When J Mayo ‘Ink’ Williams set up Black Patti Records in Chicago in 1927, he was hoping to exploit the market for ‘race records‘, which was expanding rapidly. He released Blues, Jazz and Spiritual music, hell-fire sermons by ‘straining preachers’ and comedy routines and popular ditties from vaudeville stars. The enterprise was not immediately profitable, so Ink moved on to pastures new by the end of the year, but not before he had discovered a few notable but obscure Blues acts who had moved to Chicago from the South as part of The Great Migration, in search of a better life.
The Down Home Boys were a pair of Blues singers who both played guitar and sang duets on a series of Black Patti records, some released by Gennett, whose studio and distribution was co-opted by ‘Ink’. Little Harvey Hull, usually billed as ‘Papa Harvey’, was born in Zilpha Township MS in 1887. Along with his partner Long Cleeve Reed, they made six records in Chicago for ‘Ink’ as The Down Home Boys, including a couple where they were joined by Sunny Wilson. Their ‘Original Stack O’Lee Blues’ was probably a response to Ma Rainey
‘s 1925 version that had the young Louis Armstrong on cornet. They also recorded ‘France Blues’, a ‘Death Letter’-type song which has been covered by Alvin Youngblood Hart
and Taj Mahal
. It is doubtful whether The Down Home Boys recorded again after the Black Patti label folded.
‘The Original Stack O’Lee Blues’