Royalty RR-906 – “Stick-Horse” Hammond – 1950

Another one of those hidden figures of the blues who made a few records at one session and promptly disappeared into obscurity, few details are concretely known about the life of Texas-Louisiana musician “Stick-Horse” Hammond, who made a small handful of records in 1950 demonstrating a gritty and rather archaic style of rural blues.  As such, the facts presented within this article should to taken as tentative, at best.

One of at least five children of B.B. and Laura (spelling uncertain) Hammond, “Stick-Horse” was born Nathaniel Hammond in Palestine, Texas, on April 16, 1896, (according to public records), though a date in the preceding month has also been proffered, as well.  According to a draft card presumably attributable to the same Hammond, he was of medium height with a heavy build as an adult.  Per the same source, he worked on the Union Pacific Railroad around the time of the First World War, and was at the time living in Denver, Colorado.  Perhaps resulting from that profession, he purportedly lost a leg (much like his white contemporary “Peg” Moreland), and ostensibly adopted the nickname ‘Stick-Horse” from the peg-leg he relied upon thereafter.  Later in life, he reportedly turned to life as a traveling musician, playing around his home state before settling in Taylortown, Louisiana, in the vicinity of Shreveport, where he began farming on the share.  Around 1950, Hammond was “discovered” by country singing star Zeke Clements—who was then appearing on the KWKH Louisiana Hayride—and brought to town to cut a record for former disc jockey Ray Bartlett.  Clements later recalled that “they drove around for two or three days getting him drunk enough to record.”  In all, Hammond produced six sides for Bartlett’s “Job” label, four of which were picked up by larger record companies (Royalty Records of Paris, Texas, and Gotham Records of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, respectively).  Sometime later, the plantation on which Hammond farmed was visited by record executives Stan Lewis and Leonard Chess in hopes of signing the bluesman to the fledgling Chess Records.  Unfortunately for the songster, the big boss ran off the city slickers with a shotgun, swiftly snuffing out any hopes for the continuation of Hammond’s brief career as a record artist.  Remaining in Taylortown for the rest of his life, “Stick-Horse” Hammond died in Shreveport on May 27, 1964.

Royalty RR-906 was recorded at the J&M Record Shop presumably at 728 Texas Street in Shreveport, Louisiana, sometime in the year of 1950.  It was originally released on Job 105.  “Stick-Horse” Hammond sings the blues and accompanies himself on electric guitar.

On the “A” side, “Stick-Horse” sings a low-down country blues rendition of fellow Texan Curtis Jones’s “Highway 51”. Having been born in 1896, Hammond was among the same generation of blues musicians as Blind Lemon Jefferson and Mance Lipscomb, though each artist’s recording career occupied a different era.

Highway 51, recorded 1950 by “Stick-Horse” Hammond.

On the reverse, Hammond sings “Too Late Baby”, taking after the Black Ace’s (and others’) “You Gonna Need My Help Someday”, and continuing in the popular mold of “How Long—How Long” and “Sitting On Top of the World” influenced melodies.

Too Late Baby, recorded 1950 by “Stick-Horse” Hammond.

Polydor 580.002 – Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra – 1934

In 1933, Louis Armstrong embarked to great fanfare on a tour of Europe, something which many of his contemporaries, including Duke Ellington, the Boswell Sisters, and the Mills Brothers were doing around the same time.  Things were not all fine and dandy for Armstrong in Europe however, as he was plagued a lip ailment that caused him pain, and a manager who took his money back to the States after being fired.  Nonetheless, Louis doesn’t let his troubles show in his work.  After finishing his tour, Louis remained in Europe until 1935.

On this Polydor record, recorded November 7, 1934 in Paris, France, not too long before his return to the States, Louis is joined by the distinguished pianist Herman Chittison, as well as Jack Hamilton and Leslie Thompson on second and third trumpets, Lionel Guimaraes on trombone, Peter duCongé on clarinet and alto sax, Henry Tyree on alto sax, Alfred Pratt on tenor sax, Maceo Jefferson on guitar, German Arago on the bass, and Oliver Tines drumming.  Maceo Jefferson was one of a very few American jazz musicians to be interned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

On “Tiger Rag” (billed some places as “Super Tiger Rag”), the band plays hot, and Chittison delivers an Art Tatum-esque piano solo.  Towards the end, the band recreates Louis’ performance from his filmed performance in Copenhagen the previous year.

Tiger Rag, recorded November 7, 1934 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra

Tiger Rag, recorded November 7, 1934 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra.

On “St. Louis Blues” (billed here as “Saint-Louis Blues”), Louis gives a classic performance, and introduces some fine solos on piano by Herman Chittison and tenor sax by Alfred Pratt.

Tiger Rag, recorded November 7, 1934 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra.

Saint-Louis Blues, recorded November 7, 1934 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra.

Updated on July 4, 2016.