The Playlist • Memphis Minnie on Vinylite (1936–1937)

In the 1960s and early 1970s, while CBS was literally bulldozing Columbia’s recorded legacy into the scrap heap, some insiders at the Bridgeport plant began secretly pulling new vinyl pressings from important and threatened stampers. It was a preservation project, albeit an illegal one, not a money-making scheme. The pressings were quietly handed out to company employees and interested outsiders, free of charge. A surprisingly large number of these clandestine pressings seem to have been made, and over the years many have found their way into private collections. They’re not true “test pressings,” as some dealers would like you to believe, but they are magnificent specimens that often play better than even pristine shellac originals. Here are four of our favorites.

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MSP_memphis-minnie_12

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MEMPHIS MINNIE: Ice Man (Come On Up)

Chicago: February 18, 1936
Mx. C 1263 – 1  (commercially issued on Vocalion 03222)
From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing of the original stamper. The accompanists are uncredited in the ARC files.

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MEMPHIS MINNIE: Hoodoo Lady

Chicago: February 18, 1936
Mx. C 1264 – 1  (commercially issued on Vocalion 03222)
From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing of the original stamper. The accompanists are uncredited in the ARC files.

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MEMPHIS MINNIE: It’s Hard to Be Mistreated

Chicago: November 12, 1936
Mx. C 1671 – 1 (commercially issued on Vocalion 03474)

From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing of the original stamper. The accompanists are uncredited in the ARC files.

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MEMPHIS MINNIE: You Can’t Rule Me

Chicago: June 9, 1937
Mx. C 1927 – 1 (commercially issued on Vocalion 03697)

From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing of the original stamper. The accompanists are uncredited in the ARC files.

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MSP_losers

 

The Playlist • Sonny Terry and Friends (1942 – 1944)

MSP_asch-terry-mcghee

Moses Asch, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee

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BROWNIE McGHEE & SONNY TERRY: Red Cross Store

Washington, DC: May 11, 1942
Library of Congress transcription 6503-A-3 (recorded by Alan Lomax)

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SONNY TERRY, “ALEK,” WOODY GUTHRIE, CISCO HOUSTON: Glory

New York: April 1944
Asch 432-2A  (mx. 689), from the 78-rpm album Folksay

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SONNY TERRY (with uncredited guitarist): Lonesome Train

New York: 1944
Asch 550-3A (mx. 1210), from the 78-rpm album Blues

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The Playlist • Five Harmaniacs (1926–1927)

MSP_five-harmaniacs_composite

 

The usual members of this group were Jerry Adams, Hampton Durand, Walter Howard, Ned Nestor, Clyde Shugart, and Percy Stoner (with the addition of pianist Tommy Reilly on one oddball  Brunswick session at which the Harmaniacs had no harmonica player — the only instance in which at least partial personnel were listed in the recording files).

 

HARMANIAC FIVE: Harmaniac Blues

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. May 1926
Paramount 20476 (Marsh mx. 1079)
From a tape dubbing supplied by the late Gilbert Louey. Jazz Records shows two banjos and no guitar, in error (one of each is audible, even through the horrendous surface noise and notoriously inaccurate “Marsh Sound”).

 

FIVE HARMANIACS: Coney Island Washboard

New York: September 17, 1926
Victor 20293 (mx. BVE 36327 – 2)
No personnel listed in the Victor files.

 

FIVE HARMANIACS (with uncredited vocal): Sleepy Blues

New York: February 24, 1927
Brunswick 7002 (mx. E 22013, renumbered from E 4587)
Race-series release (although the band was white). Originally recorded as a test master (Vocalion mx. E 4587, unissued on that label), and subsequently transferred to Brunswick on March 18, 1927, and assigned Brunswick mx. E 22013. No personnel are listed in the Brunswick-Vocalion files. Jazz Records shows a recording date of February 4, in error.

 

FIVE HARMANIACS: It Takes A Good Woman (To Keep a Good Man at Home)

New York: February 8, 1927
Victor mx. BVE 37751 – 1 (unissued in 78-rpm form)
From a c. 1960s blank-label vinyl pressing from the original stamper. Take 2 was released on Victor 20507 in April 1927. No personnel listed in the Victor files.

 

FIVE HARMANIACS (Walter Howard, speech): What Makes My Baby Cry?

New York: February 8, 1927
Victor mx. BVE 37750 – 1 (unissued in 78-rpm form)
From a c. 1960s blank-label vinyl pressing from the original stamper. Take 2 was released on Victor 20507 in April 1927. No personnel, aside from Howard, are listed in the Victor files.

The Playlist • Memphis Jug Band (1927–1934)

MSP_vic-20809-a_MJB

 

MEMPHIS JUG BAND (Will Shade, vocal) : Sometimes I
Think I Love You

Victor Laboratory, Chicago: June 9, 1927
Released: September 16, 1927 — Deleted 1929
Victor 20809 (mx. BVE 38657 – 1)
Not designated as a race release in the Victor files.

 

MEMPHIS JUG BAND (Vol Stevens, vocal): Coal Oil Blues

Memphis Auditorium: February 13, 1928
Released: May 4, 1928 — Deleted: 1930
Victor 21278 (mx. BVE 41888 – 2)
Designated as a race release in the Victor files. From a tape transfer supplied by the late Mike Stewart.

 

MEMPHIS JUG BAND (as “Carolina Peanut Boys”; Charlie Nickerson, vocal): You Got Me Rollin’

Memphis Auditorium: November 28, 1930
Released: June 19, 1931 — Deletion date unlisted
Victor 23274 (mx.  BVE 64741 – 2)
The band’s identity is confirmed in the Victor ledger. From a tape transfer supplied by the late Mike Stewart.

 

MEMPHIS JUG BAND: Jazbo Stomp

Chicago: November 6, 1934
Mx. C 782 – 2 (commercially issued on Okeh 8955)
From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing from the original stamper

 

MEMPHIS JUG BAND (Will Shade and Charlie Burse, vocal):
Little Green Slippers

Chicago: November 7, 1934
Mx. C 784 – 1 (commercially issued on Okeh 8966/ Vocalion 03050)
From a c. 1960s blank-labeled vinyl pressing from the original stamper.

The Playlist • Bobby / Bobbie Leecan, Robert Cooksey, and the South Street Trio (1927)

MSP_vic-21249B

 

BOBBY LEECAN’S NEED MORE BAND: Washboard Cut-Out

New York: April 5, 1927 (Ralph Peer, session director)
Released: August 12, 1927 — Deleted: 1929
Victor 20660 (mx. BVE 38434 – 1)
Personnel, aside from Victor A&R man Ralph Peer, are not listed in the recording file. “Bobbie” in file, “Bobby” on  labels.

 

BOBBY LEECAN’S NEED MORE BAND: Midnight Susie

New York: April 5, 1927 (Ralph Peer, session director)
Released: August 12, 1927 — Deleted: 1929
Victor 20660 (mx. BVE 38436 – 2)
As above.

 

SOUTH STREET TRIO: Dallas Blues

Camden, NJ: October 27, 1927
Released: February 3, 1928 — Deleted: 1930
Victor 21135 (mx. BVE 39377 – 2)
Personnel per Victor files: Robert Cooksey, harmonica; Bobby Leecan, banjo; Alfred Martin, guitar; uncredited vocalist.

 

SOUTH STREET TRIO: Mean Old Bed Bug Blues

Camden, NJ: October 27, 1927
Released: February 3, 1928 — Deleted: 1930
Victor 21135 (mx. BVE 39374 – 2)
Same personnel as above.

 

SOUTH STREET TRIO: Suitcase Breakdown

Camden, NJ: October 27, 1927
Released: February 3, 1928 — Deleted: 1930
Victor 21249 (mx. BVE 39376 – 2)
Same personnel as above, except no vocalist.

Discographical data are from the original Victor files, courtesy of John R. Bolig.

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The Playlist • Memphis Minnie, with Kansas Joe and Bumble Bee Slim (1929–1936)

MSP_mccoys-voc-1576

 

LIZZIE DOUGLAS & JOE McCOY (as Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie): Goin’ Back to Texas

New York: June 18, 1929
Columbia 14455-D (mx. W 148709 – 2)

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LIZZIE DOUGLAS & JOE McCOY (as Kansas Joe & Memphis Minnie): She Wouldn’t Give Me None

Memphis: February 20, 1930
Vocalion 1576 (mx. MEM 732 – )

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LIZZIE DOUGLAS (as Memphis Minnie, with uncredited pianist):
Dirty Mother for You

Chicago: January 10, 1935
Mx. C 9641 – A
From a c. 1960 blank-label vinyl pressing from the original stamper. This recording was issued commercially in 1935 on Decca 7048.

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AMOS EASTON & LIZZIE DOUGLAS (as Bumble Bee Slim & Memphis Minnie, with uncredited others): New Orleans Stop Time

Chicago: February 6, 1936
Vocalion 03197 (mx. C 1227 – 2)

 

The Playlist • “Yellow Dog Blues,” Four Very Different Ways (1919–1934)

MSP_smith-columbia-14075-D

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JOSEPH C. SMITH’S ORCHESTRA, Featuring HARRY RADERMAN & HIS LAUGHING TROMBONE: Yellow Dog Blues — Medley Fox Trot, introducing “Hooking Cow Blues”

New York: October 1, 1919 — Released December 1919 (Deleted 1926)
Victor 18618 (mx. B 23282 – 1)

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BESSIE SMITH (acc: Fletcher Henderson’s Hot Six):
Yellow Dog Blues

New York: May 6, 1925
Columbia 14075-D (mx. W 140586 – 1)

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DUKE ELLINGTON & HIS ORCHESTRA: Yellow Dog Blues

New York: June 25, 1928
Brunswick 3987 (mx. E 27771 – A or B)
The selected take (of two made) is not indicated in the Brunswick files or on inspected pressings.

