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Texas Alexander

Texas Alexander sang the blues in a voice that sounds and feels today like that of a kindred spirit to Huddie Ledbetter, Washboard Sam, Henry Thomas, or Blind Lemon Jefferson, with whom he sang during the early 1920s. During the years 1927-1934, he recorded some 69 sides (64 of which were issued) for the OKeh and Vocalion record labels in San Antonio, Fort Worth, and New York City. His accompanists were mainly guitar players (Lonnie Johnson, Eddie Lang, Carl Davis, Willie Reed, and Little Hat Jones) and also included pianists Clarence Williams and Eddie Heywood, Sr. as well as cornetist King Oliver and the Mississippi Sheiks. Alexander played no external instrument, expressing himself solely with his voice. He is said to have carried a guitar around with him in order to attract accompanists. His recordings are precious relics of early 20th century African-American culture in the rural southwestern United States.

Alger Alexander was born on September 12, 1900 in Jewett, Texas, midway between Houston and Dallas, and came up in Leona. He learned how to sing on the streets and gained a local following by performing in taverns and at social functions throughout the region. An intuitive improviser, his free-form singing method was a personalized outgrowth of the work song and the field holler. Alexander's unconventionally irregular sense of timing was clearly tied to his thought processes and breathing patterns. Lonnie Johnson was one of his most adroit accompanists and later described the task as challenging. King Oliver, who was patently unperturbed by the singer's tendency to change keys or drastically shorten the length of a line by dropping four or five bars, simply filled in with his horn wherever necessary. (This relaxed creative approach would be echoed many years later when AACM member, trumpeter, and multi-instrumentalist Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith stated that "the blues is exactly, in my way of understanding it, a free music.") Texas Alexander's 1928 sessions with Johnson and Lang occurred amidst the first of their now-cherished guitar duets. On April 9, 1934 Alexander waxed eight sides for OKeh with Sam and Bo Chatmon, the fiddle and guitar duo known as the Mississippi Sheiks, and six titles for Vocalion with his "Sax Black Tams," a group of unidentified players who handled alto sax, clarinets, guitars, and piano. During the Great Depression, Alexander worked with his cousin Sam Hopkins, later known as Lightnin', and during the late '30s he sang with Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) and Lowell Fulson. His influence upon these men should not be underestimated.

According to reports, in 1939, Alexander acted out some of the frustrations inherent in his song lyrics by murdering his wife. For this he was confined in the State Penitentiary at Paris, Texas for five years beginning in 1940. (Later research called into question the allegations that Alexander killed his wife or spent any time in prison; he may have only been assigned to a work farm for "playing lewd music in public".) Alexander spent much of the late '40s in Houston, but by then his style of singing was far from fashionable, and an audition for Aladdin Records with his cousin bore him no fruit even as it led to Lightnin' Hopkins' first recording session with pianist Thunder Smith in 1946. Alexander's final record date took place in 1950 with guitarist Leon Benton and pianist Buster Pickens. The music was released on the Freedom label with the instrumentalists billed as Benton's Busy Bees. Alexander gradually succumbed to syphilis; he died from that malady on April 16, 1954 in Richards, Texas, and his remains were interred at Longstreet Cemetery in Grimes County. The musical impressions he left behind exerted a powerful influence on other Texas musicians and through them the entire nationwide blues tradition. Most of Texas Alexander's recordings have been compiled and reissued by the Document and Matchbox labels. A spurious statement to the effect that Texas Alexander composed "The House of the Rising Sun" is attributable to an erroneous interpretation of his 1928 recording, "The Rising Sun." All that the two songs share is a portion of the longer title and a serious case of the blues. ~ arwulf arwulf
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: King Oliver: Great Original Performances (1923-1929)

