin' The Calypso''. With a sad touch of irony, they called themselves the Millionaires; other times, they were the Rhythmaires. From extant tapes, it seems as if they recorded three sessions at Sun in 1957. This song comes from the first session, according to the date in the tape box. The last, in July that year, earned them fifteen dollars a piece, but none of the sessions earned them a release. Doo wop on Sun? Although the archives have yielded some unissued treasures (by the Vel-Tones, Ed Kirby and Hunkyi Dori, to name a few).

Hunky Dory

13 - I Want My Baby Back (Hunky Dory) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Hunky Dory (Chester McDowell) (vocal), Unknown Vocal Group

From a pair of tape boxes intriguingly marked Hunky Dory (sic), we have slowly pieced together the story of their likely origin. Sam Phillips had no memory of the group, but he remembers they were associated with a Memphis disc jockey. A printed program for the Cotton Makers' Jubilee (the African American equivalent of Memphis's big pageant, the Cotton Carnival) carried a WLOK advertisement for a disc jockey called Hunky Dory, and that seemed too much of a coincidence. A little research revealed that Hunky Dory was actually Chester McDowell. Born in Beaumont, Texas, McDowell was a decorated World War II veteran who began singing with spiritual groups before landing on KCIJ, Shreveport around 1951 as a disc jockey named Daddy Yo Hot Rod. In Jud Phillips road trips reports to Sam, mentions McDowell. After several years on WLOK as Hunky Dory, McDowell moved in July 1958 to KYOK, Houston, another station owned by the OK Broadcasting chain. At KYOK he was Hotsy Totsy. Confirmation that McDowell was involved in the Hunky Dory recordings came from the files of Duke Records in Houston. Later in 1958, Chester McDowell recorded two of the songs demo'd at Sun for Duke. So it seems that McDowell came to Sun, probably in the months before he left Memphis, to demo some songs with a vocal group and make full recordings of other songs with a conventional small rhythm and blues combo. The skill with which the four voices navigate ''I Want My Baby Back'' this a cappella song suggests that McDowell might have recruited a gospel quartet. They are very assured.

14 - Baby Don't Leave Me (Hunky Dory) > Not Originally Issued <
(Chester McDowell) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Hunky Dory (Chester McDowell) (vocal), Unknown Vocal Group

Hardly a candidate for release in 1958, especially not a 3 minutes, 45 seconds, this is a stilling performance nonetheless. Truly, the blues. The group sounds young, and Chester McDowell's contribution was probably limited to songwriting. Sun's tape echo fleshes out the sound, almost becoming one of the instruments we don't miss. The lead singer was so nuanced and confident, it's hard to believe we didn't hear him again on Hi, Stax, of Goldwax. With the spartan background of the other voices, he had few places to hide but no need of them. McDowell clearly liked this song and had faith in it because soon after arriving in Houston in July 1958, he recorded it for Duke Records as ''Don't Leave Me'' together with ''I Wonder Why''. Thirty years passed before Jerry Osborne released this version, but it's not only one of the last rhythm and blues recordings made at the old Sun studio, but arguably one of the best. In common with the best Sun recordings, it's profoundly soulful and delightfully at variance with what was selling.

15 - I Wonder Why (Hunky Dory) > Not Originally Issued <
(Chester McDowell) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Hunky Dory (Chester McDowell) (vocal), Unknown Vocal Group

The song that became the other side of Chester McDowell's first Duke single was shaped after countless other doo-wop records. Clearly, the demo version ''I Wonder Why'' heard here features the same lead singer as ''Don't Leave Me'', and it's almost certainly not McDowell. We have a clear idea of what McDowell sounded like from that first Duke single, and he wasn't as accomplished as the lead heard here and on ''Don't Leave Me''. Unlike the hauntingly soulful ''Don't Leave Me'', this was paint-by-numbers doo wop. Replace Sun's tape echo with school toilet echo or tenement stairwell echo, and it could have been made in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Good, certainly; memorable, perhaps not.

16 - This Misery (Hunky Dory) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Hunky Dory (Chester McDowell) (vocal), William Walker (unknown),
Sid Manker (guitar and/of bass), Unknown (piano, saxophone),
Jeff Greyer (drums)

It hardly needs stating that there were at least two Hunky Dory sessions, and on the evidence of Chester McDowell's Duke recordings, the singer on ''This Misery'' is McDowell himself. Unlike the delightfully uncommercial songs heard immediately before this, we're now positioned in commercial vocal group rhythm and blues circa 1958. And who would have been more plugged into that scene than Chester McDowell? It's frenetic but largely unmemorable. The drummer was noted as Jeff Grayer. If, as seems likely Grayer was a mis-spelling of Greyer, he was a link to earlier times at Sun because he'd played on sessions by Luther Steinberg and Eddie Snow, and later worked with Price Gabe aka Ed Kirby. The only Sun session regular was bassist-guitarist Sid Manker, the co-writer of Bill Justis's 1957 hit, ''Raunchy''.

The Brewsteraires

17 - Where Shall I Be (When That First Trumpet Soul (The Brewsteraires) > Chess 1502-A <
(Charles P. Jones) (Burton Limited)
Recorded September 26, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
The Brewsteraires: Odell Rice, Nathaniel Peck, Henry Reed, Solomon Ouston (vocals),
Melvin Lee (guitar)

When Sam Phillips started feeding music to the Chess label in Chicago he did-'t confine himself to blues. He sent country music northwards, and black gospel too. There was a market for both, and the Brewsteraires were well-known. Originally formed in Memphis in 1943, they were known as the Mt. Pisgah Gospel Singers before the Reverent. Brewster took them under his wing. Brewster was a prolific songwriter and his radio show ''Old Camp Meeting Of The Air'', broadcast over WHBQ, meant certain exposure in the mid-south gospel market. In addition to their sides for Sam Phillips (which were sold to Chess) the Brewsteraires recorded some memorable work for Dot in Gallatin, Tennessee and for Gotham in Philadelphia, Later the Brewsteraires broadcast regularly over WDIA. In other words, they were a Memphis institution. In a 1981 interview with Doug Seroff, Nathaniel Peck indicated that most of the group's material was arranged by either himself or Reverent Brewster. The personnel on the four sides recorded by Phillips in 1951 (two of which have never surfaced) includes Nathaniel Peck; Odell Rice; Sol Ouston; Henry Reed. John Cole may also have been present. Melvin Lee, the guitarist featured on later Brewsteraires sides, had not yet joined the group. ''Where Shail I Be?'' underscores just how practiced and tightly arranged a cappella performances had to be to succeed. Here the arrangement takes the material through three distinct phases. The first time through, it's an emotional free-meter reading complete with many of the techniques that soul singers would take to the bank 15 years later. The second time, the meter is regular and the performance is syncopated, with a heavy debt to the bass. On the final reprise, a ''mouth trumpet'' swings through the changes. The hymn itself was an old one, written by African American hymnodist Charles P. Jones back in 1899, and first recorded, as far as we can tell, by the Missouri-Pacific Diamond Jubilee Quartet in 1927.

18 - (The Lord Gave Me) Wings For My Soul (The Brewsteraires)  > Chess 1502-B < 
(Reverend W.H. Brewster) (Burton Limited)
Recorded September 26, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
The Brewsteraires: Odell Rice, Nathaniel Peck, Henry Reed, Solomon Ouston (vocals),
Melvin Lee (guitar)

Compared to its original flipside, ''Wings For My Soul'' is a far conventional, less adventurous performance. Again, the roots of 1960s soul music are plainly in evidence here, especially during the final segment. In all respects, this is a solid, tense gospel quartet performance. Both the lead and vocal support are intense and although the arrangement features no rhythmic changes or vocal simulations of musical instruments, it remains memorable.

The Jerusalem Southern Jubilees

19 - There's A Man In (The Jerusalem Southern Jubilees) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joseph Johnson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded December 19, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Southern Jubilee Singer consisting of Jose Lee Smith (lead vocal), Lavorne Smith (lead vocal),
Dan Taylor (tenor vocal), James Sanders (baritone vocal), Eddie Henderson (bass vocal)

''There's A Man In Jerusalem'' this track was probably the most commercial of the four sides Phillips recorded by The Southern Jubilees. It builds power and intensity as it moves along. In fact, so engaging is the performance that it is easy to overlook the fact that the song is virtually free of lyrics. The group simply repeats the lines "There's a man in Jerusalem / They call him the mighty king" to a simple 16-bar chord progression. In many ways, the performance draws its power from the work of bass Eddie Henderson. Initially he sings words along with the group. Then he begins to sing notes, weaving around the lead singer and backup chanting.

Ultimately, he sings the part of a string bass. Even a capella groups who did not imitate the sound of musical instruments were not averse to having their "basser" simulate the part of a stringed instrument. Students of black gospel music may view this wordless version by the Southern Jubilees with some interest. The previous year saw a version by the Trumpeteers recorded in New York and issued on Score. In 1952, the year following this recording, the Swan Silvertones saw their version of the song issued on Specialty 844. Both of these recording featured a full set of lyrics. In fact, the Trumpeteers' version is one of the most lyrically complex songs in their repertoire, including some memorable images of the sky opening up over Jerusalem and a voice thundering down telling everyone ''That's my son and I'm mighty well proud of him''. For whatever reason, the Southern Jubilees chose the minimalist approach when it came time to perform the song for Sam Phillips microphone.

20 - Forgive Me Lord (The Jerusalem Southern Jubilees) > Previously Unissued <
(Ford) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 19, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Southern Jubilee Singer consisting of Jose Lee Smith (lead vocal), Lavorne Smith (lead vocal),
Dan Taylor (tenor vocal), James Sanders (baritone vocal), Eddie Henderson (bass vocal)

Nevertheless, this was a powerful, emotionally charged performance, even if a bit subtle for the marketplace. From the opening line of ''Forgive Me Lord'' ("Sinful days are now behind me") there is a compelling quality to the recording. The sustained chords behind the lead vocal are kept in meter by the bass notes which seem to throb through them. When the lead sings "You know I promise" the quartet hits the kind of gloriously churchy 1-7 chord that Ray Charles built his early career around. The emotionally taut style of this arrangement has been all but lost to modern gospel music in a sea of electric guitars, organs, and intrusive drumming.

21 - He Never Left Me Alone (The Jerusalem Southern Jubilees) > Previously Unissued <
(Traditional) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 19, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Southern Jubilee Singer consisting of Jose Lee Smith (lead vocal), Lavorne Smith (lead vocal),
Dan Taylor (tenor vocal), James Sanders (baritone vocal), Eddie Henderson (bass vocal)

The ''He Never Left Me Alone'' owes much to the formula gospel pieces of the day. During the first reading, the lyric is worked through in a free-meter style, while the lead wrings it for every bit of emotion. From then on, It's a strictly metered performance in tidy 16 bar units. The backing is unusually formal, almost approximating a military march tempo as the group chants ''He never left me never''. The piece ends on a sustained chord that blends into the characteristic 1-7 gospel quartet ending. Although this is the least adventurous of our sampling of Jubilees' Sun work is still registers.

As with ''There's A Man In Jerusalem'', the Southern Jubilees were covering a record of fairly recent vintage; in this case, the Spirit of Memphis's King recordings from December 1949. The Jubilees offer quite a striking re-imagination, though. The fee-meter ad lib opening seems to be their own, and for once at least the Spirit of Memphis had the more formalized arrangement.

22 - Blessed Be The Name (The Jerusalem Southern Jubilees)> Previously Unissued <
(Traditional) (Copyright Control)
Recorded December 19, 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Southern Jubilee Singer consisting of Jose Lee Smith (lead vocal), Lavorne Smith (lead vocal),
Dan Taylor (tenor vocal), James Sanders (baritone vocal), Eddie Henderson (bass vocal)

Of the four songs that the Singing Southern Jubilees, recorded for Sam Phillips in 1951, ''Blessed Be The Name'' was the final one to be issued. It first appeared on a Sun reissue for Charly Records in 1989. The quartet was a major force in Memphis gospel singing in the 1940s and 1950s. This spectacular track tells you everything you need to know about a cappella gospel jubilee singing from the era. When this kind of music faded from favor, the musical world, not simply the world of gospel singing, lost something very special. The track also tells you something about the importance of lyrics. They're sometimes overrated, especially when the musical part of a performance is solid. Take the present case: there are no lyrics here. Or more precisely, there are no lyrics beyond the title. It is simply repeated for the duration of the song. Listeners are often surprised to learn that. They haven't noticed it, and they certainly felt the lack.
The Prisonaires

23 - Softly And Tenderly (The Prisonaires) > Sun 189-B <
(Will Thompson) (Babb Music)
Recorded August 3, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Bragg (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal)
Ike Turner (piano), Unknown (bass possible Ike Turner)

Recorded through the years by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson, and countless others, ''Softly And Tenderly'' was written by an Ohio businessmen, Will Thompson, in 1880. Thy hymn remains immensely popular among white congregations, but was sung at the memorial service for Martin Luther King at the Elbenezer baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 8, 1968. It's hard to know who or what induced the Prisonaires to record it jubilee style for their second single.

Out of every hundred versions surely 99 of them are dirge-like. Somehow, slow equals pious. But the Prisonaires are having none of that. With Ike Turner in the unaccustomed role of church pianist, the piano intro sounds a little similar to ''Rocket 88'' and the group approaches the tune with an energy and enthusiasm that must have raised a few sanctified eyebrows. The recording has a strong live feel, abetted by hand clapping and shouts. This might have been a one-take wonder, a warm up effort that became a contender for release simply because of its spontaneous joy. That feeling is undiminished 60 years later. Without Johnny Bragg singing lead, though, it wasn't identifiably a Prisonaires record, and it wasn't about to get played on rhythm and blues stations. As an act of piety, it was touching. As a follow-up to ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'', it was a disaster.

24 - My God Is Real (The Prisonaires) > Sun 189-A <
(Kenneth Morris) (Babb Music-Morris Music)
Recorded August 3, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny Bragg (lead tenor vocal), John Drue (tenor vocal), Ed Thurman (tenor vocal),
William Stewart (baritone vocal and guitar), Marcell Sanders (bass vocal)
Ike Turner (piano), Unknown (bass possible Ike Turner)

In its way, the Prisonaires' version of this classic is as good as any other, and others, who've recorded it include Mahalia Jackson, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Al Green. Bragg's lead is stilling. The piece was written in 1944 by an African American minister and hymnodist, Kenneth Morris, as ''Yes, God Is Real''. ''There are some places I cannot go'' was one of the most awfully true lines on a Sun record. That said, the Prisonaires were getting out of the prison gates on a fairly regular basis, and on one of their Sunday forays into the free world they attended a service with the legendary Clara Ward and her choir. Ward had recorded ''My God Is Real'' in 1949 and made it her own until Mahalia Jackson took ownership of it. Inspired by Ward, the Prisonaires recorded ''My God Is Real'' with ''Softly And Tenderly'' in Memphis on August 3, 1953. It became their second Sun single, and a commercial mis-step.

