cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco

 

 

  These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.

 

 

"I was born poor, I live poor, and I am going to die poor." - [Arthur Crudup] .. .. .. "The story of “The Father of Rock n Roll” - [Americanbluesscene]. .. .. .. "His unique sound and memorable lyrics caught on with record buyers" - [msbluestrail]. .. .. .. "A sound that reflected a more easy going, simple, but not necessarily easier living, lifestyle." - [This review]

This is album review number 212 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.

The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album from my collection that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.

Links to the previous 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.

The list of great blues artists isn’t endless, although it may seem that way. Most people with even a passing interest in Blues music will be aware of Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, and from there on the names you know – the music you know, is a reflection of the depth of your interest.

This review features Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. Even among lovers of the Blues, his name is rarely mentioned, and yet he deserves recognition for his music.

There are only four solo albums credited to him.

  • Mean Ol’ Frisco (Fire, 1962)
  • Crudup’s Mood (Delmark, 1969)
  • Look on Yonder’s Wall (Delmark, 1969)
  • Roebuck Man (Sequel, 1974)

I have Mean Ole Frisco in my collection however it isn’t the original 1962 vinyl, but a re-issue on CD.

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
CD Label – [CLICK to enlarge]
Arthur Crudup recorded the 18 tracks appearing on this album at various times leading up to its release. In 1992 “Collectables” re-released the album on CD with the code COL-CD-5130.

My only complaint about the release is that it is claimed all the songs are recorded in stereo. Now, anyone with any knowledge will know that although stereo as a recording process did become available in the 1950’s, tracks like That’s Alright  (Mama) – track #1 , was recorded in 1946!

What this means is that the tracks have been reprocessed into artificial stereo – which when it comes to Blues from these early periods, is a crime!

They need to be heard in their original mono format.

Incidentally, the original vinyl release only had 12 tracks as opposed to the 18 on the CD.

According to the Mississippi Encyclopedia of Music – “Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup was a blues singer and guitarist who influenced not only blues musicians but also the development of rock and roll.

Arthur Crudup was born in Forest, Mississippi, on 25 August 1905. His mother, Minnie Crudup, was a musician.

As a boy, Arthur, nicknamed “Big Boy” because of his large stature, sang in the church choir. Crudup did not pick up a guitar until he was thirty-two years old, and he soon began playing in juke joints and on street corners, earning small amounts of money.

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
Arthur Crudup thought to be in his mid 30’s – [CLICK to enlarge]
He sang with the Harmonizing Four gospel quartet, which moved to Chicago in 1941. He again tried to earn a living playing the blues but soon found himself broke and homeless. His big break came when talent scout Lester Melrose heard Crudup performing on a street corner and invited him to a party at bluesman Tampa Red’s house.

Audience members, including Lonnie Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy, were impressed enough that Melrose arranged a contract for Crudup with RCA Victor. Over the next fifteen years Crudup recorded more than eighty songs for RCA, but his lack of business acumen meant that he found himself locked into contracts that gave most of the royalties for his songs to the record company.

Moreover, public musical tastes began shifting away from country blues sounds and toward more polished urban, Chicago-style blues and rock and roll.

Crudup returned to Mississippi in the late 1940s, disenchanted with the music business, and continued to perform until 1956. He earned his living mostly through farm work, though he recorded a few sides for smaller labels such as Trumpet (1952), Champion (ca. 1952), Ace (1953), and Groove (1953–54), generally under pseudonyms such as Art Crudux, Arthur Crump, and Elmer James.”

Ironically, now many decades later we can listen to Arthur Crudup and enjoy his more “unpolished” country-delta blues sound, a sound that reflected a more easy going, simple, but not necessarily easier living, lifestyle.

So, to the album on which I believe supporting him were Drummer Lawrence “Judge” Riley and bass player Ransom Knowling.

