Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" - Robert Johnson


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Twelve: "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" performed by Robert Johnson. Recorded in San Antonio, Texas on November 27, 1936. Original issue Vocalion 03445.

Robert Johnson was born Robert Dodds in Hazelhurst, Mississippi on May 8, 1911 or 1912. He was born to Julia Major Dodds, who was married at the time to Charles Dodds, although Dodds is not believed to be Johnson's father. Robert's father was a plantation worker named Noah Johnson.

When Robert was two years old, a dispute with white land-owners forced Dodds to flee Hazelhurst. Julia fled separately with Robert, eventually sending young Robert to live with Dodds, who was now living in Memphis under the name "Charles Spencer." Renamed Robert Spencer, Johnson lived with Dodds for two years before rejoining his mother near Tunica, Mississippi. By this point, Julia was remarried to a much younger man named Dusty Willis. For much of his childhood, Johnson was known as "Little Robert Dusty." After being Robert Dodds, Robert Spencer, and Robert Dusty, Robert finally adopted his natural father's surname and was signing his name "Robert Johnson" when he married sixteen-year-old Virginia Travis in 1929. Robert was widowed shortly after his marriage when Virgina died in childbirth.

It was around this time, while living in Robinsonville, Mississippi, that Johnson met Son House and Willie Brown. According to House, Johnson was playing guitar, but was not very good. He would occasionally attempt to sit in with House and Brown, who would ridicule Johnson's faltering attempts at the guitar. Discouraged, Johnson left Robinsonville.

What happened next is entirely conjecture. House claims that Johnson returned mere months later displaying an astonishing bass-heavy technique that stunned all who had known him before. House reportedly made a comment to the effect that Johnson must have "sold his soul to the Devil" in order to get so good so quickly (although there is no record of House making such a statement). This, together with the story told by the similarly named (but unrelated) Tommy Johnson about selling his soul to the Devil at a lonely crossroad in order to learn how to play guitar, is likely the source of the well-known myth that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil. The facts are far more mundane. Researchers have conjectured that House's memory was faulty, and rather than staying away for a few months, Johnson had likely returned to Robinsonville one-and-a-half to two years later, a much more reasonable time-line for Johnson's astonishing improvement.

For the next several years, Johnson lived as an itinerant musician, occasionally traveling with musician Johnny Shines. Johnson reportedly ranged as far north as Toronto. He was also known for his ability to learn a song after a single hearing. Although he would later record nothing but blues material, Shines reports that Johnson had a wide ranging repertoire, which included jazz and pop songs learned from the radio.

In 1936, Johnson approached H.C. Speir in Jackson, Mississippi about recording. Speir hooked Johnson up with producer Ernie Oertle, who offered to record Johnson at a session in San Antonio, Texas. The three-day session took place in November, 1936 in room 414 at the Gunter Hotel. During the session, Johnson made sixteen recordings, including this recording of "Last Fair Deal Gone Down."

Johnson's recording sessions have become the stuff of legend. Reportedly, Johnson faced the wall while performing, which has fed the rumor that Johnson was shy and unaccustomed to performing publicly. This does not jibe with Johnny Shines' reports that he and Johnson were making their living as musicians for several years at this point. More likely, Johnson was facing the wall for acoustic reasons (the recordings would have a less "cavernous" sound than they would if played into an open room with no sound baffling) or because he was afraid that other musicians would glimpse his finger-style and swipe his technique.

Johnson made one more recording session in Dallas, Texas in 1937. Johnson recorded another eleven titles during that session. During Johnson's lifetime, only eleven of the twenty-seven recordings he made were commercially released. As was common practice in those days of direct to disc recording, a second "safety" take was made of most of Johnson's recordings. Unlike most other recording artists of the period, however, most of Johnson's alternate takes have survived, allowing listeners an opportunity to glimpse Johnson's creative process.

Johnson died on August 16, 1938 under mysterious circumstances. There are various theories surrounding the circumstances of Johnson's death, but the most prevalent is that Johnson was poisoned by the jealous boyfriend of a woman Johnson was courting. Around the time of Johnson's death, producer John Hammond was hoping to have Johnson perform at his "From Spirituals to Swing" concert in December of that year. By the time Hammond managed to track Johnson down, Johnson was dead. Hammond booked Big Bill Broonzy instead, launching Broonzy's career as a nationally known blues musician. Hammond did have two of Johnson's recordings played on stage, however.

Johnson might have been forgotten had it not been for the 1961 release of the album King of the Delta Blues Singers. The album's liner notes played up the mystery of Johnson's life (at the time, no photographs of Johnson had been found) and also emphasized occult references in some of Johnson's songs (such as "Hellhound on My Trail" and "Me and the Devil Blues"). During the sixties, Johnson was championed by notable rock musicians like the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Cream's Eric Clapton, who recorded a version of Johnson's "Cross Road Blues" as "Crossroads." The Rolling Stones covered Johnson's "Love In Vain" on 1969's Let It Bleed and "Stop Breaking Down" on 1972's Exile On Main Street. A second collection of Johnson's recordings, King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol. II, was released in 1970.

1990 saw the release of Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings. So great was Johnson's legend by then, the collection reached number 80 on Billboard's Hot 200 chart (an unprecedented feat for a collection of prewar blues recordings) and won a Grammy for Best Historical Album.

Johnson is arguably the most famous prewar blues musician. His name is known by people who never listen to blues music, much less blues recorded during the 78 era. His songs have been covered countless times. In 2004, Eric Clapton released a full length tribute album titled Me and Mr. Johnson.

