Goin' Your Direction
|1.||Goin' In Your Direction||2:36|
|2.||From The Bottom||2:44|
|3.||No Nights By Myself||2:59|
|4.||Boppin' With Sonny||2:46|
|6.||Red Hot Kisses||2:32|
|7.||Gettin' Out Of Town||2:22|
|9.||She Brought Life Back To The Dead||3:11|
|10.||I'm Not Beggin' Nobody*||2:42|
|12.||Sonny's Rhythm #2*||2:23|
|13.||Make A Little Love With Me||3:06|
|14.||Gonna Find My Baby||2:56|
Tracks 1-5, 7-12: (W. Williamson)Arc Music, BMI. Tracks 6 (L. McMurry), 13-14 (Crudup-McMurry): GlobeMusic, BMI. Track 15: P.D.*previousy unreleased alternative takes(A) Scott's Radio Service, Jackson, MS, July 24,1951.Bobo "Slim" Thomas, vocal & guitar; Sonny BoyWilliamson, harmonica; Leonard Ware, bass.(B) Cedars of Lebanon Club, Jackson, MS, Dec. 4,1951.Sonny Boy Williamson, vocal & harmonica; WillieLove, piano; Joe Willie Wilkins, guitar; Cliff Givens, bass, vocal& broom.(C) Scott's Radio Service, Jackson, MS, August 28,1952.Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, vocals & guitar; SonnyBoy Williamson, harmonica; Joe Willie Wilkins, guitar; "Sam,"bass.(D) Ammons Studio, Jackson, MS, March 23, 1953.Sonny Boy Williamson, harmonica; Willie Love, piano;Joe Willie Wilkins, guitar; Willie Kyles, Carlton Wells or Bernard"Bunny" Williams, tenor sax; Oneal Hudson, drums. (E) ACA Recording Studios, Houston, TX, April 14,1953. Sonny Boy Williamson, harmonica & vocal; WillieLove, piano; Lester Williams, guitar; Richard "Dickie Boy" Lillie,tenor sax; Buck Henson, bass; Rusty Alfred, drums. (F) State Furniture Co., Jackson, MS, October 24,1953. Sonny Boy Williamson, harmonica & vocal; David Campbell,piano; James Williams, guitar; Bernard "Bunny" Williams, tenor sax;Herman Fowlkes, bass; Oneal Hudson, drums; Frank Crawford, cuaraches(#7). (G) Diamond Recording Studio, Jackson, MS, November2, 1954. Sonny Boy Williamson, harmonica & vocal; David Campbell,piano; J.V. Turner, guitar; Johnny Morgan, bass; Junior Blackman,drums. (H) Diamond Recording Studio, Jackson, MS, November12, 1954. Sonny Boy Williamson, harmonica & vocal; DavidCampbell, piano; B.B. King, guitar; Carl "Wimpy" Jones, guitar; RazRoseby, bass; Glen Ricketts, drums.
