Posts Tagged ‘Big Bill Broonzy’

Saturday Single No. 365

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

The Texas Gal is absent today, heading this morning to the little burg of Underwood, Minnesota, about 120 miles northwest of here, for a church-sponsored workshop on community building. She and a few others from St. Cloud will share the experiences of our Unitarian Universalist fellowship in building a community garden.

In her absence, I hope to finish some of the last bits of autumn work: The tomato cages need to be moved from the garage to the fruit cellar in the basement, as does my 1950s-vintage red wagon so that we have room in the garage to park both cars during the coming winter. There are probably a few other bits and pieces of things that need to be gathered up in the garage, and I’m hoping that those tasks won’t take more than a couple of hours.

But I want to get to them relatively early, then settle down with a cup of coffee, the morning newspaper and the prospect of watching some college football. So I took a look this morning at the digital shelves, checking for tunes recorded in November over the years.

There were familiar names – Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell, Bessie Smith, Guy Lombardo, Muddy Waters, Professor Long Hair, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and onwards. There were also some names that rang faint if any bells: Freddy Spruell from the 1920s, Tommy McClennan in the late 1930s, the Five Breezes and Floyd Jones in the 1940s, Houston Stokes and Billy Nelson & The Five Wings in the 1950s, among numerous others.

But I chanced on a familiar name accompanying a tune recorded on a November 9 long ago, and although his name is familiar, I know very little about the history of the man. One of the few things I know about Big Bill Broonzy is that he wrote the classic “Key To The Highway.” Another of the few facts I have at hand is that he performed in John Hammond’s benchmark From Spirituals to Swing concerts in Carnegie Hall in December 1938 and 1939. (Hammond recruited Broonzy for the 1938 concert after learning that Robert Johnson had passed on during the summer of 1938.)

Beyond that, I know little about Broonzy. I’ll have to remedy that, and that should not be difficult. In the meantime, here’s “Leavin’ Day,” a Mercury release that Broonzy recorded in Chicago on November 9, 1951. I found it in Chicago Is Just That Way, a four-CD box set of Chicago blues released in 2005 by London’s JSP Records, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

(Distance to Underwood corrected since original posting.)