A final note on Johnson's recordings: In recent years, a frankly ridiculous rumor has circulated that Johnson's recordings were (either accidentally or purposefully) released at the wrong speed. According to some, the recordings are as much as 20% too fast and that if one plays the recordings back at 80% of their present speed, you will hear what Johnson really sounded like. Like the "Paul Is Dead" hoax, the "80% Solution" is easy to shoot down. Speed problems (such as one that surfaced on the second side of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue) are usually the result of the tape recording at the wrong speed. If the tape was recording more slowly, the resulting recording will play back at a higher speed when played on a normal tape player. Johnson's recordings, however, were recorded direct to disc, and while it is possible that a disc cutter could have been incorrectly calibrated, it is highly unlikely that the exact same problem would endure over the entire course of a three day recording session, much less that the same problem would come up AGAIN a year later at a completely separate session. Moreover, none of the other artists recorded at the same sessions as Johnson seem to have been recorded at the wrong speed.

I have played Johnson's recordings back at 80% of their normal speed, just to hear what it sounds like. While the recordings are definitely slower and closer to what we think of as sounding "bluesy" (meaning that the sound a bit more like Muddy Waters records), the recordings also sound draggy, as though they are (surprise) being played at the wrong speed! I think we can dismiss this claim and continue listening to Johnson at the present speed with a clear conscience.

"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" is a work song cataloging the various troubles of a man working on the Gulfport Island Road, a railroad that connected the Gulf of Mexico with the main line.

It's the last fair deal goin' down.
Last fair deal goin' down.
It's the last fair deal goin' down, good Lord,
On that Gulfport Island Road.

Please, Ida Belle, don't cry this time.
Ida Belle, don't cry this time.
If you cry about a nickel, you'll die 'bout a dime.
She wouldn't cry, but the money won't mine.

I love the way you do.
I love the way you do.
I love the way you do, good Lord,
On this Gulfport Island Road.

My captain's so mean on me.
My captain's so mean on me.
My captain's so mean on me, good Lord,
On this Gulfport Island Road.

The captain he can see, captain he can see.
That captain he can see good lord.
Oh that Gulfport Island Road.

Ah, this last fair deal goin' down.
It's the last fair deal goin' down.
This' the last fair deal goin' down, good Lord,
On this Gulfport Island Road.

I'm workin' my way back home.
I'm working my way back home.
I'm workin' my way back home, good Lord,
On this Gulfport Island Road.

And that thing don't keep-a ringin' so soon.
That thing don't keep-a ringin' so soon.
And that thing don't keep-a ringin' so soon,
Good Lord, on that Gulfed-and-Port Island Road.


It is interesting to note that while Johnson was undoubtedly the most famous name on the fourth volume of the Anthology when it was released in 2000, at the time Smith put together the track listing for this volume, Johnson was still relatively unknown.

Johnson's galvanizing performance on "Last Fair Deal Gone Down," while certainly not his best recording, more than justifies his reputation. Johnson's high voice is rough and expressive, while his guitar playing is dynamic and driving. The song has several highlights, from the line where the speaker admonishes his woman, Ida Belle that "if you cry about a nickle you'll die 'bout a dime," to the chiming effect Johnson creates during the last verse. "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" also foreshadows the series of labor and topical songs that appear on the second disc of this volume.

"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" is the third of four blues recordings in a row.

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Here's Beck, along with guitarist Smokey Hormel, performing a version of "Last Fair Gone Down" for the Harry Smith Project.



Download and listen to Robert Johnson - "Last Fair Deal Gone Down"

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Baby Please Don't Go" - Joe Williams' Washboard Blues Singers


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Eleven: "Baby Please Don't Go" performed by Joe Williams' Washboard Blues Singers. Recorded in Chicago on October 31, 1935. Original issue Bluebird 6200 (BS-96244-1)

Joe Williams was born in Crawford, Mississippi on October 16, 1903. Little is known of his early life. While still young, Williams reportedly began traveling around the United States, playing for change on the streets as well as in work camps, bars, and country stores. He performed with the Rabbit's Foot Minstrels (a well-known revue that helped launch the careers of such notables as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Louis Jordan, Rufus Thomas, and others) during the early '20s and made his recording debut in 1930 as a member of the Birmingham Jug Band.

In 1934, Williams was discovered by producer Lester Melrose in St. Louis, Missouri and was subsequently signed to Bluebird Records. In 1935, Williams made his first records for Bluebird, including this recording of "Baby Please Don't Go." He stayed on the label for ten years, performing with such artists as John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Peetie Wheatstraw, and Robert Nighthawk.

During the 1950s and '60s, Williams continued to perform and record regularly, recording for such labels as Trumpet, Delmark, Vocalion, and Prestige. He became popular with the folk revival crowd, as did many blues musicians of his generation. It was during this period that Williams adopted the nickname "Big" Joe to distinguish him from Joe Goreed, a.k.a. Joe Williams, the vocalist who recorded "Every Day I Have The Blues" with Count Basie's "New Testament" band.

Williams toured Europe and Japan during the late '60s and '70s. He died on December 17, 1982.

Big Joe Williams was particularly well-known for his virtuosic guitar playing, which featured his ability to play lead and bass lines simultaneously (Williams wore picks on both his index finger and his thumb for this purpose). He played a nine string guitar which featured unison strings for the first, second and fourth strings. Williams had added these strings to his guitar gradually during the '20s and '30s in order to keep other guitarists from being able to play his instrument.

Williams' version of "Baby Please Don't Go" is the first known recording of this song, which is derived from a group of early 20th century work songs which includes "I'm Alabama Bound," "Don't Leave Me Here," "Turn Your Lamp Down Low," and "Another Man Done Gone." Williams' version of the song has been hugely influential, and has been covered by literally dozens of artists over the years, including Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker, Van Morrison (with Them), Aerosmith, AC/DC, and Mose Allison, among others. Although not a cover version, the Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" is clearly a descendant of this song.

Now, baby please don't go.
Now, baby please don't go.
Baby, please don't go
Back to New Orleans,
An' get your cold ice cream.

I believe that a man done gone.
I believe that a man done gone.
I believe that a man done gone
To the county farm
Now, with his long chain on.

Turn your lamp down low.
You turn your lamp down low.
Turn your lamp down low.
I cried all night long.
Now, baby please don't go.

