“Johnny B. Goode” – Who(?), What, When(?) & Where

Last week, I was putting together a “This Historic Day In Music” post to celebrate the anniversary of something good that happened on a January 6: the recording of “Johnny B. Goode.”

At least I thought that January 6, 1958, was the day Chuck Berry made that immortal recording.

As I looked around the internet, I was surprised to discover three dates being offered and, in several instances, an overriding amount of uncertainty.

January 6, 1958, is the date Wikipedia gives.

December 29, 1957, is the date given in the liner notes of my Chess Records Chuck Berry, His Best, Volume 1 CD and numerous websites.

February 28, 1958 is the date given in none other than: Chuck Berry: The Autobiography.

Then I discovered that who the musicians were that accompanied Chuck’s vocals and electric guitar on “Johnny B. Goode” is open for debate as well!

Specifically, is that Johnnie Johnson or Lafayette Leake on piano? Is the drummer Fred Below or Jasper Thomas?

Willie Dixon is definitely the bassist on the track.

The What and Where are definites, too: “Johnny B. Goode” is a Rock & Roll song, written (words & music) by Chuck Berry. “Johnny B. Goode,” the iconic, genre-defining recording, was made in the brand new studios of the Chess Recording Corporation at 2120 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

Whatever side of the Who and When debates you take, I think any day – even (especially!) January 14, 2021 – is a great day to listen to “Johnny B. Goode.”

So, go ahead. Listen!

That will never get old.

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“Christmas In The Trenches”

“Christmas In The Trenches” is a song by John McCutcheon.

It is the fictionalized but masterfully rendered telling of the very real events that took place on Christmas Eve in 1914 between British and German troops on the battlefields of France; a miraculous occurance now known as The World War I Christmas Truce.

“Christmas In The Trenches” entered my life in the mid-1990’s thanks to the compilation CD titled: Must Be Santa! The Rounder Christmas Album. The song soon became – and still remains – a major component of my listening, playing and performing during the holiday season. As a friend of mine once shared with me, and I heartily agreed, “My Christmas begins when I hear that song.”

John McCutcheon first released “Christmas In The Trenches” on his 1984 Rounder Records’ album Winter Solstice

Here is that recording. Give a listen. It is worth every second of your time.

The musicians on that recording were:

  • John McCutcheon – Guitar & Vocals
  • Ralph Gordon – Bass
  • Lorraine Duisit – Mandolin
  • Freyda Epstein – Violin
  • Howard Levy – Harmonica

From all of us here at sixstr stories to all of you, best wishes for a healthy, peaceful and joyous holiday.

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This Historic Day In Music: “Sweet Home Chicago”

“Oh, baby, don’t you want to go?”

If you were to make a list of “standard” Blues songs, “Sweet Home Chicago” would definitely be among the top ten. I can’t, however, think of any song on that list with roots as deep and a history as fascinating as this one.

On Monday, November 23, 1936, Mississippi Blues singer/acoustic guitarist Robert Johnson (1911-1938) recorded his song “Sweet Home Chicago.”

The recording session was for Vocalion/ARC records and took place in Rm.414 of the Gunter Hotel, in San Antonio, Texas. Don Law was the ARC producer overseeing the session and “Sweet Home Chicago” was the third of eight songs that Johnson cut that now-legendary day.

Give a listen!

“Sweet Home Chicago” – b/w “Walking Blues” – was released by Vocalion Records on a 10-inch, 78-rpm disc – #03601 – in August 1937.

Columbia Records released “Sweet Home Chicago” on a 12-inch, 33 & 1/3 rpm vinyl LP for the first time in 1970. The album, pictured above, was titled: King of the Delta Blues Singers (Vol. 2).

Somewhere along the line, I learned that Robert Johnson had actually based “Sweet Home Chicago” on an earlier song called “Old Original Kokomo Blues” by Kokomo Arnold.

Georgia-born James “Kokomo” Arnold (1896 or 1901-1968) was a singer and left-handed, lap-style slide guitarist. He recorded “Old Original Kokomo Blues” for Decca Records in 1934.

Check it out!

Arnold once explained that the recurring line, “…back to Eleven Light City…” from the end of each verse of his song refers to a drugstore in Chicago. They sold coffee there under the brand name “Koko.”


Two years prior to Arnold’s record, Paramount Records released “Ko Ko Mo Blues,” Part 1 & Part 2 by a Barrelhouse Blues piano player and singer named “Jabo” Williams (1895-1953).

Williams was from Alabama and recorded just eight sides for Paramount, all at a studio in Grafton, Wisconsin in May 1932. Each verse of “Ko Ko Mo Blues” concludes with the phrase: “…to that eleven light city, sweet old Kokomo.”

This one’s pretty scratchy, but well worth hearing!

