- (This page is about the Yazoo record label. For the UK band of the same name, see Yazoo.)
Yazoo Records was an American record label founded in the mid-1960s by Nick Perls. It specialized in early American blues, country, jazz, and other rural American genres collectively known as roots music.
The first five releases (L 1001 to L 1005) were issued under the label name of Belzona Records. The label was then renamed Yazoo Records, and the first five releases were reissued under the new name. The Belzona and Yazoo labels featured an Art Deco drawing of a peacock, adapted from the 1927 label of Black Patti Records.
For Yazoo Records Perls compiled rare 78-rpm recordings made in the 1920s by musicians such as Charley Patton, Blind Willie McTell, the Memphis Jug Band, Blind Blake, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. ... In 1989 Yazoo was acquired by Shanachie Records.
(Read more at Wikipedia.)
Links to Peel
Peel began to play Yazoo records in the late 1960s, when the label's releases become available in record shops specialising in blues, folk and jazz and stocking US imports (its albums were never issued in the UK but became more widely available in the 1970s). This was at the height of the British blues revival, and the early Yazoo LPs, combining rare and well-chosen tracks with state-of-the-art remastering, were praised by reviewers and found a ready audience. He continued to feature the label's output regularly throughout his career, although concentrating mostly on its blues releases and paying less attention to the thematic anthologies, including various genres of American rural music, which Yazoo issued after it was taken over by Shanachie Records. Artists he featured ranged from the well-known names mentioned above to more obscure figures known mainly to collectors (Cripple Clarence Lofton, Frank Stokes).
At the end of the 1960s Yazoo Records started a subsidiary label, Blue Goose, to issue new recordings of artists playing in traditional styles. Blue Goose's first discovery, blues singer and guitarist Larry Johnson, visited Britain in 1970 and recorded a session for Top Gear. Jo-Ann Kelly, who had already recorded sessions for Peel, also recorded for the label.
Peel wasn't the only Radio 1 DJ to show interest in the Yazoo catalogue; in the station's early years, Mike Raven, who had a strong interest in older blues styles, played tracks from Yazoo albums on his R&B Show. Later, Peel's colleague Andy Kershaw also followed the label's releases; a particular favourite of his, an album of vintage recordings by the virtuoso multi-instrumentalist Roy Smeck, was released in the mid-1970s, when Yazoo began to extend its catalogue into ragtime, Hawaiian music and early jazz. Tracks by Smeck were heard regularly on Kershaw shows. Another Kershaw favourite was the blues pioneer Henry Thomas, known as "Ragtime Texas" and already a veteran when he was recorded in the 1920s. Tracks by him appeared on several Yazoo compilations and albums of his work were issued by Origin Jazz Library and Herwin before Yazoo reissued his complete recorded works on CD.
The synth-pop duo Yazoo became successful chart artists in the early 1980s and most pop music listeners in the UK associated the name Yazoo with them. However, their name had to be changed to Yaz for the US market because of legal objections raised by Yazoo Records, from which (according to Alison Moyet, quoted in the Wikipedia article on the band) the duo had derived their name. Peel continued to play Yazoo label tracks long after the duo had broken up. Indeed, the label's releases appeared more frequently in playlists during the final years of his radio career.
Again, he concentrated on blues material and surprisingly ignored The Secret Museum Of Mankind, a series issued by Yazoo in the 1990s. It documented the early years of world music recordings and had much in common with the BBC archive tracks JP had played on Night Ride and featured on the John Peel's Archive Things LP. However, it was critically acclaimed, heard elsewhere on the BBC and was included by Elvis Costello in a list of essential albums compiled for Vanity Fair magazine.
Many of the tracks Peel played were from the compilation albums which make up a large percentage of Yazoo's catalogue, but he also featured tracks from the label's albums devoted to single artists, not all of them well-known to general listeners. These included items from collections by Bo Carter, Walter Davis, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Cripple Clarence Lofton, Blind Willie McTell, Charley Patton, banjoist/bandleader Harry Reser (one of the few non-blues artists on Yazoo played by JP), Walter Roland, the little-known Funny Papa Smith and Frank Stokes.
