Archive for the R’n’B Category

Nestor Records (early John Coltrane musical content!)

Posted in 78 rpm, Discography, John Coltrane, R'n'B with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2015 by crownpropeller

nestor6aThis 1953 record from Philadelphia contains solos
by John Coltrane. From the Crown Propeller Collection

The John Coltrane Reference by Lewis Porter, Chris DeVito, David Wild, Yasuhiro Fujioka, Wolf Schmaler – a book you should own if you are a Coltrane fanatic – lists a probably 1953 session by Philadelphia drummer James “Coatesville” Harris that features Coltrane, done for the small Philadelphia label Nestor.

In their notes to that session the authors write: “This 78-rpm record was discovered by Swiss reserachers Otto Flückiger and Armin Büttner. (…) Coltrane is identified by aural evidence only, but we consider the evidence overwhelming. He plays throughout and solos on both tracks.”

What they write is not quite the truth though. It was not Otto Flückiger and me who made this discovery. Instead Otto and his friend the swiss jazz researcher and alto saxophonist Mario Schneeberger had thought that the saxophonist on Nestor 06 sounded very much like John Coltrane back in the 1960s when Otto won this record for a dollar or two in an auction. When Otto played the two tracks for me in the early 1990s, I was convinced that it’s Coltrane playing the tenor here from the first notes emanating from that horn, leading me to inform the Coltrane experts. But the claim for the discovery must go to Otto and Mario.

There is really not much known about the Nestor label which was owned by Herman “Piney” Gillespie, who at different points in time also ran the labels G&M, Piney and Teenage. Gillespie had his home base in Philadelphia, but at least Nestor moved to New York later.

The second Edition of Bob McGrath’s The R&B Indies (2006) lists nine issues on Nestor. And although I have been running a permanent ebay search for “Nestor 78rpm” since 2003, I only ever came up with one Nestor record at all (Nestor 10, incidentally not listed in the The R&B Indies).

In the hope of acquiring more information about the Nestor label (and maybe stumbling over even more Coltrane, not that I do have much hope), I decided to gather all the information that I have here, in the hope of delivering a somewhat complete list of its issues. Many thanks to Bob McGrath whose four volume work The R&B Indies is responsible for about 92 percent of this listing. Some composer credits were taken from 45rpm labels appearing on the internet. There is some music inside of this listing, some youtube clips – yes, and some Coltrane to listen to in an atomic age tenor solo!


Nestor Records – a draft

NESTOR 1 to NESTOR 5: No information

Coatesville Harris (dr, ldr), Rodney Smith (voc), John Coltrane (ts), unidentified p, g, b, d

Philadelphia, probably 1953

JG-06A     Ham Hocks And Hominy (H. Gillespie)
JG-06B     Strange Things All The Range (H. Gillespie)

(Information from Fancourt – McGrath: “The Blues Discography 1943–1970” and a copy of Nestor 6 in the Crown Propeller Collection, this record is not mentioned in the 2006 edition of The R&B Indies). Only 78 rpm copies are known.

And here is Coatesville Harris’ band with singer Rodney Smith doing “Strange Things All The Rage”. Watch out for John Coltrane!

NESTOR 7 to NESTOR 9: No information


JG-10A     The Little Black Sheep (Moore)
JG-10B     My Dream (Moore)

(Not listed in The R&B Indies, information from a 78rpm copy in the Crown Propeller Collection), Here is the music (warning: no jazz or r’n’b content!) I cannot find the 78rpm right now, so I might add a picture later.

The Little Black Sheep:

My Dream

NESTOR 11: No information

MICHELLE & HIS ORGAN (v. Jimmy Milner)

N-12A     Love Is Such A Funny Thing
N-12B     Now That You’re Gone

(Information from “The R&B Indies”)

Mae Parrish with unidentified tp, tb, ts, g, p, b, d, vocal ensemble on “Function …”

Philadelphia, probably late 1955 or early 1956

N-13A     Function On Broadway
N-13B     Let’s Make Love Tonight

Information from The R&B Indies, and Fancourt – McGrath: The Blues Discography 1943–1970. Fancourt/McGrath give 1953/1954 as the recording date, but this was probably later. The  New York Age of  February 11, 1956 noted: “Mae Parrish, sensational blues singer, getting good response from her recent recording of “Function On Broadway” on Nester (sic!) label.”

