Miracle Records

© Robert Pruter and Robert L. Campbell

Latest revision: August 4, 2016


Revision note:With help from Mary Unger of Ripon College, we have identified the mysterious S & S Studios, which was located in the back of a bookstore, and verified Lew Simpkins' involvement with Miracle Records from its inception. We have added to our coverage of the vocal group The Four Vagabonds, who did one session for Miracle in 1949.


Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Chicago-based Miracle Records, in operation from 1946 to 1950, was a typical post-World War II independent operation. The company focused its recordings on a particular niche market, the African-American community, and released a variety of rhythm and blues recordings that sounded fresh and new next to the tired "Bluebird Beat" blues artists that the majors were putting out. Unlike Aristocrat—a similar Chicago independent that arose a few months later—Miracle did not record the deep Mississippi Delta style blues that was growing in appeal in the city. Instead the company put out balladeers, rhythm instrumentalists, and uptown blues singers. The recordings of Miracle represented an era when jazz, rhythm and blues, and pop were not so carefully divided into different musical camps. Jazz musicians were viewed as entertainers as well as artists—as part of the same African American recording world that was producing ballads, blues, jive, and rhythm numbers.


Lee Egalnick at a juke box operators' convention, Billboard, January 31, 1948, p. 108
From left to right: William Gelfand of Town and Country Records; Chuck Aron of Aristocrat; Lee Egalnick of Miracle; and Jim Buliet of Bullet. Billboard, January 31, 1948, p. 108.

Miracle Records was officially launched in August of 1946. (Recording seems to have started in June of that year.) Lee Egalnick served as president of the firm. Although not mentioned in the company's spotty early publicity, Lew Simpkins was clearly Egalnick's partner from the beginning. We know little about Egalnick, but the Social Security Death Index includes a Lee J. Egalnick who was born June 1, 1921, and was issued his Social Security card in Illinois.

The company's original address was 107 East 47th Street, on the main business strip of the South Side African American community; S&S Recording Studios, with the same address, is mentioned on the labels of the earliest Miracle issues. Courtesy of Mary Unger, a professor at Ripon College who is researching Black-owned bookstores on the South Side from the 1930s through the 1950s, we have learned that S. & S. was a bookstore—and that Lew Simpkins owned it. Lewis Conrad Simpkins was born in Mississippi on November 7, 1918; he was the son of Lube Simpkins and Lily Jackson Simpkins. It appears the family moved to Chicago at an unknown date.

We first catch sight of Lew Simpkins in the business world as the owner S & S Bookstore at 107 East 47th. The store was open by the summer of 1944; in the July-August issue of Negro Story: A Magazine for All Americans, a Chicago-based literary magazine featuring African-American writers (one of the contributors to that issue was Ralph Ellison), S&S Bookstore is listed as one of the magazine's "Agents" or distributors. The magazine closed in 1946, but a 1947 display ad for the store in Scott's Business & Service Directory (p, 124) includes a photo of Lewis Simpkins, Proprietor, "Featuring a Complete Line of Books By and About Negroes plus All Current Best Sellers." In addition, S & S sold the "Latest Records" and boasted of a "New and Modern Recording Studio." Since the ad promoted the use of the studio for "Auditions," we may conclude that it was a small room in the back of the store, rather like Jimmy Davis's studio in the 1950s, and that it was used primarily to make demos. We don't know of any commercial releases on Miracle that were recorded at S & S.

The relationship between Egalnick and Simpkins was something like the relationship between Nathan Rothner and Freddie Williams at Hy-Tone. Operating a store that sold books and records in Bronzeville and inviting performers on the South Side to make demos there, Simpkins had developed the connections that would make him a successful recruiter of talent. Egalnick presumably brought some capital into the company, though we don't know how much—or what his previous business was. The difference is that Simpkins kept his A&R role throughout the life of the company, and continued in the record business afterwards.

After just two releases in August, the company went into hiatus for three months.

Then in Billboard, Miracle placed teaser ads in the November 23 and 30 issues, promising "a Miracle," and on December 7 ran an ad announcing the launch of the label, "Here It Is! Announcing Miracle The Greatest Label in the Race Field Watch for Sensational New Releases" (by now the trial balloon in August must have been nothing more than a bad memory). Smaller copy on the ad promised "the finest talent" that will make their debut "in the near future." While the label obviously had done more recording, and releases were starting to come out, nothing more appeared in the trades for several months.

In a Billboard directory of record companies in the May 31, 1947 issue, there is a listing for Miracle, at a new address, 500 East 63rd Street, in the heart of a growing nightclub district. It's possible that by this date Lew Simpkins had decided to close his bookstore so he could focus on Miracle full-time. Trade ads on the company's acts first appeared in August of 1947 (indicating enhanced revenue as well as greater marketing ambitions); henceforward, Simpkins' name often appeared in Miracle publicity.

1951 Yellow Pages ad for United Broadcasting Studio

Some early Miracles were made at Bachmann Studio on Carmen Avenue. But the principal recording venue was United Broadcasting Studio, which was owned by Egmont Sonderling. Born in Germany on February 27, 1906, Sonderling immigrated to the US in 1923. After a number of years working as a radio announcer, Sonderling opened United Broadcasting Studio in 1939; the first location was the former RCA Victor studio. In 1945, Sonderling moved his studios to 64 East Lake. Next he opened a pressing plant: a January 5, 1946 Billboard ad declared Sonderling's readiness to press 2 million platters for delivery during the year. By 1947 Sonderling was calling his overall operation Master Records, though this seems to have encompassed just the studio and pressing plant; it was not being applied to any commercial releases. Somewhere between June 1947 and March 1948 (we are using telephone books as our source, so we can't pinpoint the date), Sonderling bought World Broadcasting Studios at 301 East Erie and moved his UB operation there. In January 1949, stuck with a pile of R&B and jazz masters that the defunct Vitacoustic company hadn't paid him for, Sonderling opened a subsidiary called Old Swing-Master in partnership with DJ Al Benson (the label was named after Benson's DJ handle).

Toward the end of the label's history, 6 sides that Miracle recorded appeared on Old Swing-Master; 2 of the Old Swing-Master releases also came out on Master, which was now an actual record label. In addition, further sides by Memphis Slim were eventually dealt to Master—we know of 2 singles derived from these—and a single by Jack Cooley (from the early days of Miracle's successor, Premium) was also dealt off to Master. Most likely these sides were provided to Sonderling in compensation for some unpaid studio or pressing bills. The Old Swing-Master sides and three of the Master issues bear the original UB matrix numbers and are placed with their original sessions below. Two Memphis Slim issues on Master have no UB numbers; since we do not know the sessions that they came from, we have listed them separately beneath the 1947 recordings for Miracle. (In fact, the sides on them seem to have come from as many as 4 different sessions that Slim made during his years with Miracle.)


Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Miracle, 1946


Rudy Richardson,
A rare blue-label Miracle, from the label's first launch. From the collection of Dan Kochakian

The first singles that the new company released were the work of effeminate male singer Rudy Richardson, who usually accompanied himself on piano in the clubs. He was often plugged as "America's only male torch singer." One caption said, "his piano boogies are really on the ball too." His first session took place in mid to late June 1946. The release party for two Richardson singles was scheduled for August 16, as advertised in a sizable display in the Chicago Defender.

Richardson was born Rudolph Valentina Riles, in Memphis on September 30, 1923. His father was identified as Cyrus Lockett and his mother as Martha Marie Waidlington, so it could be that his birth father was named Riles. When he was three, his family moved to Chicago, where he atended the Douglas School. After graduating from DuSable High, he entered the club scene; "Rudolphe" Richardson first appears in the Local 208 Board minutes as a leader on April 6, 1944, when he filed an indefinite contract with the Chicken Palace. On September 21, 1944, he posted an indefinite contract with The Hurricane Lounge as "Rudy" Richardson. Richardson was close to continuously employed in Chicago clubs during 1945 and 1946; on February 1, 1945 he filed a contract for 13 weeks at Rudy's Chicken Shack (in which he did not have an ownership interest, so far as we know), and on April 5 he posted one for 8 weeks (3 days per) at The Hurricane. On June 21, 1945, he filed a contract for 12 more weeks at the Chicken Shack (no longer Rudy's). In September of that year he moved over to El Casino (indefinite contract filed on September 20); in December he picked up for 2 weeks at Rupneck's (contract filed December 6).

At some point in 1946, probably before he was signed by Miracle, Rudy Richardson recorded for the Manor label, using the standard piano-guitar-bass lineup. Manor 1039 coupled a medley of "They Raided the Joint" and "Route 66" with "A Stranger in Town"; "Walkie Talkie" was used on Manor 1045, with a flip by The Cats & The Fiddle. Manor's headquarters were in New Jersey and its recording was normally done in New York City, though in 1946 Manor was also recording another Chicago-based performer, singer June Davis. It was not long after his two sessions for Miracle that Rudy Richardson would sign a contract for 6 months at Kennedy's Honey Dripper Lounge (accepted and filed by Musicians Union Local 208 on January 16, 1947).

Afer recording for Miracle Richardson also worked the Flamingo Lounge ("One of 63rd Street's Gay Spots"). Richardson (now often spelling his first name "Rudi") appeared on two singles for the tiny Rim label in June 1949, singing "If You Get It" and "You Made My Heart Cry Out" on Rim 100, and "Write Me a Letter" on Rim 101, to accompaniment by a solid jazz sextet led by one Bob Carter (confusingly, not the same Bob Carter who recorded for Specialty, Sunbeam, and Universal during this period). He continued to appear fairly often in Chicago nightspots through the early 50s, including a long residency at the Kitty Kat Club. In 1956, he participated in the opening of McKie's Disc Jockey Lounge.

This was also the year of his last recording. Richardson cut four sides in Nashville, most likely for Joe Johnson, the songwriting partner of Gene Autry, who was looking to start a new label featuring songs controlled by Autry's publishing company. In late 1956 or January 1957, with the new label not yet launched, either Joe Johnson or Troy Martin (the composer of "Why Should I Cry," who plugged songs for Autry in Nashville) pitched the session to Sam Phillips. In April 1957, Phillips put out "Fool's Hall of Fame" (a song he later had Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison record, with little success in either case; Cash's master was actually destroyed) and "Why Should I Cry"; the other two sides remained in the can. Although Sun 271 showed a small effort to update Richardson's sound, "Fool's Hall of Fame" is still definite torch material. (See http://www.boija.com for more about the Sun singles.) Rudy Richardson returned to Chicago on May 11, 1957, for the funeral of his father, Cyrus Lockett, but was working primarily in Nashville, where from 1955 through 1958 he had several long runs at the Del Morocco lounge. On June 1, 1958, Richardson's body was found in a rooming house in Nashville, one block south of Fisk University. He had drunk denatured alcohol, very possibly with suicide in mind. (Our thanks to Colin Escott's liner notes to The Sun Rock Box 1954-1959, an 8 CD set on Bear Family 17313, for an updated and expanded bio on Rudolph Richardson, including details about his last recording session.)


Rudy Richardson,
From the collection of Dan Kochakian

On the four tunes that formed his first two Miracle releases, Richardson turned over the piano chores to Ted Craig; the trio was completed by William "Lefty" Bates on guitar and Eddie Calhoun on bass. These 78s were apparently released under their matrix numbers, in a 1000 series. But they also carry a second set of matrix numbers in an A-5100 series (and three of these, such as A-5158 seem to have been misprinted, as A-5188). The 1000 series numbers are what appear in the trail-off shellac. The first two Miracles bear the further distinction of being issued on dark blue or purple-blue labels.

The recording date was a Swing-oriented outing, with the excellent work by the trio. "Chauffeur" is a torch song with a pleasant tune and rather amateurish lyrics ("I'm broken-hearted, so discarded") and, in the middle, a spoken monologue ("Chauffeur, take me home, I'm really gone... Don't think I'm wiggin', man, I'm just gone, you understand"). Richardson sings his weary plea in a high tenor voice, and Lefty Bates gets a little guitar solo. (We wondered whether the take we heard was issued, as it runs to 3:45 or so. However, the issued "Chauffeur" runs to 3:43—on a 10-inch 78, and it's faded at the end!). "Hick-Botham" is an uptempo Swing number featuring lots of scatting from Richardson and interesting solos by Craig, Calhoun (doing his Slam Stewart thing), and Bates. "I Need You" is a droopy ballad and "I'm Turning in My Chips," despite the torch aspect, could pass for a Nat King Cole number.

Despite the optimistic annotation "Select Rhythm Hits," nothing much seems to have happened commercially with the first two releases, which are rare today. Instead, Miracle decided to relaunch itself in December, now with a 100 series and a red label. Still, the company was putting more sides in the can during this period: the diversified investments included a second session by Richardson, as well as items by a jazz vocalist (Gladys Palmer with Floyd Hunt's combo), a blues artist (Memphis Slim), a gospel singer (Brother John Sellers), and a swing combo (the Dick Davis Orchestra).

All of the Rudy Richardson sides appear to have been cut at the same studio, a place whose 1000 series matrix numbers also show up recordings made around this time for Hy-Tone, Sunbeam, Gold Seal, and Rondo. Richardson's last two sides for the label, released on Miracle 100, bear numbers later in the same 1000 series. From clues provided by pianist Max Miller, who recorded around this time for Gold Seal, we have concluded that the 1000-series venue was Bachman Studio on Carmen Avenue, and from evidence about the first releases on Rondo, we've identified mid to late June 1946 as the likely time for Richardson's session. The 1057-1060 block immediately precedes the matrix numbers for a long session that was done for another new label, Rondo; it was by the piano and organ duo of Ruth Noller and Evelyn Straub, and advance orders for one of their records were being taken by July 5, 1946. By contrast, the first Dick Davis release, on Miracle 101, carries matrix numbers with the UB prefix, for United Broadcasting, which would become the company's studio of choice in October 1946.

Tenor saxophonist Dick Davis (birth name Richard Earl Davis) was born in Jackson, Mississippi on April 15, 1917 (according to the Chicago Federation of Musicians Member Death Files 1940 - 1979). His family moved to Chicago in 1924. He graduated from DuSable High School in January 1938 (the Chicago school ran mid-year and June graduations then). And he won an award while in the DuSable band, which means he was trained by Captain Walter Dyett. On graduating he went promptly to work as a professional musician; the first name band he joined was the Sunset Royals (1938). After World War II service in the Army's 869th Engineer Aviation battalion in the Pacific, where he led the unit's dance band, he returned to Chicago and reestablished himself on the local club scene. He rejoined Local 208 on January 23, 1946 and was soon leading his own group at the Tradesmen's Show Lounge (6240 Cottage Grove Avenue). In an effort to make something of his time in the military, his outfit was billed as "Richard E. Davis & His Westcoast Swingsters." Davis spent several months at the Tradesmen's, posting a 1-month contract on June 6 and an 8-week contract on July 18. He also worked the Boulevard Lounge (indefinite contract filed on March 21) and Jimmie's Palm Garden (2-week contract filed May 2).


Dick Davis,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Dick Davis cut his first recordings for Miracle in June 1946, if we are reading the UB matrix numbers correctly; his first session might even have preceded Rudy Richardson's. He made the customary four sides, but only three were used. They were held for release until the label was relaunched at the end of the year, when they appeared on Miracle 101. (Three sides were used because the company came out with two versions of 101, using different B sides. Somebody must have had second thoughts about the coupling.)

Egalnick and Simpkins got the idea to record Davis with George Rhodes, piano; Eddie Calhoun, bass; and "Little Jimmy" [Hoskins], drums—and an enhanced front line with Tommy "Madman" Jones and Eddie Chamblee also on tenor sax. The three tenors make a massive wall of sound that still excites the listener. According to the contract lists maintained by Musicians Union Local 208 during this period, in early June a group led by George Rhodes took up a residency at the Blue Heaven Lounge for 3 months. On the same date (June 6, 1946), "Edwin" Chamblee posted a contract for 2 weeks at the same venue. And Tommy Jones was a known quantity at the Blue Heaven, having performed there earlier in the year (his 3 week contract was accepted and filed on January 3; a 3-month contract followed on February 21). Around the time of the session he was working at the Band Box (1-week contract filed June 6) and Frank's Caravan (indefinite contract filed on the same day).

One of the vocal sides used on Miracle 101 is "Blues in My Heart," a superior ballad written by Benny Carter. It may have been George Rhodes who sought to evoke Carter's brilliant scoring with a lush arrangement for the three saxes (one of the tenorists—our guess would be Eddie Chamblee—makes an unannounced switch to alto). The vocal line is affectingly handled by Savannah Strong. "Tenor-Mental Moods" is a vigorous late-Swing instrumental based on "I Got Rhythm." There are solos for Dick Davis, Tommy Jones, and Eddie Chamblee (in that order) and the fast tempo leaves room for a little barrelhouse piano by Rhodes and some surprise bowing by Calhoun before the ensemble takes it out. The three tenors make an imposing ensemble whether riffing or playing the theme. A complete alternate take also survives.

Used on some other copies of 101 was "Sorry We Said Goodbye," featuring another vocal by Savannah Strong. This is a better than average lounge ballad, nicely sung, but the arrangement is much looser and the song is just not the equal of "Blues in My Heart." Davis does provide a ballad intro in the Coleman Hawkins tradition. The fourth, unissued side, "Ain't That Just like a Man," is a fast blues sung by Savannah Strong. The riffing is thrilling and Dick Davis provides a booting tenor solo with an uncharacteristic reed bite. It's just too bad that they didn't extend the number, which clocks in under 2 1/2 minutes. Miracle would redo the piece, with extra verses and more instrumental interludes, as a vehicle for Gladys Palmer.


Dick Davis,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

In September, Miracle recorded Rudy Richardson for the second time, but now the company was trying to position him as an R&B artist and the backing was provided by Dick Davis's band. George Rhodes had moved on to New York City, where he got steady work in Arnett Cobb's combo, so Sonny Thompson was now at the piano, along with Eddie Calhoun on bass, and probably Jimmie Hoskins on drums. "No Meat" is a humorous reaction to wartime rationing that continued after the war (though other interpretations are simultaneously possible); here Richardson (who exclaims "A steak! Why, man, you must be wiggin'," and makes the unsatisfactory offer of a "meatless stew" during the opening conversation), sings the lead and banters with the other members of the group. "No Meat" required 6 takes, on account of the complicated vocal exchanges; on one take a group member forgets the acronym for the Office of Price Administration. Davis and Thompson get a little solo space. "My Apartment" is a pseudo-Latin novelty number, apparently completed in one take. Vocally, it is mainly noteworthy for the sexual ambiguity of its lyrics; Davis and Calhoun (doing a passable imitation of the bowing and singing Slam Stewart) provide straightahead solos. If other sides were made on this date, they appear to be lost.

On January 25, 1947, "Dick Davis and his swing combo" were still holding the fort at the Tradesmen's Lounge, according to the Defender. The rhythm section consisted of Sonny Thompson, piano; Eddie Calhoun, bass; and Jimmie Hoskins, drums. The caption claimed that the combo had recorded several numbers, including "Tenor-mental Moods." In fact, they had also backed Rudy Richardson, and would soon be cutting Davis's second session for Miracle. But it was Sonny Thompson who would end up selling a ton of records for Miracle; the company would not be recording Dick Davis again as a leader.


Dick Davis combo, January 25, 1947
Dick Davis's combo at the Tradesmen's Lounge, from the Chicago Defender, January 25, 1947, via the Franz Hoffmann collection.

In early April 1947, Dick Davis moved out of the Tradesmen's, where he was replaced by Buster Bennett, and headed on to Jimmy's Palm Garden, 808 Oakwood Boulevard. According to the caption on a photo of him that the Defender ran on April 26, his combo was participating in a Saturday battle of the bands series being broadcast over WGES (Al Benson's radio station) and would be up against "Linn's aggregation" (i.e., Claude McLin's group) the next day. In October 1947, Davis and his band were back at the Tradesmen's Lounge. When the band's engagement wound up on November 1, however, Matt Lightfoot, the owner, emptied the cash register and absconded; Davis had to press a claim against Ralph and Harold Lightfoot, who managed the place, with the Musicians Union for one week plus 3 days' pay (see Board meeting minutes to Local 208, November 20, 1947, p. 3).

