Saturday, 9 December 2017

Little Esther - Bad Baad Girl!

Side One:
01. Looking For A Man - Little Esther
02. The Deacon Moves In - Little Esther with The Dominoes
03. I'm A Bad, Bad Girl - Little Esther with Mel Walker
04. Ring-A-Ding Doo - Little Esther with Mel Walker
05. Aged And Mellow - Little Esther
06. Ramblin' Blues - Little Esther
07. The Storm - Little Esther
08. Hollerin' And Screamin' - Little Esther

Side Two:
01. Mainliner - Little Esther with The Robins
02. Saturday Night Daddy - Little Esther with Bobby Nunn
03. You Took My Love Too Fast - Little Esther with Bobby Nunn
04. Last Laugh Blues - Little Esther with Little Willie Littlefield
05. Flesh, Blood And Bones - Little Esther
06. Turn The Lamps Down Low - Little Esther with Little Willie Littlefield
07. Cherry Wine - Little Esther
08. Hound Dog - Little Esther


Little Esther - Bad Baad Girl! (Zippy)

Our previous post on Little Esther's big selling Savoy sides ended with the teenage chanteuse leaving that label for the newly founded Federal label, a Ralph Bass run subsidiary of King Records. Her first recording session for Federal took place in January 1951. In the meantime the Johnny Otis band continued to record for Savoy until March 19th 1951 but his anticipated transfer to Federal didn't happen. Instead he signed for Mercury and the band recorded for that label from December 1951 to July 1952. 

Thereafter Johnny went to Don Robey's Houston based Peacock Records for whom he worked in both Houston and Los Angeles as A&R man, producer and band leader on tracks recorded by artists like Big Mama Thornton, Johnny Ace and Little Richard.

However one look at the personnel on these Federal recordings by Little Esther (which you can find on the back cover of this LP) shows that the backing band on her 1951 and 1952 tracks is indeed the Johnny Otis Orchestra doing a spot of moonlighting.

As you can see in the original release information below, backing on Little Esther discs was at first credited to the "Earle Warren Orchestra," ex-Basie man Earle being the alto sax player in Johnny's band at that time. Then there was the not-at-all obvious pseudonym of the "J. and O. Orchestra," and by the time of the 1952 releases there was no mention of the accompanying band.

When Preston Love (Johnny's band mate back in the Omaha days and then in the early days of Johnny's big band) replaced Earle Warren on alto sax in 1952, some discs credited to the Preston Love Orchestra were released on Federal, again disguising the fact that they were by the Johnny Otis Orchestra.

During 1951 and at least the first half of 1952 Little Esther continued to tour with the Johnny Otis group. Other Otis-connected artists appearing on these sides are Mel Walker and Bobby Nunn, so this collection fits in nicely with our series of Johnny Otis related posts.

The very informative sleeve notes by Norbert Hess tell the tale of Little Esther's estrangement from Johnny Otis involving Esther's mother and a heap of cash. The Otis band backed Esther for the last time in August 1952. In a final session for Federal in March 1953, Little Esther was backed by King studio musicians including Rufus Gore and Hank Marr.

In July and September 1953 Little Esther recorded for Decca. These sides went nowhere and the recent spell of stardom already seemed to have faded fast away as what may euphemistically be called "health problems" began to take their toll. For the rest of her sadly all too short life Little Esther or Esther Phillips as she was now known would be plagued by addiction problems although there were periods when she recorded strong material and made dents in both the pop and R&B charts.

In 1975 her version of the Dinah Washington hit "What A Difference A Day Makes" was an international success, reaching number 20 in the US pop chart and number 6 in the UK chart. For the cognoscenti her 1971 recording of Gil Scott Heron's "Home Is Where The Hatred Is" is a harrowing classic. Esther Phillips died aged 48 in August of 1984.

But here on Be Bop Wino we rarely move beyond the 1950's so enjoy Little Esther, Johnny Otis and the band, Bobby Nunn, Mel Walker, The Dominoes and Little Willie Littlefield on these blasters from back in the day.

Atlanta, April 1951

Here are the original release details of the tracks:

Federal 12016 - "The Deacon Moves In" by Little Esther with the Earle Warren Orchestra, b/w "Other Lips, Other Arms" - Little Esther with the Earle Warren Orchestra. February 1951.

Federal 12023 - "I'm A Bad, Bad Girl" by Little Esther with the Earle Warren Orchestra, B-Side of "Don't Make A Fool Out Of Me" - Little Esther with the Earle Warren Orchestra. April 1951.

Federal 12036 - "Looking For A Man (To Satisfy My Soul)" by Little Esther with the Earle Warren Orchestra, b/w "Heart To Heart" - Little Esther and The Dominoes with the Earle Warren Orchestra. July 1951.

Federal 12055 - "Ring-A-Ding-Doo" by Little Esther and Mel with the J. and O. Orchestra, b/w "The Crying Blues" by Little Esther with the J. and O. Orchestra. November 1951.

Federal 12063 - "The Storm" by Little Esther, B-Side of "Summertime" - Little Esther. March 1952.

Federal 12078 - "Aged And Mellow" by Little Esther, B-Side of "Bring My Lovin' Back To Me" - Little Esther. May 1952.

Federal 12090 - "Ramblin' Blues" by Little Esther, b/w "Somebody New" by Little Esther. August 1952.

Federal 12100 - "Saturday Night Daddy" by Little Esther & Bobby Nunn, b/w "Mainliner" by Little Esther. October 1952.

