Gus Cannon, “Madison Street Rag”

You can trace most of American popular music back to the blues. Rock n’ roll is the obvious one. But with “Madison Street Rag,” a different American music’s roots can be heard: hip-hop’s. Hip-hop is born and bred from the streets. Released on the Paramount label in 1927, Gus Cannon’s gravelly voice sounds like he’s freestlying on the street corner as passersby look on in amazement. Sounds a lot like how hip-hop got its start. Enjoy!

Madison Street Rag (play/download mp3)

Beale Street Sheiks, “Jazzin’ The Blues”

Sometimes the journey you encounter in life happens for a reason. Such was the case for Frank Stokes. In 1920, life led Stokes to Oakville, Tennessee where he teamed up with Dan Sane. Shortly after, they joined Jack Kelly’s Jug Busters, and eventually they all made it as far as Beale Street where they united as the Beale Street Sheiks. Stokes is considered the father of the Memphis blues guitar style and for good reason; he played for every occasion, in any venue and various platforms. In “Jazzin’ the Blues,” the band marries jazz music with a little bit of blues. Enjoy!

Beale Street Sheiks – “Jazzin’ The Blues (play/download mp3)

Son House, “Mississippi Country Farm Blues”

This scratchy copy of “Mississippi Country Farm Blues” is a window into Son’s oppressive up bringing. A master at creating unusual chord structures, he uses his vocal and guitar to create moving double harmonies. Jack White of White Stripes fame dedicated the White Stripe’s first album to Son House.

Son House – “Mississippi Country Farm Blues

Charley Patton-“High Water Everywhere (Parts 1 & 2)”

When Charlie Patton sings, people listen. He was considered the “Father of the Delta Blues” and there is no Delta Blues musician who was not influenced by him. High Water Everywhere, Parts 1 & 2, are songs Patton wrote that were inspired by the Mississippi floods of 1927. It’s almost as though this was his effort to bring awareness of the devastation to the public. There are clear distinctions between Part 1 and Part 2 in which he uses different conventions to juxtapose differing tempos. Part 1 is fast paced and his lyrics describe the momentum of water which is illustrated through his quick beat, while Part 2 slows down to more of grim tone in which his lyrics describe the aftermath.

Charley Patton – “High Water Everywhere (Parts 1 & 2) (play/download mp3)

Freddie Spruell – “Mr. Freddie’s Kokomo Blues” (mp3)

Freddie Spruell – “Mr. Freddie’s Kokomo Blues” (mp3)

Freddie Spruell was reportedly the first blues singer of the Mississippi delta to record a record. “Mr. Freddie‚Äôs Kokomo Blues” is a traditional blues song in tempo and guitar picking, but the lyrics are quite unique and original. While you‚Äôre tapping your toes, listen closely to the last few stanzas which include a popular nursery rhyme.

Buddy Boy Hawkins – “Snatch It Back Blues” (mp3)

Buddy Boy Hawkins – “Snatch It Back Blues” (mp3)

Life on the railroad evoked slow country-blues songs from vocalist Walter “Buddy Boy” Hawkins. His voice is as slow and sweet as molasses in “Snatch it Back Blues,” one of only twelve songs recorded by this mysterious artist. Relax on your porch swing and drink in Buddy Boy’s slow laments.

King Solomon Hill – “My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon” (mp3)

King Solomon Hill – “My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon” (mp3)

King Solomon Hill, determined to be the late Joe Holmes, left us just six haunting blues songs, all recorded in 1932. “My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon” describes the pain King Solomon Hill experienced when he learned of the death of his friend and fellow musician, which he crooned on his bottleneck guitar. You can hear the hard drinking and rambling life in his wavering¬†lyrics and sliding fingers.

Bessie Jackson – “Barbeque Bess”

Born Lucille Bogan, Bessie is heatin’ up the grill, here! A saucy, tantalizing mp3 that will surely get your mouth watering. Known for her sensuous style and sass, she made her mark in the 1920’s blues scene from the vaudeville stages and wound up at Paramount Records. Feared by a few, but mostly admired by many, Bessie Jackson is hotter than hot. What time did she say to stop by?

Bessie Jackson – “Barbeque Bess” (mp3)

Rube Lacy – “Mississippi Jailhouse Groan”

Rube Lacy’s groaning is infectious. As soon as you begin grooving to “Mississippi Jail House Groan” you can understand why he was considered one of Mississippi’s most popular blues singers. Jazz music of this era was greatly influenced by travel, and Rube Lacy himself traveled all over Mississippi for many years along the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. That’s where the beauty is found within this song: when you listen closely you get a sense for what life must have been like drifting among the rivers. Rube Lacy received much acclaim for recording “Mississippi Jail House Groan,” it was considered the best documented example of early Mississippi folk blues.

Rube Lacy – “Mississippi Jailhouse Groan” (play/download mp3)