FEATURED ARTIST / S
|One Arm Slim|
Includes: Tommy Griffin, vocal; Eddie Hill, piano; “Ernest “44” (Ernest Johnson), piano; “One Arm Slim” (Lovell Alexander), vocal; Black Bob, piano; Walter Jacobs (Walter Vincson) guitar; Frank Edwards, vocal, guitar , harmonica; Washboard Sam, washboards; and others…
Genres: Country Blues.
Informative booklet notes by Tony Russell.
TOMMY GRIFFIN remains a stubbornly obscure figure. Little Brother Montgomery thought he was from Jackson, Mississippi. He first recorded for a Brunswick / Vocalion field unit in Memphis in February 1930, cutting four blues with, reportedly, an Eddie Hill on piano, though in Yo Yo Mama Blues Griffin clearly addresses him as "Mr Hall".
During the same series of Memphis sessions an act logged as The Yo-Yo Boys recorded two unissued songs, "Kissin' Time Blues" and "Mistreated Man Blues". Given Griffin's attention to both yo-yos and mistreatment (the latter subject is also touched on in his later Mistreating Papa), it is at least possible that he may have been associated with this group. Griffin's other session took place in New Orleans on Friday, 16 October 1936. Griffin, booked by the Bluebird label to sing a dozen numbers, was accompanied by Walter Vinson on guitar and, on piano, Ernest "44" Johnson.
Absolutely nothing is known of ONE ARM SLIM beyond his given name, Lovell Alexander, and his meagre discography of five songs recorded during 1938, only three of which were issued on 78. From these, however, we can make a few guesses about his musical interests. Howling Man Blues is a compote of verses from J. T. "Funny Paper" Smith's debut disc, the two-part "Howling Wolf Blues", then some seven and a half years old. Slim's first and last stanzas are from "No. 2" and the intervening ones from "No. 1",except verse 4, which may have been his own. His accompanists are not known for certain, but his disability (assuming his nickname is to be taken at face value) need not have prevented him playing the sketchy piano part. His vocal phrasing, here and on most of his other performances, is modelled on that of Peetie Wheatstraw.
In contrast with those biographically challenged figures, FRANK EDWARDS is well documented. Sweet Man Blues appears to have been based 011 Little Buddy Doyle's song of the same name, recorded in Memphis almost two years earlier. Edwards throws out most of Doyle's well-turned stanzas but retains a few phrases along with the melody and refrain. As Pete Lowry well described it, his singing has "a forced, pinched sound". Terraplane Blues also shares its title with a previous recording, by Robert Johnson, but has no other resemblance. We Got To Get Together, a sort of muted recruiting song, is played at a lively stomp tempo a little like that of Tony Hollins' "Stamp Blues" (recorded less than a week later in the same studio) and is urged on by background shouts, probably from Washboard Sam. Edwards may have regarded that as his best song, for he recorded it again in 1949 when Regal Records' Fred Mendelsohn came through Atlanta; Edwards, by then an Atlanta resident, secured the session through his friendship with Curley Weaver but recorded only two numbers, neither issued until years afterwards.