FEATURED ARTIST / S
|Mae Belle Miller|
Roosevelt Sykes Vol. 1 (1929-1930)
Roosevelt Sykes, vocal, piano.
With contributions by;
Mae Belle Miller (probably Bessie Mae Smith, “St. Louis Bessie”), vocal.
Bee Turner, vocal.
Genres: Piano Blues. Pre-War Blues.
Informative booklet notes by Chris Smith.
Next time someone voices the goofball opinion that blues is simply too depressing to embrace, sit 'em down and expose 'em to a heady dose of Roosevelt Sykes. If he doesn't change their minds, nothing will. There was absolutely nothing downbeat about this roly-poly, effervescent pianist (nicknamed "Honeydripper" for his youthful prowess around the girls), whose lengthy career spanned the pre-war and post-war eras with no interruption whatsoever. Sykes' romping boogies and hilariously risqué lyrics (his double-entendre gems included "Dirty Mother for You," "Ice Cream Freezer," and "Peeping Tom") characterize his monumental contributions to the blues idiom. He was a pioneering piano pounder responsible for the seminal pieces "44 Blues," "Driving Wheel," and "Night Time Is the Right Time."
From Arkansas and St. Louis, Sykes came up barrelhousing in the lumber camps. His career took him to Chicago and New Orleans, with his joyful boogie woogie style evolving accordingly. A crucial rural-to-urban transition figure who stayed active into the '60s, he's unjustly overlooked today. He played with precision, right down to the jazzy fills, even though he sounded abandoned; his timing and melodic sense were impeccable, and he squeezed the most out of a limited voice. Sykes made standards out of "44 Blues" (his rough-hewn debut single), "Driving Wheel," Sweet Home Chicago" and "The Honeydripper" (his 1945 cover of Joe Liggins, not the song of the same name he'd cut in 1936). He was also known for unabashed raunchy like "Dirty Mother for You." And in 1933, he accompanied the unheralded Carl Rafferty on "Mr. Carl's Blues," apparently the first song containing the immortal line, "I do believe I'll dust my broom.
This is a great introduction to early Roosevelt Sykes. Roosevelt's singing and playing are strong throughout this disk. There are 6 songs that do not feature Sykes' vocals. “Trouble Everywhere Blues”, “Long Tall Man Blues” and the final two songs find Roosevelt in an accompanist role. The Trouble Everywhere group finds him with Mae Belle Miller. The first 2 of these tracks were recorded for Bluesway. The final to songs,” Jivin' Jelly” and “Rough Treatin’ Daddy” feature some zealous cornet playing and the singing of Bee Turner.