From Fats Waller and "yo' feet's too big" to country blues and you're "standin' at the crossroads" wasn't really such a great distance, at least if one was to judge from some of the characters who were part of the inner workings of the engine. Journeyman guitarist Bobby Leecan played in a country blues duo with harmonica player Robert Cooksey, the two East Coast bluesmen hardly playing the style straight out of the book (or the non-book). There was more than just a trace of ragtime influence, and even some subversive swing jazz influence. From the mid-'20s to the early '30s, these sorts of pseudo-country blues players were just as much a part of the fledgling big city recording scene as the jazz players, and were often encouraged to mingle. Sometimes sessions involved interesting combinations completely out of serendipity, because players who were coming and going happened to run into each other and hit it off. The recordings Waller made playing the organ are cherished by his fans, and Leecan is the guitarist on a batch of these numbers that were recorded in 1927. The combo at this session was organized by cornetist and bandleader Thomas Morris, and also featured drummer Eddie King and the flamboyant trombonist Jimmy Archey. The guitarist was also a member of Waller's Six Hot Babies, also with Morris as well as Joe Nanton on trombone and the interesting pianist Nat Shillkret. Leecan's harmonica partner, Cooksey, was based out of New York, and was unique in his clean approach to the harp. This does not mean he washed the insides of the instrument out -- you're not supposed to -- but that he favored a clear tone without utilizing many sound effects, more similar to Larry Adler than Sonny Boy Williamson. Leecan and Cooksey teamed up for the first time in 1926 to cut sides for Victor, their recording output inhabiting a borderland between blues, vaudeville, and jazz.
Leecan had a fine and subtle single-string style with clear tone and much flexibility in his picking, and also recorded as banjoist, vocalist, and huffing into the occasional kazoo. Most blues anthropologists think the duo was based out of Philadelphia. The harmonica player also had a short recording collaboration with another guitarist named Alfred Martin, and some unfortunate confusion was created by sloppy reissue projects that credit these Martin recordings to Leecan. As a result, some of the written analysis of Leecan's guitar style is corrupted by descriptions of Martin. Leecan recorded on his own for Bluebird in the early '30s, including the fast moving "Apaloosa Blues." The Times Ain't What They Used to Be compilations on Yazoo feature demanding tracks by Bobby Leecan & His Need More Band. One of the more unusual items from Leecan's career was his recording of a series of the traditional "Cornfield Hollers" for the anthology of Negro Blues and Hollers. These performances, once and for all, stress the rootsy rural background of this musician, who was just as comfortable in urban, sophisticated hot jazz settings. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi