The rediscovery of the blues was starting to heat up by 1961. Strachwitz, a German-born blues enthusiast living in northern California, had founded Arhoolie Records, one of the most important blues labels of the era. He had gone to Texas with the idea of
Douglas had performed on one recording before, by his friend and West Coast compatriot, the harmonica player Sidney Maiden. It was recorded in Berkeley, quite likely by Strachwitz, although I haven't been able to find that information. Although Maiden frequently backed him up in performance, and on earlier recordings, Douglas goes solo here. The session notes indicate that it was done in two sessions, both on the same day. The first session, which made up the album K. C.'s Blues, is all original songs. The second, which became Big Road Blues, is largely songs by others.
Douglas is a good enough writer in the blues vein to carry an entire 12-song album, and he doesn't even include his best-known song, "Mercury Blues," which was a minor hit for Douglas in 1948, and a major hit for country singer Alan Jackson in 1993. It has also been recorded by Steve Miller, Jackson Browne, Dwight Yoakam, and several others, including Finnish rocker Pave Maijanen as "Pakko Saada BMW" (where it becomes a foreign import--the title translates as "Gotta Get a BMW").
It does include songs about good women who leave and bad women who don't ("Ain't no tellin' what she might do / She might cut you, and she might shoot you too"). He can go after women like a rootin' ground hog or a watchdog trying to find a bone, which is not likely, because he's been replaced by a younger watchdog. Hey, this is the blues.
The second session begins with Tommy Johnson's "Big Road Blues," which has been widely recorded, and was the subject of a fascinating book by blues scholar David Evans. He gives a little Howling Wolf, and a little Big Bill Broonzy, and Jim Jackson's classic take on "Kansas City." "Bottle Up and Go" has been done by a plethora of bluesmen under a plethora of titles: "Borrow Love and Go," "Step it Up and Go." I know it best by Lead Belly, but it's originally by Mississippi bluesman Tommy McLennnan. When a guy can play and sing all night, it's good that he knows a whole buncha songs.