Texas Alexander

Texas Alexander, Vol. 3: 1930-1950

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Like the preceding volume, the third and final installment in Document's unprecedented Texas Alexander retrospective contains incorrect references to the year 1930, during which this artist made no recordings whatsoever. Volume Three opens with the remaining titles from Alexander's session of April 9, 1934, which took place in San Antonio with backing by members of the Mississippi Sheiks. These would be the last of his records to be released by the Okeh record company; although tracks 7-12 were waxed on the same day, they appeared on Vocalion, as did the rest of the sides he cut in 1934. His "Frost Texas Tornado Blues" was a response to the swift obliteration of Frost, a small town south of Dallas, by what is now believed to have been an F4 tornado which killed 41 people on May 6, 1930. Tracks 7-12 on this collection were released by Vocalion under the name of Texas Alexander & His Sax Black Tams, a group of unidentified accompanists who played piano, guitar, clarinet, and alto sax. "Normangee Blues" refers to a town where Alexander sometimes sang in public: it's where his cousin Lightnin' Hopkins remembered hearing him singing loudly in the middle of a baseball game. Throughout the ‘30s the two men traveled and performed together all across the region. Note that the "Polo Blues" refers to a cow that had been polled: this meant that its horns were removed in order to redirect the animal's energies into milk and meat. The song contains explicit references to making preparations -- with pistol, shotgun and shells -- for murdering a woman. This is pretty unsettling, given the fact that a few years later, Texas acted out the lyrics by killing his wife in cold blood. Tracks 13-20 were recorded in Fort Worth at the end of September 1934 with guitar accompaniment by Willie Reed as well an unknown bassist on "Katy Crossing Blues." Two titles from this session ("Texas Got the Blues" and "Tennessee Blues") are not included on this collection. Throughout the rest of the decade, Alexander performed on the streets and at public gatherings with Hopkins, as well as Chester Burnett (better known as Howlin' Wolf) and Lowell Fulson, with whom Alexander ventured as far as western Oklahoma. In 1940, he was found guilty of slaying his wife and imprisoned in Paris, TX for only five years. After his release he gravitated to Houston where he continued to perform in public with Lightnin' Hopkins. Alexander's last recordings ("Bottoms Blues" and a Robert Johnson-inspired "Cross Roads") were recorded there in 1950 for the Freedom record label, with backing by Benton's Busy Bees. While that name might suggest a sizeable group, the Busy Bees amounted to no more than guitarist Leon Benton and pianist Buster Pickens. At some point, Texas Alexander contracted syphilis, and he died from it in Richard, TX in April 1954. After many years of neglect, nearly all of his recordings have been reissued by Document, and his troubled legacy is there for all to hear and learn from.