Every Day I Have the Blues


Don't get your 2012 calendar by waiting until mid-January to buy a crappy one at half price. Get a cool calendar that comes with a CD of classic and rare old-school acoustic blues and hokum songs from (mostly) the 1920s and '30s. In other words, get volume 9 of the Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920's calendar (and pardon that incorrect apostrophe and inaccurate title).

Almost a decade ago, a cache of Paramount material -- blues 78s, ad art for promoting them, etc. -- was discovered, and Blues Images has been putting out these great calendars since 2004. 

The CDs alone are worth the $19.95 to any serious blues fan; long-lost tracks are "re-debuted" on Blues Images CDs, and this year's has some especially interesting surprises.

The first 12 tracks correspond to the art for the 12 months: 

1. "Mama Don’t Allow No Easy Riders Here" by Tampa Red and Georgia Tom (version 1)/Tampa Red and His Hokum Jug Band with vocals by Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon (version 2)
2. "Big Chief Blues" by Furry Lewis
3. "Jinx Blues" by Ora Brown
4. "Jesus Is a Dying Bed Maker" by Charley Patton
5. "Rope Stretchin’ Blues" Parts I & II by Blind Blake
6. "Fence Breakin’ Yellin’ Blues" by Blind Lemon Jefferson
7. "Fogyism" by Ida Cox
8. "Come On In (Ain’t Nobody Here)" by Harum Scarum
9. "Evil Woman Spell" by Charley Spand
10. "Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues" by Teddy Darby
11. "Papa, Don’t Tear Your Pants" by Papa Charlie Jackson
12. "In That Pearly White City Above" by Blind Joel Taggart

Most of these artists are fairly well known to serious blues fans. Of those that are a bit more obscure, Harum Scarum is a group consisting of Big Bill Broonzy, Georgia Tom Dorsey, and Mozelle Alderson, while the Teddy Darby record apparently influenced Robert Johnson's melody for "Traveling Riverside Blues." Obscure but known to sub-genre aficionados are Charley Spand -- fans of blues piano are most likely to have heard him -- and Blind Joel Taggart, a blues-gospel singer/guitarist whose photo is published here for the first time

Then come seven bonus tracks, rarities for which no ads exist:

13. "Precious Lord" by Blind Joel Taggart
14. "Little Black Train" by Blind Joel Taggart
15. "Hard Time Blues" by Lane Hardin
16. "California Desert Blues" by Lane Hardin
17. "Cartey Blues" by Lane Hardin
18. "Mr. Postman Blues" by Jenny Pope
19. "Rent Man Blues" by Jenny Pope
The two Blind Joel Taggart tracks here are of later vintage than #12 (1931); they come from a recently discovered (non-Paramount) acetate disc recorded in 1948 that had never been documented before. The Lane Hardin tracks are included because Eric Clapton covered "Hard Time Blues" last year and the compiler, Blues Images owner John Tefteller, rightly figured that most of us hadn't heard the original, half of what was thought to be Hardin's only record (issued on Bluebird). Tefteller of course also included the flip side, and then fellow collector Steve LaVere heard of this and revealed that he'd found a 78 (the only known copy from 1948 that had Hardin on one side doing "Cartey Blues." Hardin's haunting vocal timbre and exquisite phrasing really stand out; these three tracks are the highlights of the CD. The last two tracks may not be at that level of rarity or musical distinctiveness, but they're still pretty interesting; Jenny Pope was the wife of Memphis Jug Band leader Will Shade, and on these 1930 tracks is accompanied by members of that group.
The art may not be for everyone in our politically correct time. As the Blues Images website states, "We understand that some African Americans in today's society may be offended at some of the images represented here. However, we feel it is important to remember that this artwork was aimed at the African American record buyers of the time. They gladly paid their extremely hard-earned dollars to purchase the 78 rpm records advertised in these images."

Personally, I see nothing obviously offensive in any of the art, which is mostly black-and-white drawings. Sure, they're often cartoonish, but that's their artistic genre, no more offensive than, say, Sanford and Son.

Some stores may carry this calendar/CD, but the easiest way to get it is directly from the Blues Images website. Calendars from past years are still available, along with snappy T-shirts, posters, and CDs. - Steve Holtje

Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based editor, poet, and composer whose song cycle setting tanka by Fumiko Nakajo is finally complete at twelve songs.


Sierra Club