The Fiddle and the Blues: Will Batts
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.
Y'all have a good weekend!