Louie Bluie

A violinist, mandolinist, and guitarist in the black string band style who made a few recordings in the '20s and '30s, Howard Armstrong aka Louie Bluie was rescued from the obscurity of specialist record collections when he was the subject of the Louie Bluie film documentary in the '80s, produced by Terry Zwigoff (more famous for his film Crumb). (Armstrong was also known as Louie Bluie as he issued a single under that nickname in 1934.) In his youth he was in bands with Carl Martin and guitarist Ted Bogan, including the Four Aces and the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, the latter of whom recorded "Vine Street Drag" in 1930. The traveling entertainers settled for a while in Chicago in the '30s, but stopped playing professionally by the late '30s, although Armstrong and Bogan got a new life in the '70s on the folk and festival circuit. A lively if not especially innovative entertainer, Armstrong was one of the last exponents of the black string band style by the time of the Louie Bluie film. For its soundtrack, he did some recording with two veterans of the idiom, mandolinist Yank Rachell and banjoist Ikey Robinson, as well as other musicians. The soundtrack, plus some sides from the '20s and '30s that Armstrong and Rachell had a hand in, is available as a CD. ~ Richie Unterberger

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