CLA Radio 08/08/14: West Coast 40s and 50s Blues and R&B (Updated)

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The next ConservativeLA Radio show (on Duane FM in the Hughniverse, Friday night, 08/08/14, 7:00 Pacific/10:00 Eastern) will be the best edition of the show yet, guaranteed.

Guest programmer Matthew Berg, AKA @wnyconservative, has gifted us all with a wonderful overview of West Coast Blues, to invoke a short-form description of the genre–and one that doesn’t really do it justice.

As Matthew put it:

I think the over-arching theme is of Los Angeles as a key epicenter of urban blues, and of the development of R&B and rock. There are a number of clear influences in the music–the adaption of swing to smaller, tighter arrangements; the incorporation of jazz influence (especially w/ the bass lines and afro-cuban strains); and the heavy Texas influence, including both boogie woogie piano and the heavier guitar-driven blues.

Very well said.

Perhaps the most amazing part of the West Coast Sound–aside from the glorious music, of course– is that it was overwhelmingly driven by musicians who were born elsewhere–as is amply demonstrated by the song selections. A truly magical genre of American music.

Hope you can stop by, listen to the show, and join us in chat!

Oh, and the show will be followed by a repeat of my Mystery DJ show, rather than by the usual musical response by Generalissimo.

Spoiler set list:

Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers: Driftin’ Blues
Floyd Dixon: Hey Bartender
Ivory Joe Hunter: Yes I Want You
The Robins w/Johnny Otis Orchestra: Turkey Hop
Duke Henderson w/ Shifty Henry’s All Stars: Don’t Slam the Door
Helen Humes: They Raided the Joint
Roy Hawkins: The Thrill Is Gone
Cecil Gant: Another Day – Another Dollar
T-Bone Walker: Mean Old World
Lightnin’ Hopkins: Play With Your Poodle
Guitar Shorty: Pumpkin Pie
Johnny “Guitar” Watson: Three Hours Past Midnight
Pee Wee Crayton: Blues After Hours
Percy Mayfield: The River’s Invitation
Jimmy Nolen: The Way You Do
King Perry & His Pied Pipers: Natural Born Lover
Little Willie Littlefield: Drinkin’ Hadacol
Jimmy Witherspoon: Drinkin’ Beer
Amos Milburn: One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
Peppermint Harris: I Got Loaded
Wynonie Harris: All She Wants to Do Is Rock
Big Joe Turner: Around the Clock
Lowell Fulson: Blue Shadows
Lloyd Glenn: Chica Boo
Joe Liggins: The Honeydripper
Jimmy Liggins: I Ain’t Drunk
Nellie Lutcher: Fine Brown Frame
Joe Lutcher and his Society Cats: Rockin’ Boogie
Roy Milton: Milton’s Boogie
Camille Howard: Losing Your Mind
Calvin Boze: Safronia B
Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five: Saturday Night Fish Fry
Jimmy McCracklin and His Blues Blasters: Beer Tavern Girl
Lafayette Thomas: The Thing
Saunders King and His Rhythm: Swingin’
Gladys Bentley: Before Midnight

Banner photo is of Lowell Fulson from a promotional glossy.

Matthew’s show notes:

Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers: Driftin’ Blues
Artist Notes
Founding members were Johnny Moore, Charles Brown and Eddie Williams
Continued with a succession of vocalists after Brown left the group in 1948, including Billy Valnetine, Mari Jones, Floyd Dixon and Frankie Ervin
Recorded at many of the burgeoning labels, including Philo, Aladdin, Exclusive and Modern
Song Notes
Performed by Brown, w/ Johnny Moore on guitar, Eddie Williams on Bass and Johnny Otis on drums
Spent 23 weeks on the R&B charts peaking at #2

Floyd Dixon: Hey Bartender
Artist Notes
Moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1942
Replaced his influence Charles Brown in the band Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers in 1950 when Brown departed for a solo career
Originally recorded with Modern, then Aladdin with the Blazers, then Specialty Records in 1952 and the Atlantic subsidiary Cat in 1954
Recipient of a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues foundation in 1993
Song Notes
Original written and performed by Floyd Dixon in 1954
First popularized by Laurel Aitken in 1964, then the Blues Brothers in 1978 and probably most famously by Johnny Lee in 1983 (#2 on the Coutnry Singles chart)

