Three generations of the blues: Sippie Wallace, Big Mama Thornton, Jeannie Cheatham

I’m a big fan of — among a few other things, bourbon included — the history of blues music, and the artists who helped create it and carry it through time so that we can still enjoy this uniquely American classical music.

In a couple of my first posts, I highlighted classic artists Billie Holiday and Big Joe Turner, two of my favorites.

While I was looking for material on Big Mama Thornton recently, I found a YouTube video of a 1983 TV show from PBS titled “Three Generations of the Blues,” featuring Sippie Wallace, Thornton and Jeannie Cheatham.

I was familiar with all three. I had rediscovered Wallace when Bonnie Raitt made some appearances with her in the 1970s. But her blues life began long before that.

Sippie Wallace, born in 1898, was one of the earliest blues singers, performing in tent shows as a teenager, and one of the first blues recording artists, beginning in 1923. She was known as a blues shouters, and wrote many of the songs she performed. She was one of many early blues singers who were women, a fact that often gets overlooked in favor of the more testosterone-powered music that came later.

Wallace pretty much dropped out of blues in the late ‘20s, and didn’t really record again until 1966, when she cut the album “Women Be Wise,” with Roosevelt Sykes and Little Brother Montgomery on piano. You may be most familiar with her when Bonnie Raitt began to perform with her in the 1970s. She was 86 when this show was filmed — still full of music, humor and vitality.

Two years after this film, in 1986, Wallace died on her 88th birthday.

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, born in 1926, and once billed as the “new Bessie Smith,” is probably best known for recording the R&B-flavored “Hound Dog” a few years before Elvis Presley turned it into a giant rock ‘n’ roll hit.

I’ll digress here for a minute to point out that “Hound Dog” was written especially for Thornton by the barely out-of-their-teens and soon-to-be songwriting wizards of blues, R&B and pop — Jerry Lieber and Mike Stiller. Their body of work is amazing.

Thornton is also known for writing and recording her unreleased “Ball ‘n’ Chain,” which was ultimately more associated with Janis Joplin. Thornton died just about a year after this show, at the age of 57.

Thornton performed off and on with Jeannie Cheatham, who with her Sweet Baby Blues Band, represented a more contemporary approach in terms of having a swinging, horn-fueled band, but gave no quarter in offering tough, down-home blues.

There are three short segments in this concert, with both Wallace and Thornton performing relatively short sets. Cheatham takes over for a rousing set, then brings out Wallace and Thornton for an enthusiastic finale. It was all filmed in Solano Beach, Calif., in 1983.

It’s a lot of fun to watch some fine blues history, especially when it’s filled with great voices and good times.

A soulful Sonny Green is truly a blast from the past

As much as I enjoy all the new and contemporary blues music floating around, I love finding “new” old artists whose work has gone unnoticed or unrecognized.

Soulful Sonny Green is one of those artists.

And thanks to the Little Village Foundation, we can hear the first album this exciting singer has recorded in his 77 years — “Found! One Soul Singer.”

That’s right. Even though he’s recorded a handful of singles over the years, he’s never recorded a full album. But he came out of Louisiana singing as a teen, and moved to the Los Angeles area, where he’s been showing off his soulful pipes for more than 40 years.

So he’s one of those “new” performers who’s bringing back some crackling old-school music. And it’s a master class.

Green delivers a soulful lesson, whether he’s delivering a chestnut like Little Milton’s “If Walls Could Talk,” Rick Estrin’s torchy “I Beg Your Pardon,” an old Willie Nelson ballad “Are You Sure,” or the funky “Cupid Must Be Stupid,” with a snappy sax solo by Terry Hanck, who shares songwriting on that track with Jojo Russo and guitarist/producer, the omnipresent Christoffer “Kid” Andersen.

“If You Want Me to Keep on Loving You” soars as Green updates his 1971 single, while Andersen turns in a fiery solo. Alabama Mike lends his tasty vocal chops to a duet with Green on “Trouble.” And there are even more cuts on the album, all designed to fill any hole that may exist in your soul.

Enjoy this one with a shot of nostalgia for music the way it used to be made.

Green hasn’t exactly been a household word during his long career, so not a lot has been written about him, but here’s a profile published in Living Blues magazine in 2015.

And similarly, there’s not a lot of performance video around, but here are two for your viewing pleasure. The first is a a 1991 performance, the second from a 2014 show. He’s still got some cool sartorial chops.

Here’s the track list for the album:

1. I’m So Tired

2. If Walls Could Talk

3. I Beg Your Pardon

4. Are You Sure

5. Cupid Must Be Stupid

6. Blind Man

7. Back For A Taste Of Your Love

8. If You Want Me To Keep Loving You

9. Trouble (w/ Alabama Mike)

10. I Got There

11. Be Ever Wonderful