It was way back in 1969/1970, when the Bihari Brothers, the owners of Modern Records commenced a reissue series that opened the door to a whole new world of blues recordings.
The series of blues albums on the Bihari’s Kent Records label included compilations of blues recordings from Memphis, Arkansas, Detroit, Mississippi, Texas, West Coast and California blues. These sets were compiled by US collectors Frank Scott and Bruce Bromberg who were allowed to mine the Bihari’s vaults and issued as part of the "Anthology Of The Blues" 12 volume album series. What made these albums stand out was that they included unissued tracks and obscure blues artists - hitherto unknown to many, with the exception of a small band of dedicated record collectors on both sides of the Atlantic.
Albums from this series eventually found their way across the pond to the UK, some on Kent, but many appearing on the Bihari’s ultra-budget United series. In the UK we knew they were budget releases as they had no sleeve notes, no inner sleeves, even some of the covers were recycled! My copies were collected one by one from Robinson’s Records in central Manchester, whose owner regularly visited the USA and bought up and shipped back stock to the UK.
The previous four Ace releases in this series have featured tracks from those original Kent releases along with more unissued and alternate takes. This fifth set features artists originally included on the West Coast and California sets – Lowell Fulson, James Reed, Johnny Fuller, Roy Hawkins, Walter Robertson and Jimmy McCracklin.
The link between the Bihari Brothers and these artists was a small-time Oakland hustler and record label boss Bob Geddins. Geddins started his Big Town label in 1945, originally releasing gospel recordings until he signed Lowell Fulson a year later. Geddins looked after his artists and was willing to lease or sell on recordings to other labels and he didn’t stand in the way of his artists if they were looking for a better deal.
This was the type of relationship Geddins had with the Biharis. “We got Roy Hawkins from Bob Geddins, from Oakland…and the first Jimmy McCracklin release. I think Geddins got in touch with us, with Jules (Bihari) or myself. He didn’t have very good distribution, and he really was more interested in looking for talent and recording it. He put it out but he didn’t have distribution, so he made no money out of the talent and he’d sell it to us”, Joe Bihari told writer John Broven.
As with other CDs in this series there is a mix of original releases – Johnny Fuller, James Reed and Walter Robertson releases from Flair Records issued in 1954; Lowell Fulson sides originally cut for Geddins’ Down Town label in 1949 and sold onto the Bihari’s and re-issued on RPM; Johnny Fuller sides originally seeing release on the original Kent albums original issued in 1970; sides by McCracklin and Reed on P-Vine and Ace CDs; previously unissued Roy Hawkins and McCracklin plus three sides from John Dolphin’s Money label. For good measure there is one side from Johnny Fuller’s 1954 Money outing and both sides of the impossibly rare James Reed Money release from the same year.
Complete with detailed sleeve notes from researcher and writer Dave Sax, with the best possible sound and presentation – this is another great volume in a series that is blues collector’s dream.
Click here for Dave Sax and John Broven's updated Jimmy.McCracklin Modern Discography