1. No Name Boogie
2. Strato Cruiser
3. Be-Bop Blues
4. Mojo Jump
5. How Fine Can You Be
6. Shuffle Boogie (aka Shuffle Woogie)
7. Sunday Blues
8. Joe Joe Jump
1. Lucy Lindy Boogie
2. Hit The Block
3. Sauterne Special
4. I Knew You When
5. Bagdad Bebop
6. Watch It Gate
7. Walk Into My Heart
One day in early 1957, sinful rock and roll superstar Little Richard was relaxing at his LA home when redemption, in the shape of Brother Wilbur Gulley of the Church of God of the Ten Commandments, came a knockin’ at the front door. Burned out by recording, touring, and indulging in acts of wild excess that would have had the Emperor Caligula himself howling in protest, Little Richard was receptive to the message carried by the good Brother who put him in touch with a musician who had given up show business in order to preach the word of the Lord. That musician was Joe Lutcher, the leader of a jump band which had had several hit records back in the late 1940s.
Perhaps Joe was merely pushing at a half open door, for religion had always been a big influence on Little Richard. The result of the conversations between the two men was that the Wild Man of Rock and Roll walked off an Australian tour, returned to the States, gave one farewell concert, reneged on his contract with Specialty Records, dumped the pancake makeup, had his pompadour cut, and took to preaching across the country with the Little Richard Evangelistic Team which Joe helped organise.
Of course in time Little Richard returned to the path of rock and roll, beginning with a 1962 tour of the UK on a bill which included Sam Cooke, Jet Harris and Sounds Incorporated. There would be decades more of outrageous stage performances and wild swings between the sacred and the profane, which is a constant theme in rock and roll and rhythm and blues. One only has to think of the pressure undergone by numerous R&B and soul singers who crossed over from gospel music. And then there’s Jerry Lee Lewis, but he’s a whole blog in himself.
Little Richard remains a superstar to this day, but his recording career never recovered from Joe’s conversion job. The series of wild, wild, wild recordings made for Specialty between 1955 and 1957 was never again equalled and blame for this crime against rock and roll is generally laid at the feet of Joe Lutcher. But what about Joe’s own musical career, which by happenstance kicked off with the selfsame Specialty label back in the years before rock and roll was invented by Pat Boone?
Joe Lutcher was born in 1919 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He was part of a large musical family which included his elder sister, pianist / vocalist Nellie, who went on to have a very successful career with Capitol records in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Nellie moved to California in the mid 1930s to follow her dream and in 1941 Joe packed his saxophone and followed big sis out to the coast. The war and service in the Navy interrupted his musical progress, but once Hitler and Tojo had been defeated, Joe returned to LA, formed a small jump band for a gig at the Café Society, and naturally named his group the Society Cats. In early 1947 he recorded four sides for Specialty Records – “Rockin’ Boogie,” “Blues For Sale,” “Society Boogie,” and “Traffic Song.” There was chart success with “Rockin’ Boogie” but Joe was soon on the move again.
Around the time Joe signed up with Specialty, Nellie was starting her successful career with Capitol. In August 1947 Joe joined his sister on the label and recorded sixteen sides in four sessions between the end of August and the end of November 1947, which finally brings us to the LP featured in this post.
Of the Capitol recordings, only “Shuffle Woogie” was a chart hit, but this is a very fine collection of first rate jump music. It’s the standard musical mix of the small jump bands which were dominating the LA music scene at the time – hepcat vocalisations such as “Hit The Block” and “Toodle-Oo,” jazzy instrumentals like “Strato-Cruiser,” the hit “Shuffle Woogie,” “Watch It Gate,” and “Bagdad Bebop,” boogies, shuffles and the obligatory weepy ballad in “Walk Into My Heart.”
So on these cold winter nights when the rain starts raining and the snow starts snowing and you reach out and turn on your radio, lookout Jack, these are the jumpin’ sounds you’d want to hear!
Joe’s final Capitol session came not long before the AFM recording ban and it was 1949 before he was back in a recording studio, but this time he was working for Modern Records. He stayed with them until mid-1950 with his most notable sides being “Mardi Gras,” a return to his Louisiana roots which was covered by Professor Longhair among others, a good cover of “Rag Mop,” and a rocking juke box tribute entitled “Rock-Ola.” After Modern, Joe’s recording career nosedived. He may have cut some sides for Masters Music in 1950. He released a single for Peacock, “I’m Cuttin’ Out” / “Give Me My Hadacol” which he cut in Houston in late 1950 as he headed home to Lake Charles, and he signed for Derby in 1951 without releasing anything.
In 1953 he gave up secular music when he joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church and four years later he was guiding Little Richard towards the path of righteousness, which is where we came in with Brother Gulley’s knock on the door. Joe Lutcher went to his reward in October 2006.
Charles White – The Life and Times of Little Richard: the Quasar of Rock.
Dave Penny – Joe Lutcher Biography in “This Is My Story” on the BlackCat Rockabilly site:
The Bruyninckx Discography
Recording Dates and original issue numbers:
1. No Name Boogie (Capitol 40101, November 21, 1947)
2. Strato Cruiser (Capitol 40052, August 29, 1947)
3. Be-Bop Blues (Capitol 40071, October 22, 1947)
4. Mojo Jump (Capitol 15109, October 22, 1947)
5. How Fine Can You Be (Capitol 15109, October 22, 1947)
6. Shuffle Boogie aka Shuffle Woogie (Capitol 40071, August 29, 1947)
7. Sunday Blues (Capitol 40052, August 29, 1947)
8. Joe Joe Jump (Capitol 15297, November 28, 1947)
9. Lucy Lindy Boogie (Capitol 15361, August 29, 1947)
10. Hit The Block (Capitol 40101, November 21, 1947)
11. Sauterne Special (Capitol 15361, November 21, 1947)
12. I Knew You When (Capitol 70053, November 21, 1947)
13. Bagdad Bebop (Capitol 15170, October 22, 1947)
14. Watch It Gate (Capitol 70053, November 28, 1947)
15. Walk Into My Heart (Capitol 15297, November 28, 1947)
16. Toodle-Oo (Capitol 15170, November 28, 1947)
All sides recorded in Los Angeles.
Elsewhere on the blog –
The Chronological Joe Lutcher 1947 from the Classics Blues and Rhythm series has the complete Specialty and Capitol recordings:
Jumpin’ At The Mardi Gras (Ace CDCHD 753) has the complete Modern recordings:
Joe’s Specialty recordings also turn up on two excellent Ace compilations:
Specialty Legends of Boogie-Woogie (Ace CDCHD 422):
Specialty Legends of Jump Blues Volume One (Ace CDCHD 573):