August 29, 2015

70 Johnny Otis (1921-2012) “Harlem Nocturne” 1946

Otis said R&B bands were reduced versions of swing bands that started playing popular forms of blues. He was a “pivotal figure in the rise of both rhythm & blues and rock ‘n’ roll.” He became a gospel preacher in the mid 70’s and then revived his stage band a decade later (Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul). 

August 27, 2015

69 Ella Mae Morse (1924-1999) with the Freddie Slack (1910-1965) Band “The House of Blue Lights” 1946

Morse’s professional singing career stretched over fifty years from when she was a 12 year old. She was hired by Slack in 1942, with whom she made a best-seller hit, “Cow Cow Boogie” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Culture). 

68 Jack McVea (1914-2000) and his All Stars “Open the Door, Richard” 1946

Based on a vaudeville routine, the song was a Billboard hit in 1947. Saxophonist McVea played with other noted musicians like T-Bone Walker in Los Angeles’s Central Avenue jazz district during the 30’s and 40’s. He performed at Disneyland from 1966 to 1992 (Encyclopedia of the Blues).

Jack McVea and his All Stars "Open the Door, Richard"

67 The Golden Gate Quartet “Swing Down, Chariot” 1946

“The Golden Gates would remain the premiere close-harmony jubilee group until the public’s tastes changed in the mid-1950s, when they subsequently moved to France and successfully rejuvenated their careers” (People Get Ready).

66 The Delmore Brothers “Hillbilly Boogie” 1946

Brothers Alton (1908-1964) and Rabon (1916-1952) grew up on a dirt farm near Elkmont, Alabama. “Their close harmony work has been copied by numerous performers” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music).

August 21, 2015

65 The Nat King Cole Trio “Route 66” 1946

“Years have relegated to ancient history the extreme paradox of being a black star in a racist society, but Nat King Cole (1919-1965) lived that paradox. His records sold millions of copies, and women swooned when he sang, but he couldn’t be sure of getting a room in a good hotel” (Nat King Cole).  

64 T-Bone Walker (1910-1975) “Mean Old World” 1945

A recording agent from Houston heard a teenage Walker playing in Dallas. His jazz blues style transformed the guitar from a background rhythm instrument into the “dominant sound” of blues (Encyclopedia of the Blues).

T-Bone Walker "Mean Old World"

63 Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) “Strange Things Happening Every Day” 1945

“Strange Things” was a favorite of young white musicians such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash. Lewis said, “Say, man, there’s a woman that can sing some rock and roll. I mean, she’s singing religious music, but she is singing rock and roll. She’s…shakin’, man…She jumps it. She’s hitting that guitar, playing that guitar and she is singing” (Shout, Sister, Shout). Her 1944 recording of “Down By the Riverside” is listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

62 Arthur Smith (1921-2014) “Guitar Boogie” 1945

A WWII Navy vet, jazz and country band leader, Baptist Sunday School teacher and grocery store entrepreneur, Smith showed pop musicians what they could do with an electric guitar (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music).

61 Wynonie Harris (1915-1969) with the Lucky Millinder (1910-1966) Orchestra “Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well” 1945

The “Millinder band paved the way for the R&B boom of the late 1940s.”

Wynonie Harris "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well" 

August 18, 2015

60 Joe Liggins (1915-1987) and his Honeydrippers “The Honeydripper” 1945

Like Saunders King, Liggins and his band were staples of the West Coast blues. They “filled the gap between swing and early rock & roll.” They performed their style of music for the next forty years in California gigs (The Big Book of Blues).

59 Louis Jordan (1908-1975) and His Tympany Five “Caldonia” 1945

Jordan and his band played “jump style” rhythm and blues, “pointing to a new music that was just around the corner” (The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

Louis Jordan "Caldonia"

58 Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) with the Ink Spots “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall” 1945

Fitzgerald toured with the Ink Spots after Chick Webb’s demise in 1939. Their “first million-selling disc” was “Into Each Life” performed with Fitzgerald. Music producer John Hammond said “I have had some great pure-jazz shows…But if you don’t have Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, or Dinah Washington as the headliner, you can forget it” (The Ella Fitzgerald Companion). 

Ella Fitzgerald with the Ink Spots "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall"

57 Charles Brown (1922-1999) and the Three Blazers “Drifting Blues” 1945

A chemistry major at Prairie View A&M and high school science teacher, Brown moved to California to develop his suave blues style with guitarist Johnny Moore (1906-1969) (whose brother played with the Nat King Cole Trio) and bassist Eddie Williams (1912-1995) (The Big Book of Blues).

Charles Brown "Drifting Blues"

56 Louis Jordan (1908-1975) and his Tympani Five “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” 1944

Written by Billy Austin, a self-described “sailor, lumberjack and construction worker” (Let the Good Times Roll).

55 Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) “This Land Is Your Land” 1944

“America’s ‘alternative’ national anthem” (Encyclopedia of Popular Music). “You have summarized the struggles and the deeply held convictions of all those who love our land and fight to protect it. Sincerely yours, Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior” (Bound for Glory). Guthrie died from Huntington’s Chorea, a degenerative disease. Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

54 Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (1905-1974) “Rock Me Mamma” 1944

“The Father of Rock and Roll” never received royalties for songs others like Elvis Presley would make famous; he “died in near-poverty” (Encyclopedia of the Blues).  

53 The Nat King Cole Trio “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” 1944

“Gee, Baby” and the other songs recorded in with it “are widely regarded as the pinnacle of the King Cole Trio’s artistry” (Nat King Cole). 

August 10, 2015

52 The Nat King Cole Trio “Straighten Up and Fly Right” 1943

The first major hit of Cole (1917-1965) and his partners, guitarist Oscar Moore (1916-1981) and bassist Wesley Prince (1907-1980). His “talent as a jazz pianist and singer was almost totally obscured by his commercial success” (The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

Nat King Cole Trio "Straighten Up and Fly Right"

51 Saunders King (1909-2000) “S. K. Blues” 1942

An important figure in the California blues scene which featured mellow, jazz-like electronic sounds (Encyclopedia of the Blues).