Entries tagged with “Eddie Mack”.


ARTISTSONGALBUM
Big MaybelleMy Big MistakeThe Complete OKeh Sessions
Mickey Baker Spininn’ Rock BoogieIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Louis JordanCaldonia 56'In The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Larry DaleMidnight HoursIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Sammy Price & His Bluescians Rib JointRib Joint
Mickey & SylviaNo Good LoverIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Eddie MackLast Hour BluesEddie Mack 1947-1952
Tiny KennedyCountry BoyR&B From The Radio Corporation Volumes 1
H-Bomb FergusonWork For My BabyRock H-Bomb Rock
Mickey BakerMidnight Midnight The Wildest Guitar
Nappy BrownIs It Really You?Night Time Is The Right Time
Sammy Price & His Bluescians Juke JointSammy Price & His Bluescians
Buddy JohnsonSomedayBuddy and Ella Johnson: 1953-1964
Little EstherYou Can Bet Your LifeLadies Sing The Blues
Annisteen AllenWantedAnnisteen Allen 1945-53
Larry DalePlease Tell MeHarlem Heavies
Paul WilliamsWoman Are The Root of All EvilPaul Williams Vol. 3 1952-1956
Mickey Baker Bandstand StompRock With A Sock
Square WaltonPepper-Head WomanRub A Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Brownie McGhee Love's a DiseaseRub A Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Mckey BakerShake Walkin’ Rock With A Sock
Larry Dale You Better Heed My WarningIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Roy GainesWorried About You BabyGroove Jumping
Mr. BearThe Bear Hug In The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Big Red McHouston & His orchestraI’m Tired R&B From The Radio Corporation Volumes 1
Sammy Price & His Bluescians Kansas City Boogie Woogie StompRib Joint
Eddie Riff Ain’t That Lovin’ YouMickey Baker: Essential Blues Masters
Sammy Price & His Bluescians Bar-B-Q SauceRib Joint
Mickey BakerRock With A Sock Rock With A Sock
Champion Jack DupreeStumbling BlockIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Big Red McHouston & His OrchestraStranger BluesIn The '50s: Hit, Git & Split
Big MaybellePitifulThe Complete OKeh Sessions
Varetta DillardSo Many WaysLadies Sing the Blues
Sammy Price & His Bluescians LeveeRib Joint

Show Notes:

 
Mickey Baker and Sylvia Vanderpool (Mickey & Sylvia)

Mickey Baker, who has died aged 87, was one of the most versatile and prolific guitarists of his era. I was a fan of baker's guitar playing even before I knew his name. When I first seriously started buying blues records it didn't take me long to figure out that the great guitar playing on those 50's records I was buying of Big Maybelle, Nappy Brown and numerous others was the work of the prolific Mickey Baker. During the 1950s, any producer making R&B or rock'n'roll records in New York would have Baker's name in his contacts book, and he played on innumerable sessions for Atlantic, Savoy and other labels, accompanying vocal groups including the Drifters and the Coasters and blues singers such as Champion Jack Dupree, Nappy Brown, Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker. Among the many hit records to which he made original and distinctive contributions were Ruth Brown's “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean”, the Coasters' “I'm a Hog for You” and Joe Turner's “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” Today we spotlight Baker's bluesier records, as we hear him on great records by Big Maybelle, Nappy Brown, Larry Dale, Sammy Price, Champion Jack Dupree, Louis Jordan and many others.

Baker was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent some of his youth in institutions, from which he ran away to New York, where for a time he got by as a pool-hall hustler. "Around the age of 19," he later recalled, "I decided to make a change in my life. I was still washing dishes, but I was determined that I wanted to be a jazz musician." His preferred instrument was the trumpet but he could not afford one, so he bought a cheap guitar from a pawnshop and learned some chords from a hillbilly songbook. In time he moved on to the standard repertoire and started playing progressive jazz. Then, while on the west coast, he went to a gig by the singer and guitarist Pee Wee Crayton and encountered the blues. "I asked Pee Wee, 'You mean you can make money playing that stuff?' So I started bending strings."

Inspired by the successful model of the guitarist Les Paul and the singer Mary Ford, he formed a duo with the singer Sylvia Vanderpool (later Sylvia Robinson). Mickey & Sylvia's recording of “Love Is Strange”, a million-selling hit in 1956-57. In the wake of "Love Is Strange", he and Vanderpool opened a nightclub, started a publishing company and generally tried to take more charge of their performing lives than was usually possible for black artists. But their personal relationship was stormy and Baker was tired of playing forgettable music for teenagers. Early in the 60s, he moved to France.

Many of today's tracks are longtime favorites including a batch of tough sides by the unsung Larry Dale who waxed some potent blues and R&B sides under his own name and some knockout session guitar backing a slew of New York artists. "It's kinda funny how I learned to play the guitar", Dale said in an interview. "Brownie McGhee would let me come up on his bandstand and sit in the back and playing all kind of bad notes until I learned where the changes were. And then I got so where I could play pretty good. And I could always sing good, If I could sing and leave the guitar alone I was good, but if I tried to play the guitar …Bobby Schiffman told me 'You just sing, leave the guitar alone. you'll make it'. But he didn't know I was determined to learn the guitar. So I bought B.B King records, people that played guitars; and I learned how to play. Then Mickey Baker he taught me a lot. …Well before then Mickey taught me a lot about guitar. And then it's a funny thing, after Mickey taught me then I had to teach him how to play the blues!" We hear Dale taking the vocals with Baker on guitar on tough numbers like "Midnight Hours", "Please Tell Me", "You Better Heed My Warning", all cut under Dale's name, and Dale taking the vocals on sides attributed to Big Red McHouston (alias Mickey Baker),  "I'm Tired" b/w "Where Is My Honey" cut for the Groove label.

Another favorite record of mine is the now out-of-print 2-LP set Rib Joint. Baker backed piano pounder Sam Price on a series of instrumental sides for the Savoy label in 1956 and 1959. The sides feature great session players including King Curtis, Leonard Gaskin, Panama Francis Al Casey and Kenny Burrell among others. We spin several selections from these sessions including "Rib Joint", "Kansas City Boogie Woogie Stomp", "Bar-B-Q Sauce" and "Juke Joint."

During the period covered in this show, Baker recorded only a handful of sides under his own names, fifteen sides between 1952 and 1956. In addition to the above mentioned Big Red McHouston sides, the rest of the sides  are instrumentals and today we spin several of those including "Shake Walkin'", "Bandstand Stomp" and "Rock With A Sock." In addition he cut his only full-length album from this period, 1959's The Wildest Guitar and all instrumental outing issued on Atlantic.

Among the earliest sides I heard Baker on those backing Big Maybelle, Nappy Brown and Champion Jack Dupree. Baker appears on several Big Maybelle sessions in 1954, 1955 and 1956 and backs Nappy Brown's on his 1952 debut plus sessions in 1955 and 1960. Baker backs Jack Dupree on sessions in 1953 and 1955 and the two reunited for a session in London in 1967 for the Decca label.

Baker backed a number of veteran artists who were trying to update their sound for the new rock and roll craze including Amos Milburn, Wynonie Harris, Big Joe Turner and Louis Jordan. Turner sailed into the rock and roll era rather seamlessly, scoring a big hit with “Shake, Rattle and Roll” with Baker on guitar. Although not commercially successful, Baker and Louis Jordan cut some rocking records during this period. 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, showcased updated rock n' roll versions of previous hits such as "Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens","Choo Choo Ch'Boogie", "Salt Pork, West Virginia", "Beware!" and a scorching "Caldonia" which we feature today; 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.

A couple of lesser known New York artists worth mentioning are Eddie Mack and Mr. Bear. Mack was part of the Brooklyn blues scene in the late 40's and early 50's but his subsequent career is a mystery. He fronted various groups by Cootie Williams & His Orchestra (he replaced Eddie Vinson), Lucky Millinder & His Orchestra and others. He cut some two-dozen sides between 1947-1952. Mickey Baker appears on Mack's final four sides for the Savoy label which are among his best.

Teddy McRae, also known as Mr. Bear, cut a few isolated titles as a leader, including two songs for King in 1945, six for Groove in 1955 and two numbers for Moonshine in 1958, and recorded with Champion Jack Dupree from 1955-56. Prior to this he was an important an arranger and tenor-saxophonist for several bands including Cab Calloway, Jimmie Lunceford, Lionel Hampton and Chick Webb's.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Champion Jack DupreeStumbling Block Blues Early Cuts
Champion Jack DupreeShake Baby ShakeEarly Cuts
Eddie MackSeven Days Blues Eddie Mack 1947-1952
Eddie MackLast Hour Blues Eddie Mack 1947-1952
Paul Williams w/ Larry DaleShame Shame Shame Paul Williams Vol. 3 1952-1956
Paul Williams w/ Larry DaleThe Woman I Love Is DyingPaul Williams Vol. 3 1952-1956
Paul Williams w/ Larry DaleWomen Are The Root Of All Evil Paul Williams Vol. 3 1952-1956
Allen BunnToo Much CompetitionBobby's Boogie: Red Robin Records
Big MaybelleI'm Getting 'Long Alright Blues Masters Vol. 13 New York City Blues
Larry Dale You Better Heed My Warning Still Groove Jumping
Mickey Baker w/ Larry Dale Stranger BluesRock With A Sock
Mr. BearI'm Gonna Keep My Good Eye on YouStill Groove Jumping
Larry DaleLet The Doorbell RingOld Town Blues Vol. 1
Alonzo Scales Left My Home BluesRub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Alonzo Scales Hard Luck ChildRub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Champion Jack DupreeStory Of My LifeShake Baby Shake!
Bob Gaddy Operator Rub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Mr. Bear Hold Out BabyHarlem Heavies
Cousin Leroy Up the River Rub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Cousin Leroy Goin' Back Home Rub a Little Boogie: New York Blues 1945-56
Buddy & Ella Johnson Don't Be Messin' With My ManOld Town Blues Vol. 2
Buddy & Ella Johnson You'll Get Them BluesBuddy and Ella Johnson 1953-1964
Hal Paige & His Wailers After Hours BluesHarlem Rock 'n' Blues Vol. 2
Dr. HorseJack, That Cat Was CleanFire/Fury Records Story
Jimmy SpruillHard GrindHarlem Rock 'n' Blues Vol. 1
Buster Brown Don't Dog Your WomanThe New King Of The Blues
Jimmy SpruillKansas City MarchHarlem Rock 'n' Blues Vol. 2
Bob GaddyStormy Monday BluesHarlem blues Operator
Riff Ruffin All My LifeHarlem Rock 'n' Blues Vol. 2
Noble "Thin Man" WattsJookin Fire/Fury Records Story
Tarheel Slim & Little Ann You Got My Nose Wide OpenOld Town Blues Vol. 2
June BatemanGo Away Mr. Blues Fire/Fury Records Story
Sammy PriceRib JointRib Joint

Show Notes:

We've done a couple of shows on the New York blues scene including last year's show on ace session man Larry Dale and more recently a show devoted to recordings revolving around Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry's New York recording activities. New York City has never had a big reputation as a blues town, compared to Chicago and L.A. It did however have a very lively postwar R&B scene. The R&B scene had its peak between 1945 and 1960 and has always been closely associated with the local jazz scene. There were nationally important clubs like the Apollo and Savoy and numerous other spots for live entertainment. The recording scene was dominated by a group of small but enterprising independent companies like Apollo, DeLuxe, Fire/Fury, Herald, Baton, Joe Davis, Old Town and in particular, Atlantic and Savoy. There was also out of town companies that recorded local talent like Federal and RCA’s Groove and Vik subsidiaries. Literally hundreds and hundreds of R&B recordings were made, aimed at the black market with occasional cross over success. Today's show spans the early 50's through the early 60's spotlighting a slew of great lesser known blues artists as well as bigger names like Big Maybelle, Paul Williams and Champion Jack Dupree. We also spotlight the contributions of trio of sizzling session guitarists: Larry Dale, Mickey Baker and Jimmy Spruill.

Larry DAle: Let The Doorbell RingBorn in Texas, Larry Dale had moved to New York City in 1949 and quickly fell into the local blues scene. Dale made his start with Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams’ band in the early 50’s. Dale was much in-demand on the New York blues scene during this period working with Bob Gaddy, Mickey Baker (as a vocalist), Champion Jack Dupree, Cootie Williams and others. He also cut scattered sides under his own name for several New York labels.

We first hear Dale in the company of Paul Williams on three sides from 1953 and 1954. Williams moved with his family from the south to Detroit where he began playing sax professionally after high school. His song "The Hucklebuck" stayed on the charts for 32 weeks in 1949. Nothing else matched this success the fame form that hit kept Williams busy recording and performing live for years. He led the house band at Harlem's Apollo Theater  in the mid-50's and later directed the bands of Lloyd Price and James Brown. He retired from music in 1964. Our selections find Williams laying down some tough R&B with New york Larry Dale taking the vocals and playing guitar on the blistering 'Shame Shame Shame" and "The Woman I Love Is Dying" and playing guitar on the jumping "Women Are The Root Of All Evil" featuring Jimmy Brown on vocals.

We also hear Dales' playing behind Champion Jack Dupree, Mr. Bear, Cousin Leroy, Bob Gaddy, Mickey Baker as well as sides cut under his own name.  Dale played on all four of Dupree's 1956-58 sessions for RCA's Groove and Vik subsidiaries, and on the best known Dupree LP, 1958's Blues from the Gutter, for Atlantic. Today we hear Dale backing Dupree on the rocking  "Shake Baby Shake" from 1952 and 1956's "The Story of my Life." Teddy McRae also known as Mr. Bear cut a few isolated titles as a leader, including two songs for King in 1945, six for Groove in 1955 and two numbers for Moonshine in 1958, and recorded with Champion Jack Dupree from 1955-56. Prior to this he was an important an arranger and tenor-saxophonist for several bands including Cab Calloway, Jimmie Lunceford, Lionel Hampton and Chick Webb's. In 1955 and 1957, Cousin Leroy recorded eight tough tracks that had a little something extra that drove blues fans crazy when they came out on unauthorized records in the 60s. Nothing is known about his background. Both as a session man and featured recording artist, pianist Bob Gaddy made his presence known on the New York blues scene during the 1950's. He arrived in New York in 1946. Gaddy gigged with Brownie McGhee and guitarist Larry Dale around town, McGhee often playing on Gaddy's waxings for Jackson, Jax, Dot, Harlem, and from 1955 on, Hy Weiss' Old Town label. There Gaddy stayed the longest into 1960. Both Gaddy and Dale remained active on the New York scene for decades after. Larry Dale is featured on guitar. We hear Dale backed by Mickey Baker on "Stranger Blues" and the menacing "You Better Heed My Warning." In 1960, Dale did another vocal session, for the Old Town subsidiary Glover in New York City, resulting in two fine singles, "Big Muddy" and the song that gives today's show its title, the scorching party number "Let the Door Bell Ring" which hit the R&B charts.

In the early and mid-'50s, Mickey Baker did countless sessions for Atlantic, King, RCA, Decca, and OKeh, playing on such classics as the Drifters' "Money Honey" and "Such a Night," Joe Turner's "Shake Rattle & Roll," Ruth Brown's "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean," and Big Maybelle's "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On." He also released a few singles under his own name. Baker was also recorded as half of the duo Mickey & Sylvia. We hear Baker on several numbers today, including those already mentioned backing Larry Dale, such as Champion Jack Dupree's "Stumbling Block Blues", Big Maybelle's "I'm Getting 'Long Alright" and a pair of sides by blues shouter Eddie Mack. Mack was part of the Brooklyn blues scene in the late 40's and early 50's but his subsequent career is a mystery. He fronted various groups by Cootie Williams & His Orchestra (he replaced Eddie Vinson), Lucky Millinder & His Orchestra and others. He cut some two-dozen sides between 1947-1952. Baker also  appeared on a series of instrumental sides by piano pounder Sam Price cut for the Savoy label in the late 50's such as "Bar-B-Q Sauce", "Chicken Out" and our selection, "Rib Joint." All these sessions were collected on the now out-of-print 2-LP set Rib Joint. He also cut several instrumentals under his own name during this period.

Jimmy Spruill landed in new York in 1955 where he worked steadily as a session sideman, appearing on records by King Curtis, Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Shirelles, Tarheel Slim and Elmore James, in addition to putting out singles under his own name. He most frequently worked for the record producers Danny and Bobby Robinson, who ran record labels called Fire, Fury, Everlast, Enjoy and VIM out of Bobby's Happy House of Hits record store in Harlem. In May 1959, "The Happy Organ" by Dave "Baby" Cortez reached #1 on the Billboard chart, before giving way only one week later to Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City", both of which featured guitar solos by Spruill. He almost duplicated this feat in 1961 when Bobby Lewis's "Tossin' and Turnin'", featuring Spruill's guitar solo, hit #1 was followed up the charts by the Shirelles' "Dedicated To The One I Love", which peaked at #3. Another well-known recording on which Spruill plays is "Fannie Mae" by Buster Brown. His rhythm work in the background of some of Elmore James' last records is also notable. In 1957 Bobby Robisnon began issuing  Jimmy Spruill's solo 45's, on Fire and its subsidiary labels Enjoy, Vest, and VIM where cut tough instrumentals like "Hard Grind", "Scratchin'", "Slow Draggin'", "Scratch 'n Twist" and "Cut and Dried."  Those tracks and more are available on the Night Train CD Wild Jimmy Spruill: Scratch & Twist (Released and  Unreleased Recordings 1956-1962). We hear Sprull today ripping it up on a couple of his own killer instrumentals, "Hard Grind" and "Kansas City March", as well as backing Bob Gaddy, Buster Brown, Noble "Thin Man" Watts' and Hal Paige.

A few other artists worth mentioning are Buddy & Ella Johnson, Buster Brown, Noble "Thin Man" Watts and Tarheel Slim. In 1939, Buddy Johnson waxed his first 78 for Decca and shortly thereafter, Ella joined her older brother. Buddy had assembled a nine-piece orchestra by 1941 and visited the R&B charts often for Decca during the mid-40's. The Johnson band barnstormed the country to sellout crowds throughout the '40s. Buddy moved over to Mercury Records in 1953 and scored several R&B hits. Buddy kept recording for Mercury through 1958, switched to Roulette the next year, and bowed out with a last session for Hy Weiss' Old Town label in 1964.

Buster Brown played harmonica at local clubs and made a few recordings, including ‘I’m Gonna Make You Happy’ in 1943. Brown moved to New York in 1956 where he was discovered by Fire Records owner Bobby Robinson while working in a chicken and barbecue joint. In 1959, he recorded the "Fannie Mae", whose tough harmonica riffs took it into the US Top 40. In later years he recorded for Checker Records and for numerous small labels including Serock, Gwenn and Astroscope.

The Griffin Brothers, one of Dot Records' most popular touring R&B acts, hired Noble Watts right after he finished college, and he toured with them for a time. In 1952, he joined famed baritone saxophonist Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams as a member of the house band for the groundbreaking TV show “Showtime At The Apollo.” Later on, he had a stint playing with Lionel Hampton's big band. He also played on late '50s tour packages behind the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. Watts first recording came in 1954 on DeLuxe Records. A 1956 single for VeeJay Records preceded his two-year association with New York's Baton label. The song “Hard Times (The Slop)” brought Watts to the pop charts in 1957. Countless tours and performances – as well as a string of singles for various labels – kept Watts busy through the 1960s and into the 1970s. We hear Watts today on the fine instrumental "Jookin."

As Tarheel Slim, Allen Bunn,  encored on Bobby Robinson's Red Robin logo in 1953. He also sang with  R&B vocal groups, the Wheels and the Lovers. As Tarheel Slim he made his debut in 1958 with his wife, Little Ann, in a duet format for Robinson's Fire imprint. He cut a pair of rockabilly raveups of his own, "Wilcat Tamer" and "No. 9 Train" (both featuring Jimmy Spruill). After a few years off the scene, Tarheel Slim made a bit of a comeback during the early 1970's, with an album for Trix, his last recording. He died in 1977.

In January of this year the hard working Bobby Robinson passed away and pay a sort of mini tribute to him, playing several records he produced and issued. He was the owner of Harlem's most successful record store, Bobby's Happy House of Hits, he worked as an amateur talent scout and, as well as advising major blues record companies, he ran his own now legendary labels Red Robin, Whirlin' Disc, Fire and Fury. n 1951, he launched Robin Records (which later became Red Robin Records), and began recording doo wop. He claimed that being stuck in traffic at the New Jersey turnpike cost him the chance to sign Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. In 1956, he formed Whirlin' Disc Records, but after falling out with his business partner formed Fury Records in 1957.Passing blues musicians would often offer to record for Robinson. The most spectacular result in his career was when he gave Harrison studio time in 1959. The resulting single, "Kansas City", went on to sell more than 3m copies, topping both the R&B and pop charts. Other blues artists he recorded included Bobby Marchan, Lee Dorsey, Lightnin' Hopkins, Elmore James, Arthur Crudup, Champion Jack Dupree, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee among numerous others.

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ARTISTSONGALBUM
Sonny ParkerJealous BluesSonny Parker 1948-1953
Cousin JoeBaby, You Don't Know It AllCousin Joe 1945-1946 Vol. 1
Eddie ChambleeEvery Shut EyeEddie Chamblee 1947-52
Tiny Grimes & J.B. SummersHey Mr. J.B.Tiny Grimes 1950-1954 Vol. 5
Tiny GrimesFrankie And Johnny (Boogie)Tiny Grimes 1950-1954 Vol. 4
Max "Blues" BaileyComing Home BluesObscure Blues Shouters Vol. 1
Rubberlegs WilliamsThat's The BluesObscure Blues Shouters Vol. 2
Calvin BozeAngel City BluesCalvin Boze 1945-1952
Cecil GantPlayin' Myself The BluesCecil Gant 1950-1951
Cecil GantNashville JumpsCecil Gant 1950-1951
Eddie MackSeven Days BluesEddie Mack 1949-1951
Lester WilliamsDowling Street HopGoree Carter 1950-1954
Goree CarterI'm Your Boogie ManGoree Carter 1950-1954
Felix GrossWorried About You BabyFelix Gross 1947-1855
Arbee StidhamMeet Me HalfwayArbee Stidham Vol. 2 1951-1957
Jimmy "Baby Face" LewisGettin' OldJimmy "Baby Face" Lewis 1947-1955
Sonny ThompsonGum ShoeSonny Thompson Vol. 3 1951-1952
Lulu ReedLast NightSonny Thompson Vol. 3 1951-1952
Sonny ThompsonThings Ain't What They Used to BeSonny Thompson Vol. 4 1952-1954
Monte EasterMidnight RiderMonte Easter Vol. 2 1952-1960
Geeshie SmithT-Town JumpSwinging Small Combos Kansas City Style Vol. 2
Crown Prince WaterfordMove Your Hand BabySwingin' Small Combos Kansas City Style Vol.2
Myra TaylorI'm In My Sins This MorningKansas City Jumps Vol. 3
Ella Mae MorseEarly In The MorningKansas City Jumps Vol. 3
Betty Hall JonesThat Early Morning BoogieBetty hall Jones 1947-1954
Jesse PriceI'm The Drummer ManSwingin' Small Combos Kansas City Style Vol. 1
Clyde BernhardtIt's Been A Long Time BabyClyde Bernhardt 1945 -1953 Vol.2
Paul WilliamsRockin’ Chair BluesPaul Williams 1949-1952 Vol. 2
Jack McVeaNaggin' WomanJack McVea 1944-1952 Vol. 1
Jack McVeaTwo Timin' Baby BoogieJack McVea 1944-1952 Vol. 1
Walter 'Sandman' HowardWillow Tree BluesObscure Blues Shouters Vol. 2

Show Notes:

Today’s spotlight is on the Blue Moon label, a Spanish label that for the last five years or so has been reissuing some amazing recordings of jump blues and R&B from the mid-40’s to the mid-50’s. Blue Moon can been seen as a sort sister label to Document records; where Document issues the complete recorded work in chronological order of every blues artist from the pre-war era, Blue Moon has been reissuing the chronological recordings of some great jump blues pioneers from the immediate post-war era. Much of this music has been unavailable on CD and spotlights a fascinating era when jump blues was merging into R&B and eventually morphing into rock and roll. The  label has done an invaluable service by issuing the chronological recordings of neglected pioneers like Sonny Thompson, Cecil Gant, Tiny Grimes, Goree Carter, Paul Williams, Jack McVea and many others. The music on today’s program is a mix of jump blues and R&B. Jump Blues refers to an uptempo, jazz-tinged style of blues that first came to prominence in the mid- to late '40s. Usually featuring a vocalist in front of a large, horn-driven orchestra or medium sized combo with multiple horns, the style usually features a driving rhythm, shouted vocals, and honking tenor saxophone solos. Billboard magazine first used the term "Rhythm and Blues" as the title for its black music charts in 1949, replacing "race music." R&B evolved out of jump blues in the late '40s, laying the groundwork for rock & roll. R&B kept the tempo and the drive of jump blues, but its instrumentation was sparer and the emphasis was on the song, not improvisation. It was blues chord changes played with an insistent backbeat.

Crown Prince Waterford/Geechie Smith Kansas City Jumps 3

I can't possibly write about every artist in the Blue Moon catalog but I thought I'd give some background on a few including Cecil Gant, Sonny Thompson, Tiny Grimes, Jack McVea plus several of the blues vocalists like Sonny Parker, Crown Prince Waterford, Cousin Joe and others. Also I'll give some background on the Kansas City and L.A. blues scenes of the 1940's where much of today's music emanated from.

While the big bands declined nationally, a number of small groups thrived in Kansas City. Myra Taylor, Walter Page and other musicians cast off from the decline of the big bands returned to Kansas City. Taylor's early recording can be found on Blue Moon's Kansas City Jumps Vol. 3. Julia Lee, the Jimmy Keith band, the Four Tons of Rhythm, the Jesse Price band, Dwight “Gatemouth” Moore, Geechie Smith, Tommy Douglas’s band, Oliver Todd’s Hottentots and a number of other small ensembles found steady work in the clubs at 18th and Vine, downtown and those “out in the county” that thrived in the post-war period. Geeshie Smith is featured on the CD Swingin' Small Combos Kansas City Style Vol.2. Vernon "Geechie" Smith was a trumpeter/vocalist from the Tulsa, Oklahoma. He played early on with Ernie Fields Orchestra. He was a KC stalwart, spent many years in Kansas City and played in countless KC styled bands. He moved to L.A. where he joined Joe Lutcher's band. After recording under his own name for the Bihari Brother' Modern subsidiary Colonial in 1950 and for the obscure Kicks label in 1954, he drifted into obscurity. An influential drummer who was best known for supporting major performers, Jesse Price appeared in many settings through the years. His recordings are featured on the CD  Swingin' Small Combos Kansas City Style – Vol.1:  The Complete Jesse Price 1946-1957. After moving to Kansas City in 1934, Price became an important fixture, playing with George E. Lee, Thamon Hayes, Count Basie's orchestra (1936) prior to Jo Jones, touring with Ida Cox and later working with Harlan Leonard (1939-41). Price moved to Los Angeles in 1941, playing with Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong (1943), Stan Kenton (1944), Basie (1944), Benny Carter, Slim Gaillard (1949) and (in Kansas City) Jay McShann, among many others. He was less active in the 1960s and '70s but led a band at the Monterey Jazz Festival as late as 1971. Price recorded 23 selections as a leader from 1946-48 (mostly for Capitol). During the 1950's Jay McShann, Ben Webster, Jimmy Witherspoon, Lucky Enois and other nationally established musicians returned to Kansas City and revitalized the local scene.

Cecil Gant Vol. 3 Jack McVea Vol. 4

Los Angeles, in the 1940's, became a huge center for rhythm and blues recording. T-Bone Walker had settled in Los Angeles. On any given night in the late 1940's you could drive south on Los Angeles' Central Avenue and hear the music of such jazz and jump titans as Buddy Collette, Charles Mingus, Wynonie Harris, Big Jay McNeely, Joe Liggins and Johnny Otis. These sounds would waft from such venues as the Lincoln Theater, the Club Alabam, the Down Beat, and Jack's Basket Room (which featured fried chicken and biscuits by the basket). When you got all the way out to Watts, you could check out Little Harlem and The Barrelhouse. The first breakout rhythm and blues single, "I Wonder," was recorded by Private Cecil Gant in a simple basement studio and released in 1944 on Gilt Edge Records, a short-lived L.A. indie. When "I Wonder" went to the top of Billboard's race charts, a number of labels sprang up to capitalize on the smooth, cool, Leroy Carr-derived L.A. blues style Gant had popularized. As Mike Rowe wrote: “Unlike New York and Chicago there had been no blues or any kind of recording industry pre-war …The music as well as the industry was starting from scratch. …It was very often of Do-It yourself triumphing over the most adverse conditions.” The Black population swelled in the 1940’s, due to large manpower needs to work in the U.S. defense industry during World War II. These new arrivals needed entertainment, of course, and the local jazz and blues club scene heated up quickly. There was a host of labels recording blues and R&B in Los Angeles in the 1940s including Specialty, Imperial, Aladdin, and the umbrella of labels run by the Bihari brothers RPM/Modern/Kent/Flair/Crown were the most notable. Bob Geddins was a key player who operated numerous small labels like Down Town, Big Town, Irma, and others. May of these sides were leased to larger outfits like Chess, Specialty, Modern and others.

Sonny Thompson Vol. 5 Tiny Grimes Vol. 4

Cecil Gant, who went by the moniker the G.I. Sing-Sation, was an army private who allegedly got his first break while performing for a war bond rally in 1944. He scored a massive hit the same year with “I Wonder” the first release on the new Gilt-Edge label. The record’s huge success prompted others to form record companies devoted to black music. Gant was a first rate ballad singer in the vein of Nat King Cole and Charles Brown but he was also a superb bluesman who could lay down some storming boogie-woogie. Gant recorded prolifically for the L.A. labels Gilt-Edge and 4 Star and in Nashville, which was probably his hometown, for Bullet, Dot and Decca, meanwhile playing in nightclubs throughout the country. Between 1944 and 1951 he waxed over 150 sides before his untimely death in 1951 at the age of 38. The Blue Moon label has provided an invaluable service by issuing all of Gant’s recordings across seven CD’s.

Bandleader and pianist Sonny Thompson was among the most prolific R&B instrumentalists of the late '40s and early '50s. Thompson began recording for Sultan in 1946, then did several sessions for Miracle, King, Federal, and Deluxe, while also backing vocalist Lula Reed from 1951 to 1961. Thompson scored two number one R&B hits for Miracle in 1948: "Long Gone," Pts. 1 & 2, and "Late Freight." He landed another Top Ten and two more Top 20 singles for Miracle in 1949, and then had three Top Ten hits for King in 1952. The biggest was "I'll Drown In My Tears," sung by his wife Lula Reed, which reached number five. My Tears," which reached number five. Reed was a fine singer who passed away last summer with barley a mention in the media. In the 1960’s Thompson arranged and played on the classic Freddie King sides for King. Thompson’s recordings have been collected across five CD’s spanning from 1946-1955.

Arbee Stidham Vol. 2 Eddie Mack

Blue Moon has issued all of Jack McVea’s recordings between 19944-1952 over four CD’s. McVea played baritone saxophone in the Lionel Hampton Orchestra in 1942. He led one of the West Coast's earliest R&B combos and backed up important artists such as T-Bone Walker and Wynonie Harris. McVea's own "Open The Door, Richard!" created one of the biggest crazes ever to come out of black music in the pre-Rock'n'Roll era. He blew tenor sax alongside Illinois Jacquet at the first 'Jazz At The Philharmonic' in 1944, and he jammed and recorded with Slim Gaillard and Charlie Parker.

Another important series is Blue Moon's reissue of  all of Tiny Grimes recordings between 1944-1954 on five CD’s. Tiny Grimes was one of the earliest jazz electric guitarists to be influenced by Charlie Christian, and he developed his own swinging style. In 1938, he started playing electric guitar, and two years later he was playing in the Cats and the Fiddle. During 1943-1944, Grimes was part of a classic Art Tatum Trio, which also included Slam Stewart. In September 1944, he led his first record date, using Charlie Parker. He also recorded for Blue Note in 1946, and then put together an R&B-oriented group, "the Rockin' Highlanders," that featured the tenor of Red Prysock during 1948-1952. Although maintaining a fairly low profile, Tiny Grimes was active up until his death in 1989.

Cousin Joe Vol. 3 Betty Hall Jones

Today's program also spotlights several fine blues vocalists including Sonny Parker, Cousin Joe, Eddie Mack, Arbee Stidham, Crown Prince Waterford and Betty Hall Jones.  Sonny Parker began singing and dancing as a protégé of Butterbeans and Susie. He joined Lionel Hampton’s band in 1949 and was touring France in 1955 when he suffered an onstage stroke. He never recovered and passed in 1957 at the age of 32. Between 1948 and 1954 he cut some three dozen sides.

Blue Moon has issued all of Cousin Joe’s recordings on three CD’s spanning 1945-55. Joe was 12 when his family moved New Orleans. Joe took up guitar and ukulele, and made a living playing on the Riverboats in the 30's. By 1941, he'd moved to St. Louis to play in Sidney Bechet's band, before heading to New York three years later. This was Joe's most fruitful recording period cutting sides for a myriad of labels including King, Gotham, Philo, Savoy and Decca.

Eddie Mack was part of the Brooklyn blues scene in the late 40's and early 50's but his subsequent career is a mystery. He fronted various groups by Cootie Williams & His Orchestra (he replaced Eddie Vinson), Lucky Millinder & His Orchestra and others. He cut some two-dozen sides between 1947-1952.

The Arkansas-born, Chicago-based singer-guitarist Arbee Stidham hit the top of Billboard's "race" chart in 1948 with his recording of "My Heart Belongs to You" and recorded prolifically over the next two decades for a variety of labels. He retired from music in 1974.

Charles "Crown Prince" Waterford was from Jonesboro, Arkansas. He sang with Leslie Sheffield's Rhythmaires and Andy Kirk's Twelve Clouds of Joy before beginning his career as "The Crown Prince of the Blues" in Chicago in the 1940s. Waterford shouted the blues in the then very popular manner and continued his recording career for labels like Hy-Tone, Aladdin and Capitol. In 1949, he joined the King stable. In the 1950's he recorded for small companies and later dedicated his life to the Church and became known as Reverend Charles Waterford.

Blues vocalist, stand-up pianist and occasionally organist, Betty Hall Jones worked with Bus Moten's band and Addie Williams in Kansas City. Returning to California, she performed as a single artist before joining drummer/vocalist Roy Milton's band in L.A. in 1937. She almost certainly recorded on piano behind Alton Redd for the Black & White label in 1945, and accompanied Luke Jones on the Atlas recording sessions, and possibly with Red Mack for the same label in 1946 and 1947. In the same year she recorded with King Porter for Imperial label (the tremendous "That Early Morning Boogie" that we just heard) and under her own name for Atomic, Capitol and under Luke Jones' name for Modern. She recalled cutting unissued titles behind Ray Charles for Capitol. In the 1950's she recorded for Dootone and Combo.

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