Legendary Country Blues Artists

Legendary Country Blues Artists

by Sleepy John Estes

During the folk and blues revival of the 1960s, John Adam "Sleepy John" Estes experienced what the entertainment industry referred to as a comeback. This meant that a young and ethnically diverse generation of listeners was able to hear him perform in person, creating a surge in popularity that led to further recording sessions and a European tour while generating…  See more details below


During the folk and blues revival of the 1960s, John Adam "Sleepy John" Estes experienced what the entertainment industry referred to as a comeback. This meant that a young and ethnically diverse generation of listeners was able to hear him perform in person, creating a surge in popularity that led to further recording sessions and a European tour while generating interest in the records he'd made prior to the Second World War. In 2007, Estes' early works were remastered, annotated, and reissued by JSP on the four-CD set Legendary Country Blues Artists along with recordings of comparable vintage by James "Yank" Rachell, Son Bonds, and Charlie Pickett. The radial pattern of this collection is geographically centered in Brownsville, Tennessee, northeast of Memphis and not far from Ripley where Estes was born in January 1904. JSP's selection begins with 14 sides cut for the Victor label in Memphis during the autumn of 1929 and the spring of 1930. These were variously released as by Estes, Rachell, or the Three J's Jug Band. The participation of pianist Jab Jones constituted a strong link with the Memphis Jug Band, and Rachell's mandolin compares nicely with that of Charlie McCoy. Estes' high-pitched vocals are similar to the keening of Frankie Half Pint Jaxon and J.B. Lenoir. The rural sounds of the duos, duets, and small groups in this set have tones and textures in common with those by the Mississippi Sheiks and Peg Leg Howell, minus the fiddles. The first of Estes' 30 Decca recordings were made in Chicago in July 1935; more than half were waxed in New York in 1937 and 1938. In June, 1940 Estes was back in Chicago waxing what were to be his last six Deccas in collaboration with guitarist Robert Nighthawk. The third disc in this set is devoted to the early recordings of Yank Rachell. Although he is mainly remembered as a mandolin player, this set provides numerous examples of his guitar technique as well. Rachell was a convincing vocalist who sounded at times a little like the young Muddy Waters. Many of his sides, which were cut in Chicago and New York during the years 1934-1941, feature harmonica legend John Lee Sonny Boy Williamson and master percussionist Washboard Sam. The fourth disc opens with Rachell but is mainly devoted to Brownsville Son Bonds, who sometimes emulated the style of East St. Louis legend Peetie Wheatstraw and in turn appears to have had some measure of influence on John Lee Hooker. There's also a fair amount of action by mouth organist Hammie Nixon, who put down the harp and blew jug on four gospel tunes recorded in 1934. Estes is heard on some of the Bonds sides, as well as a set of hokum performances stoked with kazoo and washtub bass which were recorded for Victor's Bluebird series in 1941 by a group billed as the Delta Boys. This outstanding archive of classic rural blues closes with four titles cut in New York in early August 1937 by Charlie Pickett, Nixon, and pianist Lee Brown. It's worth noting that the Document label has devoted an entire CD to Brown's recordings from the years 1937-1940. The blues compiled on JSP's Sleepy John Estes box is strongly steeped in the lessons of real life. Stories are woven throughout the music and the textual annotations that come with each disc in the set. As members of a racially designated underclass, each of these men subsisted throughout most of their lives as manual laborers. Estes for example was a born sharecropper, while Rachell farmed and worked the railways. Life was tough and death could be sudden. Williamson, in fact, was robbed and murdered while walking home from a gig on the South Side of Chicago in June 1948, less than a year after Bonds was shot to death while sitting on his front porch at midnight in Dyersburg, just north of Ripley. Estes lived until 1977, Nixon passed in 1984, and Rachell survived into 1997. Some of the material on this set was reissued by JSP in 2002 on a double-disc compilation, The Legendary 1928-1930 Recordings, along with tasty cuts from Cannon's Jug Stompers and the Noah Lewis Jug Band. Other labels which have made passes at reproducing these early sides include Document, Classic Blues, Yazoo, and Fremeaux. JSP's four-CD box set is by far the most thorough and comprehensive survey of historic early sides by Estes and his running buddies from Brownsville. It is recommended for casual listening while preparing food at home, working in the garden, or driving around on back roads.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Jsp Records


