Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ike Turner - Early Ike 1951 - 1953

It is hard to think of ANYONE more seminal and influential in the beginnings of R&B than Ike Turner. He is just EVERYWHERE and playing with everyone while writing and producing for them
 and he is discovering and developing new talent for multiple labels. His own bands are the tightest, most hardworking groups around and he does not tolerate drugs or excessive drinking in his own working bands. (Later he developed a 15 year cocaine habit with the drinking that accompanies it but initially he is a straight arrow.) He was a perfectionist who drove his touring bands hard and wasn't always well liked for that long before Disney concocted their tales that branded him a national villain. (even Tina has admitted publicly that almost nothing  shown about Ike in the movie was factual, she was just mad because he owned the copyright on her stage name!) If Dave Bartholomew was the Architect of New Orleans R&B then Ike Turner fills that roll everywhere else but the West Coast where it was Johnny Otis and Maxwell Davis. 

Turner was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on November 5, 1931, to Beatrice Cushenberry (1909–195?), a seamstress, and Isaiah (or Izear) Luster Turner, a Baptist minister. The younger of two siblings, Turner had an elder sister, named Ethel May. Turner believed for many years that he was named Izear Luster Turner, Jr. after his father, until he discovered his name was registered as Ike Wister Turner while applying for his first passport. He never got to discover the origin of his name, as by the time he discovered it, his parents were both dead.

Turner said when he was very young, he witnessed his father beaten and left for dead by a white mob. His father lived for 3 years as an invalid in a tent in the family's yard before succumbing to his injuries. Writer and blues historian Ted Drozdowski has told a different version of the story, stating that Turner's father died in an industrial accident. His mother remarried to a man called Philip Reeves. Turner said his stepfather was a violent alcoholic and they often argued and fought, after one fight Turner knocked out his stepfather with a piece of wood. He then ran away to Memphis where he lived rough for a few days before returning to his mother. He reconciled with his stepfather years later, buying a house for him in the 1950s around the time Turner's mother died.

Turner recounted how he was introduced to sex at the age of six by a middle-aged lady called Miss Boozie. Walking past her house to school, she would invite him to help feed her chickens, and then take him to bed. This continued for some years. Turner claimed to not be traumatized by this, commenting that "in those days they didn't call it abuse, they called it fun". He was also sexually molested by two other women before he was twelve.

Around his eighth year Turner also began frequenting the local Clarksdale radio station, WROX, located in the Alcazar Hotel in downtown Clarksdale. WROX was notable as one of the first radio stations to employ a black DJ, Early Wright, to play blues records. DJ John Frisella put Turner to work as he watched the record turntables. Soon he was left to play records while the DJ went across the street for coffee. Turner described this as "the beginning of my thing with music." This led to Turner being offered a job by the station manager as the DJ on the late-afternoon shift. The job meant he had access to all the new releases. On his show he played a diverse range of music, playing Louis Jordan alongside early rockabilly records.

Turner was inspired to learn the piano on a visit to his friend Ernest Lane's house, where he heard Pinetop Perkins playing Lane's fathers' piano. Turner convinced his mother to pay for him to have piano lessons with a teacher; however he did not take to the formal style of playing, instead spending the money in a pool hall, then learning boogie-woogie from Perkins. . He taught himself to play guitar by playing along to old blues records. At some point in the 1940s, Turner moved into Clarksdale’s Riverside Hotel, run by Mrs. Z.L. Ratliff. The Riverside played host to a great number of touring musicians, including Sonny Boy Williamson II and Duke Ellington. Turner associated and played music with many of these guests.

In high school, a teenage Turner joined a huge local rhythm ensemble called The Tophatters, who played dances around Clarksdale, Mississippi. Members of the band were taken from Clarksdale musicians, and included Turner's school friends Raymond Hill, Eugene Fox and Clayton Love. The Tophatters played big-band arrangements from sheet music. Turner, who was trained by ear and could not sight read music, would learn the pieces by listening to a version on record at home, pretending to be reading the music during rehearsals. At one point, the Tophatters had over 30 members, and eventually split into two, with one act who wanted to carry on playing dance-band jazz calling themselves The Dukes of Swing and the other, led by Turner becoming the Kings of Rhythm. Said Turner: "We wanted to play blues, boogie-woogie and Roy Brown, Jimmy Liggins, Roy Milton." Turner would keep the name of the band throughout his career, although it went through considerable lineup changes over time. Their early stage performances consisted largely of covers of popular jukebox hits. They were helped by B. B. King, who helped them to get a steady weekend gig and recommended them to Sam Phillips at Sun Studio. In the 50s, Turner's group got regular airplay from live sessions on WROX-Am, and KFFA radio in Helena, Arkansas.
Sun Studio at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, where in 1951 Turner and the Kings of Rhythm recorded Rocket 88, one of the first Rock and roll records. Turner would later work at the studio as in-house producer for Sam Phillips.

Around the time he was starting out with The Kings of Rhythm, Turner and Ernest Lane became unofficial roadies for blues singer Robert Nighthawk, who often played live on WROX. The pair sat in playing drums and piano on radio sessions and supported Nighthawk at blues dates around Clarksdale. Playing with Nighthawk allowed Turner to gig regularly and build up playing experience. He would also provide backup for Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alex "Rice" Miller), playing gigs alongside other local blues artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Charley Booker, Elmore James, Muddy Waters and Little Walter. Performances typically lasted for about twelve hours, from early evening to dawn the next day. Turner described the scenario to an interviewer:
“ We played juke joints; we'd start playing at 8.00pm and wouldn't get off till 8.00am. No intermissions, no breaks. If you had to go to the restroom, well that's how I learned to play drums and guitar! When one had to go, someone had to take his place.

It was around this time that Turner and his band came up with the song, "Rocket 88". The song was written as the group drove down to Memphis to record at Sam Phillips' Sun Studios. Turner came up with the introduction and first verse, the band collaborated on the rest with Brenston, the band's saxophonist, on vocals. Phillips sold the recording to Chess in Chicago, who released it under the name "Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats". The record sold approximately half a million copies. In Turner's account book he recorded that he was paid $20. The success of Rocket 88 caused tensions and ego clashes in the band, causing Jackie Brenston to leave to pursue a solo career, taking some of the original members with him. Turner, without a band and disappointed his hit record had not created more opportunities for him, disbanded the Kings of Rhythm for a few years.

After recording Rocket 88, Turner became a session musician and production assistant for Sam Philips and the Bihari Brothers, commuting to Memphis from Clarksdale. He began by contributing piano to a B. B. King track "You Know I Love You", which brought him to the attention of Modern Records's, Joe Bihari, who requested Turner's services on another King track 3 O'Clock Blues. It became King's first hit.

I've broken some 5 cd's worth of compilations down into three digestible bites that do not overlap and are sorted by the vocalist. I think it makes for a much better listen that way and it let's you see Ike's Kings of Rhythm in a variety of settings, this first set covers 1951 to 1953 and has two killer vocalists in Jackie Brenston and Johnny O'Neal. I have left the covers from the original compilations on the files but there is no real point in being album-centric when all of this material was released as singles.  KC

Friday, July 27, 2012

Blowing The Fuse 1946

 This is the second of 11 volumes in Bear Family's remarkable series (produced by Dave "Daddy Cool" Booth), and annotated exhaustively (each track has its own liner notes) by Colin Escott. One of the most remarkable things about these collections -- besides the awesome music -- is the packaging, which combines period photos, session and liner notes in an irresistible foldout digipack. Like its predecessor, this set features well-known artist like Wynonie Harris, Louis Jordan, Lionel Hampton, Joe Turner, Big Maceo, Jay McShann, the King Cole Trio, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Roy Milton, and Dinah Washington (at the dawn of her career as a blues singer), alongside nearly forgotten acts like the Blues Woman (aka Marion Abernathy), with her one regional hit "Voo-It! Voo-It!" The Cats 'N Jammer Three with the original version of "I Cover the Waterfront," Bill Samuels and his "Port Wine," steamroller, and Velma Nelson with the raw "If I Were a Itty Bitty Girl, Part 1." Other artists who appear here, such as Red Callendar, T-Bone Walker, Erskine Hawkins, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup and Julia Lee, round out a truly stomping, slice of history where the world may have been at war but at the corner juke joint, things were hoppin'. Thom Jurek

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Amos Milburn

Amos Milburn is one of those cases were I have been provided the whole complete Mosaic box (Thank You Again Clifford!) so some thought as to a way to make something a bit less imposing was in order. The good part of that is it makes me focus on and listen to the material in order to form a strategy.  I looked around for what looked like a good compilation to begin with and then assembled it from the complete Aladdin box and that is what you get here. This material was all made as singles but sometimes it helps to have a package reference.

