Update From T. DeWayne Moore On Ralph Lembo And His Historical Reputation

Ralph Lembo was a store owner and music promoter during the 1920’s and 1930’s in Leflore County, Mississippi who obtained recording contracts for musicians like Bukka White and Rube Lacey.

Ralph Lembo’s store in Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi is still standing at 114 Humphreys Street in downtown Itta Bena.

The former Ralph Lembo store, Humphreys Street, Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi
The former Ralph Lembo store, 114 Humphreys Street, Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi

Ralph Lembo’s historical reputation has been tarnished through articles by blues historians, including Gayle Dean Wardlow and Ed Komara, who wrote that musicians considered Ralph Lembo untrustworthy. Gayle Dean Wardlow has written that Charley Patton refused to work with Ralph Lembo because he considered Lembo untrustworthy.

New research by T. DeWayne Moore of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund suggests that Ralph Lembo’s posthumous reputation has been tarnished unfairly and the criticism of Ralph Lembo as being untrustworthy is itself untrustworthy.

For more on this, here is a link to T. DeWayne Moore’s latest article on Ralph Lembo, published in July 2019.

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1924 Paramount Records Advertisement For Ma Rainey’s Mystery Record

Researchers at Mt. Zion Memorial Fund recently came across this 1924 advertisement for Ma Rainey recordings on Paramount Records, which originally appeared in the New York Age newspaper.

Paramount Records invited fans to send in their suggestion for the name of Ma Rainey’s “Mystery Record, (Paramount 12200) and offered 100 prizes for respondents.

A 1924 advertisement for Ma Rainey recordings in the New York Age. (Courtesy of Mt. Zion Memorial Fund)
A 1924 advertisement for Ma Rainey recordings in the New York Age. (Courtesy of Mt. Zion Memorial Fund)

Our thanks to the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund for putting us onto this advertisement.

Here is a YouTube recording of Ma Rainey’s Mystery Record:


Here is our Recommended Recording for Ma Rainey on CD:

CD cover, Ma Rainey, Mother of the Blues, a 5 CD box set released onJSP Records.
CD cover, Ma Rainey, Mother of the Blues, a 5 CD box set released on JSP Records.

 

Recommended Recording: Black Tornado, by Magic Slim

Recommended Recordings

As one of Our Recommendations and Recommended Recordings, we recommend Black Tornado, by Magic Slim, released in 1998 on Blind Pig Records.

CD cover, Magic Slim, Black Tornado, released in 1998 on Blind Pig Records
CD cover, Magic Slim, Black Tornado, released in 1998 on Blind Pig Records

Available through Amazon.com and these Amazon affiliates:

Here are some videos of Magic Slim:

Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this page?

Recommended Recording: Reconsider Baby – The Complete Checker Singles 1954-1962, by Lowell Fulson

Recommended Recordings

As part of Our Recommendations and Recommended Recordings, we are recommending Reconsider Baby – The Complete Checker Singles 1954-1962 by Lowell Fulson.

CD cover, Lowell Fulson, Reconsider Baby - The Complete Checker Singles 1954-1962, released on Jasmine Records
CD cover, Lowell Fulson, Reconsider Baby – The Complete Checker Singles 1954-1962, released on Jasmine Records

Available through Amazon.com and these Amazon affiliates:

 

Our Recommendations and Recommended Recordings also include these Lowell Fulson releases:

CD cover, Lowell Fulson, Blues Shadows (with the Powder Blues Band), recorded in Vancouver, B.C. in 1982
CD cover, Lowell Fulson, Blue Shadows (with the Powder Blues Band), recorded in Vancouver, B.C. in 1982

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The Daily Memphian Has Published A Music Tour Which Includes A Link To Our Page On Hooks Brothers Photography

The Daily Memphian has published an article entitled A Memphis Music Road Map: The Early Years which includes a link to our page on Hooks Brothers Photography Studio, 164 Beale Street, in downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

Our thanks to The Daily Memphian for its recognition of our page on Hooks Brothers Photography Studio and the fact that one of the two known photographs of Robert Johnson was taken there.

