Herb Lance’s boozy, bongo-laden, somewhat Latin-styled take on the Bernice Petkere chestnut “Close Your Eyes” from 1957, which is very different from the several versions he had already recorded for various labels starting in 1949. I prefer this one by far, the chorus and flute adding a sweet and slightly cheesy sheen, Herb’s crooning conjuring a casino scene from the collective memory of technicolored cinema’s golden age.

Lance was a jazz, blues and gospel singer, songwriter, record producer, recording studio owner and radio DJ. As well as recording several hits himself in the late 1940s, he co-wrote Ruth Brown’s signature song, “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean.”

Chicagoan Bernice Petkere, a composer, songwriter and very young vaudevillian at the age of 7, was called the “Queen of Tin Pan Alley” by Irving Berlin himself.

 

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Getting his start playing clarinet in Glenn Miller’s big band in 1921, Boyd Senter eventually moved to Chicago in 1923 and managed to make several recordings with Jelly Roll Morton’s Steamboat Four. Soon thereafter he struck out alone as the “Jazzologist Supreme” (sometimes with his band, the Senterpedes) and recorded a string of sides for various labels in the 20s and 30s, all in the hot jazz/New Orleans idiom that was the rage during those decades. Sometimes the playfulness of his approach, especially the “laughing” or “whining” phrasing that became a signature of his clarinet style, was criticized by some as gimmicky, but he sold a lot of sides and was very popular in the public nevertheless.

What makes this 1927 trio take of “Down Hearted Blues” (a Lovie Austin/Alberta Hunter tune) so great is the guitar playing of the iconic Eddie Lang, an innovator who really raised the bar on guitar approach and its place in popular music, and also paved the way for giants like Django, Lonnie Johnson and Wes Montgomery. This performance is just so beautifully toned and nuanced, and to my ears sounds like he was playing from about 15-20 years into the future. Lang’s genius was very unfortunately cut short at 30 years old, a bad surgery in New York in 1933 seeming the culprit. His impact on Jazz cannot be underestimated.

Boyd Senter left music in the late 30s after his popularity waned, became a sporting goods salesman, settled down, and lived into old age, retiring to Oscoda, Michigan, and finally giving up the ghost in 1982 at 84 years old.

This Velvet Tone 7070 is a reissue copy of the original Okeh pressing, matrix no. W81001.

 

 

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This is a really swanky, swingin’ little instrumental number from 1955 on the TEEN label; it features piano and a drummer playing a small kit setup that includes one or two tambourines. It pulses along like a good-time get-together with the right party crowd, full of light-hearted merriment and boozy smiles all around.

“Dizzy Brown” was one of the many aliases of pianist, bandleader, orchestra leader, record producer and record company executive Bernie Lowe. He founded TEEN Records that same year, and also the Cameo label in 1956, both which were dedicated to rock, soul, doo-wop and folk rock groups. He also wrote or co-wrote many well-known hits in the 1950s and 60s, including Elvis’ “(Let Me Be) Your Teddy Bear”, Charlie Grace’s “Ninety-Nine Ways”, “Teen Age Prayer” by Gale Storm, and Chubby Checker’s “That’s The Way It Goes”, as well as many Bobby Rydell tunes that charted. Lowe was quite important to the growth of rock-n-roll during this era just as it was entering the true mainstream of American music.

 

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Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958), American blues legend.

Born in Mississippi, he played guitar, piano and bass, and went on to pen many blues standards, and copyrighted over 300 of them. Also, he was one of the founding faculty of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music , in 1953.

His sides on Paramount and Vocalion (where he is sometimes called “Willie Broomzy”) are typically hard to find, they’re expensive, and are almost always pretty beat up from the jukebox joints etc. “I’ll Start Cutting On You”, a 1938 country blues on Vocalion #04095 is no exception – it is roughed-up and scratchy; but I love this tune and it still comes up wonderfully from under the hiss, promise (you could also very easily adjust the treble settings on your EQ for a less lived-in sound, and you would still enjoy the bouncy beauty of this rare pre-war gem)! Happiness.

 

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This gospel quartet caught-on in the U.S. national scene in the 1940s and kept up their popularity & musical quality into the 50s. The great Ray Charles has said that the Pilgrim Travelers, and particularly their baritone Jesse Whitaker, influenced him and his then developing musical style: a brew of blues, gospel and jazz which would eventually come to be known as “soul” music.

This acapella take of “I Was There When the Spirit Came” is vocally tight, light and snappy, especially much of the accompaniment behind the lead. ¬†On the Specialty label out of L.A., which was known for its many excellent black rock & roll and gospel sides, this is a pretty clean copy with plenty of lustre on the shellac, and the voices are clear and really ring out so beautifully.

 

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Made in Chicago, this Magic Sam side, on the Cobra Record Corp. label, is a classic – this one has been haunting me for weeks now, and I just can’t get enough of this all-out soulful, electric blues sound. Late 50s cut; Magic Sam has a vocal delivery so reminiscent of the great Otis Rush at this time in his career (and they were Cobra label mates during these years, so); the guitar sounds like voltage being strummed.

Yes, this one is a tad scratchy because it has been loved to death in one jukebox or another for many years, years ago. I dug it out for free virtually at a favorite vinyl shop. I hope to have this one forever.

 

Magic Sam - Everything Gonna Be Alright