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Whatever Chocolate Brown wants, Chocolate Brown gets

In 1930, Blind Blake was one of Paramount’s biggest-selling artists in a career that started in 1926. But since it was during The Great Depression, record sales — along with everything else — plummeted, so he picked up plenty of side gigs, including one with Chocolate Brown.

By Mike Greenblatt

In 1930, Blind Blake [1896-1934] was one of Paramount’s biggest-selling artists in a career that started in 1926. But since it was during The Great Depression [1929-1936], record sales — along with everything else — plummeted. In order to make more money, Blake would back up “a whole lot of people,” according to John Tefteller of Tefteller’s World’s Rarest Records. That side work included a gig backing Chocolate Brown on “You Got What I Want” ( b/w “Cherry Hill Blues,” Paramount 12978).

“Daddy, I’m broke and I’m down and out/
I know you got money and you can help me out/
There you got what I want oh you got what I want/
Now give it to me Daddy ‘cause you got what I want/
Aah, talk to me Daddy so nice and sweet/
You got something that can’t be beat.”

As Brown warbles about what she wants, Blake is strumming to beat the band and firing off a running commentary that adds humor and the human element of interaction that makes this track truly stand out.

Chocolate Brown You Got What I Want Paramount 12978

“He’s feeling real loose here,” Tefteller says.

Among Blake’s under-his-breath asides: “Oh, Lord help me,” “I gots everything,” “A little drink wouldn’t hurt right now,” and, perhaps truest of all, “I play everything.”

Brown sings and scats her way through this jaunty, ragtime, entendre-packed, feel-good anthem where her words say she’s singing about his money, but her voice makes it clear what she really wants. (If you’re still in doubt as to her intent, perhaps you should give a listen to some of her other songs, such as “I Want You To Give Me Some,” “Good Meat Grinder (Good Grinding)” “Must Get Mine In Front” and “My Back To The Wall.”

Chocolate Brown, aka Irene Scruggs, also recorded under the same of Dixie Nolan. Born in 1901 in Mississippi and raised in Missouri, Brown’s career basically ended in 1935. She left for Europe by the end of the ’30s and never came back, heading first to Paris and later relocating up in Germany, where it is believed she died in 1981.

“She’s one of the best female blues singers of all time,” Tefteller says. “There are some sides out there where she accompanies herself on guitar, but as rare as this song is, those are even harder to find. The sides she cut with Blake are, in a word, outstanding.”
To Tefteller’s knowledge, there are only two known copies of “You Got What I Want” in existence; Tefteller owns one, and collector Don Kent owns the other. Both copies are cracked.

“[Blues Images sound genius Richard] Nevins was masterful in literally pulling the sound out of the well-worn grooves to the point where you cannot even hear the crack!” Tefteller says of the track featured on the CD that accompanies his Blues Images calendar.
Should a third copy of Paramount 12978 be found, it could sell for thousands.

While Scruggs enjoyed a long life abroad, Blake only lived a few years after their collaborations. His last session was in 1932. Then Paramount went bankrupt. It took decades, but researchers finally figured out Blake had been living close to Paramount’s Grafton, Wisconsin, recording studio, where the label would board its artists. Shortly after Paramount folded, Blake contracted pneumonia and was hospitalized. After he was released, he couldn’t find work as a musician anymore due to his weakened condition. Shortly thereafter, his wife, Beatrice McGee Blake, summoned an ambulance, but Blake died of a pulmonary hemorrhage on the way to the emergency room; tuberculosis is listed as the cause of his death. GM