‘Boogie Woogie Stomp’ bumped as America’s Gift’s earliest rock ‘n’ roll record.
Below is a page from my blues history book, America’s Gift, showing the rocking blues I consider the six earliest prototype rock ‘n’ roll records. (The book features 20 in all.)
I’d decided against putting Clarence ‘Pinetop’ Smith’s 1929 hit, ‘Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie’ at number one in my chart, wondering if it could really be classified as early rock ‘n’ roll? As the first record to actually name boogie woogie, Pinetop’s track was important enough in its own right, as the hit that introduced boogie woogie piano to the world.
At the time of writing, I thought Albert Ammons 1936 track ‘Boogie Woogie Stomp’ captured the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll more than Pinetop Smith’s.
Born in 1904, Clarence Pinetop Smith was shot dead in Chicago in 1929, aged just 24. The moniker Pinetop later passed to Joe Perkins, born in 1913, who lived until 2011. Smith, of course, wasn’t the first Pinetop and Perkins probably won’t be the last.
Hastings Street – that’s what we’re talking about.
Researching a new book I’m writing on the history of rock ‘n’ roll, I’ve just discovered a record, albeit recorded after Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie, that truly knocks my man Albert Ammons off the top perch.
The record is ‘Hasting Street’, recorded in the summer of 1929 by pianist Charlie Spand, with ragtime and blues guitarist, Arthur ‘Blind’ Blake, sitting in. I hope you’ll listen to my new historic blues video below, and see if you agree Hasting Street deserves to be my earliest rock ‘n’ roll record. Also, tell me if you think Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie should be included at number two. I’d love to hear from you.
So, who was Charlie Spand?
Not much is known about Charlie Spand except he was a barrelhouse pianist, born in 1893, possibly in Alabama. One of the most influential piano players of the 1920s, Charlie relocated from Detroit to Chicago in 1929 where he started performing and recording with Blind Blake.
The track Hastings Street, named after the main entertainment street in Detroit’s Black Bottom district, is one such recording.
Charlie Spand recorded only 33 tracks in all, disappearing from the annuls of music history soon after his final recording session, backed by blues legends Big Bill Broonzy and Little Son Joe, in Chicago in 1940. I’m guessing Lester Melrose and the Bluebird label was involved in this.
That’s Charlie, of course, in the YouTube thumbnail above.
Blind Blake: another enigmatic bluesman.
Arthur Blake, another enigmatic early blues figure, is thought to have been born blind in Florida in 1896. Below is a cropped version of the only known photograph of Blind Blake taken from Paramount’s 1927 Book of Blues.
Rated as one of the most accomplished ragtime and Piedmont blues guitarists of the 1920s (and possibly all time), Blind Blake recorded 80 tracks for Paramount between 1926 and 1932. Arthur ‘Blind’ Blake disappeared from the blues annuls in 1932, eight years before Charlie Spand.
They were two rare blues innovators who today seem almost forgotten, more’s the pity.