Detroit was quickly developing a potent downhome blues scene of its own. John Lee Hooker was the star, but there was plenty of room for Baby Boy Warren, a fine guitarist whose fascinating discography is spread over a terrain of tiny labels who were unable to offer him much in the way of promotion or anything else.
Robert Henry Warren was born in Lake Providence, Louisiana, on August 13, 1919, but was brought up in Memphis from the time he was a baby. An older brother anointed the lad with his nickname, and it stuck into adulthood. Memphis Minnie was one of his early influences, along with local bluesman Little Buddy Doyle, whom he played with on occasion in W.C. Handy Park. Warren landed in the Motor City in 1942, toiling for General Motors and playing blues when he could
The lowdown My Special Friend Blues was half of Warren's 1949 debut 78 (he was accompanied by pianist Charley Mills). Cut in Detroit, it had the strange distinction of appearing on three different labels in rapid succession. The first two, short-lived Prize and Idessa Malone's Staff, were strictly local concerns. Then the record found its way out to Ivin Ballen's Gotham label in Philly. Staff leased subsequent Warren singles to Federal and Swing Time, billed on both as Johnny Williams. After that, Warren cut under his own moniker for Sampson, Joe Von Battle's J-V-B, Blue Lake (Chicago deejay Al Benson's label, a subsidiary of Parrot), and Drummond. Excello issued a Warren single in '62, but it was comprised of two 1954 masters.
After lying low for an extended stretch, Warren resurfaced during the early '70s, performing at the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues Festival. A heart attack permanently felled him on July 1, 1977.