Sam Theard (1904-1982) was an actor and a comedian as well as a songwriter who apparently lived for years off of royalties from his magnum opus, "Let the Good Times Roll." While he was young he cut about 50 hot novelty blues, hokum, and jazz records designed for house party entertainment. Late in life he showed up on TV and in movies with people like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor. In 1996 Austria's Document label reissued 25 of Theard's early recordings on one CD. Covering a time span from April 1929 to May 1936, this collection is a veritable dipstick of lowbrow hedonistic humor, and is chock-full of smutty titles like "She Skuffles That Ruff," "She's Givin' It Away," "Huggin' and Kissin' and Gwine On," and "Rubbin' on That Darned Old Thing." For lascivious fun, "She Can Love So Good" is second only to the erotically charged version by Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon. Theard dutifully serves up a rendition of his own masterpiece "(I'll Be Glad When You're Dead) You Rascal You" as well as its repetitively droll sequel "I Done Caught That Rascal Now." On the first seven selections, Theard performs with guitarist Tampa Red, who seems always to have been most comfortable when performing songs about human sexuality. The original "You Rascal You," along with a handful of other collaborations with pianist Cow Cow Davenport, was reissued by Document under Davenport's name. The pianist on "I Ain't No Ice Man" and "Hot Dog Man" is believed to have been Davenport, but this remains unverified like much of Theard's personnel. Four titles waxed for Brunswick during the autumn of 1929 are known to have piano accompaniments by one W. Benton Overstreet.
More than half of the recordings on this collection were originally issued under the name of Lovin' Sam from Down in 'Bam. Theard's two Gennett recordings, released under the name of Sam Tarpley, were included for the sake of completeness, but they are incredibly scratchy, and convey more surface noise than most people would wish to experience. Those who enjoy the sound of a needle passing through scratchy Bakelite grooves at 78 rpm will be delighted. Three sides recorded in 1934 were marketed as by Lovin' Sam Theard (The Mad Comic). "That Rhythm Girl" and "Till I Die" find him backed by an actual swing band under the leadership of drummer Louis P. Banks, who at one point operated with sponsorship by the Chesterfield cigarette company. For this reason the band was identified on its Decca record label as Banks Chesterfield's Orchestra. Identified members were trumpeter Walker Collins, alto saxophonist Roy Fleming, and pianist Albert Ammons, who shows up on the final two titles, both recorded in 1936: "New Rubbing on That Darned Old Thing" and "I Wonder Who's Boogiein' My Woogie Now." Theard and Ammons are the only identified members of this lively jazz band, billed as Oscar's Chicago Swingers. Research hints that the Oscar in question was John Oscar, the pianist on "I Done Caught That Rascal Now." The rest of the titles known to have been released under Theard's name between 1937 and 1940 were included by Document on Jazzin' the Blues, Vol. 3, one of many fascinating compilations spun out by this phenomenally resourceful historic reissue label during the 1990s.