Revision note: We have brought up to speed (with considerable help from Teter expert Cary Ginell) a reasonable biography of Jack Teter—and established that Chance 3000 was a reissue of a single Teter had made for a tiny Milwaukee-based label called Demo. We are still upgrading our biography of Lucy Reed (Chance 3006 and 3019). We can now, at last, offer reliable information on the BEL Trio, the Milwaukee-based group that recorded Chance 3018, and on Sister Rosa Shaw, who was responsible for Chance 5007 and 5008. We have also added a lot about the Meadowlarks (Chance 1125 and 3007), Elaine Rodgers (Chance 3001), Dick Marx (Chance 3004), Ann Gilbert (Chance 3014), Gerry Teifer (Chance 3016), (we never really thought this would happen) Bill Kessler (Chance 3020), and (we weren't too sure about this either) Fred Montell (Chance 3021), even a few things about bandleaders Don Ragon and Chuck Sagle. In the 3000 pop series, Don Miller continues to be an enigma, and we'd like to know whether the Four Bits were a comedic quartet from South Florida... but we've come a long way. We have significantly enhanced our biography of Walter Spriggs (aka Wally Wilson, aka Ray Scott), who had a lot more of a musical career than we'd previously realized. We are indebted to Bob Eagle and Rob Ford for making the Scott connection and pointing us to a 1963 article establishing that Ray Scott and Walter Spriggs were one and the same. Finally, we have a little more to say about the elusive Meteor 100.
Chance Records, like Parrot, United, and Aristocrat, was an independent Chicago label that pioneered in recording the new African-American sounds that swept the city after World War II: the electrified Mississippi blues and the doowop harmony groups. Chance cut 360 known sides from September 1950 through October 1954. In addition, Chance purchased or licensed at least 44 sides. We know of 94 releases on Chance, accompanied by 1 on its very short-lived tributary Meteor and 9 on its later subsidiary Sabre.
Although the blues and doowop garnered Chance a place in history, the company recorded pop, jazz, and gospel, and this discography is designed to profile those aspects of the label as well. The jazz sides were by the Wally Hayes Combo aka Calumet City Boys aka Chanceteers, John "Schoolboy" Porter, the Jimmy Binkley Jazz Quintet, Chubby Jackson, Conte Candoli, Johnny Miller, and Remo Biondi; only two of these sides have ever been reissued by anyone.
The bulk of Chance's output was in the R&B field, which reflected the knowledge amassed by the label's founder and owner, Art Sheridan. Sheridan (born July 16, 1925 in Chicago) had been running a distributorship and a pressing plant, where the preponderance of his work was with African-American oriented product. The main Chance 1100 series, the temporary Meteor 100 series, and the Sabre 100 series concentrated on blues, jazz instrumentals, doowop groups, and solo R&B stylists. The company also ran a Chance 3000 series for pop (with 21 releases) and a Chance 5000 series for gospel (for which we know 10 releases).
Most Chance recordings were done at Universal Recording Corporation (which was the source of the two main Chance master series: one starting in the U1800s and obviously shared with other labels; the other an exclusive series that began at U5000 or C5000, prefix not handled consistently). Some recordings were picked up from other sources and some were recorded at other studios in town. We know that the first Homesick James Williamson session was recorded at RCA Studios.
Our basic source for this work is a roughly chronological list of matrix numbers, artists, and titles provided by Art Sheridan to the French discographical researcher, Marcel Chauvard (1926-1968). We have thoroughly checked and considerably amplified his listing, but without M. Chauvard's work our discography would not have been possible. As often happens when working from company files, Sheridan sometimes supplied titles that were not used on the labels. When there is a disagreement, Sheridan's title appears in square brackets after the title that ended up being used. Occasionally Sheridan's matrix numbers disagreed with those that appeared on the labels; such numbers are also shown in brackets.
The Chance label officially opened for business in September 1950 and had its first headquarters in the offices of Sheridan's American Record Distributors, located at 2011 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Sheridan also operated a pressing plant called Armour Plastics; in March 1950, his pressing operation had expanded by absorbing the remnants of Egmont Sonderling's Master Records (see our Old Swing-Master page) after Sonderling began shifting his holdings into radio stations.
The first Chance label (on 78s) was black, with a silver rim and silver print. This was plain-looking, but serviceable, and Sheridan kept it until the middle of 1952. When Chance 45s began hitting the market, they used a plain blue background and silver print. The company was not, however, in a big hurry as far as 45s went. Most would appear with later label designs.
The company's very first session featured one Arnold Jones, who to judge from the titles he cut was a ballad singer. We can say no more, as his one release on Chance 1100 is very scarce and we have yet to hear it. Sales were not militating for the release of the other two sides that Jones had recorded.
What got the label launched was its second session, a series of instrumentals by tenor sax player Schoolboy Porter. John A. Porter was a 24-year old native of Gary, Indiana, who had served for 2 1/2 years in the Navy during World War II. In the summer of 1947 he joined the Cootie Williams Band in Indianapolis and toured the Eastern states. Service with Williams would have helped him develop into a formidable honker (unfortunately, Porter didn't stay long enough to get onto a recording session, so we can't compare his solos with those of "Weasel" Parker and "Gator Tail" Jackson). In 1948, he enrolled in the Midwestern College of Music, where he stayed for a year. After gigging around with some other bands in the Midwest, Porter was brought to the label by Gary deejay Jesse Coopwood.
Schoolboy's first Chance release, an instrumental of the Tommy Dorsey / Frank Sinatra song, "I'll Never Smile Again," was something of a local hit in the fall of 1950. Porter was backed by a rhythm section, consisting of Jesse Hart's rather florid piano, Walter Broyle's bass, and Carl Scott's drums. Studio reverb was laid on during his solos—more heavily on the ballads, as was the custom at the time. "Kayron" was a driving bop number on which Schoolboy showed off his jazz chops; "Deep Purple" was an affecting ballad performance.
In November, Chance came out with a two-sided release of "Tennessee Waltz." It used the same combo and was probably from the same session. "Tennessee Waltz" sold some 10,000 copies; Armour Plastics lacked sufficient capacity to press them all, so some were entrusted to RCA Victor in Chicago (these copies bear an extra matrix number on each side in RCA's E0 series). Said Sheridan, "That was the era when the saxophone solos and the saxophone copies of popular tunes were very popular. Patti Page had a big hit with 'Tennessee Waltz,' and it was just a normal thing to put out an instrumental on a pop hit as soon as you heard one that seemed to be going somewhere." Of course, he hedged his bet by including a square vocal by Schoolboy's pianist Jesse Hart on the B side. (Claude McLin, who'd scored a hit for Chess in August-September 1950 with his sax solo version of "Mona Lisa," also cut "Tennessee Waltz," but Porter's version trounced McLin's at the cash register.)
Schoolboy and the same rhythm section were quickly brought back for a second outing in November, with strong results artistically. "Nevertheless" is a well-done ballad, and "Walk Heavy" got its name because Schoolboy played baritone sax on it; judging from this one recorded outing on the big horn, he could have given Leo Parker a run for his money. In all, Porter would be responsible for 4 of the 6 initial releases on the label: Chance 1101, 1103, 1104, and 1105.
Right after the first Schoolboy Porter session, the company recorded two sides on the Al Sims Trio. Released on Chance 1102, both were uptown blues featuring an excellent vocalist named Sam Dawson. "I Wonder, Baby," a proto-rock-and-roll number, also features a two-chorus guitar solo. Sam Dawson was a guitarist, and presumably did the honors himself; did he leave any other recordings behind? "Moody Woman" is in the Charles Brown vein. Good as the results sound to us today, the sales must have been disappointing, because Sheridan didn't call Sims and company back into the studio.
The remainder of the label's recording activity consisted of one or two big sessions featuring singer Clyde Wright and a jazz combo (usually a quintet) led by Wally Hayes, to which Sherican attached a welter of names. On one release, they were opportunistically defined as the "Calumet City Boys," on others, as "The Chanceteers." And Marcel Chauvard copied down a "Copwood Session," a reference to the Gary deejay, Jesse Coopwood, who may have produced it. Going by the titles (because some of the items have never been released), we think the "Coopwoods" were mostly instrumentals by this group. The band that backed Schoolboy Porter on his first two sessions was a different outift, duly denominated as the "Schoolboys" on the initial releases. However, Art Sheridan, who had his reasons to be less than perfectly clear, would later claim that the Chanceteers had performed on these sides as well.
Supposedly the Chanceteers were gathered for recording purposes by an early associate of Sheridan, one Steve Chandler, described in the trades as a "local realty agent." Just just one single was released under the Chanceteers' name alone, Chance 1107. The extremely rare Chance 1106 by Clyde Wright (which eluded discographical attention for nearly 60 years) credits the backing to Wally Hayes. The much more common Chance 1107, which was obviously cut at the same session, and carries composer credit to Hayes on both sides, initially did so as well. (Our thanks to Richard Reicheg for alerting us to the Hayes variant of 1107.)
Wallace Hayes was a drummer who had been active in the South Side clubs since 1945 or 1946, and would continue to show up on the Musicians Union Local 208 contract lists through 1955. In 1946, he had William Huddleston (the future Yusef Lateef) playing tenor saxophone in his group, but we have no information about most of the musicians who worked with him. The combo he led on this occasion included an excellent alto saxophonist, who is prominent on both sides of Chance 1106, 1107, and one side of 1112, along with piano, guitar, and bass. It would be nice to find who these musicans were, but 65 years later the trail is stone cold. On one issued side (plus possibly some of those still unissued), trumpet and tenor sax were added.
Why it was singled out for such an honor we don't know, but Chance 1107 was reissued in 1956 as Chess 1636. We have no evidence that further Chance material was picked up by the Chess brothers in this transaction—or in any other.
The matrix number on "I'm Nobody's Trick," a blues sung by Clyde Wright, brings up more questions. Sheridan wrote down 2016, but Chance 1112, which coupled the number with a side on which Wright sang with Schoolboy Porter's band in July 1951, has U2105. Yet on "Trick" Wright is obviously backed by the same band that can be heard on Chance 1106 and 1107, so we've listed the side along with the other Wally Hayes items. We suspect that the matrix number was purposely changed for the Chance release, which as it turns out was not the first. If the renumbering helped obscure the recording trail, so much the better...
The 2016 matrix number does show up on Meteor 100, a 78 discovered by Bob Buchholz. This was a blue Meteor label, based in Chicago and in no wise connected with the red Meteor label operated in Memphis by Lester Bihari (which, just to confuse matters, would license some Al Smith sides from Chance in 1953). The Meteor label is laid out just like an early Chance label (silver rim, same type face in the logo) except that it is blue instead of black. The other side of Meteor 100 carries matrix 2017 and was never issued on Chance. Both sides of the Meteor are credited to the Calumet City Boys (abbreviated to "Cal City Boys" in the list Sheridan gave to Chauvard). The Calumet City Boys were the Wally Hayes Combo in yet another disguise...
"Club 21" throws in a reference to State Street but the main function of this Swing number is to talk up the strip joints of … Calumet City. A couple of further oddities: the vocalist is not Clyde Wright, and the alto saxophonist is joined up front by an excellent trumpet player with bop tendencies and a tenorist out of the Lester Young school. We wonder who the tenor player was, as the possibilities were quite finite on the Chicago scene at the time. The horns and the bass all get to solo.
We figure that when Sheridan discovered that the red Meteor label (which his distributorship carried) was already out there, he abandoned his own Meteor logo. This would explain why Meteor 100 is rare, and no further releases on this label have turned up.
Chance was just starting: the company's total output for 1950 was 25 tracks.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|*U1823||Arnold Jones||Some Time||Chance 1100||prob. August 1950||prob. September 1950|
|*U1823 [sic]||Arnold Jones||Wilderness||unissued||prob. August 1950|
|*U1824||Arnold Jones||Yesterdays||Chance 1100||prob. August 1950||prob. September 1950|
|*U1824 [sic]||Arnold Jones||Dark Eyes||unissued||prob. August 1950|
|*U-1845||John "Schoolboy" Porter and His School Boys | Jesse Hart, Piano | Walter Broyle, Bass | Carl Scott, Drums||Schoolboy's Boogie||Chance 1101||prob. September 1950||September 1950|
|*U-1846||John "Schoolboy" Porter and His School Boys | Jesse Hart, Piano | Walter Broyle, Bass | Carl Scott, Drums||I'll Never Smile Again||Chance 1101||prob. September 1950||September 1950|
|*U-1853||John "Schoolboy" Porter and His Schoolboys
[some copies: John Porter, His Tenor Sax and His Orchestra]
|Kayron||Chance 1105||prob. September 1950||March 1951|
|*U-1854||John "Schoolboy" Porter and His Schoolboys
[some copies: John Porter, His Tenor Sax and His Orchestra]
|Deep Purple||Chance 1105||prob. September 1950||March 1951|
*U5003T3 (T5 on label)
E0-0B-13019-1 A A (in wax on some copies)
|John Schoolboy Porter and His Schoolboys||Tennessee Waltz Part I||Chance 1103||prob. September 1950||November 1950|
*U5003T5 (T3 on label)
E0-0B-13020-1 A (in wax on some copies)
|John Schoolboy Porter and His Schoolboys (Jesse Hart Vocal)||Tennessee Waltz Part II||Chance 1103||prob. September 1950||November 1950|
|*U-1861||Al Sims Trio | Sam Dawson Vocal||Moody Woman||Chance 1102||Sept.-Oct. 1950||Fall 1950|
|*U-1862||Al Sims Trio | Sam Dawson Vocal||I Wonder, Baby||Chance 1102||Sept.-Oct. 1950||Fall 1950|
|*U5000||John Porter||High Tide||unissued||November 15, 1950|
|*5001||John "Schoolboy" Porter and His Schoolboys||Nevertheless||Chance 1104||November 15, 1950||December 1950|
|*5002||John "Schoolboy" Porter and His Schoolboys||Walk Heavy
|Chance 1104||November 15, 1950||December 1950|
|Clyde Wright with the Wally Hayes Combo||Whispering Grass
|Chance 1106||Nov.-Dec. 1950||Early 1951|
|Clyde Wright with the Wally Hayes Combo||Hear My Call
[No It Wasn't Right]
|Chance 1106||Nov.-Dec. 1950||Early 1951|
|*U1913||Wally Hayes Combo
|Chance 1107||Nov.-Dec. 1950||Early 1951|
|*U1914||Wally Hayes Combo
|Night Beat||Chance 1107||Nov.-Dec. 1950||Early 1951|
|*No Number||[Jesse] Coopwood Session||Man of Parting||unissued||Nov.-Dec. 1950|
|*No Number||Coopwood Session||Red Sails in the Sunset||unissued||Nov.-Dec. 1950|
|*No Number||Coopwood Session||The City...||unissued||Nov.-Dec. 1950|
|The Calumet City Boys
[Clyde Wright and The Chanceteers]
|I'm Nobody's Trick||Meteor 100
|c. December 1950||early 1952?
|*U2017||Calumet City Boys||Club 21||Meteor 100||c. December 1950||early 1952?|
Chance sputtered and almost went out in 1951. The company did record some titles during June and July on blues man Henry Green, plus more by Schoolboy Porter and Clyde Wright, but its total studio output came to a meager 11 sides.
The company got into serious trouble in May, when the American Federation of Musicians, at the behest of its Chicago Local 208, revoked Chance's recording license for using non-union musicians on Schoolboy Porter's first 1950 session, the one that produced "I'll Never Smile Again." No union contracts for these sides were ever turned in to the AFM office. Billboard ("Petrillo Nixes Art Sheridan's Disking License," May 19, 1951, p. 13) related that Sheridan "had okayed the use of his franchise by Steve Chandler, who cut the disks and had them pressed by Sheridan's Armour Plastics pressery." According to Sheridan "Chandler claimed he used boys who had union cards, but who, at the time of the sessions, were not paid up members. As a result, he held back the contracts and the union took action." The magazine reported that the revocation of the license was the "first such action locally in a long time." This we have no trouble believing, as none of the other record companies we have covered at RSRF was ever hit with such sanctions.
When Robert Pruter talked to him in 1992, Sheridan amazingly said he had no recollection of a person named Steve Chandler or recalled any AFM problems. Said he, "It could have happened, but I don't recall having a difficult time with the AFM." Sheridan has said with regard to operation of the company, from management to producing, "I did it all in the beginning." Was "Steve Chandler" really Art Sheridan? Billboard never talked to Chandler.
We wonder whether Henry Green was a member of the Union when Sheridan recorded him on June 5, 1951. If he was considered a gospel performer (as we might expect from the titles of his unissued sides; maybe also from those that were issued… but we haven't heard them), he could have avoided joining. Only two of his sides were released, on Chance 1109, which is another rare entity today.
Although the Billboard story made the revocation appear immediate, there was actually time to get in another Schoolboy Porter session. Porter had been spending some time on the road; in April he was working the Ebony Room in Cleveland, in Les Fisher's All Stars. Fisher, a drummer, had put together a quintet with Schoolboy and an alto saxophonist in the front line, plus piano and bass and two vocalists, Aretta LaMarr and "Curley" McClau ("'Cinderella' Band Takes over Cleveland by Storm," Cleveland Call and Post, April 28, 1951, p. 18; the singers got most of the ink, but "Schoolboy Boogie" did rate a mention.)
The studio band for the July 1951 session at Universal consisted of trumpet, baritone sax, piano, bass, and drums. Porter's non-Union rhythm section was not invited back. The label of Chance 1111 provides the names of the new band members. A very young Art Hoyle (who was also from Gary, Indiana) played trumpet. An ardent bebopper, Hoyle went on to work in Sun Ra's Arkestra (1955-1956) and is still active on the Chicago scene today. Floyd Dungy, another Indiana native, subsequently played bass on two early sessions for Vee-Jay, with blues singer Pro McClam in September 1953, and with McClam and trumpeter/singer Floyd Valentine in June 1954. And the pianist, Eugene McDuffy, would be much better known—after he changed his name to Jack McDuff and took up the Hammond B3 organ.
Mr. McDuffy gets nice piano solo on the hard bop blues "Rollin' Along" and a briefer outing on the low-down slow blues "Soft Shoulders," but otherwise the sides are Schoolboy all the way. Singer Clyde Wright, on his second and last session for the label, does his Andrew Tibbs impression on "I May Be Down," which features spirited riffing and a heated solo by the leader.
The session data for 1951 confirm that the label was shut down completely for 5 or 6 months, and did not attempt to use Union musicians again for 9 months. Apparently the revocation went into effect toward the end of July. Sheridan, his mystery collaborator "Chandler," and Chance Records would remain on the Union's "unfair practices" list for the rest of the company's history. And Art Sheridan would retain his status of persona non grata with Musicians Union Local 208 long after Chance closed its doors.
Meanwhile, temporarily without recording opportunities, Schoolboy Porter joined Lionel Hampton's big band for a spell. In the fall of 1951 he replaced R&B honker Morris Lane, who had gone off to form his own band. This must have been on an emergency basis; according to a 1958 item on Porter in the Chicago Defender, he had to learn the band's entire book on short notice, with few opportunities for rehearsal.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|*U-1951||Henry Green||Storm thru Mississippi
[Storm thru Tupelo]
|Chance 1109||June 5, 1951||1951|
|*U-1952||Henry Green||Strange Things
[Strange Things Happening]
|Chance 1109||June 5, 1951||1951|
|*U1953||Henry Green||Jesus Is Going to Make Up||unissued||June 5, 1951|
|*U1954||Henry Green||No Need to Run||unissued||June 5, 1951|
|*U1965||Schoolboy Porter and his School Boys||Soft Shoulders
|Chance 1114||July 25, 1951||April 1952|
|*U1966||Schoolboy Porter and his School Boys||Rollin' Along
|Chance 1114||July 25, 1951||April 1952|
|*U-1966B||Schoolboy Porter and the Chanceteers | J. Porter, tenor sax; Dungy, bass; Vacirco, drums; Hoyle, trumpet; McDuffy, piano; Peterson, baritone sax||Top Hat
|Chance 1111||July 25, 1951||October 1951|
|*U1967||Schoolboy Porter and the Chanceteers | J. Porter, tenor sax; Dungy, bass; Vacirco, drums; Hoyle, trumpet; McDuffy, piano; Peterson, baritone sax||Stairway to the Stars||Chance 1111||July 25, 1951||October 1951|
|*U-1968||School Boy Porter and his Schoolboys||Sentimental Journey||Chance 1117||July 25, 1951||August 1952|
|*U1969||Clyde Wright and The Chanceteers||I May Be Down||Chance 1112||July 25, 1951||March 1952|
|*U-1970||School Boy Porter and his Schoolboys||Fire Dome
[Land of the Misch.]
|Chance 1117||July 25, 1951||August 1952|
In early 1952, Chance concentrated on gospel acts—the Heavenly Wonders, Southern Clouds, Golden Tones, and Naomi Baker—for a new 5000 series. We know little about these performers. There was a pragmatic reason for this sudden shift of attention: the record company did not need permission from the Musicians Union to record gospel singers. Not until 1956 would Local 208 begin cracking down on non-Union keyboard players who played on gospel sessions, and even then the vocalists were under no obligation to join.
We can say nothing about the Heavenly Wonders, except that they probably sang unaccompanied, because their sides have never seen release.
Could the Golden Tones have been the same group that appeared at the Rhumboogie Café (on a bill headlined by Dinah Washington) in April 1946? Almost certainly not, as the name was used by at least 8 different gospel groups that have left traces on record. According to Hayes and Laughton, this group of Golden Tones, making its first trip to the studios, consisted of Robert Barner, James Trusk, and Robert Fitzpatrick, all singing lead at various times, with accompaniment by Loy Oliver, tenor, Wilbert Webster, baritone, and George Taylor, bass. The group was perfect for a company in trouble with the Union because it performed a capella. Norman McQueen was a DJ, then in his 50s, who had sung in a gospel group when he was younger and thought he could help the Golden Tones, all much younger, improve their style, which he considered too smooth. He lined up the Chance session and directed the group at the session, also taking a tenor lead on "God Is Love." Despite the strong performances on Chance 5000, the group did not record again for nearly a decade. A later, smaller edition of the group, featuring James Trusk and Loy Oliver, recorded four sides for St. Lawrence in 1965 and a couple more for Halo in 1965 or 1966; these included accompaniment on the organ and rhythm instruments.
The Southern Clouds were another a capella group. According to Hayes and Laughton, they consisted of Henry McLaughlin, Douglas Price, and Barney Pool, who all sang lead at one time or another, Jonas Bobo, tenor, H. Bankhead, baritone, and J. D. Price, bass. They laid down four sides, probably in January 1952; two were released on Chance 5001, which we do hope to hear some day, and two were left unissued, identified on Sheridan's list by fragments of their titles.
We have a little documentary evidence of Naomi Baker's doings in Chicago during the early 1950s. An organist, she probably joined the Union because she did not do all of her performing in churches. Indeed, Local 208 posted her "indefinite" contract with radio station WSBC on February 16, 1950. On May 4, 1950 she posted an indefinite contract with the Church of God in Christ; another indefinite contract with the same church posted on February 15, 1951. There is enough evidence of activities in Chicago to dispel the usual notion that February 1952 sides were recorded in Los Angeles, or that she sang on them (the labels to Chance 5002 and 5006 both read "Spiritual | Organ Solo"). Her name is spelled "Naomi" on the Local 208 contract list (a less than infallible source!), "Naiomi" on the labels to her first two Chance releases, and "Naomi" on the third. At the time, gospel organ instrumentals weren't terribly common. Chance had some hopes for her sides, because the company released all four from her first sesson, then brought her back for a second, but Baker didn't catch on the way Maceo Woods would soon be doing for Vee-Jay.
Chance was still a 78-only label until the summer of 1952, so the initial releases up to that point would have been strictly on 78s. And, like the Chess brothers, Sheridan assumed that 45-rpm jukeboxes wouldn't stock gospel records and that gospel buyers wouldn't own the latest playback equipment. There would be no 45s in the Chance 5000 series.
Chance's banishment by the Musicians Union must have come to an end on May 1, 1952. Secular recording was promptly resumed on that date with—what else?—a John "Schoolboy" Porter session. (It turned out to be his last for the label.) On "Junco Partner," "Break Thru," "Small Squall,"and "Lonely Wail," the band consisted of trumpet, baritone sax, organ, bass, and drums. There are solos on "Break Thru" from a fat-toned trumpet player (Art Hoyle again) and bebopping baritonist (Mr. Peterson, whatever his first name was); the organist has a brief solo that suggests Bird and Diz at the roller rink. The organ playing on "Junco Partner" is hipper. This is the same band that Porter recorded with on July 25, 1951, except now Eugene McDuffy (not yet known as Jack McDuff) is playing the organ. His encounter with Jimmy Smith wouldn't come for another three or four years... The final Schoolboy release, Chance 1132, paired two solo vehicles for the leader (with a little help from McDuffy). "Lonely Wail" is a variant on "After Hours," while "Small Squall" paraphrases the old boppers' vehicle, "Cherokee."
Joining in on the session was vocalist Johnny Sellers. He was the same man who recorded gospel songs (along with some secular material) as Brother John Sellers for Chicago in 1945 and gospel only for Miracle in 1947 and 1948. John Sellers was born May 27, 1924 in Clarksville, Mississippi. While in the South he performed in minstrel shows, but by the early 1940s in Chicago Sellers was singing gospel with Mahalia Jackson. He also recorded blues for the RCA Victor label in 1947 (backed by Willie Dixon), and for King Records in 1951.
Sellers' second session was a marathon—eight sides in September, all blues—backed by the band of local trumpet player William Little (1912-1991), who as King Kolax had a 35-year career on the Chicago scene. To a far greater extent than Kolax, who would drop out of the accompaniments if the singer or recording director found him too obtrusive, the star of the band was smooth tenor saxophonist Dick Davis (1917-1954). Four sides ended up being released, on Chance 1123 and 1138.
After his Chance sessions, Sellers moved to New York and became involved in the folk club scene. He built a career on the same model as Big Bill Broonzy, Josh White, and the Reverend Gary Davis, presenting a repertoire that melded folk, blues, and gospel. He made LPs for Vanguard (1954), UK Decca (1957), and Monitor (1959). Sellers died on March 27, 1999, in New York.
In June of 1952 Billboard reported on the rebirth of the Chance label. In August of the same year Sheridan dissolved his distribution firm, American. He reorganized the firm as Sheridan Distributing, with headquarters at 1151 East 47th Street, which brought both the distribution arm and the Chance label into closer proximity to the South Side's "record row."
Chance 1123 was released on 45 as well as 78. Simultaneous release on 78s and 45s appears to have started with Chance 1122 (recorded in Detroit by John Lee Hooker—so you should consult our section on Purchased Masters). Around this time, a couple of older items, such as Chance 1007, were belatedly pressed on 45s. Sheridan was a late entrant to the format war, some months even behind the Chess brothers, who started issuing their 45s before the end of 1951.
Subsequently most Chance (and, when they arrived, Sabre) releases appeared in both formats. However, the 5000 gospel series never went to 45s. An occasional later item in another series (such as Chance 3003 and Chance 1158; we are not sure about a couple of other Chance 3000s) never saw release on 45 either.
On June 12, the company did its first recordings on a downhome bluesman, the bottleneck guitar player and singer James Williamson, who would become known as "Homesick James." These sides were recorded at the old RCA Victor Studio at 230 South Michigan, and not at the ever reliable Universal, which is why there is a different master number series. (One source of puzzlement: two sides have matrix numbers in the U series—these were applied to material from the first Williamson session later on—but not in the original matrix number series. It is possible that these are retitlings of material that is already listed with matrix numbers in the 100 series.) Joe Brown, who would lease or sell sides to Chance when he lacked the finances to put them out on his JOB label, brought James Williamson to Sheridan.
Williamson was born John William Henderson on May 3, 1914, in Somerville, Tennessee. He played on Beale Street in Memphis during the 1930s. He first moved to Chicago in 1937, recording a little for RCA Victor and playing some local clubs. He returned to Memphis during the war years, but in the early 1950s settled again in Chicago. Williamson played a bit on Maxwell Street, and toured with the Elmore James band. His first session was not a great success musically; there wasn't enough rhythm support to keep him and pianist Lazy Bill Lucas on the same page. Just one single came out on Chance from this session, and Williamson would have to wait till his next, much-improved outing in January 1953 to earn his nickname. The first reasonably comprehensive release from this session had to wait till 1977, when P-Vine Special, licensing them from Sheridan, put out a whole LP of Williamson's Chance tracks in Japan. Williamson later recorded for Prestige, Delmark, Earwig, and lastly Icehouse (in 1997). He died on December 13, 2006, in Springfield, Missouri.
Around this same time, Art Sheridan snapped up two further blues releases from now-defunct Chicago independents. He resuscitated the two sides that Little Walter Jacobs had cut in 1947 for Ora Nelle, with Jimmy Rogers and Othum Brown in the back of a Maxwell Street record shop. And he picked up two sides by "Delta Joe" (Sunnyland Slim) and Baby Face Leroy Foster that had been out for a hot minute on the Opera label.
Not long after Chance was reactivated, Ewart Abner, Jr. joined the firm. Abner was born the son of a minister in Chicago on May 11, 1923. Related Sheridan, "At the time I met Abner he had graduated from college as an accountant. In those years a black man had a hell of a job trying to get a position as an accountant. He became our accountant in the distributing business and in the record plant, and ultimately for a while ran the pressing plant. After we closed the pressing plant, Abner became very much involved in Chance. In those years Leonard and Phil [Chess] were their own producers and A&R men and I was my own producer and A&R man. Abner was basically the finance man, in the sense of being the accountant guy, bookkeeping and so forth."
At some point in the summer, Sheridan put together a pop session for a singer named Jack Ross. Ross, whose real name was Jack Rosen, was born on July 4, 1923, on a ship in New York Harbor as his parents were immigrating from Europe. He began singing with bands in high school and after graduating toured various small clubs in the Midwest. During World War II, Ross sang for several years with the USO. After the war, he worked for radio stations in Chicago. He was on the staff at WGN and had a show on the ABC network called "Black Night." Around the time of his Chance session, he was doing "The Jack Ross Show" for WIND. During this period, Ross also worked as a model in TV commercials and print ads in Chicago.