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
Lawrence “Judge” Riley

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
Ransom Knowling

Tracks:

1.That’s All Right (Mama)

2.Rock Me Mama

3.I’m In The Mood *

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco4.So Glad You’re Mine

5.Katie Mae

6.Moon Is Rising *

7.Mean Ol’ Frisco

8.Look On Yonder Wall

9.Ethel Mae

10.Too Much Competition

11.If I Get Lucky *

12.Dig Myself A Hole

13.Angel Child *

14.My Mama Don’t Allow Me *

15.Standing At My Window

16.Greyhound Bus

17.Death Valley Blues *

18.Coal Black Mare

* Not on the original vinyl release

How could you go past Track#1That’s Alright (Mama). Even if you have never have never heard of Arthur Crudup, there is a very good chance you would be aware Elvis recorded this track in the early part of his career.

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
Original Vinyl 33 1/3 RPM label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

I stopped counting the number of cover releases of this track, when I got to one hundred. Examples of artists who have recorded the track are: Muddy Waters, Rod Stewart, Johnny Winter, the Beatles through to Slade, Led Zeppelin to the Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton to Elton John

Although Arthur Crudup made his first recordings in September 1941 he recorded this track in 1946 and surprisingly it wasn’t as popular as some of the tracks he released earlier.

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
[CLICK to enlarge]
Yet his name will be forever associated with this track because of the success Elvis had with it when he recorded it in 1954. This track wasn’t the only Crudup piece Elvis recorded, he also released “My Baby Left Me” and, “So Glad Your Mine” – also on this CD.

Elvis is reported as saying – “Down in Tupelo, Mississippi, I used to hear old Arthur Crudup bang his box the way I do now and I said, if I ever got to the place I could feel all old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody saw.”

Certainly, there is some comparison between the two versions – Elvis rocked it with a wiggle and a walk and jived it til the girls squealed.

The “Big Boy” most certainly swung it – quite unusual for a Blues track, and as such is one of his few “uptempo” tracks on this CD – so here he sings with passion, energy and feeling that would have made the women squeal!

Not bad guitar playing either!

That’s Alright (Mama)

I go straight to Track # 2Rock Me Mama.

Now where track 1 was absolutely embryonic rock ‘n’ roll, this track brings it all back dawn to the Blues – and I love it!

Some will say the “Big Boy” actually co-wrote this with another “Big” man – Big Bill Broonzy. Not quite. 

However Broonzy did write a track called Rockin’ Chair Blues where it is pretty much the same song except “baby” in the refrain is replaced by “mama”. Today this would cause all sorts of copyright claims as Broonzy released his track in 1941and Crudup in 1944.

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
Arthur “Big Boy” Cradup in full flight – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

But these man (and women) had no hangups like today’s artists, the Blues was already a melting pot in its own right and songs were written, modified, re-written and many in fact have no direct history to an actual writer.

The thing was, you could take song and change it big, change it little, and then make it your own.

And, that’s what other artists like Jimmy Cotton, Otis Span and Buddy Guy did. 

Rock Me Mama

Next I stop at Track #4So Glad Your’e Mine.

This is another track that can truly be considered as a standard. Written and released by Arthur Crudup in 1946, ten years later Elvis would re-record it and put his own stamp upon it.

Arthur’s original kicks of with classic delta guitar playing before the vocal comes in. Now Arthur really is singing close to the “Holler Blues” style, while Elvis, he has his version open with piano and he bumps the tempo up – definitely NOT the blues.

It would be idiotic to try and say, which is the better version.

They are ten years apart – Arthur Crudup sings it like a man who is genuinely blessed to have a woman who treats him so good, a woman of the world.

Elvis? He really adds a rockabilly feel about it and while he sings the same lyrics, they are done so with young women in mind.

My baby’s long and tall
She’s like a cannonball
Say, everytime she loves me
Lordly, you can hear me squall
She cried: “Ooo-wee!”
I believe I’ll change my mind
She said: “I’m so glad I’m living!”
I cried: “I’m so glad you’re mine!”

My baby knows just how
To treat me right
Gives me plenty loving
Morning, noon, and night
She cried: “Ooo-wee!”
I believe I’ll change my mind
She said: “I’m so glad I’m living!”
I cried: “I’m so glad you’re mine!”