hen Lillian McMurry gaveSonny Boy Williamson a check for $10 on Dec. 7, 1950, it served as abinder on an exclusive recording contract between Sonny Boy and herfledgling Diamond Record Co., to be executed in Jackson a week later.The little check would also initiate over four years of excitingsessions, more than a few hits, and a constant exchange of funds andcreativity between the seasoned bluesman and the young producer. Therelationship was always characterized by great warmth and mutualrespect, but the cultural chasm across which it transpired, alongwith Sonny Boy's irascible temperament and Lillian's unflagginglybusinesslike deportment, inevitably led to many episodes whereinSonny Boy's penchant for creating crises hit the stone wall of Mrs.McMurry's determination, with riotous results. Years later, Lillianwould recall with a laugh, "Wasn't Sonny a mess?" For his part, SonnyBoy tried desperately to be on his best behavior, but couldn't helpbetraying his occasional exasperation with the comment, "Miz McMurry,you is an old lady!" She was barely 30 at the time. Although Lillianhad located Sonny Boy by searching the Delta, tracking the alreadywell-known performer and his wife Mattie to a shack in Belzoni, thecouple had a 3-room flat in Jackson at 507-1/2 North Farish Street,just two blocks up from Lillian's record and furniture store, TheRecord Mart, at No. 309. Here they stayed when Sonny Boy wasperforming in the Jackson area, usually at two or three weekintervals. During his first year on Diamond's Trumpet label, SonnyBoy recorded as leader four different times, capping the year with afifth session in December at the Cedars of Lebanon Club. The firstthree Sonny Boy releases had sold well, and Lillian decided tocelebrate by releasing his fourth in time for Christmas. Awakening toSonny Boy 's celebrity, earned through more than a decade of regionalgigs and radio broadcasts, she issued Sonny Boy's Christmas Blues onTrumpet 145 and assiduously promoted the disc over the air on WRBC'sOle Hep Cat Show, which her Record Mart sponsored. In fact, sheoccasionally served as guest DJ while host Woodson Wall searched forrecords or dealt with visitors, who might include Charles Brown,Lowell Fulson, Joe Liggins, Ray Charles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, TheSouthern Sons, Brother Joe May or The Trumpeteers. As Lillianreminisced, "AII the big stars used to make personal appearances atThe Record Mart promoting their local bookings. The whole streetwould be full of black people to see the stars. Then we'd load up andgo on up to the radio station and do interviews on our show." Thisupper echelon of R & B's bright lights included Ivory Joe Hunter,who once proudly showed off his brand new tour bus to Lillian. Sonny Boy was enjoying his newfound status as a local recordingstar, and had fallen in love with the McMurry's new Pontiac, which heimmortalized on the flip side of Trumpet 145, Pontiac Blues. "Hewould stop by The Record Mart often to collect a royalty advance,introduce Lillian to some new talent, help out packing records orwheedle a spin in the Pontiac." As Lillian recalled, "He spent moneylike water. He'd take $100 out in the morning, and come in 'fore noonagain wantin' another $100. That afternoon he'd want another $100,and another $100 before six o'clock. He wouldn't even feed Mattiesometimes; he was just out blowin' it, having a good time. He'd goand have two or three suits made, and the tailor'd bring 'em over tothe office with the bills. 'Here's some suits Sonny Boy had made.'He'd have three made at one time, you know!" Lillian and Mattie became good friends (and remain so to this day)and Mattie was hired to work at The Record Mart. When one of SonnyBoy's new records would arrive, he'd come from Chicago or wherever hewas to pack the new releases and he'd work just like a dog,"remembered Lillian. "Usually during this time, Sonny Boy and me andsometimes Mattie would work on songs for the next session." ThenSonny Boy would hit the road, leaving wife and producer to await hisoccasional letters and frequent late night phone calls for news ofhis whereabouts. Prolonged absences sometimes put Mattie in strainedcircumstances and she had to rely on Lillian's generosity to see herthrough. The two ladies eventually concocted a plan to "manage" theheadstrong, footloose bluesman. The scheme was designed to tantalizeSonny Boy into submission by granting him regular use of the belovedPontiac for his travels to and from all gigs. Lillian would book thegigs and become his personal manager but Sonny