Still with me? Hope so, there’s more!

In 1928, the singer and extraordinary acoustic Blues guitarist, James “Scrapper” Blackwell (1903-1962), recorded his song, “Kokomo Blues” for Vocalion Records.

Blackwell, born in South Carolina and of Cherokee descent, recorded extensively and is most famous for his work with singer/pianist Leroy Carr.

His “Kokomo Blues” begins: “Hmm, baby, don’t you want to go? Hmm, baby, don’t you want to go? Pack your little suitcase, Papa’s goin’ to Kokomo.”

You have to hear this one! The guitar playing alone is worth your time.

Finally, in April 1928, Paramount Records released a record by Madlyn Davis (1899-?) and Her Hot Shots titled “Kokola Blues.” Davis was what is now referred to as a Classic Blues singer. She recorded a total of ten sides, all for Paramount in 1927-1928, in Chicago.

Each of the four 12-bar verses of “Kokola Blues” concludes with the lines: “And it’s hey, hey, baby*, don’t you want to go, back to that eleven light city, back to sweet Kokomo.” (* or “Papa”)

There you go! I hope you enjoyed this little journey.

One last note: All of the recordings above were released in the category that the record industry at that time referred to as “race records.” Race records were marketed exclusively to a Black audience and chiefly in the rural American South. They were nearly impossible to obtain in Northern urban areas like Harlem and Chicago’s South Side. Average sales of these records numbered in the low thousands, often only in the hundreds.

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Dear Boston Red Sox,

Thanks for a great season!

(O = a win, X = a loss.)

Wait’ll next year!

In the meantime, here’s a great rendering of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” by guitarists Doc & Merle Watson, with T. Michael Coleman on bass, Mark O’Conner on fiddle and Pat McInerney, percussion.

Doc & Merle Watson’s Guitar Album was recorded in December, 1982, at Scruggs Sound Studio in Nashville, Tennessee. It was released in 1983 on Rounder Records.

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This Historic Day In Music: Chuck Berry

If you wouldn’t mind, read the next two lines out loud.

“Well, I’m a write a little letter, I’m go’n mail it to my local DJ.

Yes it’s a jumpin’ little record I want my jockey to play.”

Good! Now these two:

“I got the rockin’ pneumonia, I need a shot of rhythm and blues.

I caught the rollin’ arthritis sittin’ down at a rhythm review.”


Did you feel it? The flow, the groove, the perfect rhythm of those words as they rolled off your lips?

Those lines, as I’m sure you know by now, come from the song “Roll Over Beethoven” and were written by Chuck Berry.

“Roll Over Beethoven” was the A-side song of Chuck Berry’s fourth single for Chess Records. It was recorded on April 16, 1956 in the studios of the Universal Recording Corporation in Chicago, Illinois. It was released in May 1956 (b/w “Drifting Heart”).

“Roll Over Beethoven,” to me, shows Chuck Berry starting to really hit his stride as not just a lyricist, but also as a guitarist, band leader and recording artist.

Over the relentlessly joyous course of its 2:24 running time, “Roll Over Beethoven” takes off from its now-classic opening guitar solo, revels through three verses, a bridge, another breathless guitar solo, two more verses and brings it all home with five energizing chants of the title phrase and the final exclamation point of “Dig these Rhythm & Blues!!”

Simply put, it rocks!

Don’t just take my words for it. Listen for yourself.

That’s really something, isn’t it?

The musicians on that recording were:

  • Chuck Berry – Electric Guitar & Vocals
  • Johnnie Johnson – Piano
  • Willie Dixon – Bass
  • Fred Below – Drums

“Roll Over Beethoven” was released in December 1956 on “Rock, Rock, Rock!,” the first Long Playing (LP) disc produced by Chess Records.

Chuck Berry was born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 18, 1926. He passed away on March 18, 2017.

Where would popular music have gone without him?

P.S.: Back some time ago, I played rhythm guitar in a Beatles cover band called MerseysideWe played “Roll Over Beethoven” (of course) the way The Beatles did it. With our superb drummer, Les Harris, on lead vocals, it was a total blast to do and always one of the highlights of our show.

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Wrestling With The Angel, Chapter 14

Five years ago – almost to the day – I wrote about the song “Copper Canteen” by James McMurtry. “Copper Canteen” was the lead song on McMurtry’s then-brand-new album, Complicated Game.

The last line of that post (titled “A Somewhat Recent Rediscovery”) was:

“I’ve made a promise to myself not to lose track of James McMurtry again.”

Well, I didn’t.

So when I read about the release of The Horses and the Hounds, McMurtry’s first album since Complicated Game, I made plans for a trip to Bull Moose Music in Portsmouth, N.H. to pick up a copy.