Disc 1

  1. The Girl I Love, She Got Long Curly Hair
  2. Broken-Hearted, Ragged and Dirty Too
  3. Divin' Duck Blues
  4. Little Sarah
  5. Black Mattie Blues
  6. T-Bone Steak Blues
  7. Milk Cow Blues
  8. Street Car Blues
  9. Expressman Blues
  10. Whatcha Doin?
  11. Poor John Blues
  12. Stack O' Dollars
  13. My Black Gal Blues
  14. Sweet Mama
  15. Down South Blues
  16. Stop That Thing
  17. Someday Baby Blues
  18. Who's Been Telling You Buddy Brown Blues
  19. Married Woman Blues
  20. Drop Down Mama
  21. Government Money
  22. I Wanna Tear It All the Time
  23. Vernita Blues
  24. I Ain't Gonna Be Worried No More
  25. Floating Bridge

Disc 2

  1. Need More Blues
  2. Jack and Jill Blues
  3. Poor Man's Friend (T Model)
  4. Hobo Jungle Blues
  5. Airplane Blues
  6. Everybody Oughta Make a Change
  7. Liquor Store Blues
  8. Easin' Back to Tennessee
  9. Fire Department Blues (Martha Hardin)
  10. Clean Up at Home
  11. New Someday Baby
  12. Brownsville Blues
  13. Special Agent (Railroad Police Blues)
  14. Mailman Blues
  15. Time Is Drawing Near
  16. Mary Come on Home
  17. Jailhouse Blues
  18. Tell Me How About It (Mr Tom's Blues)
  19. Drop Down (I Don't Feel Welcome Here)
  20. Don't You Want to Know
  21. You Shouldn't Do That
  22. When the Saints Go Marching In
  23. Lawyer Clark Blues
  24. Little Laura Blues
  25. Working Man Blues
  26. Harlem Bound
  27. Stone Blind

Disc 3

  1. Blue and Worried Woman
  2. Sugar Farm Blues
  3. Stack O' Dollars Blues
  4. Night Latch Blues
  5. Squeaky Work Bench Blues
  6. Gravel Road Woman
  7. J.L. Dairy Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  8. Rachel Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  9. Lake Michigan Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  10. I'm Wild and Crazy as Can Be  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  11. When You Feel Down and Out  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  12. Texas Tommy  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  13. It's All Over  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  14. My Mind Got Bad  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  15. Hobo Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  16. It Seems Like a Dream  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  17. Army Man Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  18. 38 Pistol Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  19. Worried Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  20. Biscuit Baking Woman  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  21. Insurance Man Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  22. Up North Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  23. Yellow Yam Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  24. Tappin' That Thing  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  25. Rainy Day Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson
  26. Peach Tree Blues  - Sonny Boy Williamson

Disc 4

  1. She Loves Who She Please
  2. Bye-Bye Blues
  3. Loudella Blues
  4. Katy Lee Blues
  5. All Night Long  - Son Bonds
  6. She Walks Like My Woman  - Son Bonds
  7. Weary Worried Blues  - Son Bonds
  8. Back and Side Blues  - Son Bonds
  9. I Want to Live So God Can Use Me  - Son Bonds
  10. Ain't That News?  - Son Bonds
  11. Give Me That Old Time Religion  - Son Bonds
  12. In My Father's House  - Son Bonds
  13. Trouble Trouble Blues  - Son Bonds
  14. Tennessee Worried Blues  - Son Bonds
  15. I'll Work Up to You Someday  - Son Bonds
  16. Old Bachelor Blues  - Son Bonds
  17. Black Gal Swing  - Son Bonds
  18. Get Up and Go  - Son Bonds
  19. Every Time My Heart Beats  - Son Bonds
  20. 80 Highway Blues  - Son Bonds
  21. A Hard Pill to Swallow  - Son Bonds
  22. Come Back Home, Little Girl  - Son Bonds
  23. Crazy 'Bout My Black Gal  - Charlie Pickett
  24. Trembling Blues  - Charlie Pickett
  25. Let Me Squeeze Your Lemon  - Charlie Pickett
  26. Down the Highway  - Charlie Pickett

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Sleepy John Estes   Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Son Bonds   Guitar,Kazoo,Vocals
Hammie Nixon   Harmonica,Jug
Big Joe Williams   Guitar
Lee Brown   Piano,Kazoo
Alfred Elkins   Bass
Elijah Jones   Guitar
Jab Jones   Piano
Robert Lee McCoy   Guitar,Harmonica
Yank Rachell   Guitar,Mandolin,Vocals
Washboard Sam   Washboard
Sonny Boy Williamson   Harmonica,Vocals
Sonny Boy Williamson [II]   Harmonica
Tee   Harmonica
Raymond Thomas   Bass
William Mitchell   Bass
Dan Tobin Smith   Guitar
Charlie Pickett   Guitar,Vocals
Johnny Hardge   Piano
'Tee'   Harmonica
Brass Band   Washboard
Brownsville Son Bonds   Guitar

Technical Credits

Neil Slaven   Liner Notes

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