Sunday, 31 July 2011

Swingin' Saxophones



Side One
1. Cotton Tail - Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
2. Flying Home No 2 - Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra
3. Honeysuckle Rose - Ben Webster
4. Blowing The Blues Away - Billy Eckstine & His Orchestra
5. Lunatic - John Hardee
6. IQ Blues - Ike Quebec

Side Two
1. Riffin' At 24th Street - Illinois Jacquet
2. I'm Confessin' - Lester Young
3. The Spider - Joe Morris
4. Long Tall Dexter - Dexter Gordon
5. Hot In Harlem - Tiny Grimes
6. Cole Slaw - Frank Culley

My thanks to the anonymous donor who sent in this comp. It’s a good collection of 1940s tenor sax sides, beginning with some big band swing, and ending with some jazzy R&B combos via detours into boppish small group jazz. However you want to label it, it makes for some mighty fine listening. In fact never mind the label thing, just call it good music.

The sleeve notes are pretty uninformative as you would expect from a bootleg. I’ve looked up the recording details of all the tracks on the LP and listed them at the end of the post. Ben Webster is the soloist on “Cottontail,” Arnett Cobb is on “Flying Home No. 2” and Dexter Gordon and Gene Ammons serve up an early example of a tenor sax “chase” on “Blowing The Blues Away.”

On Side Two, Johnny Griffin delivers the most frantic performance of the set on “The Spider” while Red Prysock is the tenor man on “Hot in Harlem.” Ike Quebec’s “I.Q. Blues” on Savoy is really just another version of “Blue Harlem” which he had previously recorded for Blue Note in July 1944. I think I actually prefer the Savoy version for its gorgeous piano break by Johnny Guarnieri. The Blue Note original does have some nice guitar from Tiny Grimes, though.

As for the origins of this comp – there is no label number on the front or back cover, although the back cover does bear the legend “Bop u Rhythm Schallplatten, Saarland.” The sleeve notes are written pseudonymously and claim to date from 1952. I think this is probably a bootleg of a bootleg, or a reissue of an album which originally appeared in the mid to late 1950s on the legendary Bop-Rhythm label. I’m sure that the original release would have had a different front cover from the one which was sent to me. It doesn’t look like a 1950s style cover at all.

Bop-Rhythm was a strictly “underground” label whose issues of jazz, R&B and even some early rock and roll were much coveted by hopheads and beatniks around Europe. Their operation was based in the Saarland which for much of the 1950s was detached from the German Federal Republic and thus provided a haven for a motley group of jazz fanatics and dope fiends who were zealous spreaders of the gospel of groove. They took advantage of the Saarland’s unique status of being beyond the reach of German civil law and set up a record pressing plant from which they distributed all kinds of bopmungous vinyl goodies to adjacent countries. The music was sourced from records provided by American service personnel based in West Germany.

When the Saarland was incorporated into West Germany in 1957, Bop-Rhythm Records was doomed, although they managed to keep going until 1960 when their pressing plant (situated in the basement of a house of ill repute in Fraulautern, Saarlouis) was raided by an Interpol organised task force of police from three different countries – France, Germany and Belgium – plus a contingent of US Military Police. I hope that at the last, the stoned jazzers of Bop-Rhythm went down swinging as the forces of law and order stormed into their HQ.

Ripped from vinyl at 320 kbps.

Download from here:

http://www29.zippyshare.com/v/7xovktql/file.html

Recording Details:

1. Cotton Tail - Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra

Recorded in Hollywood CA, 4th May, 1940. Released on Victor 26610
Personnel: Rex Stewart (cnt) Cootie Williams, Wallace Jones (tp) Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol, Lawrence Brown (tb) Barney Bigard (cl,ts) Johnny Hodges (as,sop) Otto Hardwick (as, bassax) Ben Webster (ts) Harry Carney (bar,as,cl) Duke Ellington (p) Fred Guy (g) Jimmy Blanton (b) Sonny Greer (d )

2. Flying Home No 2 - Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra

Recorded in New York City, 2nd March, 1944. Released on Decca.
Personnel: Cat Anderson, Lamar Wright Jr., Roy McCoy (tp) Joe Morris (tp,arr) Al Hayse, Michael "Booty" Wood, Fred Beckett (tb) Earl Bostic, Gus Evans (as) Al Sears, Arnett Cobb (ts) Charlie Fowlkes (bar) Lionel Hampton (vib,p) Milt Buckner (p) Eric Miller (g) Vernon King (b) Fred Radcliffe (d)

3. Honeysuckle Rose – The Ben Webster Quartet

Recorded in New York City, 17th April, 1944. Released on Savoy 506.
Personnel: Ben Webster (ts) Johnny Guarnieri (p) Oscar Pettiford (b) David Booth (d)

4. Blowing The Blues Away - Billy Eckstine & His Orchestra

Recorded in New York City, 5th September, 1944. Released on Audiolab.
Personnel: Dizzy Gillespie, Shorty McConnell, Gail Brockman, Boonie Hazel (tp) Gerald Valentine, Taswell Baird, Howard Scott, Chips Outcalt (tb) John Jackson, Bill Frazier (as) Dexter Gordon, Gene Ammons (ts) Leo Parker (bar) John Malachi (p) Connie Wainwright (g) Tommy Potter (b) Art Blakey (d) Billy Eckstine (vcl)

5. Lunatic – The John Hardee Quintet

Recorded in New York City, November, 1947. Released on Savoy 703.
Personnel: Joe Jordan (tp) John Hardee (ts) Billy Kyle (p) John Simmons (b) Cozy Cole (d)

6. I.Q. Blues – The Ike Quebec All Stars

Recorded in New York City, 7th August, 1945. Released on Savoy 570.
Personnel: Ike Quebec (ts) Johnny Guarnieri (p) Bill De Arango (g) Milt Hinton (b) J.C. Heard (d)

7. Riffin' At 24th Street - Illinois Jacquet & His Orchestra

Recorded in New York City, 18th December, 1947. Released on Victor 20-2702.
Personnel: Joe Newman (tp) Russell Jacquet (tp) Jay Jay Johnson (tb) Illinois Jacquet (ts) Leo Parker (bar) Sir Charles Thompson (p) John Collins (g) Al Lucas (b) Shadow Wilson (d)

8. I'm Confessin' - Lester Young & His Band

Recorded in New York City, 2nd April, 1947. Released on Aladdin 212.
Personnel: Shorty McConnell (tp-1) Lester Young (ts) Argonne Thornton (p) Nasir Barakaat (g) Rodney Richardson (b) Lyndell Marshall (d)

9. The Spider - Joe Morris & His Orchestra

Recorded in New York City, 23rd December, 1947. Released on Atlantic 859.
Personnel: Joe Morris (tp) Johnny Griffin (ts) Bill McLemore (bar) Wilmus Reeves (p) George Freeman (g) Emmett Dailey (b) Leroy Jackson (d)

10. Long Tall Dexter – The Dexter Gordon Quintet

Recorded in New York City, 29th January, 1946. Released on Savoy 603.
Personnel: Leonard Hawkins (tp) Dexter Gordon (ts) Bud Powell (p) Curly Russell (b) Max Roach (d)

11. Hot In Harlem – The Tiny Grimes Quintet

Recorded in Cleveland, 1st May, 1948. Released on Atlantic 869.
Personnel: Red Prysock (ts) Jimmy Saunders (p) Tiny Grimes (g) Ike Isaacs (b) Jerry Potter (d)

12. Cole Slaw - Frank “Floorshow” Culley

Recorded in New York City, 17th January, 1949. Released on Atlantic 874.
Personnel: Frank Culley (ts) Harry Van Walls (p) Tiny Grimes (g) unknown b and d.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Safronia B – Calvin Boze and his All-Stars

Scan courtesy Joan K
Recorded on January 13th, 1950, in Los Angeles. Personnel include Calvin Boze (trumpet and vocal), Maxwell Davis (tenor sax), and possibly Marshall Royal (alto sax), Don Wilkerson (tenor sax) and Willard McDaniel (piano).

Listen to “Safronia B” here:



Released on Aladdin 3055, b/w “Angel City Blues” in May, 1950. In Billboard, 10th June 1950, the record reached number nine in the most played juke box rhythm & blues records chart. It failed to appear in the record sales chart. By the following week “Safronia B” had dropped out of the juke box chart. This was in fact the only chart appearance by any Calvin Boze recording.


Scan courtesy Joan K
Nevertheless, it’s a fine catchy jump blues which has stood the test of time. It was included in two of the best CD compilations of Aladdin material: “The Aladdin Records Story” and “Jumpin’ Like Mad – Cool Cats & Hip Chicks.” It also appeared on the two vinyl Calvin Boze collections – “Havin’ A Ball” and “Choo Choo’s Bringing My Baby Home.”

