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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Little Esther - Lost Dream Blues






















Side One:
01. Double Crossing Blues - Little Esther with The Robins
02. Lover's Lane Boogie - Little Esther with The Blue Notes
03. Mistrustin' Blues - Little Esther with Mel Walker
04. Misery - Little Esther
05. Cupid's Boogie - Little Esther with Mel Walker

Side Two:
01. Deceivin' Blues - Little Esther with Mel Walker
02. Lost Dream Blues - Little Esther
03. Wedding Boogie - Johnny Otis' Congregation with Little Esther, Mel Walker & Lee Graves
04. Far Away Blues (Xmas Blues) - Little Esther with Mel Walker
05. Love Will Break Your Heart - Johnny Otis Orchestra with Little Esther & Mel Walker


or



1950 was the year when Johnny Otis was the top selling R&B artist, or perhaps more accurately Johnny Otis with Little Esther, Mel Walker and The Robins. "Double Crossing Blues," "Mistrustin' Blues" / "Misery," "Cupid's Boogie," "Deceivin' Blues," "Wedding Boogie" / "Far Away Blues," "Cry Baby," "Dreamin' Blues" and "If It's So Baby" / "If I Didn't Love You So"  were all R&B chart hits for Otis and his associated vocal acts.

The artist who dominated this series of hits was Little Esther, a 13 year old Dinah Washington influenced prodigy whom Otis discovered when he happened to drop in on a talent show at the Largo Theater in Watts, LA, situated a few blocks from his own Barrelhouse Club. Esther Mae Jones didn't win but she impressed Otis enough for him to offer her a spot at the Barrelhouse. Still going under her full name, Esther Mae made her recording debut with Johnny Otis in August 1949 at a one off session for Modern Records. However it wasn't until the Otis group started recording for Savoy in November 1949 that Little Esther as she was now billed started making waves in the R&B world.

With backing from the Otis band, Little Esther was paired with fellow Barrelhouse act The Robins (lead - Bobby Nunn) for "Double Crossing Blues." Issued in January 1950, the disc shot to the number one spot in the R&B charts. For her follow up Esther was paired with another Barrelhouse regular, Mel Walker. Their moody "Mistrustin' Blues" was another smash when it was released in March of 1950. It was paired with a Little Esther solo torch song "Misery" which garnered big sales on its own account. Another Little Esther / Mel Walker record, the more uptempo "Cupid's Boogie," was the third hit in a row when it was released in June 1950.


Above: Cash Box Ad, June 17th 1950

Cash Box, July 29th 1950

In August a third Little Esther / Mel Walker performance, "Deceivin' Blues" kept the run of hits going. This was paired with an intense bluesy side from Little Esther singing solo, "Lost Dream Blues." Pete Lewis on guitar, Johnny Otis on vibes and Devonia Williams on piano turned in fine moody backing to make this an outstanding track.


Above: Cash Box, September 23rd 1950

"Wedding Boogie," released in October, was based on a comedy skit performed in the Barrelhouse with Little Esther as the bride, Mel Walker as the groom and Lee Graves as the preacher. The B-Side was a Christmas weepie, "Far Away Blues (Xmas Blues)," and of course the release was another hit.

A Little Esther / Mel Walker romantic duet, "Love Will Break Your Heart" came out in January 1951 but sales were comparatively poor, perhaps because it was too similar to Ivory Joe Hunter's hit "I Almost Lost My Mind." However by this time the spell was over, for Little Esther had already left Savoy when the disc was released. In December 1950 Savoy's man on the West Coast, Ralph Bass had quit the label following a dispute with owner Herman Lubinsky. Syd Nathan, honcho of rival label King, moved immediately to sign Bass and gave him a new West Coast based subsidiary label to run, Federal Records.

Bass made his first signing in January 1951 - Little Esther. Johnny Otis was supposed to follow Esther to the new label once his contract with Savoy ran out, but that wasn't to happen. On January 26th 1951 Little Esther started recording for Federal, backed by a band which sounded awfully like the Otis group. But that is a story for our next post! Stick around for more Little Esther and Johnny Otis sounds ...

