Caption: A definitive recording in the history of Chicago Blues, featuring Muddy Waters, Leroy Foster, and Little Walter at the top of their game.
A definitive recording in the history of Chicago Blues, featuring Muddy Waters, Leroy Foster, and Little Walter at the top of their game. 

Blues Unlimited #155 - We Three Kings: Muddy Waters, Leroy Foster, and Little Walter

From: Steve Franz
Series: Blues Unlimited
Length: 01:59:01

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On this episode of Blues Unlimited, we aim the spotlight on a key transitional period in the history of post-war Chicago Blues, by focusing on the early recordings of three influential figures: Muddy Waters, "Baby Face" Leroy Foster, and Little Walter Jacobs. Read the full description.

Parkway501a_small When Muddy Waters, "Baby Face" Leroy Foster, and Little Walter Jacobs all walked into a recording studio one day in January 1950, they did more than just make music. They captured a definitive moment in the transformation of post-war Chicago Blues. It all happened thanks to Monroe Passis and his Parkway label, which he got up and running in the Windy City sometime in late 1949 or during the first few days of 1950. He was already running a record distributorship, and like many other entrepreneurial spirits, decided that making records would be a good addition to his business.

Muddy, who at the time was under contract to Aristocrat Records (which would become the Chess label in a matter of months), was frustrated that Leonard Chess wouldn't record him with his "working band." Leonard apparently insisted on repeating the "stripped down" hit formula that had worked so well in the past, although a mid 1949 session with pianist Little Johnny Jones and guitarist/drummer Leroy Foster was a notable exception. Even though the results were outstanding, Chess -- for whatever reason -- chose not to repeat them. At least not initially.

Unfortunately, Muddy's playing for Parkway behind Leroy Foster and Little Walter on "Rollin' and Tumblin,'" a smashing update of an old Delta classic, had proved a bit too enthusiastic, and his presence on the ensuing 78rpm single was easily detected by Leonard. Consequently, Chess rushed Muddy into the studio to cut a remake, and when the record came out on the market, as Leonard had predicted, it killed the Parkway version. Losing the steam of a burgeoning hit record was too much for the tiny company, and Parkway folded a few months later, having sold off their masters to another company.

After Parkway, Leonard Chess relinquished his tight studio grip over Muddy, finally allowing Little Walter, and eventually Jimmy Rogers, to accompany him on recording sessions. Leroy Foster moved over to the J.O.B. operation, but it proved to be short lived. His final session, in October 1952, was eerily prophetic. "The Blues Is Killin' Me," one of the titles he recorded that day, would predate his death due to alcoholism some six years later, a few days short of his 34th birthday.

After Little Walter had a smash hit with his first single for the Chess brothers, "Juke," he formed his own group, and Jimmy Rogers would come to occupy the "linchpin" position in the Muddy Waters band during the busy, heady days of the 1950s.

For a brief period of time, three musicians made musical history, and the Parkway recordings of Leroy Foster, Little Walter Jacobs, and Muddy Waters will always be remembered as one of those definitive moments in the history of Chicago Blues.

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Piece Description

When Muddy Waters, "Baby Face" Leroy Foster, and Little Walter Jacobs all walked into a recording studio one day in January 1950, they did more than just make music. They captured a definitive moment in the transformation of post-war Chicago Blues. It all happened thanks to Monroe Passis and his Parkway label, which he got up and running in the Windy City sometime in late 1949 or during the first few days of 1950. He was already running a record distributorship, and like many other entrepreneurial spirits, decided that making records would be a good addition to his business.

Muddy, who at the time was under contract to Aristocrat Records (which would become the Chess label in a matter of months), was frustrated that Leonard Chess wouldn't record him with his "working band." Leonard apparently insisted on repeating the "stripped down" hit formula that had worked so well in the past, although a mid 1949 session with pianist Little Johnny Jones and guitarist/drummer Leroy Foster was a notable exception. Even though the results were outstanding, Chess -- for whatever reason -- chose not to repeat them. At least not initially.

Unfortunately, Muddy's playing for Parkway behind Leroy Foster and Little Walter on "Rollin' and Tumblin,'" a smashing update of an old Delta classic, had proved a bit too enthusiastic, and his presence on the ensuing 78rpm single was easily detected by Leonard. Consequently, Chess rushed Muddy into the studio to cut a remake, and when the record came out on the market, as Leonard had predicted, it killed the Parkway version. Losing the steam of a burgeoning hit record was too much for the tiny company, and Parkway folded a few months later, having sold off their masters to another company.

After Parkway, Leonard Chess relinquished his tight studio grip over Muddy, finally allowing Little Walter, and eventually Jimmy Rogers, to accompany him on recording sessions. Leroy Foster moved over to the J.O.B. operation, but it proved to be short lived. His final session, in October 1952, was eerily prophetic. "The Blues Is Killin' Me," one of the titles he recorded that day, would predate his death due to alcoholism some six years later, a few days short of his 34th birthday.