The Jones Brothers

25 - Amazing Grace (The Jones Brothers) > Previously Unissued <
(Public Domain) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: - June 11, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
The Jones Brothers consisting of William Gresham, Jake McIntosh, Charles Jones,
Eddie Hollins, Johnny Prye, James Rayford (vocals), Charles Bishop (guitar)

The Jones Brothers were a performing aggregation for at least twenty years before they recorded for Sun Records in the early 1950s. In fact, their four Sun recordings. We always believed that there was just one Jones Brothers session that resulted in one poor-selling single. Now we have to revise that notion backward and forward. There's a version of ''Every Night'', that clearly derives from an undated earlier session, and a newly discovered note inside a tape box suggest that ''Amazing Grace'' and ''Gospel Train'' were recorded nearly eighteen months after the single. The ballsier reverb certainly supports the later date. The modestly applied tape delay reverb on the single has been amped up rockabilly style.

Johnny Prye of the Jones Brothers always insisted that the group recorded with Elvis Presley. We never wholeheartedly embraced this notion because the Jones' only known session was in January 1954, six months before Elvis began recording, but the date inside the tape box for ''Amazing Grace'' / ''Gospel Train'' is June 11, 1955. Elvis was in Shreveport to play the Louisiana Hayride that day, but his datebook noted that he was at Sun on June 12, and no known recording resulted. Of course, if we could plainly hear Elvis on either of these songs, it would place the matter beyond dispute, but we cannot. Behind the strong lead vocal there's some excellent close harmony, so close in fact that we cannot isolate one voice from another. It's well known that Elvis Presley loved this style of singing and that his first gospel LP ''His Hand In Mine'' blended black and white quartet gospel, but we would need to hear him to believe that he was there.

''Amazing Grace'' is the best known and most widely recorded statement of faith in the world. It also became an unlikely Top 20 pop hit in consecutive years, first for Judy Collins and then a team of bagpipers. From the opening notes of this track, played by an electric guitar, it's clear the Jones Brothers are from a different gospel tradition. There is certainly vocal blending, but the lead vocalist has been listening to gospel shouters. There is little of the Jubilee harmony style here, despite the fact that the group's arranger, Johnny Prye, purported to be strongly influenced by the Golden Gate Quartet. The Jones Brothers' reading of ''Grace'' is done entirely in free-meter. During the first verse the group stays close to the original material. However, things change radically during the second verse, when their performance loses its debt to the classic hymn. It is nearly as free of traces of ''Amazing Grace'' as it is of meter. Rather than singing any of the lyrics from Dr. Newton's original (and there were verses galore), the singer chants a personal testimonial about calling on God in the midnight hour.

26 - Gospel Train (The Jones Brothers) > Previously Unissued <
(Traditional) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: - June 11, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
The Jones Brothers consisting of William Gresham, Jake McIntosh, Charles Jones,
Eddie Hollins, Johnny Prye, James Rayford (vocals), Charles Bishop (guitar)

Recording this track, the Jones Brothers resurrected a selection that had become the signature song for the world famous Golden Gate Quartet, In fact, the Gates had performed it during the 1938 From Spirituals To Swing concert at Carnegie Hall. Inspiration for the Jones Brothers' version might have come from closer to home, though. WDIA carried a show titled ''Gospel Train'' and the 1956 program for the station's Goodwill Review mentioned the ''Jones Boys'' as among the station's regular gospel performers. The Joneses turn in a spirited version in a style that owes more to Jubilee than most of their recorded work. As on the Gates' version, there are vocal train effects and, to make the song their own, there is a reference to ''Memphis''.

27 - Look To Jesus (The Jones Brothers) > Sun 213-A <
(Eddy Hollins) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded Early January 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
The Jones Brothers consisting of William Gresham, Jake McIntosh, Charles Jones,
Eddie Hollins, Johnny Prye, James Rayford (vocals), Charles Bishop (guitar)

The Jones Brothers hold a rare honor among the black quartets recorded by Sam Phillips, their was the only release that appeared on Sun. Ironically, its dismal sales may have helped to doom any future prospects for gospel quartets. as if the emergence of Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins weren't already doing that. Curiously, this track was recorded and released over two years after Phillips' work with the more classic styles of the Brewsteraires and Southern Jubilees. Perhaps he felt that the addition of an electric guitar and more blues-tinged gospel vocal made the Jones Brothers a better bet for commercial success. He was wrong, ''Look To Jesus'' is not a particularly memorable recording. Among gospel collectors it is typically viewed as very rare, but not particularly distinguished. Little fault can be placed with the lead vocal, which is certainly expressive and has an arresting, almost country quality. The arrangements is rooted in call an response, which may be the root of the problem. The background vocals are not particularly strong. Despite the number of singers involved, there is no strong bass and the overall choral sound is very similar to the range of the lead singer. The guitar does not help things and, arguably, dissipates some of the occasional vocal tension the group manages to build.

28 - Every Night (The Jones Brothers) > Sun 213-B <
(Jake McIntosh) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded Early January 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
The Jones Brothers consisting of William Gresham, Jake McIntosh, Charles Jones,
Eddie Hollins, Johnny Prye, James Rayford (vocals), Charles Bishop (guitar)

Although the rich gospel tradition in Memphis was a wellspring of deep harmony a cappella singing, Sam Phillips never released any examples of it. True, he did record the Brewsteraires and Southern Jubilees, but those sides were ultimately slotted for release on other labels, not Sun. The Jones Brothers, authors of Sun's only release by a black gospel quartet, features a very different approach to sacred music. These sides are performed in a soulish/shouting style that emerged after gospel music's Golden Era had passed. Perhaps Phillips saw it as more modern, or saleable to an audience who had their ears full of rhythm and blues. In any case, ''Every Night'' has many of the features of gospel music that continue to dominate the field. But surprisingly, despite a passionate lead vocal, the background singing is rather tepid. The entire outing is unfocussed and lacks the fire it might have conveyed. There's almost no tension here, although appeared to Phillips, and assuaged his frequently expressed commercial doubts, but the truth is, the guitar often clashes with or undercuts the power of the vocal. At the end of the day, many of the guitar lines might have been sung to greater effect.

Brother B. Russell & The Jones Brothers

29 - I'm Sealed (Brother Russell) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Brother R. Russell (vocal), The Jones Brothers consisting of William Gresham,
Jake McIntosh, Charles Jones, Eddie Hollins, Johnny Prye,
James Rayford (vocals), Charles Bishop (guitar)

The identity of Brother R. Russel is unknown. His music turned up on the flipside of a 1953 acetate made at the Memphis Recording Service. Despite the label credit on the acetate, ''I'm Sealed'' is a vocal solo with piano and guitar accompaniment in a style that has almost no bearing on quartet singing. The extent of the connection between Russell and the Jones Brothers may be social, although it is possible that he ''borrowed'' their guitarist, Charles Bishop for the recording. It is also entirely possible that they went into the Memphis Recording Service together to split the cost of a vanity session. In any case, this track ''I'm Sealed'', is an oddity whose connection with either Sun records or the Jones Brothers quartet is indirect, at best. It informs the bigger picture of the range of black gospel music being performed in Memphis, circa 1953. If we can speculate, this is a style that would have turned up, not frequently, in the vanity recordings made by Phillips. it is highly unlikely he would have given it a second thought as far as being a candidate for commercial release.

The Jones Brothers

30 - Every Night (The Jones Brothers) > Not Originally Issyed <
(Jake McIntosh) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 28, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
The Jones Brothers consisting of William Gresham, Jake McIntosh, Charles Jones,
Eddie Hollins, Johnny Prye, James Rayford (vocals), Charles Bishop (guitar)

A newly discovered version of one of the Jones' Brothers issued songs, this preliminary take of ''Every Night'' is inferior in every way. It's possible that this version stems from the same January 28, 1954 session that yielded the single release, but the only evidence for that is the tuning of the guitar. It is in tune only with itself (key of A) but flat to the outside world. It was also in that slightly flat tuning when the group recorded the subsequent version of the song that was issued on Sun. But there is a much stronger possibility that the quartet went in to the Memphis Recording Service some time in 1953 to cut this acetate for their own use. As noted above, they might have gone in with Brother Russell, but that is of little consequence. Sam Phillips might have been intrigued by what he heard of the quartet and said, ''You fellas bring me something original for the flipside and I'll do a session on you''. This account actually makes sense because it is odd that an acetate would have been cut that included this inferior version of a released song. It is far more likely that the group took this one home with them before they worked up a second song for their session. It also accounts for why no trace of this take appears in the Sun logs pr tape files. It was truly a one-off event, kept among Johnny Prye's possessions until his death. In any case, this newly discovered alternative is much more subdued than the issued version and has a slightly different arrangement as well (an unlikely thing to change on the fly in the studio). Notice that the version of Sun features what amounts to a duet between the lead singer and the ''basser'' until the song arrives at its call and response section, during which the title phrase is repeated over and over. The second difference, and this has a major impact on the song, is that the group's vocal renderings of the title phrase on this version are odd enough to sound wrong. They are not simply 1-3-5-8 or 1-3-5-flatted 7 harmonies and they have an unsettling effect as they are repeated over and over again. Fortunately the problem was rectified before the issued take was recorded. The timings of the two versions, by the way, are virtually identical at around 2:24 so nothing fundamental about the song changed between this and the single.

Hunky Dory

31 - A Lady Called Mother (Hunky Dory) > Not Originally Issued <
(John H. Myles) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Hunky Dory (Chester McDowell) (vocal), Unknown (vocal group)

Confirming that the Hunky Dory recordings were made in late 1957 or early 1958, ''A Lady Called Mother'' was a cover version of the Swan Silverstones' 1957 Vee-Jay single ''A Lady Called Mother''. Almost hillbilly-like in its pastoral vision as a sainted mother, it was the work of the Silvertones' original baritone and sometime manager John H. Myles. The anonymous lead on Hunky Dory's tape was clearly influenced as much by the dulcet falsetto pf the Silvertones' lead, Claude Jeter, as by Sam Cooke. This alone makes his identity all the more intriguing. He recorded both sacred and secular music with Hunky Dory. Did he record again? If so, in which style?

32 - Workin' On A Building (Hunky Dory) > Not Originally Issued <
(Traditional) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Hunky Dory (Chester McDowell) (vocal), Unknown (vocal group)

Hunky Dory offers their stellar version of a gospel standard that has found its way into both white and black traditions. Originally viewed as a ''negro spiritual'' the song quickly crossed the racial divide and appeared on a 1934 recording by the Carter Family, as well as later work by Bill Monroe, the Oak Ridge Boys, John Fogerty, and Swan's Silvertones. This stellar version reminds us of the song's power as well as the power of a cappella music. Assuming you could find a place for some musical instruments here, just what would they add to the arrangement"The track also reveals something more subtle about Sun's later day recording techniques. The group's pumping rhythm is abetted here by strong reverb. Once the quartet gets going, the reverb is less noticeable; in fact, it is almost invisible. But if you listen closely to the soloist's opening notes, you'll hear just how much ''fattening'' the echo has literally thrown into the mix. And nothing sounds artificial. The track just soars.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 9 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

OUTTAKES

This CD contains a number of alternative takes of songs from CDs 1 through 8 that first appeared on LPs and CDs compiled in the years after the original Sun Blues Box was released. Most of them were added by the compilers of the CD version of the Sun Blues Box. Now listeners can hear everything that was on the original LP box and the slipshod DE edition. We have added commentary on o newly discovered acetate by Handy Jackson and five songs (four by Ike Turner and one by Dr. Ross) almost certainly not recorded at Sun but part of the Sun tape inventory nonetheless. There is also commentary on one Billy Love song included here because it was replaced with a newly discovered song on CD 3.

Handy Jackson

1 - (Have You Ever Had) Trouble (2) (2:33) 2013 (Handy Jackson) > Previously Unissued <
(Handy Jackson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date January 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Handy Jackson (vocal), Gay Garth (piano), Willie Wilkins or Johnny London (saxophone),
Possibly Robert Carter (guitar), Possibly William Cooper (drums)

There are several subtle differences between this newly-discovered alternate take of ''Trouble'', and its issued counterpart. The guitar is up in the mix on the issued version but almost inaudible here. After the sax break, Jackson changes his phrasing on ''getting late in the evening...''. On this version he adopts the sly insinuation of Percy Mayfield; he's more full-throated on the record. But we're still as much in the dark about who Handy Jackson was and how he happened to be at Sun in 1953. It certainly sounds like Johnny London on the screaming alto sax but London swears it's not him, as did Gaylord Garth, who played piano on the song. If the grave marked Handy Jackson that Jim O'Neal discovered in Leflore County, Mississippi holds our man, it holds the story of this recording, too.

Billy Love

2 - You're Gonna Cry ( 2:28) 1952 (Billy Love) > Chess 1508-B <
(Milton Morse Love) (Burton Limited)
Recorded Possibly October/November 1951at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Billy Love (vocal and piano), Charles Walker (saxophone),
Calvin Newborn (guitar),Phineas Newborn Sr. (drums)

This a mid-paced blues about the perils of getting too high and mighty was the song backed ''Drop Top'' on Chess. There is a throaty sax solo, probably from Charles Walker, and good understated support from Calvin and Phineas Newborn, Sr, on guitar and drums. Phillips paid Love an advance of $70 on the disc on November 2, 1951 and loaned him $15 on December 11 when he noted that ''Chess has masters on ''Ain't No More'', ''You're Gonna Cry'' and ''Drop Top''. However the disc was not issued immediately and some months later on March 16, 1952 Phillips noted that he had sent another master of ''Drop Top'' to Chess. The disc was finally issued in April, but appears to have been given little promotional support and did not show up significantly on regional sales charts.

Sleepy John Estes

3 - Runnin' Around -2 (3:04) 1996 (Sleepy John Estes) > Not Originally Issued <
(John Estes) (Copyright Control)
Recorded April 24, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sleepy John Estes (vocal and guitar), Lee ''Tennessee'' Crisp (harmonica),
Possibly Hammie Nixon (washboard)

This is a barely-different alternative take of the song issued on the original LP box (CD1/11 here). This version was used on the 1990s box.