For our readers planning a trip to Memphis, here is a re-posting of our Page about Hooks Brothers Photography Studio at 164 Beale Street in downtown Memphis which was mentioned by The Daily Memphian:

web header image showing part of the Hooks Brothers Photography sign, beale Street, memphis

This Tennessee Historical Commission marker is located outside the King’s Palace Cafe at 162 Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. The Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was located at 164 Beale Street, which is the second floor of the King’s Palace Cafe building, in the space currently occupied by the Absinthe Pool Room.

Tennessee Historical Commission marker (front) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis
Tennessee Historical Commission marker (front) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis

The front of this marker reads:

HOOKS BROTHERS PHOTOGRAPHY ESTABLISHED IN 1907 – Established by Henry Hooks, Sr. and his brother Robert B. Hooks, Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was the second oldest continuously operating black business in Memphis. Located during its early years at 164 Beale Street, it next moved to Linden Avenue and finally to McLemore Avenue where it ceased operation after a destructive fire in 1979.”

Tennessee Historical Commission marker (rear) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis
Tennessee Historical Commission marker (rear) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis

The rear of this marker reads:

“Covering much of the 20th century, the company chronicled and documented the history and lives of black Memphis and Memphians. Among the subjects and luminaries captured on film by the Hooks Brothers were Booker T. Washington, W.C. Handy, Robert R. Church, the beginning days of the Memphis NAACP, the Lincoln League, early high school and college graduating classes from Howe Institute, LeMoyne College and many other activities of black society and ordinary people.”

Although it is not mentioned on this Tennessee Historical Commission marker, Hooks Brothers Photography was also where the only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken.

Kings Palace Cafe, 162-164 Beale Street, Memphis, TN. The second floor was once occupied by Hooks Brothers Photography. The only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken by Hooks Brothers Photography.
Kings Palace Cafe, 162-164 Beale Street, Memphis, TN. The second floor was once occupied by Hooks Brothers Photography. The only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken by Hooks Brothers Photography.

Hooks Brothers Photography and Robert Johnson

CD cover, Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.
CD cover, Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.

The Hooks Brothers Photography studio at 164 Beale Street is also of interest to blues fans because of its connection to Robert Johnson.

There are only two known confirmed photographs of Robert Johnson.

One of the two confirmed photographs of Robert Johnson, the one used on the Robert Johnson Complete Recordings album cover (left), is a studio portrait taken circa 1934-1938 at the Hooks Brothers Photography Studio at 164 Beale Street.

The other is a snapshot of Robert Johnson that was used in making the cover of the Elijah Wald book Escaping The Delta, shown at left below.

 

 

Book cover, Escaping The Delta - Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald.
Book cover, Escaping The Delta – Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald.

Here are links to some articles about photographs of Robert Johnson:

 

The office and studio space used by the former Hooks Brothers Photography is now the Absinthe Pool Room, part of the King’s Palace Cafe located downstairs at 162 Beale Street.

Many of the original features of this space are still intact and it is possible to get some idea of what the Hooks Brothers’ offices and studio may have looked like in the mid-1930’s when the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken here circa 1934-1938.

Here are some photos of how the space now appears.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once the Hooks Brothers reception area.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once the Hooks Brothers reception area.

The photo above shows what the entrance area of the Absinthe Pool Room looks like today.

This is the second floor room you first enter after coming up the staircase from Beale Street. The Absinthe Pool Room uses this space as a bar and sitting area.

We’re speculating that Hooks Brothers Photography would have used it as a reception area and waiting room.

The main architectural features of interest today are the original wooden wainscoting, transoms above the doors and the interior windows that open in all the interior walls. The interior sliding windows are an interesting remnant of the days before air conditioning. Interior windows that opened allowed air to circulate more freely through the interior spaces, allowing more effective ventilation and circulation of interior air.

