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Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Jay McShann - The Band That Jumps The Blues!

Side 1:
01) Hot Biscuits - Jay McShann
02) Slow Drag Blues - Jay McShann
03) M. R. Boogie - Maxine Reed
04) Buttermilk - Jay McShann
05) Skid-Row Blues (alt take) - Jimmy Witherspoon
06) Soft Winds - Jay McShann

Side 2:
01) No Name Boogie - Boogie Woogie Jackson
02) Thinking About My Baby - Lois Booker
03) Jeronimo - Jay McShann
04) 12 O'Clock Whistle - Jay McShann
05) Mello Drag - Jay McShann
06) Eatin' Watermelon - Crown Prince Waterford

In August 2010 (I can't believe it was that long ago) I posted an LP of pianist and bandleader Jay McShann's early 1940s big band sides recorded for Decca in Dallas, Chicago and New York. The post explored the story of McShann's start in Kansas City back in the 1930s when the city's corrupt administration maintained a rather flexible and doubtlessly well greased attitude towards liquor licensing and other aspects of a convivial nightlife which led to KC acquiring a reputation as the Gomorrah of the Mid West. A by product of all this laxity was a burgeoning jazz scene which spawned great bands such as those of Count Basie, Andy Kirk and Jay McShann.

When KC became a rather more respectable city in the late '30s, there was an exodus of musicians as venues closed down. Jay's big band was one of the last to leave but soon built themselves a formidable reputation when they hit NYC and took on more established outfits in band battles. They had a big hit with "Confessin' The Blues" which featured band vocalist Walter Brown. See "Hootie's K.C. Blues" post for more tales and music from that period.

"The Band That Jumps The Blues" brings together tracks from the late '40s when Jay's big band days were well behind him and he was recording with a series of small groups in a much more R&B vein. All of the tracks were recorded in 1948 and 1949 for Jack Lauderdale's LA based Down Beat label, with the exception of Jimmy Witherspoon's "Skid-Row Boogie" which was recorded in 1947 for Supreme, another LA label whose masters were bought by Lauderdale for reissue on Down Beat and / or its renamed successor Swing Time.

McShann had arrived on the West Coast around 1945, picking up a new blues shouter in Jimmy Witherspoon. Numa Lee Davis and Crown Prince Waterford were also vocalists in the band which had its first LA recording session in July 1945 for the newly formed label Philo which would later become Aladdin. In the same month the band recorded for Premier with the masters eventually being acquired by Mercury. "Shipyard Woman Blues" for example was first released on Premier in late 1945 and then rereleased on Mercury in August 1946. There were further sessions for Mercury in September and November 1946, and in May 1947.

In November 1947 McShann's band backed Jimmy Witherspoon, who had gone solo, on sessions for Supreme. There was a massive R&B hit for one of the resulting discs, a two parter version of "Ain't Nobody's Business." The Supreme masters were later purchased by Jack Lauderdale the owner of Down Beat / Swing Time records and reissued in the early 1950s.

In early 1948 the McShann band backed Lois Booker on a session for Down Beat. "Thinking About My Baby" was credited to Booker, while the B-Side instrumental, "No Name Boogie" was credited to "Boogie Woogie Jackson", a pseudonym for McShann. The McShann band also provided backing for Jimmy Witherspoon at more Down Beat sessions in the spring of 1948 and in June 1948. In July 1948 McShann and his band, which included Buddy Floyd on tenor sax and Tiny Webb on guitar, were back in the studio for a Down Beat session which produced a top ten R&B hit instrumental in "Hot Biscuits." Another release from this session was under the name of vocalist Maxine Reed - "M.R. Boogie."

Clifford Scott was the tenor saxman in McShann's band when they recorded a session for Aladdin in February 1949 with only one single being released. Another Down Beat session sometime in mid 1949 had Maxwell Davis on tenor sax. A session with Crown Prince Waterford on an unknown date in 1949 was perhaps the last Down Beat session by Jay McShann. He recorded for the Rex Hollywood label sometime in 1949 with two released discs including the two parter "Jay's Blues" being on sale in April 1949.

McShann backed Witherspoon on a few Modern sides in 1950 and in October 1951 he was back at Mercury recording with a band which included Ben Webster. In September 1955 he recorded a session in Chicago for Vee Jay which resulted in a big R&B hit - "Hands Off" credited to McShann and vocalist Priscilla Bowman. Another Vee Jay session in January 1956 with Priscilla Bowman marked the end of McShann's R&B recording career but in common with other KC musicians he had the jazz reputation which ensured a long and fruitful working life in that field. He died in December 2006, one of the last survivors of the roaring days of Kansas City jazz.

Original Release Details

01) Hot Biscuits - Down Beat 165 - Jay McShann
02) Slow Drag Blues - Down Beat 165 - Jay McShann
03) M.R. Boogie - Down Beat 159 - Maxine Reed
04) Buttermilk - Down Beat 172 - Jay McShann
05) Skid-Row Blues - alt. take of Supreme 1545 / Swing Time 244 - Jimmy Witherspoon
06) Soft Winds - Down Beat 205 - Jay McShann
07) No Name Boogie - Down Beat 150 - "Boogie Woogie Jackson"
08) Thinking About My Baby - Down Beat 150 - Lois Booker
09) Jeronimo - Swing Time 314 - Jay McShann
10) 12 O'Clock Whistle - Down Beat 172 - Jay McShann
11) Mello Drag - Swing Time 314 - Jay McShann
12) Eatin' Watermelon - Torch 6911- Crown Prince Waterford

Thinking About My Baby / No Name Boogie - Lois Booker, B-Side instrumental credited to "Boogie Woogie Jackson" - Down Beat 150 - circa September / October 1948

M.R. Boogie / Afraid Of Darkness - Maxine Reed and The D.B. Orchestra - Down Beat 159 - October 1948

Hot Biscuits / Slow Drag Blues - Jay McShann and The Band That Jumps The Blues - Down Beat 165 - October 1948

Buttermilk / 12 O'Clock Whistle - Jay McShann and The Band That Jumps The Blues - Down Beat 172 - February 1949

Soft Winds / Someone To Watch Over Me - Jay McShann & His Band That Jumps The Blues - Down Beat 205 - May 1949

Skid-Row Blues - track on this LP is an alternate take of the track released on Supreme 1545 - Jimmy Witherspoon, B-Side of How Long, released November 1949, and re-released as Swing Time 244 in December 1951

Jeronimo / Mello Drag - Jay McShann - Swingtime 314 - October 1952

Eatin' Watermelon / Love Awhile - Crown Prince Waterford - Torch 6911 - released 1952 (purchased 1949 Down Beat master). Torch was a small Dallas TX label with only 3 known releases.

Elsewhere on the blog:



Anonymous said...

Boogiewoody !
Many thanks for Jay McShann post.
Good Thang !
Best wishes for You, BW !
You deliver wonderfull music and
fine texts. Blessings !
- Jay from the North.

boogiewoody said...

Thanks, Jay (from the North). More Jay (McShann) with Jimmy Witherspoon coming soon. I'm working on the rips right now.