2 CD comp presented as a mini-78 rpm album
Well worn copy of classic 2CD set compiled by Billy Vera
However, this wasn’t the first version of “Safronia B” recorded by Calvin. In 1946 he sang on “Saffronia Bee” with the Marvin Johnson Orchestra on the small G&G label. He was billed as “Calvin Boaz” on the disc. The song itself is in some ways a throwback to the swing era with phrases like “I’se a muggin’” and “Shoot the liquor to me John boy,” both of which refer to 1930’s hits. The 1950 Aladdin version is very much a Louis Jordan style jump blues with a romping backing arranged by Maxwell Davis who manages to get a sly quote from “Buttons and Bows” into his sax break.


Aladdin's big seller - Amos Milburn gets promotion in Billboard, June 1950
For decades Calvin Boze remained a somewhat mysterious figure to fans of jump blues, with the date and place of his birth being unknown and his musical career suddenly stopping in 1952. A lot more is now known about his background and you’ll be able to catch up on more about Calvin in a soon-to-appear post. Stay tuned!

So what else was happening in the R&B charts in June, 1950? “Safronia B” may have had only the most fleeting appearance amongst the platters that mattered back then, but I’ve compiled a little playlist based on the real “stayers” in the R&B charts that month.


First up is the top selling R&B record of 1950 – “Pink Champagne” by Joe Liggins on Specialty Records. Easily the top selling R&B act of the year was the Johnny Otis Revue on Savoy, thanks to his sensational female vocalist Little Esther. Three of her smashes are in the June playlist – “Double Crossing Blues,” on which she was accompanied by The Robins, and “Cupid’s Boogie” and “Mistrustin’ Blues,” both of which were duets with Mel Walker.

Scan courtesy Joan K
There was more hot jump action from Tiny Bradshaw on King with “Well Oh Well” and two classic blues tracks also sold very well at this time – Lowell Fulson (with the Lloyd Glenn band) on Swing Time with “Every Day I Have The Blues” and Roy Brown’s “Hard Luck Blues” on De Luxe which crashed straight into the charts at number six towards the end of the month. Of interest to those of us who like jazz flavoured R&B is an advert in Billboard from June 1950 in which Prestige Records attempt to market jazz sides as rhythm and blues. Among the discs billed as “America’s newest - hottest rhythm - blues records” are sides by James Moody, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons and Wardell Gray.


Anyway whether you’re an R&B fan or a jazzer, or preferably both at the same time, here’s the playlist for June 1950. Keep checking back for more on Calvin Boze!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

I Ain't Mad At You - Update

Buddy Johnson - originator of "I Ain't Mad At You?"
Back in March of this year I posted a short 4 track playlist based around the songs "I Ain't Mad At You" and "I Ain't Mad At You Pretty Baby." It kicked off with the 1945 Gatemouth Moore release on National - "I Ain't Mad At You Pretty Baby," and continued with "Jesse Price's "I Ain't Mad At You," released on Capitol in 1946. This track generated a cover version by Count Basie which had a scat style vocal by Taps Miller. The playlist was rounded off by a wild version by the Jones Boys which was recorded for Gotham in the early 1950s but was unreleased at the time.

Move over Buddy Love, here comes Gatemouth!
Comments with more info were kindly sent in by davep369. The Gatemouth Moore track which is from the Savoy Jazz 2LP set "The Shouters" was in fact an alternate take to the released version. There was also a later version by former Cootie Williams Orchestra trumpeter and vocalist Bob Merrill (actual surname Merrell). This version was recorded in New York in 1960 or 1961 and was issued on the Bargain label by Bobby "Mr Blues" Merrell. It's a rough and rowdy piece of rock 'n' roll which I've added to the end of the playlist.

And now davep369 has pointed out a version which was recorded 3 years before the Gatemouth Moore recording. On January 26th 1942, the Buddy Johnson Orchestra recorded "I Ain't Mad With You," with a vocal by trumpeter Chester Boone. It's an obvious influence on Gatemouth's song, but he has added his own lyrics which explore the subject of a two timin' dame in much more depth than the one verse sung by Chester Boone could possibly do.

