Thursday, December 13, 2007

RCA Victor no. 22-0099

With his percussive Barrelhouse piano and raucous vocals Piano Red’s music is good time music, for sure. William “Willie” Lee Perryman was born October 19, 1911 on a farm near Hampton, Georgia. His brother Rufus, 19 years older than Willie, had left home to make his living playing music before Willie was twelve years old. Their parents had bought Rufus a piano in hopes he would learn to play and make a more comfortable living as a musician rather than farming. Rufus performed under the name of “Speckled Red” a nickname given him as both boys were albino African-Americans with reddish-brown freckles.

After Rufus left home, Willie began banging on that old piano as he had seen his older brother do. By 1930 Willie was playing with other Georgia bluesmen such as Barbecue Bob and Curley Weaver at house parties and juke joints around Atlanta. Willie added some pop standards to his repertoire and by the mid 1930s he was playing for white audiences in the resort town of Brevard, North Carolina. In the mid-‘30s, he teamed up with Blind Willie McTell and the pair made their first recordings for the Vocolion label in Augusta, but the records were never released. While working with McTell, Willie Perryman began to bill himself as “Piano Red.”

Music was never his only means of support. Willie worked as an upholsterer during the week and played the piano on weekends. After parting ways with McTell, Piano Red performed at clubs on weekends and upholstering during the week. In 1950 he recorded his first solo outing for RCA Victor at the radio studios of WGST in Atlanta. That first record changed Piano Red’s life. The song’s he recorded that day were released by RCA Victor and almost instantly starting climbing the charts. It is rare enough for an artist to record a song that becomes a hit, but Piano Red struck gold with his very first release. And not just one song, but both songs on that first record, “Rockin’ with Red” and “Red’s Boogie” were National successes.

As I have mentioned earlier this week, our good friend Walt brought another stack of 78s from Cousin Wes’ outstanding collection to share with the riders on the Bus. I have been carefully transferring them to audio files all week. Tonight as I slipped the record from its jacket I was elated to find that first Piano Red recording, RCA Victor no. 22-0099.

Piano Red - Rockin' With Red.mp3

Piano Red - Red's Boogie.mp3

Y’all have a good weekend!


Anonymous dan said...

Hi Ed,
Love that barrelhouse sound. Boogie-woogie has always had a ton more rock than rock & roll. Thanks for these gems. I envy you with those stacks of old vinyl!

December 14, 2007 7:00 PM  
Blogger kjk said...

very nice. need to pick up a bass guitar, some day, and try to follow his left hand.

December 15, 2007 12:43 AM  
Anonymous rockin'n'rollin' said...

Very thanks Ed, i love this wonderful artist!
His piano has ragtime mood.

December 20, 2007 3:14 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Rockin'n'rollin', good to hear from you, it's been awhile. I, too love Piano Red's playing. Gotta love that barrelhouse piano.

December 20, 2007 8:13 PM  
Anonymous Calvin said...

Mmmmm I'm 14 years old and I LOVE Piano Red!!

I own the Bear Family boxed set, several other CDs, two LPs (One extremely rare and autographed), & two 45 RPMs.

I also just got a hold of FOOTAGE OF PIANO RED!!!!!!! I've watched it a thousand times over!

February 11, 2008 12:56 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Clavin, I'm glad to hear that younger folk are interested in th egreat music of the past. Sounds like you have quite a collection!

February 11, 2008 8:53 PM  

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