Federal 12108 - "Last Laugh Blues" by Little Esther and Little Willie, b/w "Flesh, Blood And Bones by Little Esther. November 1952.

Federal 12115 - "Turn The Lamps Down Low" by Little Esther and Little Willie, b/w "Hollerin' And Screamin'" by Little Esther. February 1953.

Federal 12122 - "You Took My Love Too Fast" by Little Esther and Bobby Nunn, b/w "Street Lights" by Little Esther. April 1953.

Federal 12126 - "Hound Dog" by Little Esther, b/w "Sweet Lips" by Little Esther. April 1953.

Federal 12142 - "Cherry Wine" by Little Esther, b/w "Love Oh Love" by Little Esther. September 1953.

Cash Box February 1951

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Little Esther - Lost Dream Blues

Side One:
01. Double Crossing Blues - Little Esther with The Robins
02. Lover's Lane Boogie - Little Esther with The Blue Notes
03. Mistrustin' Blues - Little Esther with Mel Walker
04. Misery - Little Esther
05. Cupid's Boogie - Little Esther with Mel Walker

Side Two:
01. Deceivin' Blues - Little Esther with Mel Walker
02. Lost Dream Blues - Little Esther
03. Wedding Boogie - Johnny Otis' Congregation with Little Esther, Mel Walker & Lee Graves
04. Far Away Blues (Xmas Blues) - Little Esther with Mel Walker
05. Love Will Break Your Heart - Johnny Otis Orchestra with Little Esther & Mel Walker


1950 was the year when Johnny Otis was the top selling R&B artist, or perhaps more accurately Johnny Otis with Little Esther, Mel Walker and The Robins. "Double Crossing Blues," "Mistrustin' Blues" / "Misery," "Cupid's Boogie," "Deceivin' Blues," "Wedding Boogie" / "Far Away Blues," "Cry Baby," "Dreamin' Blues" and "If It's So Baby" / "If I Didn't Love You So"  were all R&B chart hits for Otis and his associated vocal acts.

The artist who dominated this series of hits was Little Esther, a 13 year old Dinah Washington influenced prodigy whom Otis discovered when he happened to drop in on a talent show at the Largo Theater in Watts, LA, situated a few blocks from his own Barrelhouse Club. Esther Mae Jones didn't win but she impressed Otis enough for him to offer her a spot at the Barrelhouse. Still going under her full name, Esther Mae made her recording debut with Johnny Otis in August 1949 at a one off session for Modern Records. However it wasn't until the Otis group started recording for Savoy in November 1949 that Little Esther as she was now billed started making waves in the R&B world.

With backing from the Otis band, Little Esther was paired with fellow Barrelhouse act The Robins (lead - Bobby Nunn) for "Double Crossing Blues." Issued in January 1950, the disc shot to the number one spot in the R&B charts. For her follow up Esther was paired with another Barrelhouse regular, Mel Walker. Their moody "Mistrustin' Blues" was another smash when it was released in March of 1950. It was paired with a Little Esther solo torch song "Misery" which garnered big sales on its own account. Another Little Esther / Mel Walker record, the more uptempo "Cupid's Boogie," was the third hit in a row when it was released in June 1950.

Above: Cash Box Ad, June 17th 1950

Cash Box, July 29th 1950

In August a third Little Esther / Mel Walker performance, "Deceivin' Blues" kept the run of hits going. This was paired with an intense bluesy side from Little Esther singing solo, "Lost Dream Blues." Pete Lewis on guitar, Johnny Otis on vibes and Devonia Williams on piano turned in fine moody backing to make this an outstanding track.

Above: Cash Box, September 23rd 1950

"Wedding Boogie," released in October, was based on a comedy skit performed in the Barrelhouse with Little Esther as the bride, Mel Walker as the groom and Lee Graves as the preacher. The B-Side was a Christmas weepie, "Far Away Blues (Xmas Blues)," and of course the release was another hit.

A Little Esther / Mel Walker romantic duet, "Love Will Break Your Heart" came out in January 1951 but sales were comparatively poor, perhaps because it was too similar to Ivory Joe Hunter's hit "I Almost Lost My Mind." However by this time the spell was over, for Little Esther had already left Savoy when the disc was released. In December 1950 Savoy's man on the West Coast, Ralph Bass had quit the label following a dispute with owner Herman Lubinsky. Syd Nathan, honcho of rival label King, moved immediately to sign Bass and gave him a new West Coast based subsidiary label to run, Federal Records.

Bass made his first signing in January 1951 - Little Esther. Johnny Otis was supposed to follow Esther to the new label once his contract with Savoy ran out, but that wasn't to happen. On January 26th 1951 Little Esther started recording for Federal, backed by a band which sounded awfully like the Otis group. But that is a story for our next post! Stick around for more Little Esther and Johnny Otis sounds ...

Here 'tis - the complete lowdown on this homemade comp of Little Esther on Savoy:

"Double Crossing Blues" was issued on Savoy 731 in January 1950. Credited to the Johnny Otis Quintette with vocals by The Robins and Little Esther. The B-Side was "Ain't Nothin' Shakin'" by Leon Sims with the Johnny Otis Orchestra. An April 1950 re-issue had a different B-Side - "Back Alley Blues" by The Beale St. Gang.

"Lover's Lane Boogie" was not issued as a single. The Blue Notes were The Robins.

"Mistrustin' Blues" / "Misery" issued as Savoy 735 in March 1950. A-Side credited to Little Esther with Mel Walker Accomp. by The Johnny Otis Orch. B-Side credit: Little Esther with the Johnny Otis Orch.

