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Blues History MailbagQ: Please tell me what you know about Barrelhouse Buck and is it true he used to play with Henry Townsend?
Tom M.

 A: Barrelhouse Buck is a prime example of the debt St Louis owes to the work of Bob Koester and Charlie O'Brien. Koester and O'Brien rediscovered the aged St Louis blues musicians in the late 1950s and if not for them, Thomas (Barrelhouse Buck) McFarland would be one of the obscure and unknown names on a number of pre-war blues recordings.
Koester and O'Brien asked Big Joe Williams and Speckled Red about the piano player who made records for Paramount and Decca between 1929-35 credited as Barrelhouse Buck.

In 1960 they found Buck living in Alton, Illinois, after having been in Detroit, Michigan since the thirties. O'Brien arranged for Buck to be recorded one last time for Folkways Records by Sam Charters in 1961. On that record Buck pays tribute to St Louis police Lieutenant O'Brien with the song "Lieutenant Blues".
Buck had played with St Louis' Creath band in the twenties and formed his own jug band called Buck's Jazz Hounds and made recordings with St Louis talents like Peetie Wheatstraw and Wesley Wallace and was a friend of St Louis guitarist Charley Jordan and singer Alice Moore. Henry Townsend tells stories of playing parties with Buck in the thirties.

Post-war artist Jimmy Vaughn grew up in Alton next door to Buck and was inspired by him to play music.
Buck passed away in 1962. Koester's Delmark records in Chicago has other recordings of the 1961 session soon to be released. (www.delmark.com)

Sound clips from the 1961 recording can be heard right here


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