Jeff Harris, presenter of the weekly radio programme Big Road Blues on WGMC Jazz 90.1., in conjunction with Document Records, presents a “Blues, Blues, Christmas”.
Document Records’ ‘Blues, Blues Christmas’ series of double albums presents over 120 tracks of vintage blues, gospel, jazz, do-wop, boogie, old-time country and rockabilly recordings spanning the 1920's through the 1960's, many songs which have not been anthologized before providing hours and hours of music for that next Christmas party, enough music until the eggnog runs out!
In this Document Podcast, using selections from all three of the current volumes of the series, Jeff focuses in on some of the recordings which, throughout four decades, were performed by and listened to by black Americans during the Yuletide period. It is an interesting thought that many of these records, some of which have since become rare, prized collector’s items, came into homes across the country, as Christmas presents courtesy of Santa Claus.
Hooray for Christmas!
Christmas comes but once a year, and to me it brings good cheer,
And to everyone, who likes wine and beer
Happy New Year is after that, happy I'll be that is a fact
That is why I like to hear, folks I say that Christmas is here
Those lines were Sung by Bessie Smith when she recorded “At The Christmas Ball” in November 1925 for Columbia which not only kicked off a tradition of Christmas blues songs, hundreds of which have been recorded through the years, but looked back to an older tradition. Perhaps more than any other music, the blues is deeply enmeshed in a particular culture, entangled in the era of segregation, the era of Jim Crow and the era of slavery. In his classic book ‘Screening The Blues’ Paul Oliver wrote “for the Negro, Christmas has a deep-rooted significance beyond that of the religious meaning of the celebration itself; a more worldly one of which has none the less firmly established itself in his folkways. Since far back in slavery Christmas has signified a rest, a break in the year's routine which no other festival affords, proving an opportunity for a man to be with his family and, for a brief period at any rate, from the rigorous monotony of rural labor.” The annual Christmas Ball was something looked forward to all year and as Oliver astutely notes “there may have been a change of venue--a Harlem cellar dive for the 'quarters' and a jazz band instead of the fiddles, but there was probably little difference in kind and certainly in spirit at the Christmas Ball described by Bessie Smith...”