I found the Buddy Johnson version which was originally released on Decca 8640, lurking deep down in my hard disk, so now it kicks off the extended playlist. Also to note - Gatemouth Moore first recorded "I Ain't Mad At You Pretty Baby" for the small Kansas City label Gilmore's Chez Paree early in 1945. The Jesse Price song differs significantly from Gatemouth's exasperated litany of accusations against the object of his affections. Price's "I Ain't Mad At You" is a gentle, almost wistful plea for his woman to come back. I prefer the Jesse Price approach, sentimentalist that I am.

Here is the extended six track playlist:



You can read the original "I Ain't Mad At You" post here.

You can read more about Bob Merrill and download some of his work with Cootie Williams on the post "Typhoon."

With thanks to davep369.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Rock The Joint!

Jimmy Preston - Wild Man of Rock 'n' Roll 
It’s time for another Be Bop Wino playlist post. The tracks listed below are for your listening pleasure only. Downloading is not available. As you can see from the length of the post below the playlist widget, I kind of got carried away by the exuberance of my own verbosity ….



It was a wild and raucous jump blues recorded in May 1949 by Jimmy Preston and his Prestonians. It was covered by Bill Haley and the Saddlemen in 1952, and thus became a milestone in the development of rock and roll. That’s what most fans of R&B and early rock and roll know about “Rock The Joint.” But there’s much more to the story of this record than that short summary.

Our playlist starts with three records which influenced “Rock The Joint.” They were recorded within a few days of each other at three widely separate locations. There’s also the first cover version by a white band, which preceded the Bill Haley version, and that brings us to a whole music and dance scene which was a conduit for white kids picking up on R&B but which is rarely mentioned in histories of rock and roll, at least not the ones I’ve read.

Let us go back to December 1947, a year and a half before Jimmy Preston recorded “Rock The Joint.” With the second American Federation of Musicians recording ban due to start on the first of January 1948, the final weeks of 1947 saw frantic recording activity by diskeries all across the U.S. of A. On December 18th, in Detroit, the Wild Bill Moore Sextette laid down the primitive honker “We’re Gonna Rock” for Savoy Records. Underpinned by the boogie piano of T.J. Fowler, beefy baritone sax blasts from Paul Williams, and a band chant of “We’re gonna rock, we’re gonna roll,” Wild Bill’s down in the alley tenor sax growled and squealed high, wide and handsome over the whole glorious shootin’ match.

On December 23rd, in Los Angeles, the little known Nelson Alexander Trio recorded “Rock That Voot” for Specialty Records. They were a standard piano, guitar and bass group of the kind which became popular in the wake of the success of the King Cole Trio. This driving little number is structurally close to “Rock the Joint,” although in spirit it remains closer to the jive groups of the late 1930s and early 1940s with its unison vocal chorus of “I wanna rock that voot, baby all night long!” The lyrics are racy, to say the least, as it’s pretty clear that the singer’s intense desire to “rock that voot” can mean only one thing, and it doesn’t involve listening to a Slim Gaillard record. The Trio’s members were Edgar Rice (guitar), William Regan (bass) and Nelson Alexander (piano).

Dig those ties! The Nelson Alexander Trio
The King Record label’s new signing Wynonie Harris was busy recording in December 1947. On the 13th and 16th of the month he was in a studio in New York and on 23rd December he was recording in King’s home city of Cincinnati, backed by a group of top notch musicians led by Oran “Hot Lips” Page. On the 28th December he was back in the Cincinnati studio with much the same set of musicians for a session which would yield two big R&B hits – “Lollipop Mama” and “Good Rockin’ Tonight.” It is of course the latter recording which concerns us in our eternal quest for the true origins of rock and roll.

Wynonie’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight” was a cover of the more sedate original version by the composer of the song, Roy Brown. The Harris version had a squawking sax solo by Hal Singer and a heavier beat reinforced by gospel style handclapping, a feature which would also be used by Jimmy Preston on “Rock The Joint.” The lyrics included mention of the more temporal interests of Deacon Jones and Elder Brown whose boozy misadventures had been the subject of Wynonie’s first hit “Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well,” a few years back.

Of those three “rockers” recorded in the dying days of 1947, it was “Good Rockin’ Tonight” which was released first, in February 1948. It was easily the most successful of the three records, reaching number one in the R&B chart. “Rock That Voot” was the next to be released, in April 1948, but the record buying public remained indifferent to its charms. Wild Bill Moore’s “We’re Gonna Rock” was released in June 1948 (on Savoy 666 – proof that the Devil was at work), climbing to number 14 in the R&B charts.

Billboard, June 1948

From the same edition of Billboard - Nelson Alexander not getting much of a push from his label

Still June, 1948 - Mr Blues rules race retail sales chart
 Of the three discs, it is “Good Rockin’ Tonight” which remains the best known, being generally credited with starting the “rocking R&B” trend which gradually transformed jump blues into something rather different from its small group jazz origins. Of course the Elvis Presley cover version has ensured that the song is still widely known today, although how many latter day rockabilly fans are aware that Link Davis covered it on Goldband years before Elvis walked into the Sun studio?

We now find ourselves in a recording studio in Philadelphia in May 1949, where jump band leader, alto sax man, and vocalist Jimmy Preston is about to record “Rock The Joint” for Gotham Records. Preston was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Philadelphia. His band, the Prestonians, had started recording for Gotham in 1948.

At their second session for the label in early 1949, the band had recorded “Hucklebuck Daddy,” a fast and rowdy jump blues with shouted band vocals, moronically honking sax and a subtle chorus of “She said: ride, Jimmy, ride!” In this opus “Hucklebuck” was very plainly not a dance, but something much more intimate and energetic. By the end of April the record had reached number 6 in the Billboard Race Record chart but by early May it had already fallen back to number 13.

A follow up in the same vein was obviously called for and Gotham A&R man Doc Bagby brought along “Rock The Joint,” a song he had co-written with his band assistant Wendell Keane and his band singer Harry Crafton. He also brought along instrumental reinforcement in the shape of tenor sax player Danny Turner.

The resulting performance was even more frantic than “Hucklebuck Daddy,” but without the single entendre lyrics. “Rock the Joint” was a clarion call to have a whale of a time with its pounding beat, squealing saxophones and drunken yelling. It sounded like a small riot (not many injured) was taking place in the studio. The disc achieved the same success as "Hucklebuck Daddy,” peaking at number 6 in Billboard’s renamed Rhythm and Blues chart.

On September 22nd, 1949, Columbia Records recorded a cover version by another Philadelphia jump band, Chris Powell and the Five Blue Flames. “Combo pitches a mad ball in the “Good Rockin’ school. Gangbuster tenor, handclapping, unison chanting and a live beat add to a solid side,” noted Billboard in its issue on the 12th November, 1949. Danny Turner was on this version too, blowing alto sax with the Blue Flames, but perhaps the outstanding feature of this version is the superb playing of Eddie Lambert on electric guitar.

On September 29th, 1949, way down in Dallas, Texas, the original good rockin’ man, Roy Brown, was in the studio with his Mighty-Mighty Men recording the wildly blasting “Boogie At Midnight” which was very much in the “Rock The Joint” mould. “Well, you wanna get drunk, you got a good point, let’s get together, gonna rock this joint,” howled Roy over the unholy sax shrieks of that mightiest of the Mighty-Mighty Men, the great Johnny Fontennette. Released in November 1949 on the DeLuxe label, this apocalyptic rocker, along with “Hard Luck Blues” and “Love Don’t Love Nobody” helped Roy to become the fourth top selling R&B artist of 1950.

Good Rockin' Roy Brown
And that appeared to be that, until 1952, when a country singer called Bill Haley, who happened to live and work in Jimmy Preston’s hometown of Chester, covered “Rock The Joint” and more or less invented rock and roll, or so the story used to go. But Bill Haley and the Saddlemen weren’t the first white musicians to cover the Jimmy Preston record. The previous year a version appeared on the tiny BSD label out of Auburn, New York, performed by Jimmy Cavallo and his band.

Unlike the Bill Haley version, this was a straight rhythm and blues performance with no trace of country or pop. Jimmy Cavallo had been singing and playing R&B tenor sax since 1946, at which time Bill Haley was recording with The Downhomers, prior to recording with The Four Aces of Western Swing and (in 1950) forming The Saddlemen.

Born in Syracuse, New York, Jimmy started playing alto sax in his school band but soon shifted to tenor sax. He started listening to what were then called “race” records by Louis Jordan and other jump bands. In 1946 naval service took him to Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he not only furthered his jump blues education by hanging around black clubs, he also formed his own R&B band. Meanwhile on the Carolina coast white kids were turning on to R&B in a big way as juke box owners in the white patronised resorts started to stock their machines with jump blues 78s.

