Peetie Wheatstraw

Complete Works, Vol. 2

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

With the second of seven volumes comprising Document's complete works of Peetie Wheatstraw, we arrive at the threshold of his fully formed style, perfected over many months of steady gigging while the Great Depression prevented him from making any records. Tracks 1-9 were cut in March and August 1934 with guitarist Charley Jordan, and when compared with Peetie's earlier achievements the difference is apparent from the get-go. Until 1938, when he began to vary the structure of his tunes, nearly every Peetie Wheatstraw record would begin with an instrumental introduction he had initiated, while backing vocalist Pretty Boy Walker back in 1932. This patented intro would become Wheatstraw's signature, as instantly recognizable and ubiquitous as those of inner-city graffiti artists during the final decades of the 20th century. The other audible innovation is Peetie's singing style, which by 1934 had undergone a dramatic transformation involving what would swiftly become his other trademark: the soon-to-be-widely-imitated use of the phrase "ooh, well, well" to punctuate and accentuate his delivery. During this period, Wheatstraw recorded for Decca (the label on which his music would appear exclusively beginning in October 1936) and Vocalion, the company responsible for peddling some of his titles to the Sears & Roebuck Co., who released them on their Conqueror label. Originally backed with a title by Tee McDonald, the jazzy "Throw Me in the Alley" is a rare treat in the form of an upbeat Wheatstraw record involving extra instrumentalists. Billed as Peetie Wheatstraw & His Blue Blowers, this hot little group included trombonist Ike Rodgers and pianist Henry Brown, as well as two unidentified individuals playing clarinet and violin. Other participants on this satisfying collection which covers Wheatstraw's progress through July 1935 are guitarists Teddy Darby and Charlie McCoy, as well as steel guitarist Casey Bill Weldon, whose handle derived from K.C., an abbreviation of his old stomping ground, Kansas City. "Keyhole Blues" and "Long Time Ago Blues" pare the instrumentation down once again to Wheatstraw and his guitar, sounding more lonesome and personal than he generally did at the piano. Issued as the flipside of a Jimmie Gordon record, "Doin' the Best I Can" borrows its melody from "Sittin' on Top of the World" which was first introduced by the Mississippi Sheiks. "Good Whiskey Blues" and its sequel "More Good Whiskey Blues" are straightforward appreciations of legalized liquor (including imported Holland gin!) as opposed to the perils of unregulated, often poisonous prohibition booze. "C & A Train Blues," which refers to the Chicago and Alton railroad, is the first recording on which Wheatstraw amends his nickname by calling himself the High Sheriff from Hell.

blue highlight denotes track pick