Here is “Function On Broadway”:

Freddie Clark (voc), unknown tp, as, p, b, d

N-14A     Begging Papa Blues
N-13B     Got The Blues

Information from The R&B Indies and Fancourt – McGrath: The Blues Discography 1943–1970 and a 78rpm copy of Nestor 14 in the Otto Flückiger Collection. When I go down to the archive again, I will take  pictures of the label. There were 45rpm copies as well. Here’s one from Youtube user stompingsevens:

And if you’d like to hear the flip side too, here’s “Got The Blues” from Otto’s collection.

MONTEREYS (Dean Barlow)

N-15A     Someone Like You (White-Epps)
N-15B     Train Whistle Blues

Basic information from The R&B Indies. Composer credits from 45rpm label shots found on the internet. Nestor 15 was also released as Teenage 1001.


N-16A     There Goes That Train (R. McGill)
N-16B     I Gotta (B. Smith)

Basic information from The R&B Indies. Composer credits from 78 and 45rpm label shots  found on the internet.

Ray Edwards (voc), Dicky Howard, rest unknown

N-17A     Rolling Down The Highway
N-17B     Going Down The River (H. Gillespie – R. Jefferson)

Information from The R&B Indies and Classic Urban Harmony website.


N-18X45  119    Rosa Lee (M. Childs)
N-18X45 120   No Love (M. Childs)

Basic information from The R&B Indies. Composer credits from  45rpm label shots  found on the internet. Here is a vid of “Rosa Lee” from youtube user jdkays:

NESTOR 19 to NESTOR 25: No information


N-26A     One More Time (Ollie Blanchard)
N-26B     Sugarfoot Sam

Information from The R&B Indies, composer credit for N-26A from a copy on ebay. This is the first known Nestor with a N.Y.C. adress on the label.



N-27A     Remember (G. Payne)
N-17B     That Kiss You Gave Me (G. Payne)

Information from The R&B Indies and label shots from the internet.

NESTOR (number unknown)


unknown titles

Information about singer Lloyd “Fat Man” Smith recording for Nestor can be found in the Billboard of April 13, 1957 (dates in brackets added by me):

“Lloyd, the ‘Fat Man’, r.&b. singer and ork leader who has recorded on Peacock (1951/52), Gotham (1950), Nestor (??), Checker (??) and Epic (really Okeh, 1956), has been signed as a disk jockey on WHAT, Philadelphia.”

Some information about Lloyd “Fat Man” Smith can be found here.


If you have information about the unlisted Nestor records or can provide label scans or audio files of records from the list, please contact me via a comment.

Ladies and Gentleman: Etta James!!! (Lugano 1991)

Posted in clips, Etta James, R'n'B with tags , , , , on December 29, 2014 by crownpropeller

Etta James at Estival Jazz Lugano, July 5, 1991. Were you there?


Bill Doggett Live!

Posted in Bill Doggett, clips, R'n'B with tags , , , , , , on January 9, 2014 by crownpropeller

You may never catch me sitting at home intensely listening to an Bill Doggett LP. But when I am am doing a DJ gig, one of those old King LPs has to come with me. After more than fifty years the famed Doggett Beat is still irresistible.

Considering that Doggett really was really well known, there is surprisingly very little footage of the man in action.

On one of Otto’s VHS cassettes I found around thirty minutes of a Bill Doggett combo playing at as part of the Newport Jazz Festival on tour in the Cimiez Gardens in Nice in July 1978. I had already posted “Honky Tonk” from this concert a while ago, but well: the more the better!

So here you have Bill Doggett on organ, the legendary David “Bubba” Brooks on tenor, guitarist Pete Mays (who also sings), Larry Trott on electric bass and Howard Overton on drums.


Welcome to the Crown Propeller Lounge again!

