01. No Blow No Show
02. Wise Man Blues
03. Army Blues
04. Lost Lover Blues
05. It's My Life Baby
06. Honey Bee
07. Time Out
08. Little Boy Blue
01. Woke Up Screaming
02. You've Got Bad Intentions
03. I Can't Put You Down Baby
04. I Smell Trouble
05. Don't Want No Woman
06. I Don't Believe
07. I Learned My Lesson
08. Farther Up The Road
Download from here:
"Woke Up Screaming" indeed! This 1981 Ace compilation of Bobby Bland's early sides for Duke Records is a good follow up to the previous post of Little Junior Parker's early Duke sides. Like Parker, Bobby Bland had a rural upbringing before he moved to Memphis in the late 1940s and again like Parker his early musical involvement was with gospel music before becoming involved with the loose aggregation of blues musicians who would become known as the Beale Streeters.
Bobby's first record, "Crying" / "A Letter From A Trench In Korea" was produced by Sam Phillips at his studio on Union Avenue, Memphis, in early December 1951 and released on Chess 1489 credited to Robert Bland with Roscoe (sic) Gordon and his Orchestra. A month later Bobby recorded four sides in Memphis under the supervision of Ike Turner for release on the Bihari brothers Modern label - "Crying All Night" / "Dry Up Baby" (Modern 848) and "Good Lovin'" / "Drifting From Town To Town" (Modern 868), both discs being credited to Robert Bland.
A few months after these sessions, a new record label appeared on the Memphis scene. Duke Records was the creation of Memphis radio station WDIA program director David James Mattis who set about recording blues records by the musicians associated with the Beale Streeters. Early releases on the label included sides by Johnny Ace, Rosco Gordon, Earl Forest and Bobby "Blue" Bland, as he was now billed.
Bobby's first release on Duke was "Lovin' Blues" / "IOU Blues" (Duke 105), recorded in July 1952 but not released until November of that year, by which time Bobby had been called up for military service and James Mattis had lost control of Duke to Houston entrepreneur Don Robey.
While on leave in August 1952, Bobby recorded a second disc in Memphis "Army Blues" / "No Blow, No Show" (Duke 115) which was not released until October 1953. These were Bobby's last recordings until he left the military in 1955 when he signed on again with Duke Records which was now based in Houston.
Problems had arrived quickly for Mattis and his Duke label as he lacked experience in the ruthless cut and thrust of the recording business. One of his earliest releases (June 1952), "My Song" by Johnny Ace with The Beale Streeters, started to sell big, causing Mattis to pour more money into manufacturing more records to meet demand, while the distribution firms sat on the money brought in by sales. Duke was under capitalized and by July 1952 was facing financial ruin when Mattis turned to Houston night club owner and owner of Peacock Records, Don Robey, a man with a "robust" approach to business dealings.
Robey came up with the necessary cash to keep Duke going, but his help came at a price to Mattis who thought he was acquiring a partner but soon found that he had in fact been taken over. In November 1952 Mattis was definitively out, and Robey was the sole owner of Duke whose recording operations were moved to Houston, which turned out to be good news for Bobby Bland.
Robey may have been a ruthless business dealer, but he ran a highly professional music operation. When Bland resumed his recording career in February 1955 it was with a crack studio band led by Bill Harvey. The four tracks laid down ("Lost Lover Blues", "It's My Life Baby", "Honey Boy" and "Time Out") also featured the blues guitar of Roy Gaines.
The early Memphis recordings on Duke were primitive compared to the later Houston sides. This can be heard to good effect on another Ace LP "Earl Forest featuring The Beale Streeters with Bobby Bland and Johnny Ace", which includes Bobby Bland's first Duke single "Lovin' Blues" / "IOU Blues". The earliest sides on the compilation can make for tough listening but the later sides are recorded to a much higher standard. You can download the LP from the Blues Years blog here:
Sometime in 1956 Roy Gaines left the Bill Harvey Orchestra for Chuck Willis but Harvey replaced him with the equally effective Clarence Holliman whose guitar licks feature heavily on many of Bobby's sides from the second half of the 1950s.
