Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Fiddle and the Blues: Will Batts

Although the fiddle is not usually the first instrument thought of when most folks think about the Blues, some African-American fiddlers were using the fiddle to great effect playing the Blues.

One of my favorite Blues fiddlers was Will Batts. Will Batts was Born January 24, 1904 in Michigan, Mississippi. He worked as a farm hand until sometime around 1930 when he decided to make a career out of his fiddle playing. He joined up with Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band, a group formed to play at the all-white country clubs and popular in the Beale Street music scene of fish fries and juke joints. Actually, the band was called Jack Kelly's Jug Busters when they played the white country clubs and parties and as the Beale Street Sheiks when they played the street parties and fish fries of Memphis. When they traveled to New York where they recorded their first session for the American Recording Company in August of 1933, they released the records under the new name as Jack Kelly's South Memphis Jug Band. The South Memphis Jug Band consisted of founder, guitarist and vocalist Jack Kelly, guitarist Don Sane, "Doctor" D.M. Higgs on jug, and Will Batts and his fiddle. The South Memphis Jug Band had a much bluesier sound than most jug bands of the time. One of the records from that 1933 session, "Highway No. 61 Blues" became a best seller for the band. By 1939 they had recorded a total of twenty cuts for the American, Banner and Vocalion labels.

Will Batts also backed a variety of other Memphis performers including Frank Stokes, who had been a member of Jack Kelly's Jug Busters and played with Don Sane. (Note: someone remind me to post some of the Stokes-Sane duo cuts someday. The interplay of these two guitarists is blues nirvana!)

Batts last recording was a session with harpist Big Walter Horton in 1952. Will Batts died on April 16, 1954.




Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band - Highway No. 61.mp3

Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band - Red Ripe Tomatoes.mp3

Frank_Stokes-Old_Sometimes_Blues.mp3

Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band - Doctor Medicine.mp3


Y'all have a good weekend!

2 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

I have been reading and listening to the rattly old bleu bus for getting to be pert near a year now. I have learned one thing for sure, eh. We have a fiddling good weekend every weekend.

October 20, 2006 10:32 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

In answer to our leader's question "Is our children learning?" it would seem the answer has got to be "Why sure they is!"

Has it been a year, Beer, since you first stumbled onto this Bus? I suppose it has. It wouldn't have been half as good a trip without your organic beer induced philosophy.

Cheers, my friend. I hope some day to share a bottle and some riled good conversation with you in person.

October 22, 2006 5:14 PM  

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