Davis did get at least one more opportunity to record as a leader (see http://crownpropeller.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/dick-davis-combo-on-gateway-john-young-singing/). On April 16, 1949, Billboard announced (p. 51) that Ivan Ballen, the Philadelphia-based proprietor of 20th Century, Gotham, and other imprints, had been on a "Southern trip," leading to several artist signings to his Gotham label. A Defender ad from July 2, 1949 had Dick Davis and His Combo headlining at the "Q" Lounge, 114 East 43rd Street. The rhythm section consisted of Johnny Young, piano; Eddie Calhoun, bass; and Buddy Smith, drums. This was the same lineup that appeared on Gotham 182, a single most likely released in July or August 1949 with vocals by the leader on both sides. John Young later recalled that he had also done some singing during the gig at the "Q" (in later years, he would beg off requests for vocals by claiming to have laryngitis).

Possibly in 1952, another single by the same Dick Davis quartet (featuring blues singing by John Young on one side, and a composer credit to all four band members on the others) would appear on Gateway 5001. This was almost certainly derived from the Gotham session, though how it got to Gateway remains to be established. Gateway was a Cincinnati-based label, specializing in 49-cent singles, that also released a couple of other "race" items, including 5002 by Jump Jackson. It put out a lot of other material, but was best known for its Country sides. In April 1950, the Dick Davis Combo was holding forth at the Corner Lounge (1900 West Lake), in a variety show format that included Grant "Mr. Blues" Jones (see the Chicago Defender, April 29, 1950, p. 34).

From September 1951 until he became ill at the beginning of 1954 Dick Davis was a regular member of the King Kolax combo, which brought him a few more recording opportunities. On January 19, 1954 he died after a three-day battle with lobar pneumonia. (His obituary ran in the Chicago Defender on January 30, unfortunately with an incorrect date of death). Dick Davis was only 36.


Memphis Slim,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Blues pianist Memphis Slim was among the most prolifically recorded of Miracle's artists. He was born John L. Chatman (not Peter Chapman Jr. as most sources say) on September 3, 1915, in Memphis. In 1939 he moved to Chicago, and in 1940 made his first recordings, for OKeh, under the name Peter Chapman. (Meanwhile, the Musicians Union local knew him as Peter Chatman.) He recorded for Bluebird in 1940 and 1941 as Memphis Slim. From 1940 to 1944, and occasionally in 1945 and 1946, he was teamed up with Big Bill Broonzy. After several years away from the studios, he recorded with two different trios for Hy-Tone in late 1945 or early 1946, and made a non-commercial recording (as much talk as music) with Big Bill and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson in New York City, probably in the summer of 1946; it was released years later on a United Artists LP. He joined Miracle in the fall, cutting his first session for the label in October. During this period he was a mainstay at the South Side's preeminent blues club, the Flame Lounge (3020 Indiana Avenue). For instance, on November 7, 1946 Slim's contract for another 3 months at the Flame was accepted and filed by Musicians Union Local 208. Miracle had the happy idea of recording him with two saxes and string bass, an ensemble that was eventually dubbed the House Rockers. Slim's piano style included elements of boogie-woogie and traditional blues, and the House Rockers, driven by fervent riffing from the alto and tenor sax, helped to transform his music into rhythm and blues.


Memphis Slim glossy
Courtesy of Billy Vera

Slim's quartet on his first session for Miracle included Alex Atkins on alto saxophone, Ernest Cotton (1926 - ) on tenor—both had come to Chicago from Memphis—and Willie Dixon (1915 - 1991) on string bass.

Dixon, whose usual gig at the time was with the Big Three Trio, contributes to the conversation that opens "Kilroy Has Been Here." (On the first two takes, Slim actually addresses him as "Big Three.") It took five attempts to properly coordinate Slim and Dixon's alternating shouts of "Kilroy!" with the continuation "have been here and gone." The rousing boogie "Rockin' the House," which ended up giving Slim's group its name, achieved takeoff after one false start. At this point in the group's evolution, Alex Atkins was the major soloist after the leader—he can be heard to advantage on "Kilroy" and "Rockin'." Ernest Cotton also gets a solo on "Rockin'." The two vigorous numbers are counterbalanced by the pensive "Lend Me Your Love" and the brooding "Darling I Miss You," each of which needed just one take. All four numbers from this classic session were promptly released, selling well enough to bring Slim and his ensemble back for no fewer than five follow-up sessions in 1947.


Memphis Slim,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Jazz singer Gladys Palmer was profiled in Sharon A. Pease's column in Down Beat, July 14, 1947. She told Pease that she was born in Kingston, Jamaica (misrendered by Down Beat as "Kensington"), and came to America at the age of seven to attend boarding school in Atlanta. Her mother was a talented vocalist and pianist and taught young Gladys piano. In the States, she continued to develop her pianistic skills, and cited her influences as Duke Ellington and Fats Waller. (Accompanying the Pease profile was her boogie woogie composition, "Palmer's Boogie," which formed the flip of her second Miracle release.) She began performing professionally while still in high school. She was enjoying a long run at Atlanta's Biltmore Hotel when she was discovered by J. Mayo Williams and Dave Kapp of Decca Records. They brought her to Chicago to record a solo session in 1935, followed by a legendary appearance with Roy Eldridge in 1937. Palmer made her home in Chicago, and played a long run at the Three Deuces. From 1937 to 1940, she worked the clubs in New York, then returned to Chicago.

August 1947 ad for

From 1942 to 1946, Palmer was based in Hollywood, though she made trips to Chicago from time to time (for instance, on October 7, 1943, her contract for 1 week at the Latin Quarter was accepted and filed by Musicians Union Local 208). She returned to the Windy City in time to produce Miracle's first national hit. She recorded "Fool That I Am" (Miracle 104) as the vocalist on the Floyd Hunt Quartet session in late 1946. This ballad standard went to the lofty #3 position on Billboard's Race Jukebox chart in the fall of 1947. A classic torch song, "Fool That I Am" was initially taken so slowly that the take ran to 4 full minutes and couldn't be released on a 10-inch 78; after a brief introduction, it went straight into the Palmer's vocal. The released take, which featured a full chorus on the vibes before the vocal, was just a hair faster, but the solo interlude for the guitarist and the reprise of the final section of the vocal were taken out.


Floyd Hunt,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The Floyd Hunt group consisted of Hunt (vibes), Tommy House (guitar), Clarence Hall (piano), and Al McDonald (bass). The release was credited to the "Floyd Hunt Quartette" with Gladys Palmer indicated as the vocalist. The flip side, "Harlem Breakdown," was a moderate boogie instrumental that prominently featured Hall's two-fisted piano, House's rocking guitar, a Hamptonesque solo by Hunt, even an interlude for McDonald. Two sides were left unissued. "Ain't That Just like a Man" (the same piece previously recorded by Savannah Strong with Dick Davis) was an uptempo blues feature for Gladys Palmer, with plentiful solo space for Hunt and House. But the success of "Fool That I Am" apparently ruled out further efforts at R&B from the singer. Meanwhile, "I'll Get By" was a Swing performance by an older male vocalist with some ensemble vocal accompaniment. To judge from the way that the vibes fall silent after the Hamp-style solo that precedes the vocal, the singer was Floyd Hunt himself.


Gladys Palmer in 1948
Gladys Palmer in 1948. From the collection of Paul Ressler.

Meanwhile, Palmer was also generating considerable notice during 1947 at the Monte Carlo, playing a 24-week engagement. Said the Chicago Defender in April, "Miss Palmer who handles the spot's entertainment program was grabbed from the Loop several months ago and has become a fixture at the hot spot. Her singing and fine piano plucking attracts large crowds from the Loop district nightly and is the reason for the lounge being the gathering place for musicians from theatres and other places on the southside and the Loop."

Although Gladys Palmer brought Miracle a hit, her style of singing did not have lasting appeal with the record-buying public. The company brought her back into the studio on several occasions as 1947 wound down, probably recording much of her active repertoire, but her later singles did not sell well and much of her work for Miracle has never seen release.


Brother Sellers,
From the Big Joe Louis collection

Brother Sellers,
From the collection of Tom Kelly

When Miracle signed Brother John Sellers in 1946 he had already built careers in both blues and gospel singing. He was born May 27, 1924 in Clarksville, Mississippi, and moved to Chicago as a youngster. In the early 1940s he was mentored by Mahalia Jackson. He recorded both blues and gospel for Mayo Williams' Chicago label during 1945. His first session for Miracle consisted of 4 gospel numbers, including Mahalia's signature song, "Move On Up a Little Higher."

On Miracle 106 and 107 the accompaniment on vibes, piano, and bass were provided by Floyd Hunt and two of his musicians, Clarence Hall and Al McDonald. Hunt adapted to the gospel setting by cranking the motor on his vibes way up (as he had already done on "Fool That I Am") and playing sweetly to approximate the sound of an organ, while Hall provided rather stiff elementary accompaniment on the piano. (The sweetness and the clunky pianistics can be heard on "Precious Lord," which McDonald joins only on the final chord. Hunt does work jazzy runs into "Move On Up.") On "Beginning of Sorrow," a remarkably jaunty tune considering its references to "the last days," which also gives Hunt ample solo space, Sellers can be heard using the folk pronunciation "Norah" for Noah. The more reverential "Just Wait a Little While" cuts back to just Hunt and McDonald in accompaniment. The unorthodox backing was reasonably effective, and Sellers sang soulfully in a pleading tenor voice, but one wonders how the sides did in the marketplace.

The unusual instrumentation behind Sellers, the consecutive matrix numbers—and the fact that Floyd Hunt's last and Memphis Slim's first track sit next to each other on the same 16 inch acetate—indicate a ganged session for Hunt's group, Memphis Slim, and Brother Sellers on the same day.

In 1947 Sellers recorded a blues session for RCA Victor. In late 1948, as Rev. John Sellers, he returned to Miracle for another gospel session. After two Chance blues sessions in 1952 (he was billed as "Johnny" Sellers for these), Sellers moved to New York and became involved in the folk club scene, recording albums that included blues, gospel, and folk stylings. Sellers died March 27, 1999.


For Miracle, 1946 was a year of dipping toes into the water. Total output was 26 sides.


Brother Sellers,
From the collection of Tom Kelly

Matrix Artist Title Release # Recording date Release date
UB 2196[tk. 2] Dick Davis Sextette | Vocal by Savannah Strong Ain't That Just like a Man unissued 6/1946
UB 2197[tk. 1] Dick Davis Sextette | Dick Davis, Tenor; T. Jones, Tenor; E. Chamblee, Tenor; George Rhodes, Piano; E. Calhoun, Bass; Little Jimmy, Drums Tenor-mental Moods Miracle 101 6/1946 12/1946
UB 2197 [tk. 2] Dick Davis Sextette Tenor-mental Moods unissued 6/1946
UB 2197 [tk. 3 - inc] Dick Davis Sextette Tenor-mental Moods unissued 6/1946
UB 2198 [tk. 1 - fs] Dick Davis Sextette| Vocal by Savannah Strong Blues in My Heart unissued 6/1946

UB 2198 [tk. 2] Dick Davis Sextette | Dick Davis, Tenor; T. Jones, Tenor; E. Chamblee, Tenor; George Rhodes, Piano; E. Calhoun, Bass; Little Jimmy, Drums | Vocal by Savannah Strong Blues in My Heart Miracle 101 [some copies] 6/1946 12/1946
UB 2199 Dick Davis Sextette | Vocal by Savannah Strong Sorry We Said Goodbye Miracle 101 [some copies] 6/1946 12/1946
1057-S (A-5187) Rudy Richardson and Ted Craig Piano - Eddie Calhoun Bass - Lefty Bates Guitar Hick-Botham Miracle 1057/1059 6/1946 8/1946
1058-S (A-5188) Rudy Richardson and Ted Craig Piano - Eddie Calhoun Bass - Lefty Bates Guitar I'm Turning in My Chips Miracle 1058/1060 6/1946 8/1946
1059-S (A-5189) Rudy Richardson and Ted Craig Piano - Eddie Calhoun Bass - Lefty Bates Guitar Chauffeur Miracle 1057/1059 6/1946 8/1946
1060-S (A-5160) Rudy Richardson and Ted Craig Piano - Eddie Calhoun Bass - Lefty Bates Guitar I Need You Miracle 1058/1060 6/1946 8/1946
1152SS [alt tk. 1] Rudy Richardson No Meat unissued 10/1946

1152SS [alt tk. 2] Rudy Richardson No Meat unissued 10/1946

1152SS [alt tk. 3] Rudy Richardson No Meat unissued 10/1946

1152SS [alt tk. 4] Rudy Richardson No Meat unissued 10/1946

1152SS Rudy Richardson No Meat Miracle 100 10/1946 12/1946
1152SS [alt tk. 5] Rudy Richardson No Meat unissued 10/1946

1154SS Rudy Richardson My Apartment Miracle 100 10/1946 12/1946
UB2646
[tk. 1]
Floyd Hunt Quartettte (vocals: Gladys Palmer) Ain't That Just like a Man unissued c. 10/46
UB2646
[F1012] [tk. 2]
Floyd Hunt Quartette (vocals: Gladys Palmer) Ain't That Just like a Man [Federal 12006] c. 10/46 [c. 3/1951]
UB2646
[tk. 3 - inc]
Floyd Hunt Quartette (vocals: Gladys Palmer) Ain't That Just like a Man unissued c. 10/46
2647
[tk. 1]
Floyd Hunt Quartette (vocals: Gladys Palmer) Fool That I Am unissued c. 10/46
2647 [tk. 2]
(UB2647SS-1 in wax)
[F-1030]
Floyd Hunt Quartette (vocals: Gladys Palmer) Fool That I Am Miracle 104
[Federal 12018]
c. 10/46 5/1947
2648
[tk. 1]
Floyd Hunt Quartette Harlem Breakdown unissued c. 10/46
2648 [tk. 2]
(UB2648SS in wax)
Floyd Hunt Quartette Harlem Breakdown Miracle 104 c. 10/46 5/1947
2649 [tk. 1] Floyd Hunt Quartette (vocal: Floyd Hunt) I'll Get By unissued c. 10/46
2649 [tk. 2] Floyd Hunt Quartette (vocal: Floyd Hunt) I'll Get By unissued c. 10/46
UB2650 [tk. 1 - inc] Memphis Slim Quartette Kilroy Has Been Here unissued c. 10/46
UB2650 [tk. 2 - inc] Memphis Slim Quartette Kilroy Has Been Here unissued c. 10/46
UB2650 [tk. 3 - inc] Memphis Slim Quartette Kilroy Has Been Here unissued c. 10/46
UB2650 [tk. 4 - inc] Memphis Slim Quartette Kilroy Has Been Here unissued c. 10/46
UB2650 [tk. 5] Memphis Slim Quartette Kilroy Has Been Here Miracle 102 c. 10/46 c. 1/1947
UB2651 [tk. 1 - fs] Memphis Slim, Piano; Alex Atkins, Alto Sax; Ernest Cotton, Tenor Sax; Willie Dixon, Bass. Rockin' the House unissued c. 10/46
UB2651 [tk. 2]
(some copies have 2651 on label, 2651SS in wax)
Memphis Slim, Piano; Alex Atkins, Alto Sax; Ernest Cotton, Tenor Sax; Willie Dixon, Bass. Rockin' the House Miracle 103 c. 10/46 5/1947
UB2652
(some copies have 2652 on label, 2652SS in wax)
[F1047]
Memphis Slim, Piano; Alex Atkins, Alto Sax; Ernest Cotton, Tenor Sax; Willie Dixon, Bass. Lend Me Your Love Miracle 103
[Federal 12033]
c. 10/46 5/1947
UB2653
[F1046-1]
Memphis Slim Quartette Darling I Miss You Miracle 102
[Federal 12033]
c. 10/46 c. 1/1947
2654 [tk. 1] Brother Sellers | Vibraharp - Piano - Bass Precious Lord unissued c. 10/46
2654 [tk. 2] Brother Sellers | Vibraharp - Piano - Bass Precious Lord unissued c. 10/46
2654 [tk. 3] Brother Sellers | Vibraharp - Piano - Bass Precious Lord Miracle 106 c. 10/46 prob. 5/1947
2655 [tk. 1]
Brother Sellers | Vibraharp-Piano-Bass Move On Up a Little Higher unissued c. 10/46
2655 [prob. tk. 2]
(UB2655 SS in wax)
Brother Sellers | Vibraharp-Piano-Bass Move On Up a Little Higher Miracle 107 c. 10/46 prob. 5/1947
2656 [tk. 1 - fs] Brother Sellers | Vibraharp - Piano - Bass Beginning of Sorrow unissued c. 10/46
2656 [tk. 2] Brother Sellers | Vibraharp - Piano - Bass Beginning of Sorrow unissued c. 10/46
2656 [tk. 3 - inc] Brother Sellers | Vibraharp - Piano - Bass Beginning of Sorrow unissued c. 10/46
2656 [tk. 4 - inc] Brother Sellers | Vibraharp - Piano - Bass Beginning of Sorrow unissued c. 10/46
2656 [tk. 5] Brother Sellers | Vibraharp - Piano - Bass Beginning of Sorrow Miracle 106 c. 10/46 1947
2657
(UB2657 SS in wax)
Brother Sellers | Vibraharp-Bass Just Wait a Little While Miracle 107 c. 10/46 1947

Brother Sellers,
From the Big Joe Louis collection

Gladys Palmer,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Miracle, 1947


Memphis Train
From the collection of Otto Flückiger

The first sides recorded in 1947, probably in January, were by the Dick Davis Orchestra featuring Sonny Thompson. The personnel as listed by Walter Bruyninckx were Dick Davis on tenor sax; Eddie Chamblee on tenor sax and vocals; Tommy "Mad Man" Jones on tenor sax and vocals; Sonny Thompson on piano; Lefty Bates on electric guitar; Eddie Calhoun on bass; and Buddy Rich on drums. (The Dave Penny story on Sonny Thompson, "Screaming Boogie," published in Blues & Rhythm, gives Buddy Smith on drums, which rather strongly suggests that "Buddy Rich" is a mistype, and says that Bates is inaudible.)

Bruyninckx and subsequent disocgraphers are way off. There was only one tenor saxophonist on Miracle 108 and 109, and that is Dick Davis himself (thanks to Tom Kelly and Daniel Gugolz for confirming this). Jones and Chamblee were incorrectly carried over from the June 1946 session. And the rhythm section was misidentified as well. The band that was playing the Tradesmen's Show Lounge in late January of 1947 featured Davis on tenor sax, Thompson on piano, Jimmie Hoskins on drums, and Eddie Calhoun on bass. The caption to a wonderful photo of the group in action says, "The combo, shown above, has recorded several numbers, including 'Tenor-Mental Moods' that are hit parade material." ("Tenor-Mental" had been recorded the previous year, with George Rhodes at the piano.) In February the outfit was billed as "Dick Davis Combo, featuring Sonny Thompson, Savannah Strong on vocals." Meanwhile, on March 12, 1949, the Defender stated that Dick Davis and his combo had just come back from a three-month stand in Cincinnati at the Sportsman Club, and was opening March 14 for a long engagement at the Congo Club. The personnel for that group was John Young on piano, Eddie Calhoun on bass, and Buddy Smith on drums. Clearly, Jimmie Hoskins and not Buddy Smith was the drummer on the 1947 session.

For the second session, Miracle kept on with the trend set by the second Rudy Richardson session, pushing the Davis ensemble away from Swing and into R&B. A copy of Miracle 109 in the late Otto Flückiger's collection reveals an ensemble vocal (a common device on Miracle releases). Typical of the period, Miracle 109 was a recording designed to get the powerful deejay Al Benson to play the company's records. On "Benson Jump" an ensemble vocal (three males, including Sonny Thompson who sings the bridge by himself, with obbligato by Dick Davis) sing about the joys of jivin' to the music played by Al Benson; the flip is a dramatization of two travelers, a porter, and a lady on the train from Chicago to Memphis.

According to Dave Penny, Sonny Thompson the featured vocalist on "Sonny's Blues" from this session. Aside from some bantering on Rudy Richardson's "No Meat," and contributions to the ensemble vocals on "Benson Jump" and "Memphis Train" from this session, it would be the first time his voice was heard on a record. However, Miracle would make only sparing use of Thompson's vocal talents during his residency at the label.

A May issue of Billboard reported that "Miracle Records, independent race label, has started sponsoring a 15-minute disk jock spot by Al Benson weekly over WGES." The item also discussed how the firm was building up its distribution net, adding distributors in Dallas, Houston, Birmingham, Jackson. Miss., and Cleveland.