Yazoo V/A Compilations
(Tracks played by Peel from various artist (v/a) compilations on Yazoo Records, in order of first play from release. List is incomplete, as existing track listings show no plays before 1980, except from some of the single-artist collections mentioned above. Please add more information if known.)
(LP - St. Louis Town 1929-1933) Yazoo L-1003
- 09 February 1981: Henry Spaulding: Cairo Blues
- 08 August 1981 (Peel's Pleasures): Henry Spaulding: Cairo Blues
(LP - Guitar Wizards 1926-1935) Yazoo L-1016
(LP - The Virtuoso Guitar Of Scrapper Blackwell) Yazoo L-1019
(LP - Memphis Jamboree 1927-1936) Yazoo L-1021
- 11 March 1987: Hattie Hart: Coldest Stuff In Town
- 05 January 1991: Kansas Joe McCoy: Joliet Bound
- 10 February 1991: Yank Rachel and Dan Smith: Squeaky Workbench Blues (announced as "Hattie Hart – Coldest Stuff In Town")
(LP - The Georgia Blues 1927-1933) Yazoo L-1012
- 29 September 1987: Gitfiddle Jim: Paddlin' Blues (JP: 'It does rather sound as though he's being barbecued at the time of the recording, but I hope that didn't spoil your enjoyment. I sometimes think that it enhances it actually, because it gives it a certain amount of character.')
(LP - Mississippi Moaners 1927-1942) Yazoo L-1009
(LP - Jackson Blues 1928-1938) Yazoo L-1007
- 20 January 1988: Walter Vincent: Overtime Blues
- 01 February 1988: Arthur Pettis: Two Time Blues
- 09 October 2003: Tommy Johnson: Bye Bye Blues
(LP - The Voice Of The Blues: Bottleneck Guitar Pieces) Yazoo L-1046
- 23 November 1988: Barbecue Bob: Goin' Up The Country
- 10 January 1989: Georgia Browns: Decatur Street 81
(LP - Barrelhouse Blues 1927-1936) Yazoo L-1028
- 02 January 1993: Cow Cow Davenport: State Street Jive
- 23 January 1993: Lonnie Johnson: Sam You’re Just A Rat
- 19 February 1993: Montana Taylor: Indiana Avenue Stomp
- 10 April 1993: Bob Call: Thirty-One Blues
- 28 May 1993: Lonnie Johnson: Sam You’re Just A Rat
(CD – Before The Blues Vol. 1: The Early American Black Music Scene) Yazoo – 2015
- 16 June 1996: Mississippi Mud Steppers: Jackson Stomp
- 10 August 1996: Taylor's Kentucky Boys: Forked Deer
- 17 August 1996 (BFBS): Taylor's Kentucky Boys: Forked Deer
(CD – Harmonica Masters) Yazoo – 2019
(CD – Ruckus Juice & Chittlins, The Great Jug Bands, Vol 1) Yazoo – 2032
- March 1998 (FSK): Ben Ferguson: Try And Treat Her Right
- 31 March 1998: Birmingham Jug Band: Giving It Away
- April 1998 (FSK): Jed Davenport & His Beale Street Jug Band: You Ought To Move Out Of Town
- 01 April 1998: King David's Jug Band: What's That Tastes Like Gravy
- 08 April 1998: Ben Ferguson: Try And Treat Her Right
(LP - Favorite Country Blues Guitar-Piano Duets (1929-1937)) Yazoo L-1015
- 06 November 2001: Buddy Woods: Don’t Sell It, Don’t Give It Away
- 14 November 2001 (BBC World Service): Buddy Woods: Don't Sell It, Don't Give It Away
(CD - Before The Blues Vol. 2: The Early American Black Music Scene) Yazoo – 2016
- 18 February 2003: Eck Robertson: There's A Brown Skin Girl Down The Road Somewhere
- 19 February 2003: Tommy McClennan: Deep Blue Sea Blues
- March 2003 (FSK): Tommy McClennan: Deep Blue Sea Blues
- 25 March 2003: Charley Patton: Mississippi Bo Weavil Blues