At the sessions of June and October 1934, Tampa Red’s repertoire was very much a mixture of what he had recorded for Vocalion (DOCD-5073 - 5076). There were, however, some notable exceptions. For the first three months of 1934 Tampa had been absent from recording and during that time Leroy Carr had found success with his “Mean Mistreater Mama” (DOCD-5137). Perhaps at Bluebird’s behest Tampa Red recorded a word for word, vocal inflection for vocal inflection, copy of the song as Mean Mistreater Blues. To his own bottleneck accompaniment and augmented by a jug player and strumming guitarist, the song was driven along by the compelling rhythm that the simple use of such instruments produced. At his next session for Bluebird in October one number, Worried Devil Blues, featured Tampa’s Jimmie Rodgers inspired “yodelling” phrases. This affectation may possibly have been occasioned by the popularity of the Mississippi Sheiks who used the technique to great commercial success for Okeh (DOCD-5083-5086) and who early in 1934 had joined the Bluebird roster.Along with Big Bill Broonzy, one of the stand-out figures in the transactional period of pre-war “Country Blues” to post war “City Blues” and on through to the energised, electric “Chicago Blues” of the 1950s is Hudson Whittaker better known as ‘Tampa Red’. His recordings influenced many, including Robert Nighthawk, Elmore James and BB King. Volume Six of fifteen volumes dedicated to Tampa's recording career stretching from 1929 to 1953 features 22 tracks recorded at three sessions between June 1934 and February 1935.
Experimenting with rhythm lines being underlined by jugs and washboards and kazoo, many of the tracks hail the emergence of a hip, swing influenced Tampa of the mid 30s. Carrying on the successful guitar piano formula that he had with his early recording partner Georgia Tom Dorsey, most of the tracks find him accompanied by piano players Black Bob or Henry "45" Scott plus occasional second guitar. Although Tampa's dreaded kazoo makes an occasional appearance it is mostly his powerful vocals and his distinctive single string slide guitar work that carries the CD along. The material is varied and includes a couple of topical items Christmas And New Years Blues and Stockyard Fire. It is fairly likely that such a fire occurred and Tampa’s reference to eating only one meal in three may have been something he and his wife experienced as a result. It is suggested that I'll Get A Break Someday (I’ll Be Up Someday”) is not by Tampa but Carl Martin who has a session listed right after Tampa's - a fine cut whoever it is though.
Tampa returns to the studio in February in chirpy mood the following year, recording a further seven sides. Armed with his guitar and his small but potent kazoo, and accompanied by “probably” Black Bob on piano and “probably” the mysterious Mississippi Sarah on jug he romps his way through Worthy Of You and If It Ain’t That Gal Of Mine, a little ditty about Sally, who, on the street, can make more money than Henry Ford.
Thankfully, after this number Tampa seems to have mislaid his Kazoo. Or has Sarah slipped it into her jug, if you pardon the phrase?
Two takes of Mean Old Tom Cat is a pounding blues with Tampa peppering the accompaniment with the use of some bottleneck licks on his National steel guitar. Both takes are excellent and were worthy of release though the pace is picked up a little more on the second.
We’re then given a breather with two, very nice, blues including the excellent, rolling, Singing And Crying Blues.
But Tampa really is in party mood and falling back onto his Hokum style he leaves volume 6 with the spicy Shake It Up A Little.
Note: Tamp Red’s complete recorded titles, from his first recordings, made in 1928, through to 1953 can be found on Document DOCD-5073, DOCD-5074, DOCD-5075, DOCD-5076, DOCD-5077, DOCD-5206, DOCD-5207, DOCD-5208, DOCD-5209, DOCD-5210, DOCD-5211, DOCD-5212, DOCD-5213, DOCD-5214, DOCD-5215, DOCD-5276 and BDCD-6045.