A vocal quartet called the Meadowlarks were brought in for the session. The next year, they would appear again on the first Buddy DiVito session (see below), and one of their members, Elaine Rodgers, would be getting a solo outing for Chance. The Meadowlarks, originally 3 male vocalists and one female, came together in Chicago, in 1948 or 1949, to do radio work. Maury Jackson, who had been on WBBM from 1946 through 1948 with Gloria Van and the Vanguards (also known, when a different company was sponsoring the show, as Cinderella and Her Fellas) was one of the original members. He met Elaine Rodgers when she auditioned, and they married not long afterward (see http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-21/news/ct-met-jackson-obit-20120321_1_jazz-quartet-lombard-popular-jazz). By 1949, the Meadowlarks were appearing regularly on WBBM (scripts with speaking parts for Elaine Rodgers have survived for shows they did on May 26 and June 10, 1949, both with Charlie Agnew's band) and on CBS network radio. Their show, "The Life of the Party," ran Monday through Friday, 3:15 to 3:30 each afternoon. Later they did some work for WGN.
The group got occasional studio work; for instance, on one side of a Ralph Marterie single ("You Better Stop Telling Lies about Me," Mercury 5657, reviewed in Cash Box, June 16, 1951, p. 8).
At some point, the Meadowlarks become a quartet of two female and two male singers. We're not sure which edition of the group accompanied Jack Ross, but in 1953 and 1954 the Meadowlarks were Maury Jackson, Marie Renaldo, Elaine Rodgers, and Bob Bleznick. Their movements, when they were not recording, are hard to trace because they had chosen such an obvious name for a "bird group." These Meadowlarks had no connection with, say, Don Julian and the Meadowlarks, who recorded for Dootone in 1955.
One of the composers of "Lonely Heart" was Al Trace, a veteran leader of "sweet" bands and studio orchestras in Chicago (see below for a Chance session that Trace directed). Two sides, out of the four recorded, appeared on Chance 1125. Jack Ross kept the session tapes, including the two unissued sides.
In later years, Ross moved to Florida. He continued to sing at clubs and events well into his 70s. He also made an acting appearance on an episode of "America's Most Wanted." Now retired, he misses his performing days. (Our thanks to Darril Wilburn, who provided us with a brief bio of Jack Ross in an email of May 19, 2006.)
1125 is a transitional release in a couple of ways: in a few months Sheridan would be opening a separate Chance 3000 series for pop records, and he was experimenting with his label design. What had been a silver on black label was changed for this one release to silver on dark blue; after 1125 the silver on dark blue color scheme would be retained but the graphics would be completely redesigned.
In September 1952, Sheridan got an R&B education at a local radio station. Said he, "Jesse Coopwood was a deejay at WWCA in Gary. I did a stint on his station when he went on vacation, because I wanted to learn what it was like to be a disc jockey. I did three months out there, and it was quite an experience. I learned a lot."
The last quarter of 1952 saw robust recording activity by Chance, starting with the eight-side session by Johnny Sellers and a Four Shades of Rhythm session in the early fall. And Chance completed its transition to the now celebrated silver on blue label design (which looks great, and falls easily on the scanner too).
The Four Shades of Rhythm were a vocal/instrumental combo that had originated in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1945. The group had been playing in Chicago on and off since 1946 and made their first recording for Vitacoustic in two sessions in December 1947. In March 1949, Old Swing-Master released two sides that had been cut for Vitacoustic and impounded by United Broadcasting Studios when that company went under; the Four Shades had a local hit with the "My Blue Walk" and "Baby I'm Gone." These two tracks are probably the same ones listed here. (Apparently the deal did not include their other sides for Vitacoustic, four of which had appeared on Vitacoustic 1005 and Old Swing-Master 33.)
The Four Shades continued to play and tour, using Chicago as their base of operations. Around the end of 1949, Oscar Pennington was replaced on guitar by Claude Williams. Williams was replaced in his turn by Adam Lambert, formerly of the Cats 'n Jammer Three and the Bill Samuels Trio, when Samuels broke up the trio in 1950. In 1951, bassist Eddie Meyers left the group; he was replaced by veteran bass player Booker Collins, who became available when the Floyd Smith Trio broke up. In 1951, Adam Lambert was replaced for a spell by Emmett Spicer, best known for his prior service in Prince Cooper's trio. Not long after Booker Collins joined the group, the Shades cut no fewer than 16 sides at C. H. Bomgardner's Custom Sound Recordings in Evanston, a suburb north of Chicago (see the Appendix for these). Ranging up to 5 minutes in length, the sides were just semi-professionally recorded and never commercially issued, but they give today's listeners the only comprehensive view of the group's repertoire.
Floyd Morris briefly took over the piano bench after Ed McAfee left the group, and Adam Lambert returned. By the time the Four Shades of Rhythm recorded for Chance the group had changed pianists again. The quartet now consisted of Oscar Lindsay (lead vocals, cocktail drums), Adam Lambert (guitar), Booker Collins (bass), and Ernie Harper (piano). The newest member was a veteran of the Four Blazes who had been playing solo from 1948 through 1951. Lindsay was the only member to have been with the group in Cleveland.
The group recorded a ballad, "Yesterdays" and a jump tune, "So There." for Chance. We not sure whether their unissued side "Everything I Have Is Yours" was newly done for Chance or acquired from Old Swing-Master (we have no evidence that Old Swing-Master released it).
The Four Shades of Rhythm continued to perform after their Chance session. The group's last recording was done for Tommy Jones' Mad label in 1957. A 1960 remake of "A Hundred Years from Today" for Apex was a vehicle for Oscar Lindsay with strings and chorus; it used the Four Shades of Rhythm name, but the group no longer existed.
In October and November, there was extensive session work using the Al Smith orchestra. Al Smith was able to step in because Schoolboy Porter had left town. After his last outing for Sheridan, Porter did just one more session in Chicago that we know of. On August 21, 1952, he accompanied Roosevelt Sykes for United—on guitar; we wouldn't know he was there had Sykes not called on him by name during a solo. But Porter was dissatisfied with the ups and downs of life as a musician, and the Korean War was still on. He joined the Air Force.
In 1958, Defender writer Al Close caught up with Staff Sergeant John Porter at McGuire Air Force Base, outside of Trenton, New Jersey ("Ex-Hampton Musician Now Air Force Great," December 6, 1958, p. 18). Porter was a member of the 750th Air Force Band. For two years he had also been leading a quintet called the Crew Chiefs; he had taken up the trombone, which enabled the group to alternate between a tenor sax/trombone and a Jay and Kai front line. According to Close, Porter had participated in the original Air Force "Tops in Blue" show, which toured bases in Korea, Japan, and elsewhere in the Far East.
An Air Force career man with almost 9 years of service (including a 2 1-2 year stint in the Navy) Porter prefers the secure income of the Air Force to the sometimes topsy turvy economy of the civilian world of music and entertainment.
A decade or so later, Porter was stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona (he is identified as a member of the 541st Air Force Marching Band, in a photo taken in 1975: http://www.afmusic.org/images/541st%20AF%20Band%201975-lg.jpg. On his retirement from military service, he settled in Phoenix.
According to Allan Chase, who played with him on one or two occasions between 1978 and 1981, Porter was for a time a member of a band called Pendulum, which was led by drummer Lewis Nash, with Prince Shell on piano and Tom Golden on bass. An item in Billboard (Al Senia, "Hines Next for Arizona Series," October 11, 1980, p. 66) mentioned a free outdoor event on September 14, kicking off the annual jazz series for the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. In front of 3,500 fans, a "freestyle jam session" was mounted by "12 top Phoenix area jazz musicians including Prince Shell, Charles Lewis, John "Schoolboy" Porter and John Hardy. Of Porter's standing on the Phoenix jazz scene, Chase's assessment was:
Schoolboy was by far the most sophisticated of several good African-American tenor players with military ties around Phoenix […]. Schoolboy could really play changes and had great authority and a big sound. Maybe there were traces of Don Byas, Lucky Thompson, that sort of thing: post-Hawkins with harmonic sophistication, into Gene Ammons and maybe some R&B. (email communication, October 6, 2003)
Guitarist John Ehlis, who enrolled in Mesa Community College in 1983, encountered Schoolboy Porter a little later. According to an online biography of Ehlis (see http://www.jazz.com/encyclopedia/ehlis-john-anthony), "Tenor saxophonist John 'School Boy' Porter is remembered for his colorful personality and getting down to the 'feel' of the tune."
Porter was still performing occasionally in the Phoenix area in 1991, according to the Arizona Republic.
Albert B. Smith was born in rural Bolivar County, Mississippi, on November 23, 1923. After a stint in the Merchant Marine, he arrived in Chicago in 1943. In 1945 he put together what has been called a "bebop" band, but sensing how the commercial winds were blowing, he broke it up in 1952 and founded the R&B unit that can be heard on these sides. Al Smith had no great chops on his chosen instrument; drummer Charles Walton said, "He held the bass... OK, he played the bass—but he didn't tune it first." Many other musicians have slighted his instrumental prowess, while paying tribute to his adeptness at landing gigs and cutting deals. For the kind of money that Smith could pull in, the best musicians in town were eager to work with him.
For the session with singer Big Bertha Henderson, whose "house-rockin'" appearances were advertised at Club Evergreen and Martin's Corner in the fall of 1952, Smith brought along two of the best tenor saxophonists in town, James "Red" Holloway (1927 - 2012) and Oett "Sax" Mallard (1915 - 1986). His rhythm section was filled out by Billy Wallace on piano, William "Lefty" Bates (1920 - 2007) on guitar, and Leon Hooper on drums. For the Bobby Prince session, he brought Red and Lefty back, along with Eddie Johnson (1920 - 2010) on tenor, the indispensable McKinley "Mac" Easton (1914 -1986) on baritone sax, and Clarence "Sleepy" Anderson on piano. About Bertha herself, we know hardly anything. She recorded again for Savoy in 1953, and some of her correspondence that was preserved in the Savoy files gives a home address in New Orleans.
Bobby Prince, whose real name was Charles Gonzales, started in show business around 1948, when he joined the Hot Lips Page band in Cincinnati as a singer. He stayed with Lips for about a year and then went solo. He launched his recording career in 1950, recording some sides for Philadelphia-based Gotham. His most notable Gotham recording was a rousing jump, the self-penned "Hi-Yo Silver," which was produced in Chicago by J. Mayo Williams, who, for the time being, had wound up his Harlem/Chicago/Southern operations and was yet to start up his new Ebony operation. In November 1952, when he was billed at Joe's Deluxe Club (6323 South Parkway) as "golden voice jump-blues vocalist," he was still performing under the name Gonzales. He apparently entered the recording studio with the Al Smith band as Charles Gonzales and left as Bobby Prince. "Tell Me Why Why Why" seemed to garner the singer some acclaim, and Chance tried to push the single with some of the largest trade ads in the label's history. Bobby's unannounced appearance on "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," which he scats in a spooky falsetto while Eddie Johnson decorates the melody, is also memorable. Chance made considerable use of Prince's compositional talents, using four of his songs for Flamingos sessions.
After Chance, Prince recorded for RCA (with the Lefty Bates and Norman Simmons bands) and for MGM (with a Norman Simmons band). Prince regularly performed in Chicago clubs, most notably fronting Red Holloway's Band at Club Evergreen (1322 North Clybourn) in 1954. From 1955 through 1957, Prince regularly worked as the MC at Roberts Show Lounge (6622 South Parkway); his comments to a Chicago Defender writer about how hard it was getting to find a good shake dancer are priceless.
Toward the end of the year, Sheridan added the famed gospel group, the Pilgrim Jubilees, to his roster. In fact, they made their first appearance on record for Chance (as the Pilgrim Jubilee Singers). This particular version of the group consisted of Elgie C. B. Graham (lead), Cleave Graham (alternate lead), Clay Graham (tenor), Monroe Hatchett (baritone), Major Roberson (baritone), and Kenny Madden (bass). The Grahams were all brothers. According to Alan Young's book, The Pilgrim Jubilees (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001), the Pilgrim Jubilees were formed in 1944. The group broke up in the late 1940s, but according to Young it was reconstituted in Chicago in 1952. Young lists the recording date for the Chance sides as January 1953 (noting how their session fits right in between the Bobby Prince and the Lou Blackwell in the matrix series, we have revised that to November or December 1952). Young also says the label mistakenly lists "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" as "Just a Walk with Thee"; we'll take his word for it, but it would be nice to see a copy of Chance 5004.
They went on to record (as the "Pilgrim Jubilee," soloist identified somewhat ambiguously as "C. Graham") for the N. B. C. label, which wasn't what you might think; its initials stood for Northern Brightrecord Corporation. Probably in the second half of 1953, they cut "Angel" and "Lord, I Have No Friend Like You" for release on N. B. C. 2003 (Young's book says it was 1954). There may have been some business connection between Chance and two tiny gospel labels, N. B. C. and C. H. Brewer, whose joint address was listed on the labels as PO Box 560, Chicago 90 Illinois. Several of the known releases on C. H. Brewer show matrix numbers in the U-3100s. JOB, which was allied with Chance for several months in 1953, later released a single by the Norfleet Brothers that carried NBC matrix numbers and also appeared on C. H. Brewer. Bo Sandell, who alerted us to the connection, also notes that the N. B. C. and C. H. Brewer labels look a lot like the labels that Chance used.
The Pilgrim Jubilees enjoyed a long career thereafter; they went on to record for Specialty (1955), Nashboro (1957-59, 1976-79), Peacock (1959-75), Savoy (1980-84), and most recently for the Mississippi-based Malaco (1987-2000). Of coure, any of their records for any of these labels will be far easier to find than their one single on Chance.
Al Smith also backed lounge singer Lou Blackwell (who cut a never-issued session for Chess in May or June of 1951, and two more tracks, unreleased till the 1990s, during Tab Smith's second session for United on October 24, 1951). On this occasion, Smith put together a larger band, probably consisting of Paul King (trumpet), Red Holloway (now on alto sax), Sax Mallard (tenor), Mac Easton (baritone), Billy Wallace or Clarence "Sleepy" Anderson (piano), and Leon Hooper (drums). Most likely Al and company also backed R&B singer "Chubby" Newsome (whose band was sometimes billed as Chubby and Her Hip Shakers), but Chance never released her sides.
We still know hardly anything about the Skippy Brown release; our thanks to Victor Pearlin and Richard Reicheg for information on it. George Paulus described Brown as an uptown blues singer. The record got a tepid review in Billboard. The composer credit to "So Many Days" is shared with one "Williams," and Brown's only other known recording was done in 1954, for an eccentric 10-inch LP of Christmas songs that came out on J. Mayo Williams' tiny Ebony label. It is therefore distinctly possible that Brown recorded for Mayo Williams, who sold or leased the sides to Chance. Obviously there is more to be learned.
October also saw a session with uptown blues singer and man of many tuxedos Jo Jo Adams, backed by the band of bebop trumpeter Melvin Moore. At this time, Adams and Moore were ensconced at the Flame Show Bar (809 East Oakwood), billed as "The Jo Jo Show, starring Dr. Jo Jo Adams, Bennie Pittman, Laura Watson, Melvin Moore's Band." Besides singing his specialties nightly, Adams served as MC at the Flame, telling many dirty jokes. Jo Jo Adams was born in Alabama, somewhere around 1918, and died in Chicago in 1988. Originally a dancer, he broke in at the Club DeLisa and made his first recordings with Floyd Smith's group for the Hy-Tone label in December 1946. He followed up with 6 sides for Aladdin in 1947, which were recorded in Los Angeles with the Maxwell Davis band, and 6 more for Aristocrat, which were done in Chicago in 1947 and 1948 with Tom Archia's All Stars. Though he enjoyed a run of several years at the Flame and would remain on the scene well beyond that, he would record just one more session, for Parrot in 1953.
Chance 1127 was advertised in Billboard on November 15, 1952 (p. 62) and reviewed in the issue of December 20, 1952 (p. 30). Adams was a reliable blues shouter, but his 2 sides with the band he had been working with every night are his very best, well articulated rhythmically and jumping with vitality. Moore's nimble trumpet contributions are ably assisted by Harold Ousley on tenor sax, Dave Young on baritone (his usual instrument was tenor, and he was probably added just for the studio date), Eddie Baker on piano, Sylvester Hickman on bass, and Earl Phillips on drums. The horns mostly riff, but Harold Ousley, who was making his first appearance on record, adds an intense solo to "I've Got a Crazy Baby."
As the end of the year approached, Chance picked up a session by Jack Teter, a musician with a long and varied history. He was the only Chance artist to have distinct prewar and postwar recording careers.
John J. Teter was born on January 6, 1902, near Granger, Missouri. His first instrument was the banjo; he got his start playing barn dances in the Ozarks with a blind fiddler. He soon discovered that audiences liked his smooth tenor voice. In 1926, he was in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, where he appeared on local radio. In 1927, he was working with a band in Superior, Wisconsin. In 1929, he joined Bill Carlsen's Orchestra, a Milwaukee dance band, playing the banjo and singing; he would be based in Milwaukee for the rest of his life. Early in 1930, the Carlsen band recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin, for Paramount. Teter was called back in February 1930, where he cut two tracks with a "hillbilly" trio whose other members were Frank Welling and John McGhee. In April 1930, Teter cut two pop songs as a solo act; he was now playing guitar. The 1930 sides appeared both on Paramount and its dime-store subsidiary, Broadway. As the company was on its last legs, Teter did two more sessions for Broadway, in March and June 1932, including versions of "Just Friends" and "All of Me."
Teter went to work for WTMJ, the Milwaukee radio station, eventually getting his own 15-minute show called "The Song Doctor"; he also directed talent contests. From 1934 to 1936 he led the Isle of Dreams Orchestra, whose instrumental lineup, from the reports we have, points to the polka-Swing band hybrid then prevalent in Wisconsin.
Nearly 17 years after his last trip to the studio, Teter signed with a new small Chicago label called Sharp. Operated by James Martin, a record distributor who in those days catered to white record buyers in the Midwest, Sharp opened for business on May 1, 1949. Sharp's model was to sign artists Martin knew from local experience were in demand. So Martin picked up Lee Monti and the Tu-Tones, a group that had been dropped by Aristocrat and then by Universal but whose records on both labels had moved well for him. Teter, who had not been recording at all, joined Monti in the first cohort of artists that Martin signed (Billboard, April 30, 1949, p. 17).
A few months earlier, Teter and his trio (Bob Prouty, piano, and Bob Eberhardt, bass) had scarcely rated a mention in Billboard. The one sentence they got, noting that they had worked the summer at Devi-Bara's Dude Ranch, by the shores of Devil's Lake near Baraboo, Wisconsin, and were now at Tutz's Cocktail Bar in Milwaukee, appeared in the Burlesque column (December 13, 1948, p. 53). And the writer thought Teter played the accordion...
That all changed when Jack Teter hit it big on the Billboard chart with his first new record, a version of the venerable “Johnson Rag”. The first Sharp releases (S1 through S3) came out in July (S1 and S3 were listed in Billboard on July 23, 1949, p. 32). "Johnson Rag" was initially on Sharp S2 (getting a tepid review in Billboard on August 6, 1949, p. 105), but demand for the record helped Sharp get a deal with the London label, which was new to the United States (it was a subsidiary of British Decca) and looking for ways to expand its market. So "Johnson Rag' would enjoy far wider distribution as London 501. Billboard reviewed the London on September 17, 1949 (p. 109), still not expecting much from the "light innocuous style," but by November 26 (p. 26), "Johnson Rag" was number 19 on the pop charts. To Teter's regular trio (with Prouty doubling on Solovox), the first Sharp session added a drummer. What caught attention, besides the group's unerring fusion of 1920s jazz with Western Swing, was Teter's decision to put vocals to the rag. The flip, "Back of the Yards," was more sentimental. On December 29, 1949, "Johnson Rag" and a second Teter single were included in the very first batch of 45s that London shipped to retailers ("London Joining 45 Parade," Billboard, December 31, 1949, pp. 12, 30). On January 28, 1950, "Johnson Rag" was #12 on the Billboard pop charts (p. 26), and a disk jockey in Milwaukee was boasting that he knew back in August 1949 just how far it would go. In its annual survey of "Top Selling Popular Artists over Retail Counters," Billboard (July 15, 1950, p. 83) put Teter at number 30, between Arthur Godfrey and Ray Bolger. He made this list entirely on the strength of "Johnson Rag." Jack Teter was 47 years old and he had a hit record.
Though he wouldn't have any more, Teter made a second session for Sharp in 1949 and at least one more in 1950. The idea was to redo old songs, most often from the 1920s, usually with some jazz content. A different "trio" (now with an excellent, but unfortunately unidentified, clarinetist in place of the drummer) performed numbers like "Kansas City Kitty" (Sharp S-20), "Paddlin' Madelin' Home" (Sharp S-15), and "Stompin' at the Savoy" (Sharp S-37) with a genuine jazz sensibility. In 1951 Teter became part owner of the White Pub, a Milwaukee club that regularly featured his trio alternating with Bob Kames at the organ (Billboard, April 19, 1951, p. 18). When Jimmy Martin hosted a cocktail party in Chicago for singer Teresa Brewer, Teter was deemed important enought to be present along with Jim Lounsbury and assorted other DJs and juke box operators (Cash Box, March 3, 1951, p. 11).
But April 1951 was when Teter's contract with Sharp ran out; then at the end of July, Sharp's licensing deal with London expired and Jimmy Martin took Sharp out on its own ("Sharp Records Sets Up National Distribution, Cash Box, August 4, 1951, p. 13). The London-less venture, despite the 14 other distributors Martin had lined up, didn't have a network big or reliable enough. (After a few months, Sharp would sign a new licensing deal with MGM, but there were no more hits, and the company would fold in 1953.) As soon as Teter was free, he did a session for a tiny Chicago-based company called Radiant (which focused on Wisconsin-based Country and polka bands); we don't actually know whether anything from it was released on Radiant, but a single came out in May 1951 on Rondo. With Sharp still releasing singles from the trio's long sessions in 1949 and 1950, and Rondo in decline and not much better able than Radiant to promote its records, Rondo 290 passed virtually unnoticed. Meanwhile, Teter took some time off from performing at the pub (Billboard reported, November 17, 1951, p. 49, that he had guitarist Dick Yehl and vocalist Pat Shealy filling in for him with the trio), then hit the road with his trio (Billboard reported on January 26, 1952, p. 44, that they were working in the Dakotas, with some West Coast dates lined up for March).
We had thought his Chance session was done for Art Sheridan. But it turns out that in 1952 Jack Teter had moved along to the Milwaukee-based Demo label, which was owned by a producer named Angelo Ferlano—note the composer credit on "Going Around in Circles." (Ferlano initially wanted to call his company Dubonnet, but there was already another indy by that name.) In 1952 and 1953 Teter made three singles for the small company: Demo 1009, 1010, and 1030. Demo did some of its recording in Chicago, but it lacked distribution outside its city of origin. Hence, its first Teter single was licensed to Chance, the second would be licensed to Brunswick, and the third would also have been licensed to, well, any bigger company had Ferlano been able to attract its interest.
On Demo 1009, later issued as Chance 3000, the trio was augmented with a rhythm guitarist (unless Teter overdubbed himself). Teter went with Western Swing on this occasion and featured his excellent lead guitar work. "Going Around in Circles" was a good vehicle for him but would have fared better without some corny piano and Solovox from Bob Prouty. On "I'm the Guy," it was group vocals and celeste that provided the countervailing sap. (The matrix numbers left enough space for 2 more tracks, whose fate remains unknown to us.) The RCA Victor-based matrix numbers indicate that the sides were recorded in 1952, and we suspect Demo got a substantial jump on releasing them; Chance did not put them out till June 1953.
The next month Demo 1010, from a 1953 session, was reissued on Brunswick, a bigger label hoping for another hit (Billboard reviewed Brunswick 80222 on July 4, 1953, p. 47). The last Demo, 1030, was strictly local. These were Teter's final recordings, but in 1967 Raynard, a Wisconsin-based company, put out an LP on him, consisting of released sides and additional unissued material from the Sharp sessions. Jack Teter died in Milwaukee in December 12, 1987.
For information on Jack Teter, we are indebted to Cary Ginell ("'Get Hep & Get Happy': Milwaukee's Jack Teter," ARSC Journal, 38(2), Fall 2007: 194; email communications, May 8 and 9, 2016) and to Alex van der Tuuk ("Jack Teter: The Isle o' Dreams," ParamountsHome.Org, posted January 23, 2006 (http://paramountshome.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=80:jack-teter-the-isle-o-dreams&catid=45:new-york-recording-laboratoriesartist&Itemid=54).
When they finally appeared in June 1953, the Teter sides were used to launch the new chance 3000 pop series. The 3000s came equipped with red and silver labels to complement the blue and silver that the 1100s were carrying.
We know of 68 new recordings for Chance in 1952, plus the two it got from Demo; the company was building up steam.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|?||The Heavenly Wonders||Where Can I Go?||c. January 1952|
|?||The Heavenly Wonders||Detour||c. January 1952|
|*U-2056||Golden Tones (Directed by N. McQueen) | Spiritual Featuring N. McQueen||God Is Love||Chance 5000||prob. January 1952||April 1952|
|*U-2057||Golden Tones (Directed by N. McQueen) | Spiritual Featuring N. McQueen||Working on the Building||Chance 5000||prob. January 1952||April 1952|
|*U2111||The Southern Clouds||Sing to the Power of the Lord||Chance 5001||prob. January 1952||June 1952|
|*U2112||The Southern Clouds||Sit Down Servant||Chance 5001||prob. January 1952||June 1952|
|*No Number||The Southern Clouds||Strolling Along||prob. January 1952||early 1952||?|
|*No Number||The Southern Clouds||These Are...||prob. January 1952||early 1952||?|
|*U-2218||Naomi Baker at the organ||Softly and Tenderly||Chance 5002||February 25, 1952||November 1952|
|*U-2219||Naiomi Baker at the organ||Love Lifted Me||Chance 5002||February 25, 1952||November 1952|
|*U-2220||Naiomi Baker at the organ||What a Friend I Have in Jesus||Chance 5003||February 25, 1952||late 1952 or early 1953|
|*U-2221||Naiomi Baker at the organ||Have You Any Time for Jesus||Chance 5003||February 25, 1952||late 1952 or early 1953|
|*U2098 to U2107||Unused||Matrix||Numbers|
|*U-2125||Schoolboy Porter and His Orchestra||Small Squall||Chance 1132||May 1, 1952||March 1953|
|*U-2126||Schoolboy Porter and His Orchestra||Lonely Wail||Chance 1132||May 1, 1952||March 1953|
|*U-2127||John "Schoolboy" Porter and his Schoolboys||Break Thru||Chance 1119||May 1, 1952||June 1952|
|*U-2128||John "Schoolboy" Porter and his Schoolboys||Junco Partner||Chance 1119||May 1, 1952||June 1952|
|*U-2129||Johnny Sellers||Josie Jones||Chance 1120||May 1, 1952||August 1952|
|*U-2130||Johnny Sellers||Rock Me in the Cradle||Chance 1120||May 1, 1952||August 1952|
|*No Number||T-Bone Walker||See||Purchased||Sessions|
|101-1||James Williamson||Johnnie Mae||unissued||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|101-2 (*U2232)||James Williamson||Johnnie Mae||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-706)||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|102-1 (*U-2157)||James Williamson and His Trio||Lonesome Ole Train||Chance 1121||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]||August 1952|
|102-2||James Williamson Trio||Lonesome Ole Train||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-706)||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|103 (*U-2158)||James Williamson and His Trio||Farmers Blues||Chance 1121||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]||August 1952|
|104||James Williamson Trio||Farmer's Blues||unissued||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|106||James Williamson Trio||Farmer's Blues||unissued||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|*U2234||James Williamson Trio||Little Women||unissued?||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|*U2235||James Williamson Trio||Come Back to Me||unissued?||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|107||James Williamson Trio||Whiskey Headed Woman||(P-Vine [J] PLP-706, Charly CDGR 146)||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|108||James Williamson Trio||Williamson Boogie||unissued||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|109||James Williamson Trio||Williamson Boogie||unissued||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|110||James Williamson Trio||Williamson Boogie||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-706)||June 12, 1952 [RCA Studios]|
|*No Number||Jack Ross||Home Girl||unissued||Summer 1952|
|U-2166 [*No Number]||Jack Ross and the Meadow Larks||Close to You||Chance 1125||Summer 1952||c. December 1952|
|U-2167 [*No Number]||Jack Ross and the Meadow Larks||Lonely Heart||Chance 1125||Summer 1952||c. December 1952|
|*No Number||Jack Ross||There You Go||unissued||Summer 1952|
|*U-2197||Johnny Sellers||Blues This Ain't No Place for You||Chance 1123||September 1952||November 1952|
|*U2198||Johnny Sellers||Too Many Heartaches||unissued||September 1952|
|*U2199||Johnny Sellers||The Jay Bird Story||unissued||September 1952|
|*U-2200 [U-2220 on label]||Johnny Sellers||Mighty Lonesome||Chance 1123||September 1952||November 1952|
|*U2201||Johnny Sellers||Christmas Time Blues||unissued||September 1952|
[U2204 on list]
|Johnny Sellers | King Kolax Orchestra||Newport News||Chance 1138||September 1952||June 1953|
|*U2203||Johnny Sellers||The World||unissued||September 1952|
[U2202 on list]
|Johnny Sellers | King Kolax Orchestra||Mirror Blues||Chance 1138||September 1952||June 1953|
|U-2224||Skippy Brown||So Many Days||Chance 1129||c. September 1952||February 1953|
|U-2225||Skippy Brown||Tale of Woe||Chance 1129||c. September 1952||February 1953|
|*U2228||Four Shades of Rhythm||Yesterdays||Chance 1126||September or October 1952||November 1952|
|*U2229||Four Shades of Rhythm||So There||Chance 1126||September or October 1952||November 1952|
|No Number||Four Shades of Rhythm||Everything I Have Is Yours||unissued||?|
|*U-2241||Bertha Henderson with Al Smith Orch.||Rock, Daddy, Rock||Chance 1143||October 1952||September 1953|
|*U-2242||Bertha Henderson with Al Smith Orchestra||Tears in My Eyes||Chance 1143||October 1952||September 1953|
|*U-2243||Bobby Prince with Al Smith's Orchestra||Tell Me Why, Why, Why||Chance 1128||October 1952||January 1953|
|*U2244||Al Smith & His Orchestra||For Eternity||unissued||October 1952|
|*U-2245||Bobby Prince with Al Smith's Orchestra||I Want to Hold You||Chance 1128||October 1952||January 1953|
|*U-2246||Al Smith Featuring "Red" Holloway and His Orchestra||Smoke Gets in Your Eyes||Chance 1124||October 1952||December 1952|
|*No Number||Jo Jo Adams||Upstairs||unissued||October 1952|
|*No Number||Jo Jo Adams||Mr. Horn||unissued||October 1952|
|*No Number||Jo Jo Adams||Tears in My Eyes||unissued||October 1952|
|*No Number||Jo Jo Adams||Boogie Vocal (???)||unissued||October 1952||?|
|*U2251||Dr. Jojo Adams | Melvin Moore's Orchestra||Didn't I Tell You||Chance 1127||October 1952||November 1952|
|*U2252||Dr. Jojo Adams | Melvin Moore's Orchestra||I've Got a Crazy Baby||Chance 1127||October 1952||November 1952|
|U-2253||Al Smith Featuring "Red" Holloway and His Orchestra||Slow Mood||Chance 1124||October 1952||December 1952|
|*U-2263||Pilgrim Jubilee Singers||Happy in the Service of the Lord||Chance 5004||November 1952||prob. early 1953|
|*U2264||Pilgrim Jubilee Singers||Just a Walk with Thee||Chance 5004||November 1952||prob. early 1953|
|*U2265||J. [Lou] Blackwell||Blackwell's Blues||unissued||November 1952|
|*U2266||J. [Lou] Blackwell||Blues(???)||unissued||November 1952|
|*U-2267||Lou Blackwell | Al Smith's Orchestra||How Blue the Night||Chance 1130||November 1952||February or March 1953|
|*U-2268||Lou Blackwell | Al Smith's Orchestra||I'm Blue without You||Chance 1130||November 1952||February or March 1953|
|*U2275||Chubby "Hip-Shakin'" Newsome||Great Day in the Morning||unissued||December 1952|
|*U2276||Chubby "Hip-Shakin'" Newsome||Chubby's Story||unissued||December 1952|
|*U2277||Chubby "Hip-Shakin'" Newsome||Shades of Midnight||unissued||December 1952|
|*U2278||Chubby "Hip-Shakin'" Newsome||Always Come Home||unissued||December 1952|
|*No Number||Kitty Stevenson||See||Purchased||Sides|
|*No Number||Howard McGhee||See||Purchased||Sides|
|E2-CB-5680||Jack Teter & His Trio||Going Around in Circles||Chance 3000
|1952 [prob. RCA Studios]||June 1953|
|E2-CB-5683||Jack Teter & His Trio||I'm the Guy
|Chance 3000||1952 [prob. RCA Studios]||June 1953|
Chance opened 1953 with an ambitious downhome blues recording program. On January 12, 17, 23, and 31, the label ran four marathon sessions with J.B. Lenoir, Sunnyland Slim, Johnny Shines, Big Boy Spires, Johnny Williams, James Williamson (including his famed "Homesick Blues"), Little Hudson Shower, and Floyd Jones. Many of these artists were actually recorded by Joe Brown, whose own label was JOB. Brown, born June 16, 1904 started his first record company (the short-lived Opera label) in 1947. In 1949, he and James B. Oden (St. Louis Jimmy) opened JOB, which was devoted to recording downhome bluesmen. After several fits and starts, including a short-lived alliance with Chess in early 1951, JOB produced one notable hit in 1952: Eddie Boyd's "Five Long Years." Always short on cash flow and scuffling for distribution, Brown was looking for another alliance with an established label; he concluded a pact with Chance at the beginning of 1953.
