Books

walter-davis-front-cover-mediumThe St. Louis Blues of Walter Davis

Walter Davis has always fascinated me because of his distressing voice, his clever, often insightful lyrics, and above all his idiosyncratic piano style. It was probably to his advantage that Davis could not read music; unfettered by rules and conventions, he developed a unique modal style which influenced many blues pianists, and continues to impress.

The book on Walter Davis is scheduled for publicationlater this year and will contain a biography, a musical analysis and a chapter on Walter’s musical influences

It will be accompanied by a CD including Paul Oliver’s interviews with Walter Davis and his guitarist, Henry Townsend; both sides of Bullet 328 (the only Davis 78 still unreissued); and a selection of the best-sounding Walter Davis test pressings and 78s from the collections of Paul Swinton and Dave Williams.

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Smokey HoggTexas blues singer, guitarist and pianist Andrew “Smokey” Hogg (1914-1960) made no fewer than 256 recordings, two in 1937 and the rest between 1947 and 1957, a decade of intensive activity which made him one of the blues’ more prolific recording artists.

Why did record producers think that phonograph owners would buy Smokey Hogg’s records, and that tavern patrons would use their nickels to select them? In this book, I have strived to establish as complete a biography of Smokey Hogg as possible, exploring the arc of his career and examining the extent to which his lyrics were inspired by events in his life.

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Paramount’s Rise and Fall

paramount's rise and fallAlthough his focus is on Paramount’s blues releases, Van der Tuuk does give appropriate attention to the label’s gospel and jazz recording activities, as well as some of the white pop acts that cut for them, along with fascinating oddities like a five-disc album (one round per disc) documenting the famous 1927 Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney “long count” fight at Soldier Field in Chicago. Nonetheless it’s the blues sides the aficionados usually think of when they consider the label’s legacy. It’s these records that earned the old W.C.C. factory site a plaque on the Mississippi Blues Trail and that continue to draw pilgrims to Grafton and nearby Port Washington (where Paramount’s actual home office was located) for events like the annual Paramount Blues Festival. and it‘s this history that van der Tuuk has captured and made come alive again in this modern-day masterpiece of research and documentation, which no true aficionado should be without.

David Whiteis, Living Blues 267

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The New Paramount Book of Blues: Elusive Artists on Paramount Race Records

paramountFifty-eight biographies of Paramount blues artists with sensational new information based on years of research. Some of the artists covered by the New Paramount Book of Blues recorded prolifically during the 1920s and 1930s; others cut less than a handful of songs. Some of them recorded exclusively for Paramount; others also made records for other companies. Most of them have received less attention than the likes of Charlie Patton, Skip James and Tommy Johnson (all Paramount recording artists) or Bukka White, John Hurt and Robert Wilkins, who recorded elsewhere.

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New York Recording Laboratories Matrix Series

9b. NYRL I ADThe New York Recording Laboratories Matrix Series is the most complete and up-to-date discography of NYRL recordings produced in Chicago, Illinois and Grafton, Wisconsin. Documenting of these recordings was started half a century ago by Max Ernst Vreede of the Netherlands (1927-1991). When Vreede fell ill in 1986, Guido van Rijn helped him update the discography. In 1995, the L matrix series was published in issue 9 of Pete Whelan’s magazine, 78 Quarterly. The Paramount and Broadway matrix lists were updated by Guido van Rijn and Alex van der Tuuk in 2011. These discographies differ from earlier listings such as Vreede’s Paramount 12000/13000 Series (1971) and Laurie Wright’s OKeh Race Records 8000 Series (2001), which list the issued records in numerical order. The Agram series of Paramount and Broadway discographies lists all matrices in numerical order, making information available on issued and unissued recordings.

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Vocalion 1000 & Brunswick 7000 Race Series

11b. VOCALION-BRUNSWICK ADUntil now, I have published in Agram Blues Books only books I have written myself or in co-operation with Alex van der Tuuk. For the first time, I now publish a book written by collector friends of mine, Helge Thygesen from Denmark and Russell Shor from the United States. Together they have spent years collecting 78 r.p.m. records in the Vocalion 1000 and Brunswick 7000 series. Both are “race series,” which included only recordings by African-American artists. The Brunswick-Balke-Collender company started the Vocalion 1000 series in April/May 1926, and the Brunswick 7000 in May 1927. The music was the cream of the crop of classic 1920s jazz and blues recordings. We have adopted the same style for the book as used for the Paramount discographies.

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