Posted in 78 rpm, documents, jazz, King Kolax, Photographs, R'n'B with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2013 by crownpropeller


(Click to enlarge) Sleeve for souvenir photographs from the Crown Propeller Lounge, unidentified date. From the Crown Propeller collection

The Crown Propeller Lounge – after which this blog is named – was one of Chicago’s most important venues for R’n’B and Jazz during the 1950s. You can read more about it on my old blog entry here. After reading that post, Mike Medina (aka WayoutWardell) contacted me and identified more of the people pictured in this gorgeous photo, donated to the Crown Propeller blog by the Schlossberg family (also check the comments section over there for more interesting information from Mike).

cp 1

(Click to enlarge) Dancer Lupita Peruyero, Joe Louis, Norman Schlossberg, Sarah Vaughan, King Kolax and Mitzi Mars at the Crown Propeller, probably 1952. Courtesy of the Schlossberg family

I had recognized trumpeter King Kolax and boxer Joe Louis with Crown Propeller owner Norman Schlossberg and Mike added the name of dancer Lupita Peruyero (far left) who was a regular at the Crown Propeller and knew that the lady on the far right is singer Mitzi Mars – of which I had presented some music in my old blog entry about the CP.


From Chicago Defender, May 31, 1952.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

Mike also kindly allowed me to use the photo of this bautiful  foursome at the Crown Propeller in 1945 – a time when the main audience of the CP was still white.

8434880768_7eda29c458_oEnjoying an evening at the Crown Propeller Lounge, 1945.
From the collection of Mike Medina.

If you are interested in photographs from Chicago’s South Side, you definitely should check Mike’s Flickr page. It was also Mike who alerted me, that the sign of the Crown Propeller lighting up can be seen in the opening sequence of the old “Crime Stories” TV series. I managed to find that one on youtube. I edited the CP part and let it run backwards and forwards – the way it possibly was. I guess there was something in the middle as well (a crown, maybe?) – I leave it to your imagination.

Ending up our second visit to the famed Crown Propeller Lounge is photo of a young couple at the bar, probably in the 1950s.  This was stuck in the souvenir envelope pictured at the very top of the envelope.

happy couple crown propeller_2
From the Crown Propeller collection

Who might they have listened to on that evening? Rudy Greene maybe, the “King Of The Guitar”?

From the Crown Propeller Collection

cpadChicago Defender, February 13, 1954


Welcome to the Crown Propeller Lounge!

Posted in 78 rpm, Chicago Tenor Sax, documents, jazz, King Kolax, Photographs, R'n'B, Sax Mallard with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by crownpropeller

cpl card

Sleeve for souvenir photographs from the Crown Propeller Lounge, probably 1940s.
Courtesy of the Schlossberg Family

The Crown Propeller Lounge – after which this blog is named – was one of Chicago’s most important venues for R’n’B and Jazz during the 1950s. The town’s larger talent appeared here as well as every other  R’n’B star coming through town (and a lot of jazzers): Tiny Davis, Wynonie Harris, The Moonglows, Stomp Gordon, Jo Jo Adams, Big Maybelle, Ray Charles, The Flamingos, Andy Tibbs, Danny Overbea, Nellie Lutcher, Valaida Snow, Amos Milburn, Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra, Big Joe Turner, Sonny Stitt, Jimmy Rushing, Al Hibbler, T-Bone Walker, Dizzy Gillespie, Arthur  Prysock, Bill Doggett, The Orioles, Illinois Jacquet …  A program quite to my liking, I must say, so that’s why this blog is named Crown Propeller’s blog.

Some weeks ago I was contacted by a lady, who is married to the grandson of Mildred “Mitzi” Schlossberg and Norman Schlossberg, who used to own the Crown Propeller Lounge. The lady asked me, if I had any material she might use for making a birthday collage for Mitzi who turned 97 (!) in January. I could help her just a little, since (other then say for the equally famous Club DeLisa) photographs and memorabilia from the Crown Propeller are rather rare.

cp_outsideOne of only two known photographs showing the Crown Propeller Lounge from outside (the other one is here). Judging from the cars in the picture, this photo was taken after the closing of the Lounge in 1959 (photo taken from Sandor Demlinger’s and John Steiner’s beautiful book “Destination Chicago Jazz”). To the right of the Crown Propeller one can see the entrance to Crown Liquors, another business owned by the Schlossbergs.