Some of the blues artists would actually show up on Chance instead of JOB, and Sheridan would distribute and market both labels through the distribution channels he established. Sheridan said of Brown, "He recorded in some strange places. He would go out and record things, but didn't have the money to distribute them. So he'd sell the master or sell it with part of the royalty coming back."
In any case, it is not surprising that some Chance product was appearing on other labels. With 183 sides cut in 1953, the company was recording more music than it could handle...
JOB promotionals were included in Chance marketing ads, as though the label was a subsidiary of Chance. The January 12 session was probably produced by Brown under the aegis of Art Sheridan (who may have partly financed the date), and Brown received distribution and marketing in exchange for Chance retaining the masters. For example, the May 1953 Chance trade ads included promotional announcements for George Green (Chance 1135), The Flamingos (Chance 1133), and J.B. "Lenore" (JOB 1012).
J. B. Lenoir (pronounced, and often misspelled, "Lenore") was born March 5, 1929, in Monticello, Mississippi. He came to Chicago in 1949 and made his entry into the city's vibrant blues scene through Big Bill Broonzy. Lenoir made his first session for Brown in late 1950; all four sides were leased to Chess. Further sessions in 1951 and 1952 came out on JOB unaided. "The Mojo" is an outstanding performance that features Lenoir's boogie riffs on guitar, Sunnyland Slim's subtle keyboard, and J.T. Brown's rambunctious rocking sax. Lenoir would later garner a reputation as a topical blues singer when he recorded "Eisenhower Blues" for Parrot in 1954, though "Mamma Talk to Your Daughter" was his hit for the label. From 1955 through 1958, he recorded for Checker .
While the J. B. Lenoir sides from January 12 were of immediate interest to JOB, which released three of them, the remaining five items languished until 1964, when Art Sheridan and Ewart Abner put them out on a Constellation LP. There were two vocals by Sunnyland Slim, both among his better performances from the early 1950s, plus an instrumental ("Bassology") that was in his book during the period. The final two sides featured strong vocal performances by Johnny Shines, but even the wild lyrics to "Livin' in the White House" ("I don't need no pilot to chauffeur me in no jet... I'm in a hurry so I'll have to travel space cadet") couldn't tempt Joe Brown to do anything with them. He put his marbles on Shines' work from the January 23 session instead.
Two tracks from January 17 featured guitarist Johnny Williams (with Big Boy Spires on guitar, P. T. Hayes on harmonica, and "Duke" on drums); they were not released until the 1970s. Williams was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, on May 15, 1906. He was raised first in Houston and then deep in Delta blues territory, in Belzoni, Mississippi. His uncle played with Charlie Patton, and Williams got to know Patton, Jim Jackson, Howlin’ Wolf, and other legendary Delta bluesmen. Williams began performing in the late 1920s, arriving in Chicago in 1938. During much of the 1940s Williams played house parties, while first working in the defense industry and then in the Oscar Mayer factory at Division and Sedgwick. After World War II, he fell into the Maxwell Street scene, performing most often with Johnny "Man" Young.
During 1947, Young and Williams and a very young Little Walter were playing at the Purple Cat (2119 West Madison) on the city’s West Side. Williams says he joined the union so he could play there. That year, Young and Williams also recorded their first record for Ora Nelle, a tiny label owned by Bernard Abrams of the Maxwell Radio and Record Store. Young drew the vocals on "Money Taking Women," and Williams sang "Worried Man Blues." In December 1948, Williams cut two sides for Planet with Johnny Young on mandolin and Snooky Pryor on harmonica.
Williams' session for Chance was his third, and turned out to be his last. He stopped performing blues in 1959 after a conversion experience and entered the Baptist ministry. He reappeared on the scene in 1968 when he attended Little Walter’s funeral. Johnny Williams died in Chicago on March 6, 2006.
Johnny Shines was an outstanding bottleneck guitar player and impassioned vocalist, influenced by the great Robert Johnson with whom he traveled in the 1930s. His "Brutal Hearted Woman," significantly supported by Big Walter Horton's harp work, was described as "brilliant" in Mike Rowe's Chicago Breakdown. Shines was born April 25, 1915, in Frazier, Tennessee. He moved to Chicago in 1941. His recording career preceding this January date had not been auspicious. First there was an unreleased session with Columbia (1946). Then there were two songs for Chess (October 1950) that he recorded with Muddy Waters' band; they were scheduled for release but never appeared, though they have been a mainstay of reissue programs. Most recently, there'd been a classic four-song session for JOB in April 1952, producing another classic in "Ramblin'," on the unfortunately super-rare JOB 116. The session of January 23, with Horton on harmonica and Al Smith on bass, producing his first single with more than 100 pressed, JOB 1010, would be the last for Shines until he resurfaced on Vanguard in 1965. Incidentally, U2340, which went unreleased at the time, was given the title "Gonna Call the Angel" when it was first issued (in Japan in 1977). But as Steve Franz points out, in the first line Shines actually sings "I'm gonna call the county jail." Bit of a difference...
Arthur "Big Boy" Spires, born in Natchez, Mississippi on February 24, 1912, had the sonorous voice of a Son House, but lacked the rhythmic precision. During this period he was working Chicago clubs with his Rocket Four, which included Eddie El on second guitar. With the rhythm section that Chance provided to regulate his wayward guitar—Johnny Williams on guitar, P. T. Hayes on harmonica, and "Duke" (possibly Tide) on drums—he was effective on record. Spires had previously cut a session for Checker in March 1952. He would do another in December 1954 in Al Smith's basement for United (this was left unreleased till years later). Spires made a still largely uneleased session for Testament in 1965, subsequently being forced to give up the guitar by advancing arthritis; he died in Chicago on October 22, 1990.
A final joint session with JOB (one that we overlooked in previous editions of this discography) took place on January 31 and produced JOB singles by guitarists Little Hudson Shower (born 1919) and Floyd Jones (1917-1989). Shower, unfortunately, never made another commercial recording session; he retired from playing the Chicago area clubs in 1964. Jones is best known for his "Dark Road," a 1951 recording for the Chess brothers (this in turn was a remake of his earlier recording for JOB).
The JOB deal remained in force through the summer of 1953. When Brown returned to the studio in October 1953 to record Memphis Minnie, Little Son Joe, and Zona Sago, he was back on his own.
Though the blues artists that Chance recorded were among the best on the bar-band scene, the company's productions didn't quite measure up to what Chess and United were putting out. In Chicago Breakdown Rowe commented, "There is little evidence that Art or his general manager Ewart Abner took anything like the pains that Len Chess did with his blues artists." Chance, as it turned out, would become better known for its vocal group releases.
In January, manager Ralph Leon brought to Chance its first vocal group, the Flamingos. Members were Sollie McElroy (lead), cousins Ezekial (Zeke) Carey and Jacob (Jake) Carey, and cousins Johnny Carter and Paul Wilson. Existing discographies mention no personnel beyond the singers and the bandleader, King Kolax. We can hear deep-toned tenor saxophonist Dick Davis soloing with authority on "If I Can't Have You," "Someday, Someway," and "Hurry Home Baby." Kolax was often elusive on his vocal accompaniments; here he sneaks his tightly muted trumpet into the riffs on "If I Can't Have You." His presence on "That's My Desire" and "Hurry Home Baby" borders on the subliminal. The rhythm section in this excellent band consisted of Prentice McCary (piano), "Cowboy" Martin (bass), and Little Gates (drums). Though Chance would use the Kolax band again, this was their only doowop session.
In March, the label put on the street "Someday, Someway" b/w "If I Can't Have You." Although the midtempo "Someday, Someway" was the superior side, by June the flip was doing well in several regional markets, especially in Detroit and Philadelphia. In July, Chance released "That's My Desire" b/w "Hurry Home Baby," from the same session. "That's My Desire," an excellent version of the Frankie Laine hit from 1947, was racking up strong regional sales by August.
The company rounded out a very busy month with a marathon session on January 29. Al Smith's full band (Smith, bass; Red Holloway and Cliff Davis, tenor saxes; Mac Easton, baritone sax; Horace Palm, piano and organ; William "Lefty" Bates, guitar; Alrock "Al" Duncan, drums) jammed some instrumentals; then they backed R&B singer Bobby Prince; finally, Al's rhythm section worked behind the legendary Tampa Red. The company put out the Tampa Red releases as by Jimmy Eager and His Trio, as Tampa was still under contract with RCA Victor at the time. He further disguised his identity by giving all of the guitar work to Lefty Bates. However, the composer credits went to Hudson Whittaker (which was Tampa Red's real name). Chance held the "Jimmy Eager" material for the initial release on its new Sabre label, in July.
The Bobby Prince tracks were put off till the Chance label's last months (and even then, Chance 1158 seems to have come out on 78 only). Two Al Smith instrumentals, despite exciting tenor sax work, were dealt to Lester Bihari's Meteor label, which released them twice, using different titles the second time around. (Perhaps the unintentionally wild organ playing by Horace Palm, who rarely strayed from his piano, convinced Sheridan to unload the items.)
In February, Chance did a session with the Jimmy Binkley Jazz Quintet (tenor sax, piano, bass, drums, and congas/bongos). According to Allan Roberts, Jimmy Binkley was a pianist in the Erroll Garner tradition. James H. Binkley was born in April 1930. He was on the Chicago scene in the late 1940s, but worked only sporadically as a leader; for instance, when he did a 3-day stint at Club Maramba (better known for its bar-walking tenor saxophonists) in early April 1950 (contract accepted and filed by Musicians Union Local 208 on April 6). On October 19, 1950, he posted an indefinite contract at the Caldonia Club; in December he showed up at Joe's Rendezvous (indefinite contract posted on December 7; another indefinite followed on March 15, 1951, and still another on April 5). In August 1951, he moved to Club Evergreen (whose indefinite contract with Jimmy "Binkly" was accepted and filed by Local 208 on August 16, 1951).
1951 also saw Jimmy Binkley's first recording opportunity. He cut four sides for Aladdin in Chicago: Aladdin 3193 consisted of "Night Lite" b/w "Hot Smoke" under his own name, and on Aladdin 3194 his band backed blues singer Harold Burrage on "Sweet Brown Gal" b/w "Way Down Boogie." These featured the booting tenor sax work that was usually featured on Binkley's recordings, less often on his nightly gigs.
In June 1952 Binkley showed up at Joe's Rendezvous again (indefinite contract accepted and filed on June 19, followed by another on August 21). In late September, Binkley took up at the Brass Rail in the Loop (indefinite contract posted on October 2, followed up by one for another 4 weeks on December 4). In February 1953, he was at the Capitol Lounge (2 week contract posted on February 19; a 3-week extension was posted on March 5). Probably done while he was at the Capitol Lounge, the Chance session was Binkley's second recording opportunity.
The only performer besides the leader to be identified on the Chance labels is the drummer, George Green, who also contributed uptown blues vocals to two sides. (Binkley himself led the singing on "Hey, Hey, Sugar Ray.") However, the only instrumental on the date, "Midnite Wail," is credited to Binkley, Harris, and Mitchell. So we figure that Dave Mitchell was the tenor saxophonist on the date, and Tommy Harris, usually a drummer, contributed the additional percussion. (Otherwise, the band wouldn't have been a quintet). It's also possible that Eldee Young was the bassist (see below).
The Binkley session was one of the few that Sheridan actually recalled, perhaps because he claims some input into it. Said he, "I remember writing 'Finance Man.' We did a session with three other tunes and we were short a side. In the old days you would do four sides, and it wasn't uncommon then to write a blues on the spot, so I wrote 'Finance Man.'" Sheridan obviously remembered the recent Willie Mabon hit, "I Don't Know," because he lifts certain patterns directly from it. Bill Putnam, the decidedly non-blues-oriented proprietor of Universal Recording, managed to get cut in on the composer credits.
In January 1954, Jimmy Binkley cut one more single with a trio (it sounds to us like the same bassist and drummer) for the Chess brothers: "Boogie on the Hour" b/w "Wine, Wine, Wine" (Checker 789) which featured his own vocals. This got a fair amount of promotion, but did not become a hit. On March 18, 1954, he posted a contract for 2 weeks at the Rodeo Inn (1240 East 47th Street). The Rodeo boasted (in a Defender ad that ran on April 3) that this was his "First Chicago appearance after a nation-wide tour." It also mentioned one of his Chance sides and one of Checker sides, getting both titles wrong. The other members of the group were identified as Dave Mitchell, tenor sax; Eldee Young, bass (not piano as stated in the ad); and Tommy Harris, drums. In the meanntime, George Green was appearing elsewhere as a singer.
After what looks to have been some time on the road, Binkley resurfaced at Squeeze's Rendezvous (contract for 2 weeks with options posted on September 16, 1954). He cut his second and last session for Checker on January 24, 1956. Around 1957, Jimmy Binkley and his quartet recorded with the doowop group the Teasers on Note 1002 (which naturally raises an interesting question about the Teasers' single on Checker 800, recorded in 1954). The flip side of the Note release was a nice jazz instrumental on "Blue Moon." Around this same date, his band also backed a vocal group called the Dusters on the ARC label, about which we otherwise know nothing. Meanwhile, George Green played in other piano trios (including King Fleming's) and finally went out on his own; in 1962 and 1963 his trio cut two LPs M&M.
Eventually, Binkley moved downstate to Peoria, Illinois. Roberts, a jazz pianist who used to trade spots with Binkley when they were both working in Peoria, recalls that "in the late '60s... he fronted a post-bebop club in his name on North Adams street. Later (in the early '70's) when the popularity of jazz was on the wane, he did a single piano bar at Jim's Steak House on Fulton Street in Peoria with occasional sit-ins from members of his old group and others. As far as I know, he's still playing in Peoria (as of a year ago)." Indeed, Jimmy Binkley still resides there, playing for years at a steak house. Binkley also appeared in Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, a film vehicle for comedian Richard Pryor (who was born in Peoria).
In March, Chance recorded the jazzy R&B of Tommy Dean, a pianist and organist based in Saint Louis. Born in Franklin, Louisiana on September 6, 1909, and raised in Beaumont, Texas, Dean had performed with carnivals and circuses before moving north to St. Louis in 1937 or 1938. Initally Dean toured with Eddie Randle's Seven Blue Devils, then he founded his own combo, which toured all the way to Mexico. Dean began making appearances in nightclubs on Chicago's South Side in 1945 and cut his first single for the St. Louis label Town and Country in 1947. Because St. Louis was short on recording opportunities, Dean picked up with the Chicago-based Miracle (a session in 1949, plus two sides picked up from Town and Country or another small St. Louis label) and States (two sessions in 1952).
At the time of his Chance session, Dean had recently lost most of his group, including his star soloist, when alto saxophonist Chris Woods struck out on his own. Perhaps because of an unexpired contract with States, the group went merely as "Barrel House Blott and Lee with the St. Louisians"—but in case anyone didn't realize who the leader was, Dean appears on the label as the composer of both sides.
Barrel House Blott was a standup blues singer and a comic monologue artist. He was a mystery to us until Armin Büttner turned up a delightfully titled article in the Chicago Defender announcing that he had signed with Aristocrat: "Freddie Blott, local blues and jump sensation, caught the eyes of talent scouts from Aristocrat Records when he was featured here this week at a concert given to determine the best combo in St. Louis" ("Aristocrat Inks Blott," December 3, 1949, p. 26). Blott was supposed to record with a band led by Ditty Bo Hill, but something must have fallen through. So far as we know, the session for Chance would be his first and only.
The Blott session looks to have been the first to involve Dean's new band with Chuck Tillman on tenor sax, Archie Burnside on bass, and Edgar Plaes on drums. It produced the requisite four sides, two of which remain unheard.
After Chance wound down, Dean would move on to Vee-Jay, where he recorded five more sessions between 1954 and 1958. He continued to tour with his St. Louis-based combo until 1960, then worked as as a solo organist until his sudden death (probably from a heart attack) in January 1965.
In April, gearing up for the Chance 3000 series, the company conducted a number of pop sessions: Elaine Rodgers with a band directed by Remo Biondi, Al Morgan, the Four Bits, Lucy Reed, Dolph Hewitt, and Buddy diVito with the Meadowlarks.
Elaine Rodgers was born in Chicago in 1926, growing up in Franklin Park. At age 7, she performed a Scottish sword dance at the British pavilion at the Chicago World's Fair. Graduating from East Leyden High School, she joined the USO and tap-danced for troops in the Philippines. She worked for a while in a touring chorus line, then in 1949 she auditioned for the Meadowlarks. She not only got the job, she ended up marrying Maury Jackson. In 1950, the Jacksons moved to Lombard, Illinois. Not long after joining the group, she started getting her own billing as a soloist.
The first record that we know featured Elaine Rodgers was done in June 1950 for Bud Brandom's first edition of the Oriole label (Oriole would get a brief revival in 1958-1959, with a very different artist roster, from Brandom and Joe Brown). But the first edition of Oriole lasted just one year. In 1951, she appeared on a highly obscure release on the Master label, which was owned by Egmont Sonderling of United Broadcasting Studios. Activity at the studio was slowing that year, and the Master release carried no serial number, just the matrix numbers UB51-425 and 426. In effect, it was a glorified demo. Both titles were pop tunes composed or co-composed by one Eddie Fritz, Jr., who presumably paid for the recording. The performers were the Ambassadors of Note Orchestra, featuring Elaine Rodgers and Lon Saxon. Not long afterward, Rodgers made a guest appearance on a session by Lee Monti and his Tu-Tones; her vocal duet with Johnny Parker was featured on "Whispering Shadows" and "In a Little Second Hand Store" (Sharp 39). The Sharp was recorded in August and September 1951 and was definitely released around the end of that month (talked up in Cash Box on September 29, p. 9; October 6, p. 9; and October 13, p. 9; advertised on October 6, p. 13, and reviewed in Cash Box on October 13, 1951, p. 6). But in July 1951, the small Chicago-based company had dropped its lease deal with London; whatever the single was doing in Chicagoland, it could not translate into national sales.
Her Chance session was Elaine Rodgers' fourth solo opportunity. So far as we know only the two released sides were made that day. "I'll Not Forget" is the expected sentimental ballad; "You'll Need My Help" is a sassy Country and Western number (the Meadowlarks occasionally appeared on Country shows on the radio).
To make the arrangements and lead the studio band, Art Sheridan made a wise choice: he brought in Ray Biondi. Born Remo Biondi, in Cicero, Illinois, on July 5, 1905, he was initially trained as a violinist, later picking up the mandolin, the trumpet, and the guitar. From 1926 to 1934, he worked as a freelance musician in Chicago, then moved to New York. From 1938 to 1945 he was the guitarist in Gene Krupa's band. Returning to Chicago, he led his own groups, including one that had a long run at the 606 Club. He also played a fair amount of Country music. By the time he landed this session for Chance, Biondi had a steady job with a radio network and was appearing on nearly every kind of recording session in his spare time (see our United and States and Jimmy Coe pages for two of the more unusual examples). Although this was a pop session, Biondi used an organ instead of a piano, and his guitar is unusually prominent. He also procured the services of an excellent trombonist, who plays muted on both sides. "You'll Need" includes a Western Swing solo from Biondi and a regular Swing solo from the trombonist. The only other instruments were string bass and drums.
Al Morgan, like Jack Teter, was a veteran performer who had scored one giant hit. In fact, both racked up big sales on reissues by London Records of material they had recorded for small Chicago operations. Where Teter had made "Johnson Rag" for Sharp in May 1949 and seen it take off in August when London made a deal to reissue everything on Sharp, Morgan had made "Jealous Heart" for Bill Putnam's Universal label in late 1948 or early 1949. We don't know exactly when it was released, but by July 1949 it was making a lot of noise regionally. London leased the single that month (Billboard, July 16, 1949, p. ), but soon the deal was extended. "Jealous Heart" became a monster best seller after London bought the masters and Morgan's contract along with them. In September, London accquired Universal's entire back catalogue (Billboard, September 24, 1949, p. 16). (James Martin, the record distributor who owned Sharp, was the go-between on the Morgan deals.) Teter's contract with Sharp expired in April 1951, sending him to Radiant, Rondo, and finally Demo. After a while Morgan, whose other releases had been selling better than Teter's, wanted out of his London contract so he could sign with another large company. But his deal with Decca (Billboard, September 22, 1951, p. 16) appears to have lasted just one year, which is how Chance was able to pick him up. Meanwhile, Morgan also has his own TV show on WGN (DuMont network) from September 1949 into 1952.
Al Morgan was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1915. He studied voice and violin at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, but taught himself to play the piano. After service in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he owned Club Carasal in Cincinnati. He began performing in Chicago, where the money was better, in 1947. He took lots of requests and almost always knew the song the customer wanted. Morgan was in the habit of raising his right hand way above the keyboard and bringing it straight down on the keys. "He developed the technique, it was said, when he noticed that most club patrons were too busy drinking and talking to watch the musicians." (See George Papajohn, "Al Morgan, the 'Jealous Heart' Man," Chicago Tribune, November 21, 1989, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1989-11-21/news/8903110457_1_mr-morgan-chicago-area-technique.)
Chance 3002 was not a commercial success, and Sheridan left the other two sides unissued. Al Morgan had unending club work and didn't especially need the income. Anyhow, by mid-1954 he was under contract to X Records, a new subsidiary of RCA Victor. Al Morgan would continue to record prolifically for many labels. In later years, he lived in Erlanger, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, but was never away from Chicago for long. He also announced his retirement on several occasions but was always drawn back into performing. In fact, his last gig was in Chicago, at Noodles Restaurant. Al Morgan died at the age of 74, at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, on November 18, 1989.
Buddy DiVito became the biggest single contributor to the Chance pop series, with 3 releases to his credit. He was one of the big names at the time, having attracted national attention as a vocalist when he joined Harry James' big band in 1945, on the recommendation of the band's manager, Buddy Moreno. The crooner was born Anthony DiVito on March 1, 1920, and attended Manley High on the West Side, where he played baseball and basketball. He was reputed to be almost as good at carpentry and cooking as he was at singing. DiVito's entrée into the music business came when he joined the Gay Claridge Band at the Merry Garden Ballroom on the North Side in 1943. He then worked with the Eddie Oliver Band, followed by nearly five years with Harry James. Besides appearing on many James band sides for Columbia, in 1952 he had made a session for Tower. After taking his leave from Harry James, diVito led his own big band (for instance, it was booked into Lakelawn at Lake Delavan, Wisconsin for part of August 1949; Billboard, August 6, 1949, p. 33). He subsequently had to downsize, and Chance recorded him with session instrumentalists.
In April 1953, the company paired him with the Meadowlarks, releasing both sides in November as Chance 3007. This was the version of the group with two women and two men. We know from the documentation on their session with Leon Sash (in 1954) that the group consisted of Elaine Rodgers and her husband Maury Jackson, Marie Renaldo, and Bob Bleznick. "Dreamtime" was in fact written by Marie Renaldo—and Lee Morgan, who played string bass, sang soprano, and was married to Leon Sash. With the Meadowlarks' rich harmonies, Sheridan figured he could economize on session instrumentalists: all we hear are vibes, piano, guitar, and bass.
The Meadowlarks kept going for a few more years. Later in 1953, they cut a single for an extemely small local label called Paradise, with Elaine Rodgers singing lead on both sides.
Around April 1954, they scored what might have been their biggest musical opportunity, when they were called to appear on a session by accordionist Leon Sash. Leon Sash was born Leon Robert Shash on October 19, 1922. By age 10 or so, his vision had deteriorated so badly that he could only distinguish light from dark, but he refused to consider this a handicap. He began performing in public when he was 15, if a 1937 newspaper reference is reliable. An extreme virtuoso, whose recorded performances still elicit declarations of inability to analyze what he was doing technically, he played bebop on the accordion, at 300 quarter notes per minute. Bios from the 1950s stated that Sash played for 6 years in the Cosmpolitans, a trio of accordion, guitar, and bass. We know this group from records only because it backed Ken Griffin on a February 1949 session for Rondo. Sash then started his own trio. He probably came to the attention of the record industry because his wife, Lee Morgan (not to be confused with the hard-bop trumpet player born in 1938), who played bass in his trio, sang on a Remo Biondi record for Decca, which was cut at Universal in August 1953. She may also have been responsible for bringing in the Meadowlarks. Bill Putnam took a flyer on recording Sash at Universal and then got Bob Shad to sign him to Mercury's EmArcy imprint (the four tracks released in 1954 had nonconsecutive matrix numbers, another group of 4 not released then had still a different block of matrix numbers, and three got none at all, a pretty good giveaway that they had not initially been done for Mercury). There were 11 tracks in all, enough for an LP, but, despite positive reactions from critics and reviewers, Mercury lost interest after two singles in 1954. The LP, titled The Master when it finally appeared, would not materialize until 1980, when Polygram pressed it up specially for Sounds of Sash, run by Lee Morgan. Leon Sash was accompanied for Mercury by Rudy Kerpays on piano, Sully Picerno on bass, and his regular drummer Max Mariash, plus a little bit of guitar from Maury Jackson, and a vocal sextet consisting of Lee Morgan (lead soprano), the Meadowlarks, and Eddie Vana (1917-1992; see "Edward Vana, Chicago Jazz Violinist," Chicago Tribune, February 1, 1992, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-02-01/news/9201100230_1_mercury-label-chicago-area-glen-ellyn), a jazz violinist, and a member of the Cosmopolitans as well as of Sash's groups, who sang baritone on this occasion.
The vocal arrangements were the equal of anything the Swingle Singers or Manhattan Transfer would be doing later on, enabling the Meadowlarks to prove to anyone with ears that they were a jazz group. After his debut, Sash recorded rarely: a Storyville jazz LP in 1956, a live appearance at Newport on a Verve LP from 1957, an LP of polka music for Harmony in 1959, a limited-edition LP from 1962 consisting of "orchestrations" that Sash performed with two other musicians playing custom-built tenor and bass accordions, and a jazz outing on Delmark from 1967. He died of a heart ailment on November 25, 1979.