I begged you night before.
I begged you night before.
Begged you night before,
Turn your lamp down low.
Now, baby please don't go.

I believe my baby done lied.
I believe my baby done lied.
I believe my baby she lied,
Says she didn't have a man
Now, while I had my time.

'Fore I'd be your dog,
I swore I'd leave your door.
'Fore I'd be your dog,
I'd pack my trunk this morning, baby,
Go back to Rolling Fork.

I believe I'll leave you here.
I believe I'll leave you here.
I believe I'll leave you here.
'Cause you got me way up here,
And you don't feel my care.

Now baby please don't go.
Oh baby, please don't go.
Now baby please don't go
Back to New Orleans,
Even though I love you so.

I believe you tryin' just leave me here.
Why leave your daddy here?
Why leave your daddy here?
You got me way down here
And you don't feel my care.


"Baby Please Don't Go" has endured in part because it is a primal expression of desperate need. The speaker in the song is literally pleading with his lover to stay with him. The desperate man and the unfeeling woman are enduring tropes in blues lyrics. In that sense, it is fitting that this song has been paired with Lead Belly's "Packin' Trunk." This is another song "about a man and a woman." In the famous color film footage of Son House performing "Death Letter Blues," House explains that the blues is all about "the male and female."

In addition to Williams' vocals and guitar, "Baby Please Don't Go" features the one-string fiddle of Dad Tracy and the washboard of Chasey "Kokomo" Collins. Tracy and Collins give the record a wild, archaic flourish.

"Baby Please Don't Go" is the second of four blues recordings in a row.

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Here's Williams performing "Baby Please Don't Go" in what appears to be a television appearance from the late '50s or early '60s.



Download and listen to Joe Williams' Washboard Blues Singers - "Baby Please Don't Go"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Packin' Trunk" - Lead Belly



Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Ten: "Packin' Trunk" performed by Lead Belly. Recorded in New York on January 23, 1935. Original issue Banner Ba-33359 16685-1.

Huddie William "Lead Belly" Ledbetter was born on a plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana, likely in 1888. His tombstone lists his birth year as 1889, but two census records (1910 and 1930) both give his birth date as 1888. His birthday is often listed as January 20th, however January 21st and 29th are also cited. His 1942 draft registration lists his birth date as January 23, 1889.

Whenever he was born, Ledbetter born to Wesley and Sallie Ledbetter, who were married shortly after his birth. When Ledbetter was five, his family moved to Leigh, Texas.

By 1903, Ledbetter was a working musician, performing primarily in the red light district of Shreveport, Louisiana. In 1908, he married fifteen year old Aletha "Lethe" Henderson. Around the time of his marriage, Ledbetter was reportedly given his first instrument, an accordion. This is a confusing bit of information. Does this mean that up until this point, Ledbetter had played only borrowed instruments? In 1912, inspired by the sinking of the Titanic, Ledbetter wrote his first song. Ledbetter's "Titanic" was also the first song he played on the 12-string guitar, reportedly picked up in Dallas while performing with Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Ledbetter had occasional trouble with the law and served several terms in prison. He was jailed in 1915 and again in 1918, this time for killing a relative of his named Will Stafford. He was sentenced to seven to thirty-five years at the Imperial Farm in Sugarland, Texas. After serving the minimum seven years, Ledbetter was pardoned and released in 1925. Ledbetter later claimed that he had been released because of a song he had written to Governor Pat Morris Neff pleading for his freedom. Prison records, however, indicate that Ledbetter was released because he had served his minimum sentence and because of his good behavior as an inmate.

By 1930, Ledbetter was back in prison, this time in Louisiana, for attempted homicide. He was serving time in Angola State Prison when, in 1933, he met Folklorist John Lomax and his 18-year-old son and assistant, Alan. Lomax was impressed by Ledbetter's musical ability and made hundreds of recordings of him between 1933 and 1934. In 1934, Ledbetter was released, again claiming that a song he had sent to the Governor (this time Louisiana's Oscar K. Allen), along with John Lomax's personal appeal, had resulted in his freedom. Allen denied that this had been the case, and stated that Ledbetter's early release had been due to good behavior and the fact that he had served his minimum sentence. Nevertheless, the legend that Ledbetter had twice sung his way out of prison quickly took hold on the popular imagination.

Once free, Ledbetter began working as Lomax's chauffeur, driving the song collector all over the South, and assisting him in his search for folk songs. By 1935, the story of the "singing convict" reached the press and Ledbetter became the subject of newspaper articles and newsreels. Soon after, Ledbetter made his first professional recordings, including this recording of "Packin' Trunk." Ledbetter performed exclusively under the nickname "Lead Belly," a name he had likely picked up in prison (although the stories behind the name vary).

Lead Belly began accompanying John Lomax on his lectures, culminating in a famed appearance at Harvard University. Following that lecture, tensions between Lomax and Lead Belly led to the dissolution of their partnership, their friendship, and to Lead Belly's successful lawsuit against Lomax. Following the resolution of his lawsuit, Lead Belly traveled to New York in order to pursue a musical career. However, he failed to excite interest among black audiences. Instead, Lead Belly was adopted by white intellectuals, particularly leftists, who promoted Lead Belly as an authentic voice of the common man.

By 1939, Lead Belly was back in prison for stabbing a man in a fight. He was rescued by Alan Lomax, now 24, who dropped out of graduate school to manage Lead Belly's career. Under Lomax's guidance, Lead Belly joined the ranks of the burgeoning folk music scene that was emerging during he 1940s. He befriended such figures as Josh White, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger. Lead Belly recorded for Moe Asch's Folkways records (which would release the Anthology a few years later), for the Library of Congress, and for Capitol Records and RCA. Lead Belly also toured parts of Europe and performed regularly on the radio. In 1949, Lead Belly was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) and died later that same year.