Memphis Slim,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Memphis Slim continued his work for Miracle with four more sessions in 1947 (his band backed Lillie Mae Kirkman on a fifth). His quartet continued to feature Alex Atkins (alto sax) and Ernest Cotton (tenor sax). Charles Jenkins played the string bass on the first session; after that the chair was occupied by Ernest "Big" Crawford, whose trademark string-snapping could also be heard on more down-home sessions by Sunnyland Slim and Muddy Waters. Slim took up residence at the Hollywood Lounge in January 1947 (indefinite contract accepted and filed by Local 208 on January 16). Around the end of April he moved his group into the Timber Tap (indefinite contract posted on May 1).


Memphis Slim,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The first session (which included the invigorating "Pacemaker Boogie" and the reflective "Life Is like That") took place around March 1947, in time for the third and final launch of Miracle Records that took place in May. After that the band didn't return to the studio until October. By then, though, the "recording ban" had been announced for January 1, 1948, and the company was eager to stockpile Memphis Slim slides. So several further visits followed before the end of the year.


Memphis Slim on Miracle 136, ad from Billboard, October 1, 1949, p. 40
From Billboard, October 1, 1949, p. 40.

Memphis Slim gave Miracle a #1 national hit in the spring of 1948 with the reflective "Messin' Around" (Miracle 125), which, from our reading of the matrix numbers, was recorded in December of 1947. Interestingly, the composition was credited to another Miracle artist, pianist and vibraphonist Floyd Hunt, whose work would occasionally surface on later Slim sessions. The flip of Miracle 125, "Midnight Jump" is, unusually for Slim, a late Swing number with strong solos by Alex Atkins and Ernest Cotton. Slim has no trouble with the idiom; it's just not what Miracle's customers most wanted to hear. Recorded at the end of October were "Blue and Lonesome" (Miracle 136) and "Angel Child" (Miracle 145), both of which made the national R&B charts in 1949. Miracle was able to mine its deep Memphis Slim catalog throughout the history of the label.


Memphis Slim and quartet 1948
Memphis Slim and his quartet in the first half of 1948. From left, prob. Ernest "Big" Crawford (bass), Ernest Cotton (tenor sax), Slim, Alex Atkins (alto sax). From the collection of Scott Arnold.

The flip side of "Angel Child" deserves some notice as well. Under the title "Nobody Loves Me," it was Memphis Slim's first recording of "Every Day I Have the Blues." (A second take of "Nobody Loves Me," also apparently cut in October 1947, has survived and can be heard on Memphis Slim: The Complete Recordings Vol. 2 1946-1948 on Blues Collection CD 159862. Vol. 3 1948-1950 in this most valuable series, Blues Collection CD 160142, includes Slim's Miracle recordings from "Midnight Jump" onward, includes the four sides that were taken over by Master, and continues through his first session for Premium.) Slim claimed writing credit (and often got it on subsequent releases) but in fact the tune was first recorded, under its usual title, back in 1935 by Aaron "Pinetop" Sparks for Bluebird. The celebrated 1952 version by Joe Williams with King Kolax could have been inspired by either Slim's "Nobody Loves Me" or Lowell Fulson's 1950 hit version under the "Every Day" title.

Miracle also recorded local blues singer Lillie Mae Kirkman, who appeared as plain old "Lillie Mae" on two sides with Memphis Slim's House Rockers, "Lovin' Man Blues" and "Lonesome." Each was apparently cut in one take during a session around December 20. (Another couple of Memphis Slim tracks that subsequently lost their original UB numbers could have been done at this same session.) Released on Miracle 129 in November 1948, the two sides retained too much of the old "Bluebird beat" style to attract buyer interest. The slow "Lovin' Man" features a thoughtfully lyrical tenor sax solo by Ernest Cotton. The perkier "Lonesome" makes good use of the House Rockers' sax riffing and Big Crawford's string slapping.

A singer out of the Victoria Spivey school, Lillie Mae had previously recorded twice in 1939. Her first session was made for Bluebird in May 1939 under the pseudonym of Ramona Hicks. It featured Buster Bennett on alto sax, and full details can be found on his page. (An item in the Chicago Defender for June 17, 1939 refers to one Ramona Hicks, originally from St. Louis, "who is also known as Lillie Mae Kirk.") In July 1939 she made a session for Vocalion, with accompaniment by pianist Curtis Jones and guitar Hobson "Hot Box" Johnson. Now billed as Lillie Mae Kirkman, she had two discs released (these featured such family-values titles as "Hop Head Blues"; another titled "He's Just My Size" has been featured on several latter-day packages of blues with bawdy lyrics). Kirkman spent much of the 1940s singing at Martin's Corner (1500 West Lake) on the West Side, often backed by the Jump Jackson band. She was variously called Kirkman, Kirkmond, Kerkmond and Kirkland in Defender ads and items. Maybe Egalnick threw up his hands and avoided the quandary by leaving her last name off the label. Though often billed as "Queen of the Blues," Kirkman obviously built her reputation as a local club performer. These were in fact her last performances on record.

One of the sides on Lillie Mae's Miracle release is credited to John E. Coppage, a songwriter and record producer who had some kind of association with United Broadcasting Studios. Coppage's relationship with Miracle may have been casual, but we know that he freelanced at the studio on occasion (for instance, when he recorded two sessions with guitarist Floyd Smith at UB in 1949, later selling one of them to Aristocrat.)


Browley Guy in 1948
Browley Guy in 1948. From the collection of Paul Ressler.

In August 1947, Miracle recorded the first of six sessions featuring a singer named Browley Guy. Possessed of a smooth baritone instrument, Browley Guy graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in June 1936, which means he was probably born in 1918 or 1919. Obviously he was holding his own in the clubs when Lee Egalnick discovered him, and much was expected from him. But his first session, which featured Sonny Thompson at the piano with an unknown band, was held back.

The company would record Guy again in October, with his vocal group The Skyscrapers and a band led by Eddie Chamblee. Miracle was much happier with these items, releasing "Certain Other Someone" and "Last Call" (an instrumental) in December 1947 and bringing out "Knock Me a Zombie" at some point during the next year and a half.

Before 1947 was out, Guy appeared on two more sessions with Sonny Thompson and the Sharps and Flats; one of his vocal sides from the first session would see release. "That Gal of Mine" is partly redeemed by Thompson's Wilsonian piano and a few splashes of vibes from Floyd Hunt. But "For the First Time," a solo vocal from the early December session, is pretty dire, and "Just Can't Fool Myself," which exists in at least four takes (two from around November 27 and two from early December) didn't get any better with practice. Guy's faithful clientele in the clubs never translated into record sales, so most of his tracks were left unissued.

There is little prospect of reviving them now. For today's listener, the lounge ballads of the late 1940s are the only items that have badly dated, and lounge ballads, crooned sweetly, apparently were Guy's specialty. He didn't treat slow standards much better. But when Miracle let him do a jump, he and his mates in the Skyscrapers were more than bearable. "Knock Me a Zombie" is a hip late Swing number (complete with a little Swing scatting, and a reference to Duke Ellington on the jukebox). Unfortunately it is one of just two such pieces that Miracle recorded. The other jump, which celebrates the "Man from Timbuktu" (who, despite his exotic origins and large shoe size, wears a "zoot suit with a reet pleat"), was left in the vault. There is further evidence, from their February and August 1952 session for States, that Guy and the Skyscrapers could sing blues and jumps respectably.

The group would get two further opportunities to record, for Al Benson in June 1953 (leading to one single on Checker), and for Mercury in January 1956. By the time of their Mercury session, which was meant to compete with the work of much younger doowop groups, the Skyscrapers sounded extremely dated.


In October 1947, the company brought the great tenor saxophonist Eddie Chamblee, who had appeared on the first Dick Davis session, back into the studio as a leader. Edwin Leon Chamblee was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 24, 1920. He attended Wendell Phillips High in Chicago, where he was a classmate of Ruth Jones (1924 - 1963, better known to posterity as Dinah Washington). While in the Army during World War II he became deeply involved in music, and after the war he joined the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, touring with the band for two years.

The October 1947 session uses accompaniment by a piano, guitar, and bass trio. Chamblee makes the most of his limited opportunities on the two vocal ballads from the date and shines on the jump ("Knock Me a Zombie"). And "Last Call" is a booting instrumental that should have encouraged Miracle to bring Chamblee right back into the studio without a vocalist. Miracle 119, a December 1947 release which coupled one of the vocal group ballads with the instrumental, did not sell well. (Another drippy ballad, titled "On the Blue Side," was never released.) Chamblee's big break would come just a little later, out of his work as a sideman on several of Sonny Thompson's sessions.


Sonny Thompson,

Miracle scored its biggest hit in the spring of 1948 with keyboardist Sonny Thompson's great rolling instrumental, "Long Gone." Like so many other things, it was recorded during the last quarter of 1947 while the company was feverishly stockpiling sides in anticipation of "B-Day." (B-Day was the Petrillo-led "recording ban" that went into effect on January 1, 1948.) On Part 1, the record featured Thompson on piano and Arvin Garrett of the Sharps and Flats on guitar; tenor sax player Eddie Chamblee took over for Part 2. The two parts actually came from different sessions. Part 1 was done at Thompson's second session, in early November, while part 2 had to wait for his third session toward the end of the same month). The relaxed rhythm behind the pair was maintained by the Sharps and Flats, namely Arvin Garrett (guitar), Leroy Morrison (bass), and Thurman "Red" Cooper (drums). The Sharps and Flats had been working the clubs for some time on their own when Miracle teamed them up with Thompson (who at this point in his career often worked as a solo pianist). The Sharps and Flats did a lot of harmony singing on their club gigs; however, Miracle was not initially interested in this aspect of their work. (Sharps and Flats vocals would be featured on a session with Sonny Thompson around December 22, 1947 and, at greater length on a session they shared with Eddie Chamblee around July of 1948, but the company never released any of them.)


The Sharps and Flats in 1948
The Sharps and Flats in 1948. From the collection of Paul Ressler

Gladys Palmer,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Gladys Palmer,
The main purpose of Sonny Thompson's October and November 1947 sessions was to back Gladys Palmer. From the collection of Dan Kochakian.

The company brought Sonny Thompson into the studio in August, primarily to back Browley Guy on two ballads. Nothing from the session was ever released. Thompson brought in a guitarist and a bass player; a violinist can also be heard on "I Live to Worship You." Despite some interesting solo work by the pianist, the performance is lugubrious and syrupy and the instruments sound as though they're being played in somebody's living room. "Out of Nowhere" is a far better song, the violinist is now approximately in balance with the other musicians, and Sonny Thompson pulls out all of his Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum tricks—but Guy's drippy vocal, marred by tasteless scoops and slides, is hard to bear. After the two vocal tracks were completed, the violinist was sent packing and Thompson turned in a Tatumesque performance of "Just You, Just Me" that cries out for reissue.

Undaunted by this false start, Miracle began to get the results that it wanted when Thompson and the Sharps and Flats came into the studio in October to back Gladys Palmer. A vibraphonist, probably Floyd Hunt, was added on the two of the numbers. "Strangest Feeling," "I Understand We're Through," and "If It's Love" were strong ballad performances. "I'm Pullling Through" is Palmer's tribute to Billie Holiday. Palmer and Thompson brought a lighter touch to "S'posin'," which seems to have been too much of a Swing number to interest Miracle's management.

In November, Thompson and company made "Long Gone Part 1" in a session that mostly featured the vocalist once again. Gladys Palmer's ballad performance on "If I Didn't Have You," which was issued in December 1947, before "Long Gone," adds vibes, again probably by Floyd Hunt; the flip, "Palmer's Boogie," credits Palmer for playing piano and actually sounds as though Palmer and Thompson are playing four hands.


Gladys Palmer,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Around a week later, Gladys Palmer returned to the studio to lay down more ballads. "In the Rain," credited on the label to freelance producer John Coppage, is one of her better ballad vehicles, with Tatumesque accompaniment by Sonny Thompson and splashes of vibes from Floyd Hunt. "Forget It" picks up the tempo a little and gives Thompson and the Sharps and Flats some interesting things to do (check out Sonny's introduction to the second take), but the song is nothing special. Nor is "You're Getting Me Down," another fairly slow ballad, despite Thompson's Wilsonesque accompaniment. A real curiosity, worked in at the end of the session, is "Heartaches"—the first item that Miracle chose to record with just the Sharps and Flats. It features whistling by one member of the trio.


Gladys Palmer,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

"Long Gone Part 2" was made around November 27, at the tail end of a session on which Thompson's group backed Browley Guy and his vocal group. The combo's ebullient contributions to "Man from Timbuktu" suggested that something special might be in the offing, but Guy and company's two ballads called for nothing more than calm professionalism. "Long Gone Part 2," however, proves that the decision to add Eddie Chamblee's tenor sax to Thompson and the Sharps and Flats gave Part 2 the precise touch that it needed.

Miracle was obviously seeing a lot of commercial potential in Sonny Thompson, for the company brought him back into the studio seven times during the stockpiling period in December. The first, around December 7, consisted mostly of solid instrumentals with Eddie Chamblee and the Sharps and Flats. "Walkin'" and "Late Freight" were blues, while "Bounce" and "Devil Grape" were Swing numbers out of Hines, Wilson, Tatum, and Basie. Only "Late Freight" would see release while Miracle was in business.

Particularly noteworthy is the session from around December 16, when Sonny, Eddie Chamblee, and the Sharps and Flats got to lay down four instrumentals without any vocal distractions. They obliged with two tasty Swing originals, "Sonny's Special" and "Tip Lightly," and a Jacquet-style romp on "Sweet Georgia Brown" featuring Chamblee. Miracle nothing but the eloquent "Blue Dreams," whose genre is obvious from the title: Chamblee, Garrett, and Thompson are the soloists. It required two complete runthroughs only because of some cutting faults on take 2.


Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The session of December 19, or thereabouts, caught Gladys Palmer apparently suffering from laryngitis. She turned in two affecting takes of "Once You Were Mine," on which her hoarseness was already audible. But after that she either had to quit singing—or she should have, and her sides were rejected by the company. On "I Really Did," a pretty good male vocalist took over—Sonny Thompson, doing his first ballad for Miracle. At the end of the session, Palmer essayed a runthrough of "Don't Be That Way" (a lounge ballad unrelated to the Swing instrumental by that name); she finished the song, hoarser than ever. Nothing from the session was released, and the company had to try again with Palmer less than two weeks later.

A session around December 22 finally gave the Sharps and Flats a chance to show off their group vocals. "Turn It Over" is a slickly swinging R&B number featuring strong guitar and piano solos. One member of the group takes a solo turn at "Rash Trash," a number in the mold of "You Rascal You," but less creative. The company left these items in the can. "In a Little Spanish Town" is an instrumental feature for Sonny Thompson and the Sharps and Flats; the guitar-piano unison in the theme statement is on the precious side, but Thompson gets to do his Wilson-Tatum thing (becoming more extravagant on the unissued second take), and Garrett takes a swinging solo. (Maybe Egalnick and Simpkins shared our opinion, because the acetate of the master take carries a notation to fade the piece around 2:45, before the out chorus.) "Dreams" is an instrumental ballad on which Thompson pulls several runs out his bag of tricks, but in the end the tune drags him and Garrett down; it was done in two takes only because the band couldn't decide how to end the first). Nothing from the session ended up being released on Miracle, but "In a Little Spanish Town" eventually came out on the British Esquire label in the early 1950s.


Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

During a session a couple of days later, Thompson and the Sharps and Flats without Eddie Chamblee backed Browley Guy on one plodding old schmaltzy ballad ("Tears Follow My Dreams"). They also recorded an instrumental version of the sentimental pop tune, "Moon Is on My Side," in a style akin to King Cole's (and in a better performance than "Dreams" from the previous session). This pairing was promptly released on Miracle 124. Obviously Thompson and the Sharps and Flats could handle materlal like "Moon Is on My Side," and Thompson was probably doing so regularly during his nightclub sets, but once the bluesy material caught on with record buyers, Miracle stopped asking for such performances. Among the instrumental sides from the session, "Blues on Rhumba" and "Just Boogie" (which were used on Miracle 131 and 127, respectively) were better suited to Miracle's intended market. And the laid-back blues "Sonny's Return" was the second item to see release from the session, on Miracle 128. The session stands out among Miracle's from December 1947, because five out of the six sides recorded were released. Just "Swing Alley," a superior performance in a genre that Miracle felt it had no buyers for, was held back.


Browley Guy with Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Sonny Thompson,
Originally titled "Deadline Boogie," this instrumental was cut about a week before the recording ban was due to hit. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

Sonny Thompson and the Sharps and Flats' final session of the year, which may well have taken place on December 31, brought Gladys Palmer back to redo "Once You Were Mine." Just one take was needed to get a satisfactory result, but the company sat on the song. Palmer completed four others on the date, which would be her last for Miracle. Floyd Hunt was again added on vibes; he can be heard on the first take of the moody ballad "Caress Me," with the motor on his instrument turned up. The other two takes were done without Hunt. "I'll Say It Again" is a run-of-the-mill ballad, lent some interest by Sonny Thompson's piano intro à la Wilson and his Tatumesque runs behind the vocal; "My Heart Cries" is a somewhat better ballad, again with good accompaniment by Thompson et al. With some studio time left over, the late-1920s classic, "If I Could Be with You One Hour Tonight," was given a loose, impromptu performance; unusually for her, Palmer gets into an Ella Fitzgerald groove. "Not on a Xmas Tree" is an impromptu New Orleans-flavored blues featuring Sonny Thompson himself (thanks to Dani Gugolz and Big Joe Louis for verifying this, as Miracle never credited Thompson's vocals on the label). Because Miracle lost interest in Gladys Palmer, only "Not on a Xmas Tree" would see release—and it had to wait for nearly two years.


Sonny Thompson
The only side to see release from the final Sonny Thompson session of 1947. From the collection of Art Zimmerman.

Egalnick's investment in Sonny Thompson paid off hansomely when Miracle 126, a two-part release of "Long Gone," sold some 200,000 copies and went to the top of the charts. It lasted more than 30 weeks on the Billboard R&B charts, and was still logging non-trivial sales into the first half of 1949. On July 3, 1948, Cash Box announced that "Sonny Thompson and Memphis Slim, setting the pace on Miracle Records, [are] planning a joint nationwide tour in the next few weeks." "Long Gone" even nosed briefly into the pop charts (where it hit #29 for the week of July 10, 1948). The record was so popular that Egalnick had to fight bootleggers in Saint Louis, who were selling counterfeit copies of the record.

Thompson was born Alphonso Thompson in Memphis on August 22, 1916. While he was a preschooler, his family moved to Chicago. He attended Wendell Phillips High School, and studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. In the clubs he learned his craft from Art Tatum and Earl Hines. He began working regularly in 1940. After a short time in the Army (he was given a medical discharge after being injured in a cave-in accident), Thompson returned to Chicago to recuperate, resuming work in the clubs as a soloist in early 1944. He continued to work as a solo pianist, except for a period of 7 months (May through December 1945) when he led a big band at El Grotto, the basement club in the Pershing Hotel. Thompson made his first two sides under his own name as a solo pianist for the Detroit-based Sultan label in May of 1946. (Sultan's gimmick was "double-headed hits," which meant that Thompson, billed for the occasion as the "Prince of the Ivories," split one 78 with an Eddie Wiggins combo and another with Red Saunders; the gimmick wasn't successful, and Sultan folded after its first 3 releases.) After several months in the Dick Davis combo, which included recording twice for Miracle with them, Sonny Thompson went back out on his own (on August 21, 1947, he posted an indefinite contract to play solo piano at the Bar o' Music). Thompson reached the peak of his performing career with his Miracle sides. After Miracle folded, he recorded extensively for King Records, then handled A&R for the label until 1964, when King closed its Chicago office. Thereafter he produced recordings on an occasional basis for Chess and other labels. Thompson died on August 11, 1989.


Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Armin Büttner

A new artist inked by Miracle in 1947 was blues shouter Piney Brown. The singer was born was born Columbus Perry on January 20, 1922, in Birmingham, Alabama. (He has kept his birth name under wraps; we got this information from Brian Baumgartner.) Piney Brown's first music experience was in a family gospel group. In 1940 he moved to Baltimore and there broke into show business. His October 1947 session for Miracle was his recording debut.