"Cupid's Boogie" was issued on Savoy 750 in May or June 1950. Credit: Little Esther and Mel Walker with Johnny Otis Orchestra. This was the B-Side of the original release. The A-Side was "Just Can't Get Free" - Little Esther with Johnny Otis Orchestra and The Beltones.

"Deceivin' Blues" / "Lost Dream Blues" issued as Savoy 759 in August 1950. A-Side credit: Little Esther and Mel Walker with Johnny Otis Orch. B-Side credit: Little Esther with Johnny Otis Orch.

"Wedding Boogie" / "Far Away Blues (Xmas Blues)" issued as Savoy 764 in October 1950. A-Side credit: Johnny Otis' Congregation, Bride: Little Esther, Groom: Mel Walker, Preacher: Lee Graves. B-Side credit: Johnny Otis Orchestra with Little Esther and Mel Walker.

"Love Will Break Your Heart" was issued on Savoy 775 in January 1951. Credited to Johnny Otis Orch. with Little Esther and Mel Walker. B-Side was "I Don't Care" - Johnny Otis Orch. with Little Esther.

Above: Little Esther with (L to R): Pete "Guitar" Lewis, Lorenzo Holden, Mel Walker, and Mario Delagarde.

Musicians on the tracks

"Double Crossing Blues" - recorded in Los Angeles, December 1st, 1949. Johnny Otis Quintette: Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Little Esther, Bobby Nunn (vocals) The Robins (background vocals)

"Lover's Lane Boogie" - recorded in Los Angeles, January 11th, 1950. Johnny Otis Septet: John Anderson (trumpet); Big Jay McNeely (tenor sax); Johnny Otis (vibes, drums); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Little Esther (vocals); Bobby Nunn (vocals); The Blue Notes (The Robins) (vocals).

"Misery" recorded in Los Angeles, February 13th, 1950. Possibly Lorenzo Holden or James Von Streeter (tenor sax); Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Little Esther (vocals).

"Mistrustin' Blues" and "Cupid's Boogie" recorded in Los Angeles, February 27th, 1950. Johnny Otis Orchestra: Don Johnson, Lee Graves (trumpets); George Washington (trombone); Lorenzo Holden, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes); Walter Henry (alto,baritone sax); Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Little Esther, Mel Walker (vocals).

"Deceivin' Blues" and "Lost Dream Blues" recorded in Chicago on June 20th, 1950. Johnny Otis Orchestra: probable personnel: Don Johnson, Lee Graves, Hosea Sapp (trumpets;) George Washington (trombone); Lorenzo Holden, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes); Walter Henry (alto and baritone saxes); Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Little Esther, Mel Walker (vocals).

"Wedding Boogie," "Faraway Blues (Xmas Blues)" and "Love Will Break Your Heart" recorded in New York on August 12th 1950. Personnel as for Chicago session above, with the addition of Lee Graves on vocals on "Wedding Boogie."

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Johnny Otis Presents ... The Robins, Little Esther, The Nic Nacs

Side One:
01. Good Ole Blues - Johnny Otis & His Orchestra
02. Mean Ole Gal - Little Esther
03. I'm Telling You Baby - The Nic Nacs
04. Gonna Have A Merry Christmas - The Nic Nacs
05. You Didn't Want My Love - The Nic Nacs
06. I Found Me A Sugar Daddy - The Nic Nacs
07. I Gotta Guy - Little Esther

Side Two:
01. That's What The Good Book Says - Bobby Nunn & The Robins
02. Rockin' - Bobby Nunn & The Robins
03. Thursday Night Blues - Johnny Otis & His Orchestra
04. Double Crossin' Baby - The Robins
05. I Made A Vow - The Robins
06. All I Do Is Rock - The Robins
07. Key To My Heart - The Robins


This LP was originally posted on Be Bop Wino back in 2007 and now makes a reappearance with new cover scans and a volume boost on the mp3s.

The tracks credited to Johnny Otis and His Orchestra and to Little Esther are a "prequel" to the previous post "All Nite Long" which was a collection of mainly instrumental band tracks recorded by Johnny Otis for Savoy from November 1949 to March 1951. Before signing for Savoy, Johnny recorded a session for the Bihari brothers' Modern label in LA in August 1949. Only four tracks were recorded, two band instrumentals and two vocal tracks which marked the recording debut of Esther Mae Jones (still a few months shy of her 14th birthday), soon to become Little Esther, the R&B sensation of 1950.

Johnny had spotted Little Esther at a talent show at a theatre in Watts and had recruited her to sing in his own club The Barrelhouse. Two other acts featured on this collection, Pete "Guitar" Lewis and The Robins were also featured acts and talent show winners at the club, indeed it is Otis who is credited with being behind the formation of  The Robins when he combined a vocal trio, the A-Sharp Trio (Ty Terrell, Billy Richard, Roy Richard) with bass singer Bobby Nunn.

The lineup of the Johnny Otis Orchestra on these four sides is probably similar to that on the November 1949 session for Savoy. Pete Lewis's guitar is prominent on both the instrumentals. The four sides were released on two singles. The first (Modern 20-715) had "Thursday Night Blues" on the A-Side and "I Gotta Gal" on the B-Side which was credited to Johnny Otis and His Orchestra, vocal Esther Jones. The disc was reviewed in Billboard on the 3rd December 1949 as follows -

"Thursday Night Blues - Deep blues mood is achieved in this instrumental which spots a mess of guitar work and some orking which reminds of the Basie band."