"Packin' Trunk" is one of Lead Belly's earliest commerical recordings. It is a dynamic performance, featuring Lead Belly's mastery of the 12-string guitar, an instrument that became closely identified with him. The 12-string guitar
features six courses of two strings each. These courses are tuned an octave apart (the bass strings) or in unison (the treble strings). The sympathetic vibration of the strings produces a ringing or chiming sound. Other guitarists who used 12-string guitars include Roger McGuinn of the Byrds (producing the group's signature sound), George Harrison, Slash, Peter Buck, and Johnny Marr.

This song was made about a man and a woman. This man he married a woman, she didn’t want him. But she married him anyhow. For the money that he had. And she thought that she got every dollar that he had. But she was mistaken. But she got him pretty well bent. He sat there with his head hung down. She walked by and she said: "Daddy", she said, "what’s the matter with you?" He looked at her and here’s what he said to her:

"I’m sitting down here wondering, would a matchbox hold my clothes.
I’m sitting down here wondering, would a matchbox hold my clothes.
I’m sitting down here wondering, would a matchbox hold my clothes."

She asked him, she said: "Papa," she said, "What’s the matter with you?"

"I don’t want to be bothered with no suitcase on my road.
I don’t want to be bothered with no suitcase on my road.
I don’t want to be bothered with no suitcase on my road."

He said: "I’m going to see my friend, and see what he would do when his wife’s packing up her trunk."

"Now what would you do when your baby picking up her trunk?
What would you do when your baby picking up her trunk?
Now what would you do when your baby picking up her trunk?"

He looked at him and here’s what he told him:

"You get half a gallon of whiskey, you get on your big drunk.
You get half a gallon of whiskey, you get on your big drunk.
You get half a gallon of whiskey, you get on your big drunk."

She said: "Ghost, go and play the piano a piece for me a little piece." This Ghost jumped down and commenced playing the piano.


While Lead Belly became best known as a "folk" musician, "Packin' Trunk" is solidly in the blues idiom. It is (as Lead Belly declares in the opening) "a song about a man and a woman." It is a song about heartbreak, and it contains an image that would become known the world over. The first sung chorus contains the image of a matchbox. Lead Belly had likely borrowed the image from Blind Lemon Jefferson, who had used the image in his own "Matchbox Blues," recorded in 1927.

I'm settin' here wonderin' would a matchbox hold my clothes.
I'm settin' here wonderin' would a matchbox hold my clothes.
I ain't got so many matches but I got so far to go.


Blues scholars agree that Jefferson had, in turn, taken the image from tradition usage. Indeed, Ma Rainey had mentioned a matchbox in her 1923 recording, "Lost Wandering Blues."

I'm leaving this morning, with my clothes in my hand.
I won't stop to wandering, till I find my man.
I'm sitting here wondering', will a matchbox hold my clothes.
I've got a sun to beat, I'll be farther down the road.


After Lead Belly used the image in "Packin' Trunk," he went on to record his own version of "Match Box Blues." Carl Perkins would make the image the centerpiece of his 1956 Sun recording, "Matchbox," which would be later covered by the Beatles on their Long Tall Sally EP.

Well I'm sitting here wondering, will a matchbox hold my clothes.
Yeah I'm sitting here wondering, will a matchbox hold my clothes.
I ain't got no matches, but I got a long way to go.


In the meantime, Billie Holiday had picked the matchbox image up in "Billie's Blues," a song Holiday had co-written in 1936 and recorded several times in later years.

My man wouldn't give me no breakfast.
Wouldn't give me no dinner.
Fought about my supper and put me outdoors.
Had the nerve to lay a match box on my clothes.
I didn't have so many,
But I had a long, long way to go.


So what's the deal with the matchbox? A matchbox is, not surprisingly, a box that holds matches. They seem to have been developed, in their present form, during the late 1890s. Prior to that, people kept their matches in more elaborate metal boxes. The point is that the matchbox is very, very small. Far too small to hold anything of any size (such as a person's belongings). If a person is sitting and wondering if a matchbox would hold his clothes, he probably doesn't have much of anything of value to take with him.

"Packin' Trunk" is notable for Lead Belly's declamatory style. He speaks (or rather shouts) the song's narrative in between the sung verses. It is also notable for Lead Belly's slide technique, and for the novel use of the 12-string guitar (it's chiming is used to imitate a piano in the last verse).

"Packin' Trunk" is the first of four blues recordings in a row.

The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's an excerpt from the "March of Time" newsreel that made Lead Belly famous. It contains, among other things, a reenactment of Lead Belly recording for John Lomax. If nothing else, it proves that Lead Belly and Lomax were no actors...



Download and listen to Lead Belly - "Packin' Trunk"

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Cold Iron Bed" - Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Nine: "Cold Iron Bed" performed by Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band. Recorded in New York on August 1, 1933.

Jack Kelly and his South Memphis Jug Band rivaled the popularity of Cannon's Jug Stompersand the Memphis Jug Band during the heyday of jug band music.

The South Memphis Jug Band was co-led by guitarist and vocalist Jack Kelly and fiddler Will Batts. The group was rounded out by guitarist Dan Sane and Dr. D.M. Higgs on the jug. They are generally considered to be the bluesiest of the Memphis-area jug bands. They made their first recordings in 1933 at a session that saw the recording of twenty three titles, including this version of "Cold Iron Bed." They didn't record again until 1939. Following their initial recording session, the group's line-up underwent several changes in personnel.

Jack Kelly remains something of an enigma. Nothing is known of his background or early years. He formed the South Memphis Jug Band with Will Batts, originally performing under the name "Jack Kelly's Jug Busters." He continued to lead various incarnations of the band until the mid-1950s. Kelly died in Memphis in 1960. His exact death date and cause of death are unknown.

