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2009 - week 33, from 15 Aug - records made in 1928

PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:43 am
by Charlie
Seq - Artist - Song Title - Album - Country - Label - Cat no

1 - Jimmie Rodgers - In the Jailhouse Now - The Very Best of Jimmie Rodgers - USA - BMG Camden - 74321 535852

2 - Louis Armstrong - West End Blues - Complete Hot 5 & Hot 7 - USA - Columbia/Legacy - C4K 63527

3 - Duke Ellington - Black Beauty - Ken Burns Jazz - USA - Columbia/Legacy - CSK 61432

4 - Wilmoth Houdini - Black But Sweet - Poor But Ambitious - Trinidad - Arhoolie - Cd 7010

5 - Sexteto Nacional - Siboney - Music of Cuba: 1909 - 1951 - Cuba - Columbia/Legacy - 498709 2

6 - Grupo De la Alegria - El Tambor de la Alegria - Hot Woman - Cuba - Kein & Aber - EFA 23284

7 - Lonnie Johnson - Careless Love - The Original Guitar Wizard - USA - Proper - PROPERBOX 81

8 - Cow Cow Davenport - Cow Cow Blues - Roll 'Em Pete - USA - Indigo - IGOTCD 2551


For a while, I’ve noticed that records made in 1928 seemed to represent a pinnacle from the early years of recording, and this week’s show strings eight of them in a row. Digging around in the books on my shelf, I looked to see if there was an obvious explanation, expecting to find that there had been a major breakthrough that year in the technology of electronic microphones. But I could find no such evidence.

Jimmie Rodgers

Country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers started recording in 1927 and was very prolific until his death from TB in 1933, but ‘In The Jailhouse Now’ was one of his greatest moments.

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong had such a long and varied career, his early records were more or less unknown to the people who knew him for ‘What a Wonderful World’ or ‘Hello Dolly’. But they were travesties for anybody familiar with the great records he made with his small groups in the 1920s, among which ‘West End Blues’ is widely acknowledged as his masterpiece.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington’s reputation is based on his work as a band-leader, but ‘Black Beauty’ confirms that he was a sensitive pianist too.

Wilmoth Houdini

The Trinidadian Wilmoth Houdini was one of the pioneers of calypso music, many of whose songs stuck to the theme of celebrating the incomparable charms of black women with which he began his career.

Sexteto Nacional

I was hoping to include a recording by the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, but was unable to find one that was definitely mad in 1928; instead, I played a popular version of one of his most famous songs, ‘Siboney’ by Sexteto Nacional.

No information is available for a group from this era called Grupo de la Alegria (Group of Joy), whose track ‘El Tambor de la Alergia’ is included on the Robert Crumb compilation, Hot Women. Thanks to listener Rob Hall for reminding me of this one.

Lonnie Johnson

In the 1950s and ‘60s, when white blues fans ‘discovered’ long-forgotten country blues guitarists from the 1920s and ‘30s, they tended to concentrate on people whose records were hard to find, and often overlooked a man who had sold many thousands of records throughout his career. But precisely because he was so successful in his own time, Lonnie Johnson was the inspiration and model for his contemporaries, notably Robert Johnson, now more widely revered. The song performed here by Lonnie Johnson was not new in 1928 – ‘Careless Love’ was probably a traditional song and had been copyrighted by W.C.Handy in 1926, but it was Lonnie’s version that helped to put it in the repertoire of twentieth century standards.

Cow Cow Davenport

‘Cow Cow Blues’ by Cow Cow Davenport has so many elements of what was later known as ‘boogie woogie’ that it is sometimes cited as the first recording of that style. I don’t know enough about the technicalities for or against, but it does add evidence to the argument for1928 to be regarded as a watershed year..


PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:48 am
by Charlie
emails from:

1. Susan Scott, Edinburgh

I'm loving this programme - in midst of sweet like a honeybee - wow, so beautifully un PC!

I'm waiting for Cow Cow Davernport of whom I have never heard but I caught the end of the programme and waiting with bated to breathe to hear the whole of the number and am now brooding about buying the CD - just wish it was a vinyl - much preferred.

Thanks Charlie for the music!


2. Bill Egan, Canberra, Australia

Dear Charlie

A friend in Holland e-mailed me in Australia to say you would be playing Duke's Black Beauty in England (the joys of the Internet).

He thought you might be interested to know it was Duke's tribute to Florence Mills, famous in London in 1923 and 1926-27.

I am the author of her only biography ("Florence Mills Harlem Jazz Queen") and have a web site dedicated to her at: with musical samples (none of Florence, who was unrecorded, alas)

Best wishes

Bill Egan


3. Garth Lowe, Malvern England

As a bad sleeper I often hear the programme and loved the jazz, please can Charlie do it more often.



4. Jeff Swanson, Cranbury, NJ, USA

Dear Mr. Gillette,

Again I am emailing you to thank you for a great program, it aired here at 0230 (on WHYY, Philadelphia)the Sunday before last (Aug. 16) and was about recordings from 1928.

I enjoy all your shows and the new music that I get to discover, but this really stood out for me.

I especially enjoyed the Cuban recordings, and the boogie woogie piano piece- what a modern sounding piano riff!

I hope I can get webcasts of your show.

Thanks again,

Jeff Swanson

PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:45 pm
by garth cartwright
Lovely show, Charlie. What a great year for music! Have to disagree with you on Louis Armstrong's later recordings - certainly not as inventive or radical as his early recordings but LA was so supremely talented that he made for a great, great pop singer. I really enjoy his pop hits - All The Time In The World being a particular favourite. Fantasising now: imagine if Jimmie Rodgers had lived - such a great talent! Have you ever heard the tune he cut with Louis and Lil Hardin playing on? It's like proto-Eminem with JR singing about being "a Tennessee hustler/I don't have to work" while Louis and Lil cook behind him. American music just doesn't get any better than this lineup - and that's saying something!

Re: emails

PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 10:28 am
by Charlie
Bill Egan wrote: Black Beauty ... was Duke's tribute to Florence Mills, famous in London in 1923 and 1926-27.

I had not realised the connection that the tracks by both Duke and Houdini were celebrations of black women

PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 10:42 am
by Neil Foxlee
1928 was a good year for gospel too. Dorothy Love Coates was born, and Blind Willie Johnson recorded this (having recorded Dark Was the Night the year before):


But if 1928 sticks in my mind, it's because of Mississippi John Hurt's sessions of that year:


PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 11:48 am
by Charlie
Neil Foxlee wrote:But if 1928 sticks in my mind, it's because of Mississippi John Hurt's sessions of that year:


Thanks Neil. I did go through the Harry Smith collection that includes this, and could easily have done a whole programme from it. Maybe I should come back and do another one, which would also include some Rembetika from Greece.

PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:12 pm
by Alan
Just caught up with this programme - truly wonderful stuff

If you've not listened yet, here's the link

And if you have, you'll know it's definitely worth a second listen

thanks Charlie!

PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:55 pm
by kevin
Great show Charlie.

Especially loved the Jimmie Rodgers song - I thought it was a Hank Williams original.

Listening to it made me think that a challenge now would be to do a show with all the songs featuring yodelling.

I can think of one Cumbia song to get you started.

La Sonora De Baru - Festival In Guarare