Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Nappy Brown, Coal Miner.
Coleman Wilson, Passing Zone Blues.
Elmore James, Shake Your Moneymaker.

The man who builds a factory builds a temple, the man who works there worships there, and to each is due, not scorn and blame, but reverence and praise.

Calvin Coolidge.

Orare est laborare, laborare est orare. (To worship is to work, to work is to worship.)

St. Benedict.

I guess I'll die with a shovel in my hand.

Nappy Brown.

Three perspectives on labor:

Napoleon "Nappy" Brown
, mining technician. Work ethic is basically good, productivity noted by supervisors, but some attitudinal issues remain. Case recommended for further supervision.

"Coal Miner" was one of Brown's last singles for Savoy, the jazz label he had helped give a second life as an R&B purveyor. (Brown's 1955 "Don't Be Angry"--which Savoy's owner thought was partially sung in Yiddish-- was his biggest chart hit.) "Coal Miner" is an odd record, with Brown accompanied by an at-times harsh saxophone and flute (the mix is very trebly and sharp, to the point of distortion sometimes); the sound is quite unlike most of Brown's other Savoy tracks. I wonder if "Miner" was meant to be a spin on Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang," from the previous year. While not doing much in the U.S., it eventually became a prized Northern Soul record in the U.K.

"Coal Miner" was released as Savoy 1594 c/w "Honnie-Bonnie"; on Night Time Is the Right Time and iTunes. Brown is still playing today, at age 79. He just made the fine record Long Time Coming for Blind Pig.

Coleman Wilson, truck driver. Good sense of initiative, but risk management not a top priority. While attempts to keep to delivery schedule commendable, tendency for driver to accrue penalties and his various legal issues make his position at the company untenable. Recommended: immediate termination.

"Passing Zone Blues" is the lament of a trucker trying to make up time on his route (though he's still looking for those lady hitchhikers), and getting pulled over by the cops. Trucker hopes for blue-collar solidarity, gets hauled off the joint.

Released as King 5512 c/w "Flat Footed Mama"; on 20 Truck Drivin' Hits. This recording comes from the scratchiest LP in the world, the still-wonderful Truck Driver Songs. I don't know a thing about Wilson, except he's obscure enough that he probably really was a truck driver, recorded by King for whatever reason.

Finally, Elmore James lauds one particularly skilled wage-earner. Advancement quite probable.

Recorded in New Orleans in the summer of '61, with either King Mose or Sam Myers on drums, Sammy Lee Bully (b), and Johnny "Big Moose" Walker on piano; released as the b-side of "Look On Yonder Wall", Fire 504; on The Sky Is Crying. Does it get better than Elmore James?

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