Frenchy’s String Band, “Sunshine Special”

Before Ford Motor Company created the Sunshine Special, and before it was FDR’s official Presidential limousine, Frenchy’s String Band recorded “Sunshine Special” for the Columbia Records label. This is a vary rare mp3 from a band that has little by way of documented history. Recorded in Texas 1928-ish, Sunshine Special’s rhythm slowly oozes along like an armadillo crossing the scorching highway pavement in the hot Texas sun.

Sunshine Special (play/download mp3)

Johnny Dodds, “Blue Piano Stomp”

Johnny Dodds was one of the greatest clarinetist of the turn of the 20th century. The list of musicians that he played with are an who’s-who of jazz legends, and after playing with Louis Armstrong’s ensamble, Dodds moved to Chicago and started his own band, the Johnny Dodds’ Trio. “Blue Piano Stomp” one of their earlier recordings from 1928. This number has some blues-y elements and swings with elegant improvisation as the trio plays notes that dance with each other like they’re at a Chicago formal.

Blue Piano Stomp (play/download mp3)

Jaybird Coleman, “Mistreatin’ Mama”

Mistreatin’ Mama” is one of the templates of the modern blues sound, and it was covered by a litany of blues legends like: Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, and Leadbelly. Jaybird Coleman, armed with only a harmonica and a mono microphone – you can feel him pouring his soul into every note of “Mistreatin’ Mama.” Remastered from the original 78, there still remains a slow turning crackle that adds authenticity to this iconic mp3.

Mistreatin’ Mama (play/download mp3)

William Moore, “One Way Gal”

William Moore’s 78s are collector items. His music has been covered by a linty of modern blues and rock groups. And his music has been sampled by hip-hop and electronic producers. “One Way Gal” – a song that was sampled in hip-hop – is a gentle tune that William sings with the up-most sincerity. Recorded in Chicago late January 1928.

“One Way Gal” (play/download mp3)

Alberta Hunter, “Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning”

Alberta Hunter was a pioneering African-American singer, the first woman to erase the lines between soul, jazz, and pop music. “Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning” recorded in 1921, is a sermon giving agency to women all over the world who are stuck with no good cheating men. “Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning” has been covered by many great female African-American singers such as Dinah Washington and Aretha Franklin.

Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning (play/download mp3)

Noble Sissle & Eubie Blake, “Watin’ For The Evening Mail”

Noble Sissle & Eubie Blake were both born in the North. However like other black musicians in the 1920s, they faced obstacles while trying to perform in white-owned theaters. “Waitin’ For The Evening Mail,” recorded in 1923, is a catchy, ragtime-y song written from the perspective of a jailbird. The inmate is howling innocence, and the piece of mail he is waiting for is notice of bail. Spoiler: He never makes bail.

Watin For The Evening Mail (play/download mp3)

Skip James, “Cherry Ball Blues”

It’s not often you hear falsetto in a blues recording. This was one of the many standout traits that made Skip James a glowingly original artist of the Delta region. More importantly, his odd style of guitar tuning influenced some of rock’s legends, including Eric Clapton. “Cherry Ball Blues” is a lamentation about losing love, a theme repeated over and over in rock n’ roll and any genre of popular music.

Cherry Ball Blues (play/download mp3)

Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Rabbit Foot Blues”

Blind Lemon Jefferson had a natural gift of crafting catchy-chord progressions and an accessible vocal range that complements every recording he ever made. “Rabbit Foot Blues” is one of his most popular titles, even earning a commissioned album cover. This mp3 was ripped from the original 78, and the crackle and hiss of this recording makes you feel like you’re listening to an original pressing of “Rabbit Foot Blues.” Enjoy!

Rabbit Foot Blues (play/download mp3)

Kokomo Arnold, “Sissy Man Blues”

Kokomo Arnold’s left-handed slide guitar playing and his vocals, delivered with the intensity and conviction as a sermon from a Sunday preacher, made his records sound 20-years ahead of their time. Recorded in 1934, “Sissy Man Blues” has a place in gay-music history, with the famous, and perhaps the most lucidly sung phrase on the record, “Lord if you can’t send me no woman/please send me some sissy man.”

Sissy Man Blues (play/download mp3)

Mississippi John Hurt, “Nobody’s Dirty Business”

Mississippi John Hurt sings on this thinly veiled song about domestic violence in “Nobody’s Dirty Business.” According to John, the sadism works both ways. Eventually his woman leaves. But John writes her a letter begging her to come back. She eventually returns and I suspect the dynamic keeps cycling over and over again. An important message brought to you from way back in 1935 – sometimes relationships just plain old don’t work out.

Nobodys Dirty Business (play/download mp3)