Certainly a guy whom gets a founding father tag, Amos Milburn is right there and selling lots of records early on. His collaborations with Maxwell Davis (another FF) kind of introduces a ‘sound’ that becomes associated with Los Angeles based Aladdin Records and is the forerunner of the Dave Bartholomew/Fats Domino connection in New Orleans. Amos comes out of the Texas Barrellhouse / Jump Blues background but he has this Nat King Cole vernier over it that is shared by label mate Charles Brown. (who also collaborates with Davis) Bad, Bad Whiskey could almost be Nat and Pres at first listen.

Given the shear volume of material that Aladdin recorded over an 11 year period he was there he
obviously sold a whole hell of a lot of records but an examination of his life shows he quickly faded into obscurity and was barely remembered until the reissue age. There is an almost schizophrenic aspect to all the compilations and the Mosaic box as you jump back and forth between the two distinct styles that he used. It might be interesting to explore a couple of extractions from the set focusing on each style separately.

“Amos Milburn (April 1, 1927 – January 3, 1980) was an African American rhythm and blues singer and pianist, popular during the 1940s and 1950s. He was born and died in Houston, Texas. One commentator noted, "Milburn excelled at good-natured, upbeat romps about booze and partying, imbued with a vibrant sense of humour and double entendre, as well as vivid, down-home imagery in his lyrics

 Born in Houston, one of thirteen children, by the age of five years Milburn was playing tunes by piano. He enlisted in the United States Navy when he was fifteen and earned thirteen battle stars in the Philippines, before returning to Houston and organizing a sixteen-piece band playing in Houston clubs, and participating with the Houston jazz and blues musicians. He was a polished pianist and performer and during 1946 attracted the attention of a woman who arranged a recording session with Aladdin Records in Los Angeles, California. Milburn's relationship with Aladdin lasted eight years during which he produced more than seventy-five sides. His cover version of "Down the Road a Piece" (1946) was a blues song with a Texas boogie beat that was similar in many respects to rock music. However, none became popular until 1949 when seven of his singles got the attention of the R&B audience. "Hold Me Baby" and "Chicken Shack Boogie" landed numbers eight and nine on Billboard's survey of 1949's R&B Bestsellers. He became one of the main performers associated with Central Avenue of Los Angeles' Watts neighborhood. He was also a popular touring artist, and won awards from both Down Beat magazine (Best Blues and Jazz Star) and Billboard magazine (Top R&B Artist).  Among his best known songs was "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer". During 1950 Milburn's "Bad, Bad, Whiskey" scored the top of the R&B record chart and began a series of drinking songs (none written by Milburn, but several composed by Rudy Toombs). However, there is not any evidence that Milburn had an alcohol problem.

Milburn continued his successful drinking songs through 1952 {"Thinking and Drinking", "Trouble in Mind"} and was by now touring the country playing clubs. While touring the Midwest that summer, he announced that he would disband his combo team and continue as a solo act and that autumn he joined Charles Brown for a Southern concert tour. For the next few years each of his tours was composed of a series of one-nighters. After three years of solo performing he returned to Houston during 1956 to reform his band. During 1957 Milburn's releases with Aladdin Records did not sell well, and the record label, having its own problems, terminated. He tried to regain commercial success with a few more releases with Ace Records but his time had passed. Radio airplay was emphasizing on the teenage market.

Milburn contributed to the R&B Yuletide canon during 1960 with his swinging "Christmas (Comes but Once a Year)" for King. The song appeared as the b-side of Brown's holiday classic "Please Come Home for Christmas". Berry Gordy gave him a comeback forum during 1962, issuing an album on Motown predominated by remakes of his old successes that is difficult to find today (Little Stevie Wonder played harmonica for the sessions).

Milburn's final recording was for an album by Johnny Otis. This was during 1972 after he had been incapacitated by a stroke, so much so that Otis had to play the left-hand piano parts for his enfeebled old friend.  His second stroke resulted in amputation of a leg because of circulatory problems. He died soon after at the age of 52 years from a third stroke.

The Texan boogie-woogie pianist and singer was an important performer of blues music during the years immediately after World War II. Milburn was one of the first performers to switch from sophisticated jazz arrangements to a louder "jump" blues. He began to emphasize rhythm and technical qualities of voice and instrumentation second. His energetic songs, about getting 'high', were admired by fellow musicians, such as Little Willie Littlefield, Floyd Dixon and his prime disciple, Fats Domino.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

John Brim

John Brim (April 10, 1922 – October 1, 2003) was an American Chicago blues guitarist, songwriter and singer. Brim picked up his early guitar licks from the gramophone records of Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy, before venturing first to Indianapolis in 1941 and Chicago four years later. He met his wife Grace in 1947; fortuitously, she was a capable drummer and harmonica player who played on several of Brim's records. She was also the vocalist on a 1950 single for the Detroit-based Fortune Records, that signaled the beginning of Brim's discography.

Brim recorded for Random Records, J.O.B. Records, Parrot Records (the socially aware "Tough Times"), and Checker Records ("Rattlesnake," his answer to Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" was pulled from the shelves by Chess for fear of a plagiarism lawsuit). All of his 1950s recordings for the Chess brothers were later included on the compilation LP/CD "Whose Muddy Shoes" (which also included the few recordings Elmore James made for Chess and Checker; because they share this LP/CD, it has sometimes been assumed that they performed or recorded together, but this is not the case.) On some tracks Little Walter played the harmonica, whilst Jimmy Reed, Snooky Pryor, or James Dalton were also featured blowing the harp. Cut in 1953, the suggestive "Ice Cream Man" had to wait until 1969 to enjoy a very belated release. Brim's last Chess single, "I Would Hate to See You Go," was waxed in 1956 with a combo consisting of Little Walter, guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr., bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Fred Below.

In between touring, Brim operated dry-cleaning businesses and a record store. When the royalties from Van Halen’s recording of "Ice Cream Man" came through, they enabled him to open John Brim’s House of the Blues Broadway Nite Club in Chicago.

Brim continued to perform occasionally around Chicago, and was a regularly featured performer on the Chicago Blues Festival beginning in 1991, when he was backed by the local Chicago blues band The Ice Cream Men (drummer Steve Cushing, guitarists Dave Waldman and "Rockin'" Johnny Burgin, and harmonica player Scott Dirks; the band name was coincidental - they were not Brim's regular band, but had been using that name because the members had previously worked with Chicago bluesman Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers, who worked as an ice cream man on Chicago's south side.)

He was tempted back into the recording studio again in 1989 to record four songs for the German Wolf label, and renewed interest in him finally led to his recording his first solo CD, Ice Cream Man, for Tone Cool Records in 1994. It received a W. C. Handy nomination as the best Traditional Blues Album of the Year.

Brim also appeared at the 1997 San Francisco Blues Festival.

He recorded again in 2000, 50 years after his recording debut, and continued to tour, playing in Belgium in 2001. One of his final appearances was at the 2002 Chicago Blues Festival.

Brim, who lived in Gary, Indiana remained active on the Chicago blues scene until his death, on 1 October 2003 at the age of 81.

"Baby Face" Leroy Foster

"Baby Face" Leroy Foster (February 1, 1923 - May 26, 1958) was an American blues singer, drummer and guitarist, active in Chicago from the mid 1940s until the late 1950s. He was a significant figure in the development of the post-war electric Chicago blues sound, most notably as a member of the Muddy Waters band during its formative years

Foster was born in Algoma, Mississippi, United States. He moved to Chicago in the mid 1940s, and by 1946 was working with pianist Sunnyland Slim and harmonica player John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. He was introduced to singer and guitarist Muddy Waters by an acquaintance Waters met at a recording session in 1946, and was soon playing guitar and drums in Waters’ band, along with guitar and harmonica player Jimmy Rogers, with the band later joined by Little Walter on harmonica. Calling themselves the Headhunters, the trio were known for going from club to club and “cutting” (i.e. engaging in musical duels with) other bands.]

Foster’s first recordings were made with pianist Lee Brown in 1945 for J. Mayo Williams' Chicago label. In 1946, he appeared on another session with Lee Brown and recorded with James "Beale Street" Clark for Columbia. He also accompanied Sunnyland Slim on a 1947 or 1948 session for the Opera label. Further recordings followed, both under his own name and backing Sunnyland Slim, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and pianist Johnny Jones, before his most notable session, for the Parkway label in 1950.

This session featured the personnel of Muddy Waters' band of the time: Foster, Waters, Little Walter and (on two tracks only, since he was late for the session), Jimmy Rogers. Four singles were released from the session, two by Foster and two by Little Walter. One of the singles, the two-part "Rollin' and Tumblin'" was notable enough to be reviewed, unusually for a down home blues release, by Edward Myers in the Chicago Defender. The track featured only Foster’s drumming and singing, Walter’s harmonica and Waters’ slide guitar, with hummed ensemble vocals on one side. Unfortunately, Waters’ guitar playing and backup singing were distinctive enough for it to come to the attention of Leonard Chess of Chess Records, who had Waters under an exclusive recording contract. As a result, Waters was made to record his own version of the song for the larger Chess label in order to "kill" the Parkway recording.

After the Parkway session, Foster left Waters’ band, possibly in the hope of a solo career resulting from the releases on Parkway, but unfortunately the label soon folded. Afterwards, Foster recorded a further three sessions under his own name for the JOB label between 1950 and 1953, but died from a heart attack, possibly as a result of alcoholism, at the age of 35 in 1958.

Foster sang in a style influenced by Sonny Boy Williamson and Dr. Clayton, and while he played guitar and drums competently, the talents for which he was popular have been described as “drinking, singing and clowning”

Floyd Jones

Floyd Jones (July 21, 1917 – December 19, 1989) was an American blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, who is significant as one of the first of the new generation of electric blues artists to record in Chicago after World War II. A number of Jones' recordings are regarded as classics of the Chicago blues idiom, and his song "On The Road Again" was a top ten hit for Canned Heat in 1968.Notably for a blues artist of his era, several of his songs have economic or social themes, such as "Stockyard Blues" (which refers to a strike at the Union Stockyards), "Hard Times" or "Schooldays".

Jones was born in Marianna, Arkansas. He started playing guitar seriously after being given a guitar by Howlin' Wolf, and worked as an itinerant musician in the Arkansas and Mississippi area in the 1930s and early 1940s, before settling in Chicago in 1945.

In Chicago, Jones took up the electric guitar, and was one of a number of musicians playing on Maxwell Street and in non-union venues in the late 1940s who played an important role in the development of the post-war Chicago Blues sound. This group included Little Walter and Jimmy Rogers, both of who went on to become mainstays of the Muddy Waters band, and also Snooky Pryor, Floyd's cousin Moody Jones and mandolin player Johnny Young. His first recording session in 1947, with Snooky on harmonica and Moody on guitar, produced the sides "Stockyard Blues" and "Keep What You Got", which formed one of the two records released by the Marvel Label, and was one of the first examples of the new style on record. A second session in 1949 resulted in a release on the similarly short-lived Tempo-Tone label. During the 1950s Jones also had records released on JOB, Chess and Vee-Jay, and in 1966 he recorded for the Testament label's Masters of Modern Blues series.

Jones continued performing in Chicago for the rest of his life, although he had few further recording opportunities. Later in his career the electric bass became his main instrument. He died in Chicago in December 1989.

Tiny Grimes and his Rockin' Highlanders

I count myself amongst the lucky folks who got to see Tiny play, he was marvelous! The dl has volumes one and two; I understand there is a volume three but I don't have it.

Lloyd "Tiny" Grimes (July 7, 1916 – March 4, 1989) was an American jazz and R&B guitarist. He was a member of the Art Tatum Trio from 1943 to 1944, was a backing musician on recording sessions, and later led his own bands, including a recording session with Charlie Parker. He is notable for playing the tenor guitar, a four-stringed electric instrument.

Grimes was born in Newport News, Virginia, and began his musical career playing drums and one-fingered piano. In 1938 he took up the electric 4-string tenor guitar. In 1940 he joined Cats and a Fiddle as guitarist and singer. In 1943 he joined the Art Tatum Trio as guitarist and made a number of recordings with Tatum. The early Tatum Trio recordings contain some of the more interesting early examples of Tiny Grimes’ guitar work.

After leaving Tatum, Grimes recorded with his own groups in New York and with a long list of leading musicians, including vocalist Billie Holiday. He made four recordings with his own group augmented with Charlie Parker that are considered excellent examples of early bebop jazz: "Tiny’s Tempo", "Red Cross", "Romance Without Finance", and "I’ll Always Love You Just The Same", the latter two featuring Grimes' singing. He was one of the 52d street regulars.

In the late 1940s, he had a hit on a jazzed-up version of "Loch Lomond", with the band billed as Tiny "Mac" Grimes and the Rocking Highlanders and appearing in kilts. This groups included top tenor saxman Red Prysock and singer Screaming Jay Hawkins. Grimes continued to lead his own groups into the later 1970s and he recorded on Prestige Records in a series of strong blues-based performances with Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Jacquet, Pepper Adams, Roy Eldridge and other noted players including, in 1977, Earl Hines.

With Paul Williams, he co-headlined the first Moondog Coronation Ball, promoted by Alan Freed in Cleveland, Ohio on March 21, 1952, often claimed as the first rock and roll concert. In 1953 he may have played on The Crows one-hit wonder, "Gee", that has been called the first original rock and roll record by an R&B group.

Grimes died in March 1989, in New York, from meningitis, at the age of 72

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wynonie Harris - Mr. Blues

Wynonie Harris (August 24, 1915 – June 14, 1969), born in Omaha, Nebraska, was an American blues shouter and rhythm and blues singer of upbeat songs, featuring humorous, often ribald lyrics. With fifteen Top 10 hits between 1946 and 1952, Harris is generally considered one of rock and roll's forerunners, influencing Elvis Presley among others. He was the subject of a 1994 biography by Tony Collins

Harris' mother, Mallie Hood Anderson, was fifteen and unmarried at the time of his birth. Harris' paternity is uncertain. Harris' wife, Olive E. Goodlow, and daughter Patricia Vest, have said that Harris' father was a Native American, named Blue Jay. Harris had no father figure in the house until 1920, when his mother married Luther Harris, fifteen years her senior.

In 1931 at age 16, Harris dropped out of high school in North Omaha. The following year his first child, daughter Micky, was born to Naomi Henderson. Ten months later, Harris' second child, son Wesley, was born to Laura Devereaux. Both children were raised by their mothers. Wesley became a singer in the Five Echoes and The Sultans. Later he became a singer and guitarist in Preston Love's band.

In 1935 Harris, age 20, started dating 16-year-old Olive E. Goodlow (Ollie) of neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa, who came to Omaha to watch him perform. On May 20, 1936, Ollie gave birth to daughter Pattie (Adrianne Patricia). On December 11, 1936, they married. Later they lived in the Logan Fontenelle projects in North Omaha. Ollie worked as a barmaid and nurse; Wynonie sang in clubs as well as taking on some odd jobs. Wynonie's mother, Mallie Harris, was Pattie's main caretaker. In 1940, Wynonie and Ollie Harris moved to Los Angeles, California, leaving Pattie with Mallie in Omaha.

With dance partner Velda Shannon, Harris formed a dance team in the early 1930s. The team performed around North Omaha's flourishing entertainment community, and by 1934 they were a regular attraction at the Ritz Theatre. It was not until 1935, however, that Harris was able to earn his living as an entertainer. While performing at Jim Bell's new Harlem nightclub with Velda Shannon, Harris began to sing the blues.

He also began traveling frequently to Kansas City, Kansas where he paid close attention to the blues shouters including Jimmy Rushing and Big Joe Turner. Harris became a local celebrity in Omaha during the depths of the Great Depression in 1935. Harris' break in Los Angeles was at a nightclub owned by Curtis Mosby. It was here that Harris became known as "Mr. Blues".

