Okeh 45231 – Nap Hayes and Matthew Prater – 1928

This occasion’s serenade is provided by the obscure but outstanding string duo of Nap Hayes and Matthew Prater, who play here a couple of snappy rag numbers on mandolin and guitar.

Napoleon “Nap” Hayes and Matthew Prater were a pair of black musicians hailing from Vicksburg, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.  Hayes was likely born in 1885 in West Corinth, Mississippi, and Prater in New Albany in either 1886 or on June 30, 1889.  With Hayes on guitar and Prater on mandolin, the two played raggy music in a style not too disparate from that of the Dallas String Band.  In February of 1928, they traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to record a total of eight sides for Okeh Records, out of which all but two were issued.  Half of those eight featured vocals and violin by Lonnie Johnson (though some sources, including Discography of Okeh Records, cite a different Johnson—T.C. Johnson—who recorded at the same field trip as part of the minstrel-esque trio Johnson-Nelson-Porkchop).  Out of those three discs, only one was released in the 8000 “race” series, while the other two were in the 45000 “hillbilly” series.  Each record was credited differently, one under their own names as Nap Hayes and Matthew Prater, another as “The Blue Boys”, and one with Johnson as “The Johnson Boys”.  Of note, those sides included a piece titled “Easy Winner”, which, despite taking the name of another of his rags, was in fact a take on Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”.  That session accounted for the entirety of Hayes and Prater’s recorded legacy, and their later lives are as yet undocumented.

Okeh 45231 was recorded February 15, 1928 in Memphis, Tennessee by Nap Hayes and Matthew Prater.  Hayes plays guitar, while Prater takes the raggy mandolin.  I picked this record up in a junk shop, and it’s not in the most wonderful condition, but it plays quite well in spite of it.  Not bad for a record that made the 78 Quarterly’s list of “The Rarest 78s”!

The duo first play Scott Joplin’s 1903 rag “Something Doing”, here styled as “Somethin’ Doin'”.

Somethin’ Doin’, recorded February 15, 1928 by Nap Hayes and Matthew Prater.

As an answer to the first tune, on the flip they play the folk rag “Nothin’ Doin'”, a little bluer—and a little cleaner playing—than the previous side.  I’m hearing a bit of Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan” interpolated in this tune (“oh-oh, honey what’s the matter now”).

Nothin’ Doin, recorded February 28, 1928 by Nap Hayes and Matthew Prater.

Vocalion 1144 – Jim Jackson – 1927

On of the great blues songsters of yesteryear was Jim Jackson.  With a strong voice and a wide repertoire ranging from blues to popular songs to hokum, he one of the most prominent blues figures of his day.

Jim Jackson was born on a farm in Hernando, Mississippi, twenty miles south of Memphis, most likely in June of 1876, though 1884 and 1890 have also been ventured as possible years.  Sometime around 1905, Jackson began playing, singing, and dancing in medicine shows around the South.  He was later a member of the famed Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and ran the Red Rose Minstrels himself.  By the 1910s, Jackson worked primarily on Memphis, Tenessee, like contemporary Frank Stokes.  His success on Beale Street was enough that he was reportedly residing in the luxurious Peabody Hotel by 1919.  In 1927, store owner and talent broker H.C. Speir secured a contract for Jackson with Vocalion records.  He made his recording debut on October 10, 1927, recording the first two parts of his “Kansas City Blues” series, which were issued as his first record.  In addition to recording for Vocalion, Jackson also worked as a talent scout for the company, notably “discovering” boogie woogie piano man Speckled Red (Rufus Perryman).  As one of Vocalions most popular race artists, the company released a “descriptive novelty” record titled “Jim Jackson’s Jamboree” featuring Tampa Red and Georgia Tom and Speckled Red, and “hosted” by Jackson. Jackson continued to record for Vocalion until 1930, and held several sessions for Victor in 1928.  He supposedly played a bit part in King Vidor’s 1929 film Hallelujah, though it’s unknown what role he played, and indeed if he appeared in the film at all.  Jackson’s last session was held in February of 1930, after which he returned to his home in Mississippi, where he continued to perform.  Jim Jackson died on December 18, 1933.

Vocalion 1144 was recorded in Chicago on October 10, 1927.  Jackson’s “Kansas City Blues” songs were among the most successful and influential blues records of their time, inspiring numerous covers by contemporaries like William Harris and Charley Patton, and latter day artists like Janis Joplin.  Some have cited it as one of the first rock ‘n’ roll records, though the musical style bears little resemblance.

First, Jackson sings the first of his four part series, “Jim Jackson’s Kansas City BluesPart 1″.

Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues–Part 1, recorded October 10, 1927 by Jim Jackson.

He concludes the disc with “Jim Jackson’s Kansas City BluesPart 2″.  This is the second take of this side (“34” in the runoff), which may be more scarce than the more commonly heard first take.

Jim Jackson's Kansas City Blues - Part 2

Jim Jackson’s Kansas City BluesPart 2, recorded October 10, 1927 by Jim Jackson.

Victor 21710 – Slim Lamar’s Southerners – 1928

Slim Lamar, from 1930 Victor catalog.

Slim Lamar, from 1930 Victor catalog.

Details regarding the life of territory band leader Slim Lamar are scarce, and there doesn’t appear to be any biography of him available on the web.  As such, I’ve rewritten and republished this article in an effort to shed some light on the obscure musician’s life.  A special thanks goes out to Messrs. Joseph Scott and Paul Lindemeyer for their research on Lamar, without which this article would not have been possible.

Slim was in fact Henry Elbert Lamar, born in Galveston, Texas on October 27, 1905, the son of John and Lucille Lamar.  By the 1920s, the Lamars had taken up residence in the cradle of jazz, New Orleans.  Slim played reeds, and apparently moonlighted selling musical instruments.  At least as early as 1927, Lamar was leading the Southerners, an exceptional territory jazz band which included the talents of Tony Almerico and Sunny Clapp among its ranks.  He would seem to have been associated with the cabal of influential territory band leaders that included Clapp and Blue Steele.  In September of 1927, the Southerners played the Edgewater Gulf Hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi, and made their first recordings a year later, during a Victor field trip in Memphis, Tennessee.  While in Memphis, Lamar also recorded with Mart Britt’s orchestra, and may have accompanied Irene Beasley on one session that yielded no issued recordings.  Following those sessions, Lamar’s Southerners ventured to Indianapolis for a two week engagement at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, reported in the Indianapolis Star as the band’s first trip north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  After Indianapolis, they played at the Egyptian Room of the Kosair Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.  Lamar’s band recorded several more sides in February of 1929 in Camden, New Jersey, after which Slim Lamar is not known to have made any further recordings.  In 1938, he relocated to Florence, Alabama, where he married Edna Reams and started the Lamar Furniture Company.  Henry “Slim” Lamar remained in Florence until his death on June 3, 1989.

In the 1930s, Henry Lamar’s younger brother Ewell Ayars Lamar (1911-1992), a pianist known as the “Greyhound of the Ivories,” took up the moniker of “Slim” and led a dance band called the Music Gentlemen in Indianapolis, which reportedly included some former members of Joe Sanders’ orchestra, and featured a vocalist named Helen Folk.  Ewell had composed “My Castle of Love”, recorded by the Southerners in 1928, but not issued, and played piano in his older brother’s band in its first year.

Victor 21710 was recorded on September 6 and 4, 1928, respectively, at the Memphis Auditorium in Memphis, Tennessee, the Southerners’ first and third sessions.  In the band are Tony Almerico and Irwin Kunz on cornets, Sunny Clapp on trombone, Slim Lamar and Jim Rush on clarinet and alto sax, Bedford Brown on clarinet and tenor sax, Dick Wilson on violin, Adrian J. Larroque on piano, Jack Cohen on banjo and guitar, Bonnie Pottle on string bass, and Bobby Turley on drums.  The band is directed by Bob Nolan, composer of “Goofus”, and the band’s usual vocalist (though he doesn’t sing on these sides).  It was issued in January of 1929.

“Goofus” was immortalized in a comic by R. Crumb, in which he describes his saga of finding the record, only to have it snatched away, leaving him hunting for years before winning a copy in an auction.  He aptly descries it as “crazy, eccentric jazz.”  The scat quartet is made up of Tony Almerico, Jim Rush, Dick Wilson, and Jack Cohen.

Goofus

Goofus, recorded September 6, 1928 by Slim Lamar’s Southerners.

On the other side, though “Happy” may not be as well known as the previous, it doesn’t disappoint, offering an encore performance of more of this band’s unique hot style.

Happy

Happy, recorded September 4, 1928 by Slim Lamar’s Southerners.

This record was originally posted on August 16, 2016 in honor of cornetist Tony Almerico’s birthday.  The article has been rewritten and republished with content relevant to bandleader Slim Lamar.

Victor 20552 – Memphis Jug Band – 1927

On this day, February 5, we remember Will Shade, leader of the Memphis Jug Band, on the 118th anniversary of his birth on that day in 1898.  Unfortunately, this disc by his illustrious Memphis Jug Band has seen a lot of action in its eighty-nine years of existence, and is in pretty poor condition, but, as is the case with many jug band records, it’s quite uncommon, and this is the best copy I was able to procure.  “Audible but muffled” is the description given to the record by its previous owner, and the music sort of fades between “almost decent” and “downright lousy”.  Oh well.  Nonetheless, here it is.

Victor 20552 was recorded February 24, 1927 at the McCall Building in Memphis, Tennessee, the first two sides from the Memphis Jug Band’s first recording session, and their first issued record.  The band includes Will Shade on guitar and harmonica, Will Weldon on guitar, Charlie Polk on jug, and Ben Ramey on kazoo.

“Stingy Woman” may or may not play a little cleaner than the flip side, which unfortunately isn’t saying a whole lot, and was recorded second in the session.  Apparently the original owner wasn’t a fan of Will Weldon, going by their defacement of the label.

Stingy Woman, recorded

Stingy Woman, recorded February 24, 1927 by the Memphis Jug Band.

“Sun Brimmers” takes its name from Will Shade’s nickname, Son Brimmer, and perhaps was intended to be titled “Son Brimmer’s Blues”.  This was the first side recorded by the Memphis Jug Band.

Sun Brimmers, recorded

Sun Brimmers, recorded February 24, 1927 by the Memphis Jug Band.

Updated with improved audio on June 21, 2017.