Here 'tis - the complete lowdown on this homemade comp of Little Esther on Savoy:

"Double Crossing Blues" was issued on Savoy 731 in January 1950. Credited to the Johnny Otis Quintette with vocals by The Robins and Little Esther. The B-Side was "Ain't Nothin' Shakin'" by Leon Sims with the Johnny Otis Orchestra. An April 1950 re-issue had a different B-Side - "Back Alley Blues" by The Beale St. Gang.

"Lover's Lane Boogie" was not issued as a single. The Blue Notes were The Robins.

"Mistrustin' Blues" / "Misery" issued as Savoy 735 in March 1950. A-Side credited to Little Esther with Mel Walker Accomp. by The Johnny Otis Orch. B-Side credit: Little Esther with the Johnny Otis Orch.

"Cupid's Boogie" was issued on Savoy 750 in May or June 1950. Credit: Little Esther and Mel Walker with Johnny Otis Orchestra. This was the B-Side of the original release. The A-Side was "Just Can't Get Free" - Little Esther with Johnny Otis Orchestra and The Beltones.

"Deceivin' Blues" / "Lost Dream Blues" issued as Savoy 759 in August 1950. A-Side credit: Little Esther and Mel Walker with Johnny Otis Orch. B-Side credit: Little Esther with Johnny Otis Orch.

"Wedding Boogie" / "Far Away Blues (Xmas Blues)" issued as Savoy 764 in October 1950. A-Side credit: Johnny Otis' Congregation, Bride: Little Esther, Groom: Mel Walker, Preacher: Lee Graves. B-Side credit: Johnny Otis Orchestra with Little Esther and Mel Walker.

"Love Will Break Your Heart" was issued on Savoy 775 in January 1951. Credited to Johnny Otis Orch. with Little Esther and Mel Walker. B-Side was "I Don't Care" - Johnny Otis Orch. with Little Esther.


Above: Little Esther with (L to R): Pete "Guitar" Lewis, Lorenzo Holden, Mel Walker, and Mario Delagarde.

Musicians on the tracks

"Double Crossing Blues" - recorded in Los Angeles, December 1st, 1949. Johnny Otis Quintette: Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Little Esther, Bobby Nunn (vocals) The Robins (background vocals)

"Lover's Lane Boogie" - recorded in Los Angeles, January 11th, 1950. Johnny Otis Septet: John Anderson (trumpet); Big Jay McNeely (tenor sax); Johnny Otis (vibes, drums); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Little Esther (vocals); Bobby Nunn (vocals); The Blue Notes (The Robins) (vocals).

"Misery" recorded in Los Angeles, February 13th, 1950. Possibly Lorenzo Holden or James Von Streeter (tenor sax); Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Little Esther (vocals).

"Mistrustin' Blues" and "Cupid's Boogie" recorded in Los Angeles, February 27th, 1950. Johnny Otis Orchestra: Don Johnson, Lee Graves (trumpets); George Washington (trombone); Lorenzo Holden, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes); Walter Henry (alto,baritone sax); Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Little Esther, Mel Walker (vocals).

"Deceivin' Blues" and "Lost Dream Blues" recorded in Chicago on June 20th, 1950. Johnny Otis Orchestra: probable personnel: Don Johnson, Lee Graves, Hosea Sapp (trumpets;) George Washington (trombone); Lorenzo Holden, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes); Walter Henry (alto and baritone saxes); Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Little Esther, Mel Walker (vocals).

"Wedding Boogie," "Faraway Blues (Xmas Blues)" and "Love Will Break Your Heart" recorded in New York on August 12th 1950. Personnel as for Chicago session above, with the addition of Lee Graves on vocals on "Wedding Boogie."


2 comments:

Bob Mac said...

Thanks BW. Certainly some historical sessions in this collection. And she was just 13 at the time...remarkable.

Christophe said...

Thanks a lot for this nice serie.