After the Meadowlarks broke up, Elaine Rodgers and Maury Jackson frequently worked together. In the 1960s and 1970s, Rodgers mostly sang in commercials (at different times, she was heard on spots for Budweiser beer and for Holsum bread). She also acted in a few, most notably one for Ball Park Franks. In 1986, Maury Jackson died and Elaine Rodgers took a part-time job as a clerk in a public library, occasionally astonishing her coworkers with stories about working with Bob Hope, then showing them proof from her scrapbook. She retired from Addison Public Library in 2010. Elaine Rodgers Jackson died on March 4, 2012, at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital in Elmhurst, Ilinois; she was 85. (See Joan Giangrasse Kates, "Elaine Rodgers Jackson, 1926-2012: Performed with jazz quartet in '50s and '60s," Chicago Tribune, March 21, 2012, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-21/news/ct-met-jackson-obit-20120321_1_jazz-quartet-lombard-popular-jazz.)
The Chance red-label vocalist of greatest interest for many now is Lucy Reed. Lucille Magdolin Dollinger was born on January 14, 1921, in Marshfield, Wisconsin; she was the daughter of Max Dollinger (1901-1996), who was born in Germany, and Elizabeth Shields (1899-1987), who was from Minnesota. She went to high school in St. Paul, Minnesota. After her parents divorced and her mother remarried, she lived in Iron Mountain, Michigan. She sang on the radio (KSTP) in St. Paul, in a four-girl group (payment was $5 a performance), and appeared occasionally on local engagements. In the 1940 census, Lucille Dollinger appears as a 19-year-old resident of Iron Mountain, living with her mother, Elizabeth Jetty, and her stepfather, Jack Jetty. In the first advertisement we have been able to find for her as a singer, she was working with Jerry Salone's band at a dance hall in Escanaba, Michigan. Salone was a saxophonist who had been active in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan since the early 1930s. Like nearly any musician working that territory, he programmed a mixture of dance and polka band material. In 1943, Salone's band would be active in the Detroit area; in 1944, it was most often working around Cincinnati.
Around 1941, Lucille Dollinger married Joseph A. "Joey" De Ridder, a jazz drummer who was born in 1917 in Norway, Michigan (just down the road from Iron Mountain). His band was active locally. Serving in the Air Force, Joey was killed when his plane was hit over Munich, Germany, on July 31, 1944. (For some important details here and in what follows, we are indebted to her son Ted Seymour's blog posts, particularly http://explorationsoftruth.com/2009/07/moms-ashes/ and http://explorationsoftruth.com/2009/08/lu-and-joey-together-again-and-the-inheritance-of-grief/)
A 23-year-old widow with a baby son, she felt needed a direction in life and embarked on a career as a soloist. By any indication available to us, this was a slow process. On December 18, 1948, Lucille De Ridder, still very much a local performer, sang at the grand opening of the renovated Elks Lodge in Manistique, Michigan (according to the Escanaba Daily Press, Manistique section, "BPOE to Hold Grand Opening," December 11, 1948, p. 10.) She was working with Leroy's Quintette out of Iron Mountain.
The sparsely inhabited Upper Peninsula was not much of a jazz market. Lucille De Ridder obtained work in a place that did have something of a jazz market, Milwaukee (we are not sure when), then got a break when she joined Woody Herman's band direct from an engagement in Duluth, Minnesota. This was reportedly in 1949, though we don't have any details (Mary Ann McCall was Herman's regular band singer from 1946 well into 1950, but he could have needed a temporary replacement). We suspect that around this same time she took Lucille Reed as her stage name. From Woody Herman, Lucille Reed moved on to Charlie Ventura's big band. This was not Ventura's Bop for the People with Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, which broke up at the beginning of June 1949. Or the big band he led for recording purposes in December of that year. Ventura now found it prudent to operate something more like a dance band—but the 17-piece ensemble he put together in late January 1950 (Ed Sullivan, "Little Old New York," Oil City (Pennsylvania) Derrick, February 7, 1950, p. 8), used top jazz arrangers and sometimes included Red Rodney as a trumpet soloist. Lucillle Reed was moving around the country with Ventura probably from February (and definitely from April) to December 1950, being mentioned in some of the publicity for the band as well as reviews of live appearances.
A Billboard reviewer (Johnny Sippel, May 27, 1950, p. 16, 36), catching the big band in Chicago on April 20, 1950, thought Ventura's sound was still too "modern," his tempos too hard to dance to, and wanted to see current pop hits featured more often. He didn't find the vocal offerings quite right for the dance crowd either:
Lucille Reed has a different, sophisticated approach to ballad presentation, but the band needs a novelty singer and boy with a strong baritone to spice the steady chirp diet. (p. 36)
Her first record was "You've Got a Date with the Blues," a song by Leonard Feather that the band recorded in New York on April 6. It appeared on RCA 20-3770 in May 1950, as the flip side to a new rendition of Ventura's tenor sax feature, "Dark Eyes." Red Rodney was not in the band for the session, though he would be on hand in Chicago on April 20. The Billboard review (May 13, 1950, p. 34): "Contrived bluesy ballad is thrushed ably by Miss Reed with a modern and fine Manny Albam cleffing filling the ork backing." The song begins and ends with a vocalise, which Lucy Reed would also employ on one track from her first LP.
She would not get other recording opportunities with Ventura. RCA Victor cut a measly 7 sides with the band, and none of the four from the second sesssion, in July 1950, were released at the time (the Honeydreamers, who may have been brought in to respond to critiques like Sippel's, did all the singing anyway). Ventura was fed up, announcing in December 1950 that he was leaving Victor (when he started recording again in 1951, it was for Norman Granz's Clef operation). And Lucille Reed (as she was usually called at the time) landed in Chicago when Ventura broke up his big band there. In December 1950, Ventura took over ownership of a club in Lindenwold, New Jersey. Initially, it was annnounced that a 14-piece ensemble would be the house band, and Lucille Reed would be part of it, but if that was the plan, it changed quickly. (In 1951 Ventura was appearing at his club with a quintet, after a while reduced to a quartet.)
For the next few months Lucy Reed took such engagements as she could find. She entered the DuMont network's second Miss U. S. Television contest. This was not the 1950 competition, which often thought today to have been the only one, because the kinescope of the finals is one of the few DuMont shows to have survivedd. It was the 1951 event, also with winners from 13 cities that had DuMont network stations. The Miss Chicago Television part of the contest took applications in April 1951 and ran for many weeks on WGN-TV. On the strength of that bit of publicity, she was one of the guest vocalists at the DeKalb, Illinois, Municipal Band's final summer concert, on August 21, 1951 ("Festival Has Good Program: DeKalb Municipal Band to Close Its Season on Tuesday Evening," DeKalb Daily Chronicle, August 18, 1951, p. 1). She won Miss Chicago Television in November, but lost in the national finals, also broadcast from WGN, on December 5, to Miss Baltimore Television, Phyllis Maygers. Little matter that she was the runner-up, work had arrived. In fact, she appeared on a show on WGN-TV on November 29, and, while it may not have had a sequel, she landed several appearances on WGN radio during the next year.
The Streamliner Cafe, a Loop club, announced a new policy of showcasing new (and less expensive) jazz talent, making the unusual move of hiring two experienced but not yet famous female vocalists, Lucy Reed and Lurlean Hunter (who was born in 1919). (This was not some little bitty place with singers taking turns at the piano; the Streamliner would be keeping a full-time pianist and a full-time organist on the payroll.) In September, the Streamliner's new program, Lucy Reed in particular, got a positive notice from the Chicago Tribune's entertainment columnist, Will Leonard ("Tower Ticker," September 12, 1951, part 3, p. 7):
The Streamliner, a surprisingly beautiful room across Clinton st. from the North Western stations, has something that's no form of jazz we recognize, in its new "Rising Stars of Jazz" policy. Stan Facey plays a rapid piano with overtones of boogie-woogie, Les Strand thumps a speedy electric organ, Lurlean Hunter intones love songs, Lucille Reed, erstwhile vocalist with Charlie Ventura, is the one who seems most qualified to be a star on the ascendant. She takes a microphone into her confidence with distinctive style, caresses and cajoles a song, and makes antiques say new things.
Facey was soon replaced by Ernie Harper, who immediately became Hunter's preferred accompanist.
Pat Harris's Down Beat article praised her work alongside Lurlean Hunter in a jazz context. At the Streamliner, Reed usually performed with pioneering Hammond organist Les Strand, whose solo repertoire included "Caravan" and "Groovin' High."
Lucy ... appears to have put countless hours into perfecting her presentation. Where Lurlean is gay and vivacious, Lucille is subtle, melancholy, subdued. She shines on things like Lonely Town, Wonder Why, I'll Be Around, and occasionally a shoulder-shaking St. Louis Blues
With a classically perfect face, short-cropped red curls piled high, and a sophisticated gowning that hints of the Victorian salons, she gives the effect of a marvelously fragile figurine. And she sings. Throatily, clearly, with nuances no one else seems to have explored. ("Music Superb, Atmosphere Ideal" at Chi's Streamliner, Down Beat, November 2, 1951, p. 5)
Another recommendation followed in December, from Tribune society columinist Elizabeth Rannels ("Have You Heard?", December 16, 1951, part 7, p. 2). In a section titled "Contrasts," Eddie South and Buddy Charles, working together at the Airliner, were followed by:
The relaxed and quiet music at the Streamliner, with the easy going songs and piano of Ernie Harper, the gentleness of "Moonlight in Vermont," as vocalized by Lurline [sic] Hunter, the tear in the voice of Lucille Reed singing, "Try a Little Tenderness," and the conversation of the organ as it tells about "Foggy Day in London Town," as played by Les Strand.
A few months later, the Down Beat scribes showed how highly they thought of Lucy Reed. They put her on the cover of the April 4, 1952 issue.
If Art Sheridan wasn't aware of Lucy Reed from her run at the Streamliner—and this is unlikely—he'd heard her on the radio. Reed joined the Chance red-label series when she cut a session with veteran Chicago bandleader Al Trace. The session took place in April 1953, but her single (Chance 3006) was held till October (Bob Rolontz, "Rhythm & Blues Notes," Billboard, October 24, 1953, p. 61, merely wrote, "Chance has two sides this week by Lucy Reed"). Reed and Trace were not the best possible matchup, though Trace was a prolific songwriter and one of the songs was his.
Down Beat's "Chicago Band Briefs" (July 15, 1949, p. 4) informed readers that Trace had recently been at the Chicago Theater. "Theater, through teletranscription, had the Al Trace stage bill (including more square dancing) on WBKB recently, the first such show from this area." Trace got the ink because a live TV show was a big deal at that time; the reference to square dancing clued Down Beat readers that he led a "Mickey Mouse" band. (As we learn from the same column, March 25, 1949, p. 4, the Chicago Theater booked such hip acts as Lawrence Welk and Eddie Cantor.) Albert J. Trace was born in Chicago on December 25, 1900. He performed as a drummer and singer in the 1920s, starting his own big band in 1933. Trace's band worked the Century of Progress Exposition, had long runs in Loop Hotels, and was frequently on radio. He wrote over 300 popular songs—so many that he used two pseudonyms to conceal many of his contributions. One of his pseudonymous tunes was the 1950 hit "If I'd Known You Were Coming, I'd've Baked a Cake." He also scored a hit in 1943 singing "Mairzy Doats," a song he hadn't written. Trace had recorded for a slew of labels before he picked up with Chance: Columbia, Damon, Savoy, Regent, and most recently Mercury. Al Trace retired to Arizona in 1975 and died in Sun City West on August 31, 1993 (http://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/02/obituaries/al-trace-dies-at-92-big-band-songwriter.html?scp=1&sq=Al%20Trace&st=cse).
The two missing matrix numbers from Lucy Reed's session with Al Trace belong to Chance 3005, found a few years ago in Wisconsin by Dave Anderson. These two sides were by a country singer and guitarist named Dolph Hewitt. Adolph Edward Hewitt was born on July 15, 1914 in Snuff Hollow, near West Finley in Washington County, Pennsylvania, the oldest of nine children. His father was a farmer and an old-timey fiddler; Dolph learned to play the fiddle, later the guitar and mandolin. The land was marginal and the family so poor that Dolph was often sent out, with one bullet in his .22 rifle, to shoot something they could eat for dinner. His father died when Dolph was 16, so to support the family he went to work for radio stations, starting with WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia. He worked at other stations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Iowa. In the early 1940s, he was with KMOX in Saint Louis, with an interruption for military service in the Marine Corps during World War II, which included the Battle of Iwo Jima. In January 1946, he joined WLS in Chicago and began performing with the National Barn dance.
According to Mark Seganish, "Dolph Hewitt was a member of the WLS National Barn Dance, thus the Chicago connection. He had previously recorded for RCA Victor, including at least three on the green wax 48-0000 [45 rpm; the prefix on the 78s was 21-] country and western series." Hewitt was signed to RCA Victor in July 1949, cut his first session on July 29 of that year (Billboard, August 6, 1949, p. 33), and had his first single out in September (Billboard, September 24, 1949, p. 112). Hewitt was probably under contract for two years, making enough money off his Victor releases to be able to buy a house in Lombard, Illinois. Seganish notes that they featured heavy pop production. A review in Billboard of his "End of the Rainbow" (RCA Victor 21-0416; January 13, 1951, p. 30) notes that Hewitt was backed by "organ and string band." His Chance sides were even schmaltzier. They had no country ambience at all, as we would expect if Al Trace accompanied him. Nonetheless anticipating interest from those who had bought his Victors, Chance advertised the Dolph Hewitt single in Billboard on October 24, 1953 (p. 64).
Hewitt remained with the Barn Dance till 1960 when WLS changed owners, dropped live music, and went strictly with DJs spinning rock and pop. Then he helped to move the show over to WGN, where it kept right on going into 1969. The house band he maintained in the later Barn Dance days—the Sage Riders, with Juice Hutchinson on lead guitar; Lino Frigo, accordion; Lino's cousin Johnny Frigo, fiddle; Tiny Murphy, steel guitar; and Toby Nix, string bass—is the band we wish he'd been able to use on his Chance session. In 1971, Dolph and Ruth Hewitt moved from the Chicago suburbs to Kissimmee, Florida. He subsequently worked for WFIV radio in Clermont, Florida, and in his later years devoted his time to making and repairing fiddles. Dolph Hewitt died in Kissimmee on December 10, 1996. (See the extremely detailed Doph Hewitt biography at http://www.hillbilly-music.com/artists/story/index.php?id=10091.)
The Dolph Hewitt came out probably the same week as Chance 3006 by Lucy Reed and roughly a month before Chance 3007 by Buddy diVito. We had previously put their release dates in January 1954, but an item in Billboard (December 5, 1953, p. 35) refers to 3006 and 3007 as already released, along with Chance 3008 by Red Surrey.
A further jazz venture took place in June, when Sheridan took advantage of a brief Chicago residency by bebop trumpeter Conte Candoli (misspelled "Conti Condoli" on the label). Born in Mishawaka, Indiana, on July 22, 1927, Candoli was already a veteran of the Woody Herman, Charlie Barnet, and Stan Kenton bands, as well as Charlie Ventura's combo. Candoli's main inspiration was Dizzy Gillespie, though he would work in the influences of Miles Davis and Clifford Brown later on. For Chance, Candoli recorded his regular group: Bob Wynn (alto sax), Ira Sullivan (tenor sax), Gene Esposito (piano), Chubby Jackson (bass), and Tony Pappa (drums). Multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan (born March 1, 1931 in Washington DC) made his recording debut on this session. He would become one of the most prominent white jazz musicians in Chicago during the bebop era. Gene Esposito (1928 - 1999), whose tune "Mambo Junior" appeared on the combo's Chance release, would go on to organize the pioneering 1956 session that brought together Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren and local drumming legend Red Saunders. Tony Pappa came from Elkhart, Indiana; in 1948 he'd led a bop quintet that included Chicago tenor saxophonist Kenny Mann.
Although four tunes were recorded, just one single (Chance 1153, held till the next year) saw release from the Candoli session; it was reissued many years later on an IAJRC LP. Candoli moved to Los Angeles in 1954 and spent the rest of his career there. He recorded countless studio sessions and for many years reached his widest audience as a soloist with Johnny Carson's Tonight Show Band. Conte Candoli died in Los Angeles on December 14, 2001.
The Four Bits were a vocal group that recorded four tunes at some point in the Summer of 1953. They picked a commonplace name for a quartet. Otherwise we merely know their first names were Stu, Stan, Bill, and Bart, and both of the songs that were released were written by one D. Norwood. Their only single was Chance 3003. In the 1960s in South Florida, a group called the Four Bits released a musical comedy album on the local Art label. The vocalist on that one was Bill Cary and the pianist was Stuart Douglas Watson. Allowing for two personnel changes, could this have been the same group? Around 1970, the Florida group, with one further personnel change, put out a second LP. Obviously further investigation is needed.
Jack Nelson is another pop vocalist of whom we know hardly a thing. The matrix numbers put his recording session in the summer, but his one Chance release, on 3004, came out in October (Bob Rolontz, "Rhythm & Blues Notes," Billboard, October 24, 1953, p. 61, led off with an announcement that Chance had signed The Moonglows, then appended a reference to "a new artist," Jack Nelson, whose single "was released recently" ). The name makes him hard to research, as there were in those days several Jack Nelsons in Chicago who interested the trade papers, including one who was prominent in the vending machine business. However, a Jack Nelson sang with the Dick Jurgens Orchestra in 1946. Obviously the same Jack Nelson from the Chance session resurfaced in 1957 with two singles on Norman Forgue's Stepheny label. "Pretty Girl" had to be his signature tune, because he redid it for Stepheny.
Accompaniment on Chance 3004 (see also the composer credit on "Many Tears Ago") was by the Dick "Marks" Orchestra. This was a misspelling for Dick Marx, a jazz pianist then active on the Chicago scene. Richard Henry Marx was born in Chicago on April 24, 1924 and graduated from Sullivan High School. He played the piano from childhood, began performing in public at the age of 13, and did a lot of club dates in the 1950s; in 1952 he started a long collaboration with bassist Johnny Frigo. In January 1953, the Dick Marx Jazz Trio was at the Blue Angel, playing in the lounge and on stage. Marx and Frigo had an extended run at the Lei Aloha in 1953-1954, where they backed Lucy Reed. In November 1954, they moved to the Cloister, where Lurlean Hunter was one of the featured vocalists.
Chance 3004 might have been the first record with Marx' name on the label. In June 1954, he did a single for Mercury with Mike Simpson (who would work with him again on pop music dates), Chubby Jackson, and Red Saunders; again the record company went with the "Marks" spelling.
Marx subsequently recorded four LPs under his own name (one for Brunswick in 1955, 2 for Coral in 1957, and one for Omega in 1958). The Brunswick and the first Coral were piano-bass duets with Johnny Frigo (though Frigo switched to violin on a couple of tracks for Brunswick). The second Coral was a trio outing with two different studio drummers. By contrast, the Omega was positively extravagant, featuring a quintet with Buddy Collette on flute and Howard Roberts on electric guitar. Marx's last appearance for Coral, on a 1958 LP, was as a member of The First Modern Piano Quartet (meaning, in this case, four pianos): Marx, Hank Jones, Eddie Costa, and Johnny Costa; they shared A Gallery of Gershwin with Manny Albam's orchestra. Marx also made a spot appearance on various-artists LP that commemorated entertainers of the past: he was tapped to do the Fats Waller tribute. From their LPs, we hear how Marx and Frigo could play an entire ballad at pp or lower, something they must have been called on to do frequently while working with Lucy Reed. Marx's first Coral LP, released in February 1957, includes two tunes that Reed also recorded on her Fantasy LPs ("In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" from This Is Lucy Reed and "My Time of Day" from Singing Reed); we don't know who brought them to whose attention.
Marx also appeared on LPs by Johnny Frigo (for Mercury in 1957, featuring Frigo's violin) and Helen Merrill (for EmArcy), and two by beat poet Ken Nordine (for Dot). This activity was basically over by the end of 1959. By 1960, a former student of Marx's was complaining of visiting Chicago and discovering that his mentor was no longer appearing in the jazz clubs. Marx taught quite a few students, including avant-garde pianist Burton Greene.
The notes to Marx's Omega LP (recorded in Los Angeles) mention his aversion to road tours, which helps to explain why he didn't become a bigger name. An item about Marx traveling to Las Vegas in 1956, to accompany singer Dorothy Collins, pointedly noted that he was bringing his family with him. (Collins, the featured singer on Your Hit Parade, was married to experimental composer Raymond Scott, the show's music director; Scott had recommended Marx for the gig.) He continued his involvement in pop music. In 1957, Coral used his quartet on an LP by pop singer Johnny Desmond (born Giovanni Alfredo De Simone, 1919-1985); the title song, "Easy Come, Easy Go Lover," was also in Lucy Reed's repertoire. Desmond had some jazz experience, as a member of Bob Crosby's Bob-O-Links in 1940 and Gene Krupa's band in 1941, but he was in decline commercially at the time (1957 would be the year of his last hit single) and the record company may have been experimenting. In 1958, a Dick Marx Quartet (with Mike Simpson on flute, Johnny Frigo, and Jerry Slosberg at the drums) backed Marlene Cord on a Coral LP. In 1960, Billboard noted that Dick Marx had accompanied pop singer Bet E. Martin on an LP session for Epic, but to our knowledge the tracks were not released (on her Epic singles, the band was led by another Chance pop series alumnus, Chuck Sagle).
Marx's last appearance on a jazz album was with Eddie Harris, for Vee-Jay in 1962. By 1961, he had shifted his focus to radio and TV advertising. He started Dick Marx and Associates and wrote jingles for Ken-L-Ration dog food, Doublemint Gum, Dial Soap, and Kellogg's Raisin Bran. He moved to Los Angeles in 1981, doing some film and TV scores and some arranging for pop singers. His youngest son, Richard Marx, born in 1963, is a pop singer/songwriter. In July 1997, Dick Marx was badly injured in a car wreck in Las Vegas; he died in Highland Park Hospital, on August 12 (Kenan Heise, "Top Jingle Writer Dick Marx, 73," Chicago Tribune, August 15, 1997, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-08-15/news/9708150244_1_mr-marx-richard-marx-jingles).
The 3000 pop series ran a regular schedule of new issues in 1953. But even with three series, the parent label no longer seemed to be enough. Sabre was launched at the end of July 1953 with separate headquarters at 1225 East 47th Street; the first two releases were duly promoted in Dave Clark's "Rhythm and Blues Tattler" (Billboard, August 1, 1953, p. 38). Initial Sabre 78s sported distinctive green labels with silver print; the 45s used the same black on yellow as their counterparts in the Chance 1100s.
Alongside the "Jimmy Eager" on Sabre 100 (see above; inadequately briefed on his pseudonyms, Clark attributed the single to one "Ken Eager"), there was a release by Ben Bryant on Sabre 101, which seems to have sold hardly a lick and is nearly impossible to find today. Clark refers to Bryant's "tenor horn," implying a session of R&B instrumentals, and, sure enough, a repro EP (Lloyd's 100, not a genuine product of the Apollo subsidiary, which couples two vocal group tracks with two instrumentals, all from different labels) gives us a quintet, with a trumpet (recessed on "Blue Midnight"), a bar-walking tenor sax, piano, bass, and drums. Obviously a group worth listening to, but we don't know of anything else they did beyond this session. We would also like to know what the 78-rpm labels looked like.
Chance relocated its main offices at 1151 to next door at 1153 that same month, to give the company double the space. Sheridan also began working with Vee-Jay Records, which had just set up shop and had two releases out, one by the the doowop group the Spaniels and one by the bluesman Jimmy Reed. The company was owned by two neophytes, Jimmy Bracken and Vivian Carter, who had no distribution and little knowledge of the business. When the Spaniels' record, "Baby It's You," started generating interest, Chance picked it up for national distribution and it became a top ten R&B record. (See our final section, on Leased and Purchased Material, for the Chance versions of the first two Vee-Jays.) The Jimmy Reed disk, "High and Lonesome" b/w "Roll and Rhumba," also saw some local action, and picked up national sales as well from Chance distribution. Thereafter, Sheridan and Abner worked closely with Vee-Jay in getting it off the ground. However, Vee-Jay would continue to be little more than a mom and pop operation through the first half of 1954.
An August recording session brought the Flamingos into the studio again with the Red Holloway band (including Louis Carpenter, piano; Hawk Lee, bass; Robert "Hendu" Henderson, drums; an unidentified trumpeter, and the ever-reliable Mac Easton on baritone sax). The best of the four titles recorded at the session was "Golden Teardrops." The beauty of this song is marvelously enhanced by the intricate harmonizing, especially the way the voices are dramatically split in the intro and the close. McElroy's impassioned vocalizing helps immeasurably in giving "Golden Teardrops" its reputation as a legendary masterpiece. The company rushed released it the following month and it sold well by Chance's standards, although not making the national charts.
Also in August, Chance recorded another James Williamson session (which, despite the quality of the sides included, remained in the can).
Sister Rosa Shaw made a session that produced two releases for the company's 5000 series, plus two more items that were left in the can. After Al Trace and Jack Teter she might have been the third-oldest headliner to record for Chance. Rosa Shaw was born in Bishopville, South Carolina, on February 21, 1909, the daughter of Maggie and Pernell Slater. Her family moved to Tampa, Florida, where she owned a beauty salon and a restaurant before becoming an evangelist. She toured with her mother, by then known as Maggie Hines, and at various times with gospel luminaries such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, and the Soul Stirrers. She claimed that Sister Rosetta Tharpe bought her her first guitar, and she obviously took Sister Rosetta as a model vocally. Touring with their mothers was another thing the two Sisters had in common. A tough-sounding singer, Rosa Shaw makes a strong impression on today's listener.
Her first session was done around February 1948 for Coleman Records in Newark, New Jersey, singing with her guitar for accompaniment (and hence unlikely to attract attention from the Musicians Union). Two singles ensued. On November 6, 1949, identified as "Sister Rosa Shaw of Tampa, Fla.", she made an appearance at the Gospel Train concert held at the Rockland Palace for Benjamin Davis, a left-wing Democrat then serving on the New York City Council. The event was organized by Paul Robeson, and also featured Gene "Gatemouth" Munford, The Two Gospel Keys, the Harmonizing Four, and the Mount Lebanon Jubilee Singers. Sister Rosa was accompanied by Brownie McGhee on guitar ("Paul Robeson Heads Nov. 6 Gospel Sing," The New York Age, October 29, 1949, p. 2). We learn from a 1950 article that Sister Rosa was represented by the same New York booking agency as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and several of her close associates, such as Madam Marie Knight and organist Jimmy Roots, Jr. ("Taps Agency Is Recognized Leader in Bookings of Gospel Singers," The New York Age, May 13, 1950, p. 15). The connection had gotten her a one-time deal with Coral (a subsidiary of Decca, where Sister Rosetta had been recording for years). She cut two singles on May 1, 1950. The sales did not lead Decca to extend her contract, and Sister Rosetta left Taps later in 1950. In January 1951, Tharpe signed with Moe Gale, who had a lot more clout in the music business ("Rosetta Tharpe Inks Gale Pact," Cash Box, January 27, 1951, p. 14); she didn't bring Sister Rosa with her.
In 1952, Rosa Shaw signed with Dot. At her first session, around February of that year, she cut 6 sides, all of them released: Dot 1100, 1116, and 1134. The only one easily obtained today is Dot 1134 ("On the Highway" b/w "He Rolled the Stone Away"). Accompaniment there is by piano and her guitar; the balance favors the pianist. "He Rolled the Stone Away" is her only record to have drawn any reissue interest. At a second session for Dot, she made two more titles, which were released on Dot 1170.
A few months before her Chance session, Sister Rosa made a round of appearances in south Florida. She was identified as a Dot recording artist and several of her titles were mentioned. Her group, billed as the Singing Angels, included her mother, a male singer identified as Little Sammie Hines, and "Prof. Jones, blind pianist and gospel singer of Chicago" ("Rosa Shaw Will Be at Masonic Temple," Fort Pierce News Tribune, March 8, 1953, p. 12).
We presume she signed with Chance after a one-year deal with Dot expired. On 5007, the more common of her Chance releases, "His Dying Was Not in Vain" features an unidentified, extremely fluent pianist along with Sister Rosa's well-miked guitar. On "I'm Leaving Soon," there is no piano, and she accompanies herself on tremolo-laden electric guitar, with wordless backing from a recessed vocal group. The suggestion has been made that these were The Five Echoes, but it would be nice to have evidence beyond proximity in the matrix number system. We are told by Hayes and Laughton that Chance 5008 also included a drummer, but have not been able to check this for ourselves.
The identity of the pianist on her Chance session may be of more than casual interest, because in his 1984 autobiography Little Richard told the following story about a fateful meeting with Steven Quincy Reeder, Jr. (1935-1986, aka Eskew Reeder, Jr., S. Q., Esquerita, and eventually a few other pseudonyms). As best his biographers could determine, the meeting took place in the middle of 1953: "I used to sit around the all-night restaurant at the Greyhound bus station in Macon [Georgia]. One night, I was sitting there and Esquerita came in. He was with a lady preacher by the name of Sister Rosa Shaw, whose line was selling blessed bread. She said it was blessed, but it was nothing but regular old bread that you buy at the store. Esquerita played piano for her and they had a little guy singing with them by the name of Shorty" (quoted by Pierre Monnery with Jay Halsey, "The Esquerita Story," Blues & Rhythm 270, p. 12). Little Richard also talked about how strong Reeder's bass line was when he played "One Mint Julep" on the piano at the Penniman home.
A blurb for a later appearance in Fort Pierce ("Sister Rosa Shaw Is Here Today at Masonic Temple," Fort Pierce News Tribune, February 6, 1955, p. 4) mentioned that Mrs. Maggie Hines would be on the bill along with "Samuel, the world's little wonder boy," who was said to be 2 1/2 feet tall and 25 years old. "Also playing a prominent part on the program will be Eskew Reeder, Jr., recognized as a piano magician."