"I Gotta Gal - Thrush Esther Jones leaves hardly a note unbent as she weaves her way appealingly thru a bluesy ballad."

In January 1950 "Double Crossing Blues" was released on Savoy 731, credited to "Johnny Otis Quintette, vocals by The Robins and Little Esther." By February the disc was racing up the R&B charts and Little Esther was a big name in the music business. Modern reissued 20-715, still with "Thursday Night Blues" as the A-Side, but with the B-Side now given the correct title "I Gotta Guy" and credited to "Little" Esther with Johnny Otis and His Orchestra.

In April 1950 Modern 20-748 was released with "Mean Ole Gal" on the A Side, credited to "Little" Esther with Johnny Otis and His Orchestra while the Otis instrumental "Good Old Blues" was on the B-Side. The A-Side was reviewed in the April 29th issue of Billboard  as follows - "The talented young thrush registers with salty blues job that builds in mood all the way." The B-Side review was brief, to say the least - "Jump instrumental on a jazz kick."

The Modern releases didn't sell much. The Billboard annual survey of top selling R&B artists in July 1950 had Johnny Otis in top spot, Little Esther in second top spot and The Robins in fourth spot. This was almost solely due to sales of Savoy discs with "Mean Ole Gal" way, way behind the big hits like "Double Crossing Blues" and "Mistrusting Blues" (vocals- Little Esther and Mel Walker.) In fact the Robins' high placing was almost entirely due to "Double Crossing Blues." Other artists in the survey included Ivory Joe Hunter in third place ("I Almost Lost My Mind"), Larry Darnell ("For You My Love"), Joe Liggins ("Pink Champagne") and Louis Jordan ("Saturday Night Fish Fry".)

Above: Mel Walker, Johnny Otis and Little Esther. For two out of three it will end in tragedy.

The four tracks credited to The Nic Nacs are in fact by The Robins. They were recorded for the Bihari's RPM label in November 1950. The reason for the subterfuge? The guys were actually under contract to John Dolphin's Recorded In Hollywood label at the time of recording. On "Found Me A Sugar Daddy," "Gonna Have A Merry Christmas" and "I'm Telling You Baby" the group were accompanied by Mickey Champion who sounded remarkably like Little Esther. Indeed "Found Me a Sugar Daddy" was written as an answer record to "Double Crossing Blues."

RPM 313 - "Gonna Have A Merry Xmas" / "Found Me A Sugar Daddy" was released in December 1950. A second RPM disc, RPM 316 - "You Didn't Want My Love" / "Found Me A Sugar Daddy" (again!) was issued in January 1951. The fourth RPM side, "I'm Telling You Baby," remained unissued.

In March 1951 a disc was issued on RPM's parent label, Modern, credited to Bobby Nunn (with the "Robbins") in what appears to have been an attempt to forestall legal action by Recorded In Hollywood while at the same time signalling to fans that here indeed was a big time act! The A-Side of Modern 807 was "Rockin'" while the B-Side, "That's What The Good Book Says," was the first commercial composition by songwriting team Leiber and Stoller. The backing band sounds suspiciously like the Johnny Otis band.

During a large part of 1951/52 The Robins were inactive, although Bobby Nunn had releases on Dootone and Recorded In Hollywood and also recorded several duets with Little Esther for Federal. In late 1952 the group reformed with the addition of new member Grady Chapman. The quintet started recording for RCA in January 1953.

Their last RCA session was in September 1953, with their next session being another for the Biharis in December 1953. Four of the six tracks recorded are featured on this LP. They were originally issued as singles on the Crown subsidiary of Modern - "I Made A Vow" / "Double Crossin Baby (Crown 106) came out in February 1954, while "Key To My Heart" / "All I Do Is Rock" (Crown 120) appeared in August 1954. The session was produced and arranged by Maxwell Davis.

By the time "Key To My Heart" appeared the group, which now had Carl Gardner as a replacement for the temporarily indisposed Grady Chapman, had signed up to Leiber & Stoller's new Spark label and had recorded and released "Riot In Cell Block #9." This was the beginning of the process which would see the group split in September 1955 when Leiber & Stoller joined Atlantic taking their Spark masters with them, along with Bobby Nunn and Carl Gardner who became one half of a new group, The Coasters, while Ty Terrell, Grady Chapman and the Richard brothers continued as The Robins.

But that may well be the subject of a future post!

Above: The Robins in 1953. Back row (L to R): Bobby Nunn and Billy Richard; Middle Row (L to R): Grady Chapman and Roy Richard; Front: Ty Terrell.

For the full lowdown on The Robins (aka The Robbins, aka The Nic Nacs) see this article by Marv Goldberg and Todd Baptista:

Plenty of pics! Who sued who! How many labels can you record for at the same time! The danger of signing any contract! The draft or prison - you decide!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Johnny Otis & His Orchestra - All Nite Long

Side 1:
01. Midnight In The Barrelhouse
02. Boogie Guitar
03. Hangover Blues
04. Head Hunter
05. New Orleans Shuffle
06. Turkey Hop Part 1

Side 2:
01. Turkey Hop Part 2
02. Blues Nocturne
03. Freight Train Boogie
04. Mambo Boogie
05. All Nite Long
06. Honky Tonk Boogie

Johnny Otis & His Orchestra - All Nite Long (Mega)

Johnny Otis & His Orchestra - All Nite Long (Zippy)

Another in the Savoy series of home made "LPs" and this time the quintessential New York indie record company goes way out west to the Land Where Dreams Come True as label prexy Herman Lubinsky recruits producer Ralph Bass (who had previously been with Black & White Records) to be Savoy's man on the Coast. And then Bass recruits Johnny Otis, his dynamite band (as you can hear on this collection) and his star vocal acts Little Esther, Mel Walker and The Robins. The result was a staggering series of R&B hits by the Otis organisation in 1950, including "Double Crossing Blues," "Mistrustin' Blues," "Cupid's Boogie" "Deceivin' Blues," "Wedding Boogie" and "Cry Baby."

