Benjamin Clarence Jackson was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1919. He took up the saxophone while at school. He formed a band called The Harlem Hotshots who played gigs around North Ohio, tried his luck with various bands in New York State, and then returned to Cleveland where he was discovered in 1943 by bandleader Lucky Millinder who gave him the saxophone chair recently vacated by Lucky Thompson.
Christened “Bull Moose” by his bandmates (perhaps because of his unprepossessing looks), Jackson soon added vocal duties to his repertoire, reportedly being given his start when band vocalist Wynonie Harris failed to show for a gig in Lubbock, Texas.
When Syd Nathan set up the King Label in Cincinnati in 1945, he concentrated at first on signing Country and Western artists from the burgeoning local scene which centred around the WLW “Midwestern Hayride” program. He soon set up an R&B subsidiary named Queen, with ex-Millinder trumpet player Henry Glover as A&R man. Glover was keen to have his old boss record for the new label, but as Millinder was already under contract to Decca, Bull Moose became the front man for a series of recordings by the Millinder orchestra in 1945/46. Some sides were recorded with the full orchestra, others with a small group of Millinder musicians which became The Buffalo Bearcats.
The glory years for Bull Moose were 1948 and 1949 when he had considerable chart success mostly with romantic ballads such as “I Love You, Yes I Do”, “All My Love Belongs To You”, “Don’t Ask Me Why” and “Little Girl Don’t Cry”. So successful was Bull Moose, he displaced Louis Jordan as top selling R&B artist in 1948 and, along with Wynonie Harris, helped King to become the top selling R&B label of that year.
This 1980 Mr R&B LP concentrates on the “other side” of Bull Moose Jackson – the stomping instrumentalist and the singer of some of the most infamous double entendre recordings in R&B history, and also of some fiery rabble rousing jump blues. One of his earliest successes was with an answer record to the Millinder/Harris hit “Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well?” “I Know Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well” gets this collection off to a fine start, and the saga of Deacon Jones and his devoted congregation continues with the raucous “Fare Thee Well, Deacon Jones”.
As we have already seen, Syd Nathan maintained strong Country and R&B rosters and he liked to exchange songs between the two styles. There are two examples here: the blasting version of Wayne Raney’s “Why Don’t You Haul Off And Love Me?” and a spirited rendition of Moon Mullican’s “Cherokee Boogie”. For me, the Bull Moose version of “Why Don’t You” easily eclipses the rather sedate original but personally I think Moon Mullican’s “Cherokee Boogie” is better than the cover by Bull Moose.
Neither of Bull Moose’s most infamous “dirty” records are here – “I Want A Bow Legged Woman” and “Big Ten Inch”, but “Nosey Joe”, a Leiber-Stoller composition from 1952, certainly runs them close in the double entendre stakes. Although he was still making fine records in the early 1950s, changing fashions in R&B meant that Moose’s music was going out of style and his King career came to an end in 1955. The final track on this LP was recorded in Los Angeles in 1957 for the small Encino label with backing by a group led by Rene Hall and the rather unfortunate addition of a vocal chorus.
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Thanks to Joan for the vintage King EP cover.
1. I Know Who Threw The Whiskey (In The Well)
2. Bull Moose Jackson Blues
3. Sneaky Pete
4. Cleveland Ohio Blues
5. Fare Thee Well, Deacon Jones
6. Keep Your Big Mouth Shut
7. Miss Lucy
8. Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide
9. Memphis Gal
10. Why Don't You Haul Off And Love Me
11. Big Fat Mamas Are Back In Style Again
12. Cherokee Boogie (Eh-Oh-Aleena)
13. Nosey Joe
15. I Wanna Hug Ya, Kiss Ya, Squeeze Ya
16. Watch My Signals