I asked her to be on the lookout for memorabilia from the Crown Propeller when she was going to her husband’s grandmother’s house and she promised to do so. Then some weeks later I could not believe my eyes when I got a mail from that lady containing some gorgeous photos, which I am presenting you here, courtesy of the Schlossberg Family. I have added some music typical of the Crown Propeller’s programming to go along with it as well as some advertisements featuring the people in the photographs.

cp 2(Click to enlarge) Norman Schlossberg (2nd from left), Mitzi Schlossberg
(center) and unidentified others at the Crown Propeller, possibly
late 1940s. Courtesy of the Schlossberg family

The  – undated – photo above was contained in the beautiful souvenir cover seen at the top of this post. It is possible that this photograph was taken in the 1940s when the Crown Propeller  ran a  musical policy that was different from what the lounge later became known for.

Usually the time span for the Crown Propeller’s existence is given  as 1951–1959.  This  seems to be based on an ad from Chicago Defender of August 4, 1951 announcing the opening of the Crown Propeller (strangely enough regarding the newspaper’s date) on August 3rd with singer Ethel Duncan and violinist Leon Abbey’s trio.


From Chicago Defender, August 4, 1951.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

But the Crown Propeller Lounge had existed before that. The earliest mention I could find is in Billboard of November 14, 1942, where Everett Hull and Victory Boys are announced to appear at the Crown Propeller for four weeks. Billboard of December 19, 1942 mentions Don Jacks as returning to the Crown Propeller on January 12.  Other acts mentioned in Billboard as playing at the Crown Propeller are in 1942 trumpeter Johnny Gibbs with singer Dolores Janis (December ), and in 1943 The Victory Four (Everett Mull, Leon Shash, George Mitchell, George Michaels), Don Jacks (March 20: “picked up another four month holdover at the Crown Propeller”).


From the Billboard Yearbook 1943

The Billboard Yearbook 1944 mentions Don Jacks as having had a two-and-a-half-year engagement at the Crown Propeller, so the Crown Propeller may already have existed in 1941.

There are no mentions for the Crown Propeller in Billboard’s regular issues of 1944 and 1945. The issue of December 14, 1946 mentions Little Sans and Lee Trio at the Crown Propeller, in Billboard of January 15, 1947 the same aggregation is mentioned as having extended four weeks at the CP.

I do not know if the changing of musical policy at the CP came with a changing of venues or if it always had been on 868 East 63rd. From the mentions in Billboard during the fourties I can only gather that it had always been on the South Side of Chicago. Anyway after the (re-)opening on August 3rd, 1951, the Crown Propeller was never looking back to the days of accordeon-and-fiddle bands again.


R’n’B and Jazz – the Crown Propeller takes a new direction.
From Chicago Defender, August 11, 1951.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

The next photo the lady married to the Schlossberg’s grandson send me is also undated. It shows The 4 Tunes (also known as The Four Tunes), a very famous vocal group in the early 1950s about which you can find a lot of information in Marv Goldberg’s article.

cp 3

(Click to enlarge) The 4 Tunes (left) and some fans at the Crown Propeller,
date unknown. Courtesy of the Schlossberg family

I can find no reference for a 4 Tunes appearance at the Crown Propeller, so the photo has to remain undated for now.