Rosa Shaw eventually settled in Miami, Florida, where she did broadcasts for more than 50 years over WMBM radio (it renamed its studio building after her in 2004) and for many years maintained a prayer circle in her home. She successively became Madame Rosa Shaw, Evangelist Rosa Shaw, and finally Mother Evangelist Rosa Shaw. She kept working in New York and New Jersey for many years and had one later release out of New York City, a 45 released in 1962 on Rae Cox 103, as Evangelist Rosa Shaw. The Miami Times interviewed her for her 105th and 106th birthdays (Gigi Tinsley, "The Rosa Shaw Story," The Miami Times, February 27, 2014, http://miamitimesonline.com/news/2014/feb/27/rosa-shaw-story/; Gigi Tinsley,"'Mother' Rosa Shaw Celebrates 106th Birthday," The Miami Times, February 11, 2015, http://miamitimesonline.com/news/2015/feb/11/mother-rosa-shaw-celebrates-106th-birthday/ . Mother Rosa Shaw died on July 7, 2015 (http://miamitimesonline.com/obituaries/2015/jul/16/mother-rosa-shaw/), leaving two sons and an adopted son, Willie Williams, who had accompanied her on piano for many years.
The Five Echoes, from the city's South Side, were teamed up in the studio with a band led by pianist Ike "Fats" Cole. The Echoes were the company's second vocal group. The Echoes' first record, "Lonely Mood" b/w "Baby Come Back to Me," was released on Sabre 102 in September of 1953. Solo artist Walter Spriggs sang lead on both songs, which for that matter were credited to one "W. Spreegs," but was considered a member of the group only for the session. Or so we have been told; Spriggs would actually be back for the second session. Constant "Count" Sims sang baritone for the Echoes; Herbert Lewis, baritone; Tommy Hunt, second tenor; Earl Lewis, first tenor; and Jimmy Marshall, bass. Tommy Hunt would later sing with the Flamingos and develop a solo career in the early 1960s. Two more Echoes sides may have been recorded at this session (they have previously been described as early 1954 recordings, but the accompaniments match what we can hear on the group's first session, not the second.) The company seemingly was trying to get the group away from blues so they had them record a ballad, "Why Oh Why," and a jump, "That's My Baby." Hunt sang second lead on "Why Oh Why." These two songs went unreleased, finally appearing in 1964 on a Constellation LP called Groups Three.
Walter Spriggs' career has drawn little attention. His extensive reliance on pseudonyms has thrown everyone off the trail. From the published information that we have, courtesy of Rob Ford, he is almost certainly the 7-year-old resident of St. Louis, Missouri who was listed in the 1940 US census. That Walter Spriggs was born in Arkansas in 1933, the son of William and Ollie Spriggs, both of whom had been born in 1898, William in Arkansas and Ollie in Mississippi. He had two older sisters, Mary and Geraldine. Where Walter Spriggs got his musical instruction we do not know, but he sang and played piano, guitar, bongos, and drums.
He was already appearing in Chicago in the fall of 1952, when one "Walter Sprague (Blues Singer)" was featured in a show at Martin's Corner, 1900 West Lake Street, accompanied by Deacon Brown's band (Chicago Defender, October 2, 1952). Spriggs was active in Chicago in 1953 and 1954, as we know from his recording activity for Chance and then Blue Lake. He also got billing in an ad (Chicago Defender, April 3, 1954, p. 24) for Club Heat Wave, 4615 South State Street, where he was working with Larry Wrice (drummer, recent ex-husband of Dinah Washington) and his Chicago All Stars. Perhaps it was in 1955 that Spriggs began using the stage name Raymond Scott; under that name he worked with Jimmy Reed, appearing on Reed and Eddie Taylor's January and March 1955 sessions for Vee-Jay, and an unreleased Little Willy Foster session (June 1955) for Blue Lake.
The Scott name might have invited some confusion with the eccentric composer, birth name Harry Warnow, who had previously taken it. It invited a lot of confusion with another blues drummer, also active in Chicago, who ended up as "the other Ray Scott."
Spriggs subsequently joined the Kansas City Tomcats (led by guitarist Lucky Enois) in 1955, a group that recorded for Jubilee. His role in the Tomcats was lead vocalist. Returning to Chicago, he ran Scotty's Rock and Roll Inn from 1955 through 1957. There he led a house band that included Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson. He also appeared on Little Willy Foster's session for Cobra (c. March 1957). He inadvertently precipitated Elmore James' years of trouble with Local 208 in December 1957, when he recommended Junior Blackmon as his immediate replacement on the bandstand; Blackmon turned out not to be a member of the Union. Spriggs retained some affiliation with Chicago blues performers for a few more years; in 1959 Little Walter Jacobs recorded his song "Nobody but You."In 1956, he made an initial foray into New York City. On August 4 of that year, he recorded a single for Atco with Jesse Stone's band; it was released in September. He would continue his association with Stone for a few years. The Atco carried the name Walter Spriggs. In 1958 and 1959 Spriggs seems to have spent more of his time in New York. Hedging his bets, he recorded twice in 1959 for a small label called Antler; one single came out under the Spriggs name, the other as by Ray Scott. One of the Spriggs sides featured a Jesse Stone tune. In 1960, Ray Scott and combo put out a single on the Tri-Ess label, featuring "Silk, Satin & Lace" by Jesse Stone. Tri-Ess, for that matter, sounds like a joint enterprise of Spriggs, Stone, and somebody else whose last name started with S.
He spent a little time in Los Angeles, garnering a writeup in the LA Sentinel. (Paul McGee, "Success Beckons: The Great Scott -- Portrait of a Man in a Hurry...!" May 30, 1963, p. A-8, A-9) that helped us resolve the confusion over his identity: "Ray Scott, versatile singer, dancer, musicia and comedian, who was christened Walter Spriggs," was now aged 29, and was born in Arkansas. According to the McGee piece, Scott had arrived in LA from New York City for a comedy gig at the Club Hideaway. He had begun billing himself as "The Great Scott." Spriggs/Scott had been doing comedy since 1959, and was said to know George Kirby and Redd Foxx, both of whom he would have had multiple opportunities to meet and observe in Chicago. His most recent recordings were mentioned, including "Silk, Satin & Lace." The article credited him with playing bongos on a Roy Hamilton song and with other recording work with Billy Williams and Johnny Ray, as well as "a tour of 27 countries of Europe." Of course, had Scott landed his own TV show or been in any films, we would have heard more from other sources.
In 1970, Checker released a single by Ray Scott. Since one side, "The Prayer," is a Redd Foxx bit, it points to "our" Ray Scott. The last sighting we have is from New York once again, in 1974. Ray Scott was running a music publisher called Spriggs Productions, Inc. (affiliated with BMI) out of his apartment at 400 Central Park West.
Walter Spriggs was a performer of multiple talents who never got the big break he was expecting. We're pretty sure that his musical activities are still not fully documented.
In September Sheridan went into partnership with Dave Freed, famed deejay Alan Freed's brother, in setting up another distribution outfit, Lance Distribution, Inc., working out of Cleveland.
That same month, Alan Freed brought the Moonglows (Bobby Lester, Harvey Fuqua, Pete Graves, and Prentiss Barnes) to Sheridan. For the first session, Chance teamed the doowop group up with another Red Holloway band (this time just Carpenter, Lee, and Henderson behind Red's tenor sax.) The Moonglows recorded two secular titles and two Christmas titles for the holidays. For their first release in October Chance paired the secular titles, "Baby Please" and "Whistle My Love." The top side led by Harvey Fuqua is a low-key bluesy ballad, and the flip, featuring a duet lead of Fuqua and Bobby Lester, is a steady rocking jump. Neither side did anything in the market despite heavy promotion by Freed in Cleveland.
In December, Chance put out "Just a Lonely Christmas" b/w "Hey Santa Claus." "Lonely Christmas," led by Fuqua, is an Orioles-style droopy ballad that appeals to the collector's ear today. "Hey, Santa Claus," led by Lester, is a routine jump heavily derived from the old rhythm and blues tune "Be Baba Leba," which was made famous by Helen Humes back in 1945. Neither side is all that Christmasy and it was obvious that Gene Autry or Charles Brown had nothing to fear from the Moonglows. "Hey Santa Claus" made a surprise appearance many years later on film, on National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Chevy Chase looks across the street and there's a black band playing and singing "Hey Santa Claus" (actually lip-synching to the Moonglows' original).
The company carried on a heavy recording schedule in October, recording bluesman Willie Nix, guitarist Rudolph Spencer "Rudy" Greene, Lazy Bill, and singing actor Eddie Bracken.
Eddie Bracken (not related to Jimmy) had the most widely recognized name in the Chance pop series, though he was better known as a comic actor than a singer. Born Edward Vincent Bracken in Astoria, Queens, on February 7, 2015, he was working in vaudeville at age 9, in stage plays at age 15, and got his big break with the Rodgers and Hart musical Too Many Girls (1939), introducing "I Didn't Know What Time It Was." He moved to Hollywood when the musical was made into a film in 1940. He appeared in two of Preston Sturges' movies and had his own radio show for a time. A small record label would not normally have been able to sign him, but in December 1953 he had left Hollywood and was appearing in a stage production of "The Seven Year Itch" in Chicago. Art Sheridan jumped on the opportunity.
Sheridan had hopes—Bracken got a 4-tune session leading to immediate releases with contiguous numbers, Chance 3009 and 3010, which at one time were meant to be put together as an "album" (well, maybe an EP). For Chance 3009, we have seen 45s that carry the old silver on red labels and the new black on yellow, suggesting more than one pressing run. We are curious what collectors have to say about 3010.
Bracken probably didn't follow the sales of his Chance records very closely—or miss them after the company shut down. It had been a one-off deal, and he was too busy with TV series and a successful return to Broadway. In 1954, he co-starred with Carol Channing on a Columbia LP of a studio production of archy and mehitabel. It was made into a stage musical in 1957 as Shinbone Alley; Bracken again played the cockroach and Eartha Kitt took the feline lead. He continued his many activities on TV, in touring editions of Broadway musicals, and other stage productions, and even made a return to film in character roles, retiring in 2001 at the age of 86. Eddie Bracken died in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, on November 14, 2002. (See his obituary in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/16/arts/eddie-bracken-dies-at-87-acted-in-sturges-comedies.html, a fairly long piece that had no room for his rare forays into commercial recording.)
Willie Nix was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on August 6, 1922. He learned tap dancing as a boy, and was appearing with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels in his teens. In the 1940s, he worked as a drummer with bluesmen such as Robert Lockwood Jr., Willie Love, Joe Willie Wilkins, Aleck Miller (aka Sonny Boy Williamson #2), B. B. King, and Joe Hill Louis. He made his first record for RPM, in Memphis in 1951, and in 1952 two of his sides recorded at Sam Phillips' studio were released on Checker; he also appeared on the Chess brothers' session of January 9, 1953 involving, in various combinations, Muddy Waters, Big Walter Horton, Honeyboy Edwards, and Gus Jenkins. Chance was the third record company to sign him as a leader. After the 1950s ended, Nix suffered declining health, performed only sporadically, and became increasingly eccentric in his behavior. He died on July 8, 1991, in in Leland, Mississippi.
Mike Rowe cites the Willie Nix session on October 14th as particularly notable; it produced "Just Can't Stay" b/w "All by Yourself," which saw release in November on Sabre 104. "Just Can't Stay" is a semi-talking blues using the "Catfish" or "Rollin' Stone" theme. As Rowe describes it, "The record is a brilliant updating of a traditional theme of unrequited love to the urban setting with its images of hustlers, whores, and easy money." The band consisted of Nix on drums, Eddie Taylor on guitar, Sunnyland Slim on piano, and Snooky Pryor on harmonica. The other two sides from the session were released on Chance 1163 in November 1954; like other very late releases on the label 1163 is quite rare.
Lazy Bill Lucas was born William Lucas on May 29, 1918, in Wynne, Arkansas, and came to Chicago in 1941 via Cape Girardeau and Saint Louis, Missouri, where he met Big Joe Williams. He worked the club scene semi-regularly from 1945 on. Originally a guitarist, he switched to piano in 1950. Lazy Bill played a pounding style of piano. His Chance sides were his debut recordings as a leader. He displayed a puckish sense of humor on the two sides that were released, as Chance 1148, from his October 28th session, "I Had a Dream" and "She Got Me Walkin." Bill's backing musicians were drummer Elga Edmonds (known to some as "Elgin Evans") and guitarist Louis Myers. The other two sides, along with alternate takes of "She Got Me Walkin'" and "I Had a Dream," were first released in Japan in 1977, on the awkwardly titled P-Vine Special PLP 707, Chance Vintage Blues/R&B Crops Vol. 3: J. B. Lenore/Sunnyland Slim/Lazy Bill.
Like many other blues performers, Lucas had more and more trouble finding work in the late 1950s and early 1960s. From 1964 onward he worked in a combo led by George "Mojo" Buford or led his own groups. Around 1970 he settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he recorded for a company called Philo and for a time hosted his own radio show. Bill Lucas died in Minneapolis on December 11, 1982.
Rudy Greene was another of the many T-Bone Walker acolytes on the scene at the time (in one of two photos we have been able to find, he plays the guitar behind his head in emulation of the master). His first recording was for the Bullet label in Nashville (1947). After his second and last Chance session, which took place on October 19, 1953, he appeared as a sideman on a Bobby Prince date for RCA Victor on December 4. Greene enjoyed a long run at Chicago-area clubs during 1954. In October, duly cited as a "Chance Recording Artist," he was the headliner at Club 34 (3417 West Roosevelt Road), where he was backed by Joseph "Cool Breeze" Bell and his 4 Breezes.
The guitarist would record again as a leader for the tiny Club 51 label in March 1955. Around the end of that year, Rudy Greene was back in Nashville recording for Excello; his latter-day sessions would be done in New York for Ember (1957) and in Nashville for Poncello (1961).
Also recorded in October was another new vocal group from the Washington, DC area, the Five Blue Notes. Original members were Andy Magruder (lead), Waymond Mooney (first tenor), Robert Stroud (second tenor), and Moise Vaughn (baritone/bass). They recorded four sides on October 21, and all were released on the Sabre subsidiary. The first release, on Sabre 103 in December 1953, paired "My Gal Is Gone," a deep brooding ballad typical of the era, which featured Magruder as lead, with "Ooh Baby" a routine jump with Briscoe as the lead. Sabre 108, released around June 1954, paired "The Beat of Our Hearts," a more poppish and accessible ballad featuring Briscoe as lead, with a tuneful jump, "You Gotta Go Baby," featuring Vaughn on lead. The Blue Notes appear to have been backed by another Al Smith group: Red Holloway (tenor sax), the eccentric local pianist Willie Jones (1920-1977), veteran jazz musician Quinn Wilson (born 1908) on bass (once established as a studio bandleader, Al quickly got into the habit of delegating these duties), Lefty Bates on guitar, and Paul Gusman (1929 - ) on drums.
In early November, Chance recorded the Red Surrey Trio for its pop series. The group laid down two holiday-flavored numbers in a style strongly influenced by Nat King Cole. It turns out that both titles were listed by Art Sheridan with the correct matrix numbers, but were misattributed to "Jimmy James" in the Chauvard compilation (we doubt anyone in the trio went by that name). Until Marc Roberts discovered a copy of Chance 3008, we had no way of knowing whether they had been released.
Red Surrey's bandmates were probably Don Reed and someone named Strazbos. To these three, the composer credits to "Christmas at Home" added Roy Rhodde (last name misspelled on the labels), who was the trio's manager (see the mention of the group's Chance release in Billboard, December 5, 1953, p. 35). Reed was a prolific songwriter who, less than a year later, signed with the West Coast 4star label (Billboard, September 11, 1954, p. 22). His second session for that company took place at Universal Recording in Chicago, with Roy Rhodde again on hand (Billboard, November 6, 1954, p. 46). This is presumably the same Don Reed who released a single in 1957 during the last days of United.
We are pretty sure that the Red Surrey who recorded for Chance is the same Red Surrey who was once married to Jean Dinning (1924 - 2011), who had enjoyed some hits in the late 1940s with the Dinning Sisters, and who in 1959 composed "Teen Angel." A recording by Jean Dinning's brother Mark was a #1 hit in 1960. While they were married, Jean Dinning and Red Surrey shared credit on anything either of them had composed; after they were divorced, Surrey returned his share of "Teen Angel" to her.
A little out of the ordinary run of Chance pop artists were Eddie and Chuck, the parties responsible for Chance 3012. According to Andrew Brown, they were a Country and Western duo, backed on their sides by a group called The Louisiana Ramblers. Terence McArdle describes "Boogie the Blues" as a "hillbilly bopper" (i.e., an immediate forerunner to rockabilly). Eddie's full name was Eddie Roberts; he released another single around this time on Jiffy Records, out of Monroe, Louisiana. Brown thinks it likely that the Eddie and Chuck material was purchased from a producer in Louisiana rather than recorded in Chicago; in any event, the session was noted down by Art Sheridan with a date of December 22, 1953. (Chance wasn't the only Chicago-area label to release Country material recorded in Louisiana. In 1954-1955, Chess would put out 7 singles in its 4858 series. Stan Lewis, who ran a distributor in Shreveport, was the intermediary.)
The company was expecting more sales out of Buddy DiVito, and a second session took place in December. This featured an ampler budget than the first, giving DiVito what he was accustomed to: Chance paid for a big studio band with a string section to back the vocalist. It led to Chance 3011 and 3015, which were released in February and March 1954. Chance 3011 featured "Glenn Miller," a sentimental tribute to the bandleader on the 10th anniversary of his death, replete with quotes from the Miller band's most popular numbers; it is a pretty fair representation of DiVito's suave crooning. "If Love Has Flown" is in a similar vein, sappier than the "Who Cares" might have led record buyers to think. The company also paid for an advertisement in Billboard.
In 1954, after his affiliation with Chance had ended, DiVito put out a single on United. Later that same year, he recorded for a much smaller Chicago-based independent called Trio. In subsequent years, he moved to Los Angeles, and recorded occasionally for even smaller independents called KM, Tin Pan Alley, and Mal (Mal probably being the last, in 1966). Buddy DiVito died of heart failure on 31 May 2006, in Sun City, Arizona. (See Kendrick Marshall, "Anthony 'Buddy' DiVito: Sang with Harry James (Also Did Carpentry)," Chicago Sun-Times, June 23, 2006.)
Chance closed out the year with two sessions. First, another by the Flamingos on December 24; the group was backed by an Al Smith aggregation that appears to have included Red Holloway (tenor sax), Mac Easton (baritone), Horace Palm (piano), the great New Orleans-born drummer Vernel Fournier (1928 - 2000), and renowned lead trumpeter Hobart Dotson (1922 - 1971). The company held onto the sides for a while, but in October 1954 two were put on one of the very last records on Chance's release schedule: "Blues in a Letter," a stone solid blues, and "Jump Children." "Jump Children" is a terrific number, but it didn't excite the public in 1954. As the alternate title "Vooit Vooit" would indicate, "Jump Children" is too Swing-oriented to suit vocal-group collectors today, but it is most typical of the era and the group used the number in their live performances for years afterward.
Then one that produced a genuine Chance Record curiosity, Chance 3016 is credited on one side to Gerry Teifer (to use the correct spellings). Born Gerald Emmett Teifer in Muskegon, Michigan, on May 28, 1922, Gerry Teifer was a songwriter who initially used Chicago as his base of operations; in 1956, he would move to New York City. He wrote songs for Eddy Arnold, Johnnie Ray, and Doris Day, among others. What got him a recording session for Chance was his skill as a whistler (in fact, he would remake "Tennessee Whistlin' Man" the next year, in a very similar performance with Red Foley for Decca). As Jerry Teifer, he recorded for a single for Wing in 1955 with a band directed by Chuck Sagle (see below), and two for Epic, in 1963 and 1965. Teifer subsequently became an executive in the music publishing business. Gerry Teifer died in Palm Harbor, Florida, on September 20, 2004.
To back Teifer, Art Sheridan brought in Ray Biondi for a second time.
Teifer's side is a Swing boogie with an uncredited vocal and backing by trumpet, trombone, tenor saxophone, guitar, bass, and drums. The trumpet player gets a solo.
The B side, "Pizza-Cat-Oh," was an instrumental feature for Biondi on violin and electric guitar with trumpet, tenor sax, bass, and drums. As with the Chance 3001 session, Biondi did not use a pianist on the date.
Teifer gets part composer credit, but so far as we know he did not play anything. The tenor saxophonist and trumpeter also solo. As with any Ray Biondi session, it would be interesting to know who the other musicians were.
For the rest of the decade, Biondi did radio work and appeared on a lot of recording sessions. After 1961, he concentrated on teaching the stringed instruments that he played. Ray Biondi died in Chicago on January 28, 1981.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|*U2319-1||J.B. Lenoir||The Mojo [Mojo Boogie]||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-707)||January 12, 1953|
|*U2319-4||J.B. Lenore [sic] and His Combo||The Mojo||JOB 1012||January 12, 1953||May 1953|
|*U2320-1||J.B. Lenoir||Slow Down Woman||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-707)||January 12, 1953|
|*U2320-2||J.B. Lenoir||Slow Down Woman||(Constellation LP CS-6)||January 12, 1953|
|*U2321-1||J.B. Lenoir||I Want My Baby||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-707)||January 12, 1953|
|*U2321-4||J.B. Lenore and His Combo||I Want My Baby||JOB 1016||January 12, 1953||September 1953|
|*U2322||J.B. Lenore and His Combo||How Can I Leave||JOB 1012||January 12, 1953||May 1953|
|*U2323||Sunnyland Slim||When I Was Young||(Constellation LP CS-6)||January 12, 1953|
|*U2324||Sunnyland Slim||Bassology||(Constellation LP CS-6)||January 12, 1953|
|*U2325||Sunnyland Slim||Worried about My Baby||(Constellation LP CS-6)||January 12, 1953|
|*U2326||Johnny Shines with Sunnyland Slim||Livin' in the White House||(Constellation LP CS-6)||January 12, 1953|
|*U2327||Johnny Shines with Sunnyland Slim||Please Don't||(Constellation LP CS-6)||January 12, 1953|
|*C5000-4 [C-5008 on label]||Big Boy Spires and His Trio||About to Lose My Mind||Chance 1137||January 17, 1953||July 1953|
|*C5001-1||Big Boy Spires and His Trio||Which One Do I Love||Chance 1137||January 17, 1953||July 1953|
|*C5002-5||Big Boy Spires||Someday Little Darling||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-705)||January 17, 1953|
|*C5003-1||Big Boy Spires||My Baby Left Me||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-705)||January 17, 1953|
|*C5004-5||Big Boy Spires||Rhythm Rock Boogie||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-705)||January 17, 1953|
|*C5005-2||Big Boy Spires||Tired of Being Mistreated||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-705)||January 17, 1953|
|*C5006-4||Johnny Williams||Silver Haired Woman||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-705)||January 17, 1953|
|*C5007-9||Johnny Williams||Fat Mouth||(P-Vine Special PLP 705)||January 17, 1953|
|*U-2333-1||James Williamson||Homesick Blues||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-706)||January 23, 1953|
|*U-2333-2||James Williamson and His Trio||Homesick||Chance 1131||January 23, 1953||February 1953|
|*U2334-3||James Williamson||Dirty Rat||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-706)||January 23, 1953|
|*U-2335-1||James Williamson and His Trio||The Woman I Love||Chance 1131||January 23, 1953||February 1953|
|*U2336-2||James Williamson||War Time||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-706)||January 23, 1953|
|U2337-1||Johnny Shines||Evening Shuffle||(P-Vine Special PCD-2176)||January 23, 1953|
|U2337-2||Johnny Shines||Evening Shuffle||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-705)||January 23, 1953|
|*U2337-3||Johnny Shines||Evening Sun||JOB 1010||January 23, 1953||March 1953|
|*U2338-2||Johnny Shines||No Name Blues||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-705)||January 23, 1953|
|*U2339-1||Johnny Shines||Brutal Hearted Woman||JOB 1010||January 23, 1953||March 1953|
|*U2340||Johnny Shines||Gonna Call the Angel [sic]||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-705)||January 23, 1953|
|*U2340-3||Johnny Shines||Gonna Call the Angel [sic]||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-705)||January 23, 1953|
|*U-2342||The Flamingos with King Kolax's Orchestra||If I Can't Have You||Chance 1133||January 28, 1953||March 1953|
|*U2343||Flamingos with the King Kolax Orchestra||Hurry Home Baby||Chance 1140||January 28, 1953||June 1953|
|*U2344||Flamingos with the King Kolax Orchestra||That's My Desire||Chance 1140||January 28, 1953||June 1953|
|*U-2345||The Flamingos with King Kolax's Orchestra||Someday, Someway||Chance 1133||January 28, 1953||March 1953|
|*U2346-1||Al Smith Orchestra||Boogie||unissued||January 29, 1953|
|U2346-3||Al Smith Orchestra||Boogie||unissued||January 29, 1953|
|U2346-?||Al Smith's Progressive Jazz [sic]
Al Smith and his Broomdusters [sic]
|Beale Street Stomp
Chop Chop Boogie
|January 29, 1953||October 1953
|U2347-?||Al Smith's Progressive Jazz
Al Smith and his Broomdusters
Hot Rod Special
|January 29, 1953||October 1953
|*U2347-7||Al Smith Orchestra||Last Call||unissued||January 29, 1953|
|U2347-12||Al Smith Orchestra||Last Call||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-708)||January 29, 1953|
|*U2348-2||Bobby Prince | Al Smith Orch.||Better Think It Over||Chance 1158||January 29, 1953||August 1954|
|*U2348-4||Bobby Prince||Better Think It Over||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-708)||January 29, 1953|
|*U2349-2||Bobby Prince | Al Smith Orch.||If You Only Knew||Chance 1158||January 29, 1953||August 1954|
|U2349-4||Bobby Prince||In This Misery [If You Only Knew]||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-708)||January 29, 1953|
|*U2350-1||Bobby Prince||I've Got You under My Skin||unissued||January 29, 1953|
|*U2351-1||Jimmy Eager [Tampa Red]||Baby Please Don't Throw Me Down||unissued||January 29, 1953|
|U2351-2||Jimmy Eager [Tampa Red]||Baby Please Don't Throw Me Down||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-708)||January 29, 1953|
|*U-2352-1||Jimmy Eager [Tampa Red] and His Trio||Please Mr. Doctor||Sabre 100||January 29, 1953||July 1953|
|*U-2353-5||Jimmy Eager [Tampa Red] and His Trio||I Should Have Loved Her More||Sabre 100||January 29, 1953||July 1953|
|*U2354-2||Jimmy Eager [Tampa Red]||Beat That Bop||unissued||January 29, 1953|
|U2354-3||Jimmy Eager [Tampa Red]||Beat That Bop||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP-708)||January 29, 1953|
|U-2359||Little Hudson and His Red Devil Trio||Rough Treatment||JOB 1015||January 31, 1953||October 1953|
|U-2360||Little Hudson and His Red Devil Trio||I'm Looking for a Woman||JOB 1015||January 31, 1953||October 1953|
|U-2361 [tk. 1]||Little Hudson and His Red Devil Trio||Things Going So Tough with Me||(Flyright FLY 568)||January 31, 1953|
|U-2361 [tk. 4]||Little Hudson and His Red Devil Trio||Things Going So Tough with Me||(P-Vine [J] PLP-9020)||January 31, 1953|
|U-2362||Little Hudson and His Red Devil Trio||Don't Hang Around||(P-Vine [J] PLP-9020)||January 31, 1953|
|U-2363||Little Hudson and His Red Devil Trio||Shake It Baby||(P-Vine [J] PLP-9020)||January 31, 1953|
|U-2364||Floyd Jones and His Trio||I Lost a Good Woman||(Flyright FLY 584)||January 31, 1953|
|U-2365||Floyd Jones and His Trio||Skinny Mama||JOB 1013||January 31, 1953||Summer 1953|
|U-2366||Floyd Jones and His Trio||Rising Wind||(Flyright FLY 584)||January 31, 1953|
|U-2367||Floyd Jones and His Trio||On the Road Again||JOB 1013||January 31, 1953||Summer 1953|
|*U2381||Ben Bryant||Kitty||unissued||February 5, 1953|
|*U2382||Ben Bryant||Glass Eye||unissued||February 5, 1953|
|*U-2383||Ben Bryant||Cats Delight||Sabre 101||February 5, 1953||July 1953|
|*U2384||Ben Bryant||Ben's Jive||unissued||February 5, 1953|
|*U-2385||Ben Bryant||Blue Midnight||Sabre 101||February 5, 1953||July 1953|
|*C5008||Jimmy Binkley and His Jazz Quintet||Hey, Hey, Sugar Ray||Chance 1134||February 1953||May 1953|
|*C-5009||George Green with Jimmy Binkley and His Jazz Quintet||Finance Man||Chance 1135||February 1953||May 1953|
|*C5010||Jimmy Binkley and His Jazz Quintet||Midnite Wail||Chance 1134||February 1953||May 1953|
|*C-5011||George Green with Jimmy Binkley and His Jazz Quintet||Brand New Rockin' Chair||Chance 1135||February 1953||May 1953|
|*C5012||Barrel House Blott & Lee with the St. Louisians
|Brother Catch the First Train||unissued||c. March 1953|
|*C5013||Barrel House Blott & Lee with the St. Louisians||Brand New Man||Chance 1136||c. March 1953||c. June 1953|
|*C5014||Barrel House Blott & Lee with the St. Louisians||Hey Mathilda||unissued||c. March 1953|
|*C5015||Barrel House Blott with the St. Louisians||Chicks, Going Crazy||Chance 1136||c. March 1953||c. June 1953|
|*C5016||Wooten Choral Ensemble||I Heard the Voice||Chance 5005||March 15, 1953||mid-1953|
|*C5017||Wooten Choral Ensemble||The Hand of God||Chance 5005||March 15, 1953||mid-1953|
|*C5018||Bigtime & Shirley (J. Jackson)||I Love You Baby||unissued||Spring 1953|
|*C5019||Bigtime & Shirley (J. Jackson)||Suicide Blues||unissued||Spring 1953|
|*C5020||Bigtime & Shirley (J. Jackson)||Alley Cat||unissued||Spring 1953|
|*C5021||Bigtime & Shirley (J. Jackson)||Income Tax||unissued||Spring 1953|
|*C-5022||Elaine Rodgers | Remo Biondi Orchestra||You'll Need My Help||Chance 3001||April 20, 1953||June 1953|
|*C-5023||Elaine Rodgers | Remo Biondi Orchestra||I'll Not Forget (I Love You So)||Chance 3001||April 20, 1953||June 1953|
|*C-5024||Al Morgan & His Orchestra||Little Black Buggy||Chance 3002||Spring 1953||July 1953|
|*C5025||Al Morgan & His Orchestra||I'm Sorry for You||unissued||Spring 1953|
|*C5026||Al Morgan & His Orchestra||Unbelievable||unissued||Spring 1953|
|*C-5027||Al Morgan & His Orchestra||Disappointed in You||Chance 3002||Spring 1953||July 1953|
|*C5028||Rudy Green, his guitar with King Kolax Orchestra||Good Woman Blues||unissued||Late Spring 1953|
|*C5029||Rudy Green, his guitar with King Kolax Orchestra||Love Is a Pain||Chance 1139||Late Spring 1953||July 1953|
|*C5030||Rudy Green, his guitar with King Kolax Orchestra||It's Been a Long Time Baby||unissued||Late Spring 1953|
|*C5031||Rudy Green, his guitar with King Kolax Orchestra||No Need of Your Crying||Chance 1139||Late Spring 1953||July 1953|
|*C5032||King Kolax||unknown instrumental||unissued||Late Spring 1953|
|*C5033||King Kolax||Groovin' the Blues||unissued||Late Spring 1953|
|2480-A||Buddy DiVito & the Meadowlarks||Everytime||Chance 3007||c. April 1953||November 1953|
|2481-A||Buddy DiVito & the Meadowlarks||Dream Time||Chance 3007||c. April 1953||November 1953|
|U-2495||Lucy Reed | Al Trace Orchestra||Tantalizing Melody||Chance 3006||c. April 1953||October 1953|
|U-2496||Dolph Hewitt and Orchestra||I'm a Stranger More and More||Chance 3005||c. April 1953||October 1953|
|U-2497||Lucy Reed | Al Trace Orchestra||Please Mr. Right Man||Chance 3006||c. April 1953||October 1953|
|U-2498||Dolph Hewitt and Orchestra||Just Give Me Half a Chance||Chance 3005||c. April 1953||October 1953|
|1035||Buddy DiVito with Orchestra||Take My Heart||Chance 3015||1953||March 1954|
|*C5110||Conte Candoli||Blue Note||unissued?||June 1953|
|*C-5111||Conti Condoli [sic]||Flamingo||Chance 1153||June 1953||April 1954|
|*C5112||Conte Candoli||Ellington [?]||unissued?||June 1953|
|*C-5113||Conti Condoli [sic]||Mambo Junior||Chance 1153||June 1953||April 1954|
|*C5034||The Four Bits (Stu - Stan - Bill & Bart)||Everything||Chance 3003||Summer 1953||after July 1953|
|*C5035||The Four Bits (Stu - Stan - Bill & Bart)||Just like This||Chance 3003||Summer 1953||after July 1953|
|*No Number||The Four Bits||Begin the Beguine||unissued||Summer 1953|
|*No Number||The Four Bits||Be Careful||unissued||Summer 1953|
|*C-5036||Jack Nelson with Dick Marks Orch.||Pretty Girl||Chance 3004||Summer 1953||October 1953|
|*C-5037||Jack Nelson with Dick Marks Orch.||Many Tears Ago||Chance 3004||Summer 1953||October 1953|
|*U5038||Naomi Baker||Have Faith||Chance 5006||Summer 1953||c. September 1953|
|*U5039||Naomi Baker||I Believe Jesus Saves||Chance 5006||Summer 1953||c. September 1953|
|*C5040-4||James Williamson||Lonesome Blues||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 706)||August 11, 1953|
|*C5041-5||James Williamson||Late Hours at Midnight||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 706)||August 11, 1953|
|*C5042-1||James Williamson||Williamson Shuffle||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 706)||August 11, 1953|
|*C5043-2||James Williamson||12th St. Station||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 706)||August 11, 1953|
|*C5044-1||James Williamson||Long Lonesome Days||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 706)||August 11, 1953|
|*U5124||Sister Rosa Shaw||There's Not a Friend||unissued||c. August 1953|
|*U5125||Sister Rosa Shaw||Samson||unissued||c. August 1953|
|C-5045 [*U5126]||Sister Rosa Shaw||His Dying Was Not in Vain||Chance 5007||c. August 1953||October 1953|
|C-5046 [*U5127]||Sister Rosa Shaw||I'm Leaving Soon||Chance 5007||c. August 1953||October 1953|
|C-5122 [*U5128]||Sister Rosa Shaw||Talking about a Child||Chance 5008||c. August 1953||August 1954|
|C-5123 [*U5129]||Sister Rosa Shaw||Lord, Save Me||Chance 5008||c. August 1953||August 1954|
|*U5048||The Five Echoes with Fat's Coles Band [sic]||Baby, Come Back to Me||Sabre SA 102||c. August 1953||September 1953|
|*U5049||The Five Echoes with Fat's Coles Band||Lonely Mood||Sabre SA 102||c. August 1953||September 1953|
|*C-5052||The Flamingos | Red Holloway's Orch.||Carried Away||Chance 1145||c. August 1953||September 1953|
|*U5053||Flamingos with Red Holloway's Orch.||Plan for Love||Chance 1149||c. August 1953||November 1953|
|*U5054||Flamingos with Red Holloway's Orch.||You Ain't Ready||Chance 1149||c. August 1953||November 1953|
|*C-5055||The Flamingos | Red Holloway's Orch.||Golden Teardrops||Chance 1145||c. August 1953||September 1953|
|*U5056||The Moonglows with Red Holloway's Orch.||Fine Fine Girl||(Constellation LP CS-2
Chance 1166 [boot])
|September 27, 1953|
|*U5057||The Moonglows with Red Holloway's Orch.||My Love||(Constellation LP CS-2
Chance 1166 [boot])
|September 27, 1953|
|*C-5058||The Moonglows | Red Holloway's Orch.||Just a Lonely Christmas||Chance 1150||September 27, 1953||November 1953|
|*U5059||The Moonglows with Red Holloway's Band||Whistle My Love||Chance 1147||September 27, 1953||October 1953|
|*U5060||The Moonglows with Red Holloway's Band||Baby Please||Chance 1147||September 27, 1953||October 1953|
|*C-5061||The Moonglows | Red Holloway's Orch.||Hey Santa Claus||Chance 1150||September 27, 1953||November 1953|
|U-2632||Eddie Bracken with Barbara Cooke||That Girl||Chance 3009||October 1953||February 1954|
|U-2633||Eddie Bracken||September Song||Chance 3009||October 1953||February 1954|
|U-2634||Eddie Bracken||The Night Is Young||Chance 3010||October 1953||c. February 1954|
|U-2635||Eddie Bracken||Just One of Those Things||Chance 3010||October 1953||c. February 1954|
|*U5062||Willie Nix and His Band||Nervous Wreck||Chance 1163||October 14, 1953||November 1954|
|*U5063||Willie Nix and His Band||No More Love||Chance 1163||October 14, 1953||November 1954|
|*C-5064||Willie Nix and His Combo||Just Can't Stay||Sabre S-104||October 14, 1953||November 1953|
|*C-5065||Willie Nix and His Combo||All by Myself||Sabre S-104||October 14, 1953||November 1953|
|*C-5066||Rudy Green and Orch.||The Letter||Chance 1146||October 19, 1953||November 1953|
|*C-5067||Rudy Green and Orch.||It's You I Love||Chance 1146||October 19, 1953||November 1953|
|*C-5068||Rudy Green||I Had a Feeling||Chance 1151||October 19, 1953||January 1954|
|*C-5069||Rudy Green||Meet Me Baby
|Chance 1151||October 19, 1953||January 1954|
|*C-5070||The Five Blue Notes||Ooh Baby||Sabre S-103||October 21, 1953||December 1953|
|*C-5071||The Five Blue Notes||My Gal Is Gone||Sabre S-103||October 21, 1953||December 1953|
|*S-5072||The Five Blue Notes||You Gotta Go Baby||Sabre SA-108||October 21, 1953||c. June 1954|
|*S-5073||The Five Blue Notes||The Beat of Our Hearts||Sabre SA-108||October 21, 1953||c. June 1954|
|C 5074-1||Lazy Bill||She Got Me Walkin'||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 707)||October 28, 1953|
|*C 5074-2||Lazy Bill and His Blue Rhythms||She Got Me Walkin||Chance 1148||October 28, 1953||November 1953|
|C5075-3||Lazy Bill||I Had a Dream||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 707)||October 28, 1953|
|*C 5075-4||Lazy Bill and His Blue Rhythms||I Had a Dream||Chance 1148||October 28, 1953||November 1953|
|*C5076-2||Lazy Bill||My Baby's Gone||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 707)||October 28, 1953|
|*C5076-3||Lazy Bill||My Baby's Gone||unissued||October 28, 1953|
|*C5077-3||Lazy Bill||I Can't Eat, I Can't Sleep||unissued||October 28, 1953|
|*C5077-5||Lazy Bill||I Can't Eat, I Can't Sleep||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 707)||October 28, 1953|
|*C-5078||Red Surrey Trio [*attributed to Jimmy James]||Christmas at Home||Chance 3008||c. November 1953||November 1953|
|*C-5079||Red Surrey Trio [*attributed to Jimmy James]||Making Believe||Chance 3008||c. November 1953||November 1953|
|?||Laverne and the Harmony Kings||Please Come Back Home||unissued||November 23, 1953|
|?||Laverne and the Harmony Kings||This Is My Prayer||unissued||November 23, 1953|
|?||Laverne and the Harmony Kings||I'll Go||unissued||November 23, 1953|
|?||Laverne and the Harmony Kings||Wake Up in Glory||unissued||November 23, 1953|
|?||Laverne and the Harmony Kings||My Rock||unissued||November 23, 1953|
|?||Laverne and the Harmony Kings||Lord Have Mercy||unissued||November 23, 1953|
|?||Laverne and the Harmony Kings||Fly Away||unissued||November 23, 1953|
|*U5080||Louisiana Ramblers||Let's Drift Together||unissued||December 22, 1953|
|*U5081||Eddie and Chuck | The Louisiana Ramblers||Boogie the Blues||Chance 3012||December 22, 1953||c. March 1954|
|*U5082||Eddie and Chuck | The Louisiana Ramblers||I'll Make It Up to You||unissued||December 22, 1953|
|*U5083||Eddie and Chuck | The Louisiana Ramblers||I'll Never Worry over You||Chance 3012||December 22, 1953||c. March 1954|
|U-2674 (*No Number)||Buddy DiVito with Orchestra||Glenn Miller||Chance 3011||December 1953||February 1954|
|U-2675 (*No Number)||Buddy DiVito||If Love Has Flown (Who Cares)||Chance 3011||December 1953||February 1954|
|U-2676 (*No Number)||Buddy DiVito with Orchestra||Hold Me||Chance 3015||December 1953||March 1954|
|*No Number||Buddy DiVito||Secret Love||unissued||prob. December 1953||?|
|*U2680||Remo Biondi Orchestra||Pizza-Cat-Oh||Chance 3016B||December 1953||March 1954|
|*U2681||Jerry Tyfer [Gerry Teifer] with Remo Biondi Orchestra||Tennessee Whistlin' Man||Chance 3016A||December 1953||March 1954|
|*C5084||The Flamingos||Listen to My Plea||unissued||December 24, 1953|
|*C5085||The Flamingos||Blues in a Letter||Chance 1162||December 24, 1953||October 1954|
|*C5086||The Flamingos||September Song||(Vee-Jay VJLP 1052)||December 24, 1953|
|*C5087||The Flamingos||Jump Children||Chance 1162||December 24, 1953||October 1954|
|C5087 [alt.]||The Flamingos||Vooit Vooit [Jump Children]||(bootlegged as "Chance 1131")||December 24, 1953|
During its last year, Chance kept recording doowop, gospel, jazz, down-home blues, and the inevitable pop music, but at a much slower pace; only 72 sides were cut.
For several months, 78s and 45s were still being issued with 1953-style labels (up through Chance 1157 in the main series; Chance 1156, which went through multiple pressings, can be found with the old and the new-style 78 labels.) A few months into the year, 78s in the Chance 1100 and Sabre 100 series mostly switched to the same black on beige scheme; it looks good when the labels are clean, but scuffs easily and shows the dirt. On some of the company's last items, the background color was lightened, making records intended for sale look like DJ copies. However, there was a black on yellow variant that appeared on a few 78s. In the Chance 5000 series, the last offering (Chance 5009) had a black on orange 78 label (there were no 45 labels). In the 3000 pop series, the silver on red labels were retained for the 78s; however, 3018 was the last to use a silver on red label for the 45. Apparently 3009 sold enough copies to justify a re-pressing with the black on yellow 45 label; we don't presently know whether any others got this treatment. The 45 rpm releases of Chance 3019 and 3020 carried a black on orange label. We have yet to see a 45 of Chance 3021.
Chance 3014 by Ann Gilbert has matrix numbers in a 54- series. We don't know which studio this was from. All we can say is that her session, with a band directed by Don Ragon, took place early in the year, because her single was reviewed in Billboard on March 27 (p. 30).
Ann Elizabeth Gilbert was getting some heavy promotion that year. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, on June 30, 1933, she took a solo in church at age 4 and began singing in the chorus for Memphis Summer Opera productions at age 12. At 15, she won a talent contest whose prize was singing with Horace Heidt's band. Ann Gilbert graduated from Central High in 1951 and that same year was crowned Miss Memphis, singing "Night and Day" for the talent portion of the pageant (http://www.missmemphispageant.com/history/1951.html).
She majored in voice at Lindenwood College for Women in Saint Charles, Missouri, which she attended on a music scholarship, but learned that she preferred jazz and pop, and would much rather improvise at the piano than study the classics. She left Lindenwood in the summer of 1953. For two years, she had been taking composition lessons, singing in the Lindenwood College choir, doing an occasional stint on the college radio station, and playing the piano at dance recitals. Now she was working restaurants and clubs in Duluth, Indianapolis, and Chicago, accompanying herself on her instrument. (According to Ben Kemper's notes to her first LP, she worked some tony locales, like The Flame Restaurant in Duluth and The Keys Restaurant in Indianapolis.) Nine or ten months into her professional career, Billboard announced she had been booked into the Cloister Inn, apparently on the strength of her Chance release ("Cloister Inn Goes to New Disk Talent," March 20, 1954, p. 19). It turned out that Windy City Publishers, the music publisher for "Our Fav'rite Waltz," had set up the session (and maybe done some bargaining with the Cloister while they were at it). Windy City was a subsidiary of McConkey Artists, a talent agency trying out a new strategy of getting record companies to cut sessions by artists who showed an interest in recording Windy City songs. "So far the agency already has thrush Ann Gilbert on wax with more sessions set for the near future" ("MAC Pubbery as Artist Aid," Billboard, April 3, 1954, p. 13). We know how her sides escaped being listed in Art Sheridan's notes to Chauvard later on; they were sold outright to BBS Records of Philadelphia for $5,000 (how much of that came back to Sheridan we won't try to estimate).
BBS had been founded in 1952 and almost immediately scored a big hit (it received a Gold Record) by crooner Al Martino. Martino was then almost immediately signed away by Capitol. Like some other indies tapping big revenues that were soon to run out, BBS announced expansion plans. The deal with Windy City (which also included Larry Faith's Orchestra) was part of the program. BBS announced that Gilbert would be traveling to the East Coast to do more recording. Although she was duly announced as a BBS artist in a display ad in Billboard, we have no evidence that BBS actually reissued her Chance sides, or released any new material by her. (Nor was there any further mention in Billboard of Windy City Publishing's recording program.) By the fall, BBS had obviously overdone the expanding and was in financial trouble. In October, BBS announced a merger with Burgundy Records of Detroit. In December, Burgundy declared that the merger wasn't happening after all. Neither company survived more than a few months into 1955.
Her BBS contract having become worthless, Ann Gilbert was back to working small clubs. Probably a few months after her Chance session, she sang on TV, performing "Once in a While" with Ken Griffin at the organ (the clip appears to have been taken from his Chicago-based show, 67 Melody Lane, which aired locally that year; unlike most of the episodes of that show, it has survived because it was used to promote Griffin's live apperances). "Once in a While" was not released on a record till Columbia, which had had Griffin under contract between his departure from Rondo in 1950 and his death in 1956, put it on a bargain LP retrospective in 1966. There must be more entertainment ads in a newspaper morgue somewhere, but so far our research has only let us pick up the thread again in September 1955. From September through November, Ann Gilbert was at the Caribbean Room in the Hyde Park Hotel, 5108 South Lake Park, accompanying herself at the piano. She was announced as being "held over" in early November, but was not part of the holiday show in December.
Just after New Year's 1956, she opened at a cocktail lounge called the Pink Poodle, 1625 East 67th Street. The Poodle used the formula on which the Caribbean Room often relied: singers alternated, accompanying themselves at the piano. With a one or two-week hiatus—she was replaced during the second half of January by Frances Colwell—Ann Gilbert was there probably well past the end of end of March, where the local entertainment advertisements that we've been able to find take a long pause. (The gap extends through April 1957, during which time the Poodle seems to have been going strong: in May 1957, it hired Frank D'Rone for what had once been Gilbert's spot.) Forgetting her Chance release (nearly everyone already had) and her BBS contract (everyone wanted to), Ben Kemper's notes to her first LP put it this way:
Ann was discovered for records a few short months ago when a Groove representative, sifting Chicago's South Side for promising newcomers, dropped into a small, intime boîtecalled the Pink Poodle. Not only was he fascinated, but he also was vastly impressed by the fact that the audience followed Ann's interpretations with rapt attention and applauded after every tune.
Ann Gilbert was already in New York City in May, so she was probably signed in late April. She made two LPs in New York. We don't have precise recording dates for the first one, but we suspect July or August, because a single from it was released the last week of August. The LP came out on Groove in October 1956; her second, after Victor shuffled some artists to different branches of the operation, was recorded in December 1956 and January 1957 and released on Vik later in the year, with Bob Rolontz of Groove still credited as the producer. (Groove would be shut down before the end of the year.) Both of Gilbert's LPs were done with bands directed by Elliot Lawrence. These featured top jazz musicians, including Urbie Green, trombone, Al Cohn, tenor sax; Hal McKusick, alto sax; Mary Osborne, guitar; and Osie Johnson, drums. Both Groove and Vik also released 45 rpm EPs off her albums. She was on national TV: the year that started on East 67th ended with Robert Montgomery Presents on New Year's Eve. (A TV performance that has been preserved from 1956, probably from Robert Montgomery Presents with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra, can be seen on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO7khEJIE-U.)
In February 1957 she got a month at Radio City Music Hall. On May 4, 1957, she married Stuart Ostrow (born in 1932), who was then an executive for Frank Loesser's music publishing company, and later became a Broadway producer. According to Ostrow's memoir (Present at the Creation, Leaping in the Dark, and Going against the Grain, New York: Applause Theater & Cinema Books, 2006), "I first met my wife-to-be, Ann Gilbert, on the opening night of The Most Happy Fella, in the Imperial Theater lobby and was in love with her by the second act." (p. 12; the show opened on May 3, 1956).
Her career as a commercial recording artist seems to have ended when her contract with RCA expired. She raised three children and for 27 years taught music and musical theater in New York City. In 1994, Ann and Stuart Ostrow moved to Houston, Texas, where they both taught at the University of Houston before retiring. Ann Gilbert Ostrow died in Houston of pneumonia at the age of 79, on October 25, 2012 (http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Ann-Ostrow&lc=4923&pid=160688846&mid=5286332#).
Don Ragon was a trumpet player (with an unusual double—the baritone sax) who had been leading a territory band since around 1940. He claimed to have played all 50 states, but in the earlier part of his career he does seem to have spent a lot of time in the Midwest. From his sporadic mentions in Billboard, we learn that Ragon's band was resident at a hotel in Columbus, Ohio, in 1943. As steadily as his band found bookings, Ragon drew little interest from the recording industry. His one previous shot came when he signed with the Milwaukee-based Chord label in October 1947. His band had a novelty number out on a single in January 1948; however, Chord stepped back from jazz and pop at the end of that month, and was out of business by the fall (some of its polka bands clawed their masters back, and releases by two of its jazz groups were rescued and issued in 1949 on a John Steiner label called Down Beat, but nothing further happened with Ragon's sides).
Ragon's band was working in Cairo, Illinois, in 1948, in Springfield and Quincy, Illinois, in 1949, but also at a higher-visibility venue in Chicago that same year (Billboard, October 1, 1949, p. 42, announced four weeks at the Martinique, starting September 29). He was booked into a club in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1950, but also had gigs in Jackson, Mississippi, and in Milwaukee. A typical pitch for one of his big band appearances mentioned vocalists Alice Raye (the stage name used by Alice Ragon, his wife) and Keith Milheim, plus novelty vocals by the leader. "Ragon's orchestra is styled along sweet, soft lines, resulting in smooth, melodic dance tempos" ("Don Ragon Bringing His Band to Surf Ballroom Sunday," Mason City (Iowa) Globe-Gazette, June 1, 1950, p. 6). He downsized to a combo in 1952.
Ragon was a long-time client of McConkey Artists Corporation, which might have had something to do with his presence on the date (we suspect Ann Gilbert did not play piano on it). Ragon presumably was expecting to provide pop production: the Billboard review (March 27, 1954, p. 30) said of "Our Fav'rite Waltz": "Sentimental three-beat melody gets a fair vocal, backed with a schmaltz fiddle and chorus." (The reviewer liked "When You Walked By" a lot better.) Not long after making this session, Ragon moved west. In 1960, Don Ragon announced that he was now working out of Las Vegas with the Mutual Entertainment Agency, booking acts in Nevada; Alice was now working as his secretary (Reno Gazette-Journal, May 13, 1960, p. 2).
The year got off to a strong start in January, as the Moonglows waxed six presumably more salable titles. The Red Holloway band again consisted of Red on tenor sax, Louis Carpenter on piano, Hawk Lee on bass, and Robert "Hendu" Henderson on drums. One of the tracks was a cover rendition of Doris Day's "Secret Love," which had been featured in the film Calamity Jane. Although the Holloway band did not respect the chord sequence of the song, the Moonglows' version had a particularly effective harmonized intro with falsetto top that segued into Lester's emoting lead. "Secret Love," as the Moonglows' third Chance release, was paired with a spectacular jump, "Real Gone Mama," featuring Harvey Fuqua as lead. The Billboard reviewer gave it four stars and "Secret Love" only three stars. Chance 1152, released before the end of January 1954 (it received a favorable review in Billboard, February 27, 1954, p. 47), made the most noise of all the Moonglows' Chance sides, and in March Sheridan said it was the company's top seller for that month.
The company put off releasing the next two titles from the session until June, when Chance 1156 came out with "I Was Wrong" b/w "Ooh Rockin' Daddy." "I Was Wrong," featuring Fuqua as lead, has a nice switch-off approach, opening with Fuqua's sultry low-key lead and switching off to high-powered chorusing and segueing into Lester's screaming lead. Asserted Fuqua, "that was the strongest song, I think, before 'Sincerely.' It made quite a bit of noise in Cleveland, Chicago, and I believe, the West Coast." The record never made the national charts, but it picked up what were then called regional sales.
"Ooh Rockin' Daddy," with Lester on lead, is an R&B jump, but with the searing tenor sax break by Red Holloway and the aggressive approach to the "rock rock rock" refrain one could call it a proto-rock 'n' roll number. The Billboard reviewer preferred the rocking side and gave it four stars.
Enough copies of the 78 were pressed that some carry the silver on blue label and some carry the new black on beige. Meanwhile, 45s can be found in both black on yellow and black on white.
The Moonglows' fifth and final Chance release, "219 Train" b/w "My Gal" came out in October, 1954, as the company was fading and the Moonglows were shopping for a new label deal. Chance 1161, with the black on white label exclusively, was barely distributed and has proven to be the group's rarest record, fetching collector prices from $500 to $1,000. "My Gal," led by Fuqua, is an uninteresting jump partially saved by Red Holloway's excellent sax break, but the bluesy "219 Train" is something else, with a great emotional melismatic lead by Bobby Lester.
Another foray into jazz was a session the company did with bassist Chubby Jackson in January; he had participated in the Conte Candoli session the previous year. This musician was born Craig Stewart Jackson in New York City on October 25, 1918. He established his reputation with the Woody Herman Orchestra in the late 1940s; in the 1950s he spent quite a bit of time in Chicago, recording a single with Red Saunders for Mercury in 1954 and two big-band LPs for the Chess brothers' Argo label in 1957. His 6 Chance sides, however, were left in the can, and have remained unissued to this day.
Two sides by Johnny Miller came out on Sabre 109 in August 1954. Both were jazz instrumentals, performed by a combo of tenor sax, piano (switching to organ on "I Cover the Waterfront," rhythm guitar, bass, and drums. The saxophonist is a decent soloist in a post-Coleman Hawkins style, the rhythm section swings, and the pianist makes a good account of himself, but his organ playing has that pre-Jimmy Smith corniness. It would be nice to know what instrument the leader played; more research is definitely needed on Miller and his likely associates. It would also be nice to hear the rest of the session, if it survives. On some copies of Sabre 109, the A and B side labels are reversed.
The Five Echoes returned to the studio in January for the Sabre label, backed on this occasion by an Al Smith unit with Red Holloway, Mac Easton, Willie Jones, Quinn Wilson, and Vernel Fournier. After their first session, the Five Echoes had lost Tommy Hunt to the draft. The group recruited Johnnie Taylor, a Kansas City native who was bumming around Chicago singing in a local gospel group, the Highway QC's. Johnnie Taylor would become a hit-making phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s. Issued on Sabre 105 under the Echoes' name were "So Lonesome," which features Sims on lead but has Taylor coming in as second lead, and "Broke," featuring Sims as the sole lead. The two sides saw release in February.
Two further sides were done at the same session with one "Wally Wilson" joining the Five Echoes and the Al Smith group. These were released as Sabre 106. "Wilson" was in fact Walter Spriggs (who didn't seem to like record companies using his right name); he got composer credit (as "Spreegs") for all four sides from the session, and sings the lead on both "Wilson" sides. An alternate take of "The Hunt" has survived on which he sings the vocal solo. Why Spriggs chose such a dull pseudonym is a mystery to us today. In the fall of 1954, after Sabre had quit issuing new releases, Spriggs would actually make a session under his own name, for Blue Lake.
The next session, in the C5000 series that the label was now relying on, was a pop outing for Don Miller—presumably not related to Johnny Miller. He was responsible for one release, on Chance 3017. Dem Records of Findlay, Ohio released two singles in 1954, by Don Miller & The Sweet Swingsters. Any connection?
Slide guitarist J. B. Hutto was one of Chance's most impressive blues talents. He was born Joseph Benjamin Hutto in Blackville, South Carolina, on April 26, 1926; his family moved to Augusta, Georgia, when he was 3. After his father died, he came to Chicago in 1949, and settled on the West Side. He drove trucks for the military during the Korean War. Hutto had originally sung in a family gospel group, and played drums, but after arriving in Chicago he taught himself guitar. He formed his band, the Hawks, with "Earring" George Mayweather on harp, Joe Custom on second guitar, and Eddie "Porkchop" Hines on drums or washboard. (Custom is usually said to have played bass, but a listen to the group's recordings shows that he was playing "bass on the guitar" and occasionally taking over the lead, as was the practice in many blues groups during the first half of the 1950s.) Hutto's first sides on Chance, recorded in either January or February, represent an extraordinary debut. (According to Bob Koester, the original tape boxes indicated that the session was recorded by Joe Brown and sold to Chance, so J. B.'s debut was yet another JOB product.) Over raw amplified guitar and blazing amplified harp, Hutto sang in a fierce declamatory style with a thick accent. The superb "Combination Boogie" (which includes a passage for spoons on washboard) saw release in May, on Chance 1155. The raunchy "Pet Cream Man" appeared in September on Chance 1160.
The BEL Trio (misspelled "Bell" in Sheridan's notes) cut one session, probably in February 1954. In the years that went by before we heard the sides, we entertained the notion that boogie pianist Jimmie Bell, who recorded for Aristocrat in 1947 and Premium in 1950, might have had something to do with them. Nope. The trio consisted of Bob De Blaey (1921-2013) on guitar and banjo, Carl Elmer (1931-1978) on accordion, and Erv Ullenberg (1921-1976) on string bass. As we inferred on first hearing Chance 3018, they were from Milwaukee. We learn from Billboard (October 24, 1953, p. 64) that the group had just made its TV debut on WTMJ. By 1954 "The BEL Trio Show" was running twice a week on the station, most likely what brought them to Art Sheridan's attention. During this same period, the members owned and operated the BEL Club at 54th and Lisbon. By 1956, the club had closed, and the band was taking an engagement at the Brass Rail in Milwaukee (Jim Koconis, "Milwaukee's Night Life Chatter," Milwaukee Sentinel, November 17, 1956, Part 2, p. 5.) The BEL Trio broke up in the early 1960s. In the 1960s and 1970s, Bob De Blaey played regularly at the John Ernst Cafe. He gave his last public performance at the age of 91.
See Bob De Blaey's death notice (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 18, 2013, http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/jsonline/obituary.aspx?pid=166479169; also Patrick Simonaitis, "De Blaey made music in Milwaukee for eight decades" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 23, 2013, http://www.jsonline.com/news/obituaries/de-blaey-made-music-in-milwaukee-for-eight-decades-b9978839z1-220773141.html.)