When my baby does what she does to me
I climb the highest mountain
Dive in the deepest sea
She cried: “Ooo-wee!”
I believe I’ll change my mind
She said: “I’m so glad I’m living!”
I cried: “I’m so glad you’re mine!”

So Glad Your’e Mine

Track #7 is Mean Ole Frisco, and it gives the album its name.

Written by Crudup he released it in 1942. The lyrics strongly suggest that he was ‘done bad” by his woman (as most blues singers declare), and that he lost her to the “big city” – San Francisco.

Well that mean old old frisco
And that lowdown santa fe
Done took my babe away
Lord and blowed back at me

Yes my mama told me
Papa told me too
Son every woman scream in your face
Lord she ain’t no friend to you

Lord I wonder
Do she ever think of me
Well I wonder I wonder
Will my babe come back to me

Yes I’m standing and looking
Watching that southern whistle blow
Well she didn’t catch that southern
Lord now where did the woman go

Lord I ain’t got no
Special rider here
I might leave
Because I don’t feel welcome here

It certainly was a popular song among other blues and contemporary singers, with artists such as Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, BB King and Eric Clapton, all releasing a version of the song.

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
[Click to enlarge]

 

Musically, the structure is a basic 3-chord blues that uses E, A & B7. Yet it actually has an “uplifting” element about it – he isn’t really down in the dumps – it’s more a warning to other men based on his experiences.

Mean Ole Frisco

Track # 11If I get Lucky Mama is a brilliant example of how his style and tempo had such an influence on the development of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This track just makes you want to dance!

Recorded in 1941 it is reputed as being a track that Elvis heard and later had said – “If I had any ambition, it was to be as good as Arthur Crudup”

It is one of the first tracks he ever recorded and it certainly reminds us how his voice was strangely high-pitched, which was incongruous for a man with a 6-foot 4-inch, 240 pound frame.

If I get Lucky Mama

The last track to be featured on the album of wonderful tracks is Track #15Standing At My Window.

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

This track is the epitome of the “down-home delta style of Blues that was part of his amazing styles and is played at a tempo of 90 beats/minute.

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

The track was recorded as part of a second session, in April 1942, featured a regular string bass to strengthen the rhythm.

Standing At My Window.

He will be remembered as one of the early electric guitarists in blues, Crudup often provided himself with simple, rocking accompaniments.

In 1971 Crudup filed a lawsuit for royalties owing. A figure of $60,000 was agreed upon and a cheque drafted, but the publishers refused to sign. He received nothing.

That same year RCA released an album of Crudup’s recordings entitled “Father of Rock and Roll.

Three years later, at the age of 69, Arthur Crudup was dead. He died on March 28, 1974 in Nassawadox,Virginia.

He died as he had lived, a poor man and we recall his own words – “I was born poor, I live poor, and I am going to die poor.”

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco
[CLICK to enlarge]

 

There are, as mentioned, plenty of compilation albums featuring his music – but only four original solo albums of which Mean Ole Frisco is one.

I doubt that the others are in any way inferior to this one, which I am pleased to have in the blues section of my music collection.

 

cream of the crate review # 212: arthur crudup – mean ole frisco

 


VIDEOS:

It was a wonderful surprise to find some live clips of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup.

 

Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup 1973 (Live Video)

 

Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup – Greyhound Bus Blues!

 

The very real Blues: Arthur Crudup & Sons

 

 


Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –

 

To view/listen album reviews 151 – 200 just click the image below –

cream of the crate: album reviews #151 – 200

 

Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 201 onward.

#201.  The Atlantics – The Great Surfing Sounds of The Atlantics

#202.  Otis Redding – Dictionary Of Soul

#203.  The Beatles – Live At The Star Club in Hamburg (1962)

#204.  Company Caine – Doctor Chop

#205.  John Mayall – A Hardcore Package

#206.  Tamam Shud – 2 on 1_Evolution & Goolutionites and The Real People

#207.  Various Artists – Starday: Dixie Rockabilly Volume 2

#208.  Bo Diddley – The Singles Collection

#209.  The La De Da’s – The La De Da’s

#210.  The Animals – The Complete Animals

#211.  The Rolling Stones – Aftermath