FEATURED ARTIST / S
|Jesse 'Babyface' Thomas|
Genres: Texas blues, Country blues, Country blues guitar, Bottleneck-slide guitar
Review by Arwul Arwulf:
Guitarist Willard “Ramblin’” Thomas was born in Logansport, LA in 1902. In 1945, he was struck down by tuberculosis while in Memphis, TN, leaving behind about 18 recordings, 16 of which have been reissued on one disc by Document along with assorted tidbits by four other bluesmen, most of whom recorded in Dallas during the late ’20s.
Whereas Willard’s timing, texture, and technique suggest the influence of Lonnie Johnson and Tampa Red, his work is also stylistically linked with that of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Texas Alexander, Ed Bell, Furry Lewis, Funny Paper Smith, and Little Hat Jones — all substantial Southern blues musicians.
After hooking up with talent scouts in Dallas, Ramblin’ Thomas cut his first 14 sides for Paramount in Chicago in February and November, 1928. Ground Hog Blues and Shake It Blues (also known as “Shake It Gal”) were recorded for Victor in Dallas on February 9, 1932. Ground Hog Blues No. 2 and Little Old Mama Blues were waxed at the same session but are not included on this collection.
What follows are four sides cut in Dallas on August 10, 1929 by Willard’s little brother, Jesse “Babyface” Thomas. My Heart’s a Rolling Stone is structurally a bit different from the formula regularly used by Willard, as is Blue Goose Blues, a performance that resembles the work of eastern bluesmen Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, and Blind Willie McTell. On the same day and again two months later, Jesse Thomas and pianist K.D. Johnson made about ten recordings altogether as accompanists for Bessie Tucker, and these may be found on Document’s edition of her complete recorded works.
The deep voice heard singing the lullaby waltz Good Night belonged to one Troy Ferguson. This recording, which was made in Atlanta, GA in November 1929, was included here because the person whistling is listed as Jesse Thomas — although various blues historians have since insisted that this was not the same person as Jesse “Babyface” Thomas. Recorded on August 9, 1929, Cryin’ for You Blues and Needin’ My Woman Blues are performed by Sammy Hill backed by a second guitarist by the name of McKeno. Walking Blues and You’ll Like My Loving were recorded in Dallas in December 1928 by Otis Harris.