The Horses and the Hounds is a truly extraordinary album. The songs and the arrangements, the performances and the production are consistently outstanding from first track to the last. Listening to this stunningly well crafted music and these sonically epic recordings has been an exhilarating and joyful experience.

One song, however – actually one verse in that song – stands tall as my favorite lyric on the album.

The song is “If It Don’t Bleed” and the lyric is in the song’s second verse.

“So run another rack, pour another shot / You don’t get it back so give it all you got while you still got a more or less functional body and mind.”

Right on the money.

Listen for yourself. Please. (You’ll be glad you did!)


“If It Don’t Bleed” was written by James McMurtry, produced by Ross Hogarth and performed by:

  • James McMurtry – Vocals
  • David Grissom – Guitars
  • Daren Hess – Drums
  • Sean Hurley – Bass Guitar
  • Kenny Aronoff – Percussion
  • Stan Lynch – Percussion
  • Harry Smith – Slide Guitar
  • Bukka Allen – Organ
  • Loren Gold – Piano
  • Randy Garibay, Jr. – Harmony Vocal

Thank you, James McMurtry. Music this good will never get old. 

The purpose of my Wrestling With The Angel series is to highlight and share individual songs that are on a list of mine entitled: Devastatingly Great Songs. The title phrase, “Wrestling With The Angel,” is my paraphrase of a line from a poem by Herman Melville called “Art.” You can read the complete poem in “The Source,” my archived post of November 4, 2011. 

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Charlie Watts

Tuesday, August 24, 2021. The text came in from my son at 1:02 pm.

“RIP charlie watts! Sad news”

Rather stunned, I quickly replied: “Oh no! Very sad news!”

The first article that appeared on the news feed on my phone was from Variety Magazine. Pieces from Rolling Stone Magazine and the Washington Post followed soon after.

Charlie’s band, The Rolling Stones, explained in a statement on their Twitter page:

“He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.”

Charlie Watts and – as far as I’m concerned – The Rolling Stones, are gone.

I first got into music in 1964 thanks to The Beatles, but before long I started listening to and became a huge fan of The Rolling Stones.

I bought their singles…

…and their albums…

…and for many, many months these records were the ones that I played most often on my little Magnavox stereo.

So, even though – at the age of 12 – Ringo Starr was my inspiration to begin learning how to play the drums, the playing of Charlie Watts soon began ingraining itself deep into my slowly developing teenage musical psyche.

Today, after I’d read the Variety and Rolling Stone articles, I started thinking about Charlie’s music, his impeccable playing on all those very well worn Rolling Stones records I still own. Of course “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Honky Tonk Women” and many of the hits danced around in my head, but one song in particular kept stepping to the front.

The title song to their 8th (British) LP. 

Charlie really shines on this one. 


Charles Robert Watts was born on June 2, 1941, in Kingsbury, UK.

He got his first drum set in 1955 and practiced by playing along with his collection of Jazz records. He started playing with Rhythm & Blues bands in 1959, thinking that R&B was just “Charlie Parker, played slow.”

He joined The Rolling Stones in January 1963 and played his first gig as an official member of the band in London on February 2, 1963.

Charlie Watts played his last concert with The Rolling Stones in Miami, Florida, on August 30, 2019.

Charlie is survived by Shirley, his wife of 57 years; his daughter, Serafina; and his granddaughter, Charlotte.

In 2012, music journalist Jem Aswad wrote a review of a Rolling Stones concert in Brooklyn, NY, for Billboard Magazine. He had this to say about Charlie Watts:

“For all of Mick and Keith’s supremacy, there’s no question that the heart of this band is and will always be Watts: At 71, his whipcrack snare and preternatural sense of swing drive the songs with peerless authority, and define the contradictory uptight-laid-back-ness that’s at the heart of the Stones’ rhythm.”  

As my son said, “Rest in peace, Charlie Watts,” and thank you so very much.

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A Guitar Music Double Header – The Night Game

As previously reported, I recently had the chance to do transcriptions of two of my older acoustic guitar instrumentals; pieces I have posted recordings of in the past.

Now coming to the plate: “Home Alone.”

On March 30, 2014, I wrote this about “Home Alone”:

So, here’s a guitar instrumental that I came up with a few years back, inspired by the music and playing of Elizabeth Cotten, Doc Watson and John Fahey.

I called the piece “Home Alone” because I had the house to myself on the afternoon that I created it. I recorded it on a Sony cassette tape deck in my “home studio” on November 9, 2008.

Here (again) is that recording…

“Home Alone” – Written & Performed by: Eric Sinclair

…and here’s the brand new guitar tablature transcription.

There you go! Once more, I hope that all of you fingerpickers out there have fun with this transcription and the one for “Sunday Morning.”

