Album Chart of 1944

<1943 1945>

  • This chart features albums released in 1944 and is limited to all of the albums in my collection which have “A-list” status.
  • Elsewhere, the Albums released in 1944 page shows the full range of albums in this sites' database, including the “B-list” records, although there are none more than the 2 albums shown in this chart, as at 19 September 2015.


With musician bans and wartime restrictions on Shellac really kicking in, the number of albums being produced was in decline, and small Indies like Asch were feeling the pinch more than anyone.

However, that didn’t stop Woody Guthrie – whilst on leave, he took the opportunity to lay down his third mighty set of the 1940s. Even Hitler’s torpedoes couldn’t blow the man down.

Elsewhere, Lead Belly released his sixth new music set – the last of his albums which could be genuinely described in that fashion. His well recorded session at Musicraft made for a good, solid ending to his “A-list” album story.

So here it is then, a small but perfectly formed little chart; a censorship free zone which steadfastly refuses to salute, bow down or discriminate. These are the chimes of freedom.

The Jukebox Rebel

TJR says:

8.22 “Excellent”

More than 4 years passed until Woody Guthrie was able to deliver a follow up album to his “Dust Bowl Ballads” of 1940. Very few walks of life were immune to wartime disruption, as Wikipedia tells:

Guthrie believed performing his anti-fascist songs and poems at home was the best use of his talents; Guthrie lobbied the United States Army to accept him as a USO performer instead of conscripting him as a soldier in the draft. When Guthrie's attempts failed, his friends Cisco Houston and Jim Longhi pressured Guthrie to join the U.S. Merchant Marine. Guthrie followed their advice and went to sea in June 1943 making voyages in convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic aboard the merchant ships SS William B. Travis, SS William Floyd, and SS Sea Porpoise. He served as a mess man and dishwasher and frequently sang for the crew and troops to buoy their spirits on transatlantic voyages. His first ship William B. Travis hit a mine in the Mediterranean Sea killing one person aboard but made it to Bizerte, Tunisia under her own power. His last ship, Sea Porpoise, took troops from the United States for the D-Day invasion. Guthrie was aboard when the ship was torpedoed off Utah Beach by the German submarine U-390 on July 5, 1944, injuring 12 of the crew [ as told by Jim Longhi here ]. Guthrie was unhurt and the ship stayed afloat to be repaired at Newcastle upon Tyne in England before returning to the United States in July 1944.”

In his 1997 book “Woody, Cisco and Me: Seamen Three in the Merchant Marine”, Longhi described Woody’s first appearance as a merchant marine: “Woody was a little late, but it was no wonder, considering what he was carrying. We could barely see him under the load: a seabag over his shoulder, a guitar strapped to his back, a violin case, a mandolin case, a stack of at least ten books, and a portable typewriter, all tied together by a length of clothesline and somehow wrapped around him.”

It was against this tumultuous background that the third album set of Woody Guthrie 78’s was issued in the fall of 1944, the first of 5 such sets overseen by Moe Asch. All sides had been recorded while Woody was back on dry land in April 1944. Desperate to lay ‘em down while he could, he recorded more songs in one mammoth session on the 19th April than folks could keep up with - there were 50 odd or 60 odd depending on whose count you believe! Six of the best were selected for the album: Talking Sailor / Coolee Dam / Ranger’s Command / Gypsy Davy / Jesus Christ / N.Y. Town. Excellence prevails throughout, most especially on the opening track, the latest of Woody’s “talking blues” classics which follows in the footsteps of the likes of “Talking Dust Bowl Blues” and “Talking Columbia Blues”. On “Talking Sailor”, Woody’s on his A-game:

“Ship loaded down with T.N.T., all out across the rolling sea, stood on the deck and watched the fishes swim, I was a-praying them fishes wasn't made of tin. Sharks. Porpoises. Jelly beans, rainbow trouts, mud-cats, jew-gars, all over that water. This convoy's the biggest I ever did see, it stretches all the way out across the sea. The ships blow their whistles and ring their bells, gonna blow them Fascists all to Hell. Win some freedom. Liberty. Stuff like that.”

His winning humour and poetic genius would have lit up the mid-Atlantic better than a cluster of flares. Morale boosting. Soul power. Stuff like that.

The Jukebox Rebel

TJR says:

6.55 “Good”

With Asch Records being hampered with governmental wartime constraints on Shellac (their allocation was small compared to others), it was perhaps no surprise that Lead Belly drifted back to the label which had launched his album career back in 1939. This 4 disc set was recorded in a one-day session for Musicraft Records in New York City on the 17th February, and contains what’s regarded by many as one of his very finest recordings, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” which is very fine indeed. My favourite track here has to be “John Hardy”, a ballad of African American origin that was popular around the turn of the century and has become one of the most frequently performed American folk songs in both black and white traditions. It is based on the story of an actual murder case from West Virginia: Hardy was tried for murder, found guilty, and hanged in Welch, McDowell County, on Friday, January 19, 1894, just one day short of young Huddie’s 7th birthday! It’s a poignant reminder of just how much of a late starter Lead Belly was when it came to creating his rich, deep recording legacy. Having worked it out on his accordion during an Asch session 4 months earlier, he was nailing down the definitive version right here on this set. All in, this album’s a nice clean recording and Lead Belly’s on good form, as spirited and gallus as any 56 year-old anywhere. His Musicraft sessions have stood the test of time well.

This album signifies the end of the line as far as Lead Belly's “A-list” album discography goes. From hereon, all of his (many) albums include material which is either wholly or partly re-compiled or re-worked from the existing A-list, or else it's out of date.

The Jukebox Rebel

chart first published 19 Sep 2015; last edited 6 Dec 2015

Album Charts

by year…

1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016