We’re speculating that Hooks Brothers Photography used the spaces shown in the photos below as offices.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.

The photos below show the current appearance of what we believe to have been a room used by Hooks Brothers as a photography studio. These rooms overlook Beale Street and have large south facing windows overlooking Beale Street which allow natural light to enter. These are the only rooms in the space with natural light, which leads us to believe Hooks Brothers Photography would have used them as studios. If so, this is where the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken.

These photos show the view looking toward the north, away from the Beale Street frontage of the building.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
This photo of Robert Johnson was taken at Hooks Brothers Photography, 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.
This photo of Robert Johnson was taken at Hooks Brothers Photography, 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

The photos below show another view of the same room shown in the photos above.

This view looks south toward the Beale Street frontage of the building. The large windows face south onto Beale Street and allow natural light into the interior space at the front of the building.

None of the other upstairs rooms have windows allowing natural light to come in. For that reason we think Hooks Brothers Photography would have taken advantage of the natural light and used these rooms overlooking Beale Street as their photographic studios. If so, the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson (shown at left) was taken in these rooms.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.

Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this post?

T. DeWayne Moore Article With New Research On Ralph Lembo

Ralph Lembo (1897-1960) was a store owner and land owner in Leflore County, Mississippi who also acted as promoter and talent scout for blues artists in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The former Ralph Lembo store in downtown Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi is still standing. Here is a link to our page on Ralph Lembo’s store in Itta Bena.

The former Ralph Lembo store, Humphreys Street, Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi
The former Ralph Lembo store, 114 Humphreys Street, Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi

Prior research by Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow has suggested that Ralph Lembo exploited blues artists and musicians like Charlie Patton refused to deal with Ralph Lembo because they didn’t trust him.

Blues historian T. DeWayne Moore has published a very interesting new article which shows that Ralph Lembo was definitely not the untrustworthy figure early research has portrayed him as being.

T. DeWayne Moore shows that Ralph Lembo played a leading role in getting recording contracts for Bo Carter, the Mississippi Sheiks, Booker “Bukka” White,

Here is the Introduction to this new T. DeWayne Moore article on Ralph Lembo:

“This essay examines newspaper articles, government documents, personal family collections, and secondary sources to refute and corroborate interviews about Ralph Lembo and restore the good name of the Mississippi talent scout and manager whose passionate, multi-faceted engagement with the entertainment world brought many artists to major recording companies, including Columbia, Paramount, OKeh, and Victor. Lembo drove Rocket 88 air-conditioned automobiles, wore alligator boots and Panama-brimmed hats, and he stepped up and offered his large plantation when several other potential sites had refused to support the establishment of Mississippi Valley State University. Lembo relished playing the drums in his band the Pot Lickers and operating several music stores in the mid-Delta, which brought him into contact with an immense well of talent, including such figures as Kansas City Jim Jackson, Bo Carter, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Rubin Lacy. This article also explodes the negative and ongoing bias against Lembo and argues that he discovered the “King of the Delta Blues,” Charley Patton.”

We highly recommend this new new article on Ralph Lembo by T. DeWayne Moore. You can download it here.

Below is 1928 advertisement by Ralph Lembo recently discovered by T. DeWayne Moore:

Ralph Lembo Music Store advertisement in Greenwood Commonwealth, December 1928
Ralph Lembo Music Store advertisement in Greenwood Commonwealth, December 1928 (thanks to Mt. Zion Memorial Fund)

A Reader’s Comments On Hooks Brothers Photography, 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee

web header image showing part of the Hooks Brothers Photography sign, beale Street, memphis

A reader from the UK, Neil Lancaster, contacted us this month with comments about our page and post on Hooks Brothers Photography Studio on Beale Street in Memphis.

Neil Lancaster writes:

“Astonishing to see this. Original features extant, too. Was in Memphis on pilgrimage in 2016 but missed the opportunity to see this. It should be made far more well known for blues travellers. Best, from England.”