These vocal hits will feature in future compilations but in this post I've concentrated on the mainly instrumental sides recorded by the band itself. Johnny Otis, drummer, vibes player, pianist, occasional vocalist, bandleader, impresario, nightclub owner, producer and arranger, talent spotter, song writer, disc jockey, label owner, political activist, minister of religion, artist, writer and chicken farmer was what you might call a Renaissance man. He simply did it all.

He was born John Veliotes in 1921 in Vallejo, California into a Greek immigrant family.  He was raised in Berkeley where his parents owned a grocery store which served the local Black community, a community with which Johnny would identify for the rest of his life. He was a fan of big band swing, especially of the band of Count Basie. As the 1930's turned to the '40's, Johnny took up playing the drums and gained his first band experience with a local small group, Count Otis Matthews & His West Oakland House Rockers.

The basic blues 'n' boogie of the group would stand Johnny in good stead in the future when the big band era came to end and rhythm 'n' blues took its place. But before that, back in 1941, Johnny got his chance to play in a big swing band when he joined the long established Omaha based outfit of Lloyd Hunter. Also in the band were alto sax man Preston Love, tenor sax players Paul Quinichette and James Von Streeter and bass player Curtis Counce, all of whom would spend spells in Johnny Otis led bands in the future.

Above: Omaha, 1941 - Preston Love and Johnny Otis in front of the Lloyd Hunter band bus

After two years with Lloyd Hunter, Johnny Otis and Preston Love quit to form their own band, but it was short lived as Count Basie came in for Love. Hearing that former Kansas City bandleader Harlan Leonard (now established at the Club Alabam in Los Angeles) was looking for a drummer, Johnny headed to LA where he got the spot, staying with Leonard until 1944 when he transferred to a band led by former Chick Webb front man Bardu Ali. Johnny and Bardu would later become business partners when they opened The Barrel House Club in Watts in late 1947.

In 1945 Johnny formed his own big band as the new house band at the Club Alabam and signed with Excelsior Records in the autumn of that year. His second disc for the label, "Jimmy's Round The Clock Blues," featuring Basie blues shouter Jimmy Rushing on vocals, backed with the classic bump 'n' grind instrumental "Harlem Nocturne" was a big seller and the band embarked on a national tour on the back of it. The Johnny Otis Orchestra recorded for Excelsior as a big band until December 1946 but by the next and final Excelsior session in December 1947 the band had slimmed down to an eight piece. The first track on this compilation "Midnight In The Barrelhouse" dates from that session although it was re-released on Savoy in 1951, thus justifying its inclusion here.

The final Excelsior line up included several musicians who would be mainstays of the Johnny Otis band during its most successful years - George Washington on trombone, Pete "Guitar" Lewis, and Mario Delagarde on bass. The band's next recording session was for Modern in August 1949 which was the first session to feature Little Esther on vocals. In November 1949 the band started recording for Savoy with Don Johnson on trumpet, Lorenzo Holden and James Von Streeter on tenor saxes, Walter Henry on baritone sax, Devonia Williams on piano and Leard Bell on drums. Along with Lewis, Washington and Delagarde this would be the core of the Johnny Otis band on Savoy and subsequently on Federal (unofficially) and Mercury.

Fax on the trax, Jack:

"Midnight In The Barrelhouse" recorded in Los Angeles, December 1947. Johnny Otis Orchestra : John Anderson (trumpet); George Washington (trombone); Cecil "Big Jay" McNeely (tenor sax); Lem Tally (baritone sax); "Darby Hicks" (piano); Pete "Guitar" Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Johnny Otis (drums).

Released on Excelsior JR 536 in February 1949. There were two virtually simultaneous Johnny Otis releases numbered Excelsior JR 536. "Happy New Year Baby" / "Barrel House Stomp" was listed in advance release notices in Billboard, 29th January 1949. This record was reviewed in Billboard on 12th February 1949. A second disc with the number 536, "Midnight In The Barrel House" / "Barrel House Stomp" was probably released shortly afterwards as it was rather late for a "New Year" release. 

"Midnight In The Barrelhouse" (note change in spelling) was re-released on Savoy 815 in September 1951 as the B-Side of an alternate take of "Harlem Nocturne" which was originally released on Excelsior JR 142.

Above: Billboard 30th April 1949

"Boogie Guitar" and "Hangover Blues" recorded in Los Angeles on November 10th, 1949. Johnny Otis and his Orchestra : Don Johnson and Lee Graves (trumpets); George Washington (trombone); Lorenzo Holden, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes); Walter Henry (baritone sax); Johnny Otis (vibraphone, drums); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Gene Phillips ( Hawaiian guitar on "Hangover Blues"); unknown 2nd guitar on "Boogie Guitar"; Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums).

This was the first Johnny Otis Orchestra session for Savoy.

"Boogie Guitar" first released on Savoy LP SJL 2230 "The Original Johnny Otis Show" in 1978.

"Hangover Blues" first released on Regent 1036 (also listed under Savoy 787), April 1951 as B-Side of "I Dream" (vocals by Mel Walker and Little Esther.)

