Incredibly dirty R&B: gloriously filthy music from the 30s-50s

Glenn sez, "R&B music was pretty bawdy before its entered the era of white appropriation and radio play. Leah Reich, an ethnographer by training and a music lover and singer by love, takes a stroll through some of the filthiest, wonderful era before all this stuff was cleaned up. Tons of links to Youtube videos and other sources."

Best of all, the filth didn’t come just from men. There was wonderful Julia Lee, with “My Man Stands Out,” “I Didn’t Like It the First Time,” and “Don’t Come Too Soon.” The inimitable Helen Humes has a live version of “I’m Gonna Let Him Ride” that’s as glorious for her singing as it is for the way the crowd roars her train on. The fascinating and captivating Nellie Lutcher sang “Hurry On Down.” And of course, there’s the magnificent Dinah Washington singing some of my favorites from the era, “Long John Blues” and “Big Long Slidin’ Thing.”

In fact, one of the most notoriously salacious songs — so raunchy I’ve had otherwise unflappable male friends tell me to turn it off when I played it for them in the car — was an early blues song recorded by Bessie Jackson, also known as Lucille Bogan. She sang many dirty blues songs, long before R&B and jump blues came on the scene, but none so raw as “Shave ’Em Dry II.” I won’t ruin the surprise for anyone who hasn’t heard it.

Dirty R&B [Leah Reich/The Magazine]

Notable Replies

  1. 50's? Shave em Dry was recorded in 1935, as far as I know. Bogan was dead by '48.

  2. Yeah thats definitely 30s from the sound and thats yeah... a bit more to the point than Bessie Smith.

  3. Let's not forget the Asylum Stree Spanker's reprise of Lucille's Shave 'Em Dry

    And their other work in the same oeuvre:


  4. I miss the Spankers, sigh.

  5. This is new to me, and glorious.

    Is her second line, "I got something between my legs that will make a dead man cum"...was that echoed by the Rolling Stones at the end of Start Me Up? EDIT TO ADD: the internet has already noted this. Short hop from Bawdy Blues to Corproate Jingle.

    ((I bring this up as someone who for a long time didn't know that the Beatles had borrowed "Here come ol' flattop" from Chuck Berry.))

    And, given this is a @doctorow thread, the repeated echos of remix culture across time seems on-topic. And a wonderful thing.

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