Will Batts was born in Michigan, Mississippi on January 24, 1904. Little is known of Batts' early life. He was working as a farm hand when he reportedly decided to pursue music as a full time profession. Fortunately, Batts' talent as a fiddler was commensurate with his ambition. He joined Kelly's Jug Busters, making his first recordings with the group in 1933. Batts made several recordings with guitarist Dan Sane, as well as with guitarist and vocalist Frank Stokes. Batts made his last known recording with Big Walter Horton in 1952. He died on April 16, 1954.

Guitarist Dan Sane (sometimes spelled "Sain" or "Sing") was born in Hernando, Mississippi on September 22, 1896. He made his debut recordings with Frank Stokes in 1927. He met up with Will Batts and Jack Kelly in the early 1930s and soon joined their jug band. Following his association with Kelly, Sane continued to perform with Stokes until the latter's retirement in 1952. Sane died in Memphis on February 18, 1956.

No biographical information is available at this time on Dr. Daniel M. Higgs.

"Cold Iron Bed" is fairly typical blues lament, primarily focused on a no-good woman (described in the song as a "weed" whom the cows will "mow down"). No explanation is given as to exactly what this woman has done to earn the speaker's anger.

Baby, take me up and lay me down in your cool iron bed.
Baby, take me upstairs, lay me down in your cool iron bed.
If I don’t get no better, I want you to come and rub my head.

You're a no-good weed, the cows is gonna mow you down.
Yeah, you're a no-good weed, the cow is gonna mow you down.
And if I were the police, mama, I’d run you clean outta town.

Ever since, ever since my poor mother been dead,
Ever since, ever since my poor mother been dead,
The rocks have been my pillow, and the cold ground has been my bed.

Baby, I’ll make everything all right.
Baby, I’ll make everything all right.
If I don’t see you tomorrow, I’ll see you tomorrow night.


"Cold Iron Bed" is a song that Smith might have included in the third volume of the original Anthology set. The song is a series of floating verses that detail the speaker's feelings of anger and resentment towards his woman. Interestingly, however, in the last verse, the speaker seems to relent. He promises that he will "make everything all right" and that he will see her "tomorrow night."

The performance is exceptional, and stands up with the classic jug band recordings included in the original set. There is really no reason this recording couldn't have been included in the original Anthology, except that Smith apparently chose not to. It is possible that Smith had considered including this recording in the aborted fourth volume simply because he had cut "Cold Iron Bed" from the original set.

This extremely bluesy recording sets the stage for the string of four blues recordings in a row that follow.


The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's Jeff Mitchell performing an impassioned version of "Cold Iron Bed" on a baritone ukulele.


Download and listen to Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band - "Cold Iron Bed"

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Southern Casey Jones" - Jesse James


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Eight: "Southern Casey Jones" performed by Jesse James. Recorded in Chicago on June 3, 1936.

The Jesse James who recorded "Southern Casey Jones" is a complete mystery. No biographical information is provided in the notes to the Revenant set and I haven't been able to turn anything up through my research. All that seems to be known of him is that he was active in the '20s and '30s and that he recorded this song. Whether Jesse James was his real name or a pseudonym is unknown. If anyone has any information, please leave a comment or e-mail me at wheredeadvoicesgather1@gmail.com.

"Southern Casey Jones" is a variation of "Casey Jones," a family of songs concerning the death of John Luther "Casey" Jones. For biographical information on the real Casey Jones and more information on the "Casey Jones" family of songs, see the entry for Furry Lewis's recording of "Kassie Jones."


I heard the people say Casey Jones can't run.
I'm going to tell you what the poor boy done.
Left Cincinnati about half past nine,
Got to Newport News 'fore dinner time, 'fore dinner time, that's 'fore dinner time.
Got to Newport News 'fore dinner time.

Now Casey Jones said before he died,
He fixed the road so a bum could ride.
And if he ride he had to ride the rod,
Rest his heart in the hand of God, hand of God, in the hand of God,
Had to Rest his heart in the hand of God.

Now little girl says, "Mama is that a fact,
Papa got killed on the I.C. track?"
"Yes, yes honey but hold your breath,
Get that money from your daddy's death, from your daddy's death, from your
daddy's death.
You get money from your daddy's death, from your daddy's death.
Aw, your daddy's death,
You get money from your daddy's death."

When the news reached town Casey Jones was dead,
Women went home and had it out in red.
Slipping and sliding all across the streets,
With their loose mother hubbard and their stocking feet, stocking feet, stocking feet.
Loose mother hubbards and their stocking feet.

Now Casey Jones went from place to place,
Another train hit his train right in the face.
People got off but Casey Jones stayed on,
Natural born eastman but he's dead and gone, dead and gone, he's dead and gone.
He's a natural born eastman but he's dead and gone.

Here come the biggest boy coming right from school.
Hollering and crying like a doggone fool.
"Look here mama is our papa dead?
Womens going home and had it out in red.
Low cut shoes and their evening gowns,
Following papa to the burying ground, to the burying ground, to the burying ground.
Following papa down to the burying ground."

"Now tell the truth mama he says is that a fact
Papa got killed on the I.C. track?"
"Quit crying boy, don't do that.
You got another daddy on the same damn track, on the same track, on the same track
Say you got another daddy on the same track."


"Southern Casey Jones" is a marked contrast with Furry Lewis's "Kassie Jones," heard on the first volume of the Anthology, both lyrically and in terms of performance. Only two verses (the first and the third) in James's recording parallel those in Lewis's version. The songs also differ in terms of mood and style. Lewis's version is meditative, while James's recording is rollicking and uptempo. Lewis sings his version in a quiet, conversational tone, while James sings in a rough, declamatory style.

The "I.C. track" that Jones is killed on in this song is the Illinois Central, the line the real Luther Jones worked on.

Like Furry Lewis's version, James's version of "Casey Jones" does not actually depict Jones's death or is act of heroism. Instead, his death is referred to in the past tense, as having already happened.

James refers to the women as wearing "loose mother hubbards." A "Mother Hubbard" dress was a long, loose fitting dress originally introduced by missionaries in the South Pacific as a way of promoting modesty among the "naked savages" they were trying to convert. In Hawaii, these dresses were called "holokū" by the natives.

While James's recording is not the first on the Anthology to include the piano in the instrumental line-up, it is the first to feature the piano as a solo instrument. As one can well imagine, the piano was not generally an instrument associated with folk music. It was more expensive than a guitar or banjo and lacked the portability of these instruments.

The piano is technically a string instrument, played by means of a keyboard. When a key is depressed, a felt covered hammer strikes steel strings. The hammers rebound, allowing the strings to continue vibrating at their resonant frequency. These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a sounding board that couples the acoustic energy to the air so that it can be heard as sound. Dampers stop the string's vibration when the key is released. Foot pedals can be used to control the duration of the vibrations.

The first string instrument to be played with struck strings was the hammered dulcimer, an instrument with a heritage that extends back to ancient Persia. During the Middle Ages, there were numerous attempts to invent instruments that used keyboards and struck strings. Two results were the clavichord and the harpsichord, which were common by the 17th century. The problem with these instruments, however, were volume and the expressive control of notes. The clavichord offered expressive control, but wasn't loud enough for performance. The harpsichord, which had strings plucked by quills rather than struck by hammers, was loud but lacked expressive control. The first piano is believed to be an attempt to solve this problem.

The invention of the modern piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655–1731), an Italian harpsichord maker employed by Ferdinando de' Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany. It is not known exactly when Cristofori invented his first piano, but it seems to be around 1700. The instrument was initially called the fortepiano, a word that combined the Italian musical terms for both loudness (forte) and softness or quiet (piano).

Early pianos (such as those used by Hayden, Mozart, and Beethoven) were different from the modern piano in several significant ways. They had a smaller octave range (four octaves, as opposed to the seven and a half or more of modern pianos), thinner strings, and a lighter case with no metal frame. By the end of the 19th century, following a period of rapid innovation fueled by the Industrial Revolution, the piano had evolved into the instrument as we know it today.

Pianos and other keyboard instruments came to the Americas as luxury items affordable only to the very rich, initially. It was only with the development of smaller and cheaper pianos that they began to gain in popularity among the middle class. By the end of the 19th century, before the advent of recorded music or radio, a piano was the center of the home entertainment system. The advent of Baby Grand and upright pianos also made it possible for bars and night clubs to feature affordable entertainment. Pianos were as ubiquitous in public spaces as the jukebox would become in the late '40s and '50s.

"Southern Casey Jones" is the third song in a row to be a variation of a song featured on the original three volume Anthology. The song is played in a style that clearly demonstrates the influence of jazz and jump blues, once more connecting the recording with the popular musical trends of the era in which it was recorded, rather than the folk styles of the past.

The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's Andrew Calhoun performing a faithful ballad version of "Casey Jones."



Download and listen to Jesse James - "Southern Casey Jones"

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Nine Pound Hammer Is Too Heavy" - The Monroe Brothers


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Seven: "Nine Pound Hammer Is Too Heavy" performed by The Monroe Brothers. Recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina on February 17, 1936.

Bluegrass pioneers Charlie and Bill Monroe were born on their family's farm near Rosine, Kentucky. Charlie was born on July 4, 1903. Bill was born on September 13, 1911. Their parents, James Buchanan Monroe and Malissa Vandiver Monroe, had eight children, all of whom grew up playing musical instruments. Charlie settled on guitar, while Bill took up the mandolin.

Charlie and Bill, along with brother Birch, formed a band during the 1920s. They started playing on local radio in 1927. When their parents died, however, Bill was sent to live with his uncle Pendleton Vandiver, a fiddler who was later immortalized in song as "Uncle Pen." Charlie and Birch moved to Detroit to look for work, eventually relocating to Hammond, Indiana where they worked in an oil refinery. In 1929, Bill joined them in Indiana, also working in the oil industry. Reunited, the brothers began playing together again.

In 1932, Bill, Charlie, and Birch were heard by a musician on the WSM Barn Dance program and were offered a job as dancers. They toured for two years with Tom Owens before being offered work as musicians on Indiana radio stations WAE and WJKS. This in turn led to the Monroes being offered their own program, sponsored by Texas Crystals. Birch refused the offer, but Bill and Charlie signed on as the Monroe Brothers. The show was successful, and was broadcast daily on WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina, where J.E. Mainer and his Crazy Mountaineer where also performing.

In 1936, the Monroe Brothers made their recording debut for Bluebird Records, recording several sides, including this version of "Nine Pound Hammer Is Too Heavy." Bill and Charlie recorded together until 1938, when Bill left the group, resentful of Charlie's role as lead singer.

In the wake of Bill's departure, Charlie formed the Kentucky Pardners, a group that featured a number of future Bluegrass stars in its line-up over the years, including Lester Flatt, Red Rector, Curly Seckler, and Ira Louvin. The Kentucky Pardners was a successful group, touring and recording for such labels as RCA and Decca. Charlie continued to record and tour until 1957, when he retired. By then, Bluegrass music was being superseded by rock and roll, as well as the slicker country sounds coming from Nashville. Charlie emerged from his retirement in 1972 to perform at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, where he made a tremendous hit. Charlie continued to perform at festivals until his diagnosis with cancer in 1974. He died on September 27, 1975 at his farm in Reidsville, North Carolina.

After leaving the Monroe Brothers in 1938, Bill moved to Little Rock, Arkansas where he formed the Kentuckians. The group was short lived, however, and Bill relocated to Atlanta, Georgia where he formed the Blue Grass Boys singer/guitarist Cleo Davis, fiddler Art Wooten, and bassist Amos Garren. It was the success of Monroe's group that would eventually give the name to the emerging form known as Bluegrass music.