Ivory Joe Hunter: Yes I Want You
Artist Notes
Billed “The Baron of Boogie” and “The Happiest Man Alive”
Ivory Joe Hunter is his actual given name
Made his first recording (Stagolee) in 1933 for Alan Lomax
Had a radio show in Texas on KFDM
Joined Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers in the mid-1940s
Song Notes
Last single for Atlantic
Last hit on the R&B charts (peak #13)
Cross-over to the pop charts (peak #94)

Johnny Otis Orchestra (w/ the Robins): Turkey Hop, pt. 1
Artist Notes
Born Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes to Greek immigrant parents
Discovered numerous other artists like Etta James, Little Willie John and Big Mama Thorton
“As a kid I decided that if our society dictated that one had to be back or white, I would be black.”
Opened a night club in the Watts district w/ Bardu Ali called the Barrelhouse Club
Song Notes
Recorded in 1950, after the Robins (origionally the A-Sharp Trio) relocated from San Fransisco to the Watts district
Released as the Johnny Otis Orchestra w/ the Robins getting a vocals credit on the A side
Released in two parts, B side is instrumental
One of several songs the Robins recording with the Johnny Otis Orchestra

Duke Henderson w/ Shifty Henry’s All Stars: Don’t Slam the Door
Artist Notes
Originally recorded an unsuccessful run in New York for the Apollo label
Bounced between labels for the rest of his careeer – Globe, Down Beat, Swing Time, Specialty, Modern, Imperial and finally Flair
Gave up recording to become a Gospel DJ and preacher
Eventually co-founded Proverb Records and its Gospel Corner subsidiary
Song Notes
Historically unnotable
Features Wild Bill Moore on tenor sax, Wilbert Baranco on piano, and Shifty Henry on bass

Helen Humes: They Raided the Joint
Artist Notes
Started her recording career at the age of 14, recording for Okeh Records
Spent a number of years singing at Spider Web, a local cabaret club in Buffalo, NY in a group led by Al Sears
Moved to New York City and became a vocalist for Henry James band through John Hammond
Next joined the Count Basie Orchestra for a three year run
Spent the post war years on the west coast, recording for several labels, scoring several movies and appearing in a Dizzy Gilsepie film, “Jivin’ In The Be-Bop”
Spent a number of years touring Europe (including appeares in the first American Folk Blues Festival)
After returning in America to take care of her mother, relaunched a successful career in the United States, performing in various jazz festivals and releasing a final album on the Muse label
Song Notes
Backed by Buck Clayton’s Orchestra
Another one w/ relatively little fanfare in its day

Roy Hawkins: The Thrill Is Gone
Artist Notes
Early career was relatively undistinguished, with releases on Cavatone and Downtown failing to chart
Had his first big success w/ “Why Do Everything Happen to Me?”, inspired by an auto accident that left his right arm paralyzed
Left the music business after subsequent singles released on several labels (Modern, RPM, Rhythm, Kent) spending his later years working in a furniture store
Song Notes
An adaption of a broadway number from Lew Brown and Ray Henderson’s “George White’s Scandals”
Reached #6 on the R&B charts in 1951
Became a major hit for B.B. King in 1969; initial pressings credited the song to the wrong composers (haven’t dug into who yet)
Subsequently covered by a number of artists, including Artethra Franklin, Little Milton, Luther Allison, Jerry Garcia and the Marshall Tucker Band

Cecil Gant: Another Day – Another Dollar
Artist Notes
Though he worked a musician briefly before the war, his notoriety came from a performance at a war-bonds rally sponsored by the Treasury department
His first recordings were released under the name “Pvt. Cecil Gant”
Recording career was cut tragically short by his death from pneumonia in 1951, at the age of 37
Song Notes
First release on the Bullet label
First R&B hit for the Bullet label

T-Bone Walker: Mean Old World
Artist Notes
Relocated to Los Angeles after marrying in 1935
Worked the clubs on Central Avenue, often with Lee Hite’s orchestra
Include on Rolling Stone’s “top 100 greatest guitarists of all time”
Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hallf of Fame in 1987
Song Notes
First single recorded by Walker in 1942
Cited as one of the earliest blues recordings w/ an electric guitar
Originally performed w/ the Lee Hite orchestra between 1939 and 1940
Covered most notably by Little Walter in 1952 (charter #6 in R&B chart for six weeks) among others.

[Sam] Lightnin’ Hopkins: Play With Your Poodle
Artist Notes
Only briefly spent time in California, mostly for his 1946 recording sessions, before returning to Houston
Included on Rolling Stones “top 100 greatest guitarists of all time”
“Hero” to Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie records.
Song Notes
Originally recorded by Tampa Red in 1942, where it hit #4 on what was then called the “Harlem Hit Parade” by Billboard
Not an original composition, but fits in stylistically better than most of Hopkins’ catalog.

