Les Paul built a homemade recording studio so he could accompany himself at night. He combined an “absolutely unheard of” twelve overdubs of an old jazz standard, “How High the Moon,” and eventually convinced a reluctant Capital Records to release it, even though the company already had 23 other versions (Les Paul An American Original). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
October 27, 2015
Riley King lucked into a short radio gig for WDIA in Memphis. “People would start to write me quite a bit…sometimes they would say, B. B.—the Beale Street Blues Boy…” His recording of “Three O’Clock Blues” made him a national star (‘Blues Boy’ The Life and Music of B. B. King).
James revived Robert Johnson’s standard. His “originality lay in his powerful style with the bottleneck” to create “one of the most exciting sounds in blues history.” He was apparently unaware of his tremendous influence on British rock bands when he died of a heart attack (Encyclopedia of the Blues). Fleetwood Mac recorded the song in 1968. Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
B. B. King and Howlin’ Wolf were double-booked at a Memphis nightclub. King said, “He sang so well till I almost cried…I told Wolf I didn’t want the gig—he could have it…Like all great bluesmen, he sang for the sinners, which meant he sang for everyone” (Moanin’ at Midnight The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf).
Formed in 1945 and originally called the Sentimental Four (based in Newport News, VA). In 1951 they won a lawsuit against the Four Keys who wanted to add another member to their group to become a second Five Keys (Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups).
October 20, 2015
Billy Ward was a boxer, sports journalist, and a Juilliard trained vocal instructor who formed a group with his own students, the Dominoes. Their risqué “Sixty Minute Man” featuring lead singer Clyde McPhatter (1932-1972) was possibly the “first R&B record by a black group to make the pop chart” (The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll).
Brenston was a saxophonist for Ike Turner and his Kings Of Rhythm band. The band recorded “Rocket 88” (about the Oldsmobile 88) under Brenston’s name. The song “became a hit, due in part to the distorted sound of Willie Kizart’s guitar” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music).
The song was first recorded by Leadbelly in 1933. The original Weavers—Pete Seeger (1919-2014), Fred Hellerman (1927-), Lee Hays (1914-1981), Ronnie Gilbert (1926-2015)—“profited by being everything pop singers were not; they had spontaneous arrangements and untrained voices, and they downplayed vocal effects in favor of content…communication, not hype.” Seeger left the Weavers in 1958 to protest the group’s decision to perform for a cigarette commercial (How Can I Keep From Singing: Pete Seeger).
October 13, 2015
The Soul Stirrers had its roots at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Trinity, Texas in the mid 1920’s, founded by Silas Roy Crain (1911-1996). The group moved from Houston to Chicago in 1937 and later cofounded the National Quartet Convention. Rebert H. Harris (1916-2000) joined the group and sang tenor in “By and By.” He was replaced in 1950 by Sam Cooke. Crain became Cooke’s manager in 1957 when Cooke left the group to record popular music (Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music).
“the hot rod subgenre…is generally considered to have been spawned by Hot Rod Race” (Record Makers and Breakers).
Perkins took his name from boogie-woogie pianist Pine Top Smith (1904-1929). Perkins recorded his own version of Smith’s 1928 “Pine Top Boogie Woogie” (The Big Book of Blues).
The one-man band who played guitar, drums, and harmonica simultaneously. “In 1957 he died of tetanus because he did not have money to pay for the vaccine” (Encyclopedia of the Blues).
October 6, 2015
A popular performer in California nightclubs, Gant was famous for his army hit “I wonder” and noted for his “furious boogie-woogie” piano playing (Encyclopedia of the Blues).
In the early 1960’s, she “left the music business, driving a school bus to support her children despite the millions of dollars she had made for her record company.” Brown “was the single most important and influential female artist in the development of modern R&B” (Encyclopedia of the Blues).
The “greatest songwriter in country music...a light and a darkness, a dream and a nightmare” (Hank Williams The Complete Lyrics).
Producer Fred Rose thought it was a terrible song but let Williams record it anyway. “Lovesick Blues” made Williams a star (Hank Williams The Biography). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.
The song was recorded for folklorist Alan Lomax in the 1930’s. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee considered it communist propaganda. “The Weavers may have been the first musicians in American history formally investigated for sedition” (How Can I Keep From Singing).