CD of the Month

CDOM Hayes McMullan lores

HAYES McMULLAN: Everyday Seem Like Murder Here

Light In The Attic LITA 152 (62:45)

This Is Hayes McMullan (story)/ Fast Old Train/ Looka Here Woman Blue/ Back Water Blues (false start)/ Goin’ Away Mama Blues/ Every Day In The Week/ Playing A Juke With Patton (story)/ Hurry Sundown/ How’d Your Brother Die (story)/ Sugar/ Smoke Like Lightning/ Goin’ Where The Chilly Winds Don’t Blow/ The High Water (story)/ Spider On The Wall Blues/ Spanish Fandango/ Charley, He Was Whiskey Headed (story)/ Hitch Up My Pony/ Every Day Seem Like Murder Here/ Who Gonna Be Your Baby?/ Discussions On A Barrelhouse (story)/ Gonna Get Me A Woman (aka Sunday Woman)/ Kansas City Blues/ Patton Was A Racket Man (story)/ Bo Weevil Blues/ Singing To The Children (story)/ ‘Bout A Spoonful (takes 1 and 2)/ No Triflin’ Kid/ Delta Walk/ Roll And Tumble/ I’m Goin’, Don’t You Wanna Go?/ Patton’s Death Hearsay (story)

Hayes McMullan was discovered in the Mississippi town of Sumner by researcher and writer Gayle Dean Wardlow in 1967. Wardlow – junking for 78s – was asking around stores and anyone who would give him the time of day if they knew anyone who had old Victrola records. He met McMullan in a store and told him he was looking for records by Blind Lemon and Charley Patton. McMullan responded by saying he knew Patton and had played with him!

When Wardlow picked himself up off the floor he arranged a meeting to play some Patton records, talk about Patton, and maybe play some blues. McMullan said he had given up the ‘devil’s music’ – he was a church going man now, but agreed to meet with Wardlow and gave an address in Tutwiler, three miles from the Mitchener Plantation.

In July 1967, Warlow, accompanied by Ted Jordan, took along a guitar and the Patton records. McMullan lived in a fifty-year-old sharecropper shack and talked about playing with Patton and Willie Brown, turning down a chance to record for Paramount and finally turning his back on blues music in 1930. Wardlow had taken the precaution of bringing a bottle of Old Crow whiskey (as he had promised) – and Hayes began to play, in the style of William Harris, Patton (but with a softer voice ‘like Tommy Johnson’) and Willie Brown.

Hayes could only recall parts of the songs so Wardlow arranged another visit and asked Hayes to get an old guitar and practice. They returned two weeks later and spent four hours talking and recording. A promise of a $250 payment to record in a studio resulted in Hayes stopping over with bluesman Johnny Temple in Jackson in September 1968. But before the session, Hayes got drunk with Temple. Worse was to come – the session was recorded onto old tape by the studio owner – the sound was distorted and useless.

They returned to the studio in November 1968. Wardlow kept an eye on Hayes to stop him getting drunk, and typed out the lyrics to the songs and although the studio used old tape the recordings came out well. Hayes was 65 when he made his first recordings. The sound is crisp and clear – McMullan is on fine form, playing both a twelve-string and a six-string guitar.

A number of the performances are pieced together from different songs, but they work really well especially ‘Everyday Of The Week’, ‘Spider’, ‘Bo Weevil’, ‘Roll And Tumble’ and the title track, and the ‘stories’ are not obtrusive or rambling.

Wardlow lost touch with McMullan who went back to the church and joined the civil rights movement. They were re-united in 1979 when McMullan appeared in the documentary ‘Good Mornin’ Blues’ narrated by B.B. King. Hayes McMullan died in 1986, aged 84. Prior to this set being reissued the only side previously available was ‘Looka Here Woman Blues’ which appeared on the CD accompanying Wardlow’s book ‘Chasin’ The Devil Blues’ published in 1998.

This handsome production is housed in a digi-pack with booklet notes by Wardlow, notes on the re-mastering and lyrics by John M. Miller plus photos and recording data.

I thought releases like this might be a thing of the past! But it’s not so! Big thanks are due to Gayle Dean for making these historical recordings available and Light In The Attic in Seattle for an altogether splendid release.

Also available in a limited ‘gold wax edition’ (two per customer!) and as a double vinyl album.

Tony Burke

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