Milestone Recordings in American Music

6/17/10

Standing on the Blues (1936)

There weren't a lot of noteworthy blues records issued in 1936, but here are two exceptional, somewhat atypical records that did stand out: a saucy, jazzy number from Lady Day and some excellent Mississippi gospel blues.

Billie Holiday
Billie’s Blues(Vocalion 3288, 1936)

This record shows Holiday at her sultry best as she belts out the bluesy lyrics with a feather-light touch. The final verse is lifted almost word for word from the 1925 Ethel Waters song “Down Home Blues” (Columbia 14093-D), but Holiday makes it all her own: “Some men like me ‘cause I’m happy, some ‘cause I’m snappy / Some call me honey, others think I’ve got money / Some tell me, ‘Baby, you built for speed’ / Now if you put that all together, makes me everything a good man need.”

Equally good is the accompaniment, featuring a flirtatious solo from Artie Shaw on clarinet and a growling come-on from Bunny Berigan on trumpet.

~ You may also like: Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra featuring Billie Holiday, “This Year’s Kisses” (Brunswick 7824, 1937)

Blind Roosevelt Graves and Brother
Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind On Jesus)(Melotone 6-11-74, 1936)

This is an outstanding gospel blues by brothers Roosevelt and Uaroy Graves. Roosevelt’s very competent slide guitar and lead vocals are brought to life with some dynamic tambourine and backup vocals by Uaroy. The brothers imbue real passion into their performance. Roosevelt sings in a clear, strong voice, while Uaroy’s grittier voice adds commentary (“Oh, Lordy now!”) in the background. It makes a powerful statement when they come together to sing the refrain, “Standing on Jesus!” at the end of each line.

~ You may also like the equally moving B-side to the original single: Blind Roosevelt Graves and Brother, “I’ll Be Rested (When the Roll Is Called)” (Melotone 6-11-74, 1936)

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