The Original Memphis Blues Brothers is an expanded version of the 1989 Ace album (Ace CHAD 265) compiled by Ray Topping. The new version has been compiled by John Broven, with liner notes by me. This CD is a wonderful snapshot of the vibrant early 1950s blues/R&B scene in Memphis, and contains much material not on the vinyl release, as well as hitherto unissued sides. New and fresh information on the artists and music has been gleaned from a specially-conducted interview in March 2000 with Joe Bihari, one of three brothers for whose Modern/RPM/Meteor labels this music was originally recorded.
Artists featured on the CD include BB King, with alternate takes of his first two 78 rpm releases for RPM Records-.-these tracks represent early output from the Memphis Recording Service owned and operated by Sam Phillips at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, and later to be the home of the legendary Sun label. Also to be heard are artists still working as active musicians to this day, but thrusting and ambitious back in 1951/52-.-men such as Rosco Gordon (no duplication with Bootin - The Best Of The RPM Years - Ace CDCHD 694), Ike Turner and the young Bobby Bland, whose vocal style so affected women at Bobby's gigs such as to keep lingerie manufacturers gainfully employed for many years!
Bland went on to fashion a lengthy recording career during the 50s and 60s with Duke Records in Houston, in common with another artist who followed the same trail from Tennessee to Texas, Junior Parker. Junior only had one release for Modern Records, but he is accompanied by Matt 'Guitar' Murphy, later to appear in "The Blues Brothers" movie - life-imitating art! Two other Memphis musicians recorded by the Bihari brothers, but spirited away by arch-hustler Don Robey of Duke Records were Johnny Ace and Earl Forest. Ace was to blow his brains out backstage at the Houston City Auditorium on Christmas Day 1954, but thankfully Earl Forest is still with us and has recently been rediscovered and interviewed.
All these artists, most of them now household names of the blues world, made their seminal recordings for the Bihari brothers, and if there is not actually a blood relationship between these giants of the post-war black music scene, there is certainly an affinity of filial proportions. Ace is proud to collect this music together on a CD of tough rockin' blues and R&B from the city on the Mississippi.
By Chris Bentley