Elven Parrs In The Groove Boys

4 - Skin And Bones Woman -2 (1:59) 1989 (Elven Parr's In The Groove Boys) > Not Originally Issued <
(Johnny Temple) (Copyright Control)
Recorded April 14, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Eddie Snow (vocal and piano), Luther Taylor (saxophone), Bennie Moore (saxophone),
Elven Parr (guitar), Carl Tate (drums)

This ''Skin And Bones Woman'' in contrast, this is a very different alternate take used on the 1990's box after being first issued on the Sun Blues Archive CDs in the 1980s. It's the fast version of the song issued on the original LP boxset.

Walter Horton

5 - Little Walter's Boogie -2 (2:36) 1996 (Walter Horton) > Not Originally Issued <
(Walter Horton) (Burton Limited)
Recorded September 15, 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Walter Horton (harmonica), Jack Kelly (piano), Joe Hill Louis (guitar), Willie Nix (drums)

This is the faster 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD2/16 here) and planned for release on Chess.

Henry Hill with Doctor Ross

6 - That Ain't Right (2) (2:52) 1996 (Henry Hill with Doctor Ross) > Not Originally Issued <
(Henry Hill-Isaiah Ross) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Henry Hill (vocal and piano), Charles Isaiah Ross (harmonica and guitar), Reuben Martin (washboard)

This is a slightly more hesitant version 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD2/23 here). At least eight takes of this song exist and each one begins with a different Hill soliloquy: "Yeah, Doctor Ross, you know one thing?/Boy, I want you to cut it out, 'cos you done stole my girl from me/but, anyway, I want you to get on down on these here woogies with me". Which is exactly what Ross does, maintaining the rhythm when Hill confuses himself with his verbal asides. Reuben Martin's washboard is so closely miked that a time it sounds as though he's tap-dancing rather than thimble-picking. Later takes find Hill obsessed with bottles of Woldcat, one of which may well have bitten the dust before the session started.

Joe Hill Louis

7 - She May Be Yours (But She Comes To See Me Some Time) (2:40) 1996 (Joe Hill Louis) > Not Originally Issued <
(Joe Hill Louis- Sam C. Phillips) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded November 17, 1952 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joe Hill Louis (vocal, guitar and harmonica), Albert Williams (piano), Willie Nix (drums)

If nothing else is clear, Joe Hill Louis recorded this song on at least two different occasions with different results. This early alternative (number 2 here) to the Sun single fades in, a sort of ''joined in progress effect'', and the harp and guitar are never quite in sync. If Louis played both instruments, the effect is odd; it's hard to imagine a musician going out of sync with himself but the effect is unmistakable. There are only three chords in this blues progression but these instruments seem to be in different places.

The ''all right'' before the instrumental solo makes this take distinctive, as does the increase in guitar level during the solo, which marks this as a warm-up version. The very end of the recording features the sound of a piano, which was apparently there all along, although not particularly audible in the mix. This is the 1990s box version of the song issued on the original Sun 45 and on the original LP box (CDs 4/8 and 5/12 here).

Honeyboy Edwards

8 - Sweet Home Chicago (2) (3:00) 1996 (Honeyboy Edwards) > Not Originally Issued <
(David Edwards-Sonny Boy Williamson) (Arc Music Corporation)
Recorded Possibly End 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Honeyboy Edwards (vocal and guitar), Albert Williams (piano), Joe Wilkins (guitar),
Dickie Houston (drums), James Walker (washboard)

You don't have to be a musician to notice the odd style of drumming on display here. Drummers normally accent on 2 and 4. For some reason this one punches the beat on 1 and 3. The effect is both leaden and unsetting. It's truly amazing that nobody, from Sam Phillips to one of the other musicians didn't run screaming from the room. This is more than a simple mistake. It changes the effect of the entire recording, and not for the good. This is the slightly different 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD5/8 here).

Little Walker

9 - Off The Wall (2) (2:37) 1996 (Little Walker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Walter Jacobs) (Tristan Music)
Recorded July 15, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Little Walker (harmonica), Earl Hooker (guitar), Unknown (bass), Willie Nix (drums)

Also present on the tape from this session is the crude combination of two incomplete takes included here to show how the arrangement was developed. The first of these takes runs just over a minute and shows how the drummer - be it Willie Nix or Edward Irvin - had started with Fred Below's machine-gun snare figure. Horton is noticeably less inventive at this stage but Earl Hooker pushes thing along, playing boogie pattens close to the bridge of his guitar. When this take falls apart, another cuts in at a roughly equivalent place. This time Horton is playing with a much more muted tone, whilst Hooker maintains his precise rhythm. The band once again attempt an ending worthy of the musicians they are copying.

This is the 1990s box version, or rather two versions spliced together of the harp instrumental issued on the original LP box as by Little Walter (CD5/8 here).

Boyd Gilmore

10 - Believe I'll Settle Down (2) (3:08) 1996 (Boyd Gilmore) > Not Originally Issued <
(Boyd Gilmore) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded July 15, 1953
Boyd Gilmore (vocal and guitar), Joe Willie ''Pinetop'' Perkins (piano),
Adolph Duncan (saxophone), Earl Hooker (guitar),
Little Walter (harmonica), Unknown (bass),
Willie Nix (drums)

An altogether churchier song than Memphis Slim's 1940s song of the same name, this is the high water mark of one of the Earl Hooker's Sun sessions. A fine rolling blues in the tradition that B.B. King was busy making his very own. Gilmore's vocal, although huskier than B.B.'s, follows the same familiar pattern, and Earl Hooker's guitar contrives to sound like a disciple - or at the very least, a close relative - of "Lucille". There's some fine two-handed piano from Gilmore's childhood buddy, Pinetop Perkins, but the tentative nature of the track is revealed at the end when Gilmore stops singing midway through the last verse, and we get a rather unexpected 4-bar instrumental ending. This take notable because Gilmore forgot the last line. As it turned out, Hooker didn't record again until 1956 and Gilmore never recorded again, as far as we know. This is the marginally different 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD6/28 here).

Johnny O'Neal

11 - Ugly Woman (2) (2:29) 1996 (Johnny O'Neal) > Not Originally Issued <
(Johnny O'Neal Johnson) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 2, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny O'Neal (vocal), James Wheeler (saxophone), Thomas Reed (saxophone),
Bonnie Turner (piano), Ike Turner (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass),
Willie Sims (drums)

From the same session, this song, of course, has its origins deep in the dozens ("Your old lady is so ugly that...") welded to the "Rocket 88" riff. Things sound pretty spirited on this, the third take - although before the session was completed, Sam Phillips had the boys try the song ten times in all, and yet surprisingly, never released any of them. The lyrical content is strong throughout, and Ike Turner weighs in with a stinging guitar solo which never falls short of ideas on a memorable good-time record. (The take used here is different to that used on the original Sun Blues Box).

''Ugly Woman'' deserved to be on a record, and if Phillips' bankroll had been a little fatter, it might have been. Turner waited a couple of years before trying it again. With Billy Gayles aka Willie King singing, it finally appeared on Vita Records as ''Peg Leg Baby''. This is a marginally different take, the 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD6/8 here).

12 - Dead Letter Blues (2) (3:39) 1996 (Johnny O'Neal) > Not Originally Issued <
(Johnny O'Neal Johnson) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded August 2, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny O'Neal (vocal), James Wheeler (saxophone), Thomas Reed (saxophone),
Bonnie Turner (piano), Ike Turner (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass),
Willie Sims (drums)

The opening verse is an adaptation of one of the most celebrated stanzas in the blues. Ida Cox's 1924 ''Death Letter Blues'' became part of Son House's 1930 ''My Black Mama Part ii'', and was in turn adapted into Muddy Waters'1950 recording of ''Sad Letter Blues''. (The tape box calls this song ''Death Letter Blues'', but a dead letter was one that was undeliverable; it should have been titled ''Death Letter Blues''). This variation on an immemorial theme genuflects toward the Kingdom of B.B. As impassioned as O'Neal's vocal is, he's overshadowed by Ike Turner on guitar. This was a commanding performance that did not deserve to languish so long on a shelf.

Again, this is a marginally different take, the 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD6/9 here).

13 - Johnny's Dream (2) (3:42) 1996 (Johnny O'Neal) > Not Originally Issued <
(Johnny O'Neal Johnson) (Copyright Control)
Recorded August 2, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Johnny O'Neal (vocal), James Wheeler (saxophone), Thomas Reed (saxophone),
Bonnie Turner (piano), Ike Turner (guitar), Jesse Knight (bass),
Willie Sims (drums)

This is a marginally different take, the 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD6/10 here).

Hot Shot Love

14 - Wolf Call Boogie (2) (2:37) 1996 (Hot Shot Love) > Not Originally Issued <
(Coy Love) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 8, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Coy "Hot Shot" Love (vocal and harmonica), Pat Hare (guitar), Mose Vinson (piano),
Kenneth Banks (bass), Houston Stokes (drums)

Hot Shot Love was truly one of a kind. The free-spirited humor on display here is a sheer delight. His line about not being a pauper and having money to spare is a moment to treasure. Sam Phillips captured it all and wisely saw fit to issue it, although this is an alternate 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD4/31 here).

Billy Love

15 - Way After Midnight (2) (2:51) 1989 (Billy Love) > Not Originally Issued <
(Milton Morse Love-Sam Phillips) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 19, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton ''Billy'' Love (vocal and piano), Harvey Simmons (saxophone),
Jewell Briscoe (saxophone), Lucian Coleman (saxophone),
Charles McGowan (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Houston Stokes (drums)

This is the not very different 1990s box alternative version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD7/4 here).

16 - Gee I Wish (2) (2:13) 1989 (Billy Love) > Not Originally Issued <
Milton Morse Love-Sam Phillips) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 19, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton ''Billy'' Love (vocal and piano), Harvey Simmons (saxophone),
Jewell Briscoe (saxophone), Lucian Coleman (saxophone),
Charles McGowan (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Houston Stokes (drums)

This is the 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD7/1 here). The track (take 5) it is different, starting with a Latin rhythm instead of a horn riff and building at a slower pace than some of the many versions Love recorded.

17 - The News Is All Around Town (2) (2:09) 1989 (Billy Love) > Not Originally Issued <
Milton Morse Love-Sam Phillips) (Hi Lo Music Incorporated)
Recorded January 19, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton ''Billy'' Love (vocal and piano), Harvey Simmons (saxophone),
Jewell Briscoe (saxophone), Lucian Coleman (saxophone),
Charles McGowan (guitar), Kenneth Banks (bass),
Houston Stokes (drums)

This is the not very different 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD7/2 here).

Little Milton

18 - Rode That Train/Lookin' For My Baby (3) (2:37) 1989 (Little Milton) > Not Originally Issued <
(James ''Milton'' Campbell) (Memphis Music Incorporated)
Recorded March 30, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Milton Campbell (vocal and guitar), Ike Turner (piano), C.W. Tate (tenor saxophone),
Lawrence Taylor (alto saxophone), Cleophus Robinson (bass),
Probably Jesse Knight Jr. (bass), Lonnie Will Haynes (drums)

On the tape box, Sam Phillips logged this song as ''Rode That Train All Night Long'' but issued it as ''Lookin' For My Baby''. The first take was unusable because Phillips changed levels on the fly, first during Milton's guitar intro and again when the horns came in. By the second take, issued first on Zu-Zazz and reissued here, Phillips had his acte together and Milton was still on fire. His guitar has a filthy tone, and he's really buston' out his licks, taking two choruses instead of the single chorus on the released version. More than that, there's a spectacular untamedness to this take that was lost by the time they reached the issued fifth take.

Sammy Lewis with Willie Johnson Combo

19 - I Feel So Worried (3) (2:27) 1989 (Sammy Lewis with Willie Johnson) > Not Originally Issued <
(Sammy Lewis-Willie Johnson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Recorded March 28, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sammy Lewis (vocal and harmonica), Willie Johnson (guitar),
L.C. Hubert (piano), Joe Nathan Franklin (drums)

This is the 1990s box version of the song issued on the Sun disc and in alternative form on the original LP box (CD6/31 and 6/32 here).

20 - So Long Baby Goodbye (2) (2:12) 1989 (Sammy Lewis with Willie Johnson) > Not Originally Issued <
(Willie Johnson) (Hi-Lo Music Incorporated
Recorded March 28, 1955 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sammy Lewis (harmonica), Willie Johnson (vocal and guitar),
Hubert (piano), Joe Nathan Franklin (drums)

An alternate take of the track which gave us the immortal dictum "Well all right Sammy, blow the backs off it!". This take is not markedly different from the released version, but it does offer another opportunity to listen to guitarist Willie Johnson as a vocalist. Here Johnson propels his defiant, hell-raising blues with biting guitar work and carries it all through with a hard-edged wolf-like vocal. "So Long Baby Goodbye" is more conventional rhythm and blues that showcases Sammy Lewis harp. How could Lewis not have responded when Johnson issued him the immortal edict "blow the backs off it". This is the 1990s box alternative version of the Sun disc issued on the original LP bx (CD6/33 here).

Doctor Ross

21 - Left Job Boogie (3:48) 1985 (Doctor Ross) > Not Originally Issued <
(Isaiah Ross) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Unknown Date(s) 1952 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Charles Isaiah Ross (vocal, guitar, harmonica, and drums)

This track was in the original LP boxed set as a Sun recording, but it now seems likelier that Doctor Ross recorded it in his new home town, Flint, Michigan, and sent it to Sam Phillips sometime in 1954. Hence it appears here. From a distance of nearly 60 years, we can still appreciate why Phillips took such delight in the music of Isaiah Ross. What this track lacks in variety, it certainly makes up in sheer drive. The oft-repeated lick is one that the doc had already called ''Chicago Breakdown''. On this recording, the sound of Ross's harmonica has an unusual, almost accordion-like quality and it's a perfect match for his percussive acoustic guitar. Quite a tight little combo was Doctor Ross.

Charlie Booker

22 - Walked All Night (2) (2:44) 1996 (Charlie Booker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Charlie Booker) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Chris ''Charlie'' Booker (vocal and guitar), Oliver Sain (saxophone),
Otis Green (saxophone),John W. ''Big Moose'' Walker (piano),
Willie Dodson (bass), Junior Blackmon (drums)

It's a shame this song (Take 2) never found its way into a satisfactory take. It flirted with being one of Sun's strongest blues outings, but ultimately fell short. Booker's timing is ragged and his lyrics don't quite pass the ''logic'' test, but the overall effect of this track is compelling. It sounds as if he's vowing eternal love and devotion to this woman in verse 1, but by verse 2 he's claiming that his old gray-haired folks warned him that she'd mistreat him something awful. It's a tough place to be. This is the 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD7/19 here).