Boy would also have toconsent to Mattie acting as his driver and road manager. It wasprobably this last provision that doomed the arrangement, for hiswife's prudent presence would surely cramp his already set lifestyleof drinking, gambling and carousing all night and would inhibit theritual activities that being a bandleader necessitated. He had to befree to cuss out his sidemen, woo his female fans, and generally setthe celebratory mood with frequent calls for more spirits. So, eventhough Lillian optimistically sent Mattie to driving school, SonnyBoy only made one gig in the Pontiac -- a trip to Vicksburg,chauffered by a trusted friend of the McMurry's. One day in August of '52 Sonny Boy arrived at The Record Mart withArthur "Big Boy" Crudup in tow. The two had played together oftensince meeting in Belzoni many years before. Big Boy, born in Forest,Mississippi in 1905, had been a mainstay of the Bluebird/RCA Victorblues catalogue for a decade, as Lillian knew from having sold hisdiscs herself at the shop. When he and Sonny Boy proposed doing aquick session for Trumpet she immediately asked him about his currentcontractual status. The hulking singer assured her that his Victorcontract had expired so she struck an outright cash deal with him onthe spot, intending to issue the Crudup titles under a pseudonym inany event. "You can put anybody's name on it you want to," Big Boytold her, pocketing the advance. He and Sonny Boy arrived at Scott'sStudio with longtime cohort, guitarist Joe Willie Wilkins and a bassplayer (possibly named Sam, if Sonny Boy's exhortations are anyclue.) The exuberant results, Make A Little Love With Me and GonnaFind My Baby are classic performances, remarkable for the agile andeffortless interplay among the veterans. Make A Little Love is afresh version of the Delta chestnut Take A Little Walk With Me, firstrecorded by Sonny Boy's Helena sidekick Robert Jr. Lockwood (seecover) for Bluebird in 1941. Gonna Find My Baby sounds like adistant, up-tempo relative of Dr. Clayton's Gotta Find My Baby,another 1941 Bluebird release. In both cases Crudup has effected alyrical and melodic transformation. Sonny Boy calls out, driving theband in a hard shuffle on Love, while they bring a gentler swing toBaby. After years of playing for dancers in the Delta and pointsnorth, they show an easy grace in mixing rhythms and meters in anirresistible invitation to boogie. Big Boy recorded in Jackson againin 1952, this time sans Sonny Boy (who was always loyal to hisDiamond contract) for Johnny Vincent, who had just launched hisshort-lived Champion label. Vincent would soon open a branch officefor Specialty Records just a block down from The Record Mart on NorthFarish; later, his Ace label would score its first hit with aperformance recorded by Lillian at her Diamond Studio (Those Lonely,Lonely Nights by Earl King). Crudup's Trumpet sides were released asby "EImer James" in an attempt to "follow up" Elmore James' Dust MyBroom, the biggest-selling Trumpet disc of all. James had skippedtown and jumped his exclusive Diamond recording contract after thehuge success of this hit gave him instant celebrity on the chitlin'circuit. While Elmore was being lured away by the Bihari Brothers totheir Meteor and Flair labels, Lillian tried in vain to bring himback with messages through Sonny Boy, telegrams and letters. But hehad left Trumpet for good, having failed to record even a B side forhis lone hit. For this, Lillian used a single title she had cut by anartist introduced to her by Sonny Boy as "Slim." Slim, Sonny Boy, and bassist Leonard Wade had recorded CatfishBlues at Scott's a week before James cut Dust My Broom. Muchimpressed, Lillian paid Slim an advance and loaned him the companyguitar and amplifier to practice for another side. But she had beenduped. Catfish Blues was an old Delta piece that had been firstrecorded years earlier (another 1941 Bluebird) by Robert Petway.Rather than returning with the guitar and amp and another selection,Slim dropped out of sight, went on an extended bender, and wasdiscovered by Jackson police weeks later passed out in a muddy ditchwith the stolen goods. Lillian had notified the authorities about themissing equipment but eight months passed before she was summoned toattend a hearing in the matter of The People vs. Slim. At the policestation, she recovered what was left of the guitar and amp, in piecesand caked with mud. At the hearing, she stated that she was shockedover Slim's having been incarcerated for so long, and expressed theopinion that he had been punished