This was the kind of music that was ideal for shagging to. For the benefit of UK readers, “shag” in this context refers to a form of swing dancing which had been developing in the Carolinas since the late 1920s. I hope that clears up any unfortunate misunderstandings. Soon artists such as Paul Williams, Paul Gayten and Earl Bostic were playing the resorts. Jimmy Cavallo’s band spent the summers of ’47, ’48 and ’49 playing their brand of R&B to an ever increasing following at resorts such as Carolina Beach, Ocean Drive and Myrtle Beach.

At the end of the 1949 summer season Jimmy disbanded his group, returned to his hometown of Syracuse, recruited a new band and started playing dates at his uncle’s club where he gradually weaned the audience over to R&B. In 1950 the band took their rockin’ music to the nearby lakeside resort of Sylvan Beach where once more they built up a big following. In 1951 they recorded a session for the small BSD label of Auburn, New York. Owned by Angelo Pergolito, the recording studio was the basement of his house and the distribution was strictly local.

Scan courtey Joan K
Scan courtesy Joan K
At the recording session, the precise date of which remains uncertain, Diz Utley, the tenor sax player from Jimmy’s Carolina band was brought in to beef up the sound. Two singles were released – “Ha Ha Ha Blues” / “I Got Eyes For You” and “Rock The Joint” / “Leave Married Women Alone.” As you can hear from the playlist above, this version of “Rock The Joint” packs quite a wallop. It starts with Jimmy declaiming: “Well, rock-a-bye baby in the tree top, don’t need no wind for Mr. Blues to rock!” Of course he borrowed that from the intro to “Rock Mr. Blues” by Wynonie Harris. There’s nothing like nailing your colours to the mast right from the off. Then we’re into a suitably rockin’ rendition of the Jimmy Preston hit.

And now we enter the realms of “what if.” For instance, “what if a bigger label had picked up on the disc and given it national distribution?” Or alternatively “what if Jimmy had recorded more discs like this and that elusive bigger label had picked up on them?” Would Jimmy Cavallo have gone down in history as the founder of rock and roll instead of Bill Haley or Elvis Presley? Would rock and roll have broken big in 1952 instead of 1955?

It wasn’t to be. Jimmy didn’t record again until 1956 by which time rock and roll was already well on its way to becoming a world wide phenomenon. At least he had a few years in the sun. By this time he was fronting sax player Joe Morelli’s band, but they were billed as Jimmy Cavallo and the House Rockers. They auditioned for Alan Freed who was impressed enough to take them under his wing.

Jimmy "Cavello" in "Rock, Rock, Rock."
Twin sax threat - Jimmy with Joe Morelli in "Rock, Rock, Rock."
The association with Freed brought a recording contract with Coral, appearances in two Freed produced films – “Rock, Rock, Rock!” and “Go, Johnny, Go,” regular spots in Freed’s live rock and roll stage shows and a footnote in history as the first white rock and roll band to play the famed Apollo Theater. Unfortunately Freed got Jimmy’s surname wrong and they were now Jimmy Cavello and the House Rockers. Such is the price of stardom.

But let us roll back the years to the spring of 1952 and once more we find ourselves in the vicinity of Philadelphia: Chester, Pennsylvania, Jimmy Preston’s home town. There in the studio of radio station WPWA we find station musical director and would-be country and western star Bill Haley who leads a small band with a suitably cowboyish name – The Saddlemen. They’re recording a cover of “Rock the Joint” for release on small local label Essex.

Although steeped in country music, Bill was open to other musical influences. “Rock The Joint” was in fact the third R&B cover recorded by The Saddlemen. In 1950 they covered Ruth Brown’s “Teardrops From My Eyes” for Atlantic but it remained unissued. In the spring of 1951 they covered Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” for Holiday, the predecessor of Essex. Both of these recordings were heavily countrified versions of the R&B originals. It was a common practise of the time for record labels to issue country versions of R&B songs and vice versa, and what Bill Haley and the Saddlemen were recording wasn’t particularly innovative.

Scan courtesy Joan K
Their version of “Rock the Joint” was another example of an R&B original being countrified. Billy Williamson’s steel guitar plays throughout and there’s solo space for him too. The lyrics had been bowdlerised, with booze references dropped and the Jelly Roll, the Hucklebuck and the Jitterbug being replaced by country dances like the Sugarfoot Rag, the Paul Jones and the Virginia Reel. But what this version does have is a brilliant guitar solo by Danny Cedrone which he reproduced note for note two years later on “Rock Around The Clock.”

