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Saturday 26 September 2009

Buddy Johnson & His Orchestra - Rock 'N Roll (Mercury LP 20209)

Thanks to an anonymous donor who sent in vinyl rips and cover scans of this Buddy Johnson LP which was originally released on Mercury in 1956 and reissued on the Official label in 1988.

Our donor is a sax player who provides an interesting sidelight on the influence of this album and of Buddy Johnson’s tenorman Purvis Henson (that’s him with Buddy on the front cover of the Official issue) on the players who were keeping this music going back in the 1980s:

“This record was a major influence on almost all of the White Blues and Rhythm and Blues Bands that were working the East Coast circuit in the 80's including Roomful. We all circulated tapes of this Album to each other. It is not all that surprising considering that Little Walter listed Buddy Johnson as a major influence and even covered “I'm Just Your Fool”. The main Sax player Purvis Henson has been an influence on all of us Sax players, what an incredible player. I am including both the original Mercury cover art and the Official release. Hope you dig it Bro.”

I dig it, I dig it.

Bandleader, pianist, arranger, songwriter and vocalist Buddy Johnson was a major figure in R&B history, not just because of the longevity of his recording career (1939 – 1964) but also because of the sheer quality and versatility of his band. In the 1940s The Buddy Johnson Orchestra had a string of hits on Decca (many featuring vocalists Ella Johnson, Buddy’s sister, and Arthur Prysock) and was a huge live attraction in their New York base and in the Southern States. Like other top big bands of the era, their repertoire included dance tunes, boogies, blues and ballads. As the era of the big band faded in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Buddy managed to keep his band together, both on the road and in the studio.

In early 1953 Buddy signed for Mercury, revitalising his chart career and starting a new phase of success for the band which had already survived the transformation from swing to R&B and now found itself at the forefront of the rise of rock ‘n’ roll as it became part of the live shows promoted by Alan Freed and his New York rival Tommy “Doctor Jive” Smalls.

The precedent was set in 1953 when The Buddy Johnson Orchestra was part of the first of the really big R&B touring package shows – The Big Rhythm and Blues Show organised by the Moe Gale agency - which also included Ruth Brown, Wynonie Harris, The Clovers and Lester Young. The show drew huge audiences as it travelled through the Eastern States, The Midwest and The South. In Cleveland it drew 10,000 to a show hosted by Alan Freed who would use the band on his own rock ‘n’ roll package shows such as his Boston show of May 1955 which included Bo Diddley, Nappy Brown, The Five Keys, The Moonglows, Dinah Washington, Little Walter, Al Hibbler and Dakota Staton. As late as January 1959, with its hit making days long gone, the band was on the “Biggest Show of Shows” along with The Platters, Jimmy Clanton, Clyde McPhatter, The Crests, The Cadillacs, Bo Diddley and Duane Eddy.

In the same month Buddy’s contract with Mercury was not renewed and the band signed for Roulette but their only single release on the label met with indifference, for the days of that now largely forgotten genre, Big Band Rock ‘n’ Roll, were well and truly over. Before the end of 1959 Roulette released an LP titled “Go Ahead and Rock Rock Rock” credited to both Buddy and Ella. In the early 1960s deteriorating health brought Buddy’s retiral from the music scene. Ella also retired, to take care of Buddy who passed away in 1977, with Ella passing away in 2004.

Ripped from vinyl at 256 kbps.

Download from here:

1. I Don't Want Nobody v – Ella Johnson
2. Doot Doot Dow
3. Bring It Home To Me v – Ella Johnson
4. You Got It Made v – Floyd Ryland
5. A Pretty Girl v – Ricky Harper
6. Any Day Now v – Ella Johnson
7. It's Obdacious v – Buddy Johnson & Gil Askey
8. Crazy 'Bout A Saxophone v – Buddy Johnson
9. Upside Your Head v – Ella Johnson
10. Ain't But One v – Ella Johnson
11. A-12
12. I'm Just Your Fool v – Ella Johnson

If you want to hear more of Buddy Johnson on Mercury, I recommend this excellent CD on Rev-Ola: “Gotta Go Upside Your Head” (CR Band 6).

Note: Mercury LP MG-20209 was originally issued on the Wing subsidiary of Mercury as MGW-12005. The cover was similar to the Mercury issue MG-20209, although with the tracklist on the other side of the cover photo (see below) –

"Ex-Rhode Islander" pointed out that after the Mercury issue, the LP was again reissued on Wing as MGW 12111. This time round it was retitled "Rock'n Roll Stage Show" and the adman's dream couple photo was replaced by a photo of the band with Buddy and Ella centre front.

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