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Saturday 25 October 2014

Jimmy's Round The Clock Blues / Harlem Nocturne - Jimmy Rushing with Johnny Otis his Drums & his Orchestra (Excelsior JR 142)

William Gottlieb collection, Library of Congress

Recorded in Los Angeles, September 13th, 1945. Released November 1945.

Personnel: Johnny Otis, his Drums & his Orchestra : John "Teddy" Buckner, Billy Jones, Loyal Walker, Harry Parr Jones (trumpets); Henry Coker, Eli Robinson, John Pettigrew, Jasper "Jap" Jones (trombones); Rene Bloch, Bob Harris (alto saxes); Paul Quinichette, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes); Leon Beck (baritone sax); Bill Doggett (piano); Bernie Cobbs (guitar); Curtis Counce (bass); Johnny Otis (drums); Jimmy Rushing (vocal on "Jimmy's Round The Clock Blues").

"I looked at the clock, and the clock struck one,
 I said, 'now, daddy, ain't we got fun?'
 Oh, he was rockin' me with one steady roll."

"I looked at the clock, and the clock struck six,
 I said, 'daddy, you know I like those tricks!'
 'Cause he was rockin' me with one steady roll."

"I looked at the clock, and the clock struck ten,
 I said, ... 'glory, amen!'
My man was rockin' me with one steady roll."

Thus sang Trixie Smith on "My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)" back in 1922. The tale of round the clock lovin' (although with a mere three bouts, for sex hadn't really got going in the 1920s) lived on. There was a good cover version by Jimmy Noone's Apex Club Orchestra in 1929 even though the instrumental breaks left only enough time for two rounds as the looming Great Depression presaged a new wave of puritanism. In the previous year while they were still the Roaring Twenties, Mr. Noone had regaled the public with a filthy version of "It's Tight Like That" with lots more words and less musical doodlin'.

Fast forward to Los Angeles in 1945, to the Club Alabam where the musical aggregation in residence was a big band led by drummer Johnny Otis. Also in residence at the same club at the same time was blues shouter Wynonie Harris, late of the Lucky Millinder Orchestra with whom he had recorded a record that was about to become very big, "Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well." But even though success with Lucky was just around the corner, Wynonie decided that big band life couldn't satisfy his ambitions and so he struck out on his own and headed west to the land of sunshine and booming nightlife.

Part of his club act was an extended double entendre song based on the premise of "My Man Rocks Me", i.e. an hour by hour account of whatever gets you going. For his first solo record he recorded a two part version of "Around The Clock" for Philo in July of 1945. Backing him on the record were the "Johnny Otis All Stars" who weren't the Johnny Otis Orchestra, but were in fact the Howard McGhee band with Johnny on drums.

The record caught enough action to kick off a steady stream of cover versions over the following years, including one by Big Joe Turner and another by the Howard McGhee band featuring Pearl Traylor. One of the first cover versions was by Johnny Otis, this time with his own band and featuring Count Basie's vocalist Jimmy Rushing. The B side was an arrangement of "Harlem Nocturne" which with its slow, throbbing drumbeat and the wailing alto sax of Rene Bloch, managed to be far more suggestive than the A side ditty. So much so, that it became the compulsory soundtrack of thousands of strip joints and clip joints from Soho to Shanghai.

The Rushing version of "Around The Clock" with added instrumental sleaze on the B side sold well enough to send the Otis ork on a nationwide tour in 1946. The days of the big bands were drawing to a close, and at the end of 1947 Johnny had to slim his band down to a small group.

In our next suggestive post - Wynonie "Mr Blues" Harris goes round the clock.


Frank Jive said...


Anonymous said...

You've become a blogging juggernaut over the last few days - really enjoying the tunes, BW!


boogiewoody said...

Thanks for the comments, folks. Hope you like the next installment in the Around The Clock saga.