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Daddy Stovepipe

The given name of Daddy Stovepipe was Johnny Watson; among other aliases he worked under during his long life were "Jimmy Watson" and the "Rev. Alfred Pitts." Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1867, Daddy Stovepipe may well have been the earliest-born blues performer to record. His career began around 1900 in Mexico as a twelve-string guitarist in early mariachi bands. Ultimately Daddy Stovepipe established himself as an entertainer with the Rabbit's Foot Minstrels, a southern traveling tent show that also gave rise to the careers of Ma Rainey, Jaybird Coleman, Brownie McGhee, Louis Jordan, Jim Jackson, and others. Settling into the role of a one-man band, Daddy Stovepipe worked as an itinerant street musician, centering around Maxwell Street in Chicago. On May 10, 1924 Daddy Stovepipe made his way to Richmond, Indiana and cut the first pair of 16 extant tracks that he would record in the 78 era. These are indeed among the most primitive blues performances on record, with "Sundown Blues" played in a jaunty 6/8 time. In July 1927 Gennett's mobile unit recorded Daddy Stovepipe in Birmingham, Alabama with a whistler named Whistlin' Pete, about whom nothing else is known. Issued as by "Sunny Jim and Whistlin' Joe", these sides are even more of a guilty pleasure than the first two, despite their extreme rarity.

In 1931 Daddy Stovepipe was recorded by the ARC mobile facility in Chicago for Vocalion's race series. Here he was partnered by Mississippi Sarah, in real life Sarah Watson and "Mrs." Daddy Stovepipe. She was a good singer and an expert jug player, and the married couple's humorous back and forth banter make the 12 sides they made together a very special side attraction in recorded blues. Eight titles were made by the duo in Chicago in 1931, and the remaining four followed in 1935 for Bluebird. Afterward, the "Stovepipes" settled down in Greenville, Mississippi and Daddy Stovepipe went to work away from music, but Sarah Watson's unexpected death in 1937 sent her husband back out on the road.

In subsequent years it appears that Daddy Stovepipe was playing in the American Southwest and in Mexico. For a time in the 1940s Daddy Stovepipe played in zydeco bands in Louisiana and Texas, and by 1948 he was back up on Maxwell Street, where he was working at the time of his rediscovery. He reappears once again before the microphone in 1960, recording such unpromising fare as his versions of "Tennessee Waltz" and the jump tune "Monkey and the Baboon." By that point he was 93 years old and not sounding particularly great. Daddy Stovepipe died just three years later after surgery to remove his gall bladder led to bronchial pneumonia. He had been born during the first days of reconstruction, and died the same month as President John F. Kennedy.

Johnny "Daddy Stovepipe" Watson should not be confused with Cincinnati-based one-man-band Sam Jones, who recorded under the odd name of Stovepipe No. 1. Nor should he be confused with McKinley Peebles, who recorded as Sweet Papa Stovepipe. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Richer Tradition Country Blues & String Band Music

Disc 1

1. Guitar Blues

2. Time Ain't Gonna Make Me Stay

3. Sundown Blues

4. Salt Lake City Blues

5. Whiskey And Gin Blues

6. James Alley Blues

7. Goin' To Leave You Blues

10. Bamalong Blues

11. Man Trouble Blues

12. Blue Coat Blues

13. Frisco Whistle Blues

14. Two Ways To Texas

15. Gravel Camp Blues

16. T And T Blues

17. Death Bell Blues

18. C.C. & O. Blues

19. Middlin' Blues

20. Rolling Log Blues

21. Kyle's Worried Blues

22. Bull Frog Blues

23. Sobbin' Woman Blues

24. Miss Meal Cramp Blues

25. The Unknown Blues

Disc 2

1. Jail House Blues

2. Blues, Just Blues, That's All

3. String Band Blues

4. Black Cat Blues

5. Dirty Guitar Blues

6. Boodle-Am-Shake

7. Quill Blues

8. The Jug Band Special

9. Cold Morning Shout

10. Violin Blues

11. Easy Winner

12. G. Burns Is Gonna Rise Again

13. I Got A Gal

16. Adam And Eve

17. Runnin' Wild

18. Giving It Away

19. Jackson Stomp

20. Old Hen Cackle

21. Travelin' Railroad Man Blues

22. Old Hen Cackle

23. Ted's Stomp

24. Dusting The Frets

25. Arkansas Traveller

Disc 3

3. Mean Conductor Blues

4. Back Door Blues

5. Spanish Blues

6. Helena Blues

7. I Heard The Voice Of A Pork Chop

8. Rising River Blues

9. She Could Toodle-Oo

10. Weak Minded Woman

11. Old Rock Island Blues

12. Cairo Blues

13. I Ain't Givin' Nobody None

14. Showers Of Rain Blues

15. Framer's Blues

16. If I Call You Mama

17. Never Drive A Stranger From Your Door

18. Mississippi Swamp Moan

19. Paddlin' Madeline Blues

21. South Carolina Rag

23. Poor Jane Blues

24. Window Pane Blues

25. Hot Jelly Roll Blues

Disc 4

1. Labor Blues

2. Goin' Away Blues

3. No Baby

4. Early Mornin' Blues

5. Dreaming Blues

6. Weeping Willow Blues

7. Way Down In Arkansas

8. Wild About My Loving

9. Indian Squaw Blues

10. Florida Bound

11. God Didn't Make No Monkey Man

12. Tallahatchie River Blues

13. Diamond Ring Blues

14. Bedside Blues

15. Lonesome Midnight Dream

16. Billy Goat Blues

17. That Won't Do

18. Ghost Woman Blues

19. 'toby' Woman Blues

20. Rollin' Dough Blues

21. Starvation Farm Blues

22. Farewell To You Baby

23. Teasin' Brown Blues

24. Married Woman Blues

25. Dago Blues

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