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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Hal Singer - Disc Jockey Boogie

Side 1:
01. Corn Bread
02. A Plug For Cliff
03. Blue Monday Caravan
04. Teddy's Dream
05. Beef Stew

Side 2:
01. One For Willie
02. Swanee River
03. Happy Days
04. Jiblets
05. Disc Jockey Boogie

Note - Track 3, Side 1, "Blue Monday Caravan" by Sir Charles Thompson's All Stars. Track 4, Side 1, "Teddy's Dream" was credited to The X-Rays.

Download "Disc Jockey Boogie" from here:

This is my fourth homemade compilation of saxophone sides released on Savoy Records in the late 1940s. The first three comps featured Big Jay McNeely, Wild Bill Moore and Paul Williams and this time round we're going with Hal Singer whose "Corn Bread" was a smash hit in 1948. This comp covers Hal's first spell with Savoy from June 1948 to February 1949.

Hal has had a long and interesting career, starting off in the Territory Bands of the South West and Midwest in the 1930s, moving on to Kansas City in the early 1940s before ending up in NYC where he spent the best part of two decades not only recording and releasing records under his own name, but also playing tenor sax on many sessions mainly for Savoy and King. The list of artists with whom he recorded as a session man is long and varied, taking in Wynonie Harris, Esther Phillips, Brownie McGhee, Little Willie John, Titus Turner, Lonnie Johnson, Arbee Stidham, Big Maybelle and plenty of others!

Unusually for Be Bop Wino, I can use the present tense in some of this post, for Hal Singer is still with us, very much alive and perhaps just about the last survivor of those territory bands and one of a rapidly dwindling band of still living musicians from the R&B scene of the 1940s.

Hal Singer was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1919. He studied at the Hampton Institute in Virginia but opted for the life of a professional musician and the way of the tenor sax. His first gig was with a group led by trumpeter Terrence Holder whose previous big band of the early 1930s had included future Jazz / R&B luminaries Jesse Stone, Herschel Evans, Buddy Tate, Earl Bostic and Lloyd Glenn. 

In 1939 he was a member of Lloyd Hunter's band which had its roots in Omaha, so no surprise that the 1941 lineup of that band included Johnny Otis and Preston Love but not Hal who had joined the Ernie Fields band. In 1942 Hal joined another Omaha based band, that of Nat Towles. Around this time (perhaps in 1941, the constant movement has made me giddy) he had a spell in Kansas City, working in a small group led by Tommy Douglas. In May 1943 he was a member of the Jay McShann band which was then working at the Band Box in Chicago.

It was probably in late 1943 or early 1944 that Hal made it to the Big Apple where he settled into the burgeoning jazz scene of 52nd Street where he worked with Don Byas  and Roy Eldridge. He also participated in Sunday jam sessions in Harlem at clubs like Minton's, Monroes and the Heat Wave. It was while playing at the Heat Wave with Don Byas and Earl Bostic that he witnessed a tremendous jam session duel between Bostic and Charlie Parker.

Hal's first recordings were with the big band of Roy Eldridge in June 1944 for Decca. In October 1944 Hal was back in the studio with the Eldridge band for another Decca session. In the autumn of 1945 he recorded a couple of sides for Hub with the Don Byas group featuring Rubie Blakey on vocals.

In March 1946 Hal recorded for Savoy for the first time on a small group jazz session led by Lem Davis, but the four sides lay unissued for many years. Hal was a member of the Hot Lips Page band which was used on a number of sessions by King in Cincinnati during December 1947 in the run up to the American Federation of Musicians recording ban which was due to commence on the 1st January 1948. They backed Lonnie Johnson on December 14th, Big Maybelle (then known as Mabel Smith) on an unknown day, Marion Abernathy on December 23rd, and Wynonie Harris on December 23rd and December 28th.

Two of the tracks from that final 1947 session became big hits - "Good Rockin' Tonight" and "Lollipop Mama." Hal backed Wynonie on further sessions. A December 1948 session in which sax duties were shared by Hal and Frank "Floorshow" Culley produced four magnificent hard rocking tracks in "Grandma Plays The Numbers,"  "I Want My Fanny Brown," "She Just Won't Sell No More," and "I Feel That Old Age Coming On." All of these featured  a pounding beat, screeching tenor sax and very risque lyrics.

Hal and Wynonie were reunited on a couple of tracks for King in 1957 but by then the good times and big money days were long gone for "Mr. Blues." A last throw of the dice for Roulette in 1960 saw Hal backing Wynonie for one last time but sadly no-one was buying.

The 1948 AFM recording ban lasted until August but Savoy A&R man Teddy Reig ignored the embargo and started holding recording sessions from January 1948 onwards. Among the artists he produced in early 1948 were Howard McGhee, Leo Parker, Morris Lane, Paul Williams and Wild Bill Moore.

At an unknown date in Spring 1948 four sides were cut by bluesman Brownie McGhee with Hal Singer on tenor sax. One of these sides "My Fault" became a huge R&B hit later in the year, but Hal's tenor sax is heard to better effect on Brownie's tribute to black baseball players Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, "Robbie - Doby Boogie."

In June 1948 Reig recorded Hal Singer, with Hal's first record "Corn Bread" / "A Plug For Cliff" being released in August. The A Side was a piledriver of an instro which was such a huge hit that Hal was ever after known as Hal "Corn Bread" Singer.

At the beginning of September "Corn Bread" was already storming up the Most Played Jukebox Race Records chart, in mid September it entered the Best Selling Retail Race Records chart, at the end of October it was number one in the Jukebox plays chart and number two in the best seller chart. It was one of a number of sax-led instrumentals that featured prominently in the charts at this time: "Long Gone" and "Late Freight" by Sonny Thompson, "Waxie Maxie" by Paul Williams, "Blues For The Red Boy" by Todd Rhodes, along with Pee Wee Crayton's guitar opus, "Blues After Hours."

Teddy Reig, a big fan of both the honkin' R&B sax and the more sophisticated bebop sound of modern jazz, made sure that Savoy was very strong in both fields as can be seen from this Cash Box ad from November 1948 below -

Hal's next Savoy session in September failed to generate any releases, with the four tracks recorded not making an appearance until they were included on the 2LP set "Honkers & Screamers." On September 21st Hal was included in a session which had jazz pianist Sir Charles Thompson as named leader. This session did generate a release "Cooking With Cookie" / "Blue Monday Caravan" with Hal's tenor sax featuring on the B Side. Two other sides from this session, "Jiblets" and "Disc Jockey Boogie" were released in 1950 under Hal's name on the new Savoy subsidiary Acorn.

A December 1948 session produced several tracks for release, including "I'll Always Be In Love With You" / "Teddy's Dream" which was credited to vocal group The X-Rays, although "Teddy's Dream" was a Hal Singer instrumental. Also recorded at this session were "Beef Stew" and "One For Willie" which formed Hal's next release on Savoy. In February 1949 Hal had his last recording session in his first spell with Savoy. The only track which saw release was "Happy Days" which was paired with "Swanee River" from his first session for a June 1949 release.

Also in December 1948 Hal played on sessions for Arbee Stidham (on Victor) and Tab Smith (for Manor). In February 1949 Hal played on a Savoy session for blues shouter "Chicago Carl" aka Carl Davis.

After leaving Savoy Hal recorded a single for Mercury in 1950 (released in November of that year), then signed for Decca subsidiary Coral for which he recorded between October 1951 and April 1952. In August 1952 Hal returned to Savoy, but that story will be told in another post, if you hepcats so wish!

Session details and release details of the tracks on "Disc Jockey Boogie":

"Swanee River," "A Plug For Cliff," and "Corn Bread" were recorded in NYC between June 9th and June 23rd, 1948. Personnel: Milton Larkin (trombone); Hal Singer (tenor sax); Wynton Kelly (piano); Franklin Skeete (bass); Heywood Jackson (drums).

Corn Bread / A Plug For Cliff (Savoy 671) by the Hal Singer Sextette, released in August 1948.

Happy Days / Swanee River (Savoy 697) by the Hal Singer Sextette, released in June 1949.