One of The 4 Tunes’ greates hits was “Marie”, recorded for Jubilee in 1953. It’s one of my favourite uptempo R’n’B vocal group pieces when I am appearing as DJ Crown Propeller at  the Klub Helsinki. Here is a nice clip from youtube user ilbmlb51 showing the original 78 rpm playing:

The next photo that the lady send me is really fantastic:

cp 1

(Click to enlarge) Dancer Lupita Peruyero, Joe Louis, Norman Schlossberg, Sarah
Vaughan, King Kolax and Mitzi Mars at the Crown Propeller, probably 1952.
Courtesy of the Schlossberg family

Second person from left is boxer Joe Louis, World Heavyweight Champion from 1937 to 1949. Behind him is CP owner Norman Schlossberg and the man front right is local trumpeter and bandleader King Kolax (1912–1991) who is known to the wider jazz world for employing John Coltrane for a while in the late 1940s. There is a lot more to know about Kolax though, and you can find it all on the King Kolax page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation. The woman in the middle is Sarah Vaughan (see comments section) and the one on the right also looks familiar to me, she might be a singer or some other celebrity.There are several possibillities regarding the question when the photo above was taken. Judging from the known ads for the Crown Propeller, Vaughan never was part of the program there. But she was in town several times each year, mostly as part of some jazz package tour . As for King Kolax and his Orchestra: He played at the Crown Propeller in January 1952:


   From Chicago Defender, January 19, 1952.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

And then again in March:

cd_52_03_22From Chicago Defender, March 22, 1952.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

In May 1952 Kolax was also at the Crown Propller, when Sax Mallard (about whom more later) was also on the bill.


From Chicago Defender, May 31, 1952.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”


From Chicago Defender, June 14, 1952.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

Then Kolax’ band was acting as house band from mid 1954 to January 1955. One of the CP’s main attraction at that time was still the “Aqua-Tease” of sea nymph Atlantis with whom the Croen Propeller had started in 1951. In 1954 Kolax joined Atlantis in the 500 gallon tank for a photo published in Jet magazine in September.


Jet, September 16, 1954.


From Chicago Defender, November 13, 1954.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

Probably his success at the Crown Propeller lead King Kolax to record for Vee Jay in December 1954 (and later in Sepetember 1955). Parts of these sessions are said to having been arranged by Sonny Blount, later known throughout the cosmos as intergalactic band leader Sun Ra. “Vivian” from December 1954 is one of the tracks of which  some people – including me –  think they might be a Ra arrangement. The band consists of  Kolax (tp), Harold Ousley (ts), Prentice McCarey (p), “Cowboy” Martin (b),  and Leon Hooper (d,  perc).

In October 1956 King Kolax returned to the Crown Propeller for two weeks (Della Reese was followed by Louis Jordan and then by Charles Brown who brought their own bands):


From Chicago Defender, October 20, 1956.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

Kolax was also engaged by the Crown Propeller in February 1957, but it is not clear how long this gig lasted.

The next photo the lady send me send me shows another local Chicago legend: Saxophonist Oett “Sax” Mallard (1915–1986). This photo also could have been taken on different dates.

cp 4(Click to enlarge) Mitzi Schlossberg and Oett “Sax” Mallard
(with retouched glasses) at the Crown Propeller, exact date unknown.
Courtesy of the Schlossberg family

Sax Mallard, about whom you can find a lot more information on the Sax Mallard page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation, made his name recording blues with people like Roosevelt Sykes, Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy in sessions for RCA-Victor in the 1940s. For a while in 1943 Mallard substituted for Otto Hardwick in Duke Ellington’s orchestra. Starting in 1947 for Aristocrat Mallard had the chance to record some tracks under his own name.

Here is a video of a copy of Checker 750  from my collection. “Slow Caboose”, a typical tenor sax fuelled piece of jukebox fodder, was recorded in January 1951 with Sax Mallard (ts) an unidentified trumpeter, probably Jimmy Bowman piano; probably Ernest “Big” Crawford on bass and Osie Johnson drums (Johnson also does some dramatic baritone singing on another side from this session). This one is so echo-filled that you might imagine yourself being in deep in dub land.

Mallard’s band was the Crown Propeller’s house band at different times, starting with some months in 1951 and 1952.


From Chicago Defender, September 1, 1951.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”


From Chicago Defender, September 29, 1951.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”


From Chicago Defender, November 24, 1951.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”

During the early fifties Sax Mallard backed quite a few singers and r’n’b vocal groups on records.

In March 1953 he went to Chicago’s Universal Recording studios where his group was backing Mitzi Mars in a session for Checker Records:

From the Crown Propeller Collection.