JTLYK: The “Guitar Music” category here on sixstr stories is home to many recordings and hand-written guitar tablature transcriptions of my guitar instrumentals, original and otherwise.

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A Guitar Music Double Header – The Day Game

I recently had the chance to do transcriptions of two of my older acoustic guitar instrumentals; pieces I have posted recordings of in the past.

First up: “Sunday Morning”

On October 24, 2010 (sixstr stories’ first year!), I wrote this about “Sunday Morning”:

This is a fingerpicked, acoustic guitar instrumental that first came to life on a Sunday morning back around 2002. I originally played it on a 12-string guitar, but my love/hate relationship with that instrument soon had me hearing it and playing it better on the 6-string. If you’ve heard me play live anytime since then, you probably heard this piece. The recording  was done on my home analog equipment in 2007.

Here (again) is that recording…

“Sunday Morning” – Written & Performed by: Eric Sinclair

…and here’s the brand new guitar tablature transcription.

There you go! Have fun all you fingerpickers out there!

Coming up in the nightcap: “Home Alone.”

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Maura & Nanci

As I remember it, I had the tv on one afternoon while I was doing some chores around the house. When the chores were done, I picked up the remote and did some quick channel surfing… until I came upon someone singing and my channel surfing stopped.


“Who is this amazing singer and what’s this incredible song she and that guy are singing?”

I eventually somehow figured out that I was watching and listening to Maura O’Connell and Michael Johnson and the song they were singing was a Nanci Griffith song called “Trouble In The Fields.”

(Only recently have I learned that the show I had stumbled upon was in fact called American Music Shop and it ran on The Nashville Network from 1990-1994. Maura O’Connell and Michael Johnson were the featured guests in an episode that first aired on May 1, 1990.)

Here (and I still can’t believe I actually found it) is a YouTube video with an edited version of that actual show. Maura starts her spoken intro to “Trouble In The Fields” at the .53 mark.

I immediately set about trying to find Maura’s recording of “Trouble In The Fields.” I did, and it was on Helpless Heart, her 1989 release for Warner Brother’s RecordsMy cassette copy of this outstanding album got quite a bit of airplay around the house as well as in the family station wagon over the following months. My daughter came to especially like the anthemic lead track, “Can’t Stop The Girl” (written by Linda Thompson & Betsy Cook).

(Another interesting fact that I recently learned is that Helpless Heart was originally released  in 1987 on Raglan Records in Ireland under the title Western Highway.)

While I was introduced to Maura O’Connell and Michael Johnson that lucky afternoon, I had heard of Nanci Griffith before. 

My June 1988 issue of Frets Magazine contained a detailed guitar TAB transcription of Nanci’s wonderful song “Love at the Five & Dime.” Her lovely fingerpicked guitar accompaniment – in open-G tuning and with several effectively-placed harmonics – was (and still is) a joy to play.

(Recently learned interesting fact #3: Nanci Griffith released “Love at the Five & Dime” on her 1986 album The Last of the True Believers. Also on that album was Nanci’s song “Banks of the Pontchartrain” to which Maura O’Connell contributed harmony vocals.)

Here is a really fine live performance of “Love at the Five & Dime” from one of Nanci Griffiths’ many appearances on Austin City Limits.

Though I never got to hear Nanci Griffith in concert, I had the very good fortune to hear Maura O’Connell perform in person once. She played at the Unitarian Universalist Church in downtown Portsmouth, NH, on Friday, October 14, 1994. My then-12-year-old daughter and I went and somehow managed to get seated in the front row. Maura and her band – the brilliantly talented acoustic guitarists Zane Baxter and Richard McLaurin – were very much on their game that night and gifted us with an incredible and well-remembered evening of music and song.

Because of the way these two artists are intertwined in my musical past, all of these memories came flooding back when I heard the very sad news four days ago that Nanci Griffith had died. 

Nanci Caroline Griffith was 68 years old, having been born on July 6, 1953, in Seguin, Texas.

Her first album – There’s A Light Beyond These Woods – came out in 1978. Her twentieth and last album – Intersection – came out in 2012 and she officially retired from making music in 2013.

On August 14, the day after Nanci passed, Fiona Whelan Prine shared in a Tweet that her late husband John “had reached out to Nanci in January 2020. He missed her. He tried to persuade her that there were young women who needed her – her experience, friendship, humor and the gift of her singular craft. She was amazed to hear him say those things and said she’d think about it. They spoke one more time before John passed in April.”

I have Nanci Griffith’s two Other Voices albums in my collection and today I listened to the second, Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back To Bountiful), from 1998. Her rendition of Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Times Goes” resonated especially deeply with me from among the many stunning performances that fill this disc.

Give a listen.

Many thanks, Nanci Griffith, for all the ways that your music touched and enriched my life. 

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