Although Piney Brown was described in the February 7, 1948 Chicago Defender as a "Miracle recording artist," just one side was ever released: "That's Right Little Girl," which came out only in Great Britain, on an Esquire release during the early 1950s. We know now that Piney Brown recorded 4 sides with Sonny Thompson and the Sharps and Flats, plus significant contributions by Eddie Chamblee. "That's Right" and "Return of Piney Brown" are declamatory blues showing a strong Kansas City influence; "Return of Piney Brown" even refers to 18th and Vine. "A New Kind of Lovin'" is closer vocally to Wynonie Harris; the number features strong solos by Chamblee, guitarist Arvin Garrett, and Thompson. "Vi," on the other hand, celebrates "a little girl in Chicago."

The Defender item said that Piney Brown was beginning a tour on March 13, and added, "The idea is to keep Brown before his record public and put a shot in the arm to a fast dying show business. Plan is to make [a] small compact package and offer to promoters at [a] price enabling them to make a profit. Package will feature Piney Brown, and include Randy Sherman Orchestra, Gip Roberts, comic; Toni Palmer, song thrush; Fred and Sledge, dancers; and Ann Butler, novelty dancer." The rest of the lineup indicates that Miracle wasn't sponsoring the tour. Piney Brown moved on pretty quickly after Miracle failed to use his material; he made a series of recordings in New York City for different labels, starting with Apollo in 1949, then Jubilee (1951), Sittin' in With (1952), Par (1952), and Atlas (1954). After a successful run at the Club DeLisa in a duo with Billy Brooks, they recorded in Chicago as a duo for Duke in 1957 (see the King Kolax discography). In 1959 he recorded for Tommy Jones' Mad label. Brown subsequently moved to Kansas City, and then to Dayton, Ohio, recording for several other small companies.

See the outstanding article by Brian Baumgartner, "Piney Brown: Now and Then," Juke Blues No. 48 (2000), pp. 28-37.


1947 turned out to be the make-or-break year for Miracle. Egalnick and Simpkins invested in 100 recorded sides that year, most of them during the frantic last quarter of the year. Some of these items (the Memphis Slim numbers, and the Sonny Thompson R&B instrumentals) would keep bringing in revenue as long as the company was still in operation. Too many others, however, had no commercial prospects.


Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Armin Büttner

Matrix Artist Title Release # Recording date Release date
UB21046
[M-536]
Dick Davis Orchestra featuring Sonny Thompson Memphis Train Miracle 109 c. 1/47 6/1948?
UB21047 Dick Davis Orchestra featuring Sonny Thompson Benson Jump Miracle 109 c. 1/47 6/1948?
UB 21048 SS Dick Davis and Orchestra featuring Sonny Thompson Sonny's Blues Miracle 108 c. 1/47 6/1948
UB 21049 SS
[M-531]
Dick Davis and Orchestra featuring Sonny Thompson Screamin' Boogie Miracle 108 c. 1/47 6/1948
UB21179
[F-1029]
Memphis Slim, Piano; Alex Atkins, Alto; Ernest Cotton, Tenor; C. Jenkins, Bass Pacemaker Boogie Miracle 110
[Federal 12015]
c. 3/47 5/1947
UB21180
[F-1028]
Memphis Slim, Piano; Alex Atkins, Alto; Ernest Cotton, Tenor; C. Jenkins, Bass Motherless Child Miracle 110
[Federal 12015]
c. 3/47 5/1947
UB21181 Memphis Slim, Piano; Alex Atkins, Alto; Ernest Cotton, Tenor; C. Jenkins, Bass | Vocal by Memphis Slim Harlem Bound Miracle 111 c. 3/47 6/1948
UB21182
[F-1014]
Memphis Slim, Piano; Alex Atkins, Alto; Ernest Cotton, Tenor; C. Jenkins, Bass | Vocal by Memphis Slim Life Is like That Miracle 111
[Federal 12007]
c. 3/47 6/1948
UB21498 Browley Guy Out of Nowhere unissued c. 8/47
UB21499 Browley Guy I Live to Worship You unissued c. 8/47
UB21500 Browley Guy? unidentified title? rejected c. 8/47
UB21501 Sonny Thompson Just You, Just Me unissued c. 8/47
UB21744 [alt.] Memphis Slim and The House Rockers Nobody Loves Me (Blues Collection [Fr] 159862) c. 10/10/47
UB21744 SS-2
[F-1015]
Memphis Slim and The House Rockers Nobody Loves Me Miracle 145
[Federal 12007]
c. 10/10/47 10/1949
UB 21745-SS Memphis Slim and The House Rockers Believe I'll Settle Down Master 1010
Old Swing-Master 1010
c. 10/10/47 12/1949
UB21746 Memphis Slim? unidentified title unissued?

UB21747 Memphis Slim and The House Rockers Throw This Poor Dog a Bone Miracle 153-1 c. 10/10/47 late 1949
21748SS
(UB21748SS in wax) [tk. 2]
Memphis Slim and The House Rockers Help Me Some Miracle 136 c. 10/10/47 7/1949
UB21857 Eddie Chamblee Orchestra feat. Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers Certain Other Someone Miracle 119 c. 10/23/47 12/47
UB21857 [alt.] Eddie Chamblee Orchestra feat. Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers Certain Other Someone unissued c. 10/23/47
UB21858 Eddie Chamblee Orchestra Last Call Miracle 119 c. 10/23/47 12/47
UB21859 Eddie Chamblee Orchestra feat. Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers On the Blue Side unissued c. 10/23/47
UB21859[alt.] Eddie Chamblee Orchestra feat. Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers On the Blue Side unissued c. 10/23/47
UB21860 Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers Knock Me a Zombie Miracle 137 c. 10/23/47 before 7/1949
UB21860 [alt.] Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers Knock Me a Zombie unissued c. 10/23/47
UB21870 Piney Brown with Sonny Thompson Orch. Vi unissued c. 10/25/47
UB21870 [alt.] Piney Brown with Sonny Thompson Orch. Vi unissued c. 10/25/47
UB21871 Piney Brown with Sonny Thompson Orch. A New Kind of Lovin' unissued c. 10/25/47
UB21872 Piney Brown with Sonny Thompson Orch. Return of Piney Brown unissued c. 10/25/47
UB21873
[M-539-1]
Piney Brown That's Right Little Girl (Esquire 10-330) c. 10/25/47 (early 1950s)
UB21873 [alt.] Piney Brown That's Right Little Girl unissued c. 10/25/47
UB21883
[F1013]
Gladys Palmer I Understand We're Through [Federal 12006] c. 10/26/47 [c. 3/1951]
UB21883 [fs] Gladys Palmer I Understand We're Through unissued c. 10/26/47
UB21883[alt.] Gladys Palmer I Understand We're Through unissued c. 10/26/47
UB21884 Gladys Palmer S'posin' unissued c.10/26/47
UB21884 [inc] Gladys Palmer S'posin' unissued c.10/26/47
UB21885 Gladys Palmer Strangest Feeling Miracle 130 c. 10/26/47 10/1948
UB21885 [alt.] Gladys Palmer Strangest Feeling unissued c. 10/26/47
UB21886
[F-1031]
Gladys Palmer
[with Sonny Thompson Orchestra]
Song Man Miracle M-507
[Federal 12018]
c. 10/26/47 5/1949
UB21887 Gladys Palmer I'm Pulling Through Miracle 149 c. 10/26/47 after 7/1949
UB21887 [alt.] Gladys Palmer I'm Pulling Through unissued c. 10/26/47
UB21888 Gladys Palmer If It's Love unissued c. 10/26/47
UB21938-SS Memphis Slim and The House Rockers Country Girl Master 1010
Old Swing-Master 1010
c. 10/31/47 12/1949
UB21939




21940SS[tk. 5]
(UB21940SS in wax)
Memphis Slim and The House Rockers Blue and Lonesome Miracle 136 c. 10/31/47 7/1949
UB21941 SS-1 Memphis Slim and The House Rockers Angel Child Miracle 145 c. 10/31/47 10/1949
21981 [alt.] Gladys Palmer Later On unissued c. 11/5/47
21981 Gladys Palmer Later On Miracle M-507 c. 11/5/47 5/1949
UB21982 Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson Orchestra Tonight You Belong to Me Miracle 149 c. 11/5/47 prob. late 1949
UB21983 Gladys Palmer You Alone Miracle 130 c. 11/5/47 10/1948
UB21984[alt.] Gladys Palmer If I Didn't Have You unissued c. 11/5/47
UB21984SS-2 Sonny Thompson Orchestra (Vocal by Gladys Palmer) If I Didn't Have You Miracle 123-1 c. 11/5/47 12/1947
UB21985 SS
[K9012]
[M-527]
Sonny Thompson with the Sharps and Flats Long Gone Pt. 1 Miracle 126
[King 4438]
c. 11/5/47 3/1948
UB21986
(UB21986SS-1 in wax)
[M-537]
Featuring Gladys Palmer on piano Palmers Boogie Miracle 123-2 c. 11/5/47 12/1947
UB22055 [tk. 1] Gladys Palmer Forget It unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22055 [tk. 2] Gladys Palmer Forget It unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22056[tk. 1] Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and Sharps and Flats In the Rain unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22056[prob. tk. 2] Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and Sharps and Flats In the Rain Miracle 127 c. 11/13/47 1948
UB22056[tk. 3] Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and Sharps and Flats In the Rain unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22057 Gladys Palmer? unidentified title? rejected c. 11/13/47
UB22058 [tk. 1 - fs] Gladys Palmer Do I Thrill You unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22058 [tk. 2] Gladys Palmer Do I Thrill You unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22059 [tk. 1] Gladys Palmer You're Getting Me Down unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22059 [tk. 2] Gladys Palmer You're Getting Me Down unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22059 [tk. 3] Gladys Palmer You're Getting Me Down unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22059 [tk. 4] Gladys Palmer You're Getting Me Down unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22060 Sharps & Flats Heartaches unissued c. 11/13/47
UB22184 [tk. 1] Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers Man from Timbuktu unissued c. 11/27/47
UB22184 [tk. 2] Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers Man from Timbuktu unissued c. 11/27/47
UB22185 [inc] Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers Just Can't Fool Myself unissued c. 11/27/47
UB22185 Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers Just Can't Fool Myself unissued c. 11/27/47
UB22186 Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers That Gal of Mine Miracle 137 c. 11/27/47 before 7/1949
UB22186 [alt.] Browley Guy & The Skyscrapers That Gal of Mine unissued c. 11/27/47
UB22187 SS
[K9013]
[M-528]
Sonny Thompson with the Sharps and Flats Starring Eddie Chamblee (Tenor Sax) Long Gone, Part 2 Miracle 126
[King 4438]
c. 11/27/47 3/1948
UB22283 Sonny Thompson Bounce unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22284 [alt.] Sonny Thompson Walkin' unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22284
[M534]
Sonny Thompson & Sharps & Flats feat. Eddie Chamblee Walkin' (Sequel CD900) c. 12/7/47 (1996)
UB 22285 SS-S1
[M533-1]
Sonny Thompson Quintet featuring Eddie Chamblee on Tenor Sax Late Freight
[Creepin']
Miracle 128
[Esquire (Br) 10-320]
c. 12/7/47 8/1948
UB22285 [alt.] Sonny Thompson Late Freight unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22285 [alt. 2] Sonny Thompson Late Freight unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22286 [alt.] Sonny Thompson Devil Grape unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22286 [alt. 2] Sonny Thompson Devil Grape unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22286 Sonny Thompson Devil Grape unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22287 [tk. 1] Browley Guy and the Skyscrapers Just Can't Fool Myself unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22287 [tk. 2] Browley Guy and the Skyscrapers Just Can't Fool Myself unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22287 [alt.] Browley Guy and the Skyscrapers Just Can't Fool Myself unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22288 [alt.] Browley Guy For the First Time unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22288 Browley Guy For the First Time unissued c. 12/7/47
UB22322-A
[K-9023]
Memphis Slim and His Houserockers Midnight Jump Miracle 125
[Federal 12021]
c. 12/12/47 10/1948
UB22323




UB22324




UB22325-SS
[K-9022]
Memphis Slim and His Houserockers Messin' Around Miracle 125
[Federal 12021]
c. 12/12/47 10/1948
UB22367 Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Sonny's Special unissued c. 12/16/47
UB22368 [tk. 1 - fs] Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Featuring Eddie Chamblee Blue Dreams unissued c. 12/16/47
UB22368 [tk. 2] Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Featuring Eddie Chamblee Blue Dreams unissued c. 12/16/47
22368
(UB22368 in wax) [tk. 3]
Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Featuring Eddie Chamblee Blue Dreams Miracle 131 c. 12/16/47 2/1949
UB22369 [tk. 1 - fs] Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Tip Lightly unissued c. 12/16/47
UB22369 [tk. 2] Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Tip Lightly unissued c. 12/16/47
UB22370 Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Sweet Georgia Brown unissued c. 12/16/47
UB22398 Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and the Sharps and Flats Once You Were Mine unissued c. 12/19/47
UB22398[alt.] Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and the Sharps and Flats Once You Were Mine unissued c. 12/19/47
UB22399 Gladys Palmer? unidentified title? rejected c. 12/19/47
UB22400 Sonny Thompson and the Sharps and Flats (Sonny Thompson, vocal) I Really Did unissued c. 12/19/47
UB22401 Gladys Palmer? unidentified title? rejected c. 12/19/47
UB22402 Gladys Palmer? unidentified title? rejected c. 12/19/47
UB22403 Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and the Sharps and Flats Don't Be That Way unissued c. 12/19/47
UB 22407 SS Lillie Mae [Kirkman] and The House Rockers Lovin' Man Blues Miracle 129 c. 12/20/47 10/1948
UB 22408 SS Lillie Mae and The House Rockers Lonesome Miracle 129 c. 12/20/47 10/1948
UB22415
(M-510) [tk. 1]
Sonny Thompson In a Little Spanish Town (Esquire [Br] 10-320) c. 12/22/47 (early 1950s)
UB22415
[tk. 2]
Sonny Thompson In a Little Spanish Town unissued c. 12/22/47
UB22416 [tk. 1 - inc] Sonny Thompson Dreams unissued c. 12/22/47
UB22416 [tk. 2 - inc] Sonny Thompson Dreams unissued c. 12/22/47
UB22417 Sonny Thompson Rash Trash unissued c. 12/22/47
UB22418 [tk. 1] Sharps and Flats with Sonny Thompson Turn It Over unissued c. 12/22/47
UB22418 [tk. 2] Sharps and Flats with Sonny Thompson Turn It Over unissued c. 12/22/47
UB 22437 SS S1[tk. 1]
(M-506-1)
[M-511]
Sonny Thompson Quintet [sic] Sonny's Return
(House Full of Blues)
[Blues]
Miracle 128
(Esquire [Br] 10-320)
[Sequel CD 900]
c. 12/24/47 8/1948
(early 1950s)
[1996]
UB 22437[tk. 2] Sonny Thompson Quintet [sic] Sonny's Return (Blues) unissued c. 12/24/47
UB22438 [tk. 1 - fs] Sonny Thompson & Sharps & Flats Swing Alley unissued c. 12/24/47
UB22438 [tk. 2 - inc] Sonny Thompson & Sharps & Flats Swing Alley unissued c. 12/24/47
UB22438 [tk. 3]
(M-512)
Sonny Thompson & Sharps & Flats Swing Alley (Blue Moon BMCD 6024) c. 12/24/47 (2000)
UB22439SS
[M-520]
Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Blues on Rhumba Miracle 131 c. 12/24/47 2/1949
UB22440
[M-540]
Sonny Thompson and Sharps and Flats Just Boogie
[Deadline Boogie]
Miracle 127 c. 12/24/47 1948
UB22441 [tk. 1 - fs] Browley Guy accompanied by Sonny Thompson - Sharps and Flats Tears Follow My Dreams unissued c. 12/24/47
UB22441 SS [tk. 2] Browley Guy accompanied by Sonny Thompson - Sharps and Flats Tears Follow My Dreams Miracle 124 c. 12/24/47 6/1948
UB22442 SS Sonny Thompson with Sharps and Flats Moon Is on My Side Miracle 124 c. 12/24/47 6/1948
UB 22503 Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and Sharps and Flats I'll Say It Again unissued c. 12/31/47
UB 22504 Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and Sharps and Flats Once You Were Mine unissued c. 12/31/47
UB 22505 Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and Sharps and Flats My Heart Cries unissued c. 12/31/47
UB 22506[tk. 1] Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and Sharps and Flats Caress Me unissued c. 12/31/47
UB 22506[tk. 2 - fs] Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and Sharps and Flats Caress Me unissued c. 12/31/47
UB 22506 [tk. 3] Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson and Sharps and Flats Caress Me unissued c. 12/31/47
UB 22507 SS Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Not on a Xmas Tree Miracle 148 c. 12/31/47 c. 11/1949
UB 22508 Gladys Palmer with Sonny Thompson (I'm Guessin') If I Could Be with You One Hour Tonight unissued c. 12/31/47

Since we have never seen a Miracle master book with recording dates in it (in fact, we don't know whether the company kept documents at that level of detail in 1947), the reader may be curious how we arrived at the estimated recording dates during the last quarter of the year.

Completely by accident, we were able to establish an anchor point on October 13, 1947, when Hy-Tone recorded a session with gospel singer R. L. Knowles and his pianist James Miller that included matrix numbers UB 21765 through 21767. (We know this date because Miller complained to Local 208 of the Musicians Union about not being paid half an hour overtime for the session.) The highest number in the UB2000 series that we have encountered is UB 22508, from the year-ending session by Sonny Thompson and Gladys Palmer. So between October 13 and December 31, 1947, United Broadcasting was cranking out the sides at the rate of 9.4 per day, not counting alternate takes. Egmont Sonderling must have thought that was good business—but one wonders just how many record companies ended up significantly in the hole, and owing him money afterward...


Bernd Kratochwil notes (in his article, whose title, in full Germanic splendor, is Die Geschichte des Entrepreneur Al Benson aus Chicago oder die labels "Old Swingmaster", "Parrot", und "Blue Lake": Teil 2 Old Swingmaster Discography, Rockin' Fifties,1997, 45-49) that Egmont Sonderling bought 10 Memphis Slim masters from Old Swing-Master in March 1950. These originally derived from Miracle and were first dealt off to Old Swing-Master. Old Swing-Master did issue a 1010 and a 1011, probably both in December 1949, from Miracle masters, but by March 1950 Old Swing-Master was inactive (it would close its doors in June of that year). The Master issues were presumably done by Sonderling alone and came in March 1950. We know of a Master 1020 and a Master 1030; these obviously were intended to come after OId Swing-Master / Master 1010 and 1011, but were issued only on Master. Sonderling had already consolidated his pressing plant with Art Sheridan's Armour Plastics in March 1950 and by the end of the year had shut down Master Records entirely.

The provenance of these items is less clear than we would like, because the original UB matrix numbers were stripped off after the sale.

Close listening indicates that "Restless Nights" is the work of a quartet with Big Crawford on bass, so it was done in 1947. The same applies to "Love at Sight," on which Slim says "Blow It, Mr. Cotton." "Jumping Bean," which unusually for Slim features New Orleans rhythms, has a drummer on it and a different bassist, so it can't have been done before 1948. "If You Live That Life" is a boogie that appears to have Alfred Elkins on bass, as well as a fairly discreet drummer—Slim's October 1949 session is most likely.


Memphis Slim,
From the collection of Armin Büttner

Memphis Slim,
From the collection of Dan Kochakian

The Master Label (Miracle material from 1947 and later, issued 1950)

Matrix Artist Title Release # Recording date Release date
MS-1 Memphis Slim | The House Rockers Restless Nights Master 1020 1947 3/1950
MS-2 Memphis Slim | The House Rockers If You Live That Life Master 1020 prob. 10/49 3/1950
MS 3




MS 4 Memphis Slim | The House Rockers Love at Sight Master 1030 1947 3/1950
MS 5




MS 6




MS 7 Memphis Slim | The House Rockers Jumping Bean Master 1030 1948 or 1949 3/1950

Memphis Slim,
From the collection of Armin Büttner

St. Louis Jimmy,
From the Big Joe Louis collection

Miracle, 1948

As the Petrillo-ordered recording ban ran out of steam, Miracle resumed studio sessions in the summer, though like other record companies that had overspent and overstocked in 1947, it did so at a much reduced pace. And because of the Musicians Union's strength in Chicago, it kept its activities quiet. Meanwhile, Sonny Thompson came through again for the label. From one of his December 1947 sessions came "Late Freight" (Miracle 128), which prominently featured Eddie Chamblee. (The piece was called "Creepin'" when it was issued in Britain.) It entered the charts in August 1948 and went to #1 on the Billboard national R&B chart.


