In his all-too-brief four year recording career, Blind Lemon Jefferson produced nearly one-hundred songs that helped to define the country blues and open the door for future guitar-slinging blues singers to record their art. All but one of those records appeared on the Paramount label—a few of which have been examined previously on Old Time Blues—this time around, we turn our attention to the odd one out.
As 1926 turned to ’27. Blind Lemon Jefferson’s recording career entered its second year. The previous one had seen a bountiful debut, producing a total of twenty recorded songs to his credit (roughly one-fifth of his total recorded output), all for Paramount Records of Port Washington, Wisconsin. The Texas bluesman was becoming a sensation, and other record companies soon took notice. It wasn’t long before the Okeh record company—then a subsidiary of Columbia Records and top competitor to Paramount with their extensive catalog of popular “race” records featuring the music of black artists—was the first to act Early in 1927, Jefferson was contacted by Atlanta-based Okeh representatives Polk C. Brockman (best remembered for orchestrating Fiddlin’ John Carson’s recording debut) and T.J. Rockwell. They extended an invitation to Jefferson for a recording session in Atlanta, to which he obliged. The singer arrived at his destination in mid-March, a little later than expected, for Jefferson had made an unplanned stop in Shreveport, Louisiana, as he had never “seen” the city before. Thus, on March 14, 1927, Lemon Jefferson recorded seven songs for Okeh, and one more the next day. The first two of those titles were released the following month, comprising Okeh 8455. When the record began to gain steam on the market, Paramount evidently threatened legal action against Okeh for “poaching” one of their top stars, and as a result, the remaining six sides were never issued. While the recordings are now presumed lost, what is known of those six songs reveals a rather different character than most of the material he recorded for Paramount. Of those six titles, “Elder Green’s in Town” was a version of “Alabama Bound”, and “Laboring Man Away from Home” was a rendition of the English ballad “Our Goodman” (also recorded by others as “Cabbage Head Blues” and “Drunkard’s Special”). “English Stop Time” was an instrumental piece similar to “Buck Dance” pieces recorded by many blues and ragtime guitarists. “Woman’s Labor Man” (or “Laboring Man Blues”) and “‘Stillery Blues” were evidently original songs never otherwise recorded or published. When Lemon returned to the Paramount recording laboratory in Chicago the next month, he remade “My Easy Rider” for as “Easy Rider Blues”, coupled with a re-recording of “Match Box Blues”. The company saw to it that Lemon didn’t get away again, and all of Jefferson’s further recordings were for Paramount.
Okeh 8455 was recorded on March 14, 1927, in Atlanta, Georgia. It was first advertised for sale on April 23 of the same year. Great efforts have been taken to coax out as much music as possible out out of this, quite frankly, wiped out record.
On the “A” side of Okeh 8455, Lemon sings a re-telling of his famous “Black Snake Moan”, one of his more popular Paramount recordings, which he had recorded about five months prior to his Okeh session.
The “B” side contains Jefferson’s first recording of another of his most memorable—and most widely covered—hit songs: “Match Box Blues”. Jefferson subsequently re-recorded two more takes of the soon-to-be blues standard upon his return to Paramount, each one noticeably different than the others.