Thursday, March 1, 2012

THREE FIFTEEN AND HIS SQUARES - Saturday Night on Texas Avenue (Vocalion, 1937)

THREE FIFTEEN AND HIS SQUARES - Saturday Night on Texas Avenue (Vocalion, 1937)

In honor of the Texas Avenue Community Association and the first annual Cora M. Allen Day (March 7, 2012), here’s a musical tribute to Shreveport’s Texas Avenue. The complete story on Three Fifteen and His Squares can be found in my article recently published in The Jazz Archivist, a newsletter of the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University. Here's an excerpt below -- “Three Fifteen and His Squares - Shreveport's David Blunson” by Chris Brown (The Jazz Archivist, vol. xxiv, 2011).

2012.10.14 update: complete article now available online (see pages 22-31):


In 1937, Three Fifteen and His Squares, a music group from Shreveport, Louisiana, traveled 200 miles north for a recording session in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The musicians, led by David “315” Blunson, recorded four songs released by Vocalion Records. Apart from the group’s four recordings, however, they left few traces of their existence. As a result, modern researchers have struggled to shed light on Three Fifteen and His Squares. Luckily for those curious about this enigmatic band, Blunson appears nearly a dozen times in an underexplored resource--his hometown’s weekly African American newspaper, The Shreveport Sun. These references, which range from cryptic in-jokes to more descriptive articles, paint a biographical portrait of David “315” Blunson. They also document his ties to Texas Avenue, an area he celebrated in song. The lyrics to Blunson’s “Saturday Night on Texas Avenue” pay a colorful tribute to Shreveport’s African American main drag during its heyday:
In a spot in my hometown, I’d like for you to go
And get woke up, and see a great show
We smoke weed, and we say hey-hey
We drink port wine until the break of day
Saturday Night on Texas Avenue

Walk all night from place to place
Shuckin’ and jivin’ trying to get our gait
Some be truckin’ and some be doin’ the Suzie-Q
And if you stay long enough, you’ll be truckin’ too
Saturday Night on Texas Avenue

When you walk out the door, on the street
A tough fellow, I vow you’re sure to meet
He’ll pull you, and he’ll snatch you, and he’ll hit you across the head
And if you resist him, he’ll shoot you dead-dead-dead
Saturday Night on Texas Avenue

We’ll walk in on Levy’s and Jerry’s too
We’ll stand and wonder what’s next to do
We’ll sit down and knock a little drink
Then we’ll be drunk before we even think
Saturday Night on Texas Avenue

We’ll then sit in a booth, take a little peep
Before we know it, we’re dead asleep
All of a sudden, we’ll hear a row
That’s the owners telling you “ain’t carrying sleepers anymore”
Saturday Night on Texas Avenue
The story of David Blunson as reported by The Shreveport Sun begins in “Ballyhoo by Yours Truly—Me,” a column commonly rife with jive talk and comedic jabs at the locals. In May 1932, the columnist related a story about stumbling upon Blunson’s band practice:
Who said hard times can’t make us think? The other evening, about 3:30, when ole Saul was beaming down on “Yours Truly’s” neckbone, while coming through a small short lane of houses behind “Bill” Huntley’s shop, here’s what: David “313” Blunson, Olian Underwood, Hooks, and two or three other stags were seated in one of the cabins, rehearsing “Sleepy Time Down South”…they were playing the tune, if not perfectly…the boys seem to know that any port will do in a storm…the nickels they make will look as good to them as anybody’s…attaboy, boys…Learn to get out and make the roads better yourself!

Texas Avenue, 1947; this photograph depicts the 800-1000 blocks. Structures include: Municipal Auditorium (top center), shotgun houses behind Huntley Brothers Undertakers and Jerry's Bar (bottom right), and Star Theater (bottom left, with elevated rear). (Henry Langston McEachern Photographic Collection, 1941-2008; Archives and Special Collections, Noel Memorial Library, Louisiana State University Library in Shreveport, Shreveport).

Blunson’s band played at Jerry’s, a place he references in the lyrics to “Saturday Night on Texas Avenue.” Along with many other Shreveport clubs, churches, businesses, and individuals, Jerry's placed an advertisement in the Shreveport Sun supporting the Ambassador Club in its celebration of "National Negro History Week" in 1936. (Shreveport Sun, February 15, 1936.)