“Checkin’ On My Baby” taken from kickass new archival release – colored wax, Jack – on Smog Veil. Pictured above: Glenn Schwartz in authentic period garb. (Photo by Veronica Collins)
By Blurt Staff
Today’s track premiere is brought to you, the discerning BLURT readership, by the letter “B” – as in, “blast from the past.” Which would be ‘60s underground heroes the Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade, a powerhouse outfit hailing from Cleveland and featuring members of the James Gang (pre-Joe Walsh hitmaking period) and cult heroes the Mr. Stress Blues Band.
The mighty Smog Veil has unearthed recordings the group cut in the spring of ’67, titled Sunday Morning Revival, as part of its archival series Platters du Cuyahoga, and we are more than honored to be able to showcase one of those tracks right here for ya. Check out “Checkin’ On My Baby”:
At the time of the recording, the band included drummer Jim Fox, guitarist/vocalist Glenn Schwartz, guitarist Rich Kriss, bassist Tom Kriss, and pianist Mike Sands, and Bill Miller from the Mr. Stress Blues Band guested on vocals for this particular track. Fox himself was kind enough to give us the lowdown on the music, saying, “’Checkin’ Up on My Baby’ was better known to me at the point we recorded it. Significantly, this song begins with a ‘straight 8’rhythm, which was the hallmark of rock and roll at that time, but then switches to the standard ‘shuffle’ beat for the solos, and back again for the remaining verses. Kind of radical for its time…” (Below: Fox and Schwartz during their James Gang days. Photo by Veronica Collins.)
Nick Blakey, who researched and penned the album’s extensive liner notes adds some details as well:
“Checkin’ On My Baby” – aka “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” – has a rather interesting history. Much like several other Chicago blues standards, this song’s origins are placed to two completely different songs. One was recorded by Sonny Boy Williamson I (John Lee Curtis Williamson) whose “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” was released on Bluebird in 1945 while the other was by Otis Rush who laid down his “Checkin’ On My Baby” in 1958 for Cobra.
No doubt drawing influence from both of these, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alec Rice Miller) recorded his “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” in 1960 which was first released on the posthumous 1966 Chess compilation The Real Folk Blues (entitled In Memoriam in the UK and Europe). Junior Wells with Buddy Guy on guitar recorded a cover of Williamson II’s song for his 1966 Vanguard album It’s My Life Baby. The Mr. Stress Blues Band were covering this song with Glenn Schwartz on guitar by the Spring of 1967 (as seen in this footage shot at The Coffeehouse, University Circle, Cleveland in Spring 1967 – most likely May: and it from these sources that the Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade featuring Mr. Stress drew from for their own version.”
(Below: Mr Stress Blues Band. Photo by Mike Sands.)
You can read more about the band at the Smog Veil site’s page for the Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade, as well as order it on CD or SWEET yellow vinyl w/download. (Seriously, you have to choose? Act fast, as only 1500 copies are available.) You can also get details on the entire Cuyahoga series here at Smog Veil, as plans are for two more titles for Spring 2017 (Allen Ravenstine, of Pere Ubu fame, from 1975; and a to-be-announced electronic combo, from 1972-73).
Incidentally, by way of a postscript here: Schwartz turned up at this year’s Coachella as a surprise guest – along with Joe Walsh – during the set by the Arcs. Pretty cool at that.
On the web: