Along with everything else, Hurricane Harvey took with it decades worth of files, maps, notes, coordinates, names and research I had on my external hard drive; so for the time being, this site will be on hiatus until I finish republishing. I will upload as I go, so each post will reappear on its original date and can be found in the Archive section in the right sidebar. If you need to contact me for any reason in the duration, my contact info is found in my profile. Wish me luck, guys. - JES

April 26, 2011

Lester B. Williams

   Lester Williams, blues guitarist and vocalist, was born in Groveton, Texas, on June 24, 1920. He was little-known outside of the Houston blues scene. He had moved with his family to Houston when he was a boy.

   Williams grew up singing in church choirs and in school; he later also sang in college. In Houston, he became familiar with the recordings of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson. After serving in the military in World War II, he came home to Houston and formed his own band. At this time he heard T-Bone Walker, who became a major influence on Williams’s style. Williams sang with Ike Smalley’s band at the famous Eldorado Ballroom in Houston, but he left the Smalley band and applied to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and was accepted. In an interview in Texas Blues: The Rise of a Contemporary Sound, Williams recalled his formal studies there: “Blues guitar was not in vogue, so I studied piano and voice.”

   He returned to Houston, bought a guitar, and spent about six months polishing his blues playing. He began performing at Don Robey’s Bronze Peacock Club. He made tapes of his song, Winter Time Blues, which he wrote after his wife and daughter had gone to Los Angeles for the summer. At this time, Williams was attending Texas Southern University. Winter Time Blues was eventually released in 1949 on the Houston-based Macy’s label and became a regional hit. Other Macy’s recordings include Answer to Wintertime Blues, Dowling Street Hop, Texas Town, Mary Lou, Hey Jack, and The Folks Around The Corner.

   Williams joined the Specialty label, which resulted in his biggest hit in 1952 - I Can’t Lose with the Stuff I Use. The song was later covered by B.B. King. Steve Poncio, who had produced Williams's debut single Winter Time Blues, also produced I Can't Lose with the Stuff I Use. The record achieved national popularity, and Lester Williams joined a February 1953 Carnegie Hall bill, which included Billy Eckstine, Dinah Washington, and Nat King Cole. His other recordings with Specialty included Trying to Forget, Lost Gal, and If You Knew How Much I Love You.

   Williams’s later recordings were not successful; however by 1954 he was regularly performing on Houston radio station KLVL. He was also touring and playing on blues circuits throughout the South. In 1954 he recorded some sessions for Robey’s Duke label, including Let’s Do It and Crazy ‘Bout You Baby.

   Williams’s recordings have been released on various reissue CDs. The Godfather of Blues (Collectables 1993) includes his Macey’s sides - Dowling Street Hop, Winter Time Blues, Answer to Wintertime Blues, Texas Town, Hey Jack, Folks Around the Corner, and Mary Lou. Other CD releases include I Can't Lose with the Stuff I Use (Ace, 1993), Texas Troubadour (Ace, 1995), and Goree Carter: The Complete Recordings Volume 2 - 1950–1954/The Remaining Lester Williams 1949–1956 (Blue Moon, 2004).

   Williams continued playing the Houston club circuit for many years, and in 1986 he toured in Europe. He died on November 13, 1990, in Houston. Source

29° 55.742, -095° 26.976

Section J
Houston National Cemetery

April 5, 2011

Maud Cuney-Hare

   Maud Cuney-Hare, African-American musician and writer, was born in Galveston on February 16, 1874, to Adelina (Dowdy) and Norris Wright Cuney. After graduating from Central High School in Galveston in 1890, she studied piano at the New England Conservatory of Music, where she successfully resisted the pressure that white students exerted on the school's administrators to have her barred from living in the dormitory. She graduated in 1895. She also studied privately with biographer Emil Ludwig and Edwin Klare and attended Lowell Institute at Harvard University. She taught music at the Texas Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youths in 1897 and 1898; at the settlement program of the Institutional Church of Chicago during 1900 and 1901; and at Prairie View State College (now Prairie View A&M University), Texas, in 1903 and 1904. In 1898 she married J. Frank McKinley, and they had a daughter. The marriage was short-lived and ended in divorce; their daughter died in childhood. She married William P. Hare on August 10, 1904.

   As a folklorist and music historian she was especially interested in African and early American music. She collected songs in Mexico, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, and was the first music scholar to direct public attention to Creole music. She contributed to Musical Quarterly, Musical Observer, Musical America, and Christian Science Monitor and for years edited a column on music and the arts for The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

   After her marriage, she made her home in Boston and traveled in the East to give recitals and lectures. She participated in the artistic life of Boston and founded the Musical Art Studio to promote concerts and a little-theater movement in the black community. Antar, her play about an Arabian Negro poet, was staged in Boston under her direction in 1926. In 1927 she established the Allied Arts Center in Boston to nurture musically-inclined and artistically-inclined African American children. She was the author of Creole Songs (1921); The Message of the Trees (1918), a collection of poetry; and Norris Wright Cuney: A Tribune of the Black People (1913), a biography of her father. She is best remembered for the highly regarded Negro Musicians and Their Music (1936). She died in Boston on February 13, 1936, and was buried beside her parents in Lake View Cemetery, Galveston. Source

Note: Maud Cuney-Hare's grave is unmarked. She lies to the right of her father Norris Wright Cuney in the photo below.

29° 16.366, -094° 49.609

Section B
Lake View Cemetery