Rev. Mary Whitebush & Granny's Blue-Mers

VINTAGE, DIRTY, HOKUM, LOW DOWN & VAUDEVILLE BLUES and BURLESQUE

LIL JOHNSON

August 8, 2017
marymicari

 

LIL JOHNSON

LilJohnson

 

One day I found and anthology of Dirty Blues and I was hooked! Many of the songs I do in this act are by Lil Johnson.  Not sure who she was or if this picture is her but it’s all that’s out there.  Information in the articles below are from several sources and you can follow links to the others she worked with as well.  Please go to the discography portion and take a listen to the music she recorded.  Many others have covered them.  I aim to do her justice when I do! I am pretty sure she was a great performer and comedienne as well as a powerful singer.  I am also pretty sure her stage name was an inside joke too!– Rev. Mary

 

 

Click below to hear me live with a great amount of amazing blues and swing musicians on the “porch” at Agusta Blues and Swing Week.

 

Lil Johnson made use of one thing that always sells in music, every time: sex.

She eventually toned down her lyrics somewhat, since record company censorship was beginning to plague her as well as shifting public taste. Nonetheless, she recorded quite a few sides between the late ’20s, when she first appeared in the recording studios, and 1937, when she performed on her last known songs. Like many pianists and singers from this period, her recordings fell into a state of copyright limbo in which just about anyone capable of sequencing a series of tracks was able to release her songs on anthologies relating to the blues and boogie-woogie piano. There was a particular interest in Johnson‘s case among producers of collections such as Copulatin’ Blues, a title that apparently seems appealing enough to be used for several different collections by unrelated labels. Song titles such as “You’ll Never Miss Your Jelly Till Your Jelly Roller Is Gone” reveal how appropriate her material is to such collections, although she never really made up her mind which direction she wanted to go into with the food-equals-sex metaphors; at one point switching from jelly rolls to peanuts — “Get ‘Em From the Peanut Man,” the listener is advised — and eventually settling on something that is actually healthy, cabbage. “Anybody Want to Buy My Cabbage?” Johnson asks on this side, one of several of her records in which the solid feel of the rhythm and the peskiness of the blues improvisations make up for relatively uninspired lyrics.

Her origins and early life are not known. She first recorded in Chicago in 1929, accompanied by the pianists Montana Taylor and Charles Avery on five songs, including “Rock That Thing”. She did not return to the recording studio until 1935, when her more risqué songs included “Get ‘Em from the Peanut Man (Hot Nuts)”, “Anybody Want to Buy My Cabbage?”,[1][2] and “Press My Button (Ring My Bell)” (“Come on baby, let’s have some fun / Just put your hot dog in my bun”).[3] She also recorded a version of “Keep A-Knockin’“, which later became a hit for Little Richard.

From her second session onwards, she formed a partnership with the ragtime-influenced pianist Black Bob, who provided ebullient support for her increasingly suggestive lyrics. In 1936 and 1937, she recorded over 40 songs, mostly for Vocalion Records, some featuring Big Bill Broonzy on guitar and Lee Collins on trumpet. Her other songs included “Was I?”, “My Stove’s in Good Condition”, “Take Your Hand Off It” and “Buck Naked Blues“.

She sang in a vigorous and sometimes abrasive manner. All her songs have been anthologized on later blues collections. There is no record of what became of Johnson after her recording career ended in 1937.

 

AllMusic Review                             by Scott Yanow

All the recordings by the good-time blues singer Lil Johnson have been reissued on three Document CDs. Virtually nothing is known about Johnson outside of the recordings that she made. Vol. 1 starts off with five numbers from 1929, in which she is backed by either Montana Taylor or Charles Avery on piano (with Tampa Red sitting in on “House Rent Scuffle”). Otherwise all of this music is from 1935-36, with Johnson usually accompanied by pianist Black Bob and various bassists, plus, on two numbers, guitarist Big Bill Broonzy. Her best-known number, “Get ‘Em From the Peanut Man (Hot Nuts),” is here (in three different versions), along with such other rollicking tunes as “Anybody Want to Buy My Cabbage,” “If You Can Dish It (I Can Take It),” “Press My Button (Ring My Bell (Yanow, n.d.)l of the recordings by the good-time blues singer Lil Johnson have been reissued on three Document CDs. Virtually nothing is known about Johnson outside of the recordings that she made. Vol. 1 starts off with five numbers from 1929, in which she is backed by either Montana Taylor or Charles Avery on piano (with Tampa Red sitting in on “House Rent Scuffle”). Otherwise all of this music is from 1935-36, with Johnson usually accompanied by pianist Black Bob and various bassists, plus, on two numbers, guitarist Big Bill Broonzy. Her best-known number, “Get ‘Em From the Peanut Man (Hot Nuts),” is here (in three different versions), along with such other rollicking tunes as “Anybody Want to Buy My Cabbage,” “If You Can Dish It (I Can Take It),” “Press My Button (Ring My Bell),” and “Sam the Hot Dog Man.” Fun music.

 

Bibliography

Chadbourne, E. (n.d.). Lil Johnson | Biography | AllMusic. Retrieved 8 7, 2017, from AllMusic: http://www.allmusic.com/artist/lil-johnson-mn0000226091/biography

Lil Johnson. (n.d.). Retrieved 8 7, 2017, from Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lil_Johnson_(blues_singer)

Yanow, S. (n.d.). Complete Works in Chronological Order, Vol. 1 (1929–1936) – Lil Johnson. Retrieved 8 7, 2017, from AllMusic: http://www.allmusic.com/album/complete-works-in-chronological-order-vol-1-1929-1936-mw0000076670

Recordings

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/lil-johnson-mn0000226091/discography

Lil Johnson Vols 1–3Document Records[5]

References[edit]

  1. Jump up^“Lil Johnson Discography”. Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
  2. Jump up^Chadbourne, Eugene. “Lil Johnson | Biography & History”AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
  3. Jump up^“Press My Button (Ring My Bell) – Lil Johnson lyrics”. LyricsOfSong.com. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
  4. Jump up^“Harry’s Blues Lyrics Online, Lil Johnson Lyrics, page 2”. Blueslyrics.tripod.com. Retrieved 2015-09-07.
  5. Jump up to:ab c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. pp. 125–126. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  6. Jump up^“Lil Johnson – “Hottest Gal In Town” (1936–1937)”. Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
  7. Jump up^Yanow, Scott. “Complete Works in Chronological Order, Vol. 1 (1929–1936) – Lil Johnson | Songs, Reviews, Credits”AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
  8. Jump up^Yanow, Scott. “Complete Works in Chronological Order, Vol. 3 (1937) – Lil Johnson | Songs, Reviews, Credits”AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
  9. Jump up^Yanow, Scott (1995-02-15). “Complete Works in Chronological Order, Vol. 2 (1936–1937) – Lil Johnson | Songs, Reviews, Credits”AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-05-07.

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