Fire Records – Cat. # 1026 US 1960
Track 1: I Want To Know
Track 2: I’ve Got It
I have always been a big fan of the Fire label and this single from Gay Poppers, as far as I’m concerned, is one of their best releases! Please any doo wop and rhythm and blues experts please feed me more info on this one! I’ve searched for information for too long and nothing! I want to know!!!!
Their first release was under the name The Gay Poppers (losing the “The” on following releases) and released on the Savoy label. Savoy was founded in 1942 by Herman Lubinsky, specializing in Jazz, R&B and Gospel and played an important role in popularizing bebop. Savoy recorded some of the biggest names in jazz including Miles Davis, Erroll Garner, Dexter Gordon, J. J. Johnson, Fats Navarro, and Charlie Parker. But regardless of the success of the label, Lubinsky didn’t sound like a particular nice person and was commonly hated by many. If you want to know a bit more about the Savoy label check out the Wiki page link below. The A side is a great stroller called You Better Believe. The flip side carries the track I Need Your Love with both tracks listing Graham-Donn as writing credits. This single is far less sort after and quite attainable, and actually not a bad one at all to have.
The next release for “Gay Poppers”, was on the Fire label in 1960, (from New York under the parent label Fury), a label that was co founded by songwriter and producer Bobby Robinson. He was also a legendary Harlem record shop owner (Bobby’s Records And Tape Center and Bobby’s Happy House), and penned and produced numerous hit records from the 1950s up to the 1980. The BIG A side titled I Want To Know, is a dance floor monster. “Do you love me….Do you really care…I want to know… I want know… I want know now”. The opening lines are now an infamous introduction, and unless you have some kind of problematic hearing condition, this is when you drop everything and head quickly towards the dance floor, if you’re not already there. Truthfully, I wouldn’t play this out very often. This is a special one, and that would only come out for a very particular special occasion. I always believed the dance floor would need to earn this one. The flip side that is I’ve Got It, does not deserve to be ignored either, but it definitely is more suited for those gospel stomping lovers. Nathaniel Black gets writing credits for both these tracks along with Bobby Robinson as producer.
Gay Poppers final single release was again on the Fire label just a year later in 1961. The A side is a track called You Got Me Uptight written again by Bobby Robinson, but also alongside Fury Records owner Clarence L. Lewis, who is best known as co-writer of Lee Dorsey’s 1961 hit song Ya Ya. Uptight is a well paced and perhaps typical rhythm and blues track, but a pretty damn good one. However the moody B side Please Mr. Cupid, I find quite astonishing as it has that irresistible haunting mood and tempo I just die for! Nathaniel Black gets the credit for writing this beautiful piece.
You have to move quite a few years forward into the disco era actually, before any further Gay Poppers related recording is released, well at least as far as I can make out. There is a single solo release by Nathaniel Black called Keep On Steppin‘, released on NDR Records, a late-1970s era North Carolina record label, that only released another 2 singles with separate artists. With a track called Freak All night on the flip, this single, which I didn’t know about until now, seems to go for big money. I’m guessing the pressing had a very short run which would add to its desirability.
So yeah that’s it! That’s all I could really gather together regarding the Gay Poppers group, who is responsible for this killer R & B single. Always grateful for anything else! Some one out there must know something surely?
Columbia 3-41929 US 33RPM Released 1961
Track 1: Strange Man
I picked up this haunting love song a few years ago, but since, I haven’t really been able to find a lot about the singer or the release. Well, regardless of my inability, here’s a brief post hoping someone out there can shed some light on this relatively unknown singer.
So what 45Cat and Discogs are telling me, is that she did have 4 single releases from 1960 to 1963, all on Columbia. Her first single was an upbeat blues rocker called, Itty Bitty Love, flipped with the lovely slow and swaying So Little Time. Predominantly released in the US early in 1960, however 45Cat shows an odd distribution here in Australia later that same year, on the CBS Coronet label. It also actually looks like a panel sheet-sleeve came with a promotional record for this release, with a picture of the beautiful Hannah!
A 45Cat member who is fortunate enough to have a copy, also gratefully shares the back cover, and reads this about Dean…“Hannah Dean’s style is a mixture of rhythm and blues and rock n’ roll sung with the feeling and unbuttoned phrasing of a gospel singer”. Irving Townsend, Executive Producer for Columbia Records in Hollywood, sent this personal evaluation of Hannah Dean’s talent to Columbia’s producers in New York along with Hannah’s first record – “So Little Time” backed with “Itty Bitty Love.”
The response was rapid. They agreed down to the last man. Hannah’s unique vocal quality is understandable because she has been a gospel singer since she was two and still sings regularly in a Los Angeles Baptist Church where her mother serves as minister. Until two years ago she was a Los Angeles house wife, completely unaware that she could be an extraordinary popular singer.
She was heard at a church by a Los Angeles talent scout who suggested immediately that Hannah should consider a popular career. Hannah told him frankly that she had no formal training and only sang popular music to herself and a few friends. Nevertheless, she was bolstered by his confidence and agreed to make the demonstration record which soon after brought her a Columbia recording contract. Hannah’s Dean’s first record launches for her a career as promising as it was unanticipated.