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In June 1948 Thompson undertook a month-long string of dates with Memphis Slim. In August, Thompson actually took over for a while as intermission bandleader at the Savoy Ballroom in New York. In the fall, Thompson and Memphis Slim undertook another tour, throughout the Midwest.


Memphis Slim,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Eddie Chamblee,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The massive success of "Long Gone," which featured his long solo on Part 2, landed Eddie Chamblee another studio date as a leader, which we estimate took place around July of 1948. This produced a hit in "Back Street" (Miracle 133), which was released in the spring of 1949.


Eddie Chamblee,
From the collection of Tom Kelly

Eddie Chamblee,
From the collection of Dan Kochakian

To the July 1948 session, Chamblee brought a group including John "Streamline" Ewing (trombone), Andrew "Goon" Gardner (baritone sax), and James Craig (piano). The bassist and drummer have been identified as Ernie Shepard and Chuck Williams, but judging from the overall sound it seems more likely that Chamblee used the Sharps and Flats as his rhythm section. Note, in particular, the prominent but uncredited guitar parts on "Back Street" and "Dureop," which sound like the work of Arvin Garrett. Gardner, who became a Charlie Parker disciple all the way back in 1939 when they played side by side in a King Kolax band, delivered several bop solos on the big horn. "Song of India" is a passionate, guttural tenor sax showpiece. "Back Street," announced by a band member as "Back Street Boogie" on all takes except the one that Miracle issued, is the kind of number that the adjective "bootin'" was invented to describe. Gardner's long solo in the Leo Parker manner is particularly impressive. "Dureop" is a relaxed blues jam with a bop riff periodically sung by band members, spread over both sides of a 78. Part II is mostly given over to guitar and piano solos. On "Cradle Rock" Chamblee used the Sharps and Flats as his rhythm section without the extra horns.

The long session was quite productive, leading to 5 issued sides on Miracle, and 5 more left unissued. "I Shouldn't Care" is an unannounced ballad feature for Browley Guy accompanied by the entire Chamblee group; through the 5 takes that the piece required, Guy is dreadfully unctuous, but Streamline Ewing gets a rare opportunity to do his Bill Harris ballad thing. The Sharps and Flats did several vocal numbers of their own; instrumentation on their sides is guitar, bass, and drums. "When Will I See You Again" provides more slick and sappy balladeering, somewhat easier on the ears than Browley Guy's (though on take 3 the lead vocal slides out of tune); the added piano on this one is presumably by James Craig. "Hawaiian War Chant" is a novelty number (in double-talk Polynesian) that gives Red Cooper a good excuse to bring out his mallets. "I Knew He Would" is a mock-tragic spoken dialogue rather loosely inspired by the story of Little Red Riding Hood; the pianist returns for this one. The best ensemble vocal that the Sharps and Flats did for Miracle is the laid-back, bluesy "See Me Go Baby," which also features a good piano solo by Craig and a reflective guitar solo by Garrett.


Eddie Chamblee,
From the collection of Tom Kelly

The next month Chamblee cut one instrumental track, "Lazy Mood," to fill out the studio time on a session that featured St. Louis Jimmy Oden, the blues singer, who was accompanied by Roosevelt Sykes (piano); the remainder of the rhythm section has previously been identified as an unidentified guitarist, Andrew Harris (bass), and Osie Johnson (drums). However, Dani Gugolz has noted that the rhythm section sounds like our old friends The Sharps and Flats; i.e., Arvin Garrett (guitar), Leroy Morrison (bass), and Red Cooper (drums). The two issued St. Louis Jimmy sides are both slow blues (if additional tracks were cut at the session they appear to have been lost). Chamblee gets a solo on "Biscuit Roller"; Garrett is featured on "I'm Sorry Now."


Eddie Chamblee,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

For reasons that are no longer clear, Miracle brought Eddie Chamblee and a rhythm section of piano, guitar, bass, and drums back into the studio, probably just a few days after the St. Louis Jimmy outing. (The other participants sound like James Craig and the Sharps and Flats once again.) Three takes of a remake of "Dureop" survive; if anything else was done at the session, it is now lost. The remake takes up just one side of a 78; it features guitar and piano solos with accompaniment by the tenor sax; the riff is sung just on take 3, and then only at the end of the piece. The exercise turned out to be for nought, as Miracle ended up going with the original 2-sided recording by the larger ensemble.

Toward the end of this relatively quiet year came a return engagement for gospel singer John Sellers, now promoted from Brother to Reverend. We have not been able to hear anything from this particular session. Although the company retained an interest in gospel, it would be Sellers' last for Miracle.

Just before the Sellers date (unless another unconformity in the UB9000 series got in between) was a date by accordion player Joe Petrak, in a small group setting that included a trumpet player. We don't know for sure that Petrak recorded for Miracle, but since his sides were picked up in late 1949 by Old Swing-Master, and we don't know who else they might have been made for, we've placed them here. We know of Old Swing-Master 1000 from the collection of Tom Kelly, and of its presumed session mates, 1001 and 1002, from a review in Billboard (December 24, 1949, p. 32).


The only date that Miracle publicly acknowledged making in 1948 took place between December 18 and 25, after the recording ban had been officially resolved. United Broadcasting appears to have created a UB10000 series just for this purpose; otherwise, the UB9000s, which had been going for several months by the time 1949 rolled around, would continue through the new year, with blocks of numbers purposely assigned out of order in case the Union came around with too many questions. As he told Billboard (December 25, 1948, p. 18), Lee Egalnick had an above-board session scheduled forMemphis Slim and His House Rockers. This was well timed; "Frisco Bay" (Miracle 132) would hit in March of 1949. The flip side, "Timsy's Whimsy," is credited to Timothy Overton, who had replaced Ernest Cotton on tenor sax. Alex Atkins continued on alto sax. The new bassist didn't snap strings à la Big Crawford; either Alfred Elkins or Timothy's wife Betty Dupree Overton are possibilities here. And for the first time, the group added a drummer (probably Leon Hooper). We're reasonably sure that four usable sides were made on this occasion, but two of them never appeared on Miracle with their original matrix numbers.


Memphis Slim,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell


By our reckoning, just 26 sides were cut in 1948; Chicago was, after all, James Caesar Petrillo's home town, and few dared to flout the recording ban (which did not officially end till December 13) during the first half of the year. Besides, Miracle had invested large sums in recording sessions the year before...


Matrix Artist Title Release # Recording date Release date
UB 9193[tk. 1 - damaged] Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra Song of India unissued c. 7/48
UB 9193[tk. 2 - inc] Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra Song of India unissued c. 7/48
UB 9193[tk. 3] Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra Song of India Miracle 150 c. 7/48 1949
UB 9193[tk. 4?] Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra Song of India unissued c. 7/48
UB9194 [tk 1 - inc] Browley Guy with Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra I Shouldn't Care unissued c. 7/48
UB9194 [tk. 2] Browley Guy with Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra I Shouldn't Care unissued c. 7/48
UB9194 [tk. 3] Browley Guy with Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra I Shouldn't Care unissued c. 7/48
UB9194 [tk. 4 - fs] Browley Guy with Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra I Shouldn't Care unissued c. 7/48
UB9194 [tk. 5] Browley Guy with Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra I Shouldn't Care unissued c. 7/48
UB 9195 [tk. 1] Eddie Chamblee and Band Back Street unissued c. 7/48
UB 9195 [tk. 2 - fs] Eddie Chamblee and Band Back Street unissued c. 7/48
UB 9195 [tk. 3] Eddie Chamblee and Band Back Street unissued c. 7/48
UB 9195 SS [tk. 4] Eddie Chamblee and Band Back Street Miracle 133 c. 7/48 5/1949
UB9196 [tk. 1] Sharps and a Flat See Me Go Baby unissued c. 7/48
UB9196 [tk. 2] Sharps and a Flat See Me Go Baby unissued c. 7/48
UB9196 [tk. 3] Sharps and a Flat See Me Go Baby unissued c. 7/48
UB9197 [tk. 1] Sharps and a Flat When Will I See You Again unissued c. 7/48
UB9197 [tk. 2 - fs] Sharps and a Flat When Will I See You Again unissued c. 7/48
UB9197 [tk. 3] Sharps and a Flat When Will I See You Again unissued c. 7/48
9198
(UB 9198 SS in wax)

[F-1010]
Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra Dureop Part I Miracle 140
[Federal 12005]
c. 7/48 10/1949
9199 [tk. 1 - inc] Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra Dureop Part II unissued c. 7/48
9199 [tk. 2] Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra Dureop Part II unissued c. 7/48
9199 [tk. 3]
(UB 9199 SS in wax)
[F-1011]
Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra Dureop Part II Miracle 140
[Federal 12005]
c. 7/48 10/1949
UB 9200 Eddie Chamblee and Orchestra Cradle Rock Miracle 150 c. 7/48 1949
UB 9201 Sharps and a Flat Hawaiian War Chant unissued c. 7/48
UB 9202 Sharps and a Flat I Knew He Would unissued c. 7/48
9242
(UB9242SS in wax)
St Louis Jimmy Biscuit Roller Miracle 134 c. 8/48 1949
9243
(UB9243SS in wax)
St Louis Jimmy I'm Sorry Now Miracle 134 c. 8/48 1949
UB 9244 SS
[F1027]
Eddie Chamblee and Band Lazy Mood Miracle 133
[Federal #]
c. 8/48 5/1949
UB 9264 [tk. 1] Eddie Chamblee and Band Dureop #2 unissued 8 or 9/48
UB 9264 [tk. 2] Eddie Chamblee and Band Dureop #2 unissued 8 or 9/48
UB 9264 [tk. 3] Eddie Chamblee and Band Dureop #2 unissued 8 or 9/48
UB 9510 SW Joe Petrak, Accordion Solo and Orchestra Lady of Spain (Old Swing-Master 1000B) c. 11/48 prob. 12/1949
UB-9511 SW Joe Petrak, Accordion Solo and Orchestra Barbary Polka (Old Swing-Master 1000A) c. 11/48 prob. 12/1949

Joe Petrak, Accordion Solo and Orchestra | Vocal by Skip Farrell The Christmas Waltz (Old Swing-Master 1001) c. 11/48 12/1949

Joe Petrak, Accordion Solo and Orchestra Oh, Marie (Old Swing-Master 1001) c. 11/48 12/1949

Joe Petrak, Accordion Solo and Orchestra Avalon (Old Swing-Master 1002) c. 11/48 12/1949

Joe Petrak, Accordion Solo and Orchestra Fiddle Faddle (Old Swing-Master 1002) c. 11/48 12/1949
UB9514 Rev. John Sellers Coming Back Home Miracle 138 c. 12/48 7/1949
UB9515




UB9516




UB9517 Rev. John Sellers Day Is Passed Miracle 138 c. 12/48 7/1949
UB10001 SS
[M-10003 on label]
Memphis Slim and The House Rockers Timsy's Whimsy Miracle 132 12/18-25/48 3/1949
UB 10002




UB10003 SS
[M-10001 on label]
Memphis Slim and The House Rockers Frisco Bay Miracle 132 12/18-25/48 3/1949

St. Louis Jimmy,
From the Big Joe Louis collection

Miracle, 1949


The tremendous success of the Sonny Thompson hits, "Long Gone" and "Late Freight," both of which crucially depended on Eddie Chamblee's sax work, produced huge dividends for the tenorist. In January 1949, he formed a combo of his own consisting of Jimmy Craig (piano), Eugene Wright (bass), and Chuck Williams (drums), and began a lengthy engagement at the Blue Heaven Lounge, 742 East 63rd street. The Chicago Defender gushed, "'Rockin' Rhythm' is what Eddie (Long Gone) Chamblee and his combo call it... It combines blues, bop, and swing in a manner fit for the most severe critic of present day music. A favorite on the juke box, Eddie has hit the top with his sax solos on 'Long Gone' and 'Late Freight.'"


Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Meanwhile, Sonny Thompson cut his last two sessions for the label. By now he had put together his own touring group, featuring two tenor saxes and a trumpet in the front line, and the Sharps and Flats had ended their association with Miracle.


Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Thompson's April session was done with Floyd Jones (trumpet), Eddie Chamblee (back on tenor sax by popular demand), Leo Blevins (guitar), Curtis Ferguson (bass), and Sonny Cole (drums). (This was the Floyd Jones who played trumpet and sang, changing his his name to Floyd Valentine when he recorded for Vee-Jay in 1954. He made the name change to avoid confusion with the Floyd Jones who played guitar and sang the blues for Marvel, Tempo-Tone, JOB, Chess—and Vee-Jay.) Not credited in the existing discographies is a second tenor saxophonist, who sounds to us like Thompson's one-time bandleader Dick Davis. The slow blues called "Dreaming Again" (featuring solos by Jones, Davis, and the leader) and the two-sided "Still Gone" were drawn entirely from the April session. "Still Gone Part 3" continues "Long Gone" with a featured solos by Chamblee and riffing by the horn section; "Part 4" picks up with Blevins' guitar and the leader's piano prestidigitation.


Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Meanwhile, "The Fish" (released by Old Swing-Master in March 1950) took one side from this session and its mate from the next one, with no discernible ill effects. Also known as "Jam, Sonny, Jam," Part I is a bop-flavored blues instrumental with a whomping backbeat: solos are by Davis, Blevins, Jones, Chamblee, and Thompson. Because the instrumental was initially titled "Jam, Sonny, Jam" on the acetates that were acquired by King, one take has been issued under this title. Additional work will be needed to sort out which of the 3 complete takes was originally issued as "The Fish-I" and which showed up many years later as "Jam, Sonny, Jam."

In June, Thompson returned to the studio with Dick Davis on tenor sax, along with trumpet, second tenor sax, guitar, bass, and drums; they quickly cut five sides. The lineup appears to be the same as on the April session, except for the guitarist. On "Backyard Affair," Floyd Jones gets some exposure on trumpet. Apparently the company was sufficiently encouraged by "I Really Did" that it allowed Thompson to try two ballad vocals on this session. The first was a decent performance of "Danny Boy." Dick Davis takes a lengthy opening solo rather reminiscent of Don Byas's famous rendition of the tune. The leader continued with "I'll Get Along Somehow,"one of the better lounge ballads that Miracle recorded. But the ballads were left in the can. "The Fish-II" is an R&B riff-based instrumental that carries over the backbeat from Part I; it includes solo spots for Thompson and Davis. "Sonny Claus Blues" features Davis (who throws in a reed bite or two) over riffing horns, Thompson's blues vocal, and a sparkling piano solo over a different riff. Miracle was sufficiently interested in Thompson's efforts as a blues singer to put "Sonny Claus Blues" b/w "Not on a Xmas Tree" on Miracle 148, around November 1949. But the release was a bit of a stealth operation, as there are no vocal credits—and "Sonny Claus" was identified on the label as an instrumental!


Sonny Thompson,
From the collection of Art Zimmerman

Sales must have still been going well for Miracle in April of 1949, because following a successful road trip, Egalnick announced that Miracle planned to release new records every ten days. New artists signed and recorded by the company in 1949 were gospel singer Cleophus Robinson, the popular radio vocal group, the Four Vagabonds, the Bill Samuels Trio, and pianist Tommy Dean.

Reverend Cleophus Robinson was born on March 18, 1932, in Canton, Mississippi, and moved to Chicago in 1948. His four-tune session led to one release. Miracle 142, featuring a stirring rendition of "Now Lord" and an extremely slow recital of "I Love the Name Jesus," came out in September 1949 under the name Brother Cleophus Robinson. The other two titles have never been issued. Robinson went through 13 takes of "Eternal Home," but after approving take 12, Miracle decided to release Robert Anderson's version instead. After all that travail, "I Love the Name Jesus" and "My Prayer" were done in a single take. Robinson sang affectingly in a grainily wistful tenor, to the customary gospel accompaniment of organ and piano. His outing with Miracle failed to launch his recording career, which was not firmly established until 1953 when he began an extensive series of releases for Houston-based Peacock. He died on July 2, 1998.

The Four Vagabonds—John Jordan (lead), Norval Taborn (baritone), Robert O'Neal (first tenor), and Ray Grant (guitar/bass vocals)—were formed at Vashon High School in St. Louis in 1933. In 1936 they came to Chicago, and began a decade-long stay, performing three times a week on the famed Don McNeil Breakfast Club network radio show. In 1938 they began performing on Club Matinee, hosted by Garry Moore, Durward Kirby, and Ransom Sherman. The Vagabonds developed a vast repertoire and became know for their work on radio. They recorded once in 1941 and twice in 1943 (not being subject to the first Petrillo ban, at least not with Roy Grant switching to ukulele) for Bluebird. They also made at least 50 Standard Transcriptions in 1943. Their Victor contract expired early in 1945 and the Vagabonds made one session for Atlas before making another one-off, around end of the year with the brand-new Mercury operation. Signing with Apollo, they recorded sessions in November 1946, March 1947, and July 1947, but were disappointment with the label's lack of promotion for their records. Without a recording deal, hampered by Roy Grant's blindness (his eyesight had been gone since late 1945), the group broke up around February 1948.

When Grant recovered his vision, the Vagabonds reformed in early 1949. Probably in Feburary, they did a session with singer Gloria Van for the super-obscure VRT label, recording two songs by Rose Mary Trabucco and Bill Walker. In April, they appeared on the Happy Pappy show on WENR-TV. In May, Ray Grant started a new group called the Swanee Larks and arranger Bill Sanford replaced him a guitarist and bass singer. The group cut four sides for Miracle in May or June 1949, two of which were released in November. The recordings were mentioned in the Chicago Defender of June 25, 1949, which also stated that "When Will I See You Again" featured an accompaniment on the celeste. What really happens is that the session pianist plays an arpeggio on the celeste to introduce the song. (A session bassist can also be heard, alongside Bill Sanford's rhythm guitar.) The Vagabonds' sides feature immensely polished harmony singing in a Swing idiom; John Jordan's relaxed lead completely avoids the lugubriousness that too often afflicted Browley Guy's performances. The group imparts a bounce to "Sorry That We Said Goodbye" (the same tune that Savannah Strong recorded with Dick Davis on the first session for the label, back in 1946). While talking to researcher Marv Goldberg, Jordan's only recollection of Miracle was how "dumpy" their studio was (not a compliment to United Broadcasting!).

The Miracle sides were the group's last recordings under their own name, though the label was sufficiently interested in the Vagabonds to bring them back to sing backing vocals on the first session by the Bill Samuels Trio. With bass Frank Houston replacing Sanford (who had become the Ravens' arranger before the Vagabonds' Miracle single was released), the group continued to tour. From November 1951 through April 1952, the Vagabonds were featured on the NBC radio show, Johnny Desmond Goes to College. They broke up shortly after the radio program finished its run. (See the thorough biography of the group by Rick Whitesell, Pete Grendysa, George Moonoogian, and Marv Goldberg, The 4 Vagabonds, at http://www.uncamarvy.com/4Vagabonds/4vagabonds.html).


The unsettling trend toward recording sides that were publicized but not released continued with Browley Guy's session, on which the lounge singer was backed by a group led by veteran violinist Leon Abbey. The recordings were reported in Down Beat on May 20, 1949 (p. 4). The Down Beat article supplies the titles; our thanks to jazz violin expert Anthony Barnett for turning up this reference. The Ace Records list confirms the four titles but the matrix numbers it supplies are in the UB9300s. The UB9000 series is a much more complicated beast than the UB2000, and some deliberate misdirection may have been involved, but on their face these numbers specify a recording date some months earlier, even in the fall of 1948. (Howewer, on the strength of the mention in Down Beat, we have left the sides on the 1949 list for the time being.) Abbey used his regular pianist, Barrington Perry, and bassist, Rail Wilson; John Goodloe's guitar was added for the date.

Guy sings solo on the session—no Skyscrapers in evidence. Though still drippy, his remake of "Out of Nowhere" is a good deal more tasteful than his first attempt from August 1947. "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" swings nicely; had he done more things like it, Guy could have persuaded his audience that he was a jazz singer. "Oh Marie" is a sappier song, but it also swings. Only "You Will Remain in My Heart" remains mired in lugubriousness. Abbey and his trio provide effective backing, nudging Guy into more of a jazz groove than Sonny Thompson ever managed to, and Abbey's accompaniments and solos are a significant addition to his fairly slim discography. Perry's brief piano solos and Goodloe's brief guitar solos are also effecctive.

