African-American History Month "Takes a rockin' chair to rock"
What do you call a rewrite of a cover of a great original blues song? One of the best known early blues songs in history. Somewhere in the middle of that was a Georgia man, a left-handed bottleneck slide guitarist, songwriter, and singer - and bootlegger! Prohibition, or the money to be made from it, brought Kokomo (James) Arnold to Chicago. If it had not been for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment to our Constitution, we may only have a couple of obscure 1930 recordings. But, he began making music professionally and over the next four years recorded 88 known songs. Among his originals was “Milk Cow Blues” which was adapted and recorded by Johnny (big brother Bob) Wills, George Strait, and Willie Nelson. Bands who had that rockin’ chair were Elvis Presley (Milk Cow Blues Boogie), The Kinks, and “the other” Elvis - Costello, with Sour Milk-Cow Blues.
Arnold found his stage name in the Scrapper Blackwell original “Kokomo Blues” which he remade as “Old Original Kokomo Blues." He made it popular, but apparently people thought they had better places they wanted to go. Robert Johnson thought Chicago sounded better, so he rewrote it as “Sweet Home Chicago,” the song everybody knows. Arnold eventually found that recording in his sweet home city wasn’t too lucrative. He still played around town, but was lost in that postwar period. When he was found working in a steel mill, he had no interest in recording again as other great “rediscovered’ bluesman did. He died in Chicago in November 1968. On this day in 1901 (or 1896), the influential singer, songwriter, and fast-playing slide guitar player was born in Lovejoy’s Station Georgia.
Kokomo Arnold stayed in Mississippi (Glen Allen?) for a bit. He recorded two songs in Memphis in 1930 under the pseudonym Gitfiddle Jim - hiding from the law? Here’s one showing off that “speed” slide.