|Baby Boy Warren|
One of the unsung bluesmen of the Detroit scene was Robert "Baby Boy" Warren. For about six years, from the late 40's to the mid 50's, Warren compiled a pretty impressive catalog of recordings for a variety of labels, but didn't receive much attention beyond the Motor City. In recent years, a lot of blues historians have reconsidered Warren's place in the history of the blues. He was an above average guitarist and a very good songwriter.
Warren was born in 1919, in Lake Providence, LA. His family moved to Memphis when he was only three months old. He was one of 12 children, and he got the nickname "Baby Boy" from his older brothers when he was a kid. He always loved music and was working as a musician when he was in his early teens, having learned to play guitar from his older brothers. He was a regular at Handy Park in the 30's, with others like Howlin' Wolf, Robert Lockwood, Jr., and Little Buddy Doyle, one of his songwriting mentors (another was Memphis Minnie). He also appeared on the King Biscuit Time radio broadcast in the early 40's with Sonny Boy Williamson.(Rice Miller version). Soon after, he migrated to Detroit to work for General Motors and play guitar on the side at local clubs.
|Boogie Woogie Red|
In 1954, Miller came to Detroit to sit in with Warren on a few tracks, including "Baby Boy Blues," "Chicken," "Sanafee" and "Chuc-A-Luck." The last two tracks eventually made it to Excello. A couple of other tracks from that session ended up on JVB , and later on in the year, Warren recorded a couple of tracks for Blue Lake Records with Calvin Frazier on guitar and Boogie Woogie Red on piano, and a session for Drummond Records that included a reworking of Robert Johnson's "Stop Breakin' Down."
According to blues scholars, Warren's songwriting and style owed a strong debt to Robert Johnson. His lyrics were highly original and often were loaded with wit and humor. Plus, he was backed by some of Detroit's finest musicians in Frazier, Boogie Woogie Red, Washboard Willie, and others on his handful of singles. Despite all this, he didn't receive a lot of attention at the time and he faded from the music scene for most of the 1960's.
Blues historians all agree that even though there were blues singers who could sing better and blues guitarists who could play guitar better, there were very few who had a way with a lyric like Baby Boy Warren. It's a shame that his output was limited to less than two dozen sides, but all of those are worth listening to. If ever there was an early era blues artist deserving of wider recognition, it would be Baby Boy Warren.
4 CD collection of Detroit Blues from JSP Records in the UK that has several Warren tracks with great sound, along with some other excellent artists from the Motor City. Either way, Baby Boy Warren deserves to be heard.