FEATURED ARTIST / S
|Blind Lemon Jefferson|
Blind Lemon Jefferson, vocal, guitar.
With contributions by: George Perkins, piano.
Genres: Blues, Country Blues, Texas Country Blues, Country Blues Guitar.
Informative booklet notes by Bob Groom.
1927 was the peak year of the decade for record sales (before radio and, later, the Depression began to seriously affect the record industry), with well over 100 million discs sold in America, "race records" accounting for at least 5 million of these and Blind Lemon Jefferson being one of the hottest properties in that field, having had a string of successful Paramount record releases in 1926. In March, 1927 Lemon was lured away from Paramount by Polk C. Brockman of OKeh Records. Jefferson recorded eight titles for them, including a remake of his Black Snake Moan hit. This was released together with a new song, Match Box Blues, and the record was an instant hit. The following month Lemon was in Chicago to remake Easy Rider Blues and Match Box Blues for Paramount. The resulting record must have been a phenomenal success as he remade Match Box Blues again a few weeks later, which suggests that the earlier master was wearing out, perhaps implying six-figures sales. Matchbox Blues was also popular with white country singers such as Larry Hensley, who recorded it in 1934, successfully reproducing Lemon's 'busy' guitar style and also offering a fair approximation of his vocal style. Two decades later, in 1957, rockabilly singer Carl Perkins recorded his Matchbox for Sun Records and in 1964 a version by the Beatles featured on a million-selling EP.
Rising High Water Blues concerns the disastrous Mississippi River floods in the early months of 1927, and was recorded in the wake of Bessie Smith's very popular Backwater Blues (Columbia 14195-D). Instead of Jefferson's guitar, the instrumental accompaniment is provided by pianist George Perkins whose restrained playing is very suitable. Perkins also plays on Teddy Bear Blues, receiving approbation from the master: "whup that piano, Mister Piano Whupper", and the very Freudian Black Snake Dream Blues. The last verse of Teddy Bear Blues "... let me be your teddy bear, tie a string on my neck and I'll follow you anywhere" was echoed, thirty years on, in Elvis Presley's No. 1 hit Teddy Bear: "let me be your... teddy bear, put a chain around my neck and lead me anywhere".
Weary Dogs Blues concerns Lemon's "worried dogs" (his feet!); Hot Dogs is basically an instrumental with Lemon telling us more about his pedal extremities (now hot from doing the Black Bottom), which can be heard tapping away in the studio, behind his irresistible guitar playing. Interestingly, Lemon must have been aware that these recordings were to be coupled together as he comments at the end of Hot Dogs "All right, folks, turn the record over, let me tell you all about these worried dogs of mine".
In January, 1928 Jefferson had his second religious record (Paramount 12585) issued. He Arose From the Dead, a version of which can be found in White's 'Fisk Jubilee Songs' (1872), and Where Shall I Be? are characteristically "cool" performances. Although in his youth Lemon had learned to play many spirituals, as a man he only seemed to come alive musically when performing blues. Significantly, See That My Grave's Kept Clean, on which Jefferson sings with greater conviction, is really a secular song, although it was issued under the Deacon L. J. Bates pseudonym, along with He Arose From The Dead, on an alternative issue of 12585. Jefferson's 1927 blues recordings are consistently excellent Chinch Bug Blues, with its humorous references to pests like bedbugs and chinches, the "brown cross town" who's "tall as a sycamore tree" in Deceitful Brownskin Woman Blues, Rambler Blues and Sunshine Special with their railroad references but two stand out. One Dime Blues is a masterpiece with incredible interplay between voice and guitar. The AAAB lyric structure relates it to the earliest blues and the traditional East St. Louis Blues sometimes includes a "one dime" verse. Versions of One Dime were still being recorded in the immediate post-war decades. Gone Dead On You Blues has a more coherent theme than earlier pieces like Got The Blues and this began to be a characteristic of Lemon's later recordings.