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Episode #641

Air Week: August 15-21, 2022

Elvis’ Rhythm & Blues Influences

45 years ago this week, we lost the “King Of Rock n’ Roll. Much has been written about Elvis’ enormous impact and popularity over the years, but it’s almost impossible to overstate the cultural shift that took place as he rose to fame in 1956. Elvis was a musical sponge. He absorbed all the music that moved him and those around him, from Country and Hillbilly to Gospel, Pop, R&B and Blues. This week’s “Juke In The Back” focuses solely on the rhythm & blues that motivated Elvis’ early career. During the end of his first session with Sam Phillips, Elvis cut into an inspired rendition of a semi-forgotten Arthur Crudup gem and rock n’ roll was literally born. From the New Orleans R&B of Smiley Lewis, to the jump blues of Wynonie Harris, Elvis dug it all and made each song uniquely his own. He wasn’t copying his R&B idols, he was merely using their material as a springboard for his own blend of the White and the Black. Sam Phillips was right when he said that it would take a White cat with an African-American feel to propel this exciting R&B music into the mainstream and lucky for us, he found that in Elvis Presley. Matt The Cat presents many surprises in this week’s “Juke In The Back,” dedicated to Elvis’ strongest musical influence: Rhythm & Blues.

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Episode #640 – Jimmy Preston

Air Week: August 8-14, 2022

Jimmy Preston

Jimmy Preston made a major contribution to early Rock n’ Roll by ushering in the era of the screamin’ sax. “Messin’ With Preston,” “Hucklebuck Daddy,” “Hay Ride” and his other early sides for Gotham Records were highly influential in the new genre of Rhythm & Blues, but it’s his original version of “Rock The Joint” that he will always be remembered for. “Rock The Joint” from 1949 is a definite contender for the first Rock n’ Roll song, but since you can’t pin an entire musical movement down to just one tune, let’s just say that it was one of the first. It jumps, it wails, it swings and tells the story of how this music is really going to make them rock the joint. It was immediately covered by Chris Powell & The Five Blue Flames for Columbia, then Jimmy Cavallo, but most importantly, Bill Haley laid down a ground-breaking rockabilly version of “Rock The Joint” in 1952. So even though Jimmy Preston is mostly remembered for one major contribution, Matt The Cat has dug up many more noteworthy jump tunes to open your ears and tap your toe to. This week’s “Juke In The Back” is jumpin’ with some pristine shellac from the great and highly unappreciated Jimmy Preston. DIG!

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Episode #639 – Early Billy Stewart & R&B Jail Songs

Air Week: August 1-7, 2022

Early Billy Stewart & R&B Jail Songs

Many 1960s soul legends had their start in 1950s R&B and this week, the “JukeIn The Back” takes a listen to Billy Stewart’s early records for the Chess and Okeh labels. You can really hear Stewart’s distinctive singing style develop on his early recordings with Bo Diddley’s band providing the musical backing and the DC vocal group The Marquees (Marvin Gaye was a member) singing behind him. We’ll also spend a few days in jail as Matt The Cat spins a few “prison song” 78s. There are other surprises as well, so don’t miss this week’s “Juke In The Back.”

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Episode #638 – Little Esther Phillips: 1950-56

Air Week: July 25-31, 2022

Little Esther

Esther Mae Jones is one of the First Ladies of R&B, yet her 1950s output under the name Little Esther is sadly overlooked. Little Esther was discovered by bandleader Johnny Otis in 1949, when she was only 14 years old. Otis immediately added her to his musical ensemble. He had scored a few hits before, but nothing could have prepared Otis for his HUGE 1950 breakthrough record, “Double Crossing Blues,” featuring Little Esther and The Robins. Otis and his group dominated the R&B lists in 1950, scoring three #1 hit records and six R&B top tens, all featuring Little Esther. This week, Matt The Cat examines Little Esther’s records with Otis as well as her duets with The Dominoes, Bobby Nunn, Little Willie Littlefield and her many solo sides for the Federal and Savoy labels. Esther Jones would gain much recognition as Esther Phillips in the 1960s and ’70s, but as a teen in the 1950s, Little Esther laid the groundwork for musical genius. The spotlight shines bright on Little Esther, this week on the “Juke In The Back.” This is the “soul that came BEFORE rock n’ roll.”

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Episode #637 – John Lee Hooker: 1949-51

Air Week: July 18-24, 2022

John Lee Hooker: 1949-51

John Lee Hooker was one of the most influential and important musicians of the 20th Century. He single-handedly invented his own electric guitar boogie sound, which he let loose on the world with his first single, “Boogie Chillen'” in 1948. By early 1949, it was a number one R&B hit and Hooker was on his way to infamy. He took the Delta Blues he had learned growing up from his step-father, William Moore and his sister’s boyfriend, Tony Hollins and turned it upside down, creating his own distinct style. A style that was often copied, but never fully coped. Hooker knew that he wasn’t going to make any money getting stuck in record company contracts, so he would record for any company that would pay him up front. He waxed for numerous labels during the late 1940s and early ’50s and recorded under several pseudonyms, in order to protect himself from lawsuits. This week, Matt The Cat digs deep into John Lee Hooker’s early work for the Modern, Sensation, King, Staff and Chess labels as we feature his most important records from 1948-51. This is where it all began for the consummate “boogie man.” It’s in ’em and it’s got to come out, this week on the “Juke In The Back.”

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Juke In The Back Promo

1940s & ’50s Rhythm & Blues

At the end of the Second World War, economics forced the big bands to trim their once great size and thus, the Jump Blues combo was born. Between 1946-1954, rhythm and blues laid the tracks for what was to become Rock n’ Roll. So how come, 70 years later, this vibrant and influential music is still so unknown to so many?

Matt The Cat is going to change that with the radio program, “Juke In The Back.” These were the records that you couldn’t hear on the jukebox in the front of the establishment. To hear all this great 1950s rhythm & blues, you had to go to “Juke In The Back.”

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Juke In The Back: Demo The Show

 

Click below to hear a demo episode of “Juke In The Back.”

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