01. Wild Wig
02. Benson's Groove
03. The Deacon's Hop
04. Artie's Jump
01. California Hop
02. Sunday Dinner
03. Man Eater
04. Cherry Smash
We've been working our way through Big Jay's career on the blog, although backwards! Let's skip back to the very beginning, with his first records which were recorded in late 1948 and released during 1949 on four singles on Savoy. I've presented them in a made-up LP complete with front cover shamelessly ripped off from the Savoy LP "Big Maybelle Sings."
"Wild Wig" and "The Deacon's Hop" were both released at the beginning of 1949 and quickly hit the Billboard chart, "Wild Wig" reaching number 12 and "The Deacon's Hop" going all the way to number one. At the end of July 1949, in Billboard's half yearly survey of the top selling singles of the year so far, "The Deacon's Hop" was the thirteenth best selling Rhythm and Blues record. The top three were "The Hucklebuck" by Paul Williams, "Trouble Blues" by Charles Brown, and "Chicken Shack Boogie" by Amos Milburn.
In the same survey Big Jay was the thirteenth top selling R&B artist of the half year, thanks to sales of three Savoy discs, "The Deacon's Hop", "California Hop", and "Wild Wig", plus one release on Exclusive, "Blow Big Jay" which was recorded in February 1949 and released a few weeks later in April. By the time his Savoy releases were charting, Big Jay had already moved on and was recording for Exclusive. In our next post on Big Jay we'll be looking at his Exclusive and Aladdin releases.
In 1955 Savoy released a 10" LP, "Big Jay McNeeley Plays A Rhythm And Blues Concert" which featured his eight tracks recorded for the company in 1948.
As can be seen on the LP cover above, Big Jay's surname is spelled with an extra "e" and "Benson's Groove" has been renamed "Deacon's Groove." This same track was included in the Savoy 2LP set "Honkers and Screamers" as "Cold Blood."
The Savoy recording sessions:
November 29th, 1948, at Radio Recorders, Santa Monica Bvd, Hollywood, California -
John Anderson (trumpet); Jesse "Streamline" Ewing (trombone); Big Jay McNeely (tenor sax); Bob McNeely (baritone sax); Jimmy O'Brien (piano); Ted Shirley (bass); William Streetser (drums):
December 15th, 1948, venue as above -
John Anderson (trumpet); Britt Woodman (trombone); Big Jay McNeely (tenor sax); Jimmy O'Brien (piano); Ted Shirley (bass); William Streetser (drums):
The Deacon's Hop
The tracks were released as follows:
Benson's Groove / Wild Wig - Savoy 682. Released January 1949. Big Jay McNeely And His Bluejays.
The Deacon's Hop / Artie's Jump - Savoy 685. Released January 1949. Deacon McNeeley's Blue Jays.
California Hop / Sunday Dinner - Savoy 698. Released June 1949. Deacon McNeeley and his Blue Jays.
Cherry Smash / Man Eater - Savoy 713. Released October 1949. Big Jay McNeeley.
Note that the spelling of Big Jay's surname varied on the Savoy releases. Only Savoy 682 had the now universally recognised spelling of "McNeely." The other releases had "McNeeley."
Session information from "Nervous Man Nervous: Big Jay McNeely and the Rise of the Honking Tenor Sax!" by Jim Dawson. Additional release information from contemporary issues of Billboard and rateyourmusic.com which is a useful visual source for the labels on the original 78 rpm discs. 1955 Savoy LP cover from discogs.com.