23 - Baby I'm Coming Home (2) (2:44) 1996) (Charlie Booker) > Not Originally Issued <
(Charlie Booker) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Chris ''Charlie'' Booker (vocal and guitar), Oliver Sain (saxophone),
Otis Green (saxophone),John W. ''Big Moose'' Walker (piano),
Willie Dodson (bass), Junior Blackmon (drums)

This is the 1990s box version of the song issued on the original LP box (CD7/18 here).

Ike Turner with Tommy Hodge

24 - (I Know) You Don't Love Me (2:04) 1976 (Ike Turner with Tommy Hodge) > Not Originally Issued <
(Ike Turner) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date 1958 in East St. Louis, Illinois
Tommy Hodge (vocal), Ike Turner (guitar), Carlson Oliver (tenor saxophone),
Fred Sample (piano), Jesse Knight (bass), Unknown (drums)

Unknown date 1958, Sam Phillips takes six songs recorded in St. Louis by Ike Turner, with vocalist Tommy Hodge, but they are not released. Note: Three of these songs were previously issued with incorrect titles. By 1958 Sam Phillips had almost given up on recording black music. Billy Emerson and Rosco Gordon apart, there hadn't been any releases by black artists during 1957, and only "Sally Jo" by Rosco Gordon would appear during this year.

Nevertheless, Sam Phillips bought six titles from Ike Turner, perhaps at Ike's insistence - or perhaps as a token of the business that they'd done, to the profit of both, in the frantic years at the beginning of the decade. Ike was now a major force in the St. Louis black music industry, which was active but intensely parochial, and he was having trouble getting product onto a major label. This batch of songs sound like demos and perhaps their sale paid of Ike's studio bills: for very shortly after wards, Ike went to Chicago and recorded a bunch of sessions for Eli Toscano's Cobra and Artists labels, including this song, which he retitled ("I Known") "You Don't Love Me" from its opening line. Tommy Hodge's congested vocal is very low in the mix, although his performance is strong enough. Carlson Oliver takes two choruses of a fairly basic tenor sax solo, and the song is soon over. Singer Hodge was a large, placid man, but Billboard detected hints of Little Richard and Sceamin' Jay Hawkins in him, concluding its review of this song ''Good close to the soil was''.

25 - Down with Out (aka How Long Will It Last) (2:45) 1976 (Ike Turner with Tommy Hodge) > Not Originally Issued <
(Ike Turner) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date 1958 in East St. Louis, Illinois
Tommy Hodge (vocal), Ike Turner (guitar), Carlson Oliver (tenor saxophone),
Fred Sample (piano), Jesse Knight (bass), Unknown (drums)

Ike had begun to experiment with the vibrato arm, later dubbed not entirely with affection a "twang bar", on his Fender guitar during the Federal sessions he'd cut the previous year. These agitated wailing notes would achieve their greatest significance on Otis Rush's Cobra singles, "Double Trouble" and "All Your Love". Here, they pump up the anxiety gauge admirably as Tommy Hodge frets his way through a typically angst-ridden piece, teenage or otherwise. This song was re-recorded for Artists Records as "Down And Out". But on this side, the stylistic influence of B.B. King is obvious, but the emotional variation that Turner gets out of the instrument is special.

26 - You Ain't The One (2:34) 1976 (Ike Turner with Tommy Hodge) > Not Originally Issued <
Ike Turner) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date 1958 in East St. Louis, Illinois
Tommy Hodge (vocal), Ike Turner (guitar), Carlson Oliver (tenor saxophone),
Fred Sample (piano), Jesse Knight (bass), Unknown (drums)

As we've seen from his own and Little Milton's sessions, Ike Turner had a strong affection for New Orleans rhythm. On ''You Ain't The One'', the song also suits Tommy Hodge's unique vocal chords, as well as Carlson Oliver's tenor sax, which here he wields in the manner of King Curtis to some extent. It shows that Ike was still thinking about the hit parade. It would be a little while before he distilled the right ingredients, but he wasn't far off the mark here. Sam Phillips kept the tapes but, as far from the blues as some may think these titles are, he was no longer interested in the market to which they spoke.

27 - Matchbox (aka I'm Gonna Forget About You) (2:30) 1976 (Ike Turner with Tommy Hodge) > Not Originally Issued <
Ike Turner) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Unknown Date 1958 in East St. Louis, Illinois
Tommy Hodge (vocal), Ike Turner (guitar), Carlson Oliver (tenor saxophone),
Fred Sample (piano), Jesse Knight (bass), Unknown (drums)

Once again Ike shows the whammy bar no mercy. He tried to find a good home for ''I'm Gonna Forget About You (Matchbox)'', this song, recording it for Eli Toscano's Cobra/Artistic labels in Chicago in 1958 with Tommy Hodge singing. He recorded another version for Cobra with Jackie Brenston and yet another with Otis Rush, but none of them was released at the time. Only on the tape mailed to Sun was it titled ''I'm Gonna Forget About You'', on all other versions, it bore the more succinct title ''Matchbox''. (And in those pre-Beatle days, ''Matchbox'' was a title known only to the handful of fans who'd bought Carl Perkins' Sun single, and an even smaller number of pre-War blues and hillbilly fans).

It would answer a few questions if we could have been the letter that accompanied this tape. Tuner seemed to be between contracts, not that being under contract ever impeded him from recording for another company. Phillips, though, had his attention diverted by Johnny Cash's defection to Columbia and Jerry Lee Lewis's career implosion. Ike Turner's tape, if not the blues as a whole, must have seemed like a missive from a forgotten planet.

Pat Hare

28 - Cheating And Lying Blues (aka I'm Gonna Murder (3:05) 1977 (Pat Hare) > Not Originally Issued <
(Clayton) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: - May 14, 1954 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Auburn Pat Hare (vocal and guitar), Billy Love (piano), Unknown (bass),
Israel Franklin (drums)

If only for the spoken asides, this is more menacing than the commonly available take heard on CD 5. Taken from an acetate disc and first issued on a Redita LP, this has been unavailable since the 1970s. What were Phillips' feelings as he sat in the control room listening to perhaps the most malevolent recording in the history of the blues.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc.

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
 

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

CD 10 Contains
For music on YouTube click on the available > buttons <

REVELATIONS

This final CD includes a number of Memphis Recording Service/Sun tracks that were revealed toward the end of this project together with a number of apocryphal Memphis Recording Service/Sun tracks and a few other rarities and obscurities.

Unknown Gospel Group

1 - John The Revelator (2:27) 2013 (Unknown Gospel Group) > Previously Unissued <
(Traditional) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Possible June 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Unknown Gospel Group, Possible The Five Voice Singers of Memphis

You can never tire of ''John The Revelator''. In all its myriad forms, it is truly what makes gospel music great: ancient theology refracted through the prism of the African American experience. Its authorship is unknown, and, as far as we can tell, the first recording was by the Bessemer Sunset Four in 1929, a version that wasn't issued. Blind Willie Johnson recorded it the following year, and its inclusion on the seminal Anthology Of American Folk Music ensured that it has now fully permeated popular culture to the point that it is recorded more frequently these days than before World War II. It was in The Blues Brothers movie and its last prime-time appearance was on The Conan O'Brien Show performed by the White Stripes. We have no idea who is performing this version; the acetate is blank on that score. On the Phillips' ''Tree Of Life'' commercial (see above) used a group called the Five Voice Singers of Memphis. It might be them. Regardless, it's a marvellous performances, based closely on the Golden Gate Quartet's 1938 recording. In the years before the Anthology of American Folk Music became required listening for college-age white kids, the Gates' version was required listening among African American audiences.

Sam Phillips

2 - Tree Of Life (Advertising Spot) (2:18) 2013 (Sam Phillips) > Previously Unissued <
Recorded Possible June 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Sam Phillips (announcer voice)

This track is an utterly fascinating glimpse of Sam Phillips, not as the discoverer of Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash or Howlin' Wolf or Carl Perkins, but as a radio snake oil salesman, selling some laughably suspect wares to the nice folks within the sound of his voice. The track also tells us about the state of Memphis radio in the early 1950s, before the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) however over claims just like these, trying to keep its citizens safe from products that were more likely to relieve them of their hard-earned cash than their allments. Maybe Sam was on auto-pilot when he read the text in front of him, but it's hard to imagine that he believed the magic elixir he was hustling would cure everything from cancer to erectile dysfunction. If you want a fuller picture of Sam the Radio man, check out his recitation on Sun Gospel (BCD 16387) of ''Would Anybody Care'', a poem from the Stamps-Baxter hymnal. That recording was made around 1950 to enchant an old girlfriend. As Sam told in 1999, he did it in his ''best announcer's voice''.

Unknown Gospel group

3 - I Am Bound For Canaan Land (3:08) 2013 (Unknown Gospel Group) > Previously Unissued <
(Charles Bridges) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Possible June 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Unknown Gospel Group, Possible The Five Voice Singers of Memphis

This was a reconfigured and slightly garbled rendition of the Blue Jay Singers' justly lauded 1947 recording of ''I'm Bound For Canaan Land''. In place of the Blue Jays almost aching precision, this is a rough and ready ad lib performance based on a well-known text. The likelihood is that the performers of this recording were a local group who simply wanted to know what they sounded like. in those pre-home taping days, performers had no idea unless they made a record like this (hence Elvis Presley's appearance at the Memphis Recording Service of years later). The Blue Jay's version was credited to their instructor and lead singer, Charlie Bridges, and in the Jays' hands it's one of the finest post-War quartet recordings. The same, sadly, cannot be said of this.

Lost John Hunter & The Blind Bats

4 - Play The Game Baby (2:37) 2013 (Lost John Hunter) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably May 1950 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Lost John Hunter (vocal and piano), The Blinds Bats: Unknown (guitar, bass, drums)

Hunter almost wears out the joys of a stop rhythm on the next acetate. It has an unmistakable similarity to Hunter's recording of ''Cool Down Mama'', originally released on 4-Star. It also bears an unmistakable similarity to uncountable pre-War piano-led blues recordings; in particular to Big Bill Broonzy's ''Play Your Hand, Baby''. The vocal is appealingly rough hewn (a Billboard' reviewer called Lost John, ''gravel throated'') and the track has an appropriately loose and boozy feel. There is plenty of give-and-take between Hunter and his sidemen, right down to the final second of the recording. A quick glance at mid-1950 rhythm and blues charts shows how out-of-date it was, and the sound quality seems to place it even further back in time. It's s faded audio snapshot of Sam Phillips five or six months into his venture, trying to figure out commercial rhythm and blues.

J.C. Cole

5 - Ida Mae (2:10) 2013 (J.C. Cole) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1951/1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
J.C. Cole (vocal and guitar)

There was a guitarist named J.C. Cole who reportedly accompanied Forrest City Joe on a session for Aristocrat in 1948. On that record, he keeps time on the bass strings much as the singer does on this recording. Soon after that session, John Lee Hooker broke big-time, and his influence looms large here. So large, in fact, that Cole has more or less ripped this original from Hooker's Modern record of ''Sally Mae''. Hooker didn't inspire many imitators (most of them turned out to be Hooker himself), but Cole has clearly got Hooker down: mumbling in unison with bass strings runs, twisting and turning vocal notes, singing non-rhyming stanzas as if they rhymed, and playing almost modally. Accomplished perhaps but by no means original.

6 - South Side Blues (2:35) 2013 (J.C. Cole) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1951/1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
J.C. Cole (vocal and guitar)

Unless we're missing something, this is about as original as J.C. Cole ever was. He's going to move to the South Side (presumably Chicago) and if he doesn't find hippeness there, he'll ramble the world somewhere. The shadow of John Lee Hooker again looms rage, but the song might be his own. In creating and sustaining the mood, Cole worries styllables as Hooker famously did. Playing slowly while sustaining tension is an art in itself, and Cole has pretty much mastered it.

7 - Move Me No More (1:48) 2013 (J.C. Cole) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1951/1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
J.C. Cole (vocal and guitar)

And John Lee Hooker, of course, had a ''you don't move me no more... found me a new love'' stomp blues that he recorded several times in his career. What's interesting in Cole's version is that he says ''she rocks, she rolls'' repeatedly. After the Dominoes recorded ''Sixty Minute Man'' in 1951 with ''I'll rock 'em, roll 'em all night long'', rock and roll entered the lexicon of rhythm and blues. By the time Phillips got into the business, a blues song that tried to make it on mood alone without a hook was a tough sell. Few of Hooker's many recordings were hits, and his hits usually had hooks. His discursive, free-form blues found favor with collectors years later, but didn't sell sufficient quantities to chart back in the day. J.C. Cole tries to make ''She rocks, she rolls'' into a hook, but misses the mark. This is a recording that makes it on rhythm and atmosphere, and in the world of early Fifties commercial blues, that wasn't enough.

8 - No Right Blues (Deep Blue Sea Blues) (2:22) 2013 (J.C. Cole) > Previously Unissued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1951/1952 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
J.C. Cole (vocal and guitar)

On ''No Right Blues (Deep Blue Sea Blues), here, Cole switches gears, reaching back to Tommy McClennan's 1941 recording of ''Deep Blue Sea Blues''. He starts slowly before speeding up as only a solo act can do. The signature lick is intact, and, of McClennan's four stanzas, Cole parrots three before adapting the famous ''two trains running'' verse from Muddy Waters' 1951 hit ''Still A Fool''. By the finale, Cole is playing at almost double the tempo he started. ''Still A Fool'' and ''Deep Blue Sea Blues'' were both cousins of Robert Petway's ''Catfish Blues'', as of course was Muddy's ''Rollin' Stone''. McClennan and Petway were friends and musical partners, so the ''Catfish Blues'' lick could have originated with either or neither of them. Cole, though, most certainly had McClennan's record because he imitates the tiniest inflection, right down to calling himself ''Tommy'' or ''Tony'' in the ''husband just now left'' verse. Accomplished plagiarism is about the best one can say of J.C. Cole.

Willie Carr

9 - Outside Friend (2:01) 1985 (Willie Carr) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: - Unknown Date Probably 1952/1953 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Willie Carr (vocal and harmonica)

Willie Carr was good. A disciple of Sonny Boy Williamson perhaps, but a worthy one. Someone as good as Carr should have made records, and that alone shows the capriciousness of the business. What little we know of him is related in the artiest biographies, but we have no idea how or when he came to record this acetate at the Memphis Recording Service. Steve LaVere, who discovered the acetate, suggested 1952 or 1953. Without a band, he had to carry the show on his own, and doesn't miss a beat or leave much dead air. His vocal is finely shaded, and his song appears to be original. It first appeared on a 1985 Krazy Kat LP, ''Memphis Blues: Unissued Titles From the 1950's''.

The Four Cruisers

10 - Beale St. Shuffle (2:41) 1953 (The Four Cruisers) > Chess 1547-A <
(Joseph Dobbin) (Arc Music)
Recorded June 3, 1953 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joseph Dobbin (piano), The Four Cruisers (details unknown)

So what led discographers to think that this might be one of Sam Phillips' recordings? A couple of reasons: the leader of the Four Cruisers, Joe Dobbins, was based in Memphis throughout most of his long career, and Phillips was supplying masters to Chess around this time. Against that, you could argue that Dobbins's single sounds nothing like a Memphis Recording Service session and Phillips had fallen out with Chess several months before it was recorded. Recently, some researchers have suggested that Howlin' Wolf's post-Phillips Memphis session was held at Lester Bihari's Memphis studio. Bihari, of course, ran Meteor Records, but it seems unlikely that Leonard Chess would record there because he'd stolen Bihari's charter act, Elmore James. Dobbins' session was roughly contemporaneous with Wolf's last Memphis session, though, so it's at least possible that Leonard Chess A&R'd them both at a studio other than Phillips.

Over the course of a long and fairly detailed oral history, Dobbins didn't go into much depth about this single. ''I wrote my first number in 1943 or 1943'', he told Harry Godwin in 1967. ''I wrote ''Beale Street Shuffle'' and ''On Account Of You''. They didn't do so good because I didn't know how to arrange at that particular time, and I quit playing again for about eight or nine years''. Dobbins probably meant 1952 0r 1953, and gave no clue as to the identity of the three unidentified Cruisers or where he recorded the session. So we're left with a pleasant, if innocuous, instrumental that's of interest only because it appeared on Chess and might have been Sam Phillips' last recording for that label.

Joseph Dobbin & The Four Cruisers

11 - On Account Of You (2:54) 1953 (Joseph Dobbin & The Four Cruisers) > Chess 1547-B <
(Joseph Dobbin) (Arc Music)
Recorded June 3, 1953 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Joseph Dobbin (piano), The Four Cruisers (details unknown)

As Joe Dobbins (Nor Dobbin as the label stated) comes to the fore, it again becomes clear that this doesn't sound like one of Phillips' recordings if for no other reason than the vocal is poorly recorded. By 1953, Phillips had achieved a very bright, urgent, and ballsy vocal sound. It would be wrong to say that Phillips didn't record this type of music, though. Within weeks of Dobbins' session, wherever it was held, Phillips recorded Big Memphis Mar Rainey, who played much the same places in much the same style. And although Chess has become indelibly associated with Chicago blues it's easy to forget that the Chess brothers began their music career in the nightclub business and always recorded what can best be described as suppperclub entertainment. Although not as studiedly cool as Charles Brown, this was still supperclub blues. Thus we're left with more questions than answers about a record that deserves few of either.

Unknown Artist

12 - Juice Head (1:36) 1976 (Unknown Artist) > Not Originally Issued <
(Rosco Gordon) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably March 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Unknown Artist (vocal and piano)

When ''Juice Head'' first appeared on a Redita Records LP, it was credited to Rosco Gordon. Redita owner, Robert Loers, found the acetate at Select-o-Hits, the distributorship owned by Sam Phillips' brother, Tom, where Sun artefacts were stored. The acetate had no name on the label, so Loers assigned it to Rosco Gordon. But it's not Rosco. It simply is not him. Really. Even Rosco confirmed that. It might not even be a Memphis Recording Service demo. Just substitute the words ''Hound Dog'' for ''Juice Head'' and what have you got? Of course the inspiration for this song came from Big Mama Thornton' ''Hound Dog'' or perhaps even from Rufus's Thomas ''Bear Cat''. But the song's other parent is Eddie Vinson's slowed down ''Juicehead Blues'' which harks to the previous decade (for a slightly later glimpse of the impact of the song at Sun, check out Charlie Rich's late night demo version that appears on BCD 16152). If indeed this originated from Sam Phillips' studio, it was nothing that Phillips needed to touch because it was another lawsuit waiting to happen.

13 - V O Baby (2:07) 1976 (Unknown Artist) > Not Originally Issued <
Recorded Probably March 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Unknown Artist (vocal and piano)

Another booze-related song by an unknown singer not named Rosco Gordon. This time the product moves to the decidedly upscale Seagram's V.O. and the rhythm shifts from a Yancey bass to triplets. Some off-mic vocal encouragement appears throughout the recording. The sound suggest that the source of this track is more likely to have been an acetate demo sent to Sun than anything recorded on the premises. But we truly don't know.

Shy Guy Douglas

14 - Detroit Arrow Blues (2:10) 1977 (Shy Guy Douglas) > Not Originally Issued <
(Shy Guy Douglas) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably June 1, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Thomas ''Shy Guy'' Douglas (vocal), Unknown (guitar), Possibly Richard Armstrong (piano)

Nashville-based singer Tomas Douglas aka Shy Guy Douglas was a protege of Red Wortham, who brought the Prisonaires to Jim Bulleit and thence to Sun. The date on one of Douglas's tape boxes is June 1, 1953, the same date as the Prisonaires' ''Just Walkin' In The Rain' session. That opens three possibilities: Douglas might have been invited guest on the prison bus that made its way to Memphis that day, even though no one remembered him; of perhaps the date cited is wrong and Douglas travelled to Memphis another day; or perhaps this is a Nashville-made tape that Wortham submitted to Phillips on June 1, 1953. What argues for a Nashville-made tape is that the recording sounds more like a one-mic demo than a Sun master. What argues for a trip to Memphis is that an unidentified Nashville pianist once told record dealer Mike Smyth that he made a recording session ''for Sun with Shy Guy Douglas''. One of Douglas's reels is taped over a hillbilly radio show from Florida that appears to date from the fall of 1952. And what makes it harder still to unravel is that around June 1, 1953, Excello Records in Nashville issued another recording of Douglas singing ''Detroit Arrow''. On the Excello recording, Skippy Brooks reportedly playing piano, on this recording, the florid pianist was probably an employee of WLAC, Nashville, Richard Armstrong, who had backed Douglas on his Delta/MGM recording of ''Raid On Cedar Street'' four years earlier and recorded for Randy's Records (the precursor of Dot) and for Tennessee Records. There are no clues about the guitarists identity. Finally, you'd think that the ''Detroit Arrow'' would be one of the trains that took African Americans from the South to Detroit; but no, it ran from Detroit to Chicago.

15 - Work With Her Boy (2:53) 1989 (Shy Guy Douglas) > Not Originally Issued <
(Shy Guy Douglas) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably June 1, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Thomas ''Shy Guy'' Douglas (vocal), Unknown (guitar), Possibly Richard Armstrong (piano)

It's clear from this ''Work With Her Boy'' that Douglas had done is share of entertaining. This is a man used to working audience with slickly hip lyrics. This is straight out of the Nat Cole playbook, and it's clearly aimed at up-market black nightclubs or maybe even Nashville's white hotel lounges. If it's hard to know why Douglas was pitched to Phillips when there was an Excello deal in place, it's not difficult to see why Phillips said no.

16 - Hip Shakin' Mama (Shy Guy's Back In Town) (1:39) 1977 (Shy Guy Douglas) > Not Originally Issued <
(Shy Guy Douglas) (Delta Music Incorporated)
Recorded Probably June 1, 1953 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Thomas ''Shy Guy'' Douglas (vocal), Unknown (guitar), Possibly Richard Armstrong (piano)

There's a fairly well known rhythm and blues song titled ''Hip Shakin' Mama''. Chubby Newsome originated it and Irma Thomas still sings it, but this ain't it. This is Mr. Shy Guy's very own calling card but his lightweight voice and the flowery piano aren't really suited to this tempo and this type of braggadocio. Again, you can almost hear the tinkling of glasses in the background and the polite, indifferent applause at the end. It's out of character with just about everything else in, and Sam Phillips clearly didn't think he needed it. In all likelihood, this is the same song that Douglas recorded for Red Wortham and Jim Bulleit in 1948 as ''Shy Guy's Back In Town''. It was part of a four-song session for Bullet's Delta Records, later sold or leased to MGM. Neither Delta nor MGM released ''Shy Guy's Back In Town''.

Unknown Vocal Group

17 - Oh Baby (1:59) 1989 (Unknown Vocal Group) > Not Originally Issued <
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded: - Unknown Date 1957/1958 at Sun Recording Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Unknown Vocal Group Probably The Rhythmaires including Ed Kirby (vocal and saxophone),
Big Lucky Carter (vocal and guitar), Unknown (bass, drums)

Although this is taken at a similar to Little Walter's record of the same name, Walter was working with a real song from the pen of Willie Dixon; this is more a riff masquerading as a song. When first issued on Charly Records, it was credited to ''Unknown Vocal Group'', but it's not a vocal group in the commonly accepted sense because the parts aren't harmonized. Additionally, the guitarist isn't strumming chords innocuously in the background as a vocal group accompanist would; he's a front-and-center blues man, and a pretty good one. ''Oh Baby'' is on a tape with Bill Pinkney's ''Sally's Got A Sister'', an unknown hillbilly-rockabilly singer, and Ed Kirby singing ''Mean Old Gin''. Kirby recorded for Sun at various points in 1957 and Pinkney's session was dated February 1958. With all that in mind, our current best guess is that this is Kirby's group, the Rhythmaires, possibly with Kirby playing saxophone and an unknown lead vocalist. Although Sun book-keeping was lax, Pinkney's ''After The Hop''/''Sally's Got A Sister'' single was almost certainly recorded as stated in February 1958 because ''At The Hop'' was a hit in the early months of that year, so ''Oh Baby'' could have been recorded in late 1957 or early 1958

Evangelist Gospel Singers of Alabama

18 - Lord Stop The War (2:43) 1951 (Evangelist Gospel Singers Of Alabama) > Chess 1473-B <
(Traditional) (Copyright Control
Recorded Unknown Date August 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Evangelist Gospel Singers of Alabama
More Details Unknown

Before we get into the music, we want to remind everyone near and far that, while there are discographical reasons to believe these may be recordings made by Sam Phillips, we remain sceptical on aural evidence alone. The record labels offer no clues: no composer and no publisher. Now the music. Originally appearing on one side of Chess 1473, this ''Lord Stop The War'' might have competed for radio airtime because of its content. The Korean War loomed large over the black community and dragged its tendrils into the repertoire of gospel quartets and their recording session. The content was clear: Let our boys come home from this senseless war being fought god knows where over issues none of us understands. Just make our families and community whole again. That message, sung to a familiar 8-bar structure is what you get here for 2:46 sec. What it lacks in originality, it more than gains in topicality. A lot of P's get popped, but that's what happens when you're singing about ''everybody Praying''. The topicality is hammered home in the final line when the group asks God not to stop the War, but to Stop This War. Amen.

19 - Leaning On The Lord (2:53) 1951 (Evangelist Gospel Singers Of Alabama) > Chess 1473-A <
(Traditional) (Copyright Control
Recorded Unknown Date August 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Evangelist Gospel Singers of Alabama
More Details Unknown

The Evangelists are good, no matter who recorded them. What's good here includes the highly syncopated rhythm and highly arranged and rehearsed performance. This quartet didn't walk into a studio and lay down a track after agreeing on a key, a tempo and some lyrics. In that sense they differ from many of the blues performances presented here. These guys rehearsed, and they worked the piano player into their arrangement. he's not just comping mindlessly behind them; the piano is driving and fronting the performance. The cold stop at the end and the voicing of the final vocal chord tells you that a lot of prep work went into what you're hearing. Perhaps the strongest evidence to suggest this may not have been a Phillips recording is the sheer skill that went into balancing the lead vocalist with the quartet, and the quartet as a whole with the piano. The studio at 706 Union was small and some other Phillips recordings of the era show that Sam was not always skilled at doing this kins of balancing act. This ''Leaning On The Lord'' hymn was one that the Golden Gate Quartet, the Famous Blue Jay Singers, and many others had recorded.

20 - Walk In The Light (3:09) 1951 (Evangelist Gospel Singers Of Alabama)  > Chess 1486-B < 
(Traditional) (Copyright Control)
Recorded August 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Evangelist Gospel Singers of Alabama consisting of: Willie McInstry (lead vocal),
Leroy Terry (tenor and piano), Willie Banks (baritone vocal),
John Davis (bass vocal), Unknown (drums and vocal effect)

This recording session is not logged in the (MRS) Sun files, but Chess Records' archieves indicate that the masters were purchased from Sam Phillips. The Evangelists are back for another of their Chess outings of indeterminate provenance. If the source is Sam Phillips, then this is almost certainly from a different session than the one producing the first Evangelist disc. The piano is buried more deeply in the mix and there is a driving bass sound throughout. Is it a partial drum kit? Somebody's foot on the floor? There is no pitch to that bass sound so it can't have been sung or provided by a stringed instrument. In any case, it fills in a hole in the sonic range quite effectively. Likewise, handclapping helps to drive the record. All told, this is a good example of jubilee style in full flower. If you listen carefully, you'll hear the ''baser'' singing the wordless part that a Fender bass would play in just a few short years.

21 - Never Grow Old (2:57) 191 (Evangelist Gospel Singers Of Alabama) > Chess 1486-A < 
(Traditional) (Copyright Control)
Recorded August 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
Evangelist Gospel Singers of Alabama consisting of: Willie McInstry (lead vocal),
Leroy Terry (tenor and piano), Willie Banks (baritone vocal),
John Davis (bass vocal), Unknown (drums and vocal effect)

This recording session is not logged in the (MRS) Sun files, but Chess Records' archieves indicate that the masters were purchased from Sam Phillips.