Due to the 1942-44 musicians' strike, Harris was unable to pursue a recording career. Instead, he relied on personal appearances. Performing almost continuously, in late 1943 he appeared at the Rhumboogie Club in Chicago. Harris was spotted by Lucky Millinder who asked him to join his band's tour. Harris joined on March 24, 1944, while the band was in the middle of a week-long residency at the Regal in Chicago. They moved on to New York, where on April 7 Harris took the stage with Millinder's band for his debut at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. It was during this performance that Harris first publicly performed "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well" (a song recorded two years earlier by Doc Wheeler's Sunset Orchestra).

After the band's stint at the Apollo, they moved on to their regular residency at the Savoy Ballroom, also in Harlem. Here, Preston Love, Harris' childhood friend, joined Millinder's band replacing alto saxophonist Tab Smith. On May 26, 1944, Harris made his recording debut with Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra. Entering a recording studio for the first time, Harris sang on two of the five cuts that day, "Hurry, Hurry" and "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well", for the Decca label. Although lessening, the shellac embargo had not yet been removed, and release of the record was delayed.

Harris' success and popularity grew as Millinder's band toured the country. He and Millinder had a falling out over money. In September 1945 while playing in San Antonio, Texas, Harris quit Millinder's band. Three weeks later, upon hearing of Harris' separation from the band, a Houston, Texas promoter refused to allow Millinder's band to perform. Millinder called Harris and agreed to pay Harris' asking price of one-hundred dollars a night. The promoter re-instated the date, but it was the final time Harris and Millinder worked together. Bull Moose Jackson replaced Harris as the vocalist in the band.

In April 1945, a year after the song was recorded, Decca released "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well". It became the group's biggest hit; it went to number one on the Billboard R&B chart on July 14 and stayed there for eight weeks. The song remained on the charts for almost five months, also becoming popular with white audiences, an unusual feat for black musicians of that era. In California the success of the song opened doors for Harris. Since the contract with Decca was with Millinder (meaning Harris was a free agent), Harris could choose from the recording contracts with which he was presented.

n July 1945, Harris signed with Philo, a label owned by the brothers Leo and Edward Mesner. Harris' band was assembled by Johnny Otis, and the group recorded the 78rpm record "Around the Clock". Although not a chart-topper, the song became popular and was covered by many artists, including Willie Bryant, Jimmy Rushing and Big Joe Turner.

Harris went on to record sessions for other labels, including Apollo, Bullet and Aladdin. His greatest success came when he signed for Syd Nathan's King label, where he enjoyed a series of hits on the U.S. R&B chart in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These included a 1948 cover of Roy Brown's "Good Rocking Tonight", "Good Morning Judge" and "All She Wants to Do Is Rock". In 1946, Harris recorded two singles with pianist Herman "Sonny" Blount, who later earned fame as the eclectic jazz composer and bandleader Sun Ra.

Harris transitioned between several recording contracts between 1954 and 1964. In 1960 he cut six sides for Roulette Records that included a remake of his hit "Bloodshot Eyes" as well as "Sweet Lucy Brown", "Spread the News", "Saturday Night", "Josephine" and "Did You Get the Message". He also became more indebted, and was forced to live in less glamorous surroundings.

In 1964 Harris resettled for the last time in Los Angeles. His final recordings were three sides which he did for the Chess Records label (in Chicago) in 1964: "The Comeback", "Buzzard Luck" and "Conjured". His final large-scale performance was at the Apollo, New York in November 1967, where he performed with Big Joe Turner, Big Mama Thornton, Jimmy Witherspoon and T-Bone Walker

On June 14, 1969, aged 53, Harris died of esophageal cancer at the USC Medical Center Hospital in Los Angeles

Friday, July 20, 2012

Diggin' Gold - A Galaxy of West Coast Blues

 In the early to mid-'60s, the Galaxy label was probably best known for issuing Little Johnny Taylor's big 1963 hit "Part Time Love." It also cut a lot of other sides (usually in Los Angeles) at the time that satisfyingly blended R&B, blues, and soul, often with urbane brassy arrangements. Diggin' Gold: A Galaxy of West Coast Blues collects 25 such productions from 1962-1965, some of them previously unreleased. For many soul collectors, the most eye-catching items will be the eight tracks by Little Johnny Taylor: "Part Time Love" isn't among them, but they do include three previously unreleased recordings, while the other five are LP and single cuts that hadn't previously appeared on CD. But the whole disc is solid -- surprisingly so, given how often many single-label rarity anthologies offer more archival value than entertainment. Much of the material will recall Ray Charles as the most frequent reference point in its blues-R&B-jazz mix (and, much less strongly, Bobby "Blue" Bland and B.B. King), and while Los Angeles R&B had been doing that since the late '40s and early '50s, these well-produced sides have a more modern feel that makes them more akin to bluesy soul than early R&B. While the Taylor collectibles on this disc are decent (and he's the only really familiar name in the artist roster), they aren't necessarily the standouts. Bill McAfee's "I Don't Know Why" is one of the most dead-on emulations of early-'60s Ray Charles you'll hear, and Joe Johnson's "Rattlesnake, Baby, Rattlesnake" and "Gold Digging Man" push the CD closest to '60s dance soul. The interface between blues and soul is too often overlooked by both historians and collectors, and this is a recommended release for those who enjoy the hybrid and want to hear quality efforts in that tributary that they probably haven't been able to previously experience. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi

Certainly the Little Johnny Taylor stuff is exciting but check out Rob Robinson (whoever the hell HE was), the guy is dynamite.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blowing the Fuse 1945

Blowing the Fuse, 1945 Jukebox Hits 

Bear Family put out 16 consecutive years of these and before we are done I expect we will see all 16. There is a whole 6 disc set of Goldwax singles too. I've been concentrating on single artist posts but these types of compilations are a lot of help putting things into focus. Bear Family, Proper, Ace (the English reissue label not the old American one) and JSP have done incredible work over the last 15 years or so, preserving so much music that might already be lost if not for them. The Dutch Chrono Classics and of course Mosaic have done huge work as well. All of these labels feed the collections I'm offering but in some of the individual artists posts I will have to pare down some huge sets into something a bit more digestible, I'll try to follow some existing blueprint of an existing release when I can but in many cases I'm looking to distill a giant collection of singles.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Little Richard

Like most of you I have heard the constant 'line' that Little Richard (Richard Penniman) was an early R&B original, the architect of Rock n Roll, and such. The wiki bio echos that take. I have a somewhat different view.

I've been going through the Blues discography and the 8 disk Specialty set and the fact of the matter is that while he is recorded as early as 1951, all the singles prior to his first New Orleans session in September of 1955 are best described as forgettable! Until that first New Orleans session there is nothing that anyone would even bother archiving today where it not for that latter material. To take it a step further, looking forward through the sessions he has 3 more Los Angeles sessions in 1955 that produce nothing of any note then in February thru August 1956 he is back in New Orleans and a large chunk of his best hits are cut at J&M. Yet another lack-luster L.A. session is followed by a pair of N.O. sessions that produce six more singles. So from September 1955 to October 1956 Richard has nine New Orleans sessions resulting in 30 singles plus around 25 or 30 extra takes. During the same period 5 Los Angeles sessions result in 5 singles (0 hits) and a slew of rejects. In 1957 sessions in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles manage to produce 6 more singles with 'Keep a Knockin' (a composite of 4 takes in Wash.)  being the first quality tune he had ever produced outside of New Orleans!

Subsequent to that 1955-1956 golden era in New Orleans, Little Richard doesn't really do much other than to play those same songs endlessly for the next 7 years.  To be fair there is a mid 60's run with some new decent tunes but they correspond to the time he is reunited with the New Orleans guys who have come to L.A.! The rest of his career is spent re-doing his own hits and covering hits of others like Fats Domino and Elvis whilst self promoting himself into Architect of Rock n Roll he is widely considered to be today.

So what happened in New Orleans that worked so well for Richard? How did he leave here a star with giant hair, eye makeup and lipstick (he only had the hair when he got here) and a schtick and piano style that would carry him more than 50 years when he seemingly came here without much going for him? The obvious first answer is Cosimo Matassa, Earl Palmer and the J&M gang who play on all those records, producer Bumps Blackwell get some credit too but a less obvious answer lies in three young gay artists who were his friends while he was here, Esquerita (S.Q. Reeder, he didn't adopt the stage name until 1958) , James Booker and Bobby Marchan. 

