1. Pete "Guitar" Lewis - Louisiana Hop
2. Pete "Guitar" Lewis - Raggedy Blues
3. Pete "Guitar" Lewis - Crying With The Rising Sun
4. Pete "Guitar" Lewis - Harmonica Boogie
5. Little Willie Littlefield - Goofy Dust Blues
1. Little Willie Littlefield - Striking On You Baby
2. Little Willie Littlefield - Blood Is Redder Than Wine
3. Little Willie Littlefield - The Midnight Hour Was Shining
4. Little Willie Littlefield - My Best Wishes And Regards
5. Little Willie Littlefield - Falling Tears
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Here's the second LP from the 1979 Gusto double album "Messin' Around With The Blues." Volume 1 featured 12 tracks from 1946 and 1947 by Memphis Slim which were bought by the King label from Hy-Tone and Miracle for re-release on King and Federal. Volume 2 has a mere 10 tracks, 4 by Pete "Guitar" Lewis and 6 by Little Willie Littlefield, all of which were released on Federal in the early 1950s.
The sleeve notes on the back of the LP have only this to say about Lewis and Littlefield: "Little is known about the artists Pete "Guitar" Lewis and Little Willie Littlefield. One must assume by listening to their music, that both men lived in the world of Rhythm and Blues." What is remarkable about this lack of information about the artists on this disc is that in 1979 Little Willie Littlefield had already embarked on a comeback after some years in obscurity and had recently appeared at the San Francisco Blues Festival and toured Europe.
Be Bop Wino is the blog that brings you the lowdown on vintage R&B so please bear with your humble scribe while I attempt to fill in some of the background on these two great musicians who are nowadays much better known to blues fans.
Louisiana born Pete "Guitar" Lewis was the guitarist in the Johnny Otis Orchestra. He was signed up by Otis after an impressive performance in the talent show at the Barrelhouse Club in LA in 1948. He was a member of the Otis outfit through the great years of the late 1940s and early 1950s when the band had hit after hit on Savoy. He remained with the band through most of the 1950s when they label hopped from Savoy to Mercury to Peacock, finally ending up on the Otis owned Dig label.
As well as working for the above mentioned labels, Otis recorded for Federal around 1951 and 1952 but was unable to use his own name as he was signed up with Mercury until August 1952 when he switched to Peacock. The Federal recordings were issued under the names of band members such as Little Esther, Preston Love and Pete "Guitar" Lewis.
Two recording sessions were held under Pete Lewis's name, one in January 1952 from which the four recordings on this LP originate, and another in August 1952 from which two singles were released, "Ooh Midnight" / "Scratchin'" (Federal 12103) and "Chocolate Pork Chop Man" / "The Blast" (Federal 12112).
The four sides on this LP were originally released on two singles - "Louisiana Hop" / "Crying With The Rising Sun" (Federal 12066) and "Harmonica Boogie" / "Raggedy Blues" (Federal 12076). The recordings reveal that not only was Pete Lewis a good guitar player, he was also an excellent blues singer and could blow a mean harmonica.
The musicians on these four Pete Lewis sides were: Pete "Guitar" Lewis (vocal, harmonica, guitar); George Washington (trombone); Walter Henry (tenor sax); Devonia Williams (piano); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums). The session was recorded in Los Angeles on January 3rd, 1952.
Pete Lewis left the Johnny Otis outfit in 1957, being replaced by Jimmy Nolen. He died in the early 1960s.
The old Charly CD "Scratchin'" had the complete Lewis Federal sessions as well as tracks by Jimmy Nolen and Cal Green.
Little Willie Littlefield was born in Texas in 1931 and in the early post-war years he was already a piano pounding, blues singing prodigy in the joints on Houston's Dowling Street. In 1948 he signed for a small local record label, Eddie's, and cut a few sides, one of which was released on the slightly more important Freedom label. In 1949 he was spotted by the Biharis and signed to their Modern label. His earliest recordings for Modern were made in Houston, and the first release, "It's Midnight", was a smash hit, reaching number three in the R&B charts.
Willie moved out to LA where he continued to record for Modern until late 1951. His husky voice was well suited to both rambunctious rockers and more reflective blues numbers. It's likely that the Biharis saw him as a potential rival to Amos Milburn, but despite turning out a series of superb R&B records, sales were disappointing and Willie's contract was not renewed.
In the summer of 1952 he signed up with Federal for whom he recorded three Ralph Bass produced sessions in August 1952, May 1953 and October 1953. The six tracks on this LP represent all three of these sessions.
"Striking On You Baby" and "Blood Is Redder Than Wine" were recorded in Los Angeles on August 15th, 1952. They were originally released on Federal single 12101. The musicians at this session were: Little Willie Littlefield (vocal, piano); Maxwell Davis (tenor sax); Jewel Grant (alto and baritone sax); Herman "Tiny" Mitchell (guitar); Ralph Hamilton (bass); Jesse Sailes (drums).
"The Midnight Hour Was Shining" and "My Best Wishes And Regards" were recorded in Cincinnati on May 9th, 1953. The sides were originally released on Federal single 12137. Musicians on this session were: Little Willie Littlefield (vocal, piano); Rufus Gore (tenor sax); Charlie Grayson (guitar); Edwin Conley (bass); Bill Douglas (drums).
"Goofy Dust Blues" and "Falling Tears" were recorded in Los Angeles on 30th October 1953. They were originally released on Federal single 12174. Musicians on this session were: Little Willie Littlefield (vocals, piano); Wardell Gray (tenor sax); Jesse Irvin (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Bill Douglas (drums).
Undoubtedly the best known of Willie's Federal sides is "K.C. Lovin'" which was recorded at the August 1952 session. It was revived by Wilbert Harrison in 1959 as "Kansas City", becoming a huge international pop hit.
After his 1953 Federal sessions, Willie did not record again until 1957/58 when he laid down some sides for the Rhythm label of San Francisco. Thereafter there was a slide into obscurity with Willie, like so many of his R&B contemporaries, being a forgotten figure in the 1960s and most of the 1970s. However this is an R&B story with a happy ending for towards the end of the 1970s Willie started recording again and made appearances at major blues festivals. In the 1980s there was a huge rise in interest in the R&B sounds of the 1940s and 50s, especially in the UK and Europe. Ace Records in the UK reissued many of Willie's Modern sides and recorded an LP of new material, "Happy Pay Day", a song which had become something of an anthem among UK fans of rockin' R&B.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Willie recorded a series of albums for the Dutch Oldie Blues label and having married a local girl he started a new life in the Netherlands.
Willie's complete Federal output is available on the Ace CD "Going Back To Kay Cee."
Ace have issued two compilations of Willie's Modern material: "Kat On The Keys" and "Boogie, Blues and Bounce."
"Kat On The Keys" is a tremendous R&B collection, which I highly recommend.