I also came across a fellow blogger with similar record collecting habits, and found a link on their The Listening Post blog, that pointed me to this short review from The Billboard dated September 5, 1960. It reads… HANNAH DEAN is a new name on the scene via the release of her first Columbia Record, ‘So Little Time/Itty Bitty Love’. Until two months ago she was a Los Angeles housewife whose only singing outlet was the L.A Baptist church. She was heard at the church by a talent scout who encouraged her to make a demonstration record that found its way to Columbia Records and resulted in a contract. Irving Townsend, Executive producer for Columbia in Hollywood, describes Miss Dean’s style as a “mixture of rhythm and blues and rock’n’roll sung with the feeling and unbuttoned phrasing of a gospel singer.”
In 1962, Dean released Open Sesame / Without your Love. At this very time, I cannot find even a sound bite of this release. There are a couple of copies on ebay (not big money) but unfortunately not one seller supplies an audio sample. So I’m at a loss to tell you anything about this one.
Dean’s Gospel righteousness roots and vocal capabilities come out for her 1963 release You, You, You. The B side High Noon has everything I love about the beautiful popcorn genre, and now makes me want to get my hands on a copy.
So back to Strange Man. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this release is quite unknown, especially as it sits on one of the bigger labels. The production is absolute killer. It has all the ingredients, the devilish blues guitar work from intro to end, the flute, Dean’s deep soul lines as well as the backing vocals, all sitting in the exact right place. When I hear tracks like this, I am aware this is no lost recording accident. Everyone in that recording studio at that time knew what exactly was being produced. Imagine as a musician, coming home from the studio late at night and realising what you were just a part of. And being in the midst of this truly holy and graceful Hannah Dean! January 16, 1961 Billboard Music Weekly states “Strange Man – On this side the thrush turns in another attractive performance on an unusual piece of bluesy material. Two sides show off her strong pipes”.
On the flip is one of many many covers of (I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over, originally released in January 20, 1939, by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra, with Vocal Refrain by Bea Wain. I might go to hell for saying this, but Dean’s version is smoking hot. There’s something about her commitment that maybe can only come from that very deep part of the soul of a gospel singer. There are some beautiful versions of this song out there, from artists including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Nancy Wilson and my personal favourite from Aretha Franklin, and this Dean version sits up high along side these.
So where does this odd 33rpm 7″ release fit in? To be honest, I’m not sure as there’s no catalogue I could find online of this particular release. There is one small hint which is Columbia Marcas Reg. appears on the label, so possibly this is a Spanish release. But Marcas is also Portuguese, and as many Brazilian 7’s come with the 33rpm format, maybe this is it’s origin?
Should we be sad that so many of these unknown songs that surface today, are hidden in the past with no real leads to the artist and their faces? Or should we respect their gospel roots and maybe it was their decision that stardom and popularity wasn’t something as important to them. Tonight, with the lights dimmed down low, I can place the needle down gently, and be grateful that singers like Hannah Dean did gift us with at least a few beautiful songs we can hear and appreciate today. And be thankful, many years ago, these great ladies did have that fleeting time behind that microphone, that is here to stay, and forever.
I hope you can also hear the honest beauty of this track and Hannah Dean. She passed away on May 6, 2004 at the age of 71.
UPDATE! So thanks to my good friend Kristy, who knows how to really dig deep into the hidden corners of the internet, some light has been shed onto Hannah and her career path. It looks like Hannah pursued an acting career in theater and also had a good run in film and TV. Although looks like many TV roles were the type cast “maid” characters and similar. Thanks to DJ Soup for also recognising her as an actress.
Here’s some, but not all of her screen appearances and plots…
The Black Six Hannah Dean as Mrs. Daniels – 1973 “Six times tougher than Shaft! Six times rougher than Superfly! See the 6 biggest, baddest and best waste 150 motorcycle dudes!” A black high school student is caught dating a white girl by the girl’s brother. He and his white supremacist motorcycle gang beat the boy to death. The boy’s brother an African American veteran of the Vietnam War hears about it and his motorcycle gang, known as the Black Six, vow to avenge his brother’s death.
The World’s Greatest Lover 1977 Hannah Dean as The Maid Directed and written by Gene Wilder Starring Dom DeLuise as Adolph Zitz and Carol Kane as Annie Hickman. A neurotic baker travels to Hollywood to attend a talent search for an actor to rival the great Valentino. Although not an actor, through blind luck he succeeds, to a certain degree.
Every Girl Should Have One 1978 Hannah Dean as Ernestine. Also starring Zsa Zsa as Olivia Wayne, and Z-man himself, John Lazar as Chris. A million dollar diamond theft involving unlikely thieves, zany lovers and a fast talking maid sets this comedy caper zooming from sophisticated discos to exciting chase scenes all in a spirit of good, innocent fun.Mother, Jugs & Speed 1976 Looks like Hannah may be unaccredited in this American black comedy film? It stars Bill Cosby as Mother, Raquel Welch as Jugs, Harvey Keitel s Tony “Speed” Malatesta, and Larry Hagman as employees of an independent ambulance service trying to survive in Los Angeles. Also stars Toni Basil as the junkie.
Out Of The Blue 1979 12 Episodes Hannah Dean as Gladys (The house keeper) This one was a popular but brief TV show about Random, an angel-in-training who is assigned to live with a suburban Chicago family, while trying to earn his wings by doing good deeds. Hannah had a big part in this series.
This article was found on the Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) Sun, Sep 30, 1979.
Hannah Dean was born into music in her Native New Orleans. She was giving concerts in church at the age of 3 and literally sung her way through life. She completed a 6 month run of “The Evolution of the Blues” on stage just before the production start of “Out Of The Blue”.
After her sixth child and the Watts Riot inadvertently started her on her acting career. She had decided to cancel all singing dates until after h the birth but worked with young people in Watts teaching choral work. In 1965, following the riot, her Watts Community Youth Choir became affiliated with the Mafundi Institute…a culture center created in the devastated area. There she won a role in the stage production “Don’t Bother Me, I Can Cope”. This led to other theatrical productions that included Porgy and Bess with Mickey Rooney.
She began recording in the early 50’s with a gospel song “Every Day and Every Hour” with The Branch Gospel Singers. This was followed by “Baby My Love” on an obscure label and then she was signed by Columbia Records where she recorded “So Little Time” Without Your Love” and Itty Bitty Love (backed by The Blossoms). At this time, she meet songwriter Jon Hendrick, who had just written “The Evolution Of The Blues” Some of the numbers were sung by Mahalia Jackson at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Jackson cancelled her tour and Columbia’s Erwin Townsend Suggested Dean. She received a standing ovation which prompted Columbia to record “Evolution” with Dean singing the gospel songs. Dean went on to sing “Evolution” at the Newport Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall and on a Canadian tour.
The Jon Hendricks LP release of Evolution Of The Blues Song from 1960 was released on Columbia and credited with The Hannah Dean & Chorus. Hendricks is one of the originators of vocalese, which adds lyrics to existing instrumental songs and replaces many instruments with vocalists, and is considered one of the best practitioners of scat singing. A very interesting article discovered here, on the live performance of Evolution Of The Blues, with a brief interview from Hendricks and Dean.
Also found this but not too sure what release it is attached too? “Hannah Dean Explains it All”
Link to Getty image of Hannah Dean publicity portrait for Columbia Records in 1963.
Track 1 – Number 9 Train
Track 2 – Wildcat Tamer
Alden Bunn, aka Allen Bunn, Tarheel Slim, was born in the country side outside of Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1924, and grew up working in the tobacco fields and listening to his mom’s Blind Boy Fuller 78’s. Eventually he learned to play guitar, and by around 20, was singing and playing in church right by Thurman Ruth, the leader of a local gospel quartet called the Selah Jubilee Singers. But before we ride on the Number 9 Train, there was quite a journey that “Slim” lead, with other groups and ventures, that we should know about.
THE JUBILATORS – THE LARKS
The story of The Larks begins sometime around 1927, when singer Thermon Ruth founded the Selah Jubilee Singers in Brooklyn, New York. Later in the 40’s, The Selah’s based themselves in North Carolina where they had a radio show…a daily program of jubilee music that aired over WPTF in Raleigh. In 1945, Ruth tried to persuade Eugene Mumford (from The Four Interns) to join the Selah Jubilee Singers, but before he could do so, Mumford was falsely charged and convicted with quite an ugly crime (1*). His incarceration would put his life on an unpleasant hold.
Allen Bunn who had joined The Southern Harmonaires in 1945, soon joined Thermon Ruth in the Selah Jubilee Singers as the group’s guitarist and second lead singer. The group recorded for Decca from 1939 to ’44, with their most well remembered recording I Want Jesus To Walk Around. Three years later, Ruth and Bunn decided to break away to form a new group, The Jubilators. They linked up with Mumford, now released from prison, and with three members of The Southern Harmonaires, David McNeil, Hadie Rowe Jr., and Raymond “Pee Wee” Barnes.
Thermon hired two teachers to get them into shape according to his standards, and for a few months they were taught how to sing together and also got a few lessons on stage presence. The Jubilators then competed against other gospel and jubilee groups in the state, even winning a 50 pound cake in a contest with the Selah Jubilee Singers!
Finally, the Jubilators decided it was time to get on record. So all six of them piled into Bunn’s car and drove up to New York. They stayed with some of Ruth’s relatives on 143rd Street in Harlem and for about a week they rehearsed constantly. Then, on October 5, 1950, they were ready, and they set out for what was possibly the most amazing day of recording in history. In one single day, they recorded 17 songs for four different labels, under four different names (2*). Apollo owner Bess Berman recognised the realm of possibilities, and signed them to a contract which allowed the other companies to release the other recordings, but wanted to promote them as an expansive R&B group rather than a gospel group. So the Jubilators faded into history (at least for several years), and “The Five Larks” emerged (even though there were still six of them). Thermon Ruth deliberately selected the name to fit in with the Ravens and Orioles, as a “bird group.”
The Larks were then booked on their first tour, and drove down to Washington, D.C., when they lost Hadie Rowe to the army (after receiving his draft notice, he was no longer able to continue on with the group…this probably is the reason why the “5” was dropped from the group’s name). In December 1950, they had their first session for Apollo, featuring Mumford on lead vocals. The session produced two masters, Coffee, Cigarettes And Tears and a cover of My Heart Cries For You (3*), but in the end, the recording didn’t even hint at the greatness inherent in the group. But on January 18, 1951, they returned to the studios to cut a couple of new tracks, which would prove far more successful and are really now Larks “classics”. With Gene on the lead once again, they laid down It’s Breaking My Heart (a pretty ballad that Apollo chose never to issue), When I Leave These Prison Walls, and Hopefully Yours. The latter two songs had been written by Gene when he was in jail and show a certain hope for the future.
On February 14, 1951, they got national exposure by singing Lucy Brown on the Perry Como TV show, a Norfolk Jazz Quartet original, which was recorded in 1938 and known as Suntan Baby Brown. Their take is a much more upbeat snappier version, and it’s dynamite! While Thermon would sing lead on the recorded version, it’s Gene out in front on the Como show. Please I beg you, look it up on you tube…Allen Bunn plays the guitar, but rarely opens his mouth to sing. If you’re into 78’s, try and get Lucy Brown as it has the great I Ain’t Fattening Frogs For Snakes on the flip.
Finally chart success would come later in 1951, with the bluesy Eyesight To The Blind, with Bunn on lead vocals and guitar… it made # 5 on the R&B charts. This was followed up by another R&B top ten hit Little Side Car, a reworking of Smokey Hogg’s Too Many Drivers, and again with Bunn on lead vocals. This is one sweet 45 and has the drifting Hey, Little Girl on the flip.
Another standout track that has to be mentioned is Shadrack written by Robert MacGimsey in 1938. While Louis Prima, Louis Armstrong and even The Wanderers all do amazing versions of this biblical classic, The Lark’s jiving version is so super! Again live footage out there with Allen Bunn singing lead! This period was the height of The Larks’ popularity, however, Bunn decided this was also the right time to go out own his own.
Going Solo – His first solo sessions were for Apollo in ’51 where he recorded two sessions that produced four singles, and were issued under the name Allen Bunn (accompanied by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee). Amongst the recordings were The Guy With The .45, Wine, Discouraged, Baby I´m Going to Throw You Out and the very down and dirty Two Time Loser. He was still touring with The Larks when he cut his first session for Bobby Robinson Red Robin label. One of these tracks is the amazing Too Much Competition (reissued in ’73), which stands mighty and tall, and you could call it the big brother to Betty James’ I’m a Little Mixed Up (it really makes me wonder sometimes, if that is in fact Bunn on that killer Betty James track).
The Lovers – Around 1955, Bunn married his sweetheart Lee Sanford, who were intertwined with deep love and affection for one another, but they also shared a strong musical chemistry. “Little Ann” and Bunn sang and recorded together, first as The Lovers, for Lamp, Aladdin’s subsidiary in 1957. Together the tight partnership would go on to release a string of 45’s for other labels including Fire, Fury and Port. They’d also have name variations on some releases, and while Bunn was now pretty much going by the name “Tarheel Slim”, his writing credits were mainly represented as Bunn. The earlier Lovers tracks were slow dancers and appropriately very cutesy love songs. Once they ditched the “Lovers” tag, I feel it was then, that they got a bit more “down with it” so to speak. Can’t Stay Away and the charming dancer Security, proved they both could let their hair down some and get a bit shakey. The heart wrenching 1959 It’s Too Late, is a stunning blues ballad with a broken hearted poor little Ann weeping hysterically… literally (this song would get a reworking as Two Time Loser a few years later, only this time it’s Slim who breaks down). I Submit To You is also high on recommendation.
Bunn also released a couple of 45’s with a group called The Wheels whom he evidently managed. Let’s Have A Ball was on Premium in 1956 and the upbeat Clap Your Hands was released on Folly in 1959.
Tarheel Slim – So now to the real reason why we’re here reading all this. While “Slim” made his official entrance in 1958 with his wife Little Ann, it was the next year when he would release his solo and most desired red hot screamin’ 45 on Fury. The A side Wildcat Tamer is a perfect rhythm and blues dancer. Nice and raw and perfectly tempo-ed. But despite the track name, it’s more of a tempting entree of what’s to come steaming your way when you journey to the flipside. And the monster that awaits is named Number 9 Train. Tarheel’s vocals and rhythm here is sharp and classic blues rocker material. But there’s another element going on here underneath, that’s adding even more to the fire, and the name of that wild spark is Wild Jimmy Spruill. Although session guitarist Spruill is best known as a sideman (4*), he was a wild and sought after guitar player. His sound was unconventional, notable for its hard attack and sense of freedom, unexpectedly going from assertive lead parts to rhythmically dynamic, scratching rhythms. At no time did Spruill use picks or any effects on his guitar – his sound was solely the result of his fingers. You can hear more of his impeccable finger work on his solo recordings, notably Hard Grind from ’59, The Rooster and Cut and Dried from ’64 and I believe he also played on Tarheel Slim’s Security. Together these two cats mix up a storm, and make both sides of this 45 hard to pass. Train really does come to life when it’s up loud on a worthy amplifier…and preferably with a dance floor close by!
Unfortunately Taheel Slim and Little Ann’s career seemed to fade away around the early 60’s and nothing was heard from them until the early 70’s when blues researcher Peter Lowery dug up Tarheel Slim to play a few gigs where he performed with an acoustic guitar in the style of “folk blues”. Slim played a few festivals in 1974 and was well received, and even got back into the studio and would release a couple albums for Pete Lowry’s Trix label, which harked back to Bunn’s Carolina blues heritage. The 1972 single release No Time At All is a beautiful melon collie finger picking instrumental which I believe was his last 45. These later sessions would prove his last. In 1977 he was diagnosed with throat cancer and died from pneumonia brought on by the chemotherapy.
(1*) On July 1945, Mumford had been arrested and jailed by the army Military Police who were rousting people looking for marijuana. They turned him over to civilian authorities, whom he satisfied of his innocence. But just as he was leaving police headquarters, a white woman pointed him out as a recogniseable criminal. Subsequently re-arrested, he was charged with attempted rape, housebreaking, and assault. The case took a year to come to trial and, in spite of an alibi, he was found guilty, a conviction that was upheld in the subsequent appeal. Sent to prison, Mumford spent two and a half years on a prison work gang. Finally, enough evidence came to light that he was granted a full pardon from the governor of North Carolina. (This was treated as a miracle; a black man in the 1940s South being pardoned after having been accused by a white woman.) On June 1949, after having served 29 months in jail, Gene Mumford was a free man. For a more detailed account of his sentence, click onto Marv Goldberg’s in-depth Larks entry below.
(2*) Initially, billing themselves as the Selah Jubilee Singers, they recorded four gospel songs for Jubilee Records, before moving on to record as The Jubilators for Regal Records in New Jersey. Then they drove to Newark, recording four secular blues songs, including Lemon Squeezer, as The 4 Barons for Savoy Records. Finally, they drove back to Apollo Records in Manhattan, where, as The Southern Harmonaires, they recorded four more gospel tracks. For a more detailed account of this day, click onto Marv Goldberg’s in-depth Larks entry below.
(3*) My Heart Cries For You was a hit for Guy Mitchell, Dinah Shore and Vic Damone.
(4*) Other notable Wild Jimmy Spruill moments are The Happy Organ by Dave “Baby” Cortez, Wilbert Harrison’s Kansas City, and Bobby Lewis’s no.1 hit Tossin’ and Turnin, which by the way, Peter Criss from KISS covered on his solo album! Also check out Dale Hawkins version of Number 9 Train!
Referencing and recommendations…
The Larks photo from top left clockwise…Allen Bunn, Gene Mumford, Raymond Barnes, Thermon Ruth and David McNeil
Track 1 – My Babe Written By – Willie Dixon
Track 2 – I Got To Go written by Marion Walter Jacobs
Track 3 – Roller Coaster Written By – E. McDaniels
Marion Walter Jacobs was born in Marksville, Louisiana, on May 1, 1930 and picked up the Harmonica at a very early age.
By the age of 12, the “unruly” but vastly talented youth decided to quit school and head for the Chicago, to become an itinerant street musician. On his travels, he would stop for the bright lights of New Orleans where he would pick up on odd jobs and busking. He would proceed to Memphis Tennessee, and then over to Helena Alabama, and also Arkansas and St. Louis Missouri, and then finally grounding down into the Windy City in around 1946. The thriving Maxwell Street strip clubs offered a spot for the still-teenaged phenom to hawk his wares, where he played with Tampa Red, Bill Broonzy, and Memphis Slim.
During this time, he also honed his musical skills on guitar performing with much older bluesmen such as Sonny Boy Williamson II, Sunnyland Slim, and Honeyboy Edwards, but garnered more attention for his already highly developed harmonica work.
Ora-Nelle. Little Walter would have been around 17 when made his first debut recording for Bernard Abrams’ tiny Ora-Nelle label in 1947. The label was set up out of the back room of Abrams’ Maxwell Radio and Records store and only operated for a year or two. In that time the label only managed two releases, although 10 sides of alternate takes and unreleased material have since been discovered. Ora Nelle was named after a female relative, and the release series began at 711, not for numerological reasons, but on account of the winning combinations when shooting dice.
Ora Nelle was the first label to record Little Walter, although according to fellow Chicago bluesman Floyd Jones, who suggests Walter’s first recording was an unreleased demo recorded soon after he arrived in Chicago on which Walter played guitar backing Jones. Ora Nelle was the only label to record guitarist Othum Brown, and the second to record guitarist Jimmy Rogers. On the debut 771A side we have the hard and heavy Ora-Nelle Blues, with Othum Brown accompanying Walter’s harp skills. Lovely stuff! And on the 711b flip, there’s the much faster foot stomping tune called I Just Keep Loving Her. Incredible! Still trying to confirm whether Othum or Walter sang on these tracks.
Note that the label never had distribution; Ora Nelles were sold out of the store, where copies were still in stock 20 years later, or resold by people who had bought them there. Good luck finding this original 78!
Little Walter joined Muddy Waters’ band in 1948, and by 1950, he was playing acoustic (unamplified) harmonica on Muddy’s recordings for Chess Records. In October of that year, they recorded the Waters classic Louisiana Blues. Nearly a year after Little Walter used an amplified harmonica for the first time on a groundbreaking July 1951 session that yielded She Moves Me.
Little Walter reportedly grew frustrated with having his harmonica drowned out by the electric guitars, but would soon find a way to attack that problem. He adopted a simple yet effective method…he cupped a small microphone in his hands along with his harmonica, and plugged the microphone into a public address system or guitar amplifier. And now he could compete with any guitarist’s volume. There were other contemporary blues harp players such as Sonny Boy Williamson I and Snooky Pryor, who had also begun using the newly available amplifier technology for added volume, however Walter purposely pushed his amplifiers beyond their intended technical limitations, using the amplification to explore and develop radical new timbres and sonic effects previously unheard from a harmonica, or any other instrument. Madison Deniro wrote a small biographical piece on Little Walter stating that “He was the first musician of any kind to purposely use electronic distortion.”
Waters was among the earliest to recognize that blues possessed a formidable power when electrified, and along with Jimmy Rogers on electric guitar, Muddy had himself the hottest blues band in Chicago.
Little Walter And His Jukes – Walter had put his career as a bandleader on hold when he joined Muddy’s band, but stepped back out front once and for all when he recorded as a bandleader for Chess’s subsidiary label Checker Records on 12 May 1952. The first completed take of the first song attempted at his debut session became his first release. The cracking instrumental was called Juke (the retitled Your Cat Will Play), and it was the first real success for him. Deservedly, it topped the R&B charts for eight weeks, and is still the only harmonica instrumental ever to be a number-one hit on the charts, securing Walter’s position on the Chess artist roster for the next decade.
Walter’s now had a pretty impressive band to himself, recruiting a young backing band that was already working steadily in Chicago backing Junior Wells, The Aces. They consisted of brothers David Myers and Louis Myers on guitars, and drummer Fred Below, and were re-christened “The Jukes” on most of the Little Walter records on which they appeared. Their first recordings were for the Checker subsidiary of Chess in 1952.
Some great stomping 45’s were to follow in the next couple of years including Crazy Legs which was released in ’53, Rocker from ’54, and Hate To See You Go, released in ’55. But for this post I’ve decided to showcase this fab Little Walter And His Jukes EP for a couple reasons! Firstly, that packaging! The art is eye popping and graphic, and the label itself with the gold text on the deep red, is just class in it’s purist form. Secondly, here’s a few of what I think are Little Walters’ best tracks, all one the one 7″!
My Babe, which was written by Willie Dixon, who also wrote (Little Red Rooster and I Just Want to Make Love to You), was originally released in 1955 on Checker Records. This composition was based on the traditional gospel song This Train (Is Bound For Glory), a hit when recorded by recorded by Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1939. Dixon reworked the arrangement and lyrics from the sacred (the procession of saints into Heaven) into the secular (a story about a woman that won’t stand for her cheating man). The song was the only Dixon composition ever to become a #1 R&B single. (Note that Ray Charles had famously, and controversially, pioneered the gospel-song-to-secular-song approach also, and just prior to Walter’s release, with his reworking of the gospel hymn It Must Be Jesus into I Got A Woman,which hit #1 on the Billboard R&B).
Backing Little Walter’s vocals and harmonica were Robert Lockwood and Leon Caston on guitars, Willie Dixon on double bass and Fred Below on drums. Guitarist Luther Tucker, then a member of Walter’s band, was absent from the recording session that day. My Babe was re-issued in 1961 with an overdubbed female vocal backing chorus and briefly crossed over to the pop charts. Ricky Nelson would release a far more pop version in 1958, while Dale Hawkins released a pretty fiery rockabilly version that same year.
I Got To Go is an up-tempo rocker reminiscent of his earlier 1953 Tell Me Mama…and this really is a rocker in it’s full glory. His playing of minor key scales over the major chord guitar backing adds, to a tension and energy to the piece as does his slightly fuzzed out vocal! Wild blues!
Roller Coaster, I have to say, is one of my favourite Walter tracks, and it’s the tasty icing on this sort after EP! His take on Diddley’s groover is quite sneaky, before it takes off with electrifying force. One glorious minor chord arpeggio throughout, nice and low and slithering, and it’s not long before Walter’s expressive tones really start to howl up a nice, maybe even gentle storm. With Diddley himself providing some rattling fretwork alongside the snappy kick and snare, it is just nothing but a blues dance floor masterpiece!
Thunderbird, the fourth track on this Ep, shouldn’t be ignored either, with it’s strong hustling locomotive rhythm. A more mild tempo possibly, but that does not deter Little Walter for a moment, as he burns up his harmonica skills quite feverishly and cleverly. Originally flipped to the 10″ My Babe, I’m almost certain this is the only 45 it was released on. Even another reason why you must seek this 7″ down!
Between 1952 and 1958, Little Walter on his own, charted 14 Top Ten R&B hits for the Chess label’s Checker subsidiary, including two number one hits, a level of commercial success never achieved by his former boss Waters, nor by his fellow Chess blues artists Howlin’ Wolf & Sonny Boy Williamson II. In the first part of the sixties he traveled to England winning over a new audience of white blues fans, and in 1964 he toured with the Rolling Stones (although this seems to have recently been refuted by Keith Richards). But Walter’s once phenomenal instrumental skills also diminished during the 1960s, plagued by alcohol abuse, a quick temper, and the bluesman’s penchant for barroom brawls. He did have a mean streak, and would never back down from a fight…and it was this belligerent attitude which lead to his death, after suffering head injuries from a street brawl. On Feb 1968, in Chicago, he sadly passed away at only 38 years old, a victim of his own indulgence.
Of all the great bluesmans who were part of Chicago blues school, he is the only one that has never been imitated. He’s solos were carefully constructed masterpieces of energy that were never self indulgent. With his precision and control he was able to regulate the length power and sharpness of every note he played with furious yet calculated speed. His influence remains inescapable to this day, and it’s unlikely that a blues harpist exists on the face of this earth who doesn’t worship Marion “Little Walter” Jacobs. He was a skilled guitarist, and hell of a singer and songwriter, and is widely considered the greatest blues harmonica player ever. From the outset, he was a true original, a visionary musician and his influence goes beyond harmonica players.
