LITTLE BROTHER MONTGOMERY piano, vocal and band blues
Little Brother Montgomery (p, vcl-*) with – On Saturday Night Function Ted Butterman (cnt) Bob Gordon (cl) Rufus Brown (ts) Mike McKendrick (bj) on Up the Country Blues, Michigan Water Blues; Butterman, Gordon, McKendrick. On Trouble in Mind; Butterman, Gordon. On Oh, Daddy; Butterman, McKendrick; vocal is by Elaine McFarland. On Somethin’ Keep Worryin’ Me; Butterman only. On Sweet Daddy; McKendrick only. Home Again Blues, Prescription for the Blues, and 44 Vicksburg are unaccompanied piano solos.
Recorded at “The Birdhouse,” Chicago; September 6, 1961
Home Again Blues (4:01) (Berlin – Akst)
Up the Country Blues (4:38)* (E. Montgomery)
Saturday Night Function (4:57) (Bigard – Ellington)
Michigan Water Blues (3:37)* (Jelly Roll Morton)
Sweet Daddy (Your Mama’s Done Gone Mad) (3:06)
Prescription for the Blues (3:42)* (Porter Grainger)
44 Vicksburg (2:15) (E. Montgomery)
Trouble in Mind (3:32)* (Richard M. Jones)
Riverside Boogie (2:32) (E. Montgomery)
OH, Daddy (3:25) (Herbert – Russell)
Somethin’ Keep Worryin’ Me Blues (5:34)* (E. Montgomery)
Careful planning is usually to be recommended, particularly when you are engaged in a large-scale and probably last-chance effort to round up and record artists from a by-gone Golden Era of jazz, many of whom have drifted into relative obscurity over the years. But during the actual carrying out of the two related “Living Legends” series that I have supervised for Riverside in New Orleans and Chicago, accident and coincidence were on more than one occasion very important assistants, and turned out to be responsible for some highly prized additions to both series.
Sometimes it was a matter of fortunate timing – as when our trip to Chicago happened to coincide with a club engagement by the band of Earl Hines, who is surely a vital figure in that city’s jazz legend but who is largely to be found on the West Coast these days. (As a result, Hines can be heard on “A Monday Date” – Riverside 398 and Stereo 9398.) At other times it was a matter of where luck, and our feet, happened to take us. That was the case with LITTLE BROTHER MONTGOMERY.
One evening, photographer Steve Schapiro and I were on our way up famed State Street towards the Basin Street Club (where Hines and his men were playing). As we were about to cross the street, I suddenly heard someone singing Michigan Water Blues. It brought to mind an old Jelly Roll Morton 78rm record I had bought years ago; but it had been quite some time since I had last heard the record – or, for that matter, heard anyone tackle that number on or off record. We made an immediate about face in the direction of the sound, and trace it to what proved to be a newly-opened cocktail lounge called “Hey Rube.”
As we walked into the dimly lit room, the sound of music grew stronger and, through a haze of cigarette smoke we spotted the singer and player seated at a small upright. It was Little Brother, a musician who had first been heard on records back in the days of the Paramount label. We introduced ourselves, and were soon treated to a healthy portion of vocals and instrumentals, blues and otherwise, by Little Brother, guitarist-banjoist Mike McKendrick (who was working with him), and a number of other musicians who just stopped by to sit in. We were informed that these others were Montgomery’s friends and that he was coaching them. We had already decided to add Little Brother to the list of jazz veterans scheduled for Living Legends recording, and had told him so. “I’d like to record with these men,” Brother noted, “because we play together a lot and I think they are real good.” It sounded like a good idea, for although Montgomery had recorded rather frequently in the past, it had almost always been as a solo performer, and never in the relaxed natural surroundings provided by the company of friends like these. It struck us that this casual gathering – which happened to involve three horns and only one other rhythm instrument – was in all probability very much like the way in which the easy-going 1920s Chicago musical style of Johnny Dodds, Jimmy Blythe, Natty Dominique and the rest had come into existence.
On Wednesday, September 6, Little Brother and friends strolled into “The Birdhouse,” the club that was converted into a recording studio for most of the afternoons of our stay in Chicago. The session began, in suitably unorthodox fashion, not with some hallowed Chicago-style blues, but with Saturday Night Function – which brought forth fond memories of an old Ellington unit recording by “Sonny Greer and His Memphis men.” Shortly thereafter technical difficulties forced us to take a break while a spare part was rounded up for one of our tape machines. But the musicians good spirits survived this unlooked-for intermission, and we soon proceeded to move swiftly through the varied vocal and instrumental program reproduced here, ranging from solo piano pieces on up, always featuring Montgomery but with frequent spotlighting of his colleagues.
Little Brother’s friends are all much younger than he is. Cornetist Ted Butterman, when he isn’t playing, owns and operates a delightful place called “Figaro”, between State and Rush Streets, where one can get refreshments while listening to a juke box that features anything from The Mound City Blue Blowers’ 1929 recording of Hello Lola to the latest by Cannonball Adderley. Singer Elaine McFarland, heard on one track in this album, and clarinetist Bob Gordon performed at Basin Street, alternating with the featured band, Mile McKendrick is a true “living legend” who can be hers on many old recordings as well as on several other albums in this series.
Little Brother Montgomery was born Eurreal (a name he doesn’t often use) Montgomery, in Kentwood, Louisiana on May 17, 1907. His first professional jobs were in New Orleans but he soon made Chicago his home base, as did so many other blues artists, with occasional trips back south. Known mainly as an accompanist, on records he has played behind such singers as Irene Scruggs, Annie Turner and Creole George Guesnon (who, incidentally, can be heard on several albums in the “New Orleans: The Living Legends” series). Little Brother was first recorded as a signer in his own right during the mid-1930s. He has recorded numerous piano solos as well during a career that – as has been the case with many other jazzmen who have remained faithful to a traditional idiom – has managed to keep him alive and reasonably active in clubs and bars much like those he first played in as a young man. Also a good band pianist (as is indicated here), Montgomery often works with local groups around Chicago, most notably those led by Franz Jackson and Al Wynn, bandleaders who are also featured in albums in this series.
This album is part of an extensive group of recordings of traditional jazz as it is played today, made by Riverside in Chicago during September, 1961, and issued under the general series title, “Chicago living Legends.” The musicians featured here can also be heard in the initial albumin this series, which is an overall survey of the current Windy City scene.
CHICAGO: The Living Legends (RLP 389/390; Stereo 9389/9390 – a two-LP set
Montgomery’s playing and singing are also featured on –
SOUTH SIDE BLUES (RLP 403; Stereo 9403)
(This recording is available in both Stereophonic (RLP 9410) and Monaural (RLP 410) form.)
Produced by CHRIS ALBERTSON
Recording Engineer: BARRETT CLARK
Mobile unit assistant: RICHARD COHN
Alum design: KEN DEARDOFF
Cover and back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
Mastered at Plaza Sound Studios
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York City36, New York