We totally agree with Neil. So for those readers, like Neil Lancaster, who are interested in Blues History and Places In Blues History and who are planning a trip to Memphis, Tennessee we recommend checking out the former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio at 164 Beale Street in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. Not many people know about it but it was where one of the two known photographs of Robert Johnson were taken.

So for our readers planning a trip to Memphis, here is a re-posting of our article about Hooks Brothers Photography Studio at 164 Beale Street in downtown Memphis:

web header image showing part of the Hooks Brothers Photography sign, beale Street, memphis

This Tennessee Historical Commission marker is located outside the King’s Palace Cafe at 162 Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. The Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was located at 164 Beale Street, which is the second floor of the King’s Palace Cafe building, in the space currently occupied by the Absinthe Pool Room.

Tennessee Historical Commission marker (front) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis
Tennessee Historical Commission marker (front) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis

The front of this marker reads:

HOOKS BROTHERS PHOTOGRAPHY ESTABLISHED IN 1907 – Established by Henry Hooks, Sr. and his brother Robert B. Hooks, Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was the second oldest continuously operating black business in Memphis. Located during its early years at 164 Beale Street, it next moved to Linden Avenue and finally to McLemore Avenue where it ceased operation after a destructive fire in 1979.”

Tennessee Historical Commission marker (rear) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis
Tennessee Historical Commission marker (rear) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis

The rear of this marker reads:

“Covering much of the 20th century, the company chronicled and documented the history and lives of black Memphis and Memphians. Among the subjects and luminaries captured on film by the Hooks Brothers were Booker T. Washington, W.C. Handy, Robert R. Church, the beginning days of the Memphis NAACP, the Lincoln League, early high school and college graduating classes from Howe Institute, LeMoyne College and many other activities of black society and ordinary people.”

Although it is not mentioned on this Tennessee Historical Commission marker, Hooks Brothers Photography was also where the only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken.

Kings Palace Cafe, 162-164 Beale Street, Memphis, TN. The second floor was once occupied by Hooks Brothers Photography. The only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken by Hooks Brothers Photography.
Kings Palace Cafe, 162-164 Beale Street, Memphis, TN. The second floor was once occupied by Hooks Brothers Photography. The only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken by Hooks Brothers Photography.

Hooks Brothers Photography and Robert Johnson

CD cover, Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.
CD cover, Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.

The Hooks Brothers Photography studio at 164 Beale Street is also of interest to blues fans because of its connection to Robert Johnson.

There are only two known confirmed photographs of Robert Johnson.

One of the two confirmed photographs of Robert Johnson, the one used on the Robert Johnson Complete Recordings album cover (left), is a studio portrait taken circa 1934-1938 at the Hooks Brothers Photography Studio at 164 Beale Street.

The other is a snapshot of Robert Johnson that was used in making the cover of the Elijah Wald book Escaping The Delta, shown at left below.

 

 

Book cover, Escaping The Delta - Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald.
Book cover, Escaping The Delta – Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald.

Here are links to some articles about photographs of Robert Johnson:

 

The office and studio space used by the former Hooks Brothers Photography is now the Absinthe Pool Room, part of the King’s Palace Cafe located downstairs at 162 Beale Street.

Many of the original features of this space are still intact and it is possible to get some idea of what the Hooks Brothers’ offices and studio may have looked like in the mid-1930’s when the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken here circa 1934-1938.

Here are some photos of how the space now appears.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once the Hooks Brothers reception area.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once the Hooks Brothers reception area.

The photo above shows what the entrance area of the Absinthe Pool Room looks like today.

This is the second floor room you first enter after coming up the staircase from Beale Street. The Absinthe Pool Room uses this space as a bar and sitting area.

We’re speculating that Hooks Brothers Photography would have used it as a reception area and waiting room.

The main architectural features of interest today are the original wooden wainscoting, transoms above the doors and the interior windows that open in all the interior walls. The interior sliding windows are an interesting remnant of the days before air conditioning. Interior windows that opened allowed air to circulate more freely through the interior spaces, allowing more effective ventilation and circulation of interior air.

We’re speculating that Hooks Brothers Photography used the spaces shown in the photos below as offices.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.

The photos below show the current appearance of what we believe to have been a room used by Hooks Brothers as a photography studio. These rooms overlook Beale Street and have large south facing windows overlooking Beale Street which allow natural light to enter. These are the only rooms in the space with natural light, which leads us to believe Hooks Brothers Photography would have used them as studios. If so, this is where the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken.

These photos show the view looking toward the north, away from the Beale Street frontage of the building.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
This photo of Robert Johnson was taken at Hooks Brothers Photography, 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.
This photo of Robert Johnson was taken at Hooks Brothers Photography, 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

The photos below show another view of the same room shown in the photos above.

This view looks south toward the Beale Street frontage of the building. The large windows face south onto Beale Street and allow natural light into the interior space at the front of the building.

None of the other upstairs rooms have windows allowing natural light to come in. For that reason we think Hooks Brothers Photography would have taken advantage of the natural light and used these rooms overlooking Beale Street as their photographic studios. If so, the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson (shown at left) was taken in these rooms.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.

Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this post?

Recommended Recording: Blue Shadows by Lowell Fulson

Recommended Recordings

As part of Our Recommendations and Recommended Recordings, we are recommending Blue Shadows by Lowell Fulson.

This album was recorded at Blue Wave Studios in Vancouver, B.C. in 1982 and features Lowell Fulson backed by the Powder Blues Band.

CD cover, Lowell Fulson, Blues Shadows (with the Powder Blues Band), recorded in Vancouver, B.C. in 1982
CD cover, Lowell Fulson, Blue Shadows (with the Powder Blues Band), recorded in Vancouver, B.C. in 1982

Available through Amazon.com and these Amazon affiliates:

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Recommended Recording: Otis Rush – All Your Love I Miss Loving: Live At The Wise Fools Pub Chicago

Recommended Recordings

As one of Our Recommendations and Recommended Recordings, we recommend All Your Love I Miss Loving: Live At The Wise Fools Pub Chicago by Otis Rush, released on Delmark Records.

CD cover, All You Love I Miss Loving: Live At The Wise Fools Pub Chicago by Otis Rush, on Delmark Records.
CD cover, All You Love I Miss Loving: Live At The Wise Fools Pub Chicago by Otis Rush, on Delmark Records.

Available through Amazon.com and these Amazon affiliates:

Our Recommended Recordings also include these Otis Rush albums:

CD cover, Classic Cobra Records Recordings 1956-1958 by Otis Rush
CD cover, Classic Cobra Records Recordings 1956-1958 by Otis Rush
CD cover, So Many Roads: Live In Concert by Otis Rush, on Delmark Records.
CD cover, So Many Roads: Live In Concert by Otis Rush, on Delmark Records.

Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this post?

Recommended Recording: Otis Rush – So Many Roads Live In Concert

Recommended Recordings

As one of Our Recommendations and Recommended Recordings, we recommend So Many Roads: Live In Concert by Otis Rush, released on Delmark Records. This is a live 1970’s recording of Otis Rush performing in Japan.

CD cover, So Many Roads: Live In Concert by Otis Rush, on Delmark Records.
CD cover, So Many Roads: Live In Concert by Otis Rush, on Delmark Records.

Available through Amazon.com and these Amazon affiliates:

Our Recommended Recordings also include these Otis Rush recordings:

CD cover, Classic Cobra Records Recordings 1956-1958 by Otis Rush
CD cover, Classic Cobra Records Recordings 1956-1958 by Otis Rush
CD cover, All You Love I Miss Loving: Lice At The Wise Fools Pub Chicago by Otis Rush, on Delmark Records.
CD cover, All You Love I Miss Loving: Live At The Wise Fools Pub Chicago by Otis Rush, on Delmark Records.

Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this post?