One of Mitzi Mars’ tunes with Sax Mallard’s band backing her – “Roll ‘Em” –  was uploaded on youtube by youtube user Rosenda Moore:

From November 1953 to summer 1954, Mallard’s Combo was the Crown Propeller’s house band again. During this time the Crown Propeller’s main attractions were people like Jimmy Witherspoon, Billy Brooks, Scatman Crothers, Lowell Fulson, Ray Charles, Big Maybelle, Wynonie Harris, Amos Milburn and Valaida Snow.


From Chicago Defender, November 29, 1953.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”


From Chicago Defender, January 9, 1954.
Taken from Franz Hoffmann’s “Jazz Advertised”


Sax Mallard’s last appearances at the CP took place in August 1957 (two weeks) and again from December 1957 on (length of engagement unknown) At that time the Crown Propeller was already in decline. The club closed in 1959 and by early 1960 the Schlossbergs had moved to Florida.

Finally the lady married to the Schlossberg’s grandson send me another nice photo of Mildred “Mitzi” Schlossberg. Obviously this was taken in a year where January 17th was a tuesday which points to 1950 or 1956. Neither an “Amateur Night” nor a “Crazy Auction” is mentioned in the Crown Propeller ads for 1956. So I would say 1950.

cp 5

(Click to enlarge) Mitzi Schlossberg and probably not Cary Grant at the
Crown Propeller Lounge, probably 1950. Courtesy of the Schlossberg Family.

Again I have to thank  the Schlossberg Family for these beautiful photographs that allow a rare glimpse inside the Crown Propeller. The lady married to the Schlossberg’s grandson has promised to look if she can find anymore memorabilia of the Crown Propeller Lounge. If she does, I will keep you all informed.


Chicago Tenor Sax (first installment)

Posted in 78 rpm, Chicago Tenor Sax, Gene Ammons, Leon Washington, R'n'B, Schoolboy Porter with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by crownpropeller

jug_1950Gene Ammons around 1950. Photographer unknown.

Up to the late 1950s you could usually tell where a tenor saxophone player may come from geographically. This goes especially for tenorists from Chicago, where the dominant way of playing was very relaxed and way behind the beat. The most famous exponent of this school  who was also widely known outside of Chicago was of course Gene Ammons. But in the 1940s and 1950s this town had a whole lot of great or at least  very interesting tenor saxophonists – some of which are well known, some more or less obscure. Not all of them are members of the Lester Young school though: Von Freeman, Dick Davis, Sax Mallard, Claude McLin, Eddie Johnson, John Neely, Johnny Griffin, Clifford Jordan, Tom Archia – and the list goes on.

If I start to listen to tenor players from Chicago,I might end up  doing so for days. So I decided to let my readers in on the fun and present in a loose series some of the best jazz and r’n’b tenor saxophonists that played in the clubs of the Windy City in the 1940s and 1950s. I will try to use original 78 rpms for this purpose, but this probably will not work in very case, as there are some things of which I only have bad tape copies or the like.

The first installment of this series has to start of with Gene Ammons, of course. “Hey Mr. Freddy”on Aristocrat 8001 was recorded in February 1949 by group that included Ammons, singer and pianist Christine Chatman, Leo Blevins on guitar, bassist Lowell pointer and legendary drummer Ike Day. It was for the first time reissued in 2003 on a CD by the french company Classics, all the previous compilers of Ammon’s output for Aristocrat/Chess had overlooked this track.

Not really from Chicago, but from close enough Gary Indiana comes John “Schoolboy” Porter (born in 1926). Porter recorded for Chicago based Chance Records from 1950 to 1952. Then he appeared – as guitarist! – on a Roosevelt Sykes session for United, also in 1952. After that he opted for a career in the military. Porter has an interesting sound, most of his records pair jukebox groovers with sentimental ballads as was usual during these days. “Kayron”, recorded in 1950, was a fine piece of bop from Chicago with – I think – a really great solo by Schoolboy (search for it on youtube, someone has put it up). On the shuffling “Schoolboy’s Boogie” which was recorded in September 1950, Porter is accompanied by pianist Jesse Hart (who also sang, but not on this track), bassist Walter Broyle and drummer Carl Scott.