After Little Walter had a smash hit with his first single for the Chess brothers, "Juke," he formed his own group, and Jimmy Rogers would come to occupy the "linchpin" position in the Muddy Waters band during the busy, heady days of the 1950s.

For a brief period of time, three musicians made musical history, and the Parkway recordings of Leroy Foster, Little Walter Jacobs, and Muddy Waters will always be remembered as one of those definitive moments in the history of Chicago Blues.

Timing and Cues

Hour 1: 00:00 - 1:00:34
In Cue: "Welcome to Blues Unlimited..."
Out Cue (at 59:34): "...coming up right after this break."

Break (60 second music bed): 59:34 - 1:00:34

Hour 2: 1:00:34 - 1:58:59
In Cue: "Welcome back to the show..."
Out Cue (at 1:55:44): "...next time, right here on Blues Unlimited."

Note: from 1:55:44 to 1:58:59, a song by Muddy Waters, Leroy Foster, and Little Walter, "Rollin' And Tumblin' Part Two," closes the show.

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label Year Length
Muddy Jumps One Muddy Waters One More Mile. MCA/Chess 1948 02:30
Mean Red Spider Muddy Waters The Aristocrat of the Blues. MCA/Chess 1948 02:20
You're Gonna Miss Me Muddy Waters Rollin' Stone. MCA/Chess 1948 02:40
Shady Grove Blues Leroy Foster Genesis Vol. 1 - The Beginnings of Rock. Chess 1948 02:48
Locked Out Boogie Leroy Foster The Chess Story. Chess 1948 02:30
Streamline Woman Muddy Waters The Chess Box. MCA/Chess 1948 03:18
School Days Floyd Jones The Chronological Sunnyland Slim 1947-1948. Classics 1949 02:49
Hard Times Floyd Jones Tempo Tone 1001 [78 rpm single]. Tempo Tone 1949 02:47
Blue Baby Little Walter The Chronological Sunnyland Slim 1947-1948. Classics 1949 02:15
I Want My Baby Little Walter The Chronological Sunnyland Slim 1947-1948. Classics 1949 02:43
Big Town Playboy Little Johnny Jones Chess Blues. MCA/Chess 1949 02:58
Shelby County Blues Little Johnny Jones Down Home Blues Classics Vol. 3 - Chicago. Boulevard Vintage 1949 03:19
Where's My Woman Been Muddy Waters The Aristocrat of the Blues. MCA/Chess 1949 03:11
Last Time I Fool Around With You Muddy Waters The Aristocrat of the Blues. MCA/Chess 1949 02:40
Screamin' And Cryin' Muddy Waters The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues. MCA/Chess 1949 03:08
Muskadine Blues Little Walter The Blues World of Little Walter. Delmark 1950 03:14
Bad Acting Woman Little Walter The Blues World of Little Walter. Delmark 1950 02:48
Rollin' And Tumblin' Part 1 Baby Face Leroy Trio Blues Masters Vol. 2: Postwar Chicago Blues. Rhino 1950 02:49
I Just Keep Loving Her Little Walter Chicago Slickers 1948-1953. Nighthawk 1950 02:57
Moonshine Blues Little Walter The Blues World of Little Walter. Delmark 1950 02:56
Red Headed Woman Baby Face Leroy The Chronological Leroy Foster 1948-1952. Classics 1950 02:47
Boll Weevil Baby Face Leroy Parkway 505 [45 rpm single]. Parkway 1950 02:59
Ludella Jimmy Rogers Early Rhythm & Blues 1949. Biograph 1950 02:00
Rollin' And Tumblin' Part 1 Muddy Waters The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues. MCA/Chess 1950 03:01
Sad Letter Blues Muddy Waters Rollin' Stone. MCA/Chess 1950 03:02
You're Gonna Need My Help I Said Muddy Waters Rollin' Stone. MCA/Chess 1950 03:08
Goin' Away Baby Jimmy Rogers The Complete Chess Recordings. MCA/Chess 1950 02:45
Today, Today Blues Jimmy Rogers The Complete Chess Recordings. MCA/Chess 1950 03:11
Louisiana Blues Muddy Waters The Chess Box. MCA/Chess 1950 02:55
Louella Baby Face Leroy Blues Is Killin' Me. Flyright 1951 03:01
Pet Rabbit Baby Face Leroy Blues Is Killin' Me. Flyright 1951 03:05
Juke Little Walter The Complete Chess Masters 1950-1967. MCA/Chess 1952 02:45
Can't Hold Out Much Longer Little Walter The Complete Chess Masters 1950-1967. MCA/Chess 1952 03:01
Blues Is Killing Me Baby Face Leroy Chicago Blues Down Homers! The JOB Recordings 1950s. P-Vine 1952 03:04
Rollin' And Tumblin' Part 2 Baby Face Leroy Trio The Chronological Leroy Foster 1948-1952. Classics 1950 03:16

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