DEAR JERRY: I recently picked up a box of 78s at an estate sale, most of which appear to be old-time blues.
Even though I recognize very few of the recording artists and do not own a 78 rpm player, I say this because so many have titles ending in the word “blues.”
One of these is “Muskadine Blues” (Regal 3296), by Little Walter Trio, which I'm hoping you can tell me a bit about.
For starters, what or where is Muskadine? I've not heard this word before. Even my huge dictionary jumps from musk to muskeg. No entry begins with m-u-s-k-a.
It would also be nice to know when this record came out, and a value estimate.
Mel Otis, Port Washington, Wisc.
DEAR MEL: Record labels are a legendary source of spelling and grammatical errors, and your Regal disc is an example.
The title should be “Muscadine Blues,” just as nearly all other recordings of muscadine-related songs.
Your dictionary should include muscadine, and define it as a grape or berry, native to a climate found mostly in the southeastern states.
Recorded in 1950, Little Walter's tune is about drinking wine made from muscadine grapes.
Besides harmonica wizard Little Walter, his Chicago-based trio includes Muddy Waters and Leroy Foster, both of whom are very well known.
In early 1953, when Little Walter's records became regulars in the Top 10, Herald reissued “Muskadine Blues,” hoping to jump on the bandwagon. As such, their single came out credited only to him (no “Trio”), and with a very different title: “Take a Walk with Me” (Herald 403). As a result, recent albums on compact disc combine both titles into one: “Take a Walk with Me (Muskadine Blues).”
Either the Regal or the Herald 78 can now sell in the $750 to $1,000 range.
Inspired by Little Walter's Regal original, and its unusual spelling, a record label named Muskadine came along in 1971 and began a fine series of various artists compilations honoring Chicago blues history. Their first LP, “On the Road Again (Anthology of Chicago Blues 1947-1954),” includes their namesake Little Walter Trio track, along with cuts by these other windy city blues legends: Baby Face Leroy (Foster); John Brim Trio; Othum Brown; Delta Joe; J.B. (Hutto) and His Hawks; Floyd Jones and His Trio; Johnny Shines; and Snooky & Moody (Muskadine LP-100).
As for other recordings with this tasty theme, here are some interesting variations: “Muscadine Wine” (Ken Will Morton and the Wholly Ghosts); “Muscadine Wine” (Keith Sewell); “Muscadine Wine” (Sam Hunt); “Muscadine Wine” (James Day and Fish Fry); “My Muscadine Wine” (Little Jimmy King and the Memphis Soul Survivors); “Yesterday's Muscadine Wine” (Syrup); “Muscadine” (John Balch & Jack Pearson); “Muscadine” (Langer & Raabenstein); and my personal favorite, a solid blues instrumental titled “Muscadine Blues,” by Skeebo Knight.
For the perfect companion piece to today's Chicago-blues-harmonica theme, read on:
DEAR JERRY: During the last week of September, one of the celebrity guests on the Bonnie Hunt Show was Elisabeth Moss, a star in the award-winning Mad Men TV series.
Of course they talked about Mad Men, as well as Moss' first Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Peggy Olson.
Then, almost as an aside, Elisabeth commented about growing up in Chicago (as did Bonnie Hunt) with both parents being musicians. Without mentioning their names, she stated her mother was one of the world's most famous female blues harmonica players. Then they went on to another topic.
Who is this famous harmonica player whose identity remains a mystery?
Sheri Nordland, St. Louis.
DEAR SHERI: It does seem odd to have such a renown blues legend for a mother, yet keep her name a secret.
With apologies to Elisabeth, her folks are now officially outed. Her parents are Ron and Linda Moss.
And to say mom is “one of” the world's most famous female blues harmonica players is an understatement. She is the most famous!
Linda has been playing harmonica professionally since age 15, backing many big name blues bands and singers from the Chicago area and beyond.
Just a few of those whose recordings include Linda are: Muddy Waters; Junior Wells; Son Seals; James Cotton; John Lee Hooker, Chick Corea, Isaac Hayes, Melissa Ethridge, Phil Upchurch, and the Edgar Winter Group.
More recently, Linda's harmonica artistry is featured with Kelly's Lot, a California-based blues-rock band.
IZ ZAT SO? The name Kelly's Lot comes from Kelly's Lot, a used car business (motto: "If you want a good deal, go to Kelly's Lot"), operated by Kelly Zirbes in Marina Del Rey, California.
Kelly's passion for singing and entertaining, coupled with a struggling market for car sales, motivated her to drive Kelly's Lot in an entirely different direction.
Five successful albums later, and a few years, have proven Kelly's decision to be exactly the right one. On any given night, Kelly and Perry Robertson, with their band, are likely performing somewhere in California, though this month (October) they are on their second European tour.