Little Walter was inducted to the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 in the “sideman” category, making him the first and only artist ever inducted specifically as a harmonica player. His grave remained unmarked until 1991, when fans Scott Dirks and Eomot Rasun respectfully had a marker designed and installed.
photo credits: Don Bronstein, Jim O’Neal
Ora Nelle reord is from the collection of George Paulus
Essential reading by George Paulus & Robert L. Campbell
Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century By David Dicaire
Footage of Little Walter backing the great Hound Dog Taylor and Koko Taylor on a television program in Copenhagen, Denmark on 11 October 1967 was released on DVD in 2004 (performing Wang Dang Doodle). Further video of another recently discovered TV appearance in Germany during this same tour, showing Little Walter performing his songs My Babe, Mean Old World, and others were released on DVD in Europe in January 2009, and is the only known footage of Little Walter singing. Try and find it…sometimes some clips appear on you tube for brief moments. Amazing!
Caprice 120 US Year 1963
Born Alonzo W. Lucas, 16 August 1914, Pritchard, Alabama, Buddy moved to Stamford, Connecticut, at the age of three. In years to come, a good neighbour noticed the young 11 year old’s interest in music and gave him a clarinet. This kind act must have been the true begins of where it all really started for Buddy! In the late 1940s he went to New York City, where he met drummer Herman Bradley, who helped him get his gigs and record dates.
But it wasn’t until ’51, when Lucas would make his first vocal recording on Soppin’ Molasses, for Jerry Blaine’s Jubilee label. Jubilee specialized in rhythm and blues and was the first independent record label to reach the white market with a black vocal group, when The Orioles recording of Crying in the Chapel reached the Top Twenty on the Pop charts in 1953. Lucas became leader of the house band and renamed his combo “The Band Of Tomorrow”. Scoring a #2 hit on the R&B charts in 1952 with the slow revived Diane, may have given the saxophonist some attention, but the flip Undecided is far more foot tapping and exciting! This set the pattern for most of his following Jubilee singles : a lush ballad on the A-side and an R&B sax led instrumental on the flip.
Lucas had one other hit on Jubilee, Heavenly Father (I Love You is the much preferred flip), sung by Edna McGriff (# 4 R&B in 1952), before moving on to RCA and its subsidiary Groove. Releasing a handful of 45’s, including the raw Greedy Pig, my pick of this bunch would have to be the Groove two sider My Pinch Hitter (along side Almeta Stewart, who I honestly have to say, I do not know enough about) and of course the great flip I Got Drunk! The title alone tells you that this here track was always going to be good! Also No Dice (flip to High Low Jack), should NOT be ignored, as Buddy really gets the opportunity to have some sexy fun with his sax and harmonica skills here!
From ’56 to ’57, Buddy had seven 45’s released on Bell Records, a budget label specializing in covers of the big hits of the day, including Hound Dog….okay stuff. BUT also in ’57, he comes out with the hammering Bo-Lee, on the Luniverse Records label. Established in 1956 by struggling songwriters Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodma, but ceasing production in 1959, this label, with a few exceptions, were nearly all Buchanan-Goodman titles. As much as I admire Budy’s instrumentals, I think his vocal releases are just the bomb, as is the case with Bo-Lee!
in 1958, he became the nucleus of the Gone All Stars, George Goldner’s session band for his Gone Label. Fun stuff, but no real earth shaking releases, well especially compared to the previous Luniverse monster.
Carlton released Beulah in ’59…fantastic stuff, but incredibly similar, if slightly more bizarre, to Bo-lee!
Many more releases were to come in the next few years from Lucas on various labels including Vim, Tru-Sound and Pioneer (I recommend Get Away Fly on the latter label), but let’s move to 1963 and this mind blowing Caprice release!
At just age 28, Gerry Granahan became the youngest record executive in the music biz to that time, when he formed his own company, Caprice Records. He was a former disc jockey at WPTS in Pittston and in 1957, he was the first white artist on the Atlantic’s subsidiary label, Atco. He had a lot of success with numerous solo and group projects (including as pseudonym Dicky Doo and the Don’ts and group The Fireflies), but in 1960, he found being a performer, composer and producer for all his different acts, was too much to handle and realized his future success would come from sitting on the other side of the desk. Granahan had used Buddy’s talents on some of his own previous recordings, so it’s no surprise he brought him over to his new label. I can’t really find out much about the Gerry Granahan Orchestra that accompanies Buddy’s composition. While the label did have some major successes (and why this track wasn’t one of those I’ll never understand…although I have to suspect poor marketing perhaps?), the label folded in ’63 due to some dodgy “off the books sales” from a business partner.
I Can’t Go is an absolute Big Buddy gem! He writes about finding love and fame, and not holding onto to either tight enough. It’s blues…I guess…but so contradictorily upbeat! The cheeky keyboards, the wriggling bass and the outstanding dry production are all perfectly synced. Sometimes I really struggle to understand how music can be this great! And I’d love to find out who is responsible for the fabulous backing vocals…perhaps again former Granahan collaborators?
