Fox Chase & Lost John — selected recordings, 1923 to 1972

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Fox Chase

Henry Whitter

The Old Time Fox Chase

Henry Whitter — recorded on 10 December 1923; issued in 1924 on OKeh 40029, c/w “Lost Train Blues”

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Henry Whitter’s Fox Chase (alternate title, “Fox Chase”)

Henry Whitter — According to the Discography of American Historical Recording, Victor matrix BVE-39758 (take 2) — recorded on 2 August 1927 in Bristol, TN — was issued on the following singles: Victor 20878, Bluebird B-5259, Electradisk 2139, Montgomery Ward M-4475, and Sunrise S-3342. I don’t know if this order represents the chronological order in which they were released, but the releases seem to have taken place during various years including 1927, 1929, and (in the case of Montgomery Ward M-4475) 1932-1934.

Victor 20878, featuring “Henry Whitter’s Fox Chase” c/w “Rain Crow Bill,” was released in December 1927. Montgomery Ward M-4475 (seen in the second video below) released c.1932-1934, is essentially a reissue of Victor 20878, as it features the same two sides.

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Fox Chase no. 2

On 1 October 1929 Henry Whitter recorded “Fox Chase no. 2,” Victor matrix BVE-5625, in Memphis, Tennessee. The recording was issued on several singles, including the following: Victor V-40292, Bluebird B-5259, Electradisk 2139, and Sunrise S-3342. Bluebird B-5259 features “Henry Whitter’s Fox Chase” (2 August 1927 recording) as the A-side, and “Fox Chase no. 2” (recorded on 1 October 1929) as the B-side. However, the usually reliable 78 rpm record discography site the Online Discographical Project (78discography.com) evidently confuses the recording dates of the two sides of Bluebird B-5259, here, where it erroneously assigns the 1 October 1929 recording date not only to the B-side of the single, but also to the A-side. This error is duplicated in the Henry Whitter discography by Henry König. The same two sides are also found on Electradisk 2139 and Sunrise S-3342.

I haven’t yet found an audio file of Henry Whitter’s recording of “Fox Chase no. 2” that’s in a format that I can easily embed in this page. However, a link to a page where you may download a zipfile containing the recording is available in a post titled Henry Whitter 78’s on the Victor and Montgomery Ward labels on the site Allen`s archive of early and old country music.

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DeFord Bailey

Fox Chase

DeFord Bailey (as De Ford Bailey) — recorded on 19 April 1927; issued on Vocalion 5190, b/w “Old Hen Cackle”

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Sonny Terry

From the Sonny Terry (Saunders Terrell) bio by Peter Stone and Ellen Harold, published at the Association for Cultural Equity website (culturalequity.org):

Blind Boy Fuller was a protégé of local record store manager, talent scout, and producer James Baxter Long, under whose tutelage he made records for the ARC, Vocalion, and later Okeh-Columbia labels, with [Sonny] Terry as accompanist and occasionally lead musician. In 1937 Fuller and Terry traveled to New York to record for Vocalion. The next year, John Hammond of Columbia Records contacted Long about visiting Durham to book Fuller for his upcoming Spirituals to Swing Concert at Carnegie Hall, in which he intended to present “Negro music from its raw beginnings to the latest jazz.” Hammond arrived in Durham accompanied by future Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson, only to find that Fuller was in jail for shooting his wife. However, Hammond recalled, “next door lived a blind harmonica player named Sonny Terry, and, as soon as we heard him play and shout his unique song, we decided he was a far superior performer. He definitely should be brought to New York for the concert” (quoted in Bruce Bastin’s Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast [1989], p. 266). Thus Terry became the first artist to be signed up for the legendary event. It is just possible, Bastin speculates, that had Fuller not been in jail, Hammond and Lieberson might never have met Sonny Terry.

At Carnegie Hall Terry performed “Fox Chase” and “Mountain Blues” (harmonica solos), and “New John Henry” (backed by Bull City Red on washboard). The next day (December 24, 1938) Alan Lomax recorded him at Havers Studio in New York City for the Library of Congress performing “Fox Chase” (AFS 2490-A), “A New Careless Love” (2491-A), “Louise” (2492-A), “The Freight Train” (2492-B), “Meet Me At the Railroad and Bring My Shoes and Clothes” (2493-A), and “Lost John” (2493-B, 2494-A, and 2494-B). Two days later he made his first solo commercial recording, “Train Whistle Blues” and “New Love Blues,” which was issued in Columbia’s classical series.

Fox Chase

Sonny Terry — recorded (by Alan Lomax) on 24 December 1938 at Havers Studio, New York City — Discogs.com identifies the recording as “2490-A, Library of Congress, (Archive of American Folk Song) AAFS-19,” which is the same recording referred to in the bio above, recorded one day after the 1938 Spirituals to Swing Concert at Carnegie Hall.

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Sony Terry solo — date unknown

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Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee — recorded in 1958 in London; released in 1990 on the album The 1958 London Sessions

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Chasing the Fox

Sonny Terry — from the 1972 album Wizard of the Harmonica

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Lost John

Sonny Terry recording (by Alan Lomax) on 24 December 1938 at Havers Studio, New York City — Discogs.com identifies the recording as “2493-B, Library of Congress, (Archive of American Folk Song) AAFS-19,” which is the same recording referred to in the bio above, recorded one day after the 1938 Spirituals to Swing Concert at Carnegie Hall.

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Sonny Terry — date unknown; different recording than the one directly above (previous two videos)

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The following two videos contain two separate recordings of “Lost John” by Sonny Terry and Woody Guthrie. I suspect that the words in these versions, which vary a bit from one to other, were primarily written by Woody Guthrie. I may transcribe the words of one or the other, because I haven’t yet found a transcription online that doesn’t have numerous errors.

Sonny Terry and Woody Guthrie — released in 1946 on Asch Records

The recording in the first of the two videos directly below was originally released in 1946, according to Moses Asch, who (says Wikipedia) included the following as a general introduction, within the “12-page booklet containing the complete lyrics of each song and detailed stories about many of them,” to the 1976 album Struggle, Folkways SFW40025 and FA 2485:

This album came about this way: It was originally called ‘STRUGGLE: DOCUMENTARY #1’ and I issued it in 1946 on ASCH RECORDS. I had recorded the 6 songs, Pretty Boy Floyd, Buffalo Skinners, Union Burying Ground, Lost John, Ludlow Massacre, and The 1913 Massacre, on Woody’s insistence that there should be a series of records depicting the struggle of working people in bringing to light their fight for a place in the America that they envisioned. … The other songs are from my recordings of Woody during the many years that he was associated with me in ASCH, DISC, and FOLKWAYS RECORDS.[3]

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Sonny Terry and Woody Guthrie – date unknown, but presumably c. 1940s; different recording than the previous one

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Sonny Terry — “Old Lost John,” from the 1972 album Wizard of the Harmonica

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