enough. But due process would haveto be observed, and with Slim doggedly insisting on his own guilt(and apparently enjoying preferred status as serenader to the cops),she had to hire attorney Bernard Chill to help out. In a pre-trialconference, Slim continued to maintain his own guilt, explaining, "Ihad the best time of my life," rambling with the electric guitar andamp. "If I never have a good time no more, I done had it!" The day ofthe trial, Lillian spent two hours in the judge's chambers, trying totalk sense to the penitent blues singer. "I done stole! There's no use telling a lie on top of it!" Somehowhe was persuaded to plead "Not Guilty," and Judge Julian Alexanderset him free. Slim's identity was later revealed by Jackson harpmanSam Myers to be Bobo Thomas; Lillian recalls that he spent much timewith his idol, Willie Love, but never was able to come up with anyfresh material, having a strictly traditional repertoire which to theyoung producer, in search of new hits, was just "old, unoriginalblues." But Slim's recording of Catfish preserved a timeless Deltajuke performance that captures Sonny Boy alternately doubling theguitar and vocal lines note-for-note between wailing, piercingflourishes. Sonny Boy's rambles at this time took him as far south as NewOrleans and as far north as Detroit. By the time his Diamond contractcame up for renewal in January '53, he was using Mattie's newresidence at 528 Market St., Waukegan, Ill., as his mailing address.But a letter to Lillian from Mattie dated Feb. 9, 1953, reveals thathe was staying with Willie Love in Greenville in the Delta, and hadjust called his wife (at 2 a.m., collect) to ask her to petitionLillian for the funds for him to return to Waukegan. "He can makemoney here," Mattie wrote. "And whenever you are ready for him, hecan always make the trip in one day. Its a white man here fromTchula, Miss. that used to have a place there, Sonny Boy used to playfor him and he wants him here so bad. Obligenly yours, Mattie." Bywhatever route, Sonny Boy was soon back in Jackson, where he cut CatHop at the studio of Jimmie D. Ammons on March 23. Ammons had a smalltaping operation at the time, and ran a part-time demo service aswell as a put-your-poem-to-music mail order business, as he eked outreleases on his infant Delta label. Cat Hop is a rollicking bandpiece that features fine piano from Willie Love and a masterfullymean guitar solo from Joe Willie Wilkins. Lillian had just releasedTrumpet 166, Sonny Boy's Mighty Long Time/ Nine Below Zero to greatcritical acclaim and considerable consternation throughout theindustry. With innovative inspiration, Lillian had summoned the greatbass singer from the gospel group The Southern Sons, Cliff Givens, tosing the bass part on Mighty Long Time with only Sonny Boy's vocaland harmonica. Engineer Bill Holford obtained remarkably deep andbuoyant recordings of this, perhaps the lonesomest piece of musicSonny Boy ever committed to wax, and five further titles that addedthe guitar of Wilkins and the piano of Love, along with Givenssinging bass while using a broom for a brush drum. Trumpet's ad inBillboard that February proclaimed Trumpet 166 "A NATION-WIDE HIT!!!DIFFERENT ENOUGH TO CHANGE THE WHOLE RHYTHM AND BLUES FIELD." It wenton to become Sonny Boy's best-selling Trumpet disc. From this sessiontoo came She Brought Life Back To The Dead, heard here in theslightly slower alternate take that was used to master the originalTrumpet 45 rpm release. (The more uptempo take used for the 78release, along with the rest of Sonny Boy's earliest Trumpet sides,can be heard on Arhoolie CD King Biscuit Time.) Lillian sent Willie Love with Sonny Boy to Houston that April torecord at Holford's ACA Studios (for that story, see the notes to ALCD 2700 Clownin' With TheWorld), but the resulting She's Crazy and Sonny's Rhythm failed toexcite her, and remained unissued. She released Trumpet 212, CatHop/Too Close Together that December to modest success. While artistslike Little Walter, Faye Adams, The Drifters and The Dominoes wereheading the national Cashbox R & B charts, Sonny Boy still loomed as a major hitmaker inthe regional Southern market. Lillian was by now pulling together her own recording facility,temporarily located in the rear of husband Willard's State FurnitureCompany, and it was here that Sonny Boy returned in October '53 torecord Gettin' Out Of Town, which featured a latinate beat thathelped carry it to the top ten in New Orleans. Also from this sessioncame Red Hot Kisses (a McMurry original) and Goin' In Your Direction.Here we