In 1939, Monroe successfully auditioned for the Grand Ole Oprey. By 1940, Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, with a new line-up featuring singer/guitarist Clyde Moody, fiddler Tommy Magness, and bassist Bill Wesbrooks, had signed to RCA where they recorded a version of Jimmie Rodgers' "Mule Skinner Blues." Many of the elements that came to characterize Bluegrass, such as fast tempos and instrumental virtuosity, were present in these early recordings. However, it was not until 1945 and the addition of banjo prodigy Earl Scruggs to the group that all of the elements were finally in place. Scruggs joined a version of the Blue Grass Boys that featured singer/guitarist Lester Flatt, fiddler Chubby Wise, and bassist Howard Watts. By this point, the group was recording for Columbia records. The 28 song recorded by the group between 1946 and 1947 would become the defining classics of the Bluegrass genre. Among the songs recorded during these sessions was Monroe's signature piece, "Blue Moon of Kentucky," which would be covered by Elvis Presley during his sessions for Sun Records in 1955. In 1948, Flatt and Scruggs left Monroe to form the legendary Foggy Mountain Boys.

Following the departure of Flatt and Scruggs, Monroe regrouped and entered into what many consider to be the "golden age" of his career. A new line-up, consisting of Jimmy Martin on guitar and lead vocal, Rudy Lyle on banjo, and a string of fiddlers, including Merle "Red" Taylor, Charlie Cline, Bobby Hicks and Vassar Clements, made a series of recordings that are considered to be every bit the classics as those recorded by the Flatt/Scruggs edition of the band.

By the late '50s, the same factors that derailed brother Charlie's career (the emergence of rock and roll and a more sophisticated brand of country music) led to a decline in fortune for Bill Monroe. It wasn't until the folk revival of the early '60s that Monroe and his kind of playing came back into style. It was during this period that Monroe's style was dubbed "bluegrass," to distinguish it from the string band music that preceded it and the slicker country that followed.

Although initially slow to respond to the renewed interest in his music, Monroe eventually began performing at Bluegrass festivals, including the Bean Blossom Festival in southern Indiana, founded by Monroe himself. Monroe would go on to become the elder statesman of Bluegrass. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970, the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame in 1971, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Monroe is one of only five performers to be honored by all three halls.

Monroe inspired a generation of musicians, including Ricky Scaggs, who first performed with Monroe when he was six years old.

Monroe died on September 9, 1996, several months after suffering a stroke.

"Nine Pound Hammer Is A Little Too Heavy" is a version of "Spike Driver Blues" and a member of the "John Henry" family of songs.


Nine pound hammer,
(Nine pound hammer,)
Is a little too heavy,
(Little too heavy,)
For my size.
(For my size.)
Now for my size.

Roll on buddy,
(Roll on buddy,)
Don't you roll so slow.
(Don't you roll so slow.)
Baby, how can I roll
(Baby, how can I roll)
When the wheel won't go?

Ain't one hammer
(Ain't one hammer)
In this tunnel
(In this tunnel)
That rings like mine.
(Oh it rings like mine.)
That rings like mine.

Rings like silver
(Rings like silver)
And it shines like gold.
(And it shine like gold.)
Rings like silver
(Oh, it rings like silver)
And it shines like gold.

Somebody stole
(Somebody stole)
My nine pound hammer.
(Nine pound hammer.)
They took it and gone.
(They took it and gone.)
They took it and gone.

Roll on buddy,
(Roll on buddy,)
Don't you roll so slow.
(Don't you roll so slow.)
Baby, how can I roll
(Baby, how can I roll)
When the wheel won't go?

Up on the mountain
(Up on the mountain)
For to see my darlin'
(See my darlin')
And I ain't comin' back.
(And I ain't comin' back.)
No, I ain't comin' back.

Roll on buddy,
(Roll on buddy,)
Don't you roll so slow.
(Don't you roll so slow.)
Baby, how can I roll
(Baby, how can I roll)
When the wheel won't go?

Nine pound hammer
(Nine pound hammer)
That killed John Henry
(Killed John Henry)
Ain't a-gonna kill me.
(Ain't gonna kill me.)
Ain't gonna kill me.

Roll on buddy,
(Roll on buddy,)
Don't you roll so slow.
(Don't you roll so slow.)
Baby, how can I roll
(Baby, how can I roll)
When the wheel won't go?


The Monroe Brothers' version of "Nine Pound Hammer Is Too Heavy" features Bill's infectious mandolin playing as well as Charlie and Bill's alternating/overlapping vocals and sweet harmonies. The song differs from "Spike Driver Blues," recorded nearly ten years earlier, in several ways. First, the Monroe Brothers' song is not a protest. When Mississippi John Hurt sings that "this is the hammer that killed John Henry. But it won't kill me," it is because the speaker in his version is quitting. When the Monroe Brothers sing the same line, it is a challenge or a boast. In fact, the line about John Henry's hammer is the only line the two songs have in common. The reference in the song's repeated chorus to "roll[ing] on" is similar to "Buddy Won't You Roll Down The Line." I'm not sure what "rolling" is in this context, but the fact that it turns up in two work songs seems significant.

Like many of the performers on this volume, the Monroe Brothers started in radio before becoming recording artists. The Monroe Brothers also perform in a style that points to music that was to come, rather than the folk styles of the past.

"Nine Pound Hammer Is Too Heavy" is the fourth and last song in a row recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina (recorded just four months before the recordings made by J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers and the Blue Sky Boys). It is also the last of four recordings in a row to feature brother acts, and is the second of three songs in a row that are variations of songs featured on the original three volume Anthology.

The Shameless Plug Department: You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!

Here's Merle Travis in a 1950s television appearance performing a version of "Nine Pound Hammer Is A Little Too Heavy."



Download and listen to the Monroe Brothers - "Nine Pound Hammer Is A Little Too Heavy"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"John Henry Was A Little Boy" - J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers


Set Four: The "Lost" Volume; Disc One; Track Six: "John Henry Was A Little Boy" performed by J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers. Recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina on June 15, 1936. Original issue Bluebird 6629.