This time the quartet turns to the classic from the dusty hymnal on the table. Credited to a Georgia-born white Baptist minister, James C. Moore, ''Where We'll Never Grown Old'' has been recorded by a Who's Who of gospel performers, including Smith's Sacred Singers, the Vaughn Quartet and Aretha Franklin as well as a wide range of country singers including Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, George Jones and Eddy Arnold. This is one of the first black gospel recordings of the song. On this version you keep waiting for the boys to shake loose of the slow, free tempo, as they did on ''Leaving On The Lord'', but they never do it. That they do offer, however, is a narration that includes a passing plea for world peace. You can be certain that the hymnal version of the song didn't include any such words. (HD)(MH)

Spiritual Stars

22 - I'll Search Heaven (3:04) 1951 (Spiritual Stars) > Chess 1485-B < 
(Mae Glover-Beatrice Brown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
The Spiritual Stars Unidentified Group Members

This is a very good record. There is no real evidence that these guys ever saw the inside of 706 Union Avenue, but it's nice to think that they might have. Again, the record label offers no clue. The only subscript is ''Spiritual Series'', and we could have guessed that. The group holds more harmonic interest and greater dynamic range than the Evangelist Gospel Singers and comes across as slightly more ''modern'' because of it. The 16-bar structure and melodic line of this song bear more than a passing similarity to the classic ''Peace In The valley'', but it was a loose adaption of Mae Glover and Beatrice Brown's 1945 song, ''I'll Search Heaven For You'', recorded by the Mill Brothers among others. (HD)

23 - Good Religion (2:21) 1951 (Spiritual Stars) > Chess 1485-A < 
(Unknown) (Copyright Control)
Recorded Probably 1951 at Memphis Recording Service, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
The Spiritual Stars Unidentified Group Members

The Spiritual Stars were good! You heard it here. This time they turn their hands and voices to the oft-recorded tune ''So Glad I Got Good Religion'' (check out the Blind Boys of Alabama for a definitive version). just listen to this record and hear great harmonic variants of what would in lesser hands be simple 4-square chords. Not on this record, though. Nothing is ordinary here. If Sam Phillips truly had recorded this music in his tiny studio back in 1951, maybe he fallen on his knees, poured his Jack Daniels down the drain, trashed his little black book on the spot, and gone into the gospel music business. Of course that would mean the history of American popular culture as we know it would never have been written. Maybe that's too steep a price to pay. But one way or the other, he would have known, as you do, that this is really a hell of a record.

© Original Sun Recordings, licensed from Sun Entertainment, Inc. 

For Biographies of Artists see: > The Sun Biographies <
Sun recordings can be heard on the playlists from 706 Union Avenue Sessions on > YouTube <
  

© - 706 UNION AVENUE SESSIONS - ©

THE SUN BLUES YEARS - When Sam Phillips formally opened the Memphis Recording Service, large numbers of local blues musicians walked through the company front door. In order to understand Phillips' success, it is necessary to examine his relationship with Memphis musicians and key figures in the music business.

At the time, the record business was dominated by corporate giants. The major record labels - Decca, RCA, Columbia, and Capitol - soon found that they were challenged by three new labels: MGM, Mercury, and London. To Phillips' surprise, none of these companies paid any attention to the blues. Several small labels - Chess, Atlantic, Imperial, and others - were competing for the artists at the center of Sam Phillips' attention, however.

At first, the Memphis Recording Service simply recorded master tapes for these other small labels to release. Leonard Chess or one of the Bihari brothers would order a tape, and Sam Phillips would record the artist. While there was no money in making these recordings for others, Phillips found it excellent training for future success with his own label.

Initially, Phillips' plan was to sign and record some of the best local artists, and sell the master tapes to the growing army of independent record labels. He began asking around about music groups that he could record. If a band could be recorded effectively, Sam Phillips reasoned, the master could be sold to a name record label by his recording company.

Bill McCall of 4-Star and Gilt-Edge Records became one of Sam Phillips' earliest customers. 4-star, a Los Angeles-based company, had discovered Cecil Gant, a black crossover piano player with a boogie-woogie sound. McCall also bought songs from an Oakland-based songwriter, Bob Geddins. Geddins was one of many black songwriters who convinced McCall that black artists could record in a white vein. The ties that Phillips established with McCall not only helped educate Sam about the record business, but McCall provided an example of a slick record promoter whose astuteness interested him even more in the commercial possibilities of black music.

When Bill McCall asked Sam Phillips to cut some demos for 4-Star, Sam jumped at the chance. In May and June 1951, Sam Phillips recorded two blues artists, a piano player, Lost John Hunter, and a blues guitarist, Charlie Burse. One song from this session "Cool Down Mama" (4-Star 1942) by Lost John Hunter and the Blind Bats was registered with B.M.I. in September 1951 and released to immediate obscurity. It is an important song, because this was Sam Phillips, first blues release.

Sam Phillips also entered into an agreement with Modern Records magnates Jules and Saul Bihari to produce tapes for their new RPM label. After recording Joe Hill Louis, Phineas Newborn, and the Gospel Travelers, Sam Phillips once again was struck with the notion of turning out his own records. The Joe Hill Louis tapes intrigued Phillips because he realized that Louis' versatile musical talents could be used in the studio to back other artists.

The Biharis recognized Memphis' unique musical talent. In the summer of 1949, B.B. King signed a contract with the RPM label and recorded songs that became Memphis hits. B.B. King's "Woke Up This Morning", "B.B's Blues", and "B.B's Boogie" were songs that Sam Phillips loved, and they influenced his decision to open his own record business. RPM had not only released B.B. King's records, but regularly scouted local Memphis clubs for new acts. When some of the artists that Sam Phillips recorded for the Biharis opted for other labels, there were harsh words. By late 1951, the tension between Phillips and Bihari brothers were obvious to most musicians hanging around the Memphis Recording Service; Phillips, everyone also noticed, thought incessantly about turning out his own records.

Sam Phillips' reputation as an innovative producer was largely due to his recording of "Rocket 88". The tune featured the lead vocal of Ike Turner's saxophonist, Jackie Brenston. Sam Phillips recorded Walter Horton's harmonica and jug band virtuoso Jack Kelly. Sam recorded Jackie Boy, Little Walter and Johnny London.

Sam Phillips was a perfectionist with an ear for the right sound, and if the sound wasn't exactly right he shelved plans for the record. The key to Sun Records reputation and success was the quality of its product. From the beginning, Sun recordings had to be commercial in order to be released. All of the early blues recording sessions, which took place at night because Sam was selling his products during the day, were supervised by Phillips' because he didn't trust the instincts of those around him.

One of the most obscure but significant Memphis musicians was an harmonica player named James Cotton. In 1953, Cotton's band featured guitarist Pat Hare, and in December of that year Sam Phillips brought Cotton and his band into Sun Records to record two songs.

It was Les Bihari who made the deal with Sam Phillips to produce masters for Modern, and they released some Howlin' Wolf tunes. Many of the Howlin' Wolf songs that Phillips recorded were not released, because of arguments over songwriting credit.

Most Sun Records' artists have commented that Sam Phillips did pay his artists a fair royalty. He was often late with the royalty payments, but this was due to the lack of available cash. During recording sessions, Phillips paid a small, but fair, wage to his session men.

By 1952, however, Sun Records was established as a legitimate business. The first two years were experimental ones as Phillips learned the ropes. It was necessary to turn a profit with vanity records to guarantee that enough money could be generated to continue the Sun Records operation. Once the company began, however, Phillips was confident that he could turn out successful blues records.

From 1951 to 1953, Sam Phillips strongest efforts were in the blues field, where he turned out some of the finest music in the South. He recorded or listened to B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Big Walter Horton, Little Junior Parker, Willie Nix, Big Ma Rainey, Howlin' Wolf, Rosco Gordon, and Rufus Thomas among others. In Memphis, blues artists enabled Sam Phillips to sell large quantities of records. Phillips paid the artist a fair price for the music and didn't interfere with their recording style. It was this widespread confidence in Phillips' production techniques that fostered a word-of-mouth reputation which brought the South's best blues acts to the Sun studio.

By the oddest coincidence, the man who is ascribed as having written the first "Memphis Blues", in 1912, W.C. Handy, was born - like Sam Phillips - in Florence, Alabama. Handy became a bandleader, playing dances throughout the South, tunes like "Cotton Blossoms" or "Sousa's Stars And Stripes Forever". However, Handy also heard the music of the field hands and railroad workers as he travelled through the South, and one night in 1903 at Tutwiler railroad station he heard a "lean, loose-jointed Negro" play a blues which featured the line "Goin' where the Southern cross the Dog". It was a revelation to Handy, and he gradually incorporated elements of blues into his work. Like Sam Phillips would some halfcentury later, Handy too, worked in Memphis and in 1909 found himself hanging out at Pee Wee's saloon and gambling joint, and working to elect. E.H. Crump as Mayor. The tune he used gradually became the "Memphis Blues", with its 12-bar format. It was the first of many blues, but the (relatively unsophisticated) musicians whom Handy had learned from would have to wait their turn in the spotlight until he advent of the 78-rpm disc.

Black musicians had been recorded on wax cylinders as early as 1902, but what is widely accepted as the first blues recording - Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues" - wasn't made until 1920. Its subsequent success ensured that many more would follow, and after running the gamut of vaudeville singers, Jazz bands and Choirs, the record companies gradually picket up the courage to record country blues - and were frequently astonished at the resulting sales figures.

From 1927 onwards, Memphis was often the target of field recording units, but after the Depression this ceased - apart from one lone ARC session in 1939. Strangely enough, three of the singers featured here in this publication - Charlie Burse, Jack Kelly, and Jimmy DeBerry - got a chance to record then, their last sessions before recording for Sam Phillips more than a decade later.

The outbreak of World War 2, allied to record company policy, the shellac shortage, and the recording ban enforced by the AFM scotched any further local blues-oriented recording dates in the short-term. Meanwhile, the major record companies had settled into a formulaic rut (so what's new?) using session musicians, and generally ignoring individual talent from the South. They continued in this vein after the war, and were subsequently usurped by the burgeoning power of the Independent labels, who were quick to exploit public demand for more exciting, up-to-date rhythm and blues, and soon swept the majors out of the scene.

Sam Phillips was the forefront of this upsurge, and initially, he had Memphis - the natural migration point for blacks from the Tri-State area (Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee) - virtually to himself. He sought out local musicians via radio shows (notably his own spot on WREC radio and his "blood brother" Dewey Phillips daily WHBQ radio show) and talents scouts (e.g. Ike Turner) and quickly built up the roster of talent which earned him a formidable reputation - and ultimately, the successes which led to the appearance of serious competition locally via labels like Meteor Records.

After great blues came great rockabilly but after a decade of hectic recording Phillips started to lose interest and eventually sold out, investing his money in the Holiday Inn chain. But that's another story.

by Colin Escott, Hank Davis, and Martin Hawkins

SAM'S BLUES"I opened the Memphis Recording Service in January of 1950 with the intention in mind of recording singers and musicians from Memphis and the locality who I felt had something that people should be able to hear. I'm talking here about blues, both the country style and the rhythm style, and also about spirituals or gospel music and about white country music. I grew up around the blues and spiritual music of the mid-South, and I always felt that the people who played this music had not been given the opportunity to reach an audience. I feel strongly about a lot of the blues that was real true, unadulterated life as it was. Basically, in the black music I'd heard all my life, and in the country music, there seemed to be something that was musically good and worthwhile. I knew there were markets for this music, both black and white.

Of course, at the start I had to do a lot of things just to keep the doors open - I was still working for radio WREC until June of 1951 - and I recorded weddings, conventions and the like and made transfers to disc. But my main aim was to try to record the blues and the other music liked and to prove whether I was right or wrong about this music. knew - or felt knew - that there was a bigger audience for blues than just the black man of the mid-South. There were city markets to be reached, and knew that whites listened to blues surreptitiously. I had the idea that there must be a way to fill the need for black music, and for country music. To me, a lot of the early stuff that I recorded, the blues, could be classified as masterpieces. With the jet age coming on, with cotton-picker machines as big as a building going down the road, with society changing as it has, I knew that this music wasn't going to be available in the pure sense for ever. These things played a big role in what I attempted to do.

When I opened the studio I had talked to some record labels but I did not have any deals lined up. I felt I had to please myself first with the music, and then go out and sell what I had and what I liked. One of the first was Joe Hill Louis, the one-man blues band. Matter of fact, if I am not mistaken, the first time I ever saw Joe Hill he was on his way to play a show at Moscow, Tennessee, about forty miles away. He played there a lot, it turned out. On this occasion, I was down at the studio working on getting the building right.

This was before we were open for business, before we got all the walls built right to our needs. Joe just called in. He had heard something was happening and he wanted to know what was going on. I said, 'I'm going to build a recording studio here once I get the building into shape'. He Said, 'Man, that's just what we need here in Memphis. He explained to me that he was a recording artist - for Columbia - and that he was ready to make some more records. Joe played guitar and harmonica and bass drum all at the same time. He had a harmonica holder around his neck. At times he would get the effect of singing through the harmonica into the mike. It was a style he had developed. He was that kind of person. He would go his own way. When I first heard him, I just thought, 'this is a guy that deserves to be heard, even though I realized that it was basically a novelty kind of thing.

The first record with Joe Hill came about because I had been fooling around recording him and I mentioned this to Dewey Phillips, the 'disc-jockey here at WHBQ. Now Dewey liked Joe Hill very much, and Dewey was on the air. He wanted to promote Joe, he really wanted to do something with him, so that was when we decided to go into the record business. The label was called ''It's The Phillips. Dewey Phillips and I, we were together quite a bit. We figured that if we had a record out we could feel out the record business on a local basis and that would help both of us in our business. I was suffering some real disappointments in trying to get my studio going, and there was a decision as to what to do with myself. It was partly a lark for both of us, to see how it would go, but Dewey was a hot deejay in Memphis and I knew that we had a good chance to get some recordings played. Another of the early things I had was Charlie Burse singing ''Shorty The Barber''. We had a barber shop right across the street from the studio and I went across to borrow some shears from the barber to get the right sound effect on the recording. It was one of the things scheduled for release on the little label I had with Dewey Phillips (although the disc was never issued).

Really, though, I wanted to concentrate on recording rather than selling. As I began to record blues, the word got around that I might have something. The first deal I made was with Bill McCall and Don Pierce at 4-Star. I had known Bill for some time and I knew that he was mainly involved in the country market but I contacted him and told him what I was trying to do with blues. The music they took was by John Hunter. He was a blind man from south Memphis. He was a pianist with a lot of potential, but I think we only ever did get a few sides out on him. By that time, Joe Hill Louis had come in and begun to work successfully with us. His recordings opened a deal supplying songs to Modern and RPM and when Modern came through with something more than just a one-off deal I went with that. Saul and Jules Bihari had found out from Don Pierce at 4-Star that I was building a recording studio, and they wanted me to record some music for them. So I did do that for a little time. It was on a shake-hand deal. I had shake hand deals with everyone. But it turned into being a problem with Saul and Jules. We had a misunderstanding, you could say. And there was no place in my life for that kind of thing.