“Rock The Joint” sold pretty well, at least well enough to convince Bill and the boys that R&B could be a fruitful direction for the band to take. Before the year was out they were no longer Bill Haley and the Saddlemen, but instead they were now Bill Haley and Haley’s Comets. Their music moved towards rhythm and blues with the addition of a drummer and later a sax player. In an upcoming post we’ll be taking a closer look at Bill’s musical transformation from country to rock and roll.

In July 1952 R&B band the Jackson Brothers Orchestra recorded five tracks for RCA Victor. Two of them were real belters– “There’s No Other Way” (Vic 20-5446) and “We’re Gonna Rock This Joint” (Vic 20-5004). The latter was reviewed in the November 1st, 1952 edition of Billboard: “One of the best sides from the label recently. It’s a joint-busting item that really rolls. Billy Henderson, showing a lot of presence, adds a screaming vocal. Should pull a lot of coin into boxes.”

“We’re Gonna Rock This Joint” although obviously influenced by Jimmy Preston’s “Rock The Joint” was a sufficiently different song to allow composer credits to be given to Wilfred Jackson. It resembles a sort of hybrid between “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and “Rock The Joint.” It was the powerhouse vocals of Billy Henderson which really lifted both “There’s No Other Way” and “We’re Gonna Rock the Joint” above the rest of the rockin’ R&B sides which were coming out at this time. Unfortunately for the Jackson Brothers Orchestra it all came to an untimely end when Billy Henderson was arrested in a show stopping onstage drugs bust. You can’t get more rock and roll than that.

And what of the rest of our rock and roll pioneers? Wild Bill Moore’s solo recording career was somewhat sporadic. His biggest hit was “Bubbles” on Savoy in 1948. He recorded good R&B sides for Regal and King in the 1950s and a couple of jazz LPs for Prestige in the early 1960s. He then went on to become a successful session musician with Motown. Of Nelson Alexander I know nothing of whence he came and whither he went. Doubtless the trio are still bashing out their jive novelties in the celestial cocktail lounge.

Wynonie Harris was a blues superstar in the early 1950s with a series of R&B hits on King. By the mid 50s it was all over, the hits dried up, the money vanished and he was all but forgotten when he died in Los Angeles in 1969. Drummer / vocalist Chris Powell continued to record for Columbia and its subsidiary Okeh until 1952. He then recorded for Philadelphia label Grand and thereafter for Groove until 1956. And then he was gone.

Bill Haley became a global superstar. His “Rock Around The Clock” is the top selling rock and roll disc of all time. But fame and money and reputation are transitory and wilder and more youthful rock and roll acts pushed him aside. Although the hits soon petered out (his last Billboard Top Twenty placing was in 1956) he remained a big name, especially in the UK. He was served poorly by many rock and roll histories but on this side of the pond anyone dissing Bill ran the risk of being stomped on by a six foot tall razor scarred former Teddy Boy. When he died in 1981 it was in the saddest of circumstances, wracked by the effects of a brain tumour and alcoholism. He deserved much better.

Jimmy Cavallo got it right. Today he enjoys a reputation as a founder of rock and roll thanks to his 1951 recordings. He enjoyed a few years in the big time in the second half of the 1950s and thereafter remained none too bothered by what might have been. He’s still rocking, having been “rediscovered” by new generations of R&B and R&R fans.

Jimmy Preston? His biggest hit was a 1950 cover on the Derby label of Louis Prima’s “Oh Babe.” In a Joe Lutcher style moment of clarity or madness, depending upon your point of view, he gave up music in 1952, having decided to go about the Lord’s work. He died in Philadelphia in 1984.

Digging deeper:

Listening Pleasures:


Wild Bill Moore: The Complete Recordings Volume 1 1945-1948 (Blue Moon BMCD 6042)


Specialty Legends of Boogie-Woogie (Ace CDCHD 422) – this Billy Vera comp has The Nelson Alexander Trio’s “Rock That Voot.”


The Black and White Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Indigo IGODCD 2549) – a 2CD compilation by Dave Penny which looks at the interaction between mostly country and R&B in the years leading up to rock and roll. It includes the Jimmy Preston and Bill Haley versions of “Rock The Joint” as well as more Haley-esque originals and covers (it worked both ways) of “Rocket 88,” “Crazy Man Crazy,” and “Thirteen Women and One Man.” There's a host of other hepcats and hillbillies on board including Wynonie Harris, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Hank Williams, Ruth Brown, The Clovers, Moon Mullican, etc.