After researching this great musician, it seems evident that Buddy is much more known and credited for his prolific tenor sax and harmonica contributions, than as the cool cat vocalist that he certainly was. And he did put down some mean grooves with plenty of talent. In the 50’s he worked with Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers on Why Do Fools Fall In Love, and also with Little Willie John on his remarkable Fever take! He would work with blues and soul queens Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thornton, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack and Nina Simone! He would also get wild with Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Yusef Lateef, Jimmy Smith and Count Basie. It’s obvious that here was a man with incredible talent to share, and I’m sure many friendships were made in his lifetime. And while his recording credits can be all laid out to a point without too much unraveling, it kinda saddens me that I can’t seem to find out much more about the man himself, behind those great notes, with such an important historic relevance to soul and blues. There must be interviews out there somewhere with either himself or collaborators. Even some photos?!
Buddy would continue to work with countless more musicians including Hendricks and George Benson, offering his harp and sax skills. In 1980, Buddy had his right lung removed after cancer was discovered, but continued to play alongside his old friend Herman Bradley, that he meet back in the ’40’s. In December 1982, due to ill-health, he finally had to give up doing what he loved most. He passed away on March 18th, 1983.
Referencing Dik from Black Cat Rockabilly
Also great Buddy discography here at Hallelujah Rock ‘n’ Roll
…and here at WangDangDula
And some definitive reading on Caprice Executive Gerry Granahan
Okeh 4-7147 US Year 1962 Marie Roach was born June 1, 1925, in Sanford, Florida, and grew up in Newark. At the sweet little age of 5, she impressed the congregation at her parents church by singing the gospel song Doing All the Good We Can, and of course later became a soloist in her church’s youth choir.
In 1939, the young lady first toured with Evangelist Frances Robinson, touring the national gospel circuit (she married preacher Albert Knight in ’41 but divorced later).
In 1946, she made her first recordings as a member of The Sunset Four (aka Sunset Jubilee Singers) for Signature and Haven (these labels would merge, but became defunct at the end of 1960 after being purchased earlier in the year by Roulette Records), and released a mighty fine handful of spiritual releases.
The now legendary guitar playing Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who was a major recording artist on the Decca Records label, and who many would say, brought gospel music to a broad audience, first heard Knight sing at a Mahalia Jackson concert in New York in 1946. Tharpe recognized “something special” in Marie’s contralto voice, and two weeks later, she showed up at Knight’s house in Newark, N.J., to invite her to go on the road with her.
Tharpe and Knight toured through the late ’40s, appearing in clubs, arenas, churches and auditoriums, sometimes acting out the parts of “the Saint and the Sinner”, with Tharpe as the saint and Knight as the sinner.
Together they had plenty of successes, including Up Above My Head, credited jointly to both singers, and reached # 6 on the US R&B at the end of 1948. The great Didn’t It Rain also did well and Knight’s solo version of Gospel Train reached # 9 on the R&B chart in 1949.
Knight left Tharpe to go solo around 1951, and released further more gospel recordings on Decca. But around April 1954, Marie Knight makes a change as she records straight ahead R & B songs I Know Every Move You Make and You Got A Way Of Making Love. These Rhythm & Blues tunes may have turned away a great many of Knight’s gospel fans, but she continues this move with a release during July of This Old Soul Of Mine and I Tell It Wherever I Go, and a November release of Trouble In Mind and What More Can I Do.
Both Knight and Tharpe’s friendship has stayed very strong and close, and in ’55, they get back into the recording studio together and release Stand and Storm on Decca, and together they score a two week stand at Chicago’s Black Orchid. In October, Knight lands a part of the lineup of the “Lucky Seven Blues Tour” along with Earl King, Little Willie John and other greats! Soon after the tour is over, she signs on for another all star touring show called the Rock ‘n’ Roll Jubilee which kicks off at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium and again features star players including B.B. King, the classy Shirley Gunter, and sax cat Hal Singer.
In the spring of ’56, Knight follows her close friend Tharpe, from Decca to Mercury Records. While a couple more gospel releases sprouted once again, Knight decides to release another R&B beauty Grasshopper Baby (flip to Look At Me). In march of 1957 Mercury brings out the doo-wopping Am I Reaching For The Moon? and I’m The Little Fooler. In ’59, Knight and Tharpe record together again, and release Shadrack on Decca, which has to be one of my top picks from their almighty strong partnership!
1961 saw the release of the Knight bomb To Be Loved By You on Addit…you need to hear this if you don’t know it…amazing! That same year she recorded Come Tomorrow, released on Okeh, a tune which became much more famous after it was covered four years later by British rockers Manfred Mann.
And in ’62, she hits us with this…Come On Baby (hold my hand), again on the Okeh label. Quite slinky for Miss Knight, and you can’t help but feel this kinda tune has been waiting to burst out from her for some time. Another heart felt sound about love, but much more personal here than say spiritual. Not a lot can be found about this Roy Glover arranged session, and why this track is very rarely mentioned when reading up on Knight is a mystery to me, but it is well respected in the R&B community and on many collector’s want list for good reason.
Knight recorded and released a bunch more 45’s with various labels up til about 65, then slowly faded away from the scene. Her ripping version of Cry Me a River reached # 35 on the U.S. Billboard R&B charts in ’65, and was a powerful stamp to close an important chapter.
Knight remained friends with Tharpe, and helped arrange her funeral in 1973. In 1975, having given up performing secular music, she recorded another gospel album, Marie Knight: Today.
In 2002, Knight made a comeback in the gospel world, recording for a tribute album to Tharpe. She also released a full-length album, Let Us Get Together, on her manager’s label in 2007. She died in Harlem of complications from Pneumonia on August 30, 2009, but her legacy will live on…no doubt about it!