If you want to know more about John “Schoolboy” Porter, you should check the Chance Records page at the Red Saunders Research Foundation. On the other hand if you know anything about what Porter is doing nowadays, it would be nice if you would let me know.

Now for today’s third featured Chicago tenor man. After having recorded with Earl Hines in the mid 1930s saxophonist Leon Washington joined drummer Red Saunders’ house band at Chicago’s famed Club De Lisa in 1937, staying with Red until the late 1950s.

delisaSmiling Ladies at the Club DeLisa, unknown date.
From the Crown Propeller Archive (click to enlarge)

Leon Washington isa  totally overlooked saxophonist. Red Saunder’s band is mostly interesting not for Washington’s solos but for the fact that Sun Ra wrote arrangements for it. Understandably so, since the Saunders orchestra was essentially a show band and Leon rarely had an opportunity to shine. Elaborate boppish playing was not asked for in between singer’s verses.

In 1954 and 1955 Washington and McKinley Easton, Saunders’ baritone man, did some work for the very small Theron label. You can read all about Theron on the Theron page of the Red Saunders Research Foundation. On “Forward Blow” which was recorded in 1954, Easton and Washington show what they could do if let loose

Watch this space for further installments of this series!

Skeets Tolbert and his Gentleman of Swing (1944)

Posted in clips, jazz, R'n'B with tags , , , , on October 28, 2012 by crownpropeller

A figure almost forgotten today is clarinetist, alto saxophonist arranger and singer Campbell “Skeets” Tolbert (1909–2000).

Skeets  Tolbert (center)

According to his Wikipedia entry, Tolbert grew up in Lincolntown, North Carolina and first recorded with Dave Taylor’s Dixie Orchestra (Leslie Johnakins who later became known as Machito’s baritone saxophonist was in that band then).

In 1934 Tolbert moved to New York City, where he played with Charlie Alexander before joining the house band at the Savoy Ballroom.

In 1936 he played with Fats Waller, then joined a band fronted by Olympic athlete Jesse Owens in 1937. Shortly afterwards he joined Snub Mosley’s band and took control of it after Mosley’s departure. Freddie Green, Kenny Clarke, Red Richards, Otis Hicks, Carl Smith and Lem Johnson all played in the band, which first recorded in 1939 under the name  Skeets Tolbert’s Gentlemen of Swing.

It is said that his sales were poor when he was recording with his Gentleman of Swing for Decca from 1939 to 1942. Nonetheless the company recorded 40 sides with Tolbert. MCA who came to own Decca never bothered to reissue Tolbert’s 78s and fans of fine jump band music had to acquire obscure LPs drawn from 78 records of varying condition to get a taste of Skeetz style that settles somewhere between Johnny Hodges and  Louis Jordan. It was only in 1997 and 1998 that french company Chrono(lo)gical Classics issued to CDs worth of Tolbert’s wonderful jive music.

After his Decca recordings we meet Tolbert again in 1944 when his group was doing playback on four tracks (one of them featuring singer Lupe Carterio) for a “Soundies” movie production. These four tracks have appeared and disappeared on youtube over time. But never were all to be seen at the same time. So I decided to edit them all into one clip (which admittedly did not turn out as nice as it was supposed to).

Unfortunately it is not known (at least to me) who the members of Tolbert’s band are on this clip. You will see and hear them play “‘Tis You Babe”, “No No Baby”, “Blitzkrieg Bombardier”, and “Corn Pone”

Again following Wikipedia, Tolbert completed studies at Columbia University in 1946 and broke up the group to take a job in Charlotte, North Carolina as a high school music teacher. He became a faculty member at Texas Southern University in Houston in 1948. Later in his life Tolbert worked for the American Federation of Musicians and owned a music store. The Wikipedia article about Tolbert is based on Howard Rye’s article about Tolbert in Grove Jazz online. It is a shame that no more is known about such a musically interesting figure  and very good to know he was filmed.
So enjoy!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 154 other followers