Rooster Blues Records presents the official U.S. debut of


Street date August 29, 2000

Until it was finally closed down in 1994, Chicago’s Maxwell Street was the home of one of the world’s largest open-air markets. It was a shopper’s paradise, a junk hound’s Mecca; it was a place where people from all parts of Chicago met on equal terms; it was a con man’s hunting ground, a tourist’s stroll; it was a place to save souls, and it was a place to play the blues. Maxwell Street on Sundays drew thousands of shoppers, merchants, and tourists, and scores of blues performers, folk singers, and gospel singers, including some of the most famous names in the blues.Carey Bell, Mike Bloomfield, Robert Nighthawk, Big John Wrencher, Johnny Young and rarely recorded singers Jimmy Brewer and Arvella Gray were captured in the filming of Mike Shea’s now-legendary documentary about the Maxwell Street Market, And This is Free.

In the mid 1990s, Shea’s son, Patrick, approached producer and recording engineer Ian Talcroft of Studio IT with a couple of old reels of tape in battered boxes. On the tapes was the voice of Johnny Young, playing live on Maxwell Street, a performance that only a handful of people had heard in more than thirty years. Here, in entirety, for the very first time, are the songs and sounds of Maxwell Street, circa 1964.

And there were more tapes — all the original recordings made in conjunction with the film.

Carey Bell is the last surviving musician recorded on the And This Is Maxwell Street tapes. An excellent harp-blower and a fine vocalist, he continues to record and perform. These 1964 recordings are Bell’s earliest known performances captured on tape.

And This Is Maxwell Street also includes some of the earliest known recordings of Mike Bloomfield, who would have been about 21 at the time they were made. Gordon Quinn, who did the sound work on the film, recalls that Bloomfield was playing with Robert Nighthawk and John Lee Granderson on "Dust My Broom" in And This is Free, and that filmmaker Mike Shea intentionally kept him off-camera.

James "Blind Jim" Brewer, born in Brookhaven, Mississippi in 1920, moved to Chicago in 1940. Brewer performed regularly on Maxwell Street singing both blues and religious songs. He died in Chicago in 1988.

John Lee Granderson, a Tennessee native, played in the Memphis area in the 1920s with Sleepy John Estes and Hammie Nixon. At one point in his career he performed with John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. Moving to Chicago in 1928, Granderson played regularly on Maxwell Street in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, often teaming up with Robert Nighthawk, Johnny Young, Big John Wrencher, and others.

Blind Arvella Gray, born in 1906 in Somerville, Texas, lost his sight and the first two fingers of his left hand while attempting a robbery in 1930. Turning to music to make a living, he was a regular performer on Maxwell Street from at least 1946. Gray performs a 7 1/2 minute version of "John Henry" here, with lyrics "that were not in the Library of Congress until he put them there," according to Chicago musicologist Bob Koester.

One of the greatest blues slide guitarists, Helena, Arkansas native Robert Nighthawk influenced Elmore James, Earl Hooker, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and a host of others. A teenaged Nighthawk learned to play harmonica in 1924, and was taught guitar by his cousin Houston Stackhouse in 1930. Living in St. Louis by the mid-1930s, he recorded for the Bluebird and Decca labels, landing on Aristocrat before 1950, where he recorded Sweet Black Angel (aka Black Angel Blues) and Annie Lee Blues, versions of which are on And This Is Maxwell Street. In 1964, Nighthawk had several studio sessions and was captured live on Maxwell Street in And This Is Free. Three years later he died in Helena.

The under-recorded John Wrencher was a self-taught harmonica player and singer who lost an arm in an automobile accident in Memphis in 1958, and became a regular performer at the Maxwell Street Market when he settled in Chicago four years later. He died in 1977 in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Johnny Young, born in 1918 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, was an accomplished guitarist and singer, but he felt the mandolin was his first instrument. In 1940, Young moved to Chicago where he was active both in clubs and on Maxwell Street until his death in 1974.

The superior sound of the original tapes of And This Is Maxwell Street is available again for the first time since 1964, lovingly re-mastered with state-of-the-art digital equipment by Ian Talcroft of Studio IT.

"The [recently discovered]’And This is Maxwell Street’ tapes should require a major re-write of blues history. Blues release of the year? -- hell, of the decade." - Cub Koda

Chosen as one of the most significant blues recordings released this century by Blues and Soul Records (January 2000)

"I just finished listening to the two "And This Is Maxwell Street" CDs. The package and music are beautiful. I loved every second of it. I really like the street sounds in between the tunes, too." - Charlie Musselwhite

track listing:


1. Johnny Young - The Sun Is Shining Previously unreleased 2. Big John Wrencher - Can’t Hold Out Much Longer Previously unreleased. Among the earliest known recordings of Big John Wrencher. 3. Carey Bell - Juke Medley First authorised release. A precursor of the harmonica classic "Juke" performed by Carey Bell. Among the earliest known recordings of Carey Bell. 4. Robert Night Hawk - That’s All Right Previously unreleased 5. Little Arthur King - Red Top/Ornithology First authorised release 6. Carey Bell - Maxwell Street Jam Previously unreleased. Among the earliest known recordings of Carey Bell. 7. Big John Wrencher - Lucille Previously unreleased. Among the earliest known recordings of Big John Wrencher. 8. Arvella Gray - Corinna, Corinna Previously unreleased 9. Carrie Robinson - Power To Live Right Previously unreleased 10. Robert Night Hawk -Cheating and Lying Blues First authorized release 11. Robert Night Hawk - Honky Tonk Previously unreleased 12. Robert Night Hawk - Dust My Broom Previously unreleased 13. Robert Night Hawk - Peter Gunn Jam Previously unreleased 14. Robert Night Hawk - I Need Love So Bad First authorised release. First unedited release. 15. Johnny Young - All I Want For My Breakfast Previously unreleased 16. Robert Night Hawk -Take It Easy, Baby First authorised release 17. Unknown - Long Gone John Previously unreleased


1. Big Mojo Elem - Mama, Talk To Your Daughter Previously unreleased. Among the earliest known recordings of Big Mojo Elem. 2. Carey Bell - I’m Ready Previously unreleased. Among the earliest known recordings of Carey Bell. 3. Carey Bell - Carey’n On Previously unreleased. Among the earliest known recordings of Carey Bell. 4. James Brewer gospel group - When The Saints Go Marching In Previously unreleased 5. Robert Night Hawk - Back Off Jam Previously unreleased 6. Arvella Gray - John Henry Listen for the money dropping! Previously unreleased 7. Robert Night Hawk - Anna Lee/Sweet Black Angel First authorised release. First unedited release. 8. Big John Wrencher - Love You Tonight Previously unreleased. Among the earliest known recordings of Big John Wrencher. 9. Robert Night Hawk - The Time Have Come First authorised release. 10. Carey Bell - Cruisin’ In A Cadillac Previously unreleased. Among the earliest known recordings of Carey Bell. 11. Robert Night Hawk - Honey Hush First authorised release 12. James Brewer gospel group - Ill Fly Away Previously unreleased 13. Fannie Brewer - I Shall Overcome Previously unreleased

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