Dick’s Picks: Not some super obscure artist this week but a weird release that’s for sure! A 10″ vinyl white label with hand-written labels from blues legend Big Bill Broonzy…..
Big Bill Who?
Lee Conley Bradley a.k.a Big Bill Broonzy (1983-1958) was a prolific American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist. Over the course of his career his music morphed between several distinct blues styles; from the early country/rural blues in the 1920s, throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s he was a pioneer of the new electric blues popular with urban Chicago audiences, by the ‘50s he was back playing a more folk/acoustic blues which had become something of a cause celebre among the hipper white audiences of the time.
Broonzy as an acoustic guitar player inspired a whole host of other artists including Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim, Ray Davies, John Renbourn, Rory Gallagher, the list goes on…..
What’s the 10″ vinyl all about?
Well we think it may have a slightly shady past in that it is rumoured to have been pressed by a specialist music shop in Plymouth in the mid-’50s – so, a bootleg? In a sense yes, but cast your mind back to mid-’50s Britain (no I’m not old enough either but use your imagination), those rainy, post-war streets had yet to be rattled by rock ‘n’ roll and a quick glance at some of the big hitters in the pop parade of 1955 throws up (quite literally) some decidedly MOR fuddy-duddy’s – Perez Prado, Ruby Murray, Rosemary Clooney and Jimmy Young anyone? So you can see why people might go to more (ahem) extreme lengths to get to hear a bit of authentic American rural/country blues from one of pioneers of the genre….
What’s it like?
It’s 10 tracks of classic acoustic rural blues, originally recorded in 1937, the first track ‘These Ants Keep Biting Me’ features some fine guitar picking as our man Bill warns of the dangers of biting ants….hang on a minute I think he may be referring to a different type of ‘ant’!
The song ‘Matchbox Blues’ is worth a mention too, although usually associated with Blind Lemon Jefferson the cut-throat nature of earning a living playing the blues during this era meant that many artists quickly adapted it for their own ends; Broonzy’s version was up against versions by Ma Rainey, Pine Top Smith, Robert Pete Williams to name but three. However, the song would prove popular with white audiences and, after several more slight adjustments, Carl Perkin’s 1957 version on Sun Records, not only gave it a new rockabilly twist, but it also meant that four young lads from Liverpool got to hear it! Now if only they’d visited a blues/folk specialist on the south coast in 1955 and bagged themselves a curious 10″ with hand written white labels…….