After Joe Hill Louis had come in and he had been treated right, I think it was then a word of mouth thing among black musicians where they realised that here was a studio that would actually try to do something to get their music exposed. I had to overcome the feeling that most of the musicians had when they come to me, that I was going to take them for some kind of money. A charge for an audition. They still thought that there was some hook, even after they came back time after time. You see, until then the artists did not feel that anybody was really going to help them. Soon they found out that I not only worked hard with them, but that I enjoyed it, appreciated their music and would not let them try to please me by playing what they thought a white man wanted. Over a period of time I succeeded in getting that across. At first they couldn't believe it, so I had as much difficulty getting them to play their natural music as I did selling it. But it was worth the struggle. I was not interested in duplicating sounds that were already on the market. What interest would I have been serving in that? Even right at the start I was interested in getting that gut feel onto records that I had known for years. I realised that it was going to be that much more difficult to merchandise, than what Specialty or Atlantic were doing, for instance. But I was willing to go with black records even though there was not the radio coverage or the distribution. I was willing to take the 'no's' that would inevitably come, and hopefully be overcome, Soon I had regular interest in my music from RPM and from Chess. They were involved in black music anyway, but of course even there I had to compromise a little. Those labels wanted a fuller blues sound than I did, and I had to bear this in mind. They were selling excitement. I was recording the feel I found in the blues.

Everything I recorded had to have a basic gut feeling to it. Blues, gospel, country, rockabilly. I tried to help the artists where I could with a song structure or a lyric, but basically I tried to get them to record what they had and to bring out of them what they were. This is difficult for me to explain, but I felt it so strongly it was almost a religious belief. I never felt that anybody could really help me in what I was doing. Maybe I was right, or maybe it was wrong. It was certainly a difficulty for me. I still had a day job at WREC and I was presenting the big jazz bands at the Skyway, the Peabody Hotel at night. After I got off from the radio station at 3.30 in the afternoon, I then went down to my studio and everything had to be fitted in at that time of day. It may have been better had I trusted another engineer there to work for me, but I just didn't feel anyone could record the blues as well as I could. Anyway it would have been like a bandleader employing an arranger and going home to bed while the rest of the band played the show. I felt that unless I was there at all times running the board and working with the artists, then nothing was going to happen. They say a smart man is one who can delegate authority so I must be a dumb son of a bitch. I was not there at the studio to goofoff. I was there to try to prove myself. If I had failed, well I would have known that I had done all there was to do. By the time you get through the auditioning, the recording, the pressing and shipping and working the radio stations - and back then it was not only the disc-jockey, you had to get to the management and talk to them because a lot of them did not want their station marked with black music - and all this on a very limited budget. There was such a tremendous amount of time consumed on working the mechanics of the recording business. Marion Keisker worked with me part-time at the studio, and that was all the help I had.

When I quit my regular jobs, I was working seven days a week. I was recording weddings and funerals and I was taking care of the PA system of the Peabody Hotel, and it was a big convention centre for the whole of the mid-South area, and I was doing the Skyway broadcast from the Peabody every night at 10.30 and then back at work at 7.30 in the morning, and even doing the Sunday Symphony and concert orchestra. I was an 18-20 hour a day-person. Then I went home and told my wife one night, 'Becky, I can't stand it.' I'd already had a nervous breakdown. This was mentally and emotionally exhausting so I told her, 'I've just got to make a decision. I've worked awfully hard to get where I am, I like it, but it's not what I want to do.' so she said, 'Whatever you want to do, we'll be there, and June of 1951 is when I resigned. I had no income except what I could hustle up.

''Rocket 88'' was the record that really kicked it off for me as far as broadening the base of music and opening up wider markets for our local music. I had great, great artists that I was working with like B.B. King, Rosco Gordon and the Howling Wolf, but ''Rocket 88'' was the one that opened out the possibilities for us. It was a song that Ike Turner and his band came in with. Ike wanted a record out, real badly. But I said, 'Ike, man, you can't sing. You're a hell of a piano player, you play guitar real good, but you just can't sing. Now Jackie (Brenston) here has this vocal that we can really go somewhere with'. Well, this did not please Ike and it created a little problem. I tried to handle it right, and I explained the way it was, but I guess I can understand how Ike felt that Jackie's success was really his success. Anyway, Ike took Jackie's band away from us and so we had a problem. At that time, Chess was screaming for some more top notch product so I recorded Billy Love singing ''Juiced'' and we used that as the follow up. It was the best song around, and I bought it off Billy for Jackie.

Of course, having successes like these brought as many problems too. Confusion came in between Leonard Chess and me, about what I was supposed to be paid etc. I made some wrong moves around that time with RPM and Chess. If I'd had my way, I'd rather have done only the creative end and left the business to other people but once you set up in business you have to carry it through. I grew up on a handshake deal, which I guess is not a good thing to rely on in business. Len and Phil were not honest with me, I have to say that. I was not being greedy. I'd have stayed with them but I was working my ass off and I couldn't afford not to get what was due to me. If I've got any forte at all, and certainly I didn't do everything right, it's my honesty and integrity. They're everything to me. I know what it is to be cheated and I know what it meant to cheat. There were just very people that I knew in business that were as honest in their accountings as I was. I truly did not want to open a record label. It honestly was the last thing. But I was forced into it by those labels either coming into Memphis to record or taking my artists elsewhere. What people did not realise was that what was important was producing records with the potential to be hits. Hit sounds, good music. A guarantee of money to the Wolf or the others looked fine, but it was not the answer. It only raised everyone's expectations and let everyone down on both sides when they didn't deliver. so, like I say, Sun Records was forced upon me, but at the same time it presented the opportunity to do exactly what I wanted albeit that the time factor was so inhibiting.

Opening the Sun label at the first of the year 1952, God that was a frightening experience for me. I already had a heavy workload. Now, here I was with lack of time, lack of know-how, lack of liquidity, but despite all that I didn't want to go into it just to be a regional label. I wanted to be a national label, because I had already shown myself that the music I recorded could be sold nationally. At this time Jim Bulleit was involved in distributing and merchandising for me. Jim was based in Nashville and he had had hits that were real door-openers for independent labels. Jim helped me an awful lot, as much as anything in understanding what the problems were and could be. Jim really gave me most of the early insight into what I was confronted with, and that was even more frightening. The first things we had on Sun were Walter Horton, Johnny London, and Walter Bradford. Walter was a disc-jockey that I had been in contact with and he sang well. The record that really started off the label was Johnny London. Young as he was, 17 I guess, Johnny had a sound and an approach to the alto sax that I found appealing. The alto is a difficult instrument to play with that real gut bucket sound, and I realised the difficulties of starting out with an instrumental, but Johnny could do more with a reed than most players I had heard, even the big band saxophonists I put on at the Skyway.

In 1953 we issued another series of recordings on Sun. Around this time I had a split with Jim Bulleit and my brother Jud came in with me to help on sales and so on. Jud and I had the same concept but we had difficulties with going ahead at the same speed. Money was strictly limited and I guess we both had to go more slowly than we wanted. But success was important and it had to be done right just as the music had to be recorded right. At this time my two sons, Knox and Jerry, were growing up and going to school and there was a lot at stake. It had been a big decision to quit WREC, and if it all fell then I would have had to start a lot further down back in radio. My wife Becky gave me total support, even though I don't think she really understood the crazy stuff that I was doing other than in a general way. My wife was an excellent singer in the old big band fashion, she was a pop vocalist. She later came to have a great interest in rock and roll, but back before that it was just faith. Marion Keisker, I think starting as a well educated city girl who loved the opera, she did become very much interested in the blues. She worked as a freelance radio announcer and producer in Memphis.

I chose the name Sun. A man named Jay Parker, who had played the High School band with me, unknown to me he was worked the Memphis Engraving Co. down on North Second Street. I took a sketch down. I told him what I wanted and he several designs and I decided on the one with the rays and the rooster. The sun to me, as a kid on the farm, I'd hear the rooster crow and see the sunrise and it was a universal kind of thing. A new day, new opportunity, you know. We started issuing with 174 and 175, but it had no significance other than that I wanted low numbers that distributors could easily remember and deal with. That year, 1953, we had three hit records. Rufus Thomas, Junior Parker, and Johnny Bragg and the Prisonaires. They gave us a little money and a little more scope. Breathing room from having to make every penny count. There had been a number of years where we were really struggling. Still we had to play things close to our chests. I felt that no matter what your talent you had to be a good businessman otherwise you wouldn't last. My parents had lost everything in the19'29 depression and that rubbed off on me, I guess. I was proud that Sun had the lowest return rate possible. What we pressed we sold. The company developed slowly and solidly. That was how it had to be, even though there was so much music out there to be recorded.

I think a lot of my black artists lost out through lack of my time, there was just so much talent around. Take Jimmy DeBerry. Now I know that this man had it. But with everything going on I just could not push his music enough. I think ''Take A Little Chance With Me''' was one of the real classic recordings of the blues. It was so basic, yet it had such a feel to it. I know right to this day that it was a superhit, but realised that it would take that much more time and effort to get that basic blues sound accepted. You have to compromise, unfortunately. I had to balance and assess how much time and effort I could spend on each artist. James Cotton suffered in this way and Sammy Lewis, and even the great Walter Horton. These men all deserved so much more recognition. Again, there was D.A, Hunt - a young man who walked in dripping with raw unsophisticated talent. Another one - now, here was a guy who has been overlooked. A man who could make a guitar say as much as any person I've ever heard. One of the greatest blues guitar players I've ever heard - Pat Hare. He was fantastic. Where today, or even then, did you hear great music like that? I was always looking for artists that had something special inside them. You didn't just want a guy who could play well, you needed to feel his soul as well.

Another of the finest guitar players I ever heard was Floyd Murphy. He and Junior Parker had the Blue Flames. There was an outstanding group, with the pianist ''Struction'' who had been with Howling Wolf before then, and with Parker himself, and particularly with Floyd's guitar style. He was no more than 16 or 17 years old but he was a natural musician. Floyd was not as bluesy as Pat Hare but he had this tremendous ability, he could make a guitar sound like two guitars.

The Prisonaires were a group of men that I was really proud to work with and to be able to help in some way. They were such a flexible group too, capable of popular hits like ''Just Walkin' In The Rain'' as well as a wide range of gospel and secular quartet singing. Then, too, there were outstanding individuals. I very much wanted to develop Johnny Bragg as a lead vocalist, and we did go some way toward that. On the other hand, Billy Emerson. He wrote such great songs. His voice wasn't that distinctive, but I know that if I had had the time I could have done so myth with those songs. Rosco Gordon was another artist who came back to me at Sun and there was so much potential there. There were so many who could have made it, but it was a question of staying in business and ultimately getting the chance to do what wanted which was to create a blend of southern musical styles, black and white. Not all of the black artists would have made it. Billy Love, now Billy was a super-good musician but he didn't have the gut desire to succeed. Not that he didn't want to, but I didn't have time to waste and I think Billy's problem was lack of patience and devotion to what he was doing. He played well, but there is a kind of dedication and belief in your music that extends beyond the doors of the studio. He did not have that. Instrumentation in the blues is awfully important. I mean, in many ways it's more important than the words. It just says so much. The blues, though, is very difficult to be consistently original in. That can be good, but you have to be so careful because of the chord structures and the innate subjects of the blues. I had some of the greatest artists, and that was why I was so very, very insistent on naturalness and not copying anyone else.

Gospel music was an area where I didn't get to do anywhere near what I would have liked. It certainly wasn't intentional neglect, but you have to compromise. Oh, man, there's no telling what I could and should have done in gospel music from the Memphis area. It was such an important musical force in the city. I'm ashamed to say I just barely touched the surface with the potential of Memphis gospel. Take the Reverend Brewster here, he is one of the greatest Ministers I've ever heard speak, and in his church he had so many groups, soloists and choirs, why you wouldn't even have to leave the church to get a whole roster of unbelievable gospel sounds. I did record the Brewsteraires and several quartets, but it was a whole different area to merchandise and, there again, you run out of time after working eighteen hours a day. When you are putting 65 or 70,000 miles a year on an auto, doing all the recording and running a business it was such an overwhelming thing.

Looking back over the recordings you have compiled in this box, I really don't know how we did as much as we did. I am just so glad that it is all going to be available in one package. I honestly feel that I can say that I know what it is to have a baby. I mean this. This is what Sun Records was to me. Thank God I didn't let anybody abort me''.

- Sam Phillips Talking About The Blues Years to Martin Hawkins,
August 29, 1984,
September 27, 1984,
May 1, 2000

WORKING FOR SUNl.ate in 1969, fresh off the success of the ''Leqendary Masters Series'' I had produced at Liberty Records in Los Angeles under the auspices of Bob Hite and Henry Vestine, I met and began corresponding with Shelby Singleton in Nashville in regard to creating a similar series of blues reissues for his company from the Sun Records material he had recently acquired from Sam Phillips.

As fate would have it, I decided to move to Memphis in early 1970 and was soon befriended by a talented guitarist and luthier named Edward LaPaglia. He was known to his friends as Teddy Paige and in earlier days he had been a member of The Jesters that recorded for Sun. Since those days, Sun not only had been acquired by Singleton, but Teddy had become more involved with blues.

Singleton wanted contemporary blues label and he'd hired Teddy as producer for his new Sun label. In addition, Teddy had been asked to review the old Sun blues catalog with the idea of creating a blues reissue series. Teddy made a stalwart attempt, but blues history not being his long suit, he eventually withdrew from the project. Accordingly, I followed up on my earlier entreaties to Singleton and by November of 1970, I was contracted to produce the series.

In the original acquisition, Singleton had acquired little more than the remnants of the original tapes by the blues and black artists that Sam Phillips had recorded, and a notebook that had been kept by Marion Keisker, his secretary and studio manager in the early days. Nevertheless, it was a formidable collection that contained many alternate takes of known recordings and issued records, as well as both unissued recordings and unknown sessions. Marion's notebook contained tantalizing bits of information and notes about the sessions and artists over which countless hours have been spent, much of it in vain, in an effort to decipher. Singleton had removed it all to his base of operations in Nashville.