Guitar Shorty: Pumpkin Pie
Artist Notes
Started playing publically in his teens, joining such luminaries as Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, B.B. King, Guitar Slim and T-Bone Walker
Released his first singles for the tiny Los Angeles based Pull label
Married Jimi Hendrix’s step sister Marcia in 1961; the two became friends and Hendrix regularly watched him play
Song Notes
One of several songs recorded with the backing of The “5” Royales, renowned and well-regarded on their own merits

Johnny “Guitar” Watson: Three Hours Past Midnight
Artist Notes
Originally billed as Young John Watson
Worked as a teen with a number of notable bands, including Amos Milburn and Chuck Higgin’s Mellotones
Guest performer on Zappa’s One Size Fits All
Song Notes
Named by Zappa as his inspiration for becoming a Guitarist (see: http://wiki.killuglyradio.com/wiki/Johnny_%22Guitar%22_Watson )

Pee Wee Crayton: Blues After Hours
Artist Notes
Though he never charted after the 1940s, he had a steady career recording for Modern, Aladdin, Imperial and eventually Vee-Jay.
Song Notes
First single and biggest hit for Crayton, hitting #1 on the R&B chart
Inspired by T-Bone Walker
Composition was significantly improvisational, recorded in spite of Crayton protesting that it was incomplete

Percy Mayfield: The River’s Invitation
Artist Notes
Performed in relative obscurity from 1942 through 1947, until the mildly successful release of “Two Years of Torture” for Swing Time
Spent the bulk of his recording career on Specialty, scoring a #1 hit with “Please Send Me Someone to Love”
Suffered serious injuries in a car accident in 1954, leaving him with facial disfigurement and largely ending his performing career.
Continued a prolific writing career, including a stint for Ray Charles’ Tangerine label
Song Notes
Covered extensively (James Cotton, Arethra Franklin, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Joe Cocker, etc)
Broke the hot #100 on the R&B charts

Jimmy Nolen: The Way You Do
Artist Notes
Originally played violin at 9, picked up guitar at 14
Played with Johnny Otis from 1957-59, including on the hit “Willie and the Hand Jive”
Played with James Brown from 1965-1970 and from 1972 until his death in 1983 (as the J.B.’s)
Relatively few solo releases, none especially successful
Song Notes
One of several songs that came out of recording sessions with Federal in 1956

King Perry & His Pied Pipers: Natural Born Lover
Artist Notes
Multi-instrumental – violin, alto sax, piano, clarinet
Recorded under a variety of labels – Mellodisc, United Artists, Excelsior, De Luxe, Specialty, Dot, Lucky, Unique, Look
Took a hiatus from 1954 to 1967
Played in a one-man band and self-produced comedy albums during the 1970s
Never charted, so far as I can tell
Song Notes
Nothing historically notable

Little Willie Littlefield: Drinkin’ Hadacol
Artist Notes
Debuted in 1949 at 18 on the Houston label “Eddie’s Records” with “Little Willie’s Boogie”, bringing him to the attention of the Bihari brothers and resulting in him recording for their label Modern
Settled in the Netherlands after touring Europe in the 1970s
Continued touring continuously until 2000
Song Notes
Not a chart hit, but a darn fun tune
One of a number of songs concerning Hadacol, a patent medicine and and multivitamin solution that happened to contain 12% alcohol “as a preservative”, which of course had nothing to do with its popularity in dry counties

Jimmy Witherspoon: Drinkin’ Beer
Artist Notes
First recorded with Jay McShann
First hit was the vaudeville staple “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”; a #1 R&B chart hit for him, and the most successful version of the song to date
Song Notes
Nothing really; I just like it

Amos Milburn: One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer
Artist Notes
Was spotted by talent scout Lola Cullum while fronting the Slam Stewer trio in San Antonio
Ultimately signed with PHILO, which had changed its name to Aladdin by the time he cut a record
Introduced Sam Hopkins to Lola Cullum who ultimately signed him to Aladdin as well
Song Notes
Written by Ruby Toombs, who went on to pen a number of alcohol themed songs for Milburn
Credited to Amos Milburn and his Aladdin Chickenshackers on the original single
Spend 14 weeks on the R&B chart peaking at #2
Reached broader popularity later w/ the John Lee Hooker cover in 1966 and the George Thorogood variation in 1977.