Although Lee Egalnick had high hopes for Browley Guy, who had 5 previous outings under his belt, this would be his last session for the company. Meanwhile, during a much longer career, Leon Abbey had made a few unreleased sides of his own.


Although Miracle had not recorded the group since 1947, Egalnick was presumably not pleased when Mercury signed the Floyd Hunt Quintet, as announced in Billboard on May 7, 1949 (p. 20).


Bill Samuels Trio,
From the collection of Dan Kochakian

But the company soon picked up a former Mercury act. By the time the Bill Samuels Trio—featuring pianist/lead vocalist Bill Samuels, bassist Sylvester Hickman, and guitarist Adam Lambert—recorded for Miracle in the summer of 1949, they have already made a name for themselves as major recording stars, as Bill Samuels and the Cats 'n Jammer Three (those earlier recordings had also included drummer Hillard Brown). The group came together in the spring of 1945, and shortly thereafter became the second act to be signed by the fledging major, Mercury Records. Their first record, a smooth ballad presentation of "I Cover the Waterfront" (b/w "Jockey Blues," Mercury 8003) was a national hit and sold some 250,000 copies. Today the record is easy to find, but nearly always in heavily played condition. Peter Grendysa in his ground-breaking article on the group, "Blues and Jazz Collide in Chicago: Cats 'n' Jammers; Four Shades of Rhythm" (Record Collector's Monthly, April 1983) said the group represented the coming together of jazz, blues and pop, and that this fusion "was the direct ancestor of rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll." Mercury recorded the group regularly through the big rush of recording activity at the end of 1947 (one session in 1947 was done by Bill Samuels with the Ram Ramirez Orchestra instead of the regular group). The company put out no fewer than 28 sides by the Cats 'n' Jammers before releasing them from their contract in early 1949.

"So Tired" included a surprise appearance by the Four Vagabonds, who were limited to wordless vocal harmonies in the background; the focus was on Samuels' ballad singing and Adam Lambert's solo work on the guitar. The Vagabonds get a little more to do on the blue ballad "Delta Bound." The session featured no fewer than 9 takes of the standard "That Old Black Magic," done to a rhumba beat. The company wasn't happy with the results, however; Samuels, who sang this version solo, comes across as enervated (listeners are unlikely to credit his protestations of being "aflame with such burning desire"), and his diction is curiously slack. A second standard, "How Deep Is the Ocean," posed no problems for the group; it was done in a single take. "Say It Isn't So" also came out well; the guitar solo by Lambert is a bonus. Samuels' rather overripe bass-baritone will not be to everyone's taste, however.

The four sides that Miracle released on the group, out of a total of 12 recorded under their new name, were their last. The trio broke up in 1950, when Bill Samuels moved to Minneapolis. Lambert then joined the Four Shades of Rhythm (he was in the edition of the group that recorded for Chance in 1952) and Hickman continued to play in various local combos in Chicago throughout the 1950s.


Tommy Dean,
From the collection of Tom Kelly

Tommy Dean,
From the collection of Dan Kochakian

R&B pianist Tommy Dean was a veteran club performer when he recorded for Miracle in 1949. Dean was born on September 6, 1909, in Franklin, Louisiana and raised in Beaumont, Texas; he got his early experience performing in carnivals and circuses. While playing at an outdoor road show in St. Louis, probably in 1937, he came to the attention of bandleader Eddie Randle who hired him as a sideman for his band, the Seven Blue Devils. In the late 1930s, Dean went out on his own and played throughout the Midwest, the Southwest, and even Mexico for the next decade. In 1945 and 1947, he held down several South Side engagements under the banner "Tommy Dean and His St. Louisians," working such clubs as the Hurricane Show Lounge (349 East Garfield) and Blue Heaven Theatre Lounge (742 East 63rd). He made his recording debut in 1947 for a small St. Louis label, Town & Country, with a band that included Gene Easton, Chris Woods, and Pee Wee Jernigan. Dean's combos were known for the easy swing that they generated, and the first-rate saxophone soloists that the leader employed.


Tommy Dean,
From the collection of Tom Kelly

Tommy Dean,
From the collection of Dan Kochakian

The combo that recorded for Miracle included, besides Dean on piano, Chris Woods on alto sax, Edgar Hayes on tenor sax, Gene Easton on baritone sax, an unidentified bass player, and Nathaniel "Pee Wee" Jernigan on drums. The sessions were held at United Broadcasting Studio during July or August 1949. Jernigan sings on "Jump for Joy" (Miracle 135), "Sweet and Lovely" (Miracle 144), and "Scamon Boogie" (Miracle 157). Instrumentals were "Dean's Theme" (Miracle 135), "Just about Right" (Miracle 144), and "Hour Past Midnight" (Miracle 157). Except for the recording date, this information is derived from Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, with help from collector Dieter Hartmann.


Tommy Dean,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The matrix numbers on Miracle 135 are outside the Miracle matrix series, and the sides were apparently done a little earlier; could Dean have cut them in St. Louis? Hartmann's copy of Miracle 144 has UB9-1011 on it for "Sweet and Lovely," but this is a typo; previous discographies and the actual masters agree that the number was 9-1017.

There are complete alternate takes of three of the Dean sides that were freshly recorded for Miracle. "Sweet and Lovely," featuring an outstanding introduction by Chris Woods and a decent ballad vocal by Jernigan, was finished in one take, after a false start.


Robert Anderson,
From the Big Joe Louis collection

In August, Miracle began recording the great gospel singer, Robert Anderson. He was born March 21, 1919, in Anguila, Mississippi. In Chicago by 1935, he was already making a name for himself as a 16-year-old member of the famed Roberta Martin Singers. He left Roberta Martin in 1939 to go solo. His electrifying performance of "Something Within" at the National Baptist Convention in 1943 established his national reputation. According to Horace Clarence Boyer, in How Sweet the Sound, Anderson was "a true baritone singing in a style similar to such then-popular singers as Billy Eckstine and Bing Crosby. His style was marked by fullness of tune, few embellishments, and little physical activity while singing" (p. 71). Boyer uses Anderson as an example of a gospel singer who could move audiences without using "hard gospel" vocal techniques or histrionics.

Anderson was accompanied on his initial session by an organist and a pianist. "My Home over There" is taken at an extremely slow tempo by Anderson singing solo with just organ accompaniment. However, by this time he was already working with a female backup group—his Gospel Caravan—and they appear on at least two of the four sides from the session. (The Miracle labels actually say just "Vocal Chorus Accompaniment," and on "King Jesus" the Gospel Caravan seems to be reinforced by a couple of male singers.)

Miracle had a major star in Anderson, and quickly released four sides on him in September. Evidently the response was not what the company had hoped, because in November Miracle took out an ad in the Chicago Defender asking its readers to suggest gospel songs for Anderson to record.

Memphis Slim was continuing to sell records for the company. However, Egalnick had plenty of back catalog that he could move, and Slim and combo were spending a lot of their time on the road. They recorded for King in Cincinnati in January (a clandestine session to remake four of his Hy-Tone sides, which were deliberately given the same matrix numbers as before). They went on to record for Peacock in Houston (an 8-title session, which took place at some point later in the year). Obviously made in violation of Slim's Miracle contract, six of the Peacock sides were never issued and two were held for release till 1951. In October, Miracle did manage to work in one last session with Slim and the gang. But just one of the tracks made that day, a Charles Brown-influenced blues ballad called "You and I," was issued on Miracle. By this time Slim's group consisted of Alex Atkins, alto sax; Timothy Overton, tenor sax; probably Alfred Elkins, bass; and Leon Hooper, drums. We believe the missing tracks from this session were dealt to Egmont Sonderling in March 1950 to cover some of the label's debts for recording and pressing.

After the Slim session in October, Miracle took a hiatus from recording till after the new year. The hits had stopped coming, and the company could not afford further sessions. Total output for the year was 38; but UB9-1280 from Memphis Slim's last session for Miracle almost certainly had three mates, one of which we think was released on Master early the next year, so we'll bump the estimate up to 41.


Robert Anderson,
From the Big Joe Louis collection

Matrix Artist Title Release # Recording date Release date
UB9669 [tk. 1] Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Dreaming Again unissued c. 4/49
UB9669 [tk. 2] Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Dreaming Again unissued c. 4/49
UB9669SS [tk. 3?] Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Dreaming Again Miracle 146 c. 4/49 10/1949
UB9669 [tk. 4 - fs] Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Dreaming Again unissued c. 4/49
UB9669 [tk. 5] Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Dreaming Again unissued c. 4/49
UB 9670
(M523-1) [tk. 1?]
Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Jam, Sonny, Jam (Omega [Br] 78635)
(Sequel CD900)
c. 4/49 (1996)
UB 9670
(M523-1) [tk. 2 - fs]
Sonny Thompson & his Orchestra Jam, Sonny, Jam unissued c. 4/49
UB9670 M1
[M509-1] [tk. 3?]
Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra The Fish-I Old Swing-Master 1011
Master 1011
(Esquire [Br] 10-339)
Omega [Br] 78635)
c. 4/49 prob. 12/1949
UB 9670
(M523-1) [tk. 4]
Sonny Thompson & his Orchestra Jam, Sonny, Jam unissued c. 4/49
UB9671 [tk. 1] Sonny "Long Gone" Thompson and Orchestra Still Gone Part 3 unissued c. 4/49
UB9671 [prob. tk. 2] Sonny "Long Gone" Thompson and Orchestra Still Gone Part 3 Miracle 139 c. 4/49 7/1949
UB9672 [tk. 1 - fs] Sonny "Long Gone" Thompson and Orchestra Still Gone Part 4 unissued c. 4/49
UB9672 [tk. 2] Sonny "Long Gone" Thompson and Orchestra Still Gone Part 4 unissued c. 4/49
UB9672 [prob. tk. 3] Sonny "Long Gone" Thompson and Orchestra Still Gone Part 4 Miracle 139 c. 4/49 7/1949
UB 9306 [tk. 1] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Oh Marie unissued c. 5/49
UB 9306 [tk. 2] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Oh Marie rejected c. 5/49
UB 9306 [tk. 3] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Oh Marie unissued c. 5/49
UB 9306 [tk. 4] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Oh Marie unissued c. 5/49
UB 9306 [tk. 5] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Oh Marie unissued c. 5/49
UB 9306 [tk. 6] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Oh Marie unissued c. 5/49
UB 9307 [tk. 1 - inc] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra You Will Remain in My Heart unissued c. 5/49
UB 9307 [tk. 2 - fs] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra You Will Remain in My Heart unissued c. 5/49
UB 9307 [tk. 3] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra You Will Remain in My Heart unissued c. 5/49
UB 9308 [tk. 1 - inc] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Out of Nowhere unissued c. 5/49
UB 9308 [tk. 2 - fs] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Out of Nowhere unissued c. 5/49
UB 9308 [tk. 3 - fs] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Out of Nowhere unissued c. 5/49
UB 9308 [tk. 4 - inc] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Out of Nowhere unissued c. 5/49
UB 9308 [tk. 5] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Out of Nowhere unissued c. 5/49
UB 9308 [tk. 6] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Out of Nowhere unissued c. 5/49
UB 9308 [tk. 7] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra Out of Nowhere unissued c. 5/49
UB 9309 [tk. 1 - fs] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm unissued c. 5/49
UB 9309 [tk. 2 - inc] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm unissued c. 5/49
UB 9309 [tk. 3 - inc] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm unissued c. 5/49
UB 9309 [tk. 4 - inc] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm unissued c. 5/49
UB 9309 [tk. 5 - inc] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm unissued c. 5/49
UB 9309 [tk. 6] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm unissued c. 5/49
UB 9309 [tk. 7] Browley Guy with Leon Abbey and his Orchestra I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm unissued c. 5/49
UB9728 [tk. 1 - fs] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 2 - fs] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 3 - inc] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 4 - inc] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 5] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 6 - inc] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 7] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 8] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 9 - inc] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 10] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 11] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 12] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9728 [tk. 13] Brother Cleophus Robinson Eternal Home unissued 6/49
UB9729 [tk. 1] Brother Cleophus Robinson Now Lord unissued 6/49
UB9729 [tk. 2?] Brother Cleophus Robinson Now Lord Miracle 142 6/49 7/1949
UB9730 Brother Cleophus Robinson I Love the Name Jesus Miracle 142 6/49 7/1949
UB9731 Brother Cleophus Robinson My Prayer unissued 6/49
UB9741 [tk. 1] Four Vagabonds Mighty Hard to Go thru Life Alone unissued 6/49
UB9741 [tk. 2] Four Vagabonds Mighty Hard to Go thru Life Alone unissued 6/49
UB9741 [tk. 3 - fs] Four Vagabonds Mighty Hard to Go thru Life Alone unissued 6/49
UB9741 [tk. 4] Four Vagabonds Mighty Hard to Go thru Life Alone unissued 6/49
UB9741 [tk. 5?] Four Vagabonds Mighty Hard to Go thru Life Alone Miracle 141 6/49 11/1949
UB9742 [tk. 1 - inc] Four Vagabonds Sorry That We Said Goodbye unissued 6/49
UB9742 [tk. 2 - fs] Four Vagabonds Sorry That We Said Goodbye unissued 6/49
UB9742 [tk. 3] Four Vagabonds Sorry That We Said Goodbye unissued 6/49
UB9742 [tk. 4] Four Vagabonds Sorry That We Said Goodbye unissued 6/49
UB9743 [tk. 1] Four Vagabonds When Will I See You Again unissued 6/49
UB9743 [tk. 2 - inc] Four Vagabonds When Will I See You Again unissued 6/49
UB9743 [tk. 3 - fs] Four Vagabonds When Will I See You Again unissued 6/49
UB9743 [tk. 4 - inc] Four Vagabonds When Will I See You Again unissued 6/49
UB9743 [tk. 5] Four Vagabonds When Will I See You Again unissued 6/49
UB9744 Four Vagabonds My Heart Cries Miracle 141 6/49 11/1949
UB9792SS Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Backyard Affair Miracle 146 6/49 10/1949
UB9793 [tk. 1] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra The Fish-II unissued 6/49
UB9793 [tk. 2 - inc] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra The Fish-II unissued 6/49
UB9793 [tk. 3 - fs] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra The Fish-II unissued 6/49
UB9793 [tk. 4 - inc] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra The Fish-II unissued 6/49
UB9793 [tk. 5] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra The Fish-II unissued 6/49
UB9793 M-2 [prob. tk. 6] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra The Fish-II Master 1011
Old Swing-Master 1011
6/49 prob. 12/1949
UB9794 [tk. 1] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra I'll Get Along Somehow unissued 6/49
UB9794 [tk. 2] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra I'll Get Along Somehow unissued 6/49
UB9795 [tk. 1] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra Danny Boy unissued 6/49
UB9795 [tk. 2 - inc] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra Danny Boy unissued 6/49
UB9795 [tk. 3] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra Danny Boy unissued 6/49
UB9795 [tk. 4] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra Danny Boy unissued 6/49
UB9795 [tk. 5 - inc] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra Danny Boy unissued 6/49
UB9795 [tk. 6 - inc] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra Danny Boy unissued 6/49
UB9795 [tk. 7] Sonny Thompson and His Orchestra Danny Boy unissued 6/49
UB9796 SS
9795 [sic] on label
Sonny Thompson and Orchestra Sonny Claus Blues Miracle 148 6/49 c. 11/1949
8727-5 Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Jump for Joy Miracle 135 6/49 [St. Louis?] 7/1949
8727-6 Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Dean's Theme Miracle 135 6/49 [St. Louis?] 7/1949
UB 9982 Bill Samuels Trio and the Vagabonds So Tired unissued 7/49
UB 9983 SS Bill Samuels Trio Let Me Off Uptown Miracle 143 7/49 10/1949
UB 9984 [tk. 1 - fs] Bill Samuels Trio Say It Isn't So Miracle 143 7/49 10/1949
UB 9984 SS [tk. 2] Bill Samuels Trio Say It Isn't So Miracle 143 7/49 10/1949
UB 9985 [tk. 1] Bill Samuels Trio That Old Black Magic unissued 7/49
UB 9985 [tk. 2 - inc] Bill Samuels Trio That Old Black Magic unissued 7/49
UB 9985 [tk. 3] Bill Samuels Trio That Old Black Magic unissued 7/49
UB 9985 [tk. 4] Bill Samuels Trio That Old Black Magic unissued 7/49
UB 9985 [tk. 5] Bill Samuels Trio That Old Black Magic unissued 7/49
UB 9985 [tk. 6] Bill Samuels Trio That Old Black Magic unissued 7/49
UB 9985 [tk. 7 - fs] Bill Samuels Trio That Old Black Magic unissued 7/49
UB 9985 [tk. 8] Bill Samuels Trio That Old Black Magic unissued 7/49
UB 9985 [tk. 9] Bill Samuels Trio That Old Black Magic unissued 7/49
UB 9986 [tk. 1 - fs] Bill Samuels Trio and the Vagabonds Delta Bound unissued 7/49
UB 9986 [tk. 2] Bill Samuels Trio and the Vagabonds Delta Bound unissued 7/49
UB 9987 Bill Samuels Trio How Deep Is the Ocean unissued 7/49
UB9-1014
[F-1032] [tk. 1]
Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Hour Past Midnight
[Just before Day]
Miracle 157
[Federal 12019]
7 or 8/49 1950
UB9-1014
[F-1032] [tk. 2]
Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Hour Past Midnight unissued 7 or 8/49
UB9-1015
[F-1033] [tk. 1]
Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Scammon Boogie unissued 7 or 8/49
UB9-1015SS
[F-1033] [tk. 2?]
Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Scammon Boogie Miracle 157
[Federal 12019]
7 or 8/49 1950
UB9-1016
[F-1042] [tk. 1]
Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Just about Right unissued 7 or 8/49
UB9-1016
[F-1042] [tk. 2]
Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Just about Right unissued 7 or 8/49
UB9-1016
[F-1042] [tk. 3]
Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Just about Right Miracle 144
[Federal 12031]
7 or 8/49 10/1949
UB9-1017
[F-1043] [tk. 1 - fs]
Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Sweet and Lovely unissued 7 or 8/49
UB9-1011[sic]
(UB9-1017)
[F-1043] [tk. 2]
Tommy Dean and his Orchestra Sweet and Lovely Miracle 144
[Federal 12031]
7 or 8/49 10/1949
91137
[F-1024] [tk. 1]
Robert Anderson My Home over There unissued 8/49
91137
[F-1024] [tk. 2]
Robert Anderson My Home over There Miracle 151
[Federal 12013]
8/49 9/1949
9-1138
[PR 72, F-1008]
Robert Anderson With Vocal Chorus Accompaniment King Jesus (Will Roll My Burdens Away) Miracle 147
[Premium 858, Federal 12004]
8/49 9/1949
9-1139
[PR 73]
Robert Anderson With Vocal Chorus Accompaniment Jesus My Friend Miracle 147
[Premium 858, Federal 12004]
8/49 9/1949
91140
[F-1025]
Robert Anderson Eternal Home Miracle 151
[Federal 12013]
8/49 9/1949
UB9-1280 Memphis Slim & The House Rockers You and I Miracle 153-1 10/49 1950

Miracle, 1950

Meanwhile, Miracle was spending a lot of time in the courts fighting a lawsuit filed by the publishing firm of Shapiro Bernstein over the copyright on "Long Gone." In March 1950, the trade papers reported that Miracle Records had successfully defended the suit. The plaintiffs claimed that "Long Gone" used more than the legal amount of bars included in "Yancey Special," a boogie woogie number written by Meade Lux Lewis. Both Meade Lux Lewis and Jimmy Yancey appeared as witnesses in the case. The judge held for Miracle on the basis that the "Yancey Special" boogie woogie beat, referred to in the story as "the bass," actually came from Jimmy Yancey, who had not filed suit. The judge also ruled that "the bass" figure was public domain. The plaintiffs were held liable for Miracle's court costs and lawyer fees.