My sessions with the tapes consisted of three weeks in Nashville - sometimes 12 to 15 hours a day - examining and copying every tape that sounded interesting. They had all been made on 7" reels, usually recorded full-track at 15 ips, with some audition tapes, as well as listening copies, recorded at 7.5 ips. For better storage, I put two 7" reels on one 10" reel and in the process made myself a flat copy of the large reel at 7.5 ips on a 7" reel. At the conclusion of the three weeks, I had a listening copy in Memphis of every blues tape in the vault in Nashville... everything I would need for consideration for the series, save a few of the later Rosco Gordon sessions.

In the listening and indentifying process, I was so excited not only to hear so many great alternate takes of the early Sun blues records, but also full sessions by many of Mississippi's and Memphis' post-war giants - like Charlie Booker, Houston Boines, Boyd Gilmore, Howlin' Wolf, Honeyboy Edwards, Sleepy John Estes and Harmonica Frank. I even found alternate takes of ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky'' by Elvis and ''Milkshake Mademoiselle'' by Jerry Lee Lewis! What a blissful three weeks!

Back in Memphis, my job then became one of filling in the blanks. For the next year or so, in the process of creating 23 blues and gospel compilations, I constantly sought original Sun blues records and recordings that were not represented in the tape masters as well as information about the records from local, domestic and international collectors. I also tried to flesh out the brief data that was contained in Marion's notebook by locating friends and associates of the artists so that a comprehensive history could be written about each one.

My efforts yielded tremendous rewards. Early on, I enlisted the help of Sam Phillips' son Jerry, a bandmate of Teddy Paige's in the Jesters. His assistance yielded not only numerous additional original tape masters that had been overlooked in an out-of-the-way cabinet at the Madison Avenue studio, but also a huge stack of already-deteriorating original acetate disc recordings and dubs that had been stored in an off-limits to collectors area of Sam's brother Tom Phillips' record store on Chelsea Avenue. Not surprisingly, some of the finest examples of Sun's blues years came from these sources. In particular, I recall the first time I heard what turned out to be Jackie Boy & Little Walter's ''Sellin' My Stuff'' and the great disappointment I felt when the track dissolved into blank acetate half-way through. The rest of it hasn't been found to this day.

In my search for information about the artists, I was fortunate to be able to find and interview a number of people in a variety of occupations who were able to assist with credible information. (One of the more surprising was the records librarian at the Shelby County Penal Farm!) It took perseverance, but I eventually located enough information to add measurably to the histories of some of the more shadowy Sun blues artists.

Thanks to Drew Canale and Joe's wife Dorothy Mae, I uncovered enough information for a full biography of Joe Hill Louis. Through Joe Willie Wilkins, I was introduced to Willie Nix and compiled a complete biography of him for Bob Hite's short-lived ''R&B Collector''. I secured additional information about the recently discovered, yet, sadly, deceased D.A. Hunt. I also located and interviewed Harmonica Frank, Jimmy DeBerry, Big Memphis Ma Rainey, Hot Shot Love, Sammy Lewis, Raymond Hill, Johnny London and Marvin Walker of the Five Tinos, about all of whom very little or nothing was then known and most of whom made new recordings and set out on revived careers.

Supplementing the already lengthy biographies of others, I interviewed Little Milton, Rufus Thomas, Dr. Ross, James Cotton, and Walter Horton, as well as artists who had been recorded by Sun but whose recordings had either been withheld or released by other companies - Bobby ''Blue'' Bland, Sleepy John Estes, Woodrow Adams, Mose Vinson and members of the Jones Bros Quartet (gospel).

I also located the legendary and remarkable Charlie Booker, as well as the great, yet obscure James Scott, L.B. Lawson & Charles McClelland. With the assistance of ''Living Blues'' founder and editor, Jim O'Neal, I interviewed and photographed them all in South Bend, Indiana and Chicago, respectively.

Though their whereabouts were known and they were easily accessible, I had yet to interview Howlin' Wolf, Honey Boy Edwards and Pinetop Perkins, among others, including Sam Phillips, when the plug was pulled on the project and Singleton decided to lease the material to others rather than release it himself. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun while it lasted!

- Steve LaVere, July 2012

BLACK GOSPEL QUARTETS IN MEMPHIS – It is widely known that Memphis was a crucible for the blues. It attracted a procession of unique artists from the Delta, whose contributions shaped the face of both pre-war and post-war blues styles. Surprisingly, fans and collectors of the blues often overlook the importance of gospel music in Memphis. As Sam Phillips knew, Memphis had a rich tradition in quartet singing during the years the recordings were made. The impact of gospel quartets was felt nearly everywhere in the black community, from ''programs'' held in neighborhood storefront churches to the mega-watt radio broadcast heard across the mid South.

All over the country in the three decades before Sam Phillips started recording there was an increase in live radio broadcasts and phonograph recordings by gospel quartets that helped disseminate and popularize this unique musical form. Gospel researcher Kip Lornell cites the case of the Southernaires who broadcast ''The Little Weaather-Beaton White Washed Church Of the Air'' over NBC for 11 years beginning in the mid- 1930s. Lornell concludes, it was such national radio exposure, along with phonograph records, that ''began to shift black gospel quartets from the realm of... spiritual guidance for a community of like minded Christians to the level of popular entertainment whose boundaries seemed almost limitless''. Perhaps the group that best embodies the transition from gospel to mass appeal is the Golden Gate Quartet. The impact of the group's popularity, as well as their percussive ''Jubilee'' style, is felt implicity in every one of the quartet recordings in the Sun collection. In one case (the Jones Brothers) a selection was directly copied from a 1937 recording by the Gates.

Like virtually every southern centre with a size-able black population, Memphis enjoyed a thriving community of gospel quartets from World War II to the end of the 1950s, the time that parallels the recording on the Sun collection. During this period there were no fewer than fifty quartets calling Memphis their home. A few, the Spirit of Memphis, the Southern Wonders and the Sunset Travelers, worked professionally through the 1950s but a large proportion of them were non-professional, their members holding day-jobs and practicing religiously (pun-intended) during every available moment. They were often quite good and some like the Songbirds Of The South, Pilgrim Spirituals, and Campbellaires, made occasional trips north in addition to singing locally. Many groups were helped by the involvement of local radio stations. Without doubt, the most influential station in the gospel market was WDIA. Station personalities like Ford Nelson and Brother Theo Wade advance the cause of gospel quartets and became community heroes in the process. WDIA was not alone in its popularising of the quartet sound. Gospel was big business and competition forced other stations in the Memphis market to broadcast their share of the quartet sound. Thus, while driving through Memphis on a balmy summer evening in 1952, one might hear the sweet harmonies of four or five black voices, both live or on record, singing the praises of the Lord over WDIA, WMC, WHBQ, KWEM (where gospel personality Cousin Eugene held forth) or WNRB. All of this air time increased the demand for gospel performances.

As Kip Lornell has discovered, this need was amply met. A survey of back issues of newspapers such as the Memphis World and Tri-State Defender describes the popularity of live performances (programs) in these words: ''Countless gospel extravaganzas were held in Mason's Temple throughout the 1950s. (it was)... a seven thousand seat facility located just off Crump Boulevard in southwestern Memphis... The Temple was frequently packed with fans coming to hear and applaud their favourite groups.... Every two or three months Mason's Temple featured one of these programs... many of them were sponsored (booked and promoted) by local quartets, and the Spirit Of Memphis was the most often featured one headline out-of-town group such as the Pilgrim Travelers or Golden Gates... who were supported by three or four local or regional groups''. There were also many large gospel programs held at the Civic Auditorium, known as Ellis Auditorium, some of them promoted by the Spirit Of Memphis quartet.

The Spirit, as they were known locally, were the first quartet from Memphis to record after the War. In May 1949 they were in Birmingham, Alabama when they recorded ''Happy In The Service Of The Lord'' at the studio of radio WJLD for release locally on a label called Hallelujah Spirituals owned by disc jockey Trumon Puckett. This was reissued by DeLuxe Records and became a considerable hit, followed by a string of best sellers on Syd Nathan's King label in Cincinnati. Their success encouraged other Memphis quartets to turn professional and others out-of-town record labels with significant gospel merchandising skills to look to Memphis for their artists. The Southern Wonders and the Sunset Travelers recorded for Don Robey's Peacock/Duke labels in Houston, Texas.

Where was Sam Phillips during all of this activity? It was time when the direction his fledgling recording service, and then his fledgling record label, was still to be determined. We know that King and Peacock label owners Don Robey and Syd Nathan recorded and released what they could sell, and they could sell black gospel music. But neither of these men was, to put it mildly, on the cusp of accepting Jesus Christ as their personal savior. While he may not have attended church every Sunday, Sam Phillips was a lot closer to the gospel tradition and values of the church. Yet he pointedly recorded little of the music. Phillips knew it and has expressed his regret that he did not spent more time (or money) recording black gospel quartets. ''Gospel music was an area where I didn't get to do anything near what I would have liked. Oh man, there's no telling what I should and could have done in gospel music from the Memphis area. It was such an important force in the city. I'm ashamed to say I just barely touched the surface with the potential of Memphis gospel''.

In fairness, Phillips was responding to the commercial realities of his profession. He was not, after all, the Library of Congress, whose obligation it was to preserve local musical folkways. Rather, he was scuffling in a cutthroat profession and, as we have seen elsewhere, barely making ends meet during the early 1950s. Like other record company owners, Sam Phillips occasionally attempted to persuade his most talented artists (both solo and quarter) to record secular rather than the religious music they preferred. Although he succeeded with white artists like Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, he did not succeed with any of the black quartets. It was not for lack of trying, however. Men like Reverent Brewster, on whom Phillips practised his persuasive wiles, held steadfast and did not allow their quartet singers to follow the path into worldly music trod by such ex-gospel singers as Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, Brook Benton and countless others. Phillips had a world of respect for Brewster and described him as ''one of the greatest ministers I've ever heard speak''. Phillips also lamented the musical potential that Reverent Brewster held for fledgling Sun Records. ''In his church he had so many soloists, groups and choir, why you wouldn't even have to leave the church to get a whole roster of unbelievable gospel sounds''.

Arguably, Memphis gospel music (like Memphis country music) had its own distinguishing. Percussive vocal techniques, as well as highly stylised and emotional lead singing (e.g. melisma and falsetto) are examples of these characteristics, as is ''pumping bass'' singing, but it may be the case that country music in Memphis had a more identifiable sound. What gospel may have lacked in ''uniqueness'', it certainly did not lack in quality. Indeed, Memphis gospel quartets were easily equal to the national standard. Memphis gospel followed the national trends in quartet singing, most notably the gradual addition of musical instruments to augment what was once a cappella singing. In addition, Memphis quartets were gradually restructured away from deep harmony to emphasise the lead singer. You can see both of these patterns here. Listen to Hunky Dory for an example of deep harmony singing. It can be absolutely thrilling when four or five voices, and one of which might carry the day alone, blend together in deep harmony.

On the other hand, listen to the Jones Brothers. While they mastered the harmony singing present in one of their role models, the Golden Gate Quartet, they were also a prime example of one voice separating itself from the rest and singing in a soulful (i.e. gospel-tinged) style to guitar backing with the remainder of the quartet relegated to background singing. Listen to the Falcons; hit recording of ''You're So Fine'', released in 1959, for a prime example of how this guitar-led quartet style gained traction in the pop market within barely five years of the Jones Brothers; recording of ''Every Night'' (Sun 213).

Sam Phillips' role in preserving the sound of black gospel quartets is admittedly small. In the first two years of his recording studio, he recorded the Gospel Tones, the Gospel Travelers, The Five Voice Singers of Memphis and several others either for possible release on Modern or Chess or for local radio or community events. The Brewteraires tracks recorded at Sun, were released on Chess and there is some evidence that Phillips may have recorded tracks by non-Memphis groups such as the Evangelist Gospel Singers of Alabama and the Spiritual Stars and placed them with Chess too.

Phillips later reflected, ''I did record the Brewsteraires and several other quartets, but it was a whole different area to merchandize and, there again, you run out of time after working eighteen hours a day''. By the time Phillips was recording for his own label in 1953 he had a few gospel quartets in his sights and although he recorded a number of groups for Sun, he released non that were truly representative of the Memphis quartet tradition. In addition to the previously mentioned record by the Jones Brothers', Phillips released several titles by the Prisonaires, who were not a Memphis-based aggregation, although they were occasionally transported there from Nashville to record.

Extracting pop voices from the ranks of gospel quartets became a lucrative practice in the mid to late 1950s and beyond. The most famous case is, of course, Sam Cooke who parted company with the Soul Stirrers in the mid-1950s and forged a successful pop career until his death in 1964. Within Memphis gospel quartets, it was Don Robey who weaned Joe Hinton away from the Spirit of Memphis Quartet.

Both the focus on a single voice and the addition of a guitar led to the erosion of ''classic'' a cappella quartet singing. The late 1950s saw the demise of most professional gospel quartets. Many of them, still in their prime, could no longer support themselves touring and were forced to come off the road and to sing locally while their members held down day jobs. Kip Lornell observes: ''The situation in Memphis was no different. The Southern Wonders, wracked by personal problems and conflicts, traveled for five years before giving up in 1957. About 1960 the Sunset Travelers went off the road, while the Spirit Of Memphis managed to scrape by until 1962''. As part of his doctoral research (published in ''Happy In The Service Of The Lord'', University Of Tennessee Press, 1995) Kip Lornell captured some of the 1970s and 1980s work by groups such as the Harps Of Melody, Gospel Writers, Harmonizers and the original Spirit Of Memphis and their music appeared on an album titled ''Memphis Gospel Quartet Heritage – 1980'' (High Water 1002). This work was continued by David Evans when Lornell moved on from Memphis. The recording of Memphis quartets was not confined to record companies. Thankfully WDIA recorded a plethora of quartet music, some of which has been lovingly resurrected with the attention to detail that one associates with projects anchored by gospel historian Doug Serous (''Bless My Bones – Memphis Gospel Radio, The 1950s'' P-Vine (Japan) 90510). Still more acetates from this period came to the light in the 1980s and may eventually find their way to commercial reissue as collection and gospel fans alike come to appreciate the contribution made by Memphis quartets during the golden age of gospel singing.

The selections heard here bring together a representative sample of the black harmony recordings, both secular and religious, made by Sam Phillips during the early days of Sun Records and the Memphis Recording Service. By his own admission, Phillips' contribution to this tradition was by no means major. Yet it preserves a vanishing musical form and because of his efforts we are left with a richer legacy of a sound that had an undeniable place during Sun's blues years.

- Hank Davis, with additions by Martin Hawkins. Thanks to Kip Lornell, David Evans and Doug Seroff for sharing their research materials and knowledge of black music.

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