get the uptown Sonny Boy, with a slightly jazzier, moresophisticated sound largely generated by the outstanding piano ofDave Campbell, whom Lillian had engaged as her house arranger andsession pianist. Campbell was a literate musician schooled in variousdisciplines who could also stomp with the best of them. His presenceundoubtedly pleased Sonny, who had been prodding Lillian to let himrecord a more urbane style. James Williams' jazz-inflected guitarwork overlays the sound with a quirky, alternately emphatic andtentative feel that adds great motive force at moments in Direction.Bernard "Bunny" Williams' suave tenor work also contributes to theslick aura; Bunny & His Shufflers cut an obscure session forJohnny Vincent's Champion label and he had accompanied Jerry McCainon his initial Trumpet session just two weeks previous. As 1954 rolled around, Sonny Boy's releases rambles and anticscontinued apace. In a letter from Waukegan dated Feb. 18th, Sonny Boywrote: "Dear Mrs. McMurry, I am so sorry that you got me wrong when Icalled Mr. McMurry. I did not call from no tavern, I call from aServer Station it was true. But I did not have to do no time... theman was drunk when I ran him over..." After thus exonerating himself,he went on to request $100 for Mattie, who was sick and about toenter the hospital. It seems that Lillian was always able to helpwhen called upon, and Sonny Boy ran up advances against his royaltiesthat would never in fact be earned in terms of actual record sales.This Lillian took in the best of humor, realizing that in Sonny Boyshe had a unique talent whose unpredictable personality includedgreat affection and loyalty. "He'd always keep me informed where he was," she recalled. "If hewent from one place to the other he'd call and tell me. Sonny Boywould call at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. Finally, Willard had a35-foot extension put on the phone so I could hide it in the nextroom to try to get some sleep. Sonny Boy called me at the office oneday and said, 'Miss Lillian, I'm up here in Helena in jail. You gottaget me outta this.' I said, 'Sonny Boy, what'd you do?' He said, 'Idone shot a man.' I said, 'What happened?' He says, 'We was in anargument on the ferry.' I said, 'Sonny Boy, where'd you shoot him?'He said, 'I shot him in the titty.' I just had to put my hand overthe phone and I just cracked up, laughing! It was just such asincere, honest, straightforward answer!" Sonny Boy had managed topick the lock on the cabinet door where Lillian had stowed his lugerpistol for safekeeping. "He could pick most any lock made. He told me, 'If I'd just mindedyou, Miss Lillian, I wouldn't be in this trouble.' He thought sure hewasn't going to get out of that one." But with the help of theMcMurry's and a lawyer, Sonny Boy soon went free, and the luger wentback in the cabinet. Sonny Boy's temper continued to flare. "One day Sonny Boy finisheda session where he got real angry at this one musician," recalledLillian with a laugh. "He and the musicians were coming through whereI was sitting and Sonny Boy started yelling 'You motherf -- ' atthe musician. Well, I'd never heard anything like that before, and Ithought I'd heard everything. So I said, 'Sonny Boy, you wait here.'I wanted the other musicians to leave, so I wouldn't embarrass him infront of them. So I told him, 'Sonny Boy, you get your hat and yourcoat and anything that belongs to you and get out of here and don'tever come back!'" The stunned bluesman apologetically slithered outthe door. "The next day Sonny Boy went down to the furniture store tosee Willard, and he was crying. He told Willard, 'I'm awful sorry,Mr. Willard. I ain't slept a wink.' So Willard told Sonny 'Stay awayfrom her for a few days and let her cool off. She'll kill you forsure because she's got your gun. She's liable to shoot you with yourown gun!' Sonny Boy came back a few days later and Willard told himit was all right to come by the office but to throw his hat in firstto see if I'd shoot it! An anxious Sonny Boy arrived at No. 309 andexplained to the bookkeeper that he was there to see Mrs. McMurry andapologize. Proceeding to the threshold of her office, "Sonny Boythrew his hat in and waited... finally he came in and startedapologizing all over the place." He was then treated to a severedressing-down. He managed to refrain from swearing in Mrs. McMurry'spresence ever after. April of '54 saw the release of Trumpet 216, Goin' In YourDirection/Red Hot Kisses. A Trumpet ad in Billboard alluded to SonnyBoy's acknowledged stature with the line, "A SMASH