"Head Hunter" and "New Orleans Shuffle" recorded in Los Angeles on December 23rd 1949. Probable personnel - Johnny Otis Orchestra: Lee Graves, Don Johnson (trumpets); George Washington (trombone); Big Jay McNeely, Lorenzo Holden (tenor saxes); Walter Henry (baritone sax); Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums). It's possible that James Von Streeter is present in place of Big Jay McNeely.

"New Orleans Shuffle" / "Blues Nocturne" released on Savoy 743 in May 1950.

"Head Hunter" / "Cool And Easy" (vocal by Redd Lyte) released on Regent 1028 in January 1951. Also listed under Savoy 774.

"The Turkey Hop Parts 1 & 2" and "Blues Nocturne" recorded in Los Angeles on January 11th 1950. Personnel: John Anderson (trumpet); Floyd Turnham (alto sax); Big Jay McNeely (tenor sax); Bob McNeely (baritone sax); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Johnny Otis (drums); The Robins - vocals on "The Turkey Hop Part 2."

"The Turkey Hop Part 1" / "The Turkey Hop Part 2" released on Savoy 732 in February 1950.

Above: The Cash Box, 18th February 1950

"Blues Nocturne" released on Savoy 743 in May 1950, B-Side of "New Orleans Shuffle."

"Freight Train Boogie" was recorded in Chicago on June 20th 1950. Personnel: Johnny Otis Orchestra: probably - Don Johnson, Lee Graves, Hosea Sapp (trumpets); George Washington (trombone); Lorenzo Holden, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes) Walter Henry (alto, baritone saxes); Johnny Otis (vibraphone); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums).

"Freight Train Boogie" released on Regent 1021 (b/w "Good Time Blues" vocal Redd Lyte) in August 1950.

"Mambo Boogie" was recorded in Los Angeles on January 10th 1951. Personnel - Johnny Otis Orchestra: Don Johnson (trumpet); George Washington (trombone); Walter Henry (alto sax); Lorenzo Holden, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes); Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums).

"Mambo Boogie" was released on Savoy 777 as the B-Side of "Gee Baby" (vocal - Mel Walker) in February 1951.

"All Nite Long" and "Honky Tonk Boogie" were recorded in New York City on March 19th and March 21st respectively, 1951. Personnel - Johnny Otis Orchestra: probably - Don Johnson (trumpet); George Washington (trombone); Earl Warren (alto sax); Lorenzo Holden (tenor sax); Walter Henry (alto and baritone sax); Devonia Williams (piano); Johnny Otis (vibes, percussion); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); vocal: Johnny Otis, George Washington and the band.

The March 21st session was the last Johnny Otis Orchestra session for Savoy.

"All Nite Long" was released on Savoy 788 b/w "New Love" (vocal - Mel Walker) in July 1951.

"Honky Tonk Boogie" was first released on Savoy LP SJL 2230 "The Original Johnny Otis Show" in 1978.

Elsewhere on the blog:

El Enmascarado's rips from a 78 rpm Johnny Otis disc. Includes added James Von Streeter and Big Jay McNeely tracks plus plenty of background info / speculation. Check it out.

More Johnny Otis coming soon!

Friday, 17 November 2017

H-Bomb Ferguson - Good Lovin'

Side One:
01. Slowly Goin' Crazy
02. Preachin' The Blues
03. Sundown Blues
04. Good Lovin'

Side Two:
01. Give It Up
02. Big City Blues
03. Bookie's Blues
04. My Brown Frame Baby

H-Bomb Ferguson - Good Lovin'

or alternatively for fans of intrusive downloads and browser hijackers:

H-Bomb Ferguson - Good Lovin'

"Slowly Goin' Crazy," "Preachin' The Blues," "Sundown Blues" and "Good Lovin'" were recorded in New York City on December 12th, 1951 by the following personnel:

H-Bomb Ferguson (vocal) with: J. Hawkins (trumpet); Julius "Hawkshaw" Watkins (trombone); Ernest "Pinky" Williams (alto and baritone sax); Purvis Henson (tenor sax); Kelly Owens (piano); Leon Spann (bass); Jack "The Bear" Parker (drums)

"Give It Up," "Big City Blues," "Bookie Blues" and "My Brown Frame Baby" were recorded in New York City on January 10th, 1952 by the following personnel:

H-Bomb Ferguson (vocal) with: Leon Comegys (trombone); Ernest "Pinky" Williams (alto sax); Lowell "Count" Hastings (tenor sax); Jimmy Neely (piano); LaVerne Barker (bass); Jack "The Bear" Parker (drums)

"Good Lovin'" / "Slowly Goin' Crazy" was released on Savoy 830 in January 1952.

Above: Good taste is timeless: Billboard January 12th 1952

"Bookie's Blues" / "Big City Blues" was released on Savoy 836 in February 1952. The track "Bookie's Blues" on this collection is an alternate take.

Above: Billboard, 9th February 1952

"Preachin' The Blues" / "Hot Kisses" was released on Savoy 848 in June 1952.

"Tortured Love" / "Give It Up" was released on Savoy 865 in November 1952. "Tortured Love" credited to H-Bomb Ferguson with Varetta Dillard.

"Sundown Blues" and "My Brown Frame Baby" were not released as singles. They were issued in 1980 on the Savoy Jazz 2LP set "The Shouters: Roots Of Rock 'N' Roll Vol. 9" (SJL 2244) and on the 1986 Savoy Jazz LP "Life Is Hard" (SJL 1176).