Richard and Reeder met cruising for sex in a Macon, GA bus terminal and while I've never seen any documentation that Richard brought Reeder here with him, the fact is he shows up here around the same time and stays until 1963. Reeder taught Richard his piano style, and he and Marchan,( the singer for The Clowns who was also a female impersonator on Bourbon Street), likely influenced Richard on the makeup as well. Youngest of the group was was James Booker (18 or 19 at the time) who was 3 times the piano player of any of them, had been a pro since 12, and couldn't help but teach them all something.

My friend John Parsons, Booker's ex manager, has told me stories that James told him of the four of them cruising Canal street in Richard's new white convertible Cadillac, looking outrageous and hunting for action. (There was certainly no where else in the Deep South, or damn near anywhere else at that time that they could have survived such behavior. New Orleans has always shown great tolerance towards gays even when the rest of the country did not.) The stunning thing to me is that the 'public' seems to have clue that these guys are gay! When seen thru the 'gay-dar' educated eyes of one who has lived most of his life in New Orleans and San Francisco that seems incredible, but folks in the 40's and 50's saw what they wanted to see. My friend Cliff confirms that in his experience of his uber conservative Dad allowing him to see Richard in the late 50's in Chicago, something he would have forbidden had there been any thought of any singer being a homosexual.

There is another obvious important influence on both Richard and Esquerita who predates both by nearly a decade and who was well known to both of them. His name was Billy Wright. In fact Richard began his career openly imitating Billy Wright and Wright apparently used his influence in getting Penniman his first recording sessions at RCA. When I show the pictures of this guy, you won't believe it! He had the hair going in 1948!

So was at the end of the day was Little Richard really all that original, was he all that important? As to original, I'd have to say not really, almost everything about him is borrowed, but important, well clearly yes since he is the one whom everyone remembers and credits. He was the guy who was there in the right place at the right time and while his catalog of 'significant' material is surprisingly small, when it is good, it is really good.

This collection gives you the meat of the Specialty hits (I might have included a couple of the more obscure New Orleans tunes if it were me), some the best from the mid 60's Vee Jay sessions (I Don't Know What You Got is really quite good) and some of his covers of other folks hits. It is quite listenable and really about all the Little Richard one needs. (imo)

Louis Jordan 'King of the Julebox'

(*there are 2 links here) Jordan was born on July 8, 1908 in Brinkley, Arkansas, where his father, James Aaron Jordan, was a local music teacher and bandleader for the Brinkley Brass Band and for the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. His mother, Adell, died when Louis was young.

Jordan studied music under his dad, and started out on clarinet. In his youth he played in his father’s bands instead of doing farm work when school closed. He also played piano professionally early in his career, but alto saxophone became his main instrument. However, he became even better known as a songwriter, entertainer and vocalist.

Jordan briefly attended Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, Arkansas and majored in music. After a period with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, with one of his band colleagues having been Leon "Pee Wee" Whittaker, and with local bands including Bob Alexander’s Harmony Kings, he went north to Philadelphia and then New York. In 1932, Jordan began performing with the band of Clarence Williams, and when in Philadelphia played clarinet in the Charlie Gaines band.

In late 1936 he was invited to join the influential Savoy Ballroom orchestra led by drummer Chick Webb. Based at New York's Savoy Ballroom, Webb's orchestra was renowned as one of the very best big bands of its day and they regularly beat all comers at the Savoy's legendary "cutting contests". Jordan worked with Webb until 1938, and it proved a vital stepping stone in his career—Webb (who was physically disabled) was a fine musician but not a great showman....In 1938, Jordan was fired by Webb for trying to convince Fitzgerald and others to join his new band. By this time Webb was already seriously ill with tuberculosis of the spine. Webb died after a spinal operation on June 16, 1939, aged only 30; following his death, Ella Fitzgerald took over the band.

Jordan's first band, drawn mainly from members of the Jesse Stone band, was originally a nine-piece, but he soon scaled it down to a sextet after landing a residency at the Elks Rendezvous club at 464 Lenox Avenue in Harlem. The original lineup of the sextet was Jordan (saxes, vocals), Courtney Williams (trumpet), Lem Johnson (tenor sax), Clarence Johnson (piano), Charlie Drayton (bass) and Walter Martin (drums).

The new band's first recording date for Decca Records (on December 20, 1938) produced three sides on which they backed an obscure vocalist called Rodney Sturgess, and two novelty sides of their own, "Honey in the Bee Ball" and "Barnacle Bill The Sailor". Though these were credited to "The Elks Rendezvous Band", Jordan subsequently changed the name to the "Tympany Five" due to the fact that Martin often used tympany drums in performance. (The word "tympany" is also an old-fashioned colloquial term meaning "swollen, inflated, puffed-up", etymologically related to "timpani", or "kettle drum," but historically separate.)

The various lineups of the Tympany Five (which often featured two or three extra players) included Bill Jennings and Carl Hogan on guitar, renowned pianist-arrangers Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett, "Shadow" Wilson and Chris Columbus on drums and Dallas Bartley on bass. Jordan played alto, tenor and baritone saxophone and sang the lead vocal on most numbers.

Their next recording date in March 1939 produced five sides including "Keep A-Knockin'" (originally recorded in the 1920s and later covered famously by Little Richard), "Sam Jones Done Snagged His Britches" and "Doug the Jitterbug". Lem Johnson subsequently left the group, and was replaced by Stafford Simon. Sessions in December 1939 and January 1940 produced two more early Jordan classics, "You're My Meat" and "You Run Your Mouth and I'll Run My Business". Other members who passed through the band during 1940 and 1941 included tenorist Kenneth Hollon (who recorded with Billie Holiday); trumpeter Freddie Webster (from Earl Hines' band) was part of the nascent bebop scene at Minton's Playhouse and he influenced Kenny Dorham and Miles Davis.

In 1941 Jordan signed with the General Artists Corporation agency, who appointed Berle Adams as Jordan's agent. Adams secured an engagement at Chicago's Capitol Lounge, supporting The Mills Brothers, and this proved to be an important breakthrough for Jordan and the band.

The Capitol Lounge residency also provides a remarkable yardstick of the scale of Jordan's success. During this engagement, the group was paid the standard union scale of US$70 per week -- $35 per week for Jordan and $35 split between the rest of the band. Just seven years later, when Jordan played his record-breaking season at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco during 1948, he reportedly grossed over US$70,000 in just two weeks.

During this period bassist Henry Turner was sacked and replaced by Dallas Bartley. This was followed by another important engagement at the Fox Head Tavern in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Working in the looser environment of Cedar Rapids, away from the main centers, the band was able to develop the novelty aspect of their repertoire and performance. Jordan later identified his stint at the Fox Head Tavern as the turning point in his career, and it was also while there that he found several songs that became early hits including "If It's Love You Want, Baby", "Ration Blues" and "Inflation Blues".

In April 1941 Decca launched the Sepia Series, a 35-cent line that featured artists who were considered to have the "crossover potential" to sell in both the black and white markets, and Jordan's band was transferred from Decca's "race" label to the Sepia Series, alongside The Delta Rhythm Boys, the Nat King Cole Trio, Buddy Johnson and the Jay McShann Band.

By the time the group returned to New York in late 1941, the lineup had changed to Jordan, Bartley, Martin, trumpeter Eddie Roane and pianist Arnold Thomas. Recording dates in November 1941 produced another early Jordan classic, "Knock Me A Kiss", which became a significant jukebox seller, although it did not make the charts. However Roy Eldridge subsequently recorded a version, backed by the Gene Krupa band, which became a hit in June 1942, almost a year after the Jordan recording came out; it was also covered by Jimmie Lunceford.

These sessions also produced Jordan's first big-selling record, "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town", originally recorded by Casey Bill Weldon in 1936, although again it did not make the charts. It too was covered by Lunceford, in 1942, whose version reached #12 on the pop charts, and it was also covered by Big Bill Broonzy and Jimmy Rushing.

Sessions in July 1942 produced nine prime sides, allowing Decca to stockpile Jordan's recordings as a hedge against the American Federation of Musicians' recording ban, which was declared the same month. The ban—imposed in order to secure royalty payments for union musicians for each record sold—led to Jordan's enforced absence from the studio for the next year, and it also prevented many seminal bebop performers from recording during one of the most crucial years of the genre's history.

