Casey Bill Weldon – We Gonna Move (to the Outskirts of Town)
24 songs – 76 minutes
One of the most enigmatic artists the formative years of the blues, Casey Bill Weldon has gone down in history as the best lap steel and Hawaiian- style guitarist of the pre-War era, and he gets to live once more through this reissue of the best 24 tracks he recorded in the 1930s.
He’s often confused with Will Weldon, the similarly named musician who was a member of the Memphis Jug Band, was possibly married at one time to Memphis Minnie and died at age 28 in 1934. As researched by Jim O’Neal, co-founder of Living Blues magazine, this Weldon is believed to have been born Nathan Hammond on Feb. 2, 1901, in Chanute, Kan., and adopted his stage name prior to his first recording sessions in 1935, which included work with Minnie, Peetie Wheatstraw, Teddy Darby and others.
Weldon also served as a member of the Hokum Boys, the Washboard Rhythm Kings and Arnett Nelson & His Hot Four, but never recorded again after the ‘30s. His remaining life is shrouded in mystery. A photo of him alongside guitarist Charles Church appeared in the Chicago Defender in 1941, and one of his contemporaries, Ted Bogan, reported that Casey Bill lived for years in Detroit and that he’d seen him in 1968 in Chicago. Weldon reportedly died in Kansas City on Sept. 28, 1972.
Despite the questions about his life, it’s certain that he was a pleasant tenor who was an exceptionally gifted guitarist and songwriter. He recorded all of the tracks here in Chicago between March 1935 and December 1938 with accompaniment from some of the most important bluesmen of his generation. Portions of the superstar lineup include Wheatstraw and Black Bob on piano and probably include young Big Bill Broonzy on guitar, Charlie McCoy on mandolin and either Blind John Davis or Joshua Altheimer on keys, too, with Ransom Knowling and Bill Settles on bass.
From the opening bars of “Doctor’s Blues” to the closing notes of “Sales Lady,” the quality of this album – the 14th edition in Austria-based Wolf Records’ Blues Classics releases — is stellar with just the slightest hints scratches carried over from the original acetates, but most are crisp and clean. The great majority of Weldon’s solo work is included along with one tune that hasn’t seen the light of day since it was recorded.
Other highlights here include seminal recordings of his best-known tunes, “Somebody Changed the Lock on My Door” and “We Gonna Move (to the Outskirts of Town)” – as well as “What’s the Matter with My Milk Cow,” “WPA Blues,” “Let Me Be Your Butcher,” “Somebodys Got to Go,” “I’se Just a Bad Luck Man,” “Streamline Woman,” “I Believe, I Will Make a Change,” “Oh Red” and “Give Me Another Shot.”
If you’re a fan of first-generation blues, turn back the clock for a while and give this one a spin. You’ll be happy you did!