This little collection in the ongoing Savoy series of mini LP's that never were is a good representation of blues shouter H-Bomb Ferguson's annus mirabilis, 1952. Born Robert Purcell Ferguson in Charleston, South Carolina, the future "H-Bomb" had arrived in New York as a vocalist with the touring Joe Liggins band around 1946/7. The tour having ended in NYC, he split from the band and won a regular gig at the Club Baby Grand in Harlem. At this stage he was billed as "The Cobra Kid" but when he took up with drummer and bandleader Jack "The Bear" Parker he reverted to his own name - Bob Ferguson.

His first recording opportunity and appearance on record was with Derby around 1950/51 as vocalist on a Jack "The Bear" Parker session. In 1951 he was again vocalist on a Parker session for Prestige. Around this time he recorded under his own name for Atlas (backed by the Charlie Singleton band). The Prestige and Atlas sides remained in the can but Bob (by now going under the "H-Bomb" name) got his big break when he started recording for Savoy in December 1951.

His first release on Savoy, "Good Lovin'" / "Slowly Goin' Crazy", in early January 1952, sold well locally but failed to chart nationally. Sales were strong enough to encourage both Atlas and Prestige to issue their own H-Bomb singles at the end of January - "Rock H-Bomb Rock" / "I Love My Baby" (Atlas 1003) was reviewed in Billboard on the 26th January 1952 while the same issue carried an advance notice of the release of Prestige 918, "Feel Like I Do" / "My Love" (credited to H-Bomb Ferguson with Jack "The Bear" Parker Orchestra.)

A second recording session for Savoy followed on 10th January 1952 with a second release "Bookie's Blues" / ""Big City Blues" coming out in February. This disc was another good seller, but not enough to break into the national charts. A further Savoy release, "Hot Kisses" /  "Preachin' The Blues" appeared in June 1952 but also failed to chart. In July H-Bomb recorded "Tortured Love" with Varetta Dillard in his final Savoy session. This side was issued (with "Give It Up" on the B-Side) in November 1952, a release which brought an end to his brief spell with Savoy.

The rest of H-Bomb's career can be briefly summed up - a few one-off record deals in 1953, a move to Cincinnati in the mid 1950's followed by another series of sporadic releases on small labels, culminating in a couple of platters on a big label - Federal - including the much compiled "Midnight Ramblin' Tonight" in 1961, and then nothing for decades.

In the 1980's H-Bomb entered his "wild wig" phase - beginning a series of live appearances wearing a series of increasingly bizarre wigs, while reviving his recording career with singles on Radiation, Finch and Papa Lou Records and a couple of albums on Papa Lou and Earwig, the latter in 1993. By now H-Bomb was something of an institution not only on the Cincinnati blues scene, but also on the festival circuit. There's plenty of footage on YouTube of this stage of his career including videos recorded just a few months before he passed away in 2007. At least he kept rockin' almost to the very end and without the wigs, thank the Lord.

Elsewhere on the blog:

I've revived an old post on H-Bomb's first Savoy single by restoring the streaming audio. Click here for "Good Lovin'" and ""Slowly Goin' Crazy." Not only sounds but also arcane knowledge for your rockin' edification.

Recommended purchase:

Revola CD CR BAND 4. From 2006 and long out of print, but you may be able to pick up a second hand copy at a reasonable price. One drawback about this release is that the track order is totally different from that listed on the cover. Should you locate a copy here is the correct track order (with thanks to whoever uploaded it to the online database):

01. I Love My Baby
02. Rock H-Bomb Rock
03. Slowly Goin' Crazy
04. Preachin' The Blues
05. Sundown Blues
06. Good Lovin'
07. Give It Up
08. Big City Blues
09. My Brown Frame Baby
10. New Way Blues
11. Bookie's Blues
12. Life Is Hard
13. Hot Kisses
14. Double Crossin' Daddy
15. Tortured Love
16. Work For My Baby
17. You Made Me Baby
18. She's Been Gone
19. Nobody Knows
20. Baby Don't Go
21. Josephine
22. Baby Please (alt. of "She's Been Gone")
23. Hole In The Wall
24. On My Way
25. Good Time Gal
26. Feel Like I Do
27. My Love
28. Wine Head
29. Hard Lovin' Woman
30. My Baby's Blues
31. I Need You Baby

Good hunting!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Old King Gold Volume 11

Side One:
01. Move Me Baby - Jimmy Witherspoon
02. The Big Push - Cal Green
03. It Feels So Good - The Swallows
04. No Regrets - Little Willie John
05. I Know - Lula Reed
06. Rub A Little Boogie - Champion Jack Dupree

Side Two:
01. Let's Rock - Johnny Otis
02. Oh Miss Nellie - The Drivers
03. Nosey Joe - Bull Moose Jackson
04. Don't Leave Me This Way - Billy Ward & The Dominoes
05. Light Up Your Lamp - Willie Mabon
06. Must I Cry Again - Todd Rhodes & Lavern Baker

This is an unexpected addition to the Old King Gold series of posts. I am grateful to a generous donor for this set, which continues in much the same vein as the rest of the series. The usual eclectic mix of jump blues, proto soul, frantic rockers and weepy ballads. The sound quality on this one is good to very good so there are no skips, pops or clicks to interrupt your listening pleasure.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Old King Gold Volume 2

Side One:
01. Honky Tonk (Part 1) - Bill Doggett
02. Honky Tonk (Part 2) - Bill Doggett
03. Talk To Me - Little Willie John
04. Sixty Minute Man - Billy Ward & The Dominoes
05. Down The Aisle - Patti Labelle & The Blue Bells
06. White Cliffs Of Dover - The Checkers

