Big Ball of Wax Honeydrippin' Blues Pianist

Another Delta Harvest

Though Roosevelt Sykes was born on the last day of January, 1906 in Elmar, Arkansas, he grew up as a child just up the Mississippi in St. Louis, MO. He returned to the Helena, Arkansas area where he began his half a century music career learning to play organ in the Church. At fifteen years old he left home taking those skills to downtown Helena, where he learned the frentic 'barrelhouse' style from Lee Green.

Roll out the Barrel

Then at the end of the twenties he went back to St. Louis for greater opportunites. Here as a young man in his twenties he established his reptutation as an energetic piano player playing solo or joining other musicians finding gigs up and down the Delta, and all the way to Chicago. It was 1929 that he first signed up with OKeh Records, putting out Green's Forty-Four Blues, putting him on the musical map; and also that year under the pseudonoms, Dobby Bragg, Easy Papa Johnson and Willie Kelly he recorded under three other labels. He sometimes featured vocals by St. Louis pianist and writer of Going Down Slow, Jimmy Oden, while doing the St. Louie blues scene; and, who would join him again, later. He established himself most successfully with his contract with Decca Records in 1935, and he even helped discover other new talent.

Chicago, Chicago

The rotund stogie smokin' ivory pounder started getting a reputation as a smooth talkin' ladies man, and the nickname, "Honeydripper" stuck on him appropriately. By the 1941, Roosevelt settled in Chicago, where he worked with the Jump Jackson Band and Memphis Minnie. His new group, The Honeydrippers, did much studio work for Bluebird records including the hits: Cecil Gant's, I Wonder, and Joe Liggins', The Honeydripper. He also was a hit on the Victor Bullet label with a soulful Sunny Road; and in 1951 he signed with United Records producing many good sessions with them in Chicago. He and his group toured the south before and after World War II, but by the mid-nineteen fifties he realized that his jazzier style was better suited for New Orleans blues tastes than the 'Chicago' electric-driven blues, thus he made the Crescent City his new home leaving the Windy City behind.

Gettin' Way Down the Mississippi

Through the fifties and sixties Roosevelt Sykes worked in New Orleans, and even up in St. Louis and Memphis, and he continued his prolificity in studio first putting out some Dave Bartholomew's New Orlean's Imperial records in 1955, most memorable from that being, Sweet Home Chicago; and then followed by subsequent LP endeavors on Folkways, Bluesville, Delmark and Crown. He was reknown for getting worked up on his ivories and he would take off too fast for the rest of the band. He was part of the 1960's blues revivals, including the European demand, which on tour he met. He thrilled audiences up until his death on July 17th in N'Orl'ins with driving, funky and suggestive songs like Ice Cream Freezer, All Days Are Good Days, Love Will Wear You Down, Kickin' Motor Scooter, Dirty Mother for You, I'm A Nut, Driving Wheel, Peeping Tom, Feel Like Blowing My Horn, Rock-A-Bye Birdie, Sykes Gumboogle, Eagle Rock Me Baby, and Night Time is the Right Time.

Discography:

1960 - The Return of Roosevelt Sykes
1961 - Honeydripper (Prestige/ Bluesville)
1962 - Roosevelt Sykes Sings the Blues
1971 - Honeydripper's Duke's Mixture
1972 - The Country Blues Piano, 1929-1932
1973 - Feel Like Blowing My Horn
1975 - Hard Drivin' Blues
1987 - Raining In My Heart
1988 - Roosevelt Sykes, 1929-1941
1990 - Music Is My Business (Blues Alliance)
1992 - Complete Recorded Works Vol. 4., 1934-1936
1992 - Gold Mine: Live in Europe
1994 - Complete Recorded Works Vol. 8, 1945-1947
1994 - Complete Recorded Works Vol. 9, 1947-1951
1994 - Complete Recorded Works Vol. 10, 1951-1957
1995 - Blues by Roosevelt "The Honey-dripper" Sykes
1996 - Blues Man
1996 - Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, Vol. 3
1997 - The Honeydripper (Storyville)
1998 - Rock It
1999 - Grind It!
1999 - Roosevelt Sykes: 1931-1941
1999 - Music is My Business (Charly)
2000 - Honeydripper (Aim)
2000 - Roosevelt Sykes: 1929-1942
2000 - The Honey Dripper Vol. 1. 1934-1942
2000 - Nasty But It's Clean
2001 - The Essential
2001 - The Honey Dripper Vol. 2. 1944-1950


Source: All Music Guide
Blue Flame Cafe
Windy City Blues Laser Light (3 cuts)

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