I'm goin' down in Louisiana, baby, behind the sun. So Muddy Waters would sing in his well-loved 'Louisiana Blues'. Muddy may have been looking for mojo hands in New Orleans, but he would have been totally unaware of Goldband Records in the neighbouring port of Lake Charles. By the turn of the 1960s, Eddie Shuler's tiny label was recording all kinds of local music, including some of the most authentic downhome blues anywhere.
Many pioneering blues record buyers first became aware of the Goldband brand of blues in 1965 when Storyville Records of Copenhagen released the LP The Louisiana Blues in its Bluesscene USA series. The album was compiled by the late Mike Leadbitter, the founding editor of Blues Unlimited and the visionary researcher of Louisiana music (and much else). This CD is dedicated to him.
The first side of the Storyville compilation was devoted entirely to Juke Boy Bonner, a one-man-trio (harmonica, guitar and drum). Until then he had just one Goldband 45 rpm release, Call Me Juke Boy / Can't Hardly Keep From Crying, and that was almost impossible to find. Juke Boy was an intense bluesman who wrote deeply personal lyrics. Four of his sides are enhanced by the delicious piano accompaniment of Katie Webster.
Katie also graced the gorgeous Ashton Savoy session along with a moonlighting Lazy Lester on harmonica. Savoy's vocal tracks are so good you could almost believe, in a whimsical moment, that they were recorded by Eddie Shuler's arch-rival Jay Miller. At the time, of course, Miller was producing quality Louisiana blues masters for the Excello label with his star acts Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Slim and Lazy Lester. The LP also featured two tracks by Big Chenier (Clifton's uncle), included here: The Dog And His Puppies and Going To The City.
And so Goin' Down To Louisiana spotlights all the key tracks from the Storyville LP, but that's not all. During our tape archive excavations we've turned up a whole session by Port Arthur, Texas, harmonica bluesman Al Smith - who was clearly influenced by Slim Harpo. Then there's a previously unissued cut by Big Chenier, a rare fiddle outing this-.-and an obscure LP version of Chicken Stuff by steel guitar ace Hop Wilson. This generous 30-track collection is rounded off by original 45 releases from pianist Tal Miller, Big Chenier and Hop Wilson. Goldband Records expert (and my co-compiler) Dave Sax has contributed a note based on a new interview with Eddie Shuler, together with a discographical listing.
If you listen to the old Storyville LP today, you will notice the low-fi sound - due in part to too many tracks being squeezed onto the album. Now you can hear these tracks in the best possible sound, although with Goldband it will never be the hi-est of fi (which is part of the label's enduring charm). As a sidebar, Storyville's Karl Emil Knudsen assisted greatly with this project by supplying the LP tapes that were no longer in the Goldband vaults. Muddy Waters would have been impressed at all these goings on behind the sun, deep down in Louisiana.
By John Broven