Joseph Emmett Mainer was born near Weaverville, North Carolina on July 20, 1898. His younger brother, Wade Mainer, was born on April 21, 1907.

The Mainer brothers came from a musical family and both learned music at an early age. J.E. Mainer learned banjo and fiddle, while Wade concentrated on the banjo. The Mainer Brothers played local dances. Both of them relocated to Concord, North Carolina during the early 1920s where they worked in textile mills. The brothers continued to play locally, their reputations steadily growing. In 1933, J.E. secured a gig playing on radio station WBT in Charlotte, North Carolina, performing on a show sponsored by Crazy Water Crystals. J.E. dubbed his band "J.E. Mainer and his Crazy Mountaineers." In 1934, Wade joined the band on banjo. The group was filled out by guitarist Zeke Morris and "Daddy" John Love. They made their recording debut for Bluebird records in 1935. In 1936, Wade and Zeke Morris temporarily left the group to perform as a duo, but returned in time for the recording session that yielded this version of "John Henry Was A Little Boy" under the name J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers.

In 1937, Wade left the Mountaineers to form his own group, the Sons of the Mountaineers. J.E. kept his group going with various changes in personnel until the start of World War II, when the band broke up. J.E. performed and recorded during the post-war era with his sons, Glenn and Curly. He died on June 12, 1971.

Wade Mainer disbanded the Sons of the Mountaineers during World War II, reforming the group for a 1942 performance at the White House for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. After the war, Mainer continued to perform until his renewed commitment to Christianity led to his retirement from music in 1953.

Mainer relocated to Flint, Michigan where he worked in a General Motors plant. Although he had renounced the music business and quit playing the banjo, Mainer continued to sing gospel music at church and at revival meetings. During the 1960s, Mainer took up the banjo again to record religious music and to tour with his wife, who joined him on stage.

In 1987, Wade Mainer was honored by President Ronald Reagan who bestowed a National Heritage Fellowship upon him. Mainer was honored again in 1996 when he received the Michigan Heritage Award and the Michigan Country Music Association and Services' Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1998, Mainer and his wife were inducted into the Michigan Country Music Hall of Fame. That same year, Mainer was honored with North Carolina’s Surry Arts Council Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mainer still lives in Flint, Michigan. He celebrated his 100th birthday on April 27, 2007 and performed at a concert given in honor of his 101st birthday in 2008. Mainer is the only artist featured on the Anthology who is still alive at the time of this writing.

"John Henry Was A Little Boy" is a variation of the John Henry Ballad. Smith included the Williamson Brothers and Curry's version of "Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand" on the second disc of the "Ballad" set. For more information on the historical John Henry and on the John Henry ballad in general, see that earlier entry.


John Henry was a little boy.
Lord, he sat on his papa's knee.
Lord, he picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel,
Said, "This hammer be the death of me.
This hammer be the death of me."

John Henry told his captain,
Says, "I am a Tennessee man.
But before I let that steam drill beat me down,
Lord, I'll die with my hammer in my hand.
I'll die with my hammer in my hand."

C'mon, Johnny!

John Henry told his shaker,
Says, "Shaker, you'd better pray.
Lord, if I miss this six foot steel,
Tomorrow be your buryin' day. (Be careful.)
Tomorrow be your buryin' day."

John Henry walked to the tunnel,
With his captain by his side.
The rock was so tall, John Henry so small,
Lord, he laid down his hammer and cried.
He laid down his hammer and he cried.

John Henry had a lovely little woman.
Name was Polly Ann.
John Henry got sick and he had to go home.
Lord, Polly drove his steel like a man.
Polly drove his steel like a man.

Some woman, boy...


J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers, on this recording, consisted of J.E. Mainer on fiddle, Wade Mainer on lead vocal and banjo, Zeke Morris and Beachum Blackweller on guitars and vocals.

It is most interesting to compare the Mainer Brothers' version of this song with the earlier recording by the Williamson Brothers. Both recordings are wild, performed at breakneck speed. Both recordings feature fiddle and two guitars (although the Mainer Brothers' version also features the banjo). Many of the same lyrics crop up in both recordings (although there are some variations. In the Williamson Brothers' version, John Henry's wife is named "Sally Ann." In the version by the Mainer Brothers, her name is "Polly Ann." Such variations between versions is to be expected, and is indeed an integral part of the Folk Process). While both versions purport to be ballads, neither version actually gets around to describing the race between John Henry and the Steam Drill (although the Mainers get a little closer,) and while both version have John Henry declaring that his hammer "will be the death of" him, and that he will "die with [his] hammer in [his] hands," neither version actually depicts his death.

The main differences between the two recordings (made roughly ten years apart) is stylistic. The Williamson Brothers' version points to the past; to traditional folkways. The Mainer Brothers' version points to the future. Both Mainer brothers, but especially Wade, are viewed as a bridge between the "Old Time" styles of the past, and the Bluegrass style that was to come.

"John Henry Was A Little Boy" is the third song in a row recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was actually recorded the day before the Blue Sky Boys recorded their version of "Down On The Banks of the Ohio."

The Shameless Plug Department: If you've tried to listen to the Podcast lately, you have no doubt noticed that the links are dead. The reason for this is that my account has been suspended for taking too long to put up a new episode. It is with a heavy heart that I declare the Where Dead Voices Gather Podcast to be on permanent hiatus. There's just too much going on in my life to keep it up. Perhaps the Podcast will return one day.

You can still become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook, however, and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Remember that I still host "Doin' The Thing," a weekly jazz program on KRML 1410 AM and 94.7 FM in Carmel, California. The show airs from 8 PM to 10PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday nights. You can also listen online by visiting the KRML website at 8 PM Pacific, 11 PM Eastern Time. Please tune in and give me feedback!


Here's a kick-ass blues version of John Henry's story by Mississippi Fred McDowell. Lordy!



Download and listen to J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers - "John Henry Was A Little Boy"