Peppermint Harris: I Got Loaded
Artist Notes
Made his first recording with his friend Lightnin’ Hopkins, under the name Peppermint Nelson
Only recorded intermittently throughout after the 1950s, petering off during the 1960s and then not recording again until a final album in 1995
Song Notes
Harris’ only significant chart hit, reaching #1 on the R&B chart in 1951

Wynonie Harris: All She Wants to Do Is Rock
Artist Notes
Between 1935 and 1943 performed the club circuit independently but did not produce any recordings (in part due to a musicians strike from 1942-44).
Toured with and first recorded with Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra between 1944 and 1945, releasing “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well”, which became a surprise crossover hit w/ white audiences
Signed independently with Philo, backed by a band assembled by Johnny Otis.
Released subsequent recordings on a number of labels, including Apollo, Bullet, Aladdin and, most successfully, King
Song Notes
Most successful single of Harris’ solo career, hitting #1 on the R&B chart

Big Joe Turner: Around the Clock
Artist Notes
Moved to Los Angeles in 1941; performed in Duke Ellington’s “Jump for Joy” and Meade Lux Lewis’ “Soundies”
Recorded with a wide variety of labels (National, Alladin, Freedom, Downbeat, RPM, MGM, Imperial)
First single for National was cover of Saunders King’s “S.K. Blues”
Sang duet with Wynonie Harris, “Battle of the Blues”
Transitioned big band to jump to R&B to rock, as well as recording with jazz groups
Song Notes
Recorded in 1947 on the Stag imprint
Released under the name “Big Vernon”
Two-part song (could add B-side recording to set as well)

Lowell Fulson: Blue Shadows
Artist Notes
After moving to California formed a band w/ Ray Charles (!) and Stanley Turrentine
Recorded for a variety of labels – Swing Time, Chess (Checkers), Kent and Rounder
Inducted into Blues Hall of Fame in 1993
Granted a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1993
Song Notes
Fulson’s biggest hit on the R&B chart, peaking at #1 for a week
Featuring Lloyd Glenn on the piano
Covered by B.B. King, Al King and Freddie King in the 1960s (apparently a favorite of royalty? 🙂

Lloyd Glenn: Chica Boo
Artist Notes
Early career was spent playing in various jazz bands and orchestras
Accompanied T-Bone Walker on “Call it Stormy Monday”
Accompanied Lowell Fulson on “Everyday I Have the Blues” and “Blue Shadows” (among others)
Played on B.B. King’s “My Kind of Blues”
Song Notes
His top-charting and only #1 hit on the R&B charts, in June 1952

Joe Liggins: The Honeydripper
Artist Notes
Moved to California in 1939 and played with several groups, including Sammy Franklin’s California Rhythm Rascals
Signed his own band The Honeydrippers to Exclusive in 1945 and later to Specialty in 1950
Song Notes
Spent 18 weeks at the top of the R&B chart, tying Louis Jordan’s “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” for the longest stay.
Also a significant cross-over hit, hitting #13 on the pop chart
Tune based around the traditional “Shortnin’ Bread”
Sammy Franklin declined to record the tune, leading Liggins to split from the band
“It was a hit booming from every record store, shoeshine stand, barber shop and barbequed chicken shack on Los Angeles’ Central Avenue as many thousands of G.I.s returned from the Pacific, hungry for nightlife and new civilian experiences.” – Jim Dawson and Steve Propes, What Was The First Rock’n’Roll Record, 1992
Exclusive was unable to keep up demand, leading to a cover version by Jimmie Lunceford (w/ Decca) to eclipse it on the sales charts.

Jimmy Liggins: I Ain’t Drunk
Artist Notes
Started out as a driver for his brother Joe’s band, The Honeydrippers
Launched his recording career with Drops of Joy on Art Rupe’s Specialty label in 1947
Faded from the music scene in the late 1950s
Song Notes
Though a small hit for Liggins, the song is best known for the 1986 version by Albert Collins

Nellie Lutcher: Fine Brown Frame
Artist Notes
Played with Ma Rainey at the age of 12
Came to prominence when a Capitol scout heard a broadcast of her performance for a March of Dimes talent show in 1947
Sang a duet with Nat King Cole on “For You My Love” and “Can I Come in for a Second”
Recorded with a number of smaller labels – Okeh, Decca, Liberty – after her contract with Capitol was terminated in 1951
Had a special on PBS called “Nellie”
Recorded a concern for NPR’s “Piano Jazz”
Song Notes
Nellie’s third #2 hit on the R&B charts