"I'm Gonna Leave You on the Outskirts of Town" was an "answer record" to Jordan's earlier "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town", but it became Jordan's first major chart hit, reaching #2 on Billboard's Harlem Hit Parade. His next side, "What's the Use of Getting Sober" (When You're Gonna Get Drunk Again)", became Jordan's first #1 hit, reaching the top of the Harlem Hit Parade in December 1942. A subsequent side, "The Chicks I Pick Are Slender, Tender and Fine", reached #10 in January 1943. Their next major side, the comical call-and response number "Five Guys Named Moe", was one of the first recordings to solidify the fast-paced, swinging R&B style that became the Jordan trademark and it struck a chord with audiences, reaching #3 on the race charts in September 1943. The song was later taken as the title of a long-running stage show that paid tribute to Jordan and his music. The more conventional "That'll Just About Knock Me Out" also fared well, reaching #8 on the race charts and giving Jordan his fifth hit from the December 1942 sessions.

In late 1942, Jordan and his band relocated to Los Angeles, working at major venues there and in San Diego. While in L.A., Jordan began making "soundies", the earliest precursors of the modern music video genre, and he also appeared on many Jubilee radio shows and a series of programs made for the Armed Forces Radio for distribution to American troops overseas. Unlike many musicians, Jordan's career was uninterrupted by the draft, except for a 4 week Army camp tour. Due to a "hernia condition" he was classified 4F.

Decca was one of the first labels to reach an agreement with the Musicians' Union and Jordan returned to recording in October 1943. At this session Jordan and his band recorded "Ration Blues", which dated from their Fox Head Tavern days but had a new timeliness with the imposition of wartime rationing. It became Jordan's first crossover hit, charting on both the white and black pop charts. It was also a huge hit on the Harlem Hit Parade, where it spent six weeks at #1 and stayed in the Top Ten for a remarkable 21 weeks, and it reached #11 in the general "best-sellers" chart.

In the 1940s, Jordan released dozens of hit songs, including the swinging "Saturday Night Fish Fry" (one of the earliest and most powerful contenders for the title of "First rock and roll record"), "Blue Light Boogie", the comic classic "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens", "Buzz Me," "Ain't That Just Like a Woman (They'll Do It Every Time)", and the multi-million seller "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie".

One of his biggest hits was "Caldonia", with its energetic screaming punchline, banged out by the whole band, "Caldonia! Caldonia! What makes your big head so hard?" After Jordan's success with it, the song was also recorded by Woody Herman in a famous modern arrangement, including a unison chorus by five trumpets. Muddy Waters also cut a version. However, many of Jordan's biggest R&B hits were inimitable enough that there were no hit cover versions, a rarity in an era when poppish "black" records were rerecorded by white artists, and many popular songs were released in multiple competing versions.

Jordan's raucous recordings were also notable for their use of fantastical narrative. This is perhaps best exemplified on the freewheeling party adventure "Saturday Night Fish Fry", the two-part 1950 hit that was split across both sides of a 78. It is arguably one of the earliest American recordings to include all the basic elements of the classic rock'n'roll genre (obviously exerting a direct influence on the subsequent work of Bill Haley) and it is certainly one of the first widely popular songs to use the word "rocking" in the chorus and to prominently feature a distorted electric guitar.

Its distinctive comical adventure narrative is strikingly similar to the style later used by Bob Dylan in his classic "story" songs like "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" and "Tombstone Blues". "Saturday Night Fish Fry" is also notable for the fact that it dispenses with the customary instrumental chorus introduction, but its most prominent feature is Jordan's rapid-fire, semi-spoken vocal. His delivery, clearly influenced by his experience as a saxophone soloist, de-emphasizes the vocal melody in favor of highly syncopated phrasing and the percussive effects of alliteration and assonance, and it is arguably one of the earliest examples in American popular music of the vocal stylings that eventually evolved into rap.

Jordan's original songs joyously celebrated the ups and downs of African-American urban life and were infused with cheeky good humor and a driving musical energy that had a massive influence on the development of rock and roll. His music was popular with both blacks and whites, but lyrically, most of his songs were emphatically and uncompromisingly "black" in their content and delivery.

Loaded with wry social commentary and coded references, they are also a treasury of 1930s/40s black hipster slang, and through his records Jordan was probably one of the main popularizers of the slang term "chick" (woman). Sexual themes often featured strongly and some sides—notably the saucy double entendre of "Show Me How To Milk The Cow" -- were so risqué that it seems remarkable that they were issued at all.

The prime of Louis Jordan's recording career, 1942–1950, was a period of segregation on the radio. Despite this he was able to score the crossover #1 single "G.I. Jive"/"Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?" in 1944, thanks in large part to his performance in the Universal film Follow the Boys. Two years later, MGM had its cartoon cat Tom sing "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?" in the 1946 Tom and Jerry cartoon short "Solid Serenade". He appeared in the 1946 Monogram Pictures movie Swing Parade of 1946 and starred in the 1947 all-black, full-length Astor Pictures film Reet, Petite and Gone.

During this period Jordan again placed more than a dozen songs on the national charts. However, Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five dominated the 1940s R&B charts, or as they were known at the time, the "race" charts. In this period Jordan scored a staggering eighteen #1 singles and fifty-four Top Ten placings. To this day Louis Jordan still ranks as the top black recording artist of all time in terms of the total number of weeks at #1—his records scored an incredible total of 113 weeks in the #1 position (the runner-up being Stevie Wonder with 70 weeks). From July 1946 through May 1947, Jordan scored five consecutive #1 songs, holding the top slot for 44 consecutive weeks.

Jordan's popularity was boosted not only by his hit Decca sides, but also by his prolific recordings for Armed Forces Radio and the V-Disc transcription program, which helped to make him as popular with whites as with blacks. He also starred in a series of short musical films, as well as making numerous "soundies" for his hit songs. The ancestor of the modern music video, "soundies" were short film clips designed for use in audio-visual jukeboxes. Jordan also had a cameo role in the Hollywood wartime musical Follow the Boys.

In 1951, Jordan put together a short-lived big band that included musicians such as Pee Wee Moore and others, at a time when big bands were on their way out; this is considered the beginning of his commercial decline, even though he reverted to the Tympany Five format within a year. By the mid 1950s, Jordan's records were not selling as well as they used to and he ended up leaving Decca Records.

The first label to sign Jordan was Aladdin Records, with whom Jordan recorded 21 songs in early 1954; nine singles were released from these sessions, with three of the songs remaining unreleased. In 1955, Jordan recorded with RCA "independent" subsidiary "X" Records, who changed their name to Vik Records while Jordan was with them. Three singles were released under the "X" imprint and one under the Vik imprint; four of the tracks went unreleased. It was in these sessions that Jordan intensified his sound to compete with rock 'n roll.

In 1956, Mercury Records signed Jordan, releasing two LP's and a handful of singles. Jordan's first LP with Mercury, Somebody Up There Digs Me (1956), showcased updated rock n' roll versions of previous hits such as "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens", "Caldonia", "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie", "Salt Pork, West Virginia", and "Beware!"; its follow-up, Man, We're Wailin' (1957), featured a more laid back "late night" sound. Although Mercury intended for this to be a comeback for Jordan, the comeback did not turn out to be a success, and the label let Jordan go in 1958. Jordan would record sporadically in the 1960s with Warwick (1960), Black Lion (1962), Tangerine (1962–1965), Pzazz (1968), and again in the early 1970s with Black and Blue (1973), Blues Spectrum (1973), and JSP (1974).

Louis Jordan is described by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “the Father of Rhythm & Blues” and “the Grandfather of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” He is one of a number of seminal black performers who are often credited with inventing rock and roll, or at least providing many of the building blocks for the music. Jordan was the greatest post-war exponent of the jump blues style, one of the prototypes of rock and roll, and he paved the way for Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris, Tiny Bradshaw and others. Jordan also strongly influenced Bill Haley & His Comets, whose producer, Milt Gabler, had also worked with Jordan and attempted to incorporate Jordan's stylings into Haley's music. Haley also honored Jordan by recording several of his songs, including "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" (which Gabler co-wrote) and "Caldonia."

