Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Chris Brown, archivist, produces "Shreveport Farewell," the third in a series of CD's on forgotten Shreveport music

Chris Brown, Shreveport
Originally uploaded by trudeau
The Playmor Ballroom, the Golden Lily, the Star Theater, the Calanthean Temple: these were centers of black musical culture in Shreveport in the 1930's and 1940's. One day there will perhaps be a tour or a visitor center where the music of that era and the singers and bands will be celebrated.

Today few talk about the music, dance, sartorial style and community heritage engendered in Allendale and along Texas Avenue, once a regional magnet for black life.

Among those who are working to develop that story is Chris Brown, an archivist, music aficionado and, currently, a grad student in archival work at LSU in Baton Rouge.

Brown has interviewed the old heads, has pored over city directories and even sniffed through some 10 years of Shreveport Sun newspapers.

Brown made the rounds of his circle of Shreveport's history buffs this week with a sensual product of his digging: a CD of forgotten recordings. Produced by Brown, it is called "Shreveport Farewell, Our City's Songs, 1902 - 1977." On the disk are 28 cuts from disks collected at house sales, junk shops, and on the the internet.

It begins with Ramblin' Thomas, Blind Andy and the Pelican Wildcats, names that mean nothing unless the listener has the notes that Brown has written to explicate each singer and point out details in each set of lyrics.

The title "Shreveport Farewell" comes from a Little Brother Montgomery tune of 1936. "I Can't Dance / I Got Ants in my Pants" is a product of the same era by Kitty Gray and her Wampus Cats.

The record picks up a Louisiana Hayride vibe for a while, with cuts by the Bailes Brothers and Tex Grimsley. And it has quite a nice section on the rockabilly period. Gene Wyatt, the Mathis Brothers, Banny Price, Johnny Cash: Shreveport has been called the birthplace of rockabilly by numerous authors.

Shreveport in the 1960's? There are tunes recorded by Eddie Giles and by the In-Crowd.

Today a minister and gospel DJ at radio station KOKA, Reverend Giles was delighted to hear "Eddy's Go-go Train," a 1967 track from a record long forgotten by Giles. "Eddie called his co-worker to listen to the cut. The guy started dancing and noted how much Eddie sounded like James Brown," says Brown.

"Shreveport Farewell" is the third in a series of collections assembled by Brown. On the second one, "Shreveport, My Home Town: Our City's Songs, 1923 - 1981," there are cuts by the Shreveport Home Wreckers (1930) and Roy "Good Rockin Tonight" Brown (1947) as well as Hank Williams ("Cool Water," 1949) and Claude King ("Beer and Pinballs," 1951).

Willie Caston and the Ever Ready Gospel Singers (1953) are on it, as is Margaret Lewis (today, Maggie Warwick) when she was singing rockabilly.

The 1960's were celebrated via recordings by The Peermonts, the Cheques, the Rogue Show and Bill Bush.

His records are not for profit and are given to friends and history buffs by Brown, who urges that copies be made for people who crave a bit of weathered wax from the back racks.

For the past 10 years Brown was a DJ at KSCL, Centenary College's free form station. His program was called Art of the Insane. Quite a few of his Shreveport musician and record producer interviews, aired on KSCL, are documented on his Livejournal blog.


Pan's Pantry said...

It's just a fantastic CD. Brown deserves commendation. Glad you gave some, Trudeau.

Anonymous said...

Murco. Good lord but that's about way past old school. Jewel, Paula were the better known house brands of Stan Lewis, but Murco had the soul.

I played bass with Jimmy Johnson and the Peermonts for about four months in 1967. Jimmy still plays with Jerry Kolemay (can't remember the name of the group), and if you like that blue-eyed soul sound, it's worth tracking them down.

Me, I'm all for a Danny and Jerry reunion. Long overdue, you axe me.

Anonymous said...

It's not Christmas until I get one of these. I am so glad that someone is actively working to expand people's appreciation of Shreveport's musical history beyond the obvious Elvis and Leadbelly stories. There's a song on this disc called "Funky Spider" that is hilarious, funky, and amazing...

Anonymous said...

Where can You get one. I love Kitty Greys "Swingology"

Robert E Trudeau said...

Wampus, I'll be happy to make you a copy. Chris Brown totally wants us to make copies where requested.

Ring me at 861-6809 before you drop by or I guess I could drop one at MSS.

jdogg said...

This is John Shaw. I'm that guy that's working on the book "action Speaks Louder Than Words: Black Music and the Civil Rights Movement in Shreveport 1948-1998." How can these cd's of forgotten Shreveport music be obtained?

BJL said...

Hi - I'm trying to find out some information about Willie "Poppa Bill" Caston, the DJ and member of the Ever Ready Gospel Singers. In particular, the name of his wife. Can you - or anyone reading this - help? Thanks!