The New York to which Bob Dylan gravitated at the beginning of the 1960s was full of larger-than-life characters. Of the many that frequented the blues and folk bohemian scenes in Greenwich Village and beyond, Liam Clancy and Brother John Sellers were two names to check out.
Sellers was a veteran blues and gospel performer, who had been born in Mississippi in the 1920s, recorded from the 1940s onwards with the likes of Big Bill Broonzy and by 1960 was working as an MC/performer at Gerde's Folk City.
At the latter venue, the young Bob Dylan would play support to such bluesmen as John Lee Hooker and try out a bewildering array of styles (including Clancy's Irish traditional song) before developing into the greatest solo song talent of the Sixties.
'Brother John Sellers Sings Blues And Folk Songs' brings together music originally released on two 10" vinyl LPs in 1954. Production was supervised by legendary record man John Hammond, who eight years later would also discover and produce Bob Dylan's eponymous début album. The first of these Brother John Sellers 10" LPs was titled 'Sings Blues And Folk Songs' (Vanguard LP VRS 8005) and features the jazz talent of Sir Charles Thompson, piano, Ruby Braff, trumpet and the Count Basie rhythm section of Freddie Greene, guitar, Walter Page, double bass, and Jo Jones, drums. 'Farewell Work Life' has a strong Sellers vocal with rolling piano from Thompson and smoky, muted trumpet courtesy of Braff. The second 10" LP was 'Jack Of Diamonds' (Vanguard LP VRS 7022) and it has a decidedly more rural approach, with support from Sonny Terry (whose vocal whooping opens the original album), harmonica, and Johnny Jones, guitar. Terry's dynamic, wailing harmonica and vocal encouragement helps Sellers dig deeper into the blues and the two sessions make for an intriguing stylistic contrast.