Disc 1

1. Mabel's Dream

2. The Southern Stomps

3. Riverside Blues

6. Snake Rag

7. Sweet Lovin' Man

8. High Society Rag

9. Sobbin' Blues

10. Chattanooga Stomp

11. King Porter

12. Too Bad

13. Deep Henderson

14. Jackass Blues

15. Sugar Foot Stomp

16. Wa Wa Wa

17. Dead Man Blues

18. Snag It

Disc 2

2. Every Tub

3. Willie The Weeper

4. Black Snake Blues

5. Farewell Blues

6. Sobbin' Blues

7. Tin Roof Blues

8. West End Blues

9. Longshoreman's Blues

11. Tell Me Woman Blues

12. In The Bottle Blues

13. What Ya Want Me To Do

14. New Orleans Shout

15. Rhythm Club Stomp

16. Edna

18. Don't You Think I Love You

19. Shake It And Break It

20. Stingaree Blues

x

Track List: Bo Carter & The Mississippi Sheiks

Disc 1

1. Good Old Turnip Greens

2. Sweet Alberta

3. It Ain't No Good - Part 1

4. It's Hot Like That

5. Blue Heaven Blues

7. Sitting On Top Of The World

8. The Jazz Fiddler

9. Stop And Listen Blues

10. Alma Waltz

11. Grind So Fine

12. It Still Ain't No Good

13. Mississippi Low Down

14. Seen Better Days

15. Frost Texas Tornado Blues

16. Jake Leg Blues

17. Bootleggers' Blues

18. I'm An Old Bumble Bee

19. Your Good Man Caught The Train And Gone

20. Unhappy Blues

21. Please Don't Wake It Up

22. I've Got The Whole World In My Hand

23. Same Thing The Cats Fight About

24. Times Is Tight Like That

25. You Gonna Need Me

Disc 2

2. My Pencil Won't Write No More

3. Banana In Your Fruit Basket

4. Sorry Feeling Blues

5. Twist It Baby

6. The Law Gonna Step On You

7. Howling Tom Cat Blues

8. What Kind Of Scent Is This

9. The World Is Going Wrong

10. She's A Bad Girl

11. Kind Treatment

12. Living In A Strain

13. Too Long

14. I Want You To Know

15. Last Go Round

16. Beans

17. Nobody Knows My Baby

18. Please Don't Drive Me From Your Door

19. Bed Spring Poker

20. I Got Blood In My Eyes For You

21. Shooting High Dice

22. She's Crazy About Her Lovin'

23. He Calls That Religion

24. Hitting The Numbers

25. It's Done Got Wet

Disc 3

1. I Am The Devil

2. She's Got Something Crazy

3. Youll Work Down To Me Someday

4. Somebody's Got To Help Me

5. Sales Tax

6. Lean To One Woman

7. I Can't Go Wrong

8. Dead Wagon Blues

9. She's Going To Her Lonesome Grave

10. Fingering With Your Fingers

11. Don't Cross Lay Your Daddy

12. Don't Do It No More

13. Old Shoe Blues

14. Let Me Roll Your Lemon

15. To Her Burying Ground

16. When Your Left Eye Go To Jumping

17. Spotted Sow Blues

18. All Around Man

19. You Better Know Your Business

20. Dinner Blues

21. Cigarette Blues

Disc 4

1. P**sy Cat Blues

2. The Ins And Outs Of My Girl

3. Bo Carter's Advice

4. Doubled Up In A Knot

5. Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me

6. Dont Mash My Digger So Deep

7. Flea On Me

8. Got To Work Somewhere

9. Shake 'Em On Down

10. Whiskey Blues

11. Shoo That Chicken

12. Old Devil

13. Country Fool

14. Santa Claus

15. Be My Salty Dog

16. Ways Like A Craw Fish

17. Lucille, Lucille

18. The County Farm Blues

19. Border Of New Mexico Blues

20. Arrangement For Me Blues

21. Trouble, Oh Trouble

22. My Baby

23. Policy Blues

24. Tush Hog Blues

25. What You Want Your Daddy To Do

x

Track List: Broadcasting The Blues: Black Blues In The Segregation Era

Disc 1

1. Baby, Please Don't Go

2. Match Box Blues

3. Yonder Come The Blues

4. Yellow Dog Blues

5. Walkin' Blues

7. My Soul Is A Witness

8. Long Hot Summer Days

9. Lucky Holler

10. Penitentiary Moan

11. Old Country Stomp

12. Dry Bone Shuffle

13. Mysterious Coon

15. You Shall

17. I Heard The Voice Of A Porkchop

18. Spike Driver Blues

20. Fare Thee Well Blues

21. Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home

22. Travelin' Blues

Disc 2

1. Chocolate To The Bone

3. Tennessee Dog

5. Washboard Cut-Out

6. Flying Crows Blues

7. Rules And Regulations 'Signed Razor Jim'

8. Ground Hog Blues

10. Wednesday Evening She Left Me

11. Lonesome Day Blues

14. Black, Brown And White

15. Pratt City Blues

16. Blues Before Sunrise

17. Blues Trip Me This Morning

18. Poor Man Blues

20. My Black Mama - Part I

21. Cotton Pickin' Blues

23. Number 29

24. Jim Crow Blues

Disc 3

1. Aunt Caroline Dyer Blues

3. Policy Dream Blues

4. North Memphis Blues

6. They Ain't Walkin' No More

7. Ice Pick Blues

9. Parchman Farm Blues

10. Shelby County Workhouse Blues

11. Working On The Project

13. Let's Have A New Deal

14. Tallahatchie River Blues

15. St. Louis Cyclone Blues

17. Fire Department Blues

18. Give Me A 32-30

20. Build A Cave

21. Crying Mother Blues

23. The Dirty Dozen

24. Three Ball Blues

25. Milk Cow Blues

26. Cool Drink Of Water Blues

27. Some Summer Day

30. Spirit Of Boogie Woogie

31. Fifty Miles Of Elbow Room

x

Track List: Rough Guide To Unsung Heroes Of Country Blues

1. Fishing Blues

2. Never Drive A Stranger From Your Door

3. Don't Put That Thing On Me

4. Cairo Blues

5. Keep It Clean

6. Poor Boy, Long Ways From Home

7. California Desert Blues

8. Little Girl In Rome

9. Married Man Blues

10. Fare Thee Well Blues

11. Lonesome Road Blues

12. Pick Poor Robin Clean

13. My Buddy Blind Papa Lemon

14. Old Original Kokomo Blues

15. Labor Blues

16. Section Gang Blues

17. Let's Go Riding

18. Roll And Tumble Blues

19. Please Ma'am

20. Cottonfield Blues - Part 2

21. Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do - Part 2 (Take 1)

22. Rolling Log Blues

23. You Can't Keep No Brown

24. Cherry Ball

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