The BELs made hardly any commercial recordings. The only other trio session we know of was cut in 1952 for the Demo label. This was a tiny company in Milwaukee, run by Angelo Ferlano, that lasted from 1952 till at least 1958, but probably didn't accrue 40 releases over its lifetime. (Another 1952 session for Demo was the source for Chance's Jack Teter release; see above). On their 1952 session the BELs backed singer Fran Conway. There is some possibility that the 1954 BEL Trio session was cut for the same operation, but four sides (not just two) were entered into Art Sheridan's book, and we have yet to see a release on Demo.
Expanded to a quintet, the BELs recorded 6 tracks for the Audiophile label, out of Saukville, Wisconsin, probably in 1953. Their 6 tracks occupied one side of a 12-inch LP, Swing Potpourri Vol. 1, one of those never-reissued items sold in a folder, on Audiophile AP-23. For the session, Erv Ullenberg switched to violin, and Art Kay, vibes, and Mark Steger, string bass, were added. It's too bad they didn't get more opportunities of this kind, because they laid down 16 minutes of excellent Swing combo material—and hearing more Ullenberg on violin and De Blaey on acoustic guitar would have been a treat.
Beyond the three studio sessions, Mrs. De Blaey recorded audio off the TV set, preserving some material from the BEL Trio's half-hour show. Two performances, courtesy of Nancy De Blaey Thorgaard, can be heard on Youtube at present: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS3Jo3AnwTA and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7mAaD1fW8E.
The BEL Trio swung, as we hear on "Fine and Dandy." Sheridan's hopes, however, must have been pinned on "More Beer," a novelty number that put words to the C strain of the "Beer Bucket Polka." It had raked in the bucks in 1948 and 1949. But by 1954, "More Beer" was distinctly stale. Too bad, because the BELs enjoyed hamming it up in heavy German accents. The other two sides remain unissued.
Chance 3018 was the last to use the silver on red label for both 78s and 45s.
The next session (definitely between J. B. and His Hawks and the Kelly Brothers) belonged to one James Hewitt, whose four titles remain unissued. Most likely pop material. The singer was probalby not related to Dolph Hewitt.
The Kelly Brothers, who made their initial recordings for Chance probably sometime in February, had come together in 1948, and consisted of Andrew (baritone), Robert (tenor), and Curtis Kelly (high tenor), plus Offe Reese (tenor). For whatever reason, Sheridan chose not release the two sides they did. The group went on to record gospel on the tiny C. H. Brewer label and then got more exposure when they cut a session for Vee-Jay. The group recorded soul-style R&B as the King Pins for the Federal label from 1960 to 1964 and then as the Kelly Brothers for Sims and Excello up to 1970.
February 1954 saw the Flamingos go in the studio again to record "Cross over the Bridge" b/w "Listen to My Plea." Credit was given to a Red Holloway Orchestra but it's not Red's quartet; it sounds like an Al Smith band with Red Holloway, Mac Easton, Willie Jones, Quinn Wilson, and Vernel Fournier. On subsequent release on Chance 1154, neither the cover of the Patti Page hit nor the bluesy "Plea" were appealing enough to sustain the Flamingos' name with the public. In March, however, "Cross over the Bridge" got some play in Chicago and other cities.
The eponymous Five Chances were the last vocal group added to the label. At the time of signing, the members of the group were Darnell Austell (lead), his brother John Austell (bass), Reggie Smith (tenor), Howard Pitman (baritone), and Harold Jones (baritone/ tenor). The group's manager, Levi McKay, however, was experimenting with various line-ups drawing new members from other groups he managed. He brought in Eddie Stillwell from the Fasinoles and Clyde Williams from the Daffodils. Stillwell would appear on record with the Chances, but not Williams. Williams did go on to sing solo in various clubs and to record as a vocalist with Sun Ra in 1956.
The Five Chances made four sides for the company at a session in the spring: "I May Be Small," "Nagasaki," "California," and "Make Love to Me." Backing was provided by still another Al Smith group. All the leads were by Darnell Austell, but on "Make Love To Me" and "Nagasaki" Stillwell joined in as alternate lead. (Stillwell was only a part of the group for the session, which made them Six Chances for a brief while.) "I May Be Small," written by McKay, was the strongest of the four sides. It is a bluesy ballad, but retains its attractiveness as a vocal harmony vehicle. The song was paired with the old Mort Dixon and Harry Warren song, "Nagasaki," which was introduced onto the charts in 1928. Chance 1157 was released in August 1954 and got good regional sales. We know it didn't do as well as Chance 1156 because the 78s all have the old silver on blue label.
"California" was an original jump written by McKay that was as strong as the released sides. The other unreleased title was "Make Love to Me," which was a popular number on the charts then by Jo Stafford. These two sides surfaced in 1964 on the Constellation Groups Threealbum.
With the Five Chances session, the company had recorded 50 sides, nearly all of them in January and February. Sheridan's attention, increasingly, was directed elsewhere.
A pop singer,Jeanne Kassel , made two sides in July with Bill Kessler's band. The performances and the artists had long been a total mystery to us, but an article in the Benton Harbor, Michigan, News-Palladium ("Around Town: Tunes Well Received," July 24, 1954, p. 1) changes that. Kessler was a resident of Saint Joseph, Michigan, played clarinet and saxophones, and led the band at the Whitcomb Hotel. His previous recording experience, from 1951, had consisted of accompanying Jane Turzy on a session for Decca. Kessler wrote "Chalo Mio Ray" and "Can I, Will I" and got his friend Archie Levington, the owner of Midway Music and Studio Music in Chicago, to publish them. (Levington was the husband of Fran Allison, a former Rondo artist and current RCA Victor artist, now enjoying success with her TV puppet show, Kukla Fran and Ollie.) Bill Putnam of Universal Recording was said to be so taken with the songs that he assumed $2000 in recording and mastering expenses ("Chalo Mio Ray" supposedly consumed 13 hours of studio time). The singer's real name was Jeanne Katz. The sides were released on Chance 3020, whose 45 labels followed the short-lived black on orange scheme. Given the single's great rarity today, we doubt that Bill Putnam recouped his investment.
The News-Palladium claimed that both songs had been recorded for Dot by Jimmy James. One was. Dot 15158 had "After the Laughter and Wine" on one side and "Chalo Mio Ra" on the other. The other company had actually recorded the number first (the release was included in a Dot display ad in Billboard, May 15, 1954, p. 22). In any event, this may explain an enigmatic reference in Art Sheridan's list of Chance masters (see our comments on the Red Surrey Trio, above).
Lucy Reed got a second session, also in July (and maybe right after the Kassel/Kessler), backed by a band led by Chuck Sagle. Sagle was to become a famous arranger and producer, discovering Carole King and conducting for Clyde McPhatter and Neil Sedaka, but in 1954 he was four years out of college and working his way into the business. Charles H. Sagle was born in 1928. By his high school years he had become an accomplished trumpet and keyboard player. He enrolled at the University of Illinois at the age of 16, though his graduation was delayed till 1950 by service in the US Navy. The Lucy Reed session must have been one of his very first. He next took a job with Mercury Records in Chicago, serving as an assistant to Lew Douglas, who headed A&R at the company's Wing subsidiary. In December 1955, Douglas left to join a new startup, Bally Records, and Sagle, at age 27, was promoted to head of A&R for Wing. He next became music director for all Mercury singles produced in Chicago. Sagle was so prolific that he started using the name Carl Stevens on some of his songs and arrangements. In 1958, he left Mercury to start Carl Stevens Productions ("Sagle Starts Master Firm," Billboard, June 23, 1958, p, 9). When his new company proved insufficiently remunerative, Sagle moved to New York City, where for the rest of 1958 and part of 1959 he was Don Kirshner's music director; he next worked in A&R for Epic Records, releasing an instrumental LP under his own name titled Ping Pong Percussion in 1961. In 1962, he moved to Los Angeles to serve as music director for Reprise. After producing and arranging everyone from Sammy Davis Jr. to Gene Pitney to the Manhattans, Sagle moved to Nashville in 1972, working for ABC-Dot among others, and doing some big-band arranging on the side. In 1984, Sagle went back to school to become a computer programmer, retiring in 1994. Chuck Sagle died in Nashville on April 13, 2015, at the age of 87 (See Robert K. Oermann, "Life Notes: 'Golden Age' Arranger Chuck Sagle Passes," Music Row, April 17, 2015; http://www.musicrow.com/2015/04/lifenotes-golden-age-arranger-chuck-sagle-passes/).
Two sides from Lucy Reed's second session appeared on Chance 3019, again with silver-on-red 78 and the black-on-orange 45 label; if there were more, Sheridan didn't so indicate in his notes.
It's a shame that Reed's Chance recordings presented her in a strictly pop context. We know that Lurlean Hunter remained at the Streamliner until December 1953. We don't know whether Lucy Reed was still there in April 1953, when she recorded with Al Trace, but by July of that year Hunter was the sole vocalist at the club (Billboard, July 11, 1953, p. 16, put her there with Don Shirley, piano, and Johnny Pate, bass). When recorded with Sagle, Lucy Reed was working two nights a week at the Lei Aloha, where she had moved at some point in 1953, with Dick Marx at the piano and Johnny Frigo on bass. Frigo (see http://riverwalkjazz.stanford.edu/guests/johnny-frigo) recalled the job this way. He had returned to Chicago from Buffalo, New York, in 1951:
In Chicago, I had to start over. There was a singer I met named Lucy Reed who heard me sitting in with [George] Shearing and hired me to play a North Side club called Lei Aloha. I called a pianist I heard–Dick Marks [Marx], and the gig took off like a rocket…It was sort of a bar for winos, but in four weeks it was completely transformed; a metamorphosis. Word got around, and people waited around the corner to get in.
According to singer Frank D'Rone, "they were the hottest thing in town at the time."
So why not record her with Les Strand, or with Marx and Frigo? Especially when Marx had already been on the Jack Nelson session... and Frigo was already the first-call studio bassist in Chicago. We have to say, though, that the torchy titles on her 1954 session ("A Night Is Dark" b/w "Au Revoir") do seem well chosen for her. We wonder whether Chance 3019 sold anything; it's rarely seen today. Now that we have heard them from Youtube presentations, we will further comment that the female chorus and the strings on "Au Revoir" were indeed unnecessary, though the flute and the marimba were a nice touch. Also present on that side were rhythm guitar, bass, and drums. Trumpet and piano (the former, we presume, played by Sagle) are heard only on one turnaround. Sagle's arrangement for "The Night Is Dark" (if we fit the title to what she actually sings) gives the trumpet and the piano a lot more to do, and there is no marimba—or rhythm section—or female chorus. Marx and Frigo, maybe one solo horn, would have been much better from our point of view, but maybe too stark for the record buyers of the time.
Lucy Reed was on her way out of town. In October 1954, she left the Lei Aloha to return to the Streamliner, with Jimmy Bowman at the piano (probably also singing ballads), folksinger Katie Lee, and, after a while, Carmen McRae. One of the issues with the Lei Aloha may have been expanding from two to three nights a week, which the trio had requested. Katie Lee mentions the Streamliner, where she had been booked with some help from Burl Ives and his agent:
In Chicago's oldest, hippest jazz club, with jazz combo and two superb jazz singers (Carmen McRae and Lucy Reed), this little guitar-playin' folksinger opened her first eastern gig ever, up on the stand all by herself in a big full skirt, sang "John Henry," that great black folk fable about the indestructible steel-drivin' man, hoping nobody would walk out... (All My Rivers Are Gone: A Journey of Discovery through Glen Canyon, Boulder, Colorado: Johnson Books, 1998, p. 70)
The Streamliner wasn't as old as, say, the Blue Note, but it definitely wasn't identified with folk music. Yet Lee got excellent press and stayed for a month.
In November, Marx and Frigo also moved, to the Cloister, where they stayed for a while. On the strength of their work at the Lei Aloha and the Cloister they got some recording offers. According to Frigo, "We ended up making three albums on Mercury [in fact, Brunswick and Coral] by ‘Dick Marks and Johnny Frigo.’ All the while I was looking at my fiddle in the other room. I’d open up the case every few weeks and see if the strings were still on it." In early January 1955, Lucy Reed finished her gig at the Streamliner and took an engagement at the Village Vanguard, starting on January 18. For her 34th birthday, she had decided to try her luck in New York.
On June 29, 1955, Down Beat ran a special issue on "Music in Chicago," which fondly recalled former days at the Streamliner and referred to "Lucille Reed, a statuesque song stylist now in New York" ("Jazz," p. 26). By the time the article hit the stands, she was about to sign with Fantasy Records and would soon be recording her first LP, Singing Reed. Most of it was done in New York with a pianist named Bill Evans, appearing on his first session; Reed had insisted on using him. The remaining tracks were done in Chicago with Marx and Frigo; the album was released in March 1956.
Her debut track with Charlie Ventura was reissued that same year, on a Camden LP collection of jazz vocalists singing blues. Then, after some further high-profile gigs in New York City, she made her second and last album for Fantasy, This Is Lucy Reed, which was released in September 1957. All sessions were cut in January 1957, when she turned 36. One was directed by no less than Gil Evans, a second by no less than George Russell (both of course done in New York). The rest were done in Chicago with pianist Eddie Higgins and his trio, plus guest appearances by Kenny Soderblom (clarinet) and a guitarist.
She never recorded some of the songs that Pat Harris mentioned in her Streamliner review, but the "shoulder-shaking" St. Louis Blues can be heard on This Is Lucy Reed.
In June 1957, Lucy Reed married Serge Seymour, a photographer born in 1933; still active today, he is the son of Maurice Seymour, the prominent showbiz photographer in Chicago. The event was considered worthy of an announcement in Walter Winchell's column for the week of June 25. She spent the rest of her life in Chicago. A Lucy "Reid" appeared on the roster of artists that disc jockey Daddy-O Daylie planned to sign for his annual jazz festival concert, scheduled for December 17, 1957, on the DePaul University campus. Soon she had two more sons, and took only those gigs that wouldn't interfere with raising a family. A typical example comes from a Ted Watson column in the Pittsburgh Courier (April 18, 1964, p. 13): "Lucy Reed, who sounds like the late Billie Holiday, has been dug up by Harry Brown, owner of the new Meadowbrook Country Club, and may wind up with a long engagement there." Watson was trying to be complimentary, but Lucy Reed didn't sound anything like Billie Holiday. And with three singles and two LPs to her credit, she surely didn't need digging up. We don't know whether she got the engagement at the Meadowbrook, and, if so, for how long. Even after her second marriage broke up in 1968, Reed worked locally and kept a low profile.
Going longer between albums than King Fleming, Lucy Reed recorded her final dates in 1989 and 1990 at Universal Recording (a CD, Basic Reeding, came out on George H. Buck's Audiophile label in 1992; accompaniment was by Larry Novak, piano; Herb Ellis, guitar; and Ray Brown, bass). Her voice had dropped lower and was in somewhat variable condition by then but she picked a wide and unusual repertoire for the CD (by everyone from Ray Noble to Hoagy Carmichael to Orlando Murden to Allen Toussaint) and swung harder than she had in the 1950s. Meanwhile, a community TV show from Evanston, Illinois, done in 1988, preserves her rendition of "Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKpmvbXwjKc). Lucy Reed died of cancer on July 1, 1998, in her house on the North Side, at the age of 77. The day before she died, three of her long-time fans (Morris, Frank D'Rone, and Buddy Charles) visited her home and sang for her. See Howard Reich, "Lucy Reed: Sang Jazz in Top Chicago Clubs," Chicago Tribune, July 2, 1998, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1998-07-02/news/9807020266_1_ms-reed-singing-jazz.
The last release on the maroon and silver pop label was Chance 3021, by Fred Montell. The Montell session was not included on Art Sheridan's list. Accompaniment was directed by Darrell Balasty, a guitarist who had recently joined a combo at the Brass Rail led by singer Ann Edwards (Billboard, February 6, 1954, p. 22). The matrix numbers are in a 54- series, apparently unrelated to the numbers on the Ann Gilbert single (in the vinyl, the Montell matrix numbers are 54341 and 54342, without hypenating). Possibly from MBS? We wonder whether the 45s used the black on orange, but we have yet to see one.
We have learned when the single was recorded (an item in Billboard, May 29, 1954, p. 67, gave the titles and said "last week"). We also learn from Billboardthat Montell was making his recording debut, that he was in some sense a Balasty project and that "Gypsy Darling" had been written by Balasty and his wife. One wonders whether the Balastys paid for the session. "Gypsy Darling" does sound like gypsy music, and the accompaniment on both sides is heavy on the guitar (no piano).
The singer long resisted our search efforts because his correct stage name (in Billboard, on the labels to all of his later records, in his publicity photos) was Freddie Montell. Fred S. Montalto was born in 1930. He sang in a smooth, semi-operatic tenor. His Chance release may or may not have helped him get gigs, but in 1956 he was at Mr. Kelly's for a while, and starting on September 10, 1958 he had a run at the Preview Lounge.
In 1956 he recorded two singles for ABC-Paramount, and in 1958 and 1959 he did three for a small Chicago label called Ermine (it was owned by one Bill Erman). The Preview Lounge gig roughly coincided with his first recording on Ermine (a quick mention in Cash Box, September 13, 1958, p. 46, worked in both). Ermine 777 carries J series matrix numbers from RCA Victor's custom pressing operation, indicating that it was made in 1958. It also credits a Paul Jordan for conducting the studio band; was this the Paul Jordan who once recorded for Gold Seal? Erman had particular hopes for a novelty rock and roll number he had written: "(Ooey Gooey) Green Cheese." It was released with special label art. Allied Record Distributors thought it was handling a winner (Cash Box, March 21, 1959, p. 34) and sent cheese to record distributors and DJs to promote it (Cash Box, April 11, 1959, p. 56; the single was reviewed on p. 18). The band is playing rock and roll and Montell is credible singing it.
In 1965 Montell did what looks like one final single for a small Chicago label called Aldon. The Aldon features studio bands led by Carmen Dello, who was once associated with the KaHill label. "Mitzi" is pure Dixieland, with a band that's creditable but a little too heavy on the banjo rolls. The lyrics are nothing special, but Montell switches from English to Italian, an unexpected move on a Dixieland record. "You for Me, Me for You" is a ripe ballad with strings, two flutes, and piano conspicuous in the accompaniment. It's fair to call one side of the Aldon jazz and the other pop.
Fred Montalto died on April 18, 2009, in Western Springs, Illinois (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-04-19/news/0904180430_1_il-interment-queen-heaven-cemetery). He was 79.
The very last gospel session for the label was made by The Famous Boyer Brothers. James Buchanan Boyer and Horace Clarence Boyer were born in Winter Park, Florida. James was born on April 3, 1934; Horace was born on July 28, 1935. Their father, Climmie Boyer Sr., was a pastor in the Church of God in Christ. Horace was a tenor, James was a baritone, and both played piano. In-state, they performed at many of the same churches and halls frequented by Sister Rosa Shaw. According to someone who should know, "the brothers sang two-part harmony on slow songs and used call and response on jubilee and shout songs. Singing in the sanctified style, they were adept at building tension through the use of a vamp" (Horace Clarence Boyer, in his 1995 book How Sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel). The brothers recorded for Excello in July 1952, when Horace was still in high school. Their Excellos appear to be much better known than their single release on Chance 5009. Like the rest of the 5000 series, it was 78-only; it may have been the only Chance 78 with the black on orange label design. According to Hayes and Laughton's Gospel Discography, James played piano on the session, Horace played organ, and they were joined by an unidentified drummer.
However, on January 19, 1956, the Board of Musicians Union Local 208, which had started policing the involvement of non-Union musicians on gospel sessions, summoned Gerald Spraggins, a pianist and organist who wasn't a member, and grilled him about recording sessions that he had made for Chance and Vee-jay. "He stated that he made another session [for Chance] with the Boyer Brothers and received $25.00" (Board meeting minutes, January 19, 1956, p. 3). Spraggins claimed that he had been working for "Professor Bradford," i.e., pianist and choir director Alex Bradford, who handled all negotiations with the record company (and allegedly withheld some of his pay). So most likely the brothers were accompanied by Bradford at the piano and Spraggins on organ. (Spraggins also recalled recording with the Bradford Singers for Chance, but if his recollection was correct the sides weren't just left unissued—they haven't shown up in any of our sources. The Bradford singers had previously recorded for Apollo in 1951 and 1952; in 1953 and 1954 they made three sessions for Specialty.)
The Boyer Brothers' Chance sides ended up being acquired a few months later by Vee-Jay. Chance 5009 was given a straight-up reissue on Vee-Jay 130, in March 1955. The other two sides that the brothers had recorded for Chance were used on two later Vee-Jay singles, on which they were paired with tracks freshly recorded by Vee-Jay in June 1955. The Boyer Brothers recorded one more time for Vee-Jay, in 1957. A decade later they cut 2 LPs for Savoy, in 1966 and 1967. In later years, both went into academia. James became a professor of Education and Ethnic American Studies at Kansas State University. Horace was a professor of Music at University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1973 to 1999. He died in Amherst, Massachusetts, on July 21, 2009. (See Horace Clarence Boyer's obituary in the Amherst Republican, July 23, 2009 at http://obits.masslive.com/obituaries/masslive/obituary.aspx?n=horace-clarence-boyer&pid=130192723.
Time was growing short. After the Boyer Brothers session, Sheridan recorded four sides by one Johnny Low, maybe a pop singer on the evidence of the titles (we don't have anything else). They remain unheard.
When J.B. Hutto and His Hawks entered Universal Recording on October 19, they had no idea that it was the end for Chance Records. On this occasion the Hawks were augmented with Johnnie Jones on piano. Five sides were recorded. Chance 1165, an intense coupling of "Things Are So Slow" and "Dim Lights," drew little interest upon release. But potential buyers weren't given much time for discovery, for it was just six weeks later that Art Sheridan decided to close the company's doors. The first four sides from this session were later dealt to Vee-Jay, which assigned new master numbers (55-366 through 55-369) and entered them into its Master Book in November 1955. But by this time the principals at Vee-Jay were concentrating their blues efforts on Jimmy Reed; they did not see enough commerical potential in the Hutto sides to warrant releasing them. One of the unissued sides ("Price of Love") made a belated appearance on a Delta Swing LP in the 1970s. We wonder whether the uniquely titled "Mouth Harp Mambo" is still extant.
Nothing was happening, recording-wise. Hutto was completely out of music for a long stretch, supposedly because in a club one night a woman broke his guitar over her husband's head. J. B. Hutto did not get on record again until 1965, when he was picked up by Vanguard for its Chicago Blues compilation series; he also recorded for Testament, but the key event was the classic Hawk Squat that he cut for Delmark in 1967. (Eerily, despite more than a decade of changes in recording technology, Hutto's guitar sounds exactly the same on the Delmark LP as it did for Chance in 1954.) In 1975, he took over the Houserockers after Hound Dog Taylor died, then started a New Hawks band, which recorded for Varrick. J. B. Hutto died of cancer in Harvey, Illinois, on June 12, 1983.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|54-1416||Ann Gilbert with the Don Ragon Orchestra||Our Fav'rite Waltz||Chance 3014||early 1954||March 1954|
|54-1417||Ann Gilbert with the Don Ragon Orchestra||When You Walked By||Chance 3014||early 1954||March 1954|
|*C5088||The Moonglows||Secret Love||Chance 1152||January 10, 1954||January 1954|
|*C-5089||The Moonglows with Red Holloway Orch.||I Was Wrong||Chance 1156||January 10, 1954||June 1954|
|*C-5090||The Moonglows||219 Train||Chance 1161||January 10, 1954||October 1954|
|*C5091||The Moonglows||My Gal||Chance 1161||January 10, 1954||October 1954|
|*C-5092||The Moonglows with Red Holloway Orch.||Ooh Rocking Daddy||Chance 1156||January 10, 1954||June 1954|
|*C5093||The Moonglows||Real Gone Mama||Chance 1152||January 10, 1954||January 1954|
|*C5094||Ch. Jackson [Chubby Jackson]||?||unissued||January 1954|
|*C5095||Chubby Jackson||Belinda's Blues||unissued||January 1954|
|*C5096||Chubby Jackson||Blue Note||unissued||January 1954|
|*C5097||Chubby Jackson||Rose Room||unissued||January 1954|
|*C5098||Chubby Jackson||Holiday||unissued||January 1954|
|*C5099||Chubby Jackson||Exactly like You||unissued||January 1954|
|S-5100 [*No Number]||Johnny Miller and His Quintet||I Cover the Waterfront||Sabre SA-109||prob. January 1954||August 1954|
|S-5101 [*No Number]||Johnny Miller and His Quintet||Always||Sabre SA-109||prob. January 1954||August 1954|
|*No Number||Johnny Miller||Parco||unissued|
|*No Number||Johnny Miller||Parkview Jump 1||unissued|
|*No Number||Johnny Miller||Parkview Jump 2||unissued|
|*No Number||Johnny Miller||Tenderly||unissued?|
|*No Number||Johnny Miller||Jumpin' with Symphony Sid||unissued|
|*No Number||Johnny Miller||Pretty Eyes||unissued?|
|*C5102||The Five Echoes||So Lonesome||Sabre S105||January 17, 1954||February 1954|
|*C5103||The Five Echoes||Broke||Sabre S105||January 17, 1954||February 1954|
|*C5104||Wally Wilson||If You Don't Love Me||Sabre S106||January 17, 1954||February 1954|
|*C5105||Wally Wilson||The Hunt||Sabre S106||January 17, 1954||February 1954|
|C-5108||Don Miller with Orchestra||Out of My Dreams||Chance 3017||January 1954||1954|
|C-5109||Don Miller with Orchestra||The Wind||Chance 3017||January 1954||1954|
|U5116 [*U5050]||Five Echoes||That's My Baby||(Constellation LP CS-5; Sabre 111 [boot])||late January 1954?|
|U5117 [*U5051]||Five Echoes||Why Oh Why||(Constellation LP CS-5; Sabre 111 [boot])||late January 1954?|
|*5118||J.B. and His Hawks||Pet Cream Man||Chance 1160||January or February 1954||c. September 1954|
|*5119||J.B. and His Hawks||Lovin' You||Chance 1160||January or February 1954||c. September 1954|
|*C-5120||J.B. and His Hawks||Now She's Gone||Chance 1155||January or February 1954||May 1954|
|*C-5121||J.B. and His Hawks||Combination Boogie||Chance 1155||January or February 1954||May 1954|
|*U8792||The BEL Trio||Toothpicks||unissued||c. February 1954|
|*U8793||The BEL Trio||I Only Have Eyes for You||unissued||c. February 1954|
|*8794||The BEL Trio||More Beer||Chance 3018||c. February 1954||after March 1954|
|*8795||The BEL Trio||Fine and Dandy||Chance 3018||c. February 1954||after March 1954|
|*C5126||James Hewitt||Cross My Heart||unissued||c. February 1954|
|*C5127||James Hewitt||Baby Don't Get Rough||unissued||c. February 1954|
|*C5128||James Hewitt||It's All Over Now||unissued||c. February 1954|
|*C5129||James Hewitt||Sorry Baby||unissued||c. February 1954|
|*C5130||Kelly Bros.||Let Me Fly||unissued||c. February 1954|
|*C5131||Kelly Bros.||God Laid His Hands on Me||unissued||c. February 1954|
|*C5132||The Flamingos with Red Holloway Orch.||Cross over the Bridge||Chance 1154||February 17, 1954||March 1954|
|*C5133||The Flamingos with Red Holloway Orch.||Listen to My Plea||Chance 1154||February 17, 1954||March 1954|
|*C-5134||The Five Chances||I May Be Small||Chance 1157||Spring 1954||August 1954|
|*C5135||The Five Chances||California||(Constellation LP CS-5)||Spring 1954|
|*C5136||The Five Chances||Nagasaki||Chance 1157||Spring 1954||August 1954|
|*C5137||The Five Chances||Make Love to Me||(Constellation LP CS-5)||Spring 1954|
|54-341||Fred Montell with the Darrell Balasty Orch.||Deep in a Dream||Chance 3021||May 1954||Fall 1954|
|54-342||Fred Montell with the Darrell Balasty Orch.||Gypsy Darling||Chance 3021||May 1954||Fall 1954|
|*C-5138||Jeanne Kassel with Bill Kessler Orch.||Chalo Mio Ray||Chance 3020||July 1954||July 1954|
|*C-5139||Jeanne Kassel with Bill Kessler Orch.||Can I, Will I||Chance 3020||July 1954||July 1954|
|C-5140 [*U5140]||Lucy Reed with Chuck Sagle Orch.||A Night Is Dark
[Dark Is the Night}
|Chance 3019||July 1954||Fall 1954|
|C-5141 [*U5141]||Lucy Reed with Chuck Sagle Orch.||Au Revior [sic]||Chance 3019||July 1954||Fall 1954|
|*U5142||Famous Boyer Bros.||Trust Him Today||Chance 5009
|August 11, 1954||c. September 1954
|*U5143||Famous Boyer Bros.||Let's Walk Together Children||(Vee-Jay 209)||August 11, 1954||(October 1956)|
|*U5144||Famous Boyer Bros.||I Love to Tell the Story||(Vee-Jay 163)||August 11, 1954||(December 1955)|
|*U5145||Famous Boyer Bros.||Going Back to My God||Chance 5009
|August 11, 1954||c. September 1954
|*5146||Johnny Low||I'm Sweet on You||unissued||c. September 1954|
|*5147||Johnny Low||Lonesome||unissued||c. September 1954|
|*5148||Johnny Low||My Broken Heart||unissued||c. September 1954|
|*5149||Johnny Low||Leave Me Bluest||unissued||c. September 1954|
|*U5152||J. B. Hutto||Price of Love||(Delta Swing LP 379)||October 19, 1954|
|*C-5153||J. B. Hutto and His Hawks||Things Are So Slow [Things Is Tuff]||Chance 1165||October 19, 1954||November 1954|
|*C-5154||J. B. Hutto and His Hawks||Dim Lights||Chance 1165||October 19, 1954||November 1954|
|*U5155||J. B. Hutto||Thank You for Your Kindness||unissued||October 19, 1954|
|*U5156||J. B. Hutto||Mouth Harp Mambo||unissued||October 19, 1954|
In previous histories, the closing of Chance in December of 1954 has been characterized as a business failure. (The standard lore is presented in the liner notes to the 2-CD set on Charly CDGR 146, Chicago Blues: The Chance Era, a valuable set that collects nearly all of the non-JOB Chance blues material. The history of Chance presented there is more reliable, we must note, than the multidimensonally wrongheaded comments about Aristocrat and Chess...) The received view is incorrect. What was really going on was that Sheridan and Abner were getting deeply intertwined in the business dealings of James Bracken and Vivian Carter at Vee-Jay. The discerning collector will even note that Vee-Jay's maroon and silver 78 labels resemble the classic Chance pop series labels in use in 1953. Noted Sheridan, "I just got tired of it, and I was spending a lot of time with Vivian, Jimmy, and Abner, and didn't want to be a producer."
