Diddy Wah's on Fire pt.1

Elmore James - Stranger Blues Elmore James - Anna Lee

Elmore James - Stranger Blues
Elmore James - Anna Lee

Fire Records founder, Bobby Robinson, led an interesting life. He served with the US Army in Hawaii during WWII. His job was booking entertainment for the troops. While there, he made a bit on the side as, in his own words, a loan shark. It was enough that when he was discharged and returned to the mainland, Robinson was able to buy a former hat store on 125th Street in Harlem. In that spot he opened a record store, one of the first black-owned businesses in the area. Robinson also started several record labels -- Red Robin, Whirlin’ Disc, Fury, Fire and Enjoy -- and throughout the 50s and 60s produced some incredible blues, R&B and doo wop. In the late 70s, Enjoy even released some early hip hop, including Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five's first record.

Elmore James was one of Fire's biggest artists. He was a well established bluesman -- singer, guitarist, songwriter, band-leader -- before he began recording with Robinson in 1959. Today's selections were released in 1962, not long before James dusted his last broom. Stranger Blues has a forceful rhythm. Each instrument comes out sounding strong, particularly James' guitar and Johnny Acey's piano. The vocals contain a heavy echo effect, which could have been Robinson's input. Anna Lee is a slow but powerful blues of the forlorn love variety. Listen out for the horns. Although these tracks were recorded in New York, they have a distinctly Chicago feel.

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