The Hokum Boys

Complete Recordings: June-December 1929

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Document presents 25 historical recordings made between June and December 1929 by a constantly changing little group of Chicago musicians who called themselves the Hokum Boys. Key members were pianists Jimmy Blythe and Alex Hill, operating in cahoots with any of several guitarists including Dan Roberts, Bob Alexander, Alex Robinson, Ikey Robinson, and a banjo-toting guitarist named Bob Robinson, who doubled on the clarinet. Everybody involved in these groups participated in singing the often smutty songs that formed the nucleus of their hokum repertoire. "Hokum" was a type of blues and jazz-fueled entertainment designed to elicit laughter and encourage the listeners to cut loose, self-medicate, and blow off steam. Remember that these tunes were never intended to be heard in sequence as they appear on a compact disc holding as many as 25 tracks. The Hokum Boys made records that were purchased one at a time, with one song on each side of the 78-rpm platter, so it doesn't seem to have mattered to them whether or not the songs sounded alike. Subject matter included cravings ("Gin Mill Blues," "You Can't Get Enough of That Stuff," "Selling That Stuff," "Ain't Goin' to Beg You for That Stuff," and "It's All Gone Now") and human sexuality ("Let Me Pat That Thing," "Let Me Have It," "Somebody's Been Using That Thing," and "It's All Worn Out"). The invigorating "Somebody's Been Using That Thing" would be closely covered by Tampa Red almost exactly five years later in June of 1934. This delightfully scruffy historical anthology might not pack quite the wallop of similar collections by Tampa Red or Frankie "Half Pint" Jaxon, but it certainly is a treat to be able to get a load of what certain black folks were expecting to hear while partying down in Chicago during the year 1929. Don't let the sound quality on the first two tracks scare you away; these are very scratchy rarities that the folks at Document tacked onto the beginning so as to be chronologically thorough.

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