In all probability Sheridan was losing his youthful enthusiasm for the business, and decided to pursue a subsequently highly successful career in real estate. After a brief stay at United Distributors, Abner went over to Vee-Jay to run the company as general manager. Abner was given one-third equity in Vee-Jay, and probably brought some seed money with him. We suspect that Sheridan was a secret investment partner in Vee-Jay. In both a 1992 interview with Robert Pruter and with a recent interview with Nadine Cohodas he strongly implied that this was the case. He is known to have partnered in the Sutherland Lounge when Vee-Jay owned it. Besides not wanting to hurt Vee-Jay's image as a successful Black-owned company, Sheridan was acutely aware of Musicians Union hostility—Local 208 actually warned Carter and Bracken not to have anything to do with him—which certainly endured until the Union locals merged in 1966.
Many Chance artists moved over to Vee-Jay. Al Smith, who had been responsible for so many of the accompaniments for blues singers and doowop groups, defected to the new company in June 1954 (though he hedged his bets by handling accompaniments for United/States and Parrot/Blue Lake until those operations went into decline; he may have also picked up some studio work at Chess). For the next 4 1/2 years Al Smith and guitarist Lefty Bates ran the Vee-Jay house band on most sessions. Red Holloway was the go-to guy on tenor sax through mid-1956, when he was replaced by the great blues player Lucius "Little Wash" Washington. Mac Easton, Horace Palm, and Norman Simmons became regulars at Vee-Jay, along with drummers Al Duncan, Paul Gusman, and (until he joined Ahmad Jamal's trio) Vernel Fournier. King Kolax cut two quintet sessions for Vee-Jay in 1954 and 1955. Tommy Dean became a regular, and even Willie Jones put out a single in 1954, characteristically titled "My Thing" b/w "My Other Thing" and played in a style midway between Milt Buckner and Cecil Taylor. The Five Echoes also moved to Vee-Jay, while the Five Chances resurfaced at States, the Moonglows went straight to Chess, and the Flamingos ended up recording for Leonard and Phil after a year at Parrot.
What Chance produced during its four years of existence doesn't rank with the output of Chess or Vee-Jay. Still, there are a lot of collector items for both blues and vocal groups in the catalogue and it remains one of the legendary labels of the golden age of rhythm and blues. The pop items have less durability, though the Eddie and Chuck single, or the novelty instrumental "Pizza-Cat-Oh," which featured the versatile Swing violinist Remo Biondi, may still be worth a listen. For all of its accomplishments, Chance produced few, if any, rhythm and blues records that could be characterized as rock 'n' roll. When the company closed, the rock 'n' roll revolution was just being launched. It was Chess that would take Sheridan's biggest vocal acts, the Moonglows and Flamingos, and turned them into rock 'n' roll stars. Meanwhile, the Chance bluesmen would sink into neglect for a decade, until the blues boom of the mid-1960s.
We have placed the sessions that Chance obtained from other labels or producers in a separate section. At present we know of 42 items that Chance leased or purchased; however, given Chance's lax policy regarding its U and C numbers, which were sometimes pasted onto purchased sides, there could be more acquisitions lurking in the yearly lists.
The first tracks to be leased or purchased by the Chance operation were four 1949 recordings by bluesmanJohn Lee Hooker. These were obtained Joe Von Battle in Detroit; featuring just Hooker's vocals and guitar, these were reportedly recorded in the back of Von Battle's record store, and they sound like it. The transaction took place at some point in 1951, when Sheridan was doing little in the way of new recording. The hope was to put some new releases in the bins and generate some reflected sales off Hooker's recent successes on the Modern label. Though Hooker disguised his identity when recording for other labels, going by such handles as Texas Slim and Birmingham Sam, Chance must not have been too worried about lawsuits filed by the Bihari brothers, who ran Modern. For Art Sheridan was satisfied with "John Lee Booker," which fooled absolutely no one.
The next year, Chance came up with one more John Lee Hooker single. Chance 1122, attributed to "John L. Booker and His Guitar," is so rare that, according to John Tefteller, only 6 copies are known to exist. That's on 78 and 45—for it was with Chance 1122 that the company started releasing new records on 45 rpm. Although "Road Trouble" and "609 Boogie" have usually been been attributed to Joe Von Battle's sessions, the sound on both sides is considerably worse than on the other Hooker Chance releases. Hooker is accompanied by James Watkins on piano and Curtis Foster on drums, who often worked with him in clubs at the time, and "609 Boogie" (onto which Chance grafted applause at the beginning and the end) strongly resembles the two takes of this piece that were reissued in 1995 on Pointblank Classics CD 40116, Danceland Years, which preserves the mortal remains of Morry Kaplan's hyperobscure independent label. (The "609 Boogie" that came out on Chance has nearly all the same shouts from the participants, the same tag line from Hooker's guitar, the same paucity of vocalizing from Hooker, and the same shallow, crackly sound. "Road Trouble" was not released on Danceland, but it has the same lineup and same sonics.) Venturing into John Lee Hooker discography is like competing in an off-road rally on quicksand, but our judgment is that "Road Trouble" and "609 Boogie" were among the pieces that were recorded on a portable disk-cutter in February or March 1949, at a Detroit club (either the Royal Blue or the Blue Heaven). Morry Kaplan claimed to have recorded them himself, but other sources give the responsibility to record store owner Elmer Barbee (who originally claimed co-composer credit on "609 Boogie"—besides, 609 was the address of his store and he appears to be contributing to the shouts on the record). According to Dave Sax's liners to a recent release of Hooker titles that were sold to Savoy in 1948 and 1949 (John Lee Hooker Detroit 1948-1949, Atlantic/Savoy 92910), "Road Trouble" and "609 Boogie" were part of a package of 4 sides from this session that Elmer Barbee sold to Savoy in 1949. In any event, neither "Road Trouble" nor "609 Boogie" were issued on Danceland before it went belly-up in 1951, and Savoy didn't use them either. Hence, presumably, Barbee's willingness to offer them to Chance in 1952.
Later in 1952, Art Sheridan bought three sessions from DJ and freelance record producer Al Benson that had previously appeared (at least in part) on Old Swing-Master. But Old Swing-Master had been founded by Egmont Sonderling (of United Broadcasting Studio) to make some money off masters that he had held on to whenVitacoustic went bankrupt; he cut Al Benson in on the label in the hope of boosting sales.
The three T-Bone Walker items, with backing by a studio band led by pianist Marl Young, were recorded for the tiny Rhumboogie label back in December 1945. Two were released on Mercury in 1946 (Mercury distributed Rhumboogie for a while), and two showed up on Old Swing-Master 11 in March 1949 ("She Is Going to Ruin Me" and "My Baby Left Me"). The next step in their tortuous history was their sale to Art Sheridan, who, so far as we know, never put them out on Chance (though years later he did issue them on an LP that came out of his Constellation venture with Ewart Abner, Jr.).
Two sides by the vocal harmony group, the Four Shades of Rhythm ("My Blue Walk" and "Baby I'm Gone") were recorded for the Vitacoustic label at the end of December 1947 and not released at the time (the label ran into financial trouble right after putting out two previous sides by the group). When Vitacoustic filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 1948, the masters remained in the hands of Egmont Sonderling, whose studio hadn't been paid for them. These two sides came out on Old Swing-Master 13, also in March 1949. Al Benson sold them to Chance, but again Sheridan appears not to have released them on his label.
On December 28, 1952, Chance is sometimes thought to have recorded a Detroit-based R&B singer named Kitty Stevenson (she was identified in Sheridan's documents as "Stevens"). According to Lars Bjorn and Jim Gallert's book Before Motown, Stevenson was born in Thompson, Georgia, around 1918, and came to Detroit in 1929. She started out as a dancer, and obtained her first singing job with the Lorenzo Lawson group at Lee's Club Sensation. She performed with the Todd Rhodes band in 1949 at the Flame Lounge in Detroit and then toured with the band in 1950 (including recordings for the Sensation label), afterwards working as a single under the management of Al Green. Her last recording was done with the Rhodes band for King in May 1951. She was the mother of Mickey Stevenson, a producer for Motown in the 1960s.
Regrettably, Kitty Stevenson had already died in early June 1952, in Detroit Memorial Hospital. What really happened on December 28 is that Sheridan bought her masters from Al Benson, who had operated Old Swing-Master along with recording studio owner Egmont Sonderling. Two of the titles, "Hold 'Em Joe" and "With You," Kitty recorded during a pact between Sensation and Vitacoustic in December 1947; they appeared in May 1949 on Old Swing-Master 20. "I'm Satisfied" is another title that she had recorded for Vitacoustic (it was issued on Old Swing-Master 10 in March 1949) and "Sleeping by Yourself" is a retitling of "Blues by Myself" (also on Old Swing-Master 10). The accompaniment was by the Todd Rhodes band, which was the main contributor to the Sensation/Vitacoustic pact.
The first release of any of Stevenson's unissued sides took place in 1977 on the Chance-derived P-Vine PLP-708, a Japanese LP titled Chance Vintage Blues R&B Crops Volume 4: Kitty Stevens/Tampa Red, Bobby Prince. Unfortunately, the recording date was years off, and the four sides that had been released on Old Swing-Master were not recognized as such.
Nine tracks by jazz trumpeter Howard McGhee were entered into the list around this same point. These had been recorded in late December 1947, again by the Vitacoustic company. They had come under the control of the Old Swing-Master operation after Vitacoustic filed for bankruptcy in February 1948. Old Swing-Master put out one single from this cache of material before Benson sold the items to Art Sheridan.
From research by Art Zimmerman, we know that Howard McGhee cut one session for Vitacoustic on either October 15 or November 10, 1947, while in town with a Jazz at the Philharmonic tour. He returned to Chicago during the last week of December 1947 with his own group, and cut 12 more sides for Vitacoustic then. Two of those sides showed up on Old Swing-Master 14 in March 1949. Sheridan didn't write down all of the titles, but those that he did mention are all from the late December 1947 sessions. Sheridan never did anything with this material; Benson later sold 12 tracks (plus two alternate takes) to Savoy, which put the 12 master takes out on an LP in 1955. Two other sides did not pass to Savoy in that transaction and have never been issued in any form.
Small Chicago operations provided the two Little Walter sides, originally put out in 1947 on Ora Nelle, and the two Sunnyland Slim sides, first released in 1948 on Joe Brown's Opera label. There was sharp practice going on here. Only "Just Keep Loving Her" featured Little Walter's singing; "That's Alright" had become a staple of Jimmy Rogers' repertoire, but on its first recording it was sung by another guitarist, Othum Brown. Meanwhile, even though in 1952 Sunnyland was under contract to Joe Brown's JOB label, he was still being referred to as "Delta Joe" on the Chance release. The point to this subterfuge is lost in the mists of time.
In May 1953 Jimmy Bracken and Vivian Carter conducted the first recording session for their Vee-Jay label. Vee-Jay was short on distribution, so in July 1953 Chance stepped in, pressing its own versions of Vee-Jay 101 by The Spaniels and Vee-Jay 100 by Jimmy Reed. (The pickup of The Spaniels' record was announced in Dave Clark's "Rhythm and Blues Tattler," Billboard, July 25, 1953, p. 51.) The Chance releases, 1141 and 1142, carried the Vee-Jay matrix numbers. Although further Chance releases of Vee-Jay material proved unnecessary, Art Sheridan probably began investing in Vee-Jay around this same time.
Johnny Young (full name John Merritt Young) was born March 16, 1922 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Young graduated from DuSable High School in 1939. By the time of this recording, he had been on the road with Andy Kirk's Clouds of Joy (1943-1945, then again for a while in 1946 and 1947). Returning to Chicago, he played in Dick Davis's combo (1947-1949), going out with his own trio in 1950. The trio recording that appeared on Chance, the first under Young's own name, features lush, Erroll Garner-style piano on two ballads, with the standard lounge accompaniment of guitar and bass. Jazz piano, but not in John Young's mature style. (John Merritt Young was not related to Johnny "Man" Young, the blues guitarist and mandolinist who recorded for Ora Nelle and Planet.)
The masters to these sides had to change hands twice before Art Sheridan got hold of them. The MR matrix numbers on each side (these are the originals) came from Modern Recording Studio at 55 West Wacker Drive. Chess recorded Claude McLin there in November 1950. JOB made a series of sessions there between 1950 and 1952. Most importantly, a tiny label called Seymour, run by Seymour Schwartz out of his record store, used Modern Recording Studio for two or three sessions in September 1950. MR2755-1 and MR2755-4 (in the trailoff for the Johnny Young Trio session) indicate a session at Modern Recording Studio around this time. The Johnny Young 78 also has S95-A and S95-B in the wax—indicating a planned release on... Seymour (it never materialized). In fact, matrix 2755-2 from this same session was used on Seymour 97-B.
As announced in Billboard on December 2, 1950, Discovery Records bought most of the Seymour masters, attaching new A series matrix numbers to them. LeRoy Jackson (who appeared on Lurlean Hunter's "I Hadn't Anyone 'till You" on Seymour 99-B, along with John Young and tenor saxophonist Kenny Mann) was probably the bassist here. Discovery went out of business in 1952, enabling Sheridan to obtain the sides by a pianist who was already an established presence on the Chicago scene.
After the Seymour session, Young recorded with Eddie Chamblee's group for Premium (1951), Coral (1952), and United (1953). Putting out his first LP as a leader in 1956, John Young would subsequently record as a leader for Argo, Delmark, and other labels. He retired from playing in 2005 and died in Chicago on April 16, 2008. For a complete John Young discography, see http://www.jazzdocumentation.ch/john_young/young.html
Freddie Hall was a rather coarse-voiced baritone blues shouter, who originally cut his single for J. Mayo Williams' tiny Ebony label; it wa released on Ebony 1011. Acoording to the florid label copy on the Ebony single, Hall was originally from Gadsden, Alabama. He played piano on the session, and was backed by unidentified musicians on tenor sax, guitar, bass, and drums. "This Crooked World" is one of many sides inspired by "I Don't Know" and "I'm Mad," which had been big hits for Willie Mabon on Chess. In 1954, Williams, who had no distribution to speak of, cut a few deals with Joe Brown: Brown reissued an Ebony single by a doowop group called the Eagle-Aires, and picked up an isolated side by Sunnyland Slim that he reissued on another JOB single. Presumably it was Joe Brown who, in turn, brokered the Freddie Hall masters to Chance. (Further circumstantial evidence: Hall's next release would occur in 1956, on Abco 103. Abco was part-owned by Joe Brown.) The joint venture was long over by 1954, but obviously Brown was still transacting a little business with Art Sheridan. Our thanks to Bob Buchholz for help with the Young and Hall singles, and to the late George Paulus for locating the very rare original release of the Hall.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Source||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|*No Number||T-Bone Walker||Come Back to Me||Rhumboogie||unissued on Chance||December 19, 1945|
|*No Number||T-Bone Walker||She's Gonna Ruin Me||Rhumboogie||unissued on Chance||December 19, 1945|
|*No Number||T-Bone Walker||I Can't Stand Being Away from You||Rhumboogie||unissued on Chance||December 19, 1945|
|*U-2108||Little Walter J. | Guitar & Harmonica||That's Alright [Ora-Nelle Blues*]||Ora Nelle 711A*||Chance 1116||1947||May 1952|
|*U-2109||Little Walter J. | Guitar & Harmonica||Just Keep Loving Her||Ora Nelle 711B||Chance 1116||1947||May 1952|
|*No Number||Kitty Stevens [sic]||Train No. 1||Vitacoustic||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 708)||December 1947|
|*No Number||Kitty Stevens||Comes the Day||Vitacoustic||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 708)||December 1947|
|*No Number [prob. V1941]||Kitty Stevens||Sleeping by Yourself [Blues by Myself*]||Vitacoustic (Old Swing-Master 10*)||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 708)||December 1947|
|*No Number||Kitty Stevenson||With You||Vitacoustic (Old Swing-Master 20)||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 708)||December 1947|
|*No Number||Kitty Stevenson||Hold 'Em Joe||Vitacoustic (Old Swing-Master 20)||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 708)||December 1947|
|*No Number [V1943]||Kitty Stevenson||I'm Satisfied||Vitacoustic (Old Swing-Master 10)||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 708)||December 1947|
|*No Number||Kitty Stevenson||That Jive||Vitacoustic||(P-Vine Special [J] PLP 708)||December 1947|
|*No Number||Kitty Stevens||Things Will Change||Vitacoustic||unissued||December 1947|
|*No Number||Kitty Stevens||Someday||Vitacoustic||unissued||December 1947|
|*No Number||Howard McGhee||Les [prob. Merry Lee]||Vitacoustic||unissued on Chance||late December 1947|
|*No Number||Howard McGhee||Down Home [Down Home Jump]||Vitacoustic||unissued on Chance||late December 1947|
|*No Number||Howard McGhee||Sweet and Lovely||Vitacoustic||unissued on Chance||late December 1947|
|*No Number||Howard McGhee||Mood for Love||Vitacoustic||unissued on Chance||late December 1947|
|*No Number||Howard McGhee||Talk of the Town||Vitacoustic||unissued on Chance||late December 1947|
|*No Number||Howard McGhee||unidentified tune||Vitacoustic||unissued on Chance||prob. late December 1947|
|*No Number||Howard McGhee||unidentified tune||Vitacoustic||unissued on Chance||prob. late December 1947|
|*No Number||Howard McGhee||unidentified tune||Vitacoustic||unissued on Chance||prob. late December 1947|
|*No Number||Howard McGhee||unidentified tune||Vitacoustic||unissued on Chance||prob. late December 1947|
|V1950 Sw||Four Shades of Rhythm||My Blue Walk||Vitacoustic (Old Swing-Master 13)||unissued on Chance||late December 1947|
|V1953 Sw||Four Shades of Rhythm||Baby I'm Gone||Vitacoustic (Old Swing-Master 13)||unissued on Chance||late December 1947|
|OP8-B (*U-2121)||Delta Joe [Sunnyland Slim]||4 O'Clock Blues [Train Time^]||Opera 5^||Chance 1115||prob. December 1947||1952|
|OP8-A (*U-2122)||Delta Joe [Sunnyland Slim]||I Cried [Roll, Tumble and Slip^]||Opera 5^||Chance 1115||prob. December 1947||1952|
|U-1943 [on label]
|John Lee Booker [sic] and His Guitar||Miss Lorraine||Joe Von Battle||Chance 1108||1949 [Detroit]||1951|
|U-1949||John Lee Booker and His Guitar||Talkin' Boogie||Joe Von Battle||Chance 1108||1949 [Detroit]||1951|
|*U1986||John Lee Booker||I Love to Boogie||Joe Von Battle||Chance 1110||1949 [Detroit]||1951|
|*U1987||John Lee Booker||Graveyard Blues||Joe Von Battle||Chance 1110||1949 [Detroit]||1951|
|John L. Booker [sic] and His Guitar||609 Boogie||Elmer Barbee||Chance 1122||February or March 1949 [Detroit]||1952|
|John L. Booker and His Guitar||Road Trouble||Elmer Barbee||Chance 1122||February or March 1949 [Detroit]||1952|
|A-136351 (on label and in wax), MR-2755-1, S95-A (in vinyl)||Johnny Young Trio||You Go to My Head||Seymour [via Discovery]||Chance 1144||September 1950||September 1953|
|A-136353 (on label and in wax), MR-2755-4, S95B (in vinyl)||Johnny Young Trio||Memories of You||Seymour [via Discovery]||Chance 1144||September 1950||September 1953|
|VJ 53-100||The Spaniels with Rhythm Acc.||Baby, It's You||Vee-Jay 101||Chance 1141||May 4, 1953||July 1953|
|VJ 53-103||The Spaniels with Rhythm Acc.||Bounce||Vee-Jay 101||Chance 1141||May 4, 1953||July 1953|
|VJ 53-104||Jimmy Reed and His Trio||High and Lonesome||Vee-Jay 100||Chance 1142||poss. June 6, 1953||August 1953|
|VJ 53-107||Jimmy Reed and His Trio||Roll and Rhumba||Vee-Jay 100||Chance 1142||poss. June 6, 1953||August 1953|
|HF 1011-A||Freddie Hall and His Band||This Crooked World||Ebony 1011-A||Chance 1159||prob. 1954||August 1954|
|HF 1011-B||Freddie Hall and His Band||Knock Me Out||Ebony 1011-B||Chance 1159||prob. 1954||August 1954|
The matrix numbers preceded by an asterisk were provided to Marcel Chauvard by Art Sheridan. While Sheridan recalled most of the entries accurately, he left some items out, did not indicate all releases, and did not provide any recording dates.
To get this discography beyond the draft stage, we have drawn from voluminous sources:
Collectors Dr. Robert Stallworth, Robert Javors, and Bob Buchholz gave us additional help on some rare releases, and the late Eric LeBlanc helped with dates for the artists. Without Robert Stallworth's help we would not have release information on most of the 3000 series pop singles; in some cases we would not even know about the sessions, as Art Sheridan (who had sold the masters to Chance 3014 and possibly to others in the pop series) didn't write all of his pop material down for Marcel Chauvard. Bob Koester made some further corrections, and Simon Evans unearthed a magazine reference to Kitty Stevenson's death. Finally, Bob Buchholz alerted us to the previously unknown blue Meteor label.
Besides its main 1100 series, Chance put out a 3000 series (for White pop records) and a 5000 series (for gospel). Meteor had a 100 series, and after that one was quickly abandoned Sabre also ran a 100 series.
We have been reasonably successful tracking the Chance 1100 series, which extended from 1100 through 1165. Only 3 potential issues in this series are missing: we have not encountered Chance 1113, 1118, or 1164. The gaps appear to be genuine, as the 1100 series was already tallied pretty accurately in the pages of Blues Research, back in 1963. Just 1106, which eluded rediscovery till 2008, missed being listed in those days. 1113 could be a deliberate omission for superstitious reasons.
According to Bob Sladek, there are three bogus 1100-series Chance singles. While the "Chance 1166" by the Moonglows at least contains Chance material, there are copies of "Chance 1164" in circulation that consist of two sides recorded in Detroit by the doo-wop group, The Fascinators. The Fascinators did record in Chicago, for Parrot in March 1955; they never had any connection with Chance. A good deal more bogus is a "Chance 1167" featuring a latter-day doo-wop group with the edifying moniker, The Five Shits; an East Coast record dealer is said to have been the perpetrator.
The Chance 5000 gospel series has been previously misidentified in a few sources as a Sabre 5000 series. The gospel series ran from Chance 5000 through 5009. We wouldn't mind hearing more of it, as the 78s are all hard to locate today.
We know of just one Meteor release, on Meteor 100, so rare that no standard discographical source had previously mentioned it.
The Sabre 100 series appears to have run from 100 through 109. No Sabre 107 has turned up, and 110 and 111 are boots.
We didn't list the bootleg Sabre SA-110 above because none of the tracks on it are derived from the Chance operation. This 45 rpm EP consists of the Ebony Moods' "I Have News for You," as the first item on Side A, followed by "Drink Wine Spoodeodee" (Wynonie Harris); Side B consists of "I'm Just a Ladies Man" (Jimmy Witherspoon) and "Feelin So Sad" (Joe Turner). Only the Ebony Moods track is derived from a Chicago indie (it originally appeared on Theron 108). Our thanks to Konrad Nowakowski for alerting us to this bootleg (titles are spelled as on Nowakowki's copy).
In a search that took 15 years, with considerable help from Dr. Robert Stallworth, Marv Goldberg, Bill Daniels, Bill Jones, Andrew Brown, Marc Roberts, Mark Seganish, and Rod Branham, we have ultimately located 21 Chance pop releases in the 3000 series. The series ran from 3000 through 3021. We haven't found Chance 3013, which may been skipped for the same reason there is no 1113 in the main Chance series.
In 2007, a set of 16 78-rpm lacquers by the Four Shades of Rhythm turned up at an estate sale in La Crosse, Wisconsin. They all carried stick-on labels from C. H. Bomgardner's Custom Sound Recordings in Evanston, Illinois. One of the songs on the lacquers, "I Apologize," was a hit for Billy Eckstine in 1951. The lacquers had been stored in two 78-rpm albums, one with 4 pockets for the four 10-inch lacquers, and one with five pockets (enough to hold the four 12-inch lacquers, along with an unrelated commercial release). There were two prints of a Spicer/Collins/McAfee/Lindsay photo, one autographed by the musicians. (There was also a postcard photo of the Lambert/Collins/Morris/Lindsay lineup from the Bar o' Music in Chicago, with autographs on the back. This can be seen above, in our description of the Four Shades and their 1952 session for Chance.)
None of the sides on the lacquers has ever been released. It is not known whether the lacquers were cut direct to disk or dubbed from tape, but, if the latter was the case, the tapes are not known to be extant.
The lacquers appear to have been made in a studio but are only semi-professional in quality. The vocal/instrumental balance is usually acceptable, but the guitar tends to be too loud, and sometimes unintentionally distorted. Oscar Lindsay's cocktail drums are sometimes too close to the mike, making for an occasional thump. A kind of studio echo was available, and it was occasionally applied, with results that vary in artistic value. There are a few jumps in recording level, but the session as a whole was underrecorded, and the lacquers were all cut at a low level.
What's more, the albums appear to have spent many years in a Wisconsin basement, and the lacquers in the 12-inch album all suffered some degree of mold damage. (The 10-inch lacquers fared much better and their playing surfaces are nearly clean.) A couple of the acetates have other mechnical flaws. The labels have darkened and, in some cases, decayed around the edges.
The lacquers do preserve a broad cross-section of the band's working repertoire in 1951, and the quality of the performances is pretty high. Using 12-inch blanks allows performances between 3 1/2 and 5 minutes in length to be included (7 of the sides on the 12-inch lacquers really needed the larger disks; the 3 minute "Satchel-Mouth Baby" could have been put on a 10-inch.)
We have given the lacquers letter indications (A through H) to preserve the couplings. This is strictly a cataloguing device—there are no numbers or letters on the labels, which carry just the song titles.
The Four Shades of Rhythm: Ed "Bones" McAfee (p, voc); Emmett Spicer (eg, voc); Booker Collins (b, voc); Oscar Lindsay (cocktail drums, lead voc).
Custom Sound Recordings, Evanston, Illinois, 1951
|[Get up the Stairs] Mademoiselle||10-inch acetate A (unissued)|
|[Stompin' at the] Savoy||10-inch acetate A (unissued)|
|Without a Song||10-inch acetate B (unissued)|
|Old Black Magic||10-inch acetate B (unissued)|
|Rockin [Good Rockin' Tonight]||10-inch acetate C (unissued)|
|Perdido||10-inch acetate C (unissued)|
|12th Street Rag||10-inch acetate D (unissued)|
|Robin's [sic] Nest||10-inch acetate D (unissued)|
|I Apologize||12-inch acetate E (unissued)|
|100 Years from Today||12-inch acetate E (unissued)|
|Too Soon to Know||12-inch acetate F (unissued)|
|Boozie Woozie||12-inch acetate F (unissued)|
|Satchel-Mouth Baby||12-inch acetate G (unissued)|
|I've [sic] Got It Bad||12-inch acetate G (unissued)|
|Ol' Man River||12-inch acetate H (unissued)|
|Cottage for Sale||12-inch acetate H (unissued)|
The Four Shades, these recordings show, were definitely not just a vocal group. Four sides ("12th Street Rag," "Robbin's Nest," "I Got It Bad" and the jokingly named "Boozie Woozie") are purely instrumental. "Perdido" and "Stompin' at the Savoy" are jazz performances with scat vocals. On "Perdido" the band sings the standard bop paraphrase, which is known as "Wahoo" when performed by itself; "Savoy" also becomes a scat vehicle, closing with the bop line "Byas a Drink."
There are sentimental ballads ("Cottage for Sale," "I Apologize," and "Without a Song") featuring Oscar Lindsay's vocal lead. "A Hundred Years from Today," which an earlier edition of the band had recorded for Vitacoustic. still features a lead from Ed McAfee, indicating that he remained in the group at this juncture; McAfee also gets the call on "Too Soon to Know." At a brighter tempo, "Old Black Magic" puts Lindsay in direct competition with Bill Samuels, whose trio recorded the song for Miracle in 1949; Linday's rendition also has a rhumba beat, but is more convincing than Samuels', which was not issued. "Ole Man River" has been rearranged into a quasi-operatic scena for Oscar Lindsay. Finally, "Satchel-Mouth Baby" and "Mademoiselle" are Swing numbers for vocal ensemble (the former written and introduced by Mary Lou Williams in 1944 and taken up by Four Jumps of Jive in 1945, the latter a risqué number borrowed from the Big Three Trio, which recorded it in 1946), and "Good Rockin' Tonight" is uptown rhythm and blues, programmed to prove that the group wasn't always genteel.
The occasion for recording so many lacquers—more than enough for a 12-inch LP—is unknown. When trying to interest record companies, most groups would make 1 or 2 demo disks, not 8. So we don't know whether copies were ever provided to Chance, or to other independent labels in business at the time.
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