We did some gigs with Arthur Williams, including a tribute to Frank Frost at the Blues Estafette festival in the Netherlands, but logistics proved a hassle as Arthur no longer lived in the Delta. We put our heads together and decided to try John Weston and Dave Riley, both living in the Delta (though only part time in Dave's case). We recorded for a couple of days down in Helena, AR in July of 2000 and things seemed to click. We did a few festivals and agreed that the Delta Jukes could carry on the Jelly Roll Kings tradition. I think Frank Frost would be proud.
Sam Carr is one of the great living legends of Delta Blues music. He is the son of the legendary Robert Nighthawk (aka Robert Lee McCoy) and cut his teeth playing drums in his father's band. Frank Frost was the second guitarist in the band and this was the beginning of their life long partnership.
Sam and Frank later moved on to back Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller). Both of these bands toured throughout the Mississippi Delta and gave Sam and Frank the seasoning and experience they needed to strike out on their own. They had made a name for themselves and began working as a duo. Sam playing drums and Frank playing guitar with a harmonica on a rack. They continued to use the name The Nighthawks until they met a young guitar/bass player named Jack Johnson. Jack really broadened their musical palette and allowed Frank to play some keyboards as well. Like many Delta musicians before them, they went up to Memphis to see Sam Phillips about making a record. Sam was duly impressed and recorded them for his new Phillips label. They had a minor hit on Frank's song "Jelly Roll King" and were from then on called Frank Frost & The Jelly Roll Kings. They recorded several more records for Jewel and Earwig until Jack Johnson left the band in the late eighties to pursue a solo career. I came on board shortly thereafter as the band's producer and guitar player, recording them for Appaloosa, Evidence and Hightone. Frank, sadly, passed away in 1999. Sam continues to work with various bands throughout the Delta and does session work for Fat Possum Records. He even appears on Buddy Guy's latest album "Sweet Tea".
John Weston grew up near Helena in Brinkley, AR and always loved and admired the music he heard around him. He had always had a way with words and had fooled around with songwriting most of his life. He decided to get serious about music in the 1980's and taught himself to play harmonica and guitar. He also got serious about his songwriting. John is unique among Delta Blues musicians in that he is a songwriter first and a musician second. And what a songwriter he is! He soon found himself with a Fat Possum Records recording contract and a string of gigs around the world. After John's Fat Possum release (re-issued by Evidence Records), I met John and told him how much I liked his music and that I'd like to produce him. We recorded "I'm Doing The Best That I Can" for Appaloosa records in 1996. It received critical acclaim but it wasn't the breakthrough that John had hoped for. He has gone on to record for Shade Tree, Wilco and Fedora Records. The Delta Jukes album shows John to be as clever a songwriter as ever.
Last but not least is Dave Riley. I had jammed with Dave several times at Frank Frost's Juke Joint over the years. Frank and Sam sometimes used him on guitar for gigs around the Delta. Dave splits his time between Helena and Chicago and only recently became a professional musician. Which is not to say that he hasn't been active in music. As a young man he worked the Gospel circuit out of Chicago and moonlighted playing Blues in the clubs alongside Chicago's greats. He was also Byther Smith's bass player for many years. I first recorded him for the compilation CD "Blues Across America/The Helena Scene" on Cannonball Records and we did this album several months later. Dave is now in the process of doing a record for the Fedora label.
So, here we have the Delta Jukes. One of the last great juke joint bands.
Sadly, this tradition seems to be dying out in the Delta. I'm afraid that I'll live to see a time when homemade music and homemade whiskey cookin' up in a homemade shack will be just a memory. For now though, we have the Delta Jukes. I hope you like this album as much as I do.
Check out the artist's website:
1. I'm Overdue
2. Shopping For My Baby
3. Play The Game
4. Just Once More
5. This Misery
6. To Love Is Blues
7. Voodoo Woman, Voodoo Man
8. A Trade Was Made
9. Come Here Baby
10. Carr Hop
11. Working For The Blues
12. Hoover Den