Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee
made their first recording together in 1941, and became the longest-running blues duo in memory, stringing out nearly 40 years of recordings and gigs until their gradually emerging distaste for each other finally proved insurmountable and brought an end to the musical partnership. Driven by Terry
's trademark high-pitched and whooping harmonica and McGhee
's solid, steady acoustic guitar playing, the pair updated their traditional blues material just enough to earn steady gigs on the college and coffeehouse circuit, and if they had a tendency to knock off most of the rough edges in the songs they did, enough of the Piedmont tradition remained to make them valuable keepers of the flame. This set shows a glimpse of the earlier, rougher-edged version of the duo, and wisely sets the stage by opening with six of Terry
's old 78s, including the wild field holler "Harmonica Stomp" from 1940, then follows it with six of McGhee
's 78s from the same time period, before finishing the set off with a dozen tracks of the two musicians together recorded between 1944 and 1952. The end result neatly sketches out the early years, and in this case, perhaps the most vital years, of the duo's long association.