Walk Right In was a number one hit for the Greenwich Village folk group, the Rooftop Singers in 1963. True, they  brought the song into the popular music scene, but it was a little known banjo player who wrote and first recorded the song with his group, Cannon's Jug Stompers (Victor Records, 1930).

Gus Cannon had one of those lives that are almost too impossible to believe, although as you listen to the narration on this CD you can hear first-hand just how real these experiences were as the gravelly voice explain the roots of  his lyrics. As narrated by Cannon, one day a woman he was doing chores for told him "to walk right in, set yourself down . . ." At that point, his narration stops as his fingers deftly play the chords and the voice launches into those famous lyrics -- and I have to admit I was mesmerized and an instant fan.

Cannon was the son of slaves, born in Memphis in 1883. He made his first banjo from a guitar neck and a bread pan and although his favorite instrument throughout his life was the banjo, he was also proficient on the fiddle, guitar, and piano. As "Banjo Joe" he appeared in medicine shows every summer between 1914-29.  It was at one of these performances that he was "discovered" and made a recording on Paramount Records with Blind Blake on guitar.

Between 1928-30, he recorded with his Cannon Jug Stompers on the Victor label producing some the finest, bluesy jug band music. As music tastes changed, Gus again found himself playing in the streets for money. By the time the Rooftop Singers recorded he was almost destitute -- he even sold his banjo for coal for his stove.

Overnight, he became a sensation - the media and the young folk musicians, including Bob Dylan, flocked to him -- everyone wanted to hear Walk Right In -- the way he'd originally sung it. Cannon always obliged -- the renewed attention was good, not only for his pocketbook, but also his creative ego.

In 1963, Cannon's vocals and banjo-playing were accompanied by Will Shade on jug and Milton Roby on washboard for this Stax Record release. It appears that he recorded at the Stax studio simply because he lived in the neighborhood.

Besides the title song, it featured 11 other songs from Cannon's repertoire, each one a revealing chapter in Cannon's life. His unselfconscious narrative on each of the songs and the events that inspired the lyrics is like having a conversation with an old friend. He spins his tales as well as he plays and sings -- a true storyteller from a different era.

Only 500 copies of this 1963 album were pressed in its original issue which explains why this legendary blues artist is known to only a handful of collectors. Don't let the words "jug band" and its country connotations scare you -- listening to the voice, the banjo picking, and the lyrics give no doubt of this man's influence on future generations of blues and rock and roll musician.

The Lovin' Spoonful were one of the groups that played at a benefit concert in Memphis as a final salute to Cannon -- the benefit was to raise money for Cannon's tombstone because, even though his music received renewed attention in his later years, he was far from rich when he died in 1979



WALK RIGHT IN - Stax 702 : Narration ; Kill It ; Walk Right In ; Salty Dog ; Going Around The Mountain ; Ol' Hen ; Gonna Raise A Ruckus Tonight ; Ain't Gonna Rain No More ; Boll-Weevil ; Come On Down To My House ; Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor ; Get Up In The Morning Soon ; Crawdad Hole.  (reissued on CD)