"Blue Monday Caravan," "Jiblets," and "Disc Jockey Boogie" were recorded in NYC on 21st September, 1948. Personnel: Hal Singer (tenor sax); Sir Charles Thompson (piano); unknown (guitar); unknown (bass); unknown (drums).

Cooking With Cookie / Blue Monday Caravan (Savoy 679) by Sir Charles Thompson's All Stars, released in December 1948.

Jiblets / Disc Jockey Boogie (Acorn 300) by Hal Singer with Sir Charles Thompson Orch., released in October 1950. This was the first release on Acorn, a subsidiary of Savoy.

"Teddy's Dream," "Beef Stew," and "One For Willie" were recorded in NYC on 10th December, 1948. Personnel: Willie Moore (trumpet); Chippy Outcalt (trombone); Hal Singer (tenor sax); George Rhodes (piano); Walter Page (bass); Bobby Donaldson (drums); Milton Larkin (vocals); The X-Rays (vocal group).

I'll Always Be In Love With You / Teddy's Dream (Savoy 681) by The X-Rays, released in December 1948.

Beef Stew / One For Willie (Savoy 686) by the Hal Singer Sextette, released in February 1949.

"Happy Days" was recorded in NYC on the 9th February, 1949. Personnel: William Moore (trumpet); Chippy Outcalt (trombone); Hal Singer (tenor sax); Tate Houston (baritone sax); possibly George Rhodes (piano) Walter Buchanan (bass) Butch Ballard (drums). Ensemble vocal.

Happy Days / Swanee River (Savoy 697) by the Hal Singer Sextette, released in June 1949.

Savoy single releases of Hal Singer's 1948 - 1949 recordings in chronological order:

Savoy 671 Hal Singer Sextette - Corn Bread / A Plug For Cliff (August 1948)
Savoy 679 Sir Charles Thompson’s All Stars - Cooking With Cookie / Blue Monday Caravan (Dec 1948)
Savoy 681 The X Rays  – I’ll Always Be In Love With You / Teddy’s Dream (December 1948)
Savoy 686 Hal Singer Sextette - Beef Stew / One For Willie (February 1949)
Savoy 697 Hal Singer Sextette - Swanee River / Happy Days (June 1949)
Acorn 300 Hal Singer with Sir Charles Thompson Orch. - Jiblets / Disc Jockey Boogie (October 1950)

Sources: Big Band Jazz by Albert McCarthy and Soul Jazz by Bob Porter.


soulpapa said...

Amazing post! Love the story behind it all. Thanks so much!

boogiewoody said...

Thank you very much Soul Papa. That's only part one! I'll finish the Hal Singer on Savoy story in the near future.


Bob Mac said...

Very good, had a listen yesterday and really enjoyed the fine piano playing of Sir Charles Thompson.

boogiewoody said...

Cheers, Bob. I've got a 2nd hand copy of the Delmark CD collection of Sir Charles Thompson's sides for Apollo (with Charlie Parker, Leo Parker, Dexter Gordon and others) on order. He crops up a lot in many 1940s jazz sessions, e.g. the Illinois Jacquet band in 1947 on Aladdin and Victor. An unsung hero, I think.


Bob Mac said...

BW: I just checked my master lists and have nothing listed under the names of Sir Charles Thompson or Charles Thompson. I'd certainly be interested in a copy of that Delmark CD if you care to post it on Be Bop Wino.

boogiewoody said...

Hi Bob

There's a good obituary of Sir Charles Thompson in The Guardian here:

He died last year at the age of 98 in Japan! Certainly seems to have had a really interesting career - taking in swing and bebop.

I'll let you know when the CD arrives.


Bob Mac said...

Thanks for that link BW....“He had a particular style that separated him from the rest of the piano players.”...Indeed. I must have heard his playing before on recordings I've listened to over the years, but I never paid particular attention to him until yesterday when I heard his playing on these Hal Singer sessions.

And he sure lived a full life. Living in Japan with his Japanese wife to age 98.

Anonymous said...

Hello - any change of a reup? Thanks!

boogiewoody said...

New link now on post. It's a RAR archive - any problems let me know!