Mention must also be made of Joe Scott, trumpet player and arranger who was behind the developing sound of the Bobby "Blue" Bland records. This was a sound that started out as blues but was already becoming soul music before the 1950s were finished. "Little Boy Blue" from 1958 is as soulful as you can get - a gospel influenced blues ballad pleader with perhaps even a hint of country around it, which builds to a screaming, testifying climax. It was a hit (number 11 R&B) as was "Farther Up The Road" which reached number 5 in the R&B charts in 1957.
These are the only hits on this compilation, for Bobby's years of real chart success lay a few years in the future in the 1960s with tracks such as "I Pity The Fool", "Cry, Cry, Cry" and "Turn On Your Love Light", to name but a few.
"Woke Up Screaming" - Ace CH 41, 1981. Mastered by Bob Jones. Cover art by Waldo's. Sleeve-notes by Ray Topping.
These are the facts on the tracks, Mac:
01. No Blow No Show - Duke 115, recorded in Memphis, circa August 1952
02. Wise Man Blues - not issued, recorded in Memphis, circa August 1952
03. Army Blues - Duke 115, recorded in Memphis, circa August 1952
04. Lost Lover Blues - not issued, recorded in Houston, February 22nd or 26th, 1955
05. It's My Life Baby - Duke 141, recorded in Houston, February 22nd or 26th, 1955
06. Honey Bee - not issued, recorded in Houston, February 22nd or 26th, 1955
07. Time Out - Duke 141, recorded Houston, February 22nd or 26th, 1955
08. Little Boy Blue - Duke 196, recorded in Houston, 1958
09. Woke Up Screaming - Duke 146, recorded in Houston, 1955
10. You've Got Bad Intentions - Duke 153 - recorded in Houston, 1956
11. I Can't Put You Down Baby - Duke 153 - recorded in Houston, 1956
12. I Smell Trouble - Duke 167 - recorded in Houston, 1957
13. Don't Want No Woman - Duke 167 - recorded in Houston, 1957
14. I Don't Believe - Duke 160 - recorded in Houston, 1956
15. I Learned My Lesson - Duke 160 - recorded in Houston, 1956
16. Farther Up The Road - Duke 170 - recorded in Houston, 1957
Army Blues / No Blow, No Show - Duke 115 - "Bobby Blue" Bland and Orchestra. Released in October 1953.
It's My Life, Baby / Time Out - Duke 141 - Bobby Blue Bland w Bill Harvey Orchestra. Released in May 1955
Woke Up Screaming / You Or None - Duke 146 - Bobby Bland w Bill Harvey Orchestra. Released in September 1955
You've Got Bad Intentions / I Can't Put You Down, Baby - Duke 153 - Bobby "Blue" Bland w Bill Harvey's Band. Released in June 1956
I Don't Believe / I Learned My Lesson - Duke 160 - Bobby "Blue" Bland w Bill Harvey's Band. Released in November 1956
I Smell Trouble / Don't Want No Woman - Duke 167 - Bobby "Blue" Bland w Bill Harvey Orchestra. Released in March 1957
Above: Billboard ad, April 1957. Not much chart action, though label mate Little Junior Parker hit big at this time with "Next Time You See Me".
Sometimes Tomorrow / Farther Up The Road - Duke 170 - Bobby "Blue" Bland w Bill Harvey Orchestra. Released in July 1957. "Farther Up The Road" peaked at number 5 in the Billboard R&B bestsellers chart in early September 1957
Little Boy Blue / Last Night - Duke 196 - Bobby "Blue" Bland. Released in July (?) 1958. Number 11 in Billboard Hot R&B Sides chart in October 1958
For further listening there are two CDs available on Ace:
Above: "The Blues Years: 1952 - 1959" Ace CDCHD 302. Covers the period of "Woke Up Screaming" but more completely. 25 tracks.
Above: "The Voice" Ace CDCHD 323. The big ones from the 1960s on Duke. 26 tracks including "I Pity The Fool", "Don't Cry No More", "Stormy Monday Blues", Yield Not To Temptation", etc. The hits are all here!