The legal victory came too late to save Miracle. The label's biggest draw, Sonny Thompson, signed with King Records in January 1950; he cut his first session for King on January 19 in New York City (with a band that included Floyd Jones on trumpet), and followed it up with another on March 28. In December 1949, Egalnick and Simpkins were already so hard up that they had to unload at least two singles to Old Swing-Master, one by Sonny Thompson and one by Memphis Slim (these appeared as Old Swing-Master 1010 and 1011; they also came out, simultaneously or a bit later, on Master with the same serial numbers). Unless someone else owed Sonderling money, Miracle also unloaded six tracks by accordionist Joe Petrak (apparently recorded back in 1948, these were released on Old Swing-Master 1000, 1001, and 1002). Old Swing-Master 1001, 1002, and 1010 were all reviewed in Billboard on December 24, 1949.


Bill samuels,
From the collection of Tom Kelly

On March 25, 1950, a story in Billboard (p. 45) showed that Egalnick was getting serious about dumping chunks of the Miracle catalog; it announced that he had sold 22 masters. Twelve of these were Sonny Thompson sides that went to Signature (these may not have stayed with Bob Thiele; in any event, we don't know that any were released on his label). Meanwhile 10 Memphis Slim sides were acquired by Old Swing-Master, a company that wasn't in terribly good shape itself. Egmont Sonderling ended up putting some of the Memphis Slims on his Master label instead (see the MS series above for those that Master put out in 1950). Still trying, Miracle announced two new signings, of Lynn Hope (misrendered in the article as "the Len Hope combo, of Cincinnati") and Johnny Temple. But the company was on its last legs.

The last release on Miracle was by Johnny Temple, a veteran bluesman, born in Canton, Mississippi. Temple first recorded in 1935, when he cut 6 sides in Chicago for Vocalion. From 1936 through 1941, he recorded prolifically for Decca. His Miracle sides were not recorded at United Broadcasting Studios; in fact, they are in a matrix series not otherwise known. They appear to have been brought to Miracle by J. Mayo Williams, who knew Temple from the days when Williams ran Decca's race division. Williams had already recorded a bunch of Johnny Temple sides in 1946 (intended for his own Harlem/Chicago/Southern/Ebony operation, they ended up being dealt to King Records, which released two of them). After his previous outing for Williams, Temple had cut one side for Ora Nelle: the proto-rock-and-roll "Olds 98 Blues," but it would not see release until after his death. When he recorded Temple again and dealt the sides to Miracle, Mayo Williams was on hiatus; he had wound down his post-war record companies, and would not resume releases on his Ebony label until 1952. William's only other recording activity during this period was a session by R&B singer Charles Gonzales (later known as Bobby Prince), which he sold to Ivan Ballen's Gotham label.

Lynn Hope, a tenor saxophonist who would enjoy a fair amount of popularity in the 1950s, never actually recorded for Miracle, but would soon become a Premium artist.

The only other Miracle artists recorded in 1950 were the Bill Samuels Trio (which was about to break up), Robert Anderson, and Eddie Chamblee.

The Bill Samuels session, in early January, produced two loungey renditions of standards featuring the leader's rather overripe baritone vocals. On "Old Black Magic," which was redone at this session, the group's vocal harmonies and the rhumba beat lend some interest. A ballad titled "The Things You Mean to Me" went through many takes but never lost its schmaltz. It was the two relaxed Charles Brown-style blues vocals that Miracle saw fit to release at the time, and that hold the most interest for listeners today. "I've Got the Blues" needed 3 complete takes (and take 3 was just too slow); its diskmate was done in one. In the time remaining on the session, Samuels and company ran through two other numbers. "Because" unfortunately combines corny Dixieland playing (including simulated banjo by Adam Lambert) with Country-influenced singing. "Dinah" is a better song, and Samuels' second piano solo swings instead of ricking and ticking, but corniness hasn't been banished.


Bill samuels,
From the collection of Tom Kelly

Robert Anderson cut four songs, accompanied by piano, organ, and his Gospel Caravan. "He Lives in Me" is a strong ballad-tempo performance. The rather more sentimental "Last Mile" required several tries; after all the effort, it was left in the can. Selected for immediate release were an eloquent rendition of "God Answers Prayers" and a rousing "Do You Know Him," which works off the call and response between Anderson and the Caravan.

The last session Miracle did at United Broadcasting took place on January 25, 1950. Eddie Chamblee was the leader, now far enough into R&B to be singing as well as playing tenor sax; the rest of the band consisted of Charles Stewart (baritone sax), Prentice McCarey (piano), Lefty Bates (electric guitar and steel guitar), Ernest Shepard (bass), and Osie Johnson (drums). "Easy Baby Easy," which the company left in the vault, is a rocker that features the leader's amiable solo vocal and some exciting duet work between his tenor sax and Stewart's baritone. "Jump for Joy" is pretty self-explanatory; on this upbeat blues Chamblee's vocals can be heard, along with some ensemble singing, and his and Stewart's sax work get the spotlight. Lefty Bates switches to steel guitar for this one.

By now Miracle was having serious cash flow problems. Chamblee was paid a few weeks later by Lew Simpkins, as was Charles Stewart; Ernie Shepard received half payment. In August 1950 Chamblee brought a complaint to the Musicians Union. On September 7, 1950, the Board of Local 208 heard Chamblee's case against Lee Egalnick and Lew Simpkins; the Board ruled that Simpkins and Egalnick would have to pay Johnson, McCarey, Bates, and Shepard what was owed them (a total of $145) within 10 days or Local 208 would get their recording license cancelled by the national office of the Union. (By August 1950, that recording license was for Premium, not Miracle—see below.)

After January 25, Miracle was unable to use United Broadcasting's facilities. Not only had Egalnick and Simpkins failed to pay the musicians; the company must have owed Sonderling way too much money. All of those unissued sides from the last quarter of 1947 represented costs that the company would never recover. The company's total output for 1950 would be just 16 tracks.


Johnny Temple,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The last session for the label was Johnny Temple's. Where it took place has not come down to posterity. The record was not cut on a portable machine, however; it sounds like the product of a rather cheap studio. Temple and his electric guitar are accompanied by piano, bass, and drums, players unknown. Both sides are powerful performances; Egalnick and Simpkins' good taste had not deserted them, and it is a shame that this would be the bluesman's last released session. He supposedly recorded two sides for Chess in 1950, but if this really happened, they were not just left in the can—they have left no trace. Johnny Temple died in Jackson, Mississippi, on November 22, 1968.


Johnny Temple,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

From the launch of its 100 series in December 1946, Miracle had used the same basic label design: red background, gold print, the word MIRACLE in a bowtie configuration, with the letters shorter in the middle of the word than at the ends, and stars above the bowtie. (There are some minor variations from the first few months of the 100 series; the oldest labels are plainer, and some dispense with the bowtie arrangement. It appears that the older labels were used through Miracle 107; later pressings of Miracle 102 and 103 used the style that is now familar.) From the mid-140s through 154, Miracle saved some money by replacing the gold print with white (and we suspect that the labels with white print were substituted during later pressings of some items). However, in 1950 the label was significantly altered: all of the letters in MIRACLE were the same size, the stars were removed, and white or silver print was employed exclusively. These 1950 labels, which can be seen on some copies of Miracle 150, and on Miracle 155 through 157, are plainer and noticeably cheaper looking than those they replaced..


Matrix Artist Title Release # Recording date Release date
UB 50-1 [tk. 1 - fs] Bill Samuels Trio Old Black Magic unissued early 1/50
UB 50-1 [tk. 2] Bill Samuels Trio Old Black Magic unissued early 1/50
UB 50-1 [tk. 3 - inc] Bill Samuels Trio Old Black Magic unissued early 1/50
UB 50-1 [tk. 4] Bill Samuels Trio Old Black Magic unissued early 1/50
UB 50-1 [tk. 5] Bill Samuels Trio Old Black Magic unissued early 1/50
UB 50-2 [tk. 1 - inc] Bill Samuels Trio The Things You Mean to Me unissued early 1/50
UB 50-2 [tk. 2] Bill Samuels Trio The Things You Mean to Me unissued early 1/50
UB 50-2 [tk. 3 - inc] Bill Samuels Trio The Things You Mean to Me unissued early 1/50
UB 50-2 [tk. 4] Bill Samuels Trio The Things You Mean to Me unissued early 1/50
UB 50-2 [tk. 5] Bill Samuels Trio The Things You Mean to Me unissued early 1/50
UB 50-2 [tk. 6 - inc] Bill Samuels Trio The Things You Mean to Me unissued early 1/50
UB 50-3 [tk. 1 - fs] Bill Samuels Trio New Jockey Blues unissued early 1/50
UB 50-3 [tk. 2] Bill Samuels Trio New Jockey Blues Miracle 152-1 early 1/50 early 1950
UB 50-4[tk. 1 - inc] Bill Samuels Trio I've Got the Blues unissued early 1/50
UB 50-4[tk. 2] Bill Samuels Trio I've Got the Blues unissued early 1/50
UB 50-4[tk. 3] Bill Samuels Trio I've Got the Blues unissued early 1/50
UB 50-4[tk. 4] Bill Samuels Trio I've Got the Blues Miracle 152-2 early 1/50 early 1950
UB 50-5 Bill Samuels Trio Because unissued early 1/50
UB 50-6 Bill Samuels Trio Dinah unissued early 1/50
UB50-37 [tk. 1 - fs] Robert Anderson He Lives in Me unissued 1/50
UB50-37 [tk. 2] Robert Anderson He Lives in Me unissued 1/50
UB50-37 [tk. 3] Robert Anderson He Lives in Me unissued 1/50
UB50-37
[PR70] [tk. 4]
Robert Anderson He Lives in Me Miracle 154
[Premium 859]
1/50 early 1950
UB50-38
[tk. 1 - inc]
Robert Anderson God Answers Prayers unissued 1/50
UB50-38
[UB50-1065] [tk. 2]
Robert Anderson God Answers Prayers [Premium 868] 1/50 (late 1950)
UB50-39 [tk. 1 - inc, damaged] Robert Anderson The Last Mile unissued 1/50
UB50-39 [tk. 2 - inc] Robert Anderson The Last Mile unissued 1/50
UB50-39 [tk. 3] Robert Anderson The Last Mile unissued 1/50
UB50-39 [tk. 4] Robert Anderson The Last Mile unissued 1/50
UB50-39 [tk. 5] Robert Anderson The Last Mile unissued 1/50
UB50-40 [cut 12, tk. 1] Robert Anderson Do You Know Him unissued 1/50 early 1950
UB50-40 [cut 13, tk. 2 - inc] Robert Anderson Do You Know Him unissued 1/50
UB50-40 [cut 14, tk. 3 - fs] Robert Anderson Do You Know Him unissued 1/50
UB50-40 [cut 15, tk. 4] Robert Anderson Do You Know Him unissued 1/50
UB50-40 [cut 16, tk. 5 - inc] Robert Anderson Do You Know Him unissued 1/50
UB50-40 [cut 17, tk. 6]
[PR71]
Robert Anderson Do You Know Him Miracle 154
[Premium 859]
1/50 early 1950
UB 50-62 [tk. 1 - fs] Eddie Chamblee and Orch. Jump for Joy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-62 [tk. 2 - inc] Eddie Chamblee and Orch. Jump for Joy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-62 [tk. 3 - inc] Eddie Chamblee and Orch. Jump for Joy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-62 [tk. 4] Eddie Chamblee and Orch. Jump for Joy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-62 [tk. 5 - fs] Eddie Chamblee and Orch. Jump for Joy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-62[tk. 6 - inc.] Eddie Chamblee and Orch. Jump for Joy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-62 [tk. 7?] Eddie Chamblee and Orch. Jump for Joy Miracle 155 1/25/50 1950
UB 50-63 [tk. 1 - damaged] Eddie Chamblee and Orch. Easy Baby Easy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-63 [tk. 2 - fs] Eddie Chamblee Easy Baby Easy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-63 [tk. 3 - inc] Eddie Chamblee Easy Baby Easy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-63 [tk. 4 - fs] Eddie Chamblee Easy Baby Easy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-63 [tk. 5] Eddie Chamblee and Orch. Easy Baby Easy unissued 1/25/50
UB 50-64
(M-519-1)
Eddie Chamblee All Out (Esquire 10-330) 1/25/50 (early 1950s)
UB 50-65
[F-1027]
Eddie Chamblee and Orch. Blue Steel Miracle 155
[Federal 12014]
1/25/50 1950
2000 Johnny Temple Between Midnight and Dawn Miracle 156 c. 3/50 1950
2001 Johnny Temple Sit Right on It Miracle 156 c. 3/50 1950

Miracle is known to have released 2 early singles (1057 and 1058), then 47 in the 100 series: 100 through 157 with 105, 112-118 and 120-122 missing. Since the issue numbers were applied with some regularity (though records might be held for months after the initially planned issue date), the gaps seem to indicate some larger disruption to the label's plans. Four more Miracle-derived disks appeared on Master or Old Swing-Master (1000, 1010, 1020, and 1030). We will leave the Sunrise/Miracle 500 series to our Sunrise section.


The Sunrise Label (1947-1949)

A label related in complicated ways to Miracle was Sunrise, founded in April of 1947 by Leonard Evans. Headquarters were located at 307 Lenox Avenue, New York City. Sunrise featured vocal, jazz, and gospel material released in a 2000 series. The label was mostly oriented to jazz, recording numerous sides by Al Hibbler (who had been Duke Ellington's vocalist for some time), as well as sides by Mercer Ellington, Earl Hines, and Johnny Hodges. Mercer Ellington produced the company's early sessions, which accounts for the heavy representation of the Duke's men. According to Art Zimmerman, there was more to the Ducal connection: Dr. Arthur Logan, Duke Ellington's personal physician, owned a share of the operation.


Al Hibbler with Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington and Al Hibbler. From the collection of Billy Vera.

Albert Hibbler,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The first session for the new company took place in New York City early in 1947. Al Hibbler sang on three sides with accompaniment led by Duke Ellington's right hand man, Billy Strayhorn. Besides Strayhorn playing piano and arranging, the band consisted of Ray Nance (trumpet); Jimmy Hamilton (clarinet); Al Sears (tenor sax); Harry Carney (baritone sax); Alvin "Junior" Raglin (bass); and Fletcher Jackson (drums). With the exception of Jackson, all were members of the Duke Ellington band at the time. The fourth sides, "Feather Roll Blues," was an instrumental.

There is some confusion about couplings on Sunrise 2001. "Fat and Forty" b/w "My Little Brown Book" was advertised in Billboard on September 20, 1947, and is attested on some copies. Tom Kelly reports that the coupling described in advertisements and discographies as Sunrise 2002 is really "Solitude" (Sunrise 2002-A) b/w "Feather Roll Blues" (Sunrise 2001-B); another copy is in Robert Campbell's collection. However, Han Enderman reports a later pressing of 2002 on which "Feather Roll Blues" is correctly numbered 2002-B.


Billy Strayhorn,
This side was intended to be Sunrise 2002-B (the number it was given on later pressings). From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

A veteran of nearly two decades with Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges had also been recording his own combo and jump band sides since 1937. The great alto saxophonist cut four sides for Sunrise with Taft Jordan (trumpet), Lawrence Brown (trombone), Al Sears (tenor sax), Billy Strayhorn (piano), Oscar Pettiford (bass), and Wilbur De Paris (drums). All were promptly released.

A little later, Evans brought in a big band led by Mercer Ellington. The trumpet section consisted of Abdul Salaam, Dave Burns, Kenny Dorham, and Bennie Roy; the trombones were Candy Ross and Charlie Johnson; the sax section consisted of Jackie Fields (alto), Morris Lane and Alva McCain (tenors), and Henry Richards (baritone); and Luther Henderson (piano), Joe Benjamin (bass), and Heyward Jackson (drums) formed the rhythm section. One of the sides was an instrumental; another featured vocalist Billy Daniels; these saw release on Sunrise 2003. Two more sides were vehicles for Al Hibbler. Sunrise 2007, the only Hibbler relase on the label to feature such a large ensemble, failed to interest Leonard Chess, who would end up mining the other four Hibbler sessions for reissues.


Ad for Sunrise, September 1947
Advertisment in Billboard, September 20, 1947

A full-page ad in Billboard on September 20, 1947, listed 8 Sunrise releases and gave two addresses for the company: 307 Lenox Avenue, New York 27, New York, and 500 East 63rd Street, Chicago. Since Miracle had been housed for some time at that Chicago address, there must already have been some affiliation between the labels.


Milton Larkin,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

In the summer of 1947, Sunrise had branched out beyond Ellingtonia for an R&B session featuring Milt Larkin. As the leader of a big band that formed in Houston, Texas, in 1936, Larkin was responsible for bringing Tom Archia to Chicago, but his band went unrecorded, breaking up when its leader was drafted in 1943. After getting out of the military, Larkin returned to the music scene with a rhythm and blues combo. Sunrise 2010 was advertised on September 20, 1947; has anyone seen the record? Its companion on 2011 was advertised on the same occasion; copies occasionally turn up on the collectors' market. The label to Sunrise 2011 lists the members of Milton Larkin and His Orchestra as Orvil Duke, trumpet; Thomas Waters, alto sax; Orlando Wright, tenor sax; Alex Sample, piano; David Richmond, bass; and Les Erskine, drums. Although he had played trumpet during his big band years, Larkin appears on this record strictly as a vocalist. Both sides of 2011 are conventional up-tempo R&B numbers with pleasantly rueful lyrics about relationships gone wrong.


Milton Larkin,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Al Hibbler,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Al Hibbler returned for his third session in November 1947. It is said to have taken place in Detroit. Billy Strayhorn, who had led Hibbler's first session, returned with an ensemble consisting of Taft Jordan (trumpet), Johnny Hodges (alto sax), Al Sears (tenor sax), Harry Carney (baritone sax), Oscar Pettiford (bass), and Sonny Greer (drums). Of the three known sides from this outing, "Trees" became another big hit for Miracle when it was released on Miracle 501.


Al Hibbler,

Earl Hines with Johnny Hartman,
From the AB Fable Archive collection

During the frantic final quarter of 1947, Sunrise extensively recorded a big band and a combo led by Earl Hines. The final Hines session featured mostly musicians borrowed from the Lionel Hampton band; Hamp's drummer Curley Hamner was listed as the leader on some of the items. A small group led by Tiny Grimes also got a little attention. Much of this material went unissued for years; it may not be fully documented even today.

About the Tiny Grimes session we know the least. The outing is not listed in Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, either under Grimes' name, or the name of his tenor saxophonist, John Hardee (both were fairly active in the studios during the late 1940s), Just one side, "Jackie's Dance," was released; it ended up sharing Sunrise 2116 with a piece featuring Earl Hines' small group. Perhaps the shared spotlight on the guitar and the the tenor sax (Tiny Grimes and John Hardee on one side, Ernest Ashley and Thomas Crump on the other) was what prompted the coupling.


Earl Hines,
From the AB Fable Archive collection.

The Earl Hines items were recorded at three different sessions, all of which took place in Chicago during December 1947. The first session was intended to feature baritone vocalist Johnny Hartman and "sepia torch" Melrose Colbert. Hartman had made his first records in February 1947, for Marl Young's Sunbeam label. Melrose Colbert had been featured on Jump Jackson's session for Aristocrat in June of the same year. It was Hartman who seems to have caught the attention of Leonard Evans; he was featured on Sunrise 2014, released within a month of the session.

Accompaniment was provided by an enormous Earl Hines Orchestra: Willie Cook, Vernon "Geechie" Smith, Fats Palmer, and Charlie Anderson (trumpets); Bennie Green, Walter Harris, and Gordon Alston (trombones); Clifton Small (trombone, piano); Scoops Carey and Thomas Crump (alto saxes); Ernie Wilkins and Budd Johnson (tenor saxes); Wallace Brodie (baritone sax); Bob Wyatt (org); Skeeter Best or Billy Mackel (guitar); Calvin Ponder (bass); Gus Johnson (drums). A string section was added to some of the numbers, and violinist Eddie South made a guest appearance on "Ain't Misbehavin'."

Next, Earl Hines recorded with what was loosely referred to as a quartet. Besides Thomas Crump (tenor sax) and Ernest Ashley (guitar), the shifting personnel included Eddie South (violin) along with Bob Wyatt (organ) and a bass player and a drummer.