HIT BY THE GREATSONNY BOY WILLIAMSON." August brought the release of Gettin' Out OfTown/She Brought Life Back To The Dead, which was showing strong inNew Orleans by the end of October, and Lillian called Sonny Boy toher newly outfitted Diamond Studio in the rear of The Record Mart fortwo sessions in early November. On Nov. 2 he was joined by one ofJackson's premiere guitarists of the day, J.V. Turner, on Clownin'With The World, Empty Bedroom, I'm Not Beggin' Nobody and Shuckin'Mama. Ten days later, B.B. King turned up to accompany Sonny Boy onthe famed From The Bottom. B.B. revered Sonny Boy as an elderstatesman who had inspired the young Riley King during earlyappearances in Indianola. In 1948, B.B. had pursued Sonny Boy in WestMemphis, sat in on his KWEM radio show, and began gigging under SonnyBoy's wing. By the time they cut From The Bottom, B.B. was touringwidely as he scored hit after hit on the RPM label. During a falsestart where Sonny Boy misses his introductory cue, B.B. jives SonnyBoy with the line, "Where's my harp blower?," to which Sonny Boy canonly grumble in the negative while the other sidemen crack up. But Trumpet was foundering financially; the only record to bereleased from the '54 sessions was number 228, From The Bottom/EmptyBedroom in Feb. '55. An additional two titles, No Nights By Myself,(a reprise of Mighty Long Time), and Boppin' With Sonny Boy (aretitled take of Clownin' With The World) were leased to Vincent'sAce label for a period of 18 months. On April 15, Lillian sent aletter to Sonny Boy in Belzoni, enclosing a check for his recentdoctor's bill, and another for $10, "for transportation for aconference about some business. Phone and let me know when you cancome; don't call me at 3:15 in the morning." The sad business of themeeting was to let Sonny Boy know that Diamond Record Co. would beselling his recording contract to Robert "Buster" Williams of PlasticProducts Co. to cover an enormous back debt to the Memphis pressingplant. Williams had a little label -- Buster -- but LeonardChess would soon pick up the contract, and by September, Sonny Boy'sfirst Checker release, Don't Start Me Talkin'/AII My Love In Vain,was breaking nationally. In the interval between the two $10 checks-the binder on Dec. 7,1950 and the travel money of April 15, 1955-the creative symbiosisbetween Sonny Boy and Lillian had resulted in scores of fine bluesrecordings, some of which lay unissued for 40 years, others of whichenjoyed great success in their day and became a part of the livingblues heritage of Jackson and the South. The hits had put more than afew meals on Sonny Boy and Mattie's table, occasionally paid therent, and added great depth to the blues-singing rascal's wardrobe.The McMurry's would have to work overtime for years to pay off all ofDiamond Record Co.'s debts, but as Lillian later explained, "I reallyenjoyed the record business. It was very rewarding -- notmonetarily, mind you, but to your soul." -- MARC RYAN -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Photos: Front Cover: Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Jr. Lockwood,1940's courtesy of Blues Unlimited. Inlay: Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup,1952, RCA Victor publicity photo courtesy of W.D. Shook, III, M.D., Inside Booklet: Original Record Martgraphic courtesy of Blues Archive, University of Mississippi. Originally produced by Lillian S. McMurry. Original recordings made by the Diamond Record Company. This release produced by Marc Ryan. Special thanks to Lillian S. McMurry and Mattie Thurman forinterviews, to Suzanne Flandreau and Tinsley Silcox of the BluesArchive, University of Mississippi for research and to David Evans,Bill Ferris, Robin Cohn and Dave Sax. Earlier research and interviews by the following writers have beeninvaluable in compiling these notes: Almost Slim, Vitrice McMurry,Jim O'Neal, Daryl Stolper and Peter Lee. Portions of LillianMcMurry's interviews are excerpted from Living Blues, Goldmine, andBlues Unlimited. All recordings courtesy of and property of the University ofMississippi, Center For The Study of Southern Culture. Design by Matt Minde. Hand Coloring by Peter Amft. Alligator Records Trumpet Series coordinated by David Forte. Artdirection by David Forte and Matt Minde. She Brought Life Back to the Dead courtesy of Arhoolie Records Other releases in the Alligator Records Trumpet Series include: Also of interest; Trumpet Records: An Illustrated History withDiscography by Marc Ryan. Available from Big Nickel Publications, Box157, Milford, NH 03055.