Joe Lutcher and his Society Cats: Rockin’ Boogie
Artist Notes
Younger brother of Nellie Lutcher
Worked as a bandleader for Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr, and the Mills Brothers
Abandoned the music business after joining the Seventh Day Adventist Church in 1953
Travelled as part of the Little Richard Evangelistic Team after Little Richard’s abrupt decision to abandon music in 1957 (some accounts say Lutcher helped plant the seeds for his conversion)
Song Notes
First single for Specialty
Reached #14 on the R&B charts

Roy Milton: Milton’s Boogie
Artist Notes
Spent his early childhood on a Chickasaw reservation
Started his career as a singer and drummer in The Ernie Fields Orchestra
Formed his band after moving to LA in 1933
Released several singles for Lionel Hampton’s Hamp-Tone labels before setting with Art Rupe and Juke-Box (and later specialty).
Song Notes
First release for Juke-Box
First significant hit, soon to be followed by his first charting single R.M. Blues
Features the piano of Camille Howard, who played with the Solid Senders and occasionally provided vocals

Camille Howard: Losing Your Mind
Artist Notes
Rose to prominence as the pianist for Roy Milton’s Solid Senders
Cut a number of independent releases (sometimes as “Camille Howard & Her Boyfriends”) for Art Rupe on the Specialty Label
Stopped recording in the 1950s due to deepening religious convictions
Song Notes
Not much known aside from release date and label information
Never charted as far as I can see
I just like it 🙂

Calvin Boze: Safronia B.
Artist Notes
Played in a high school band that included Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb and Charles Brown
Toured with Dinah Washington
Pioneer in jump blues and the West coast style in particular
Stopped recording in 1952, but continued to play jam sessions while pursing a career in teaching and social work
Song Notes
Biggest success for Boze, reaching #9 on the R&B charts

Louis Jordan: Saturday Night Fish Fry
Artist Notes
Big band leader before becoming a jump innovator and pioneer of the class R&B and rock sounds
Named on Rolling Stones 100 greatest artist list
Named by Billboard as the 5th all-time most success black recording artists
Described by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “Father of Rhythm & Blues” and “Grandfather of Rock n’ Roll”
Recorded a number of “soundies” featuring his songs between 1942 and 1945
Song Notes
Big hit; #1 on the R&B charts for a total of 12 weeks; cross-over to #21 on the national chart
Written by Louis Jordan and Ellis Walsh, but first recorded by Eddie Williams and His Brown Buddies
Originally released as two parts, since the full composition would not fit on a single 78

Jimmy McCracklin and His Blues Blasters: Beer Tavern Girl

Artist Notes
Prolific career spanning seven decades, thirty albums and thousands of songs written
Formed “The Blues Blasters” w/ Lafayette Thomas
Ran the Continental Club in San Fransisco for a period in the 1970s; booked contemporaries like T-Bone Walker, Irma Thomas, Big Joe Turner, Big Mama Thorton and Etta James
Song Notes
So far as I can tell never a chart topper nor particularly noted release

Lafayette Thomas: The Thing
Artist Notes
Original guitarist for Jimmy McCracklin’s Blues Blasters (from 1946 through the 1950s)
Nicknamed “The Thing”
Solo recordings were made primarily for tiny labels like Trilyte, Jumping and Hollywood
Song Notes
His eponymous track
A grand instrumental which seems completely unsung

Saunders King and His Rhythm: Swingin’
Artist Notes
Sang with the Southern Harmony Four on NBC Radio at the end of the 1930s
Wife committed suicide in 1942
Shot by his landlord and jailed for heroin possession in 1946
Retired from active performance in 1961, devoting himself to the church
Father-in-law of Carlos Santana
Best known for his inaugural “S.K. Blues”, a hit for himself and several others (Joe Turner in 1945, Jimmy Witherspoon in 1959)
Song Notes
Nothing historically notable

Gladys Bentley: Before Midnight
Artist Notes
Began her career at a notorious gay speakeasy, Harry Hansberry’s Clam House.
Spent the 30s performing at the Ubangi Club in Harlem, typically dressing in a tux and top hat, backed by a chorus of drag queens
Relocated to the west coast after the repeal of Prohibition
Billed “America’s Greatest Sepia Piano Player” and “Brown Bomber of Sophisticated Songs”
Later renounced lesbianism and her gender-bending past, penning a story for Ebony, “I Am A Woman Again”
Song Notes
Her first release for Flame
No lyrics, just vocalizations

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