My name is Charles Grogan. I have a doctorate in music composition and theory from the University of Arizona, a masters in music from California State University, Long Beach, and a bachelor of arts from Salisbury University.
When I studied classical music my main interest was the piano as a solo instrument. Favorites were the solo piano works of Beethoven, Chopin, Scriabin, Debussy, and Prokofiev. This interest transferred over when I later became interested in ragtime and blues. The idea of a performance by one player on one instrument remains to me an attractively complete musical statement. This is not a problem for the study of ragtime or boogie woogie since both of those styles are primarily solo piano. When it comes to piano blues and barrelhouse piano, solos are more difficult to find. Before the time of the blues revival, some artists recorded only a single solo:
James ‘Stump’ Johnson – Bound to Be a Monkey
Bob Call – 31 Blues
Speckled Red – Wilkins Street Stomp
Charles Avery – Dearborn Street Breakdown
Others recorded a pair of solos:
Walter Roland – Jookit Jookit, Piano Stomp
Jabo Williams – Pratt City Blues, Jab’s Blues
Wesley Wallace – Number 29, Fanny Lee Blues
Walter Davis – Biddle Street Blues, Frisco Blues
Other pianists recorded no solos at all during the classic era but managed to record some during the revival, such as ‘Barrelhouse Buck McFarland’, Buster Pickens, Doug Suggs, and Robert Shaw.
Sound recordings of authentic piano blues did not exist before the 1920s and were rather scarce post WWII. Part of that scarcity was due to the increasing commercialization of the blues, and boogie woogie in particular. The other part is that while there were certainly some authentic blues pianists post WWII, most often the piano was buried under electrified instruments. However, some solo recordings do exist from the post-war era and can be found if you look for them, especially on labels like Storyville and Arhoolie.
The purpose of this website is to further the appreciation and understanding of piano blues. Most of the attention is given to musical rather than biographical details. A special interest of mine is understanding how artists influenced each other, so particular emphasis is given to comparisons of musical excerpts.