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MEMPHIS JUG BAND: Rukus Juice and Chittlin’

Chicago: November 8, 1934
Okeh mx. C 801 – 1
From a c. 1960s vinyl pressing from the original stamper. This recording was issued commercially on Okeh 8955, as part of the final group of Okeh race releases made before the 8000 series was scuttled.

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The Playlist • Moses Mason / Red Hot Old Mose (Paramount, 1928)

MSP_pmt-12702-B

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REV. MOSES MASON: Go Wash in the Beautiful Stream

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. January 1928
Paramount 12702 (mx. 20291 – 1)

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REV. MOSES MASON: John the Baptist

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. January 1928
Paramount 12702 (mx. 20290 – 2)

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MOSES MASON (as RED HOT OLD MOSE): Shrimp Man

Chicago (Marsh Laboratories): c. January 1928
Paramount 12605 (mx. 20303 – 3)

 

The Playlist • Dick Justice (1929)

MSP_bwk-395a

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DICK JUSTICE: Brown Skin Blues

Chicago: May 20, 1929
Brunswick 336 (mx. C 3515 – )

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DICK JUSTICE: Henry Lee

Chicago: May 21, 1929
Brunswick 367 (mx. C 3521 – )

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DICK JUSTICE: Cocaine

Chicago: May 20, 1929
Brunswick 395 (mx. C 3516 – )

Selected takes are not noted in the Brunswick ledger nor visible in the pressings. “Cocaine” is a word-for-word cover of the Luke Jordan song, which Jordan recorded two years earlier for Victor. Whether Justice (a white performer from West Virginia) was in some way associated with Jordan (a black performer from central Virginia), or simply copied it from the record, remains a tantalizing mystery.

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The Playlist • Gennett in Birmingham, Alabama (Summer 1927)

MSP_gnt-birmingham-composit

A sampling from Gennett’s summer 1927 trip to Birmingham, Alabama. A temporary studio was set up in the Starr Piano Company store at 1820 Third Avenue. It was an exceptionally productive stay from a historical (if not commercial) standpoint, preserving a rich cross-section of Birmingham’s musical heritage.

MSP_gnt-ledger_770-772

Many discographies show incorrect recording dates for these sessions because their compilers misunderstood the Gennett ledger sheets. The dates given in the ledgers (in the “From N.Y.” column, which was used regardless of the actual origination point) are those on which the masters were received at the Richmond, Indiana, facility. Masters — the original waxes (indicated by a “W” in the ledgers) rather than metal parts, in the case of the Birmingham sessions — were shipped in batches by rail, so the actual recording dates, with allowance for packing, transport, etc., are probably at least a week prior to the Richmond receipt dates.

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REV. J. F. FOREST & CONGREGATION:
Revival for Sinners

Birmingham: August 1927 — Mx. receipt date not entered (c. August 29)
Silvertone 5143 (Gennett mx. GEX 849 – A)
Estimated receipt date based on entered dates for other mx’s

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JAYBIRD COLEMAN (as Rabbits Foot Williams):
Man Trouble Blues

Birmingham: July–August 1927 — Mx. received in Richmond August 5
Champion 15379 (Gennett mx. GEX 771 – [replacing rejected GEX 694])
The pianist is not credited in the Gennett ledger

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GEORGE H. TREMER: Spirit of ’49

Birmingham: July–August 1927 — Mx. received in Richmond August 8
Champion 15436 (Gennett mx. GEX 779 – A)

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FRANK BUNCH & HIS FUZZY WUZZIES (as New Orleans Strutters): Fourth Avenue Stomp

Birmingham: August 1927 — Mx. receipt date not entered (c. August 20)
Champion 15398 (Gennett mx. GEX 832 – A)
Estimated receipt date based on entered dates for other mx’s

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TRIANGLE HARMONY BOYS (as Alabama Harmony Boys): Chicken Supper Strut

Birmingham: August 1927 — Mx. receipt date not entered (c. August 20)
Champion 15398 (Gennett mx. GEX 838 – A)
Estimated receipt date based on entered dates for other mx’s

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DUNK RENDELMAN & HIS ORCHESTRA (as Down Home Serenaders): Mean Dog Blues

Birmingham: August 1927 — Mx. receipt date not entered (c. August 29)
Champion 15399 (Gennett mx. GEX 852 – A)
Estimated receipt date based on entered dates for other mx’s

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EVA QUARTETTE (W. J. Smith, organ; as Ellington Sacred Quartette): You Can’t Make a Monkey Out of Me

Birmingham: August 1927 — Mx. received in Richmond August 11
Challenge 404 (Gennett mx. GEX 792 – A)
An anti-evolution song. This is one of the few Birmingham sides that is relatively easy to find, appearing on seven different labels under various names.