Side Two:
01. Harlem Nocturne - Earl Bostic
02. Beside You - The Swallows
03. Sexy Ways - The Midnighters
04. Dedicated To The One I Love - The "5" Royales
05. Well Oh Well - Tiny Bradshaw
06. It Hurts To Be In Love - Annie Laurie

or alternatively:

This is the last of my "Old King Gold" LPs, complete with thick cardboard sleeve, a generic back cover pasted on to the sleeve (which is why so many of them are leaning at a crazy angle), and variable sound quality. This disc was in reasonable condition, so you get the sounds exactly as they are, complete with a few pops and clicks. Sound ripped at a listenable level and quality - same as the previous post. And so we leave the imported U.S. cutouts lying in the bargain bin circa 1978, and head for pastures new.

If you wish to get the complete series, Twilightzone is reposting rips of the Rare Bid (Bellaphon) German issue of "Old King Gold." Volume One is already up - go git it! Tell 'em Boogiewoody sent ya!

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Old King Gold Volume 6

Side One:
01. The Twist - Hank Ballard
02. The Bells - Billy Ward & The Dominoes
03. Bloodshot Eyes - Wynonie Harris
04. Walkin' With Mr Lee - Johnny Pate
05. Come Home - Bubber Johnson
06. Hold It - Bill Doggett

Side Two:
01. Gumdrop - Otis Williams & The Charms
02. My Friends - The Strangers
03. The Goof - Big Jay McNeely
04. Somebody Done Stole My Cherry Red - Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson
05. Big Boy - Bill Jennings

Old King Gold Volume 6


Old King Gold Volume 6

Only eleven tracks, but every one a gem. I've been tweaking the audio settings on my computer and I think that these rips are an improvement on the previously posted Volume 4 with much less clipping this time round. There is a bit of brief distortion on "The Twist" but that's due to a fault in the original vinyl. I've got one more volume to post and then I may revisit the previous volumes in order to improve the sound quality. Keep a groovin', R&B fans!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Old King Gold Volume 4

Side One:
01. Hideaway - Freddy King
02. Fever - Little Willie John
03. Little Things Mean A Lot - Billy Ward & The Dominoes
04. Good Rockin' Tonight - Wynonie Harris
05. Trying - Todd Rhodes & Laverne Baker
06. September Song - Earl Bostic

Side Two:
01. Chica Boo - Lloyd Glenn
02. Kansas City - Hank Ballard & The Midnighters
03. All My Love Belongs To You - Bull Moose Jackson
04. Another Woman's Man - Joe Tex
05. Shout Bamalama - Otis Redding
06. Tenderly - Lynn Hope

or alternatively:

I think this was the first Old King Gold LP that I bought back in the mid to late 1970's. I probably chose it because I recognised some of the artists on the back cover - Freddy King, Joe Tex and Otis Redding - and also because I had other versions of some of the songs - "Good Rockin' Tonight" (Elvis) and "Kansas City" (Wilbert Harrison). After one listen that was it, I was hooked on R&B.

This LP is in much better shape than the ones I have already posted, so there was no need to go looking for alternative sources for any of the tracks. This time you are hearing the record as it is. I've solved the problems I was having with getting good rips - it was all caused by settings on Realtek Audio Manager, so I may well revisit some of my recent rips. It took a day and a half of fiddling with PC and HiFi settings before I discovered what the problem was. That's me below, hard at work in Be Bop Wino MegaCorp H.Q. yesterday.

The new volume settings aren't what I'm used to, so you may find that I slightly overcooked the rip. For once I had to use Mp3 Gain to reduce the volume on the sound files as they were at speaker blasting level.

So enjoy more Old King Gold, recorded in all-new Drunkophonic 3D Vivid Distortion Sound. I'll be back with even more Gold in a day or two!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Old King Gold Volume 7

Side One:
01. That's What You're Doing To Me - Billy Ward & The Dominoes
02. Don't Take It So Hard - Earl King
03. The Greasy Spoon - Hank Marr
04. Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong - Albert King
05. I Want A Bow Legged Woman - Bull Moose Jackson
06. It Won't Be This Way Always - The King Pins

Side Two:
01. Annie Had A Baby - Hank Ballard & The Midnighters
02. Dearest - The Swallows
03. Mellow Blues (Part 1) - Sonny Thompson
04. Mellow Blues (Part 2) - Sonny Thompson
05. I'm Tore Up - Billy Gayles
06. Diamonds And Pearls - The Escos

or alternatively

As this LP was in such a dreadful condition I had to stage an intervention by finding alternative sources for a few of the tracks. So much for my hope of presenting the "Old King Gold" LP's just as they are, warts and all. In this case it simply wasn't possible due to the fact that the disc has a manufacturing fault, i.e. it isn't quite circular, and in addition it's warped. An unholy mess which means that the lead in to the tracks is right on the disc edge, a situation which has led to a mess of scratches on the first two tracks of the first side and the first track on the second side.

The last track, "Diamonds And Pearls," also proved to be problematic. No matter how many changes to settings I made on my computer and to my amp, I ended up with a murky mess consisting of a very loud and clear instrumental backing combined with a muffled vocal pushed way into the background. The only explanation I can think of is that the LP track may be in electronically rechaneled stereo which for some reason my Magix  software couldn't handle. I ended up ripping the track from YouTube.

The remaining eight tracks are from the original LP. Who knows what further sonic adventures await in the remaining volumes of "Old King Gold."