Wini Brown with Curley Hamner,
From the AB Fable Archive collection

Finally, as the recording ban was about to hit, Hines presided over an ensemble that consisted mostly of members of the Lionel Hampton band of the period: Duke Garrette (trumpet); Bobby Plater (alto sax and clarinet); Morris Lane (tenor sax); Charlie Fowlkes (baritone sax); Billy Mackel (guitar); Charles Mingus (bass); and Curley Hamner (drums). One "Bill Dougherty" was on hand to play violin; Anthony Barnett has made a pretty good case that this was in fact Eddie South. Singers Wini Brown and Roland Burton were also on hand. Although this session has been placed in Hollywood (probably on account of Charles Mingus's involvement), Chicago seems to be the correct location.


Curley Hamner,
From the AB Fable Archive collection

Again, much of the session was left in the can. However, Sunrise 2115 was released fairly promptly with Curely "Hamer" credited as the leader. The other single from the session, the extremely obscure Sunrise 525, may well have been put out after the company folded; it was credited to Wini Brown.


Wini Brown,
Courtesy of AB/Fable Archives.

The Dixieaires,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Sunrise also ventured into gospel during the last quarter of 1947. One of the great jubilee grousp, the Dixieaires, recorded prolifically from 1947 into 1950. One of the group's biggest blocks of masters was laid down in two sessions for Sunrise. As in their recordings for other labels, the Dixieaires mixed in a few R and B and novelty numbers. The Dixieaires were founded in early 1947, after J. C. Ginyard, already a veteran of the gospel scene, left the Jubilaires to form his own group. Caleb Nathaniel Ginyard Jr. was born in South Carolina in 1910


The Dixieaires,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Ad for Miracle and Sunrise, June 19, 1948

On February 21, 1948, Billboard mentioned that "Miracle platters" were "mulling a deal link with another race label." Sure enough, a month later Miracle took over the distribution and marketing of Sunrise in some sort of partnership with Evans (see the announcement in Billboard, March 27, 1948). Evans' company had run its costs up recording a large number of masters (at least 50 are known, and there could have been a lot more) during the rush to beat the recording ban. He badly needed a better distribution network for his records. But Evans was never happy with the arrangement. While the deal was in force Sunrise would be responsible for just one new recording session, featuring Al Hibbler.

Miracle announced that it would be "completely eliminating the hot jazz numbers, and will emphasize the race platters in the catalog only." The first releases announced in the new set-up were disks by the Dixieaires and the Curley Hamner Combo. In December 1948, Miracle scored a national hit with the Sunrise recording of Al Hibbler singing "Trees." On March 5, 1949, Cash Box noted, "Lee Egalnick still on road and his 'Trees' growing bigger and bigger wherever Lee stops to visit with distribs." All of the items mentioned in these articles dated back to the last quarter of 1947.

The only new recordings to come out of Sunrise during its virtual merger with Miracle were again by Al Hibbler. The session took place in Chicago, probably during the latter part of 1948 after the recording ban was no longer being rigidly enforced, but most likely before the release of "Trees." The three known sides featured another Strayhorn-led group with Ray Nance (trumpet), Tyree Glenn (trombone, vibes), Ben Webster (tenor sax), Alvin "Junior" Raglin (bass), and Fletcher Jackson (drums). Webster, whose presence was duly signaled on the label to Sunrise 515, was with Duke Ellington for most of 1948.


Al Hibbler,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

In April 1949, Billboard reported that "Miracle has split with the Sunrise label, with future Sunrise sides to be released on a new Sunrise label. Lee Egalnick will continue to head Sunrise distribution and Lew Simpkins will be A&R chief, but Leonard Evans who turned Sunrise over to Miracle will return as label prexy." The following week Billboard reported that Evans was cutting sides with Al Hibbler with backing by a local Chicago band headed by alto saxophonist Willie Randall. (The old Sunrise masters acquired by Miracle were returned to Evans.)

Al Hibbler's fifth session for Sunrise was the label's last. Some attention to the personnel might yield dividends. Willie Randall had been a member of Al Benson's All Stars, whose recording session done a few months earlier was released in 1949 on Old Swing-Master.


Al Hibbler,

In May 1949, Evans allegedly recorded a session with Eddie Chamblee and six other musicians. Evans stiffed Chamblee and his sidemen on payment, with the result that Sunrise lost its recording license in September. (Musicians Union Local 208 finally caught up with Evans in Chicago in 1956 and Chamblee and his sidemen got their checks, a full 7 years later.) This is an odd story in more than one way: Chamblee was under contract to Miracle, not Sunrise, and no releases are known from any session of his carried out in May 1949. We wonder whether this was really Chamblee's Miracle session with 7 pieces from the summer of 1948, postdated to keep the Union off the company's case—and why Evans would be willing to take the fall for Lee Egalnick, unless he had already decided to get out of the business himself. In any event, the Chamblee debacle is clear evidence that Miracle and Sunrise were still entangled after the April 1949 announcement.

September 1949 marked an end to Evans' company, although not quite to singles with "Sunrise" on the label...


Blues Research asserts that the 500 series was begun after the Miracle-Sunrise split: "four releases are known in this series, but two other issues are known on the Miracle 500 series, labeled 'Sunrise Series: manufactured for the Sunrise Record Co.'" The publication says that 501 and 507 were Miracle releases, but these are incorporated into the Sunrise listing below. Miracle M-501, Al Hibbler's "Trees," came out before the Miracle-Sunrise split; it used a Miracle "bowtie" label, except the background was blue and the print was silver. (In our table, an entry in italics indicates that the original session has already appeared higher up in the list, but the title is being repeated for readability. Besides material recorded for Miracle but issued on Sunrise there were a number of tracks recorded for Miracle but issued or reissued on its successor label, Premium.) Sunrise 525 has different labels from any of the other Sunrise releases we have seen; we strongly suspect that it postdates the shutdown of the Sunrise company.


Wini Brown,
Courtesy of AB/Fable Archives.

There are many gaps in the Sunrise issue series. Supposedly there were 120 masters at the time of the pact with Miracle, which would imply that the bigh holes in our numerical listing of the EB1000 / SU2000 matrix series were filled by as many as 70 unknown items. It would make sense if there were a Sunrise 2004 with matrix numbers EB 1007 and 1008, but we haven't heard of such an issue. Nor do we know of any Sunrise 2008 or 2009.


The Dixieaires,
A Sittin' in with release fills a gap in the Sunrise release series. From the Big Joe Louis collection.

The Dixieaires,
From the Big Joe Louis collection

There is no 2012 or 2013. It looks as though these were supposed to be singles by the Dixieaires; the numbers were apparently inherited by the Sittin' in with... label. To further complicate things, there was confusion about the matrix numbers on 2082 through 2084; there were (correspondingly) two versions of Sittin' in with... 2013. Both carried "When That Great Ship Went Down" on one side, but the flips were different. These SIWs were followed by a known Sunrise release on Sunrise 2014.


The Dixieaires,
The released version of Sittin' in with 2013... From the collection of Volker Dorendorf

The Dixieaires,
From the collection of Volker Dorendorf

After 2014, the Sunrise serial numbers skipped a hundred to 2115 and continued in this fashion to 2118. The very last Sunrise release in the original series is S-319 (the S prefix indicates the involvement of Bob Shad's Sittin' in with operation). The release date for S-319 is said to be 1950, which would be after the original Sunrise operation had shut down.


The Dixieaires,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

The Dixieaires,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell

Matrix Artist Title Release # Recording date Release date
EB-1001-A (in wax, EB1001) Albert Hibbler | Under Supervision of Billy Strayhorn Fat & 40 Sunrise 2001A
[Chess 1569]
early 1947 4/1947
EB1002(EB 1002-A on label) Albert Hibbler and Orchestra | Under Supervision of Billy Strayhorn Solitude Sunrise 2002-A
[Chess 1457]
early 1947 4/1947
EB-1001-B (in wax, EB1003A) Albert Hibbler | Under Supervision of Billy Strayhorn My Little Brown Book Sunrise 2001B
[Chess 1481]
early 1947 4/1947
EB1004(EB 1002-B on label) Billy Strayhorn and Orchestra | Under Supervision of Billy Strayhorn Feather Roll Blues Sunrise 2001-B
Sunrise 2002-B
[Chess 1457]<
early 1947 4/1947
EB1005 Mercer Ellington & Orchestra You Name It Sunrise 2003B Spring 1947 9/1947
EB1006 Billy Daniels with Mercer Ellington & Orchestra I Owe This Dream to You Sunrise 2003A Spring 1947 9/1947
SR 1009 Johnny Hodges and Orchestra A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing Sunrise 2005 A prob. Spring 1947 9/1947
SR 1010 Johnny Hodges and Orchestra Frisky Sunrise 2006 B prob. Spring 1947 9/1947
SR 1011 Johnny Hodges and Orchestra Long Horn Blues Sunrise 2005 B prob. Spring 1947 9/1947
SR 1012 Johnny Hodges and Orchestra Far Away Blues Sunrise 2006 A prob. Spring 1947 9/1947
SU1018 Albert Hibbler with Mercer Ellington & Orchestra My Ev'a Lovin' Baby Sunrise 2007B prob. Spring 1947 9/1947
SU1019 Albert Hibbler with Mercer Ellington & Orchestra Summertime Sunrise 2007A prob. Spring 1947 9/1947
SU? Milton Larkin and His Orchestra Ol' Red Boogie Sunrise 2010A 1947 9/1947
SU? Milton Larkin and His Orchestra Chick, She Ain't Nowhere Sunrise 2010B 1947 9/1947
SU-2023 Milton Larkin and His Orchestra I Believe There's Gonna Be a Flood Sunrise 2011-A 1947 9/1947
SU-2024 Milton Larkin and His Orchestra I'm Just a Rollin' Stone Sunrise 2011-B 1947 9/1947
SU 2027 Tiny Grimes & Orchestra (John Hardee Tenor Solo) Jackie's Dance Sunrise 2116 11/47? early 1948
SU-2029 Al Hibbler and Orchestra Trees Miracle M-501
[Chess 1456]
11/47 11/48
[March 1951]
SU-2030 Al Hibbler and Orchestra Lover Come Back to Me Miracle M-501
[Chess 1456]
11/47 11/48
[March 1951]
SU 2031 Albert Hibbler and Orchestra Tonight I Shall Sleep Sunrise 503 11/47 1949?
SU 2038 Earl "Fatha" Hines and Orchestra (Vocal: Johnny Hartman) When I Dream of You Sunrise 2014 early 12/47 1/1948
SU2039? Earl Hines Orchestra, Johnny Hartman vocal Ain't Misbehavin' [Bravo K134] early 12/47 [?]
SU2040? Earl Hines Orchestra, Melrose Colbert vocal Black and Blue [Bravo K134] early 12/47 [?]
SU2041? Earl Hines Orchestra, Johnny Hartman vocal I Need a Shoulder to Cry On [Bravo K134] early 12/47 [?]
SU2042? Earl Hines Orchestra unidentified title unissued early 12/47
SU2043? Earl Hines Orchestra unidentified title unissued early 12/47
SU 2044 Earl "Fatha" Hines and Orchestra Louise Sunrise 2014 early 12/47 1/1948
C2069 The Dixieaires Don't Let That Worry You (Sittin' in with ... 553) 12/47 (1950)
C2070 The Dixieaires Pray (Sittin' in with ... 553) 12/47 (1950)
SU-2077 The Dixieaires Swing Down Chariot Sunrise 2117 12/47 3/1948
SU-2078 The Dixieaires Wade in the Water Sunrise 2117 12/47 3/1948
SU2079 The Dixieaires Run on for a Long Time Sunrise 2118 12/47 3/1948
2080 The Dixiaires [sic] Joe Louis Is a Fightin' Man (Sittin' in with ... 2012) 12/47
2081 The Dixiaires I'm Going to Shoulder Up My Cross (Sittin' in with ... 2012) 12/47
2082 The Dixiaires [sic] Just Getting Ready (Sittin' in with ... 2013, DJ copy) 12/47
2082 [sic] The Dixiaires Let Me Fly (Sittin' in with ... 2013) 12/47
2084 [2083 on label of DJ copy] The Dixiaires When That Great Ship Went Down (Sittin' in with ... 2013) 12/47
SU-2085 The Dixieaires My God Call Me This Morning Sunrise S-319 12/47 3/1948
SU-2086 The Dixieaires You Better Run Sunrise S-319 12/47 3/1948

The Dixieaires Little Wooden Church Sunrise 2118 12/47 3/1948
SU 2120 C The Earl Hines Combo | Solos: E. Ashley—guitar T. Crump—tenor Blues for Garroway Sunrise 2116 between 12/19 and 12/23/47 ?
SU2122? Earl Hines & His Orchestra Honeysuckle Rose [Bravo K134] between 12/19 and 12/23/47 [?]
SU2123? Earl Hines & His Orchestra Dark Eyes [Bravo K134] between 12/19 and 12/23/47 [?]
SU2124? Earl Hines & His Orchestra No Good Woman Blues [Bravo K134] 12/31/47 [?]
SU2125? Earl Hines & His Orchestra Bowlegged Mama [Bravo K134] 12/31/47 [?]
SU 2126 Wini Brown and Roland Burton Sheik of Araby Sunrise SU 525 12/31/47 ?
SU2127? Earl Hines & His Orchestra My Name Is on the Doorbell [Bravo K135] 12/31/47 [?]
SU 2128-A(misprinted SR- on label) Wini Brown with Curley Hamer [sic] & Orchestra Bama Lama-Lam Sunrise 2115 12/31/47 3/1948
SU 2129-A (misprinted SR- on label) Curley Hamer [sic] & Orchestra Spooky Boogie Sunrise 2115 12/31/47 3/1948
SU 2130 Wini Brown Pee Weesin' Blues Sunrise SU 525 12/31/47 ?
SU2131




SU2132




SU2133 Al Hibbler & His Orchestra Ghost of Love Sunrise M-520 1948 1949?
SU2134 Al Hibbler | Vocal with Orchestra | Tenor Solo—Ben Webster Hey Baby Sunrise SU515 1948 1949?
SU-2135 Al Hibbler and Orchestra It Don't Mean a Thing [Chess 1455] 1948 [March 1951]
SU2136




SU2137




SU2138




SU2139




SU-2140 Al Hibbler and Orchestra What Will I Tell My Heart? [Chess 1455] 4/49 [March 1951]
SU 2141 on label
[SU 2041 in wax on some copies, S-2040 on others]
Albert Hibbler and Orchestra Poor Butterfly Sunrise 503
[Chess 1569]
4/49 1949? [1954]
SU2142-2 Al Hibbler | Vocal with Orchestra I Love You Sunrise SU515
[Chess 1481]
4/49 1949? [November 1951]
SU2143 Al Hibbler & His Orchestra By The River Ste. Marie Sunrise M-520 4/49 1949?
UB21886 Gladys Palmer Song Man Miracle M-507 c. 10/26/47 5/1949
UB21981 Gladys Palmer Later On Miracle M-507 c. 11/5/47 5/1949

Curley Hamner,
From the AB Fable Archive collection

In all, Sunrise put out 14 known singles in the label's original series with the mutating prefixes: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2115, 2116, 2117, 2118,and finally (in a collaboration with Sittin' in with...)S-319. There were 6 releases that we know of in the hybrid Sunrise/Miracle 500 series: 501, 503, 507, 515, 520,and 525. 525carried no reference to Miracle, however.


The closure of Sunrise preceded the bankruptcy of Miracle by just a few months. Sunrise material would end up in a variety of hands. For instance, the Johnny Hodges sides were probably taken over first by Mercer Ellington's Mercer label and eventually sold to Bob Weinstock's Prestige label.

After the demise of Miracle, it was Leonard Chess who got the Sunrise material with the most commercial potential. He sold a lot of Hibbler 45s in 1951, was still issuing Al Hibbler on singles in 1953, and reserved his first long-playing release, Argo LP 601, for 10 of Hibbler's Sunrise recordings as late as 1956.


The Dixieaires,
The DJ version of Sittin' in with... 2013. From the collection of Robert L. Campbell.

A big block of sides by the Dixieaires ended up in the hands of producer Bob Shad. The very last Sunrise release, S-319, seems to have been the work of Shad's operation; thereafter, previously unissed sides by the group appeared on Shad's own label Sittin' in with... We suspect that Shad also got his mitts on the Earl Hines material, and was involved in the belated release of the Wini Brown single.


The Dixieaires,
From the collection of Robert L. Campbell


When Lee Egalnick left Miracle in May 1950, and Lew Simpkins closed the label in June, neither had any intention of quitting the record business. Egalnick promptly opened a new label called Premium, where Simpkins joined him the next month. Premium, which was able to keep going for a little over a year, would record some of the former Miracle artists and recruit some new ones.

Meanwhile, in October 1950 the trades reported that King Records had purchased 165 masters and 50,000 platters of the defunct Miracle Records from the Internal Revenue Service. King paid $4,700 in the deal. Included were masters by Memphis Slim, Eddie Chamblee, Tommy Dean, Gladys Palmer, and Sonny Thompson. (In fact, King seems to have acquired everything in the Miracle vaults, except the items that had been turned over to Egmont Sonderling and released on Master or Old Swing-Master. Nothing from Sunrise was includced in the deal, however.) King put out quite a few of its acquisitions on singles on the King label, or on its Federal subsidiary; we have listed these in brackets where we know of them. Through a deal with King, the British Esquire label also put out some material of Miracle origin in the early 1950s; we have indicated these releases when we have information on them.


Acknowledgments


Our thanks to Anthony Barnett, Armin Büttner, Nadine Cohodas, Bill Daniels, Otto Flückiger, Ferdie Gonzalez, Daniel Gugolz, Robert Javors, Billy Vera, Eric LeBlanc, Dave Penny, J. C. Marion, and Dr. Mary Unger. Matrix numbers that have been verified from the actual 78s or masters are indicated in bold; we are especially indebted to Robert Javors and Tom Kelly for checking the records in their collections. Art Zimmerman and Dan Kochakian provided additional information about Miracle and Sunrise 78s in their collections.

Tom Lord's Jazz Discography has been helpful with the personnel for some sessions, and in tracing material that ended up on King, Federal, or Esquire. Tom Kelly has confirmed or corrected many entries from his extensive holdings of Miracle, Sunrise, Master, and Old Swing-Master 78s; Mike Kredinac provided dubs and label copy for additional rare sides. Dieter Hartmann corrected our information on the Tommy Dean releases.

Bill Daniels gave us a great many more release dates. Marty Rothenberg turned up a variant pressing of Miracle 503 with the wrong matrix number in the wax. Bernd Kratochwil's article, "Die Geschichte des Entrepreneur Al Benson aus Chicago: Teil 2 Old Swingmaster Discography," Rockin' Fifties, 1997, pp. 45-49, was a valuable source of information about the Old Swing-Master label. Gospel discographer Bob Laughton identified further masters by the Dixieaires that remained unissued by Sunrise but were picked up by Bob Shad and put out on his label Sittin' in with. Mike Callahan's Chess Story at http://www.bsnpubs.com/chesscheck.html provides well-researched discographies for LPs on Chess and its associated labels, which helped us track the fate of masters purchased by that company.

Dani Gugolz provided additional M-500 matrix numbers for Sonny Thompson tracks that were later sold by Miracle, and established that "Sonny's Return," "House Full of Blues," and "Blues" (depending on whose issue you consult) are all in fact the same recording. Check out Sonny Thompson 1946-1948 (Blue Moon BMCD 6024), which also includes the second Dick Davis session. We were able to improve our Memphis Slim coverage by consulting Memphis Slim: The Complete Recordings Vol. 2: 1946-1948 (Blues Collection [Fr] CD 159862) and The Complete Recordings Vol. 3: 1948-1950 (Blues Collection [Fr] CD 160142), which both include helpful liner notes by Jean Buzelin. (One picky: Buzelin mixes up Alex Atkins, a Memphis native who played alto sax in Memphis Slim's combo, with Boyd Atkins, who enjoyed the distinction of playing soprano sax behind Louis Armstrong on a 1927 recording and tenor sax behind Elmore James on recordings from 1953 and later.)

A crucial guide to unreleased Miracle sides (as well as some that were issued on other labels without their original matrix numbers) is a list provided to us by Peter Gibbon of Ace Records (March 7, 2005, revised January 19, 2006). It contains Miracle masters that were acquired by King Records in October 1950; in November 2004 these were made available to Ace for its ongoing reissue series.

Finally, we thank Paul Ressler for three superb Miracle publicity photos from 1948 and Scott Arnold for a period photo of the Memphis Slim group.


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