Among Jordan's biggest fans were Little Richard and Chuck Berry. Berry clearly modeled his musical approach on Jordan's, changing the text from black life to teenage life, and substituting cars and girls for Jordan's primary motifs of food, drink, money and girls. Jordan's guitarist, Carl Hogan, was a particularly direct influence on Berry's guitar style, as can be heard on the 1946 hit "Ain't That Just Like A Woman"; Hogan's opening single-note solo on the song was lifted essentially note-for-note by Berry on his iconic opening riff on "Johnny B. Goode". Jordan was also an obvious and substantial influence on British-based jump blues exponent Ray Ellington, who became famous through his appearances on The Goon Show.

James Brown has also specifically cited Jordan as a major influence because of his multi-faceted talent. In the 1992 documentary Lenny Henry Hunts The Funk Brown said that Jordan had influenced him "... in every way. He could sing, he could dance, he could play, he could act. He could do it all."

Jordan's vocal style was arguably an important precursor to rap. His 1947 sister tracks, "Beware (Brother Beware)" and "Look Out (Sister)", entirely delivered as spoken rhyming couplets, can arguably be classified as one of the very first true "raps" in popular music. "Saturday Night Fish Fry" (1950) also features a rapid-fire, highly syncopated semi-spoken vocal delivery that is strongly reminiscent of the modern rap style.

Jordan died in Los Angeles, California, from a heart attack on February 4, 1975. He is buried at Mt. Olive Cemetery in his wife Martha's hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

During an interview late in life, Jordan made the controversial remark that rock and roll music was simply rhythm and blues music played by white performers.

Although Jordan wrote (or co-wrote) a large proportion of the songs he performed, he did not benefit financially from many of them. Many of his self-penned biggest hits, including "Caldonia", were credited to Jordan's then wife Fleecie Moore as a means of avoiding an existing publishing arrangement. The marriage was acrimonious and short-lived—on two occasions, Moore stabbed Jordan after domestic disputes, almost killing him the second time—and after their divorce Fleecie retained ownership of the songs. However, Jordan may have taken credit for some songs written by others—he is credited as the co-writer of "Saturday Night Fish Fry", but Tympany Five pianist Bill Doggett later claimed that in fact he had written the song.

Mr Dave Bartholomew - Architect of New Orleans R&B

Dave Bartholomew (born December 24, 1920, Edgard, Louisiana) is a musician, band leader, composer and arranger, prominent in the music of New Orleans throughout the second half of the 20th century. Bartholomew has been active in many musical genres, including rhythm and blues, big band, swing music, rock and roll, New Orleans jazz and Dixieland. Although many musicians have recorded Bartholomew's songs, his partnership with Fats Domino produced some of his greatest successes. In the mid 1950s they wrote more than forty hits for Imperial Records, including two songs that reached Number One on the Billboard R&B chart "Goin' Home" and "Ain't That a Shame". He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

He first learned to play the tuba but the trumpet later became his main instrument. His professional career began in New Orleans, when he put together a group that included Alvin 'Red' Tyler, Earl Palmer and Lee Allen.

He began recording in 1947 for De Luxe Records, but the company folded and he received little recognition. In 1949, however, he began working with Lew Chudd's Imperial Records as an arranger, bandleader and talent scout. He produced hits from Earl King, Tommy Ridgley, Robert Parker, Frankie Ford, Chris Kenner, Smiley Lewis, Shirley & Lee and Fats Domino, among others. He was responsible for the arrangements on the Fats Domino hits in the 1950s including the best seller "Blueberry Hill". He left Imperial in the mid-1960s and moved between several labels, including his own Broadmoor Records (named for his neighborhood of New Orleans, Broadmoor).

Dave Bartholomew was featured as a stellar musician on the Southern Stars poster created by Dianna Chenevert to help promote him and historically document his contribution to the music industry. An article about the poster appeared on the front page of the Life section in the October 12, 1983 issue of USA Today, which provided additional nationwide attention.

As of 2009 he is still involved in the music business and releasing recordings of his own. He also plays traditional jazz trumpet at Preservation Hall, despite his millionaire status.

Bartholomew helped develop and define the New Orleans sound which was so influential in the 1950s. He was key in the transition from jump blues and big band swing to rhythm and blues and rock and roll.

Bartholomew and Domino co-wrote many songs that were hits, including "Ain't That a Shame", "I'm in Love Again" "Blue Monday" and "I'm Walkin'".

Fats, Cosimo and Dave
His "I Hear You Knocking" was a hit for Gale Storm in the 1950s, and Dave Edmunds in the 1970s; "One Night" and "Witchcraft" were both hits for Elvis Presley. Pat Boone's cover of "Ain't That a Shame," and Rick Nelson's version of "I'm Walkin'" were top twenty hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Chuck Berry's only #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit was a cover of Bartholomew's "My Ding-a-Ling", although Berry substantially changed the arrangement and verses.
Bartholomew produced a series of memorable hits such as "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" with Lloyd Price; and "I Hear You Knocking" and "One Night (Of Sin)" with Smiley Lewis; plus "Let the Good Times Roll" with Shirley & Lee.

In 1991 Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer owing to his role in producing early rhythm and blues songs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Professor Longhair - New Orleans R&B Founding Father

Professor Longhair (December 19, 1918 – January 30, 1980; born Henry Roeland Byrd, also known as Roy "Bald Head" Byrd and as Fess) was a New Orleans blues singer and pianist. Professor Longhair is noteworthy for having been active in two distinct periods, both in the heyday of early rhythm and blues, and in the resurgence of interest in traditional jazz after the founding of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

The journalist Tony Russell, in his book The Blues – From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray, stated "The vivacious rhumba-rhythmed piano blues and choked singing typical of Fess were too weird to sell millions of records; he had to be content with siring musical offspring who were simple enough to manage that, like Fats Domino or Huey "Piano" Smith. But he is also acknowledged as a father figure by subtler players like Allen Toussaint and Dr. John."

Professor Longhair was born on December 19, 1918 in Bogalusa, Louisiana. He made a living as a street hustler until he started to play piano seriously in his thirties. He taught himself how to play on a piano with missing keys so his style became distinct.

He began his career in New Orleans in 1948, earning a gig at the Caldonia Club, where the owner, Mike Tessitore, bestowed Longhair with his stage name (due to Byrd's shaggy coiffure). Longhair first recorded in 1949, creating four songs (including the first version of his signature song, "Mardi Gras in New Orleans," complete with whistled intro) for the Dallas, Texas based Star Talent label. His band was called the Shuffling Hungarians, for reasons lost to time. Union problems curtailed their release, but Longhair's next effort for Mercury Records the same year was a winner. Throughout the 1950s, he recorded for Atlantic Records, Federal Records and other, local, labels. Professor Longhair had only one national commercial hit, "Bald Head" in 1950, credited to Roy Byrd & His Blues Jumpers. He also recorded his pet numbers "Tipitina", "Big Chief" and "Go to the Mardi Gras". However, he lacked the early crossover appeal of Fats Domino for white audiences.

After recuperating from a minor stroke, Professor Longhair came back in 1957 with "No Buts - No Maybes."  He revived his "Go to the Mardi Gras" in 1959; this is the version that surfaces every year at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

In the 1960s Professor Longhair's career faltered. He became a janitor to support himself, and fell into a gambling habit. (He played weekly 'shows' in his own parlor during this time and spent a lot of time mentoring younger players. kc)

He appeared at the 1971 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to restore his standing, and played at the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival. His recorded live set, Live on the Queen Mary (1978) came from a party given by Paul and Linda McCartney. His single visit to the UK, in 1978, was commemorated by The London Concert.

By the 1980s his albums, such as Crawfish Fiesta on Alligator and New Orleans Piano for Atlantic, had become readily available across America.  He appeared on the PBS series Soundstage (with Dr. John, Earl King, and The Meters) and co-starred in the film documentary Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together.  The latter became a memorial tribute when Longhair died in his sleep from a heart attack in the middle of filming. Footage from his funeral was included.

