Recorded in the deepest depths of the Great Depression, I offer to you these two boogie woogie piano tunes from the brief recording career of the skilled Alabama blues man Walter Roland.
Walter Roland was born in December of either 1902 or 1903 in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, and was working as a musician by the 1920s, playing piano and guitar and singing. Though Roland remained an active musician until the end of his life, he recorded only a few times in the 1930s. In 1933, Roland traveled to New York with guitar player Sonny Scott to record for the American Record Corporation, and would return twice between then and 1935. During those trips, he recorded solo, and also played as an accompanist with Lucille Bogan and Joshua White, as well as part of the “Jolly Jivers” with Scott and Bogan. Some of his records were released under the pseudonym Alabama Sam. After returning home, Roland did not make another recording, but continued to play music. By the 1950s, he was a farmer, but sometimes worked as a street musician. Sometime in the 1960s, he was blinded by buckshot after trying to break up an altercation between neighbors, and he retired in the later part of that decade. Roland died of lung cancer October 12, 1972 in Fairfield, Alabama.
Perfect 0252 was recorded over two consecutive days on July 19 and 20, 1933 in New York City, Roland’s second released disc from his ARC sessions. It gets an honorable mention in 78 Quarterly’s famous “Rarest 78s” column. These ARC race records seldom turn up in very good condition, and this one is no exception, but thankfully, despite a few brief blasts of noise, the music is still prominent.
Roland’s first number is the classic “Early This Morning (‘Bout Break of Day)”, his own version of Charlie Spand’s “Soon This Morning”. Unfortunately, the text on the label has faded away completely, leaving only the faintest trace of what was originally printed. This side was recorded on the July 20 date. Roland also recorded the same tune the previous day, accompanying his guitar-playing associate Sonny Scott.
On the flip side, Roland plays and sings “House Lady Blues”, a piano blues masterpiece. This one was recorded on the earlier date of July 19.
Updated with improved audio on April 26, 2018.