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Sunday, 16 February 2020

Jimmy Witherspoon - Ain't Nobody's Business!

Side 1:
01) Ain't Nobody's Business Part 2
02) In The Evening
03) Frogomore Blues
04) McShann Bounce Part 1
05) How Long
06) Money's Getting Cheaper

Side 2:
01) Skid-Row Blues
02) Spoon Calls Hootie
03) Back Water Blues
04) Louie's Guitar Boogie
05) Destruction Blues
06) Ain't Nobody's Business Part 1

Another LP which has lain unplayed for decades on the shelves of the vinyl vault. An unfortunate state of affairs as it provides a valuable snapshot of a period when one of the all time great blues shouters, Jimmy Witherspoon, enjoyed considerable success on the R&B charts. Witherspoon, of course, went on to have a decades long career as a jazz and blues singer but here we concentrate on 1947 - 1949 when his recordings for Supreme Records made a big noise on the sales charts.

Although the sleevenotes for this LP say that these recordings were made for Jack Lauderdale's Down Beat / Swing Time label, in fact with the exception of "Spoon Calls Hootie" and "Destruction Blues'" these tracks were recorded in November 1947 for Supreme Records, a small LA based label owned by dentist Al Patrick. The label had a limited but interesting roster of R&B artists which included Jimmy Witherspoon, Jay McShann, Buddy Tate, Paula Watson and Eddie Williams. Two lawsuits (brought by Decca and Black & White) plus the inevitable financial pressures of a small label having to support a nationwide smash hit (Witherspoon's "Ain't Nobody's Business") brought about the closure of the label in 1950 with most of its masters being bought up by Swing Time.

In the previous post "Jay McShann - The Band That Jumps The Blues!" we saw how pianist and former big band leader Jay McShann had migrated to the West Coast, leading small jump groups rather than full bands. In Vallejo California McShann came across Witherspoon and immediately signed him to his band which for a while could boast three vocalists - Crown Prince Waterford, Witherspoon and Numa Lee Davis. The band cut sides for Philo, Premier and Mercury (1945 - 1947) with Waterford and Davis dropping out, leaving Witherspoon as the sole vocalist fronting the band.

Supreme started recording Witherspoon who was now a solo act in October 1947. Further sessions followed in November 1947 with backing by Jay McShann who generously provided studio support for his former singer, and in a final late December 1947 session, backing was provided by the Buddy Tate band. To confuse matters somewhat, Witherspoon and McShann also recorded for Modern in late December 1947 with the Al "Cake" Wichard band.

Although a stash of recordings had been built up, Supreme didn't start releasing Witherspoon sides until the spring of 1948. Just as these platters hit the record shops, Witherspoon started recording for Down Beat, again backed by Jay McShann. He continued to record for Down Beat into the summer of 1948 and then started recording for Modern in the autumn of that year, staying with that label until 1952 when he switched to Federal.

Amidst the flurry of releases on Supreme, Down Beat and Modern in 1948-49, it was the Supreme recordings which made the biggest impact sales wise, with the two parter "Ain't Nobody's Business"  reaching number 1 in the R&B chart in the spring of 1949, and its follow up, "In The Evening" reaching number 7 in October of that year. Witherspoon enjoyed further success in 1950 with a double sided hit on Modern, "No Rollin' Blues" and "Big Fine Girl" both of which reached number 4 R&B.

Release Details - Titles as on original single releases

01) Ain't Nobody's Business Part 2 - Supreme 1506 / Swing Time 263
02) In The Evening - Supreme 1533
03) Frogomore Blues  - Supreme 1505
04) McShann's Bounce Part 1 - Supreme 1540 (Jay McShann)
05) How Long - Supreme 1545
06) Money's Getting Cheaper - Supreme 1501
07) Skid-Row Blues - Supreme 1545 / Swing Time 244
08) Spoon Calls Hootie - Down Beat / Swing Time 157
09) Back Water Blues - Supreme 1520
10) Louie's Guitar Boogie - Supreme 1501 (Louis Speiginer)
11) Destruction Blues - Down Beat / Swing Time 161
12) Ain't Nobody's Business Part 1 - Supreme 1506 / Swing Time 263

In chronological order. All tracks credited to Jimmy Witherspoon unless otherwise noted (in brackets):

Louie's Guitar Boogie (Louis Speiginer) / Money's Getting Cheaper - Supreme 1501 - May 1948

Frogomore Blues / Wee Baby Blues - Supreme 1505 - August / September (?) 1948

Call My Baby / Spoon Calls Hootie - Down Beat 157 - circa October 1948

Funny Style Baby / Destruction Blues - Down Beat 161 - circa October 1948

Ain't Nobody's Business Part 1 / Ain't Nobody's Business Part 2 - Supreme 1506 - February 1949

Back Water Blues / Third Floor Blues - Supreme 1520 - April 1949

In The Evening (Jimmy Witherspoon) / Six-Foot-Two Blues (Buddy Tate Orchestra vcl - Jimmy Witherspoon) - Supreme 1533 - September 1949

McShann's Bounce Part 1 / McShann's Bounce Part 2 (Jay McShann At The Piano) - Supreme 1540 - circa October 1949

How Long / Skid-Row Blues - Supreme 1545 - November 1949


Label shots adapted from The Internet Archive.

Recommended Purchase:

Cold Blooded Boogie (Night Train International NTI CD 7008)

20 hollerin' tracks from Supreme and Down Beat. At the time of posting there are copies going very cheaply on Worth a look!


Bob Mac said...

Big thanks BW for a Spoon album I didn't have.

george said...

Many thanks, boogiewoody!