In 1981 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He was awarded a posthumous Grammy for his early recordings released as House Party New Orleans Style, and in 1992 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In the notes to this set you will find a seemingly incomprehensible dismissal of Byrd's contributions from no less than Earl Palmer. For one blinded by Palmer's giant talent and undeniably colossal contributions of his own, this may seem troubling. One has to consider Palmer's titantic ego and the fact that he clearly didn't understand ANYTHING about Fess' influences or personality. Was Fess an educated man, no, was he a smart man, undeniably yes! What Earl considered him being unconsciously comical was in fact entirely deliberate, and a speech pattern of flowery but incorrect language that was common amongst very intelligent but undereducated black men of the time. Fess knew the difference between 'c minus' and 'c minor' but preferred his own language. Earl was a perfect example of the stratification of black society of the time and the deep prejudices retained within the black and Creole communities. It is a common syndrome; everyone needs to feel superior to someone! History has given Fess his due!  (btw that is his house today) 

Consider this: "In the 1940s Professor Longhair was playing with Caribbean musicians, listening a lot to Perez Prado's mambo records, and absorbing and experimenting with it all. He was especially enamored with Cuban music. Longhair's style was known locally as rumba-boogie. Alexander Stewart states that Longhair was a key figure bridging the worlds of boogiewoogie and the new style of rhythm and blues."[In his composition "Misery," Professor Longhair plays a habanera-like figure in his left hand. The deft use of triplets in the right hand is a characteristic of Longhair's style.
"Misery" by Professor Longhair (1957).

Tresillo, the habanera, and related African-based single-celled figures have long been heard in the left hand part of piano compositions by New Orleans musicians, for example—Louis Moreau Gottschalk ("Souvenirs From Havana" 1859), and Jelly Roll Morton ("The Crave" 1910). One of Longhair's great contributions was the adaptation of Afro-Cuban two-celled, clave-based patterns in New Orleans blues. Michael Campbell states: "Rhythm and blues influenced by Afro-Cuban music first surfaced in New Orleans. Professor Longhair’s influence was . . . far reaching. In several of his early recordings, Professor Longhair blended Afro-Cuban rhythms with rhythm and blues. The most explicit is 'Longhair’s Blues Rhumba,' where he overlays a straightforward blues with a clave rhythm." The guajeo-like piano part for the rumba-boogie "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" (1949), employs the 2-3 clave onbeat/offbeat motif. The 2-3 clave time-line is written above the piano excerpt for reference.

According to Dr. John (Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, Jr.), the Professor "put funk into music . . . Longhair's thing had a direct bearing I'd say on a large portion of the funk music that evolved in New Orleans." This is the syncopated, but straight subdivision feel of Cuban music (as opposed to swung subdivisions). Alexander Stewart states that the popular feel was passed along from "New Orleans—through James Brown's music, to the popular music of the 1970s," adding: "The singular style of rhythm & blues that emerged from New Orleans in the years after World War II played an important role in the development of funk. In a related development, the underlying rhythms of American popular music underwent a basic, yet generally unacknowledged transition from triplet or shuffle feel to even or straight eighth notes. Concerning funk motifs, Stewart states: "This model, it should be noted, is different from a time line (such as clave and tresillo) in that it is not an exact pattern, but more of a loose organizing principle."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Roy Brown New Orleans R&B Founding Father

New Orleans own Roy Brown certainly qualifies as one of the Founding Fathers of R&B in the 'Blues Shouter' school which is based on a style largely pioneered by Big Joe Turner in the Swing era. Big Joe didn't really convert to R&B until around 1950 so some of the earliest recordings that you would call R&B come from Brown, Wynonie Harris and a fellow who sang with Tiny Bradshaw and Ike Turner named Johnny O'Neal, aka Brother Bell, aka Burnt-Face O'Neal.  

"Roy James Brown (September 10, 1925 — May 25, 1981) was an American R&B singer, songwriter and musician, who had an influence on the early development of rock and roll by changing the direction R&B was headed in. His original song and hit recording "Good Rocking Tonight" was covered by Wynonie Harris, Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pat Boone, and the rock group Montrose. Brown was the first singer in recording history to sing R&B songs with a gospel-steeped delivery, which was then considered taboo by many churches. In addition, his melismatical pleading, vocal style influenced B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Elvis Presley, Jackie Wilson and Little Richard.

Brown was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. As with many R&B singers, he started singing gospel music in the church. His mother was an accomplished singer and church organist.  After a move to Los Angeles, California some time in the 1940s, and a brief period spent as a professional boxer in the welterweight category, he won a singing contest in 1945 at the Million Dollar Theater covering "There's No You", originally recorded by Bing Crosby. In 1946, Brown moved to Galveston, Texas, where he sang in Joe Coleman's group performing mostly songs from the Hit Parade, in a club called the Club Granada. His numbers included a song he wrote entitled "Good Rocking Tonight". After being rejected by the Armed Forces because of flat feet, he secured his first major job in a Shreveport, Louisiana club singing mostly pop ballads such as "Stardust" and "Blue Hawaii." The owner of Bill Riley's Palace Park hired him, as Brown told a Blues Unlimited interviewer, because of his appeal as "a Negro who sounds white." It was at the Palace Park that Brown started developing a blues repertoire, learning contemporary R&B tunes such as "Jelly Jelly" (recorded by Billy Eckstine). He returned to New Orleans in 1947, where he performed at The Dew Drop Inn.
Brown was a big fan of blues singer Wynonie Harris. When Harris appeared in town, Brown tried but failed to interest Harris in listening to "Good Rocking Tonight." Dejected, Brown approached another blues singer, Cecil Gant who was appearing at another club in town. Brown introduced his song, and Gant had Brown to sing it over the telephone to the president of De Luxe Records, Jules Braun, reportedly at 4:00 in the morning. Brown was signed to a recording contract immediately. Brown recorded the song in a jump blues style with a swing beat. It was released in 1948 and reached #13 on the US Billboard R&B chart. Ironically, Wynonie Harris covered it and hit the top of Billboard's R&B chart later in 1948. Presley also covered the song for Sun Records in 1954; later re-released on RCA Victor when his recording contract was sold to that record label in 1956.

Brown continued to make his mark on the R&B charts, scoring 14 hits from mid-1948 to late 1951 with De Luxe, including "Hard Luck Blues" (his biggest seller in 1950), "Love Don't Love Nobody", "Rockin' at Midnight," "Boogie at Midnight," "Miss Fanny Brown," and "Cadillac Baby", making him the undisputed king of R&B for those three years.

After his popularity peaked, Brown began to experience a lull in his career. Doo-wop and R&B groups were quickly gaining popularity as the standard sound of R&B in the early to mid 1950s. The decline of his fortunes coincided with his successfully winning a lawsuit against King Records for unpaid royalties in 1952, one of the few African American musicians to do so in the 1950s. This has led some, such as author Nick Tosches (in his book Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll, which contained a chapter on Brown) to believe that Brown may have been blacklisted. Brown's other misfortunes included trouble with the IRS. When confronted by the government for back taxes he owed, he approached Elvis Presley to ask for help. Presley wrote him a brown paper check, but it wasn't enough to keep him out of jail. Brown did a little prison time for tax evasion. When his popularity ebbed in the rock and roll era, he tried teen-slanted songs like "School Bell Rock", but had little success and subsequently went into semi-retirement.

Brown had a brief comeback through Imperial Records in 1957. Working with Dave Bartholomew, Brown returned to the charts with the original version of "Let the Four Winds Blow" (co-written by Fats Domino), which would become a hit later for Domino.

He returned to King Records where his popularity ground down to a low by 1959, but he sporadically managed to find work and do some recording through the 1960s, making appearances where ever he was wanted. To supplement his income, Brown sold the rights to "Good Rocking Tonight." He also worked as an encyclopedia salesman.

In 1970, Brown closed The Johnny Otis Show at the Monterey Jazz Festival. As a result of the crowd's positive reaction, he recorded "Love for Sale", which became a hit for Mercury Records.

In the late 1970s a compilation album of his old work brought about a minor revival of interest. In 1978 he had a successful tour in Scandinavia following the releases of Laughing But Crying and Good Rocking Tonight. Shortly before his death he performed at the Whisky A Go-Go in West Hollywood, California and headlined the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1981.

Brown died of a heart attack, at Pacoima Lutheran Memorial Hospital, near his home in the San Fernando Valley on May 25, 1981. He was 55 years old. The Reverend Johnny Otis conducted the funeral. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame the same year.