1920s jazz, 1930s calypso, and we remember Jean Shepard
Written by Randy Black on September 28, 2016
Viking Twang Show 102, Sept. 28, 2016
Good morning, welcome to Viking Twang Episode 102. We’ve started yet another school year; hope you’re enjoying your classes and the Portland State experience, especially those of you who are new here. Viking Twang is right here every Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. for your listening or downloading pleasure.
This is one of my favorite kinds of shows, where I get to showcase really early music and a genre you’re not likely to hear in other places. In the second set, we’ll hear hot jazz from the 1920s, recorded by the legendary producer and publisher Ralph Peer, and featuring the early days of some of the music’s eventual big stars. The third set will feature Caribbean music from the 1930s.
But first, we’ll pay tribute to the great country singer, Jean Shepard, who passed away Sunday just shy of her 83rd birthday. We’ll start with her first recording.
1 – Turkey Red; W.C. Beck & the Portland Country Underground.
2 – Crying Steel Guitar Waltz. After Kitty Wells hit it big with Honky Tonk Angels, Shepard was signed to Capitol Records in 1952. Her first release was this remake of the standard Steel Guitar Rag.
3 – Dear John Letter. Jean and Ferlin Huskey had a number one country hit, number four on the pop charts, in 1953 with this Korean War weeper, written by Billy Barton, Fuzzy Owen and Lewis Talley.
4 – A Satisfied Mind. Jean had her first solo hit, number four on the country charts, in 1955, the same year Porter Waggoner took it to number one.
5 – Act Like A Married Man. She recorded that in 1957. This is from a radio show hosted by her husband, Hankshaw Hawkins, who she married in 1960 and who was killed in the same 1963 plane crash that took Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas.
6 – Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar). This recording reached number five on the country charts in 1964.
7 — I’ll Take The Dog. Jean and country singer Ray Pillow took this song to ninth on the country charts in 1966.
8 – Then He Touched Me. A big hit in 1969.
9 – Too Many Rivers. Her final single in 1983.
Ralph Peer was the producer, publisher, and talent scout responsible for discovering and making stars of hundreds of acts in the 1920s, ’30s, and beyond, most famously the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. Among the many markets he worked in was the blues. We’re going to hear songs from the mid-1920s, featuring some musicians that you may have heard of just getting their starts.
10 – Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do; Sara Martin. Martin recorded this with W.C. Handy’s band with a young Thomas “Fats” Waller on piano.
11 – Sun To Sun Blues; Lonnie Johnson. This is from 1925, with James P. Johnson on piano. Lonnie won the recording date in a contest at the Booker T. Washington Theater in St. Louis.
12 – Sobbin’ Blues; King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. The New Orleans star recorded in 1923 in Chicago, with Louis Armstrong on that cornet.
13 – Sister Honky Tonk; Bennie Moten. Moten was just breaking out from his home base in Kansas City when he recorded this for Peer in 1924.
14 – New Orleans Blues; Johnny De Droit. This is from Peer’s first jazz recording session in New Orleans, in 1924.
15 – Cake Walking Babies (From Home); Clarence Williams’ Blue Five. This 1925 recording featured Williams’ wife Eva Taylor on vocals, New Orleans clarinetist Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong on cornet, just before he set up his own Hot Five.
We’re going to close today’s episode with music from the 1930s in the Caribbean island of Trinidad, from a Smithsonian Folkways album called “Out The Fire: Calypso Songs of Social Commentary and Love Troubles.”
16 – If I Won A Sweepstake; Atilla the Hun Accompanied by Gerald Clark and his Caribbean Serenaders. Atilla was Reymond Quevedo, who brought calypso music to the United States in 1934. He was also an advocate for the poor who served as a city councilman and legislator.
17 – O Lil’ Lil’ Gal; Harmony Kings Orchestra. A nice call and response sung by bandleader William Ted Lewis.
18 – Send Your Children to the Orphan Home; The Lion Accompanied by Gerald Clark. The Lion is Rafael de Leon, who had a long career in calypso music. One of his songs, Ugly Girl, was turned into the North American hit song “If You Wanna Be Happy” in 1963 by Jimmy Soul. This song was an apparently reasonable suggestion due to the island’s poverty.
19 – Rate Rate Ray; Lord Invader Accompanied by Gerald Clark. This song is a throwback in style to Caribbean music before it developed into calypso. Lord Invader wrote “Rum and Coca Cola,” which was ripped off and turned into a hit by the Andrews Sisters in 1945.
20 – The Million Dollar Feet; Wilmouth Houdini and his Royal Calypso Orchestra. One of the first calypso musicians to move to New York, in 1927. This song is about Bill Robinson, Mr. Bojangles, the great black singer, dancer, and actor.
21 – Twang Theme, The Countrypolitans.