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Monday, 27 September 2010

Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson - Cherry Red Blues

Volume One

Side One:

1. Cherry Red
2. Ashes On My Pillow
3. Kidney Stew
4. Queen Bee Blues
5. Somebody Done Stole My Cherry Red
6. Lonesome Train

Side Two:

1. Person To Person
2. My Big Brass Bed Is Gone
3. Rainy Mornin' Blues
4. I Need You Tonight
5. Featherbed Mama
6. Good Bread Alley

Volume Two

Side One:

1. I'm Gonna Wind Your Clock
2. I'm Weak But Willing
3. No Good Woman Blues
4. Jump And Grunt
5. Big Mouth Gal

Side Two:

1. The People On My Party Line
2. Peas And Rice
3. I Trusted You (But You Double-Crossed Me)
4. Bald Headed Blues
5. If You Don't Think I'm Sinking

All tracks recorded for King 1949 – 1952, except “Cherry Red” and “Kidney Stew”, which were recorded for Bethlehem in 1957.

Oh what an album to have as the follow up to the “Mr Cleanhead Steps Out” post! This 2LP set on the Gusto label was one of the earliest collections of the honkin’ and screamin’ variety of R&B that I bought. And not in some hip record store stacked full of obscure American imports either, but somewhat surrealistically in the basement of Littlewood’s department store in Argyle Street, Glasgow. They didn’t have much of a record department, but for some unknown reason they’d laid in a stock of Gusto LPs, mostly double album sets of the likes of Wynonie Harris, Little Willie John, Roy Brown, Freddie King, and on one set a mixture of tracks by Memphis Slim, Pete “Guitar” Lewis and Little Willie Littlefield. They sold for a modest £2.99 each and how I wish I’d bought the lot and not just the five which currently lurk on my vinyl shelves.

But to our tale … back in 1947 Eddie Vinson had enjoyed his biggest chart hit on Mercury with “Kidney Stew” / “Old Maid Boogie.” During that year he’d cut his big band back to a small jump combo and had been recording right up to within a couple of days of the start of the second AFM recording ban. When he resumed his recording career on August 10th 1949, he had signed with Syd Nathan’s King Records with whom he would stay until July 1952, laying down a series of dynamite blues tracks backed by tight-as-a-gnat’s-chuff combos which featured rip-roaring tenor sax from Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Buddy Tate and Lee Pope (who had played with Eddie back in the Cootie Williams band days.)

Despite the superb quality of these tracks (they are responsible for my 30 year addiction to this kind of music) they mostly didn’t sell well at the time. “Somebody Done Stole My Cherry Red” did reasonable business in 1949, although nowhere nearly as successfully as the hit to which it was a rather belated answer record, “Cherry Red Blues,” which Eddie had recorded with the Cootie Williams Orchestra back in 1944. Of the other King sides, “I’m Gonna Wind Your Clock” (1950) and “Person To Person” (1953) also managed to brush the charts.

There were probably two reasons for this lack of success. In the first few years of Eddie’s spell with King, Syd Nathan was promoting similar sounding sides by Wynonie Harris and Roy Brown, leaving little time or money to provide similar promotion for Eddie. In the latter years of Eddie’s King spell, trends and tastes in R&B were changing and vocal groups like The Dominoes and The Clovers were selling heavily to a new generation of R&B fans to whom Eddie, Wynonie and Roy must have seemed, well, kind of old fashioned.

From January 1954 to February 1955 Eddie was back with his old label Mercury for whom he recorded more stirring R&B tracks backed by groups led by Arnett Cobb and Leroy Kirkland, but once again sales were disappointing and obscurity beckoned. It was Eddie’s jazz background which saved him from the fate of so many of his R&B contemporaries. In 1957 he recorded the album “Cleanhead’s Back In Town” for jazz label Bethlehem which was distributed by King (being bought over by that label in 1960). He was backed by musicians from the Count Basie Orchestra and two of the tracks have snuck on to this compilation – “Cherry Red” and “Kidney Stew” – both reworkings of his old 1940s hits. I only discovered this recently as they don’t sound any different from the King material and it simply never occurred to me that they could be from later sessions for a different label.

Scan courtesy of Robert Termorshuizen
Scan courtesy of Robert Termorshuizen

Eddie’s music career lasted right up to the year of his death in 1988. There were jazz recordings, including a session with Cannonball and Nat Adderley (he had jammed with them many years previously in Florida) and an R&B comeback with the Johnny Otis Show at Monterey. There were tours and recording sessions in the UK and Europe, including the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival and there was a spell being backed by R&B band Roomful Of Blues. Forty years on, fans of both R&B and jazz were still able to enjoy live and recorded performances by one of the originals from the golden years of the 1940s, an era which for many now seems lost in the mists of time but which lives on in the hearts of latter day hepcats of all ages.

"Cleanhead" tribute in Blues & Rhythm, August 1988
Ripped from vinyl at 320 kbps. Password = greaseyspoon

Download from here:

Volume One

1. Cherry Red (New York, September, 1957)
2. Ashes On My Pillow (Cincinnati, August 10, 1949)
3. Kidney Stew (New York, September, 1957)
4. Queen Bee Blues (New York, May 22, 1950)
5. Somebody Done Stole My Cherry Red (Cincinnati, August 10, 1949)
6. Lonesome Train (Cincinnati, July 7, 1952)
7. Person To Person (Cincinnati, July 7, 1952)
8. My Big Brass Bed Is Gone (New York, May 22, 1950)
9. Rainy Mornin' Blues (New York, March 20, 1951)
10. I Need You Tonight (Cincinnati, July 7, 1952)
11. Featherbed Mama (Cincinnati, August 30, 1949)
12. Good Bread Alley (Cincinnati, July 7, 1952)

Volume Two

1. I'm Gonna Wind Your Clock (Cincinnati, August 10, 1949)
2. I'm Weak But Willing (Cincinnati, August 30, 1949)
3. No Good Woman Blues (Cincinnati, August 30, 1949)
4. Jump And Grunt (New York, May 22, 1950)
5. Big Mouth Gal (New York, May, 1950)
6. The People On My Party Line (New York, March 20, 1951)
7. Peas And Rice (New York, May, 1950)
8. I Trusted You (But You Double-Crossed Me) (New York, May, 1950)
9. Bald Headed Blues (New York, May, 1950)
10. If You Don't Think I'm Sinking (New York, May 22, 1950)

Recommended purchase:

Ace CDCHD 877
It just has to be “Bald Headed Blues (his complete King recordings 1949-52)" on Ace CDCHD 877. 26 tracks from the original masters with sleeve notes by Dave Penny. Included is the previously unissued Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson version of “Sittin’ On It All The Time,” a particularly wild version of which was a hit for Wynonie Harris in 1950. It is, of course, a raunched up rehash of Cleanhead’s old 1947 hit “Old Maid Boogie.” This particular CD belongs in my all time top 10 of R&B reissues by Ace. Go git it!


aroonie said...

Another gem from the mighty Cleanhead. Blues shouter and wonderful altoist. Thank you.

bobbysu said...

thank you so much

jim said...

Just finished listening to this. What a great record. Thanks.