Jimmy Reed and the Casa Linda Lowlife

The featured artist for my WFHB Blue Monday DJ slot on Monday, February, 12, 2018, was Jimmy Reed, the deeply influential Mississippi-Chicago bluesman, who was born in 1925 in the Delta and died in California in 1976. Reed was an active musician in the Chicago area and had many R&B -- and a few pop -- hit songs in the 1950s and 1960s.

Many peoples’ first encounter with Chicago blues -- any kind of blues -- is through songs Reed wrote and recorded. Many of these songs were in turn covered (in his life time) by major artists of the day including Elvis Presley, Charlie Rich, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Bill Cosby, and Etta James. As you'll hear in the interview, Jimmy Reed had a big influence on the Lone Star State.

I feel a personal connection to Jimmy Reed and his music: he grew up just down the road in Washington County, Mississippi, from my own teacher, James “Son” Thomas. Son knew him and taught me several of his songs.

My passion about Jimmy Reed's music was re-ignited last year when Hap Channell, a family friend in my hometown of Gunnison, Colorado, mentioned almost in passing that as a Dallas teenager he danced to Jimmy Reed, and – get this -- also remembers Reed making an appearance at his teen dance club! Wow! I had to follow up, so I arranged a time and recorded an interview this winter with Hap in the dining room of his historic home in Gunnison.

Here is my interview with Hap Channell in which he describes being a 1950s teenager in the Casa Linda area of Northeast Dallas and doing a dance called the Low Life. This is taken from the airing of the live radio show, WFHB’s Blue Monday: 

Jimmy Reed - Hap Channell and the Casa Linda Lowlife (MP3) (25 minutes)

(See below for full playlist and entire interview)

The scene that Hap Channell describes is woefully under-documented. I came across a blog entry by jimdgoulding in 2013 : 

Jimmy Reed probably sold the most of his records to us.  We had dances that could only be done to the blues.  The North Texas Push and the Casa Linda Low Life were teenage art forms done to the blues.  I used to attend blues reviews at the Dallas Sportatorium.  Ten groups for $3.00.  ...  Man, me, and my friends, loved the blues.

The Teen Timers Dance Club makes an appearance in a 2008 mystery novel by Mary Elizabeth Goldman, To Love and Die in Dallas:

Sequestered behind the shopper’s cloister but still part of the complex were a few professional offices: the optometrist center, the barbershop, and the second most popular establishment in all of White Rock  -- Teen Timers. Home of the original dirty dancing, the birthplace of the Casa Linda Low Life, Teen Timers was so full of smoke, noise, and packed bodies, that we could barely see, hear or breathe.  Amateur bands imitating Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Reed and Buddy Holly played nonstop for the dancers and listeners alike. It was a blissful sanctuary where rumors not only circulated wildly but originated right there in the girls' room. In short, Teen Timers was a dimly lit haven with parental blessing. 

For wonderful background on the intersections of dance, music, technology, and race in mid-century USA (though it doesn't mention the Casa Linda Low Life), check out  Tim Wall’s chapter, “'Rocking Around the Clock', Teenage Dance Fads from 1955 to 1965" in Ballroom, Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake : A Social and Popular Dance Reader, edited by Julie Malnig (Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c2009).  

You can find all the songs I played on the February 12 show  (via Spinitron). 

Here is the entire unedited conversation/interview with Hap Channell (MP3)(recorded December 27, 2017, Gunnison, CO.)

After my interview with Hap, I played some Jimmy Reed songs, including these: 




John Anders was a columnist for the Dallas Morning News for many years, then wrote for D Magazine for some time before he retired. He used to write about going to Bryan Adams High School in the early 60's and doing the Casa Linda Lowlife as their form of "dirty dancing".

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