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Sunday, 12 April 2020

Memphis Slim (Chess LP 1455)

Side 1:
01) I Guess I'm A Fool
02) Rockin' The Pad
03) Havin' Fun
04) Marack
05) Mother Earth

Side 2:
01) Really Got The Blues
02) Tiajuana
03) I'm Crying
04) Reverend Bounce
05) Slim's Blues
06) Blues For My Baby

From the files of Marv - this Chess LP was released in 1961 when interest in "folk blues" was at its height. "Folk blues" was the means by which many blues artists moved from the R&B market where interest in their style of music was declining, into a new market where their music was bought by a white, often middle class and college based customer base.

An offshoot of the folk music scene, the fans of "folk blues" adopted a purist and intellectualised approach to the blues which demanded "authenticity" and treated the music as a serious art form. If you want to get a handle on this attitude read Studs Terkel's notes to this LP on the back cover. Appearances can be deceptive, for the tracks on this LP date from ten years prior to its release and consist of rhythm and blues sides recorded for the Premium label in Chicago in 1950 and 1951.

In a previous Memphis Slim post I uploaded a collection of sides which had been bought by King from the Chicago label Miracle when that label closed in early 1950. Among the sides was Slim's biggest hit "Messin' Around With The Blues." Slim recorded a session for Peacock in Houston in early 1950 then returned to Chicago to record with Miracle's successor label Premium.

The Premium label was short lived, folding in the summer of 1951. Many of their masters were bought by Chess and a couple of Slim's Premium singles were reissued on that label in January 1952. All of which brings us to this collection which was released in 1961 at a time when Slim had ceased to release material aimed at the R&B market and was instead recording LPs for labels such as Folkways, Verve and Bluesville which were aimed at the folk blues followers. Indeed he had already recorded in Europe where he would make his home and find many new fans.

With this release Chess were definitely aiming at sales among the college crowd as is made obvious by Studs Terkel's sleeve notes. Funnily enough, there's no mention of Slim's band, The House Rockers. VeeJay had already pulled the same stunt in February 1961 by packaging rockin' R&B sides on an LP titled "Memphis Slim At The Gate Of Horn" which was named after a well known folk venue where Slim had made live appearances. Studs Terkel wrote the notes for that one too.

Five years later, in December 1966, Chess released an LP titled "Memphis Slim - The Real Folk Blues" which contained many of the R&B sides already featured on Chess LP 1455. It was 1966 and folk was on the way out and R&B was in as far as the younger music fans were concerned but Slim had already garnered a large worldwide following which would keep his musical career thriving for decades, indeed long enough for your humble blogger to see him in Dundee in the mid 1980s and be pretty much blown away by his performance.

The Story Behind The Tracks

Chicago, March 1950 - Memphis Slim and The House Rockers - Memphis Slim (vocals, piano) with - Alex Atkins (alto sax); Timothy Overton (tenor sax); Alfred Elkins (bass); Leon Hooper (drums); Floyd Hunt (piano on "I Guess I'm A Fool" and "Really Got The Blues"); The Vagabonds (vocal group on "I Guess I'm A Fool" and "Mother Earth"):

Flock Rocker
I Guess I'm a Fool
Really Got The Blues
Slim's Blues
Havin' Fun
Mother Earth

I Guess I'm A Fool / Flock Rocker - Premium 850 - June 1950
Slim's Blues / Havin' Fun - Premium 860 - September 1950, also Chess 860, January 1952
Mother Earth / Really Got The Blues - Premium 867 - January 1951

Cleveland, Ohio, February 1951 - Memphis Slim and His House Rockers: Memphis Slim (vocals, piano) with - Neal Green, Charles Ferguson (tenor saxes); Henry Taylor (bass); Otho Allen (drums); Terry Timmons (duet vocal on "I'm Crying"):

Reverend Bounce
Tia Juana
Walking Alone aka Blues For My Baby
Rockin' Chair aka Rockin' The Pad
I'm Crying

Tia Juana / I'm Crying - Premium 903 - July 1951
Walking Alone / Rocking The Pad - Chess 1491 - January 1952
"Marack" and "Reverend Bounce" first released on this LP.

Adapted from

The above recording and release information is mainly from The Red Saunders Research Foundation website. Their very informative article on Premium Records is here:

Elsewhere On The Blog:

Double album of King / Federal material by Memphis Slim, Pete "Guitar" Lewis and Little Willie Littlefield. Memphis Slim sides originate from Miracle and Hy-Tone 1940s recordings.

Charly collection of VeeJay sides recorded 1958-59. These were Slim's last R&B recordings. Contains all 12 of the tracks released on the "Memphis Slim At The Gate Of Horn" LP, plus 4 tracks released on singles.

There are new download links on both of these posts.

With many thanks to Marv and to the original uploaders of the artwork.

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