Early SUN Records: Blues Part 5

… Another piece of the story of Sun Records.
More early blues music.

James Cotton:

James Cotton

Straighten up baby/Sun Single/194/recorded/December 7/53

Cotton Crop Blues/Sun Single/206/May 14/54

James Cotton is an American blues harmonica player, singer, and songwriter who is the bandleader for the James Cotton Blues Band.

He was born on July 1, 1935, in Tunica, Mississippi, the youngest of eight brothers and sisters who grew up in the cotton fields working beside their mother, Hattie, and their father, Mose. On Sundays Mose was the preacher in the area’s Baptist church.

By the age of 9 both of his parents had died. Cotton was taken to Sonny Boy Williamson by his uncle and when they met in West Helena, Arkansas the young fellow wasted no time – he began playing Sonny Boy’s theme song on his treasured harp. “I walked up and played it for him. And I played it note for note. And he looked at that. He had to pay attention.”

The two harp players were like father and son from then on. “I just watched the things he’d do, because I wanted to be just like him. Anything he played, I played it,” he remembers.

When he’d been with Sonny Boy, they had played a juke joint named “The Top Hat” in Black Fish, Arkansas. One night he heard Howlin’ Wolf was playing there so he went to the show. Cotton got along well with Howlin’ Wolf from the moment they met and they began to play together, with Cotton doing most of the driving down Highway 61.

He cut four songs at Sun Records: “Straighten Up Baby”, “Hold Me In Your Arms”, “Oh, Baby”, and “Cotton Crop Blues”. KWEM, a radio station in West Memphis, Arkansas, gave Cotton a 15-minute radio show in 1952.

At 74 years of age, he is still on the circuit and still playing the blues.

It is now getting into the mid-fifties, Rock and Roll is starting to gain momentum. Sam Phillips would record a number of both white and black performers in this new Rock and Roll Music, except years later they would look back and call it Rockabilly.

Here are the last two blues based releases I have of really unknown artists, but they did write their own music.

Eddie Snow:

Eddie Snow

Sun Single 226/recorded/1954/Ain’t that Right

Frank Frost:

Frank Frost

Phillips International (Sam’s new label) #3578/recorded/April 7/62/Jelly Roll King

Frank Frost (Born April 15, 1936 in Auvergne, Arkansas; Died October 12, 1999 (aged 63) in Helena, Arkansas); was one of the foremost Delta blues harmonica players of his generation.

Frost’s first exposure to music came as a young boy when he learned to play the piano for the choir in his family’s church. Frost moved to Saint Louis, Missouri when he was 15 and began his musical career as a guitarist.

He toured in 1954 with drummer Sam Carr and Mr. Carr’s father, Robert Nighthawk. Soon after, he spent several years touring with Sonny Boy Williamson, who helped teach him to play harmonica. After a hand injury, Frost turned his attention to the harmonica and piano.

Around 1960, Frost moved with Carr to the Mississippi Delta. After he played a show with the guitarist Big Jack Johnson, they added him to their group. Together they attracted the interest of the producer Sam Phillips, who years earlier had overseen Elvis Presley’s first recording sessions. He produced “Hey Boss Man” for Phillips International in 1962, with blues hybrids like “Frank’s Jump” showing off Frost’s diverse, intensely melodic harmonica solos.

Presley’s guitarist, Scotty Moore, produced Frost’s next album in Nashville, Tennessee.

In the late 1970’s, Frost was re-discovered by a blues enthusiast, Michael Frank, who began releasing albums on his Earwig Music Company label by the trio, now called the Jelly Roll Kings after a song from Hey Boss Man.

Over the years, cigarettes and alcohol wore Frost down but he continued to record, tour and diversify his repertory, appearing in the films “Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads” and “Crossroads“.



2 responses to “Early SUN Records: Blues Part 5

  1. I’m the granddaughter of Eddie Snow and I was wondering were did you get this music from? I’m a Mass Communications student at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville IL and I am doing a special piece on my grandfather. I was wondering if you could assist me.

    Letoyia Snow

    • Letoyia – I’m interested in learning more about Eddie Snow too. I write the newsletter for the Illinois Central Blues Club. I’d like to hear from you.

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