I’ve been trying to confirm, for twenty years, where the historic Dallas sessions of 1927-1929 took place. These annual December recordings, by Columbia producer Frank B. Walker, include “Dark Was the Night,” “If I Had My Way,” “Motherless Children” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” by Blind Willie Johnson, as well as every track Washington Phillips released. Walker also produced Whistlin’ Alex Moore, whose first sessions, Naples, TX piano player Curtis Jones said, were “at the Jefferson Hotel Studios” around 1927. Moore’s first Columbia recording was in Dec. 1929, but Jones said Moore backed him at the Jefferson. Those recordings were never released, perhaps because Jones had a royalty dispute with the record man from up north, whom he didn’t name. Read the 1964 interview here.
Though not conclusive, it’s the best evidence yet that the debuts of Blind Willie, Wash Phillips, Lillian Glinn, Hattie Burleson (“Hattie Hudson”), Coley Jones and the Dallas String Band and many more were in the hotel less than a football field away from the future location of the Texas School Book Depository Building.
Other significant recordings at the Jefferson, where radio station WRR built a studio in 1923, include the first and only record that teamed Milton Brown and Bob Wills (on Victor as the Fort Worth Doughboys in 1932) and two 1929 sessions and one in 1932 with Jimmie Rodgers, produced by Ralph Peer. Future Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis recorded four tracks at the Jefferson on Feb. 8, 1932- the day before the Brown/Wills session- and integrated hillbilly music by singing a duet with black guitarist Oscar “Buddy” Woods of the Shreveport Home Wreckers on “Saturday Night Stroll.”
Built in 1917, the Jefferson was demolished in 1975 and is now a parking lot. This photo is from the 1930s.