Rare Rock’N’Roll Rampage (Properbox 146) is a 4CD collection of the music that the late Charlie Gillett labelled “Northern Band Rock and Roll.” It has 3 of Jimmy Cavallo’s early 50s BSD sides as well as a selection of his Coral sides. Other featured artists include Freddie Bell & The Bellboys (including his version of “Hound Dog” which Elvis, er, borrowed), Dave Appell & The Applejacks, The Treniers, Eddie Fontaine, Boyd Bennett & The Rockets, Danny & The Juniors, Jimmy Daley & The Ding-A-Lings, etc. Sleevenotes by Adam Komorowski.

Reading Pleasures:


Jim Dawson and Steve Propes – What Was The First Rock’N’Roll Record? (Faber and Faber, 1992) is the bible of every fan of early rock and roll. It tells the stories behind 50 R&B, Jazz, Country and Pop records of the 1940s and 1950s which might be candidates for that elusive title. And the winner? Well the pleasure is in the journey rather than the arrival. There’s no Jimmy Cavallo, though.


‘Fessa John Hook – Shagging in the Carolinas. (Arcadia Publishing, 2005) A pictorial history of the music and dance scene of the Carolina beach resorts. That’s the Jimmy Cavallo band playing in the background on the front cover picture. It’s available at a very reasonable price from amazon.co.uk. John Hook has a website at http://www.beachshag.com/ which includes a link to his subscription journal “Dancing On The Edge.” In downloadable pdf format, the journal has articles based on interviews with dancers and musicians who made up what was to become known from the late 60s onwards as Beach Music. There is much to interest fans of 40s and 50s R&B and early rock and roll.

Morgan Wright’s http://www.hoyhoy.com/ website is the place to find out about the rise of rockin’ R&B. It has fascinating articles on the artists and records which were so important to the development of rock and roll. There is an article on Jimmy Cavallo based on an interview with the great man himself.

Chris Gardner’s Bill Haley Database is the ultimate point of info on the recordings of Bill Haley. Every recording he ever made, both as sideman and bandleader. An epic piece of work.

My thanks to Joan K for the scans and sound files of records by Jimmy Cavallo and Bill Haley. And finally my thanks to spyder john for educating me on the Beach Music scene and providing links to further information on this aspect of the history of rock and roll.

I solemnly swear on my copy of Arnold Shaw’s “Honkers and Shouters” and my ancient Savoy 2LP set of “Honkers and Screamers” that this is the last blog post of such a length that I will ever post. From now on, more music and less words.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

One-Nighter Boogie - Illinois Jacquet


Once more El Enmascarado sweats blood to bring us a rip from one of his collection of 78 rpm discs. And as if that weren't enough, he has also made a "mash up" video using public domain footage from the Internet Archive to provide atmospheric visuals for the cool sound of  "One-Nighter Boogie" by Illinois Jacquet.

"One Nighter-Boogie" was recorded in New York on the 24th May 1951. The band consisted of: Illinois Jacquet (tenor sax); Hank Jones (piano); John Collins (guitar); Gene Ramey (bass); Art Blakey (drums). It was released on Mercury as the B-side of "Port of Rico" which was an R&B chart hit in 1952.

It's a cool, insistent little instro from a year when there were several big instrumental hits including Jimmy Forrest's "Night Train," Earl Bostic's "Flamingo" and Sonny Thompson's "Mellow Blues (1 & 2)." At this time Illinois was recording and performing with a large group, but at this session he opted for a stripped back lineup which in my opinion provides a better backing for his tenor sax. I first came across "One-Nighter Boogie" on the LP "Groovin with Jacquet" and I have also included a vinyl rip from that album, so that you can enjoy both the shellac and the vinyl experience (via mp3, though). 

Listen to both versions here:








So that you can appreciate the work that El Enmascarado puts into producing listenable rips, here's a photo of the disc, which as you can see is in pretty poor condition and therefore required a considerable amount of TLC via Audacity in order to render the mp3 rip listenable.


And last, but far from least, here is El Enmascarado's video mash up which incorporates footage from the 1948 cheapo exploitation movie "Killer Diller." The band is the Andy Kirk Orchestra which was at that time on the verge of breaking up. The sax players out front with bandleader Kirk are Ray Abrams and Shirley Green. You can see the full movie (which also includes the King Cole Trio) at http://www.archive.org/details/killer_diller

And here's the "One-Nighter Boogie" video: