The Ping Records Discography

© Robert L. Campbell and Leonard J. Bukowski

Latest revision: May 7, 2013


We dedicate this page to the memory of Malachi Favors Maghostut (1927 - 2004), a great bassist who began his work during the era on which we concentrate, and later rose to prominence as a member of the the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.


Ping 1002,
From the collection of Billy Vera

Revision note:

Ping Records was one of those short-lived independents. According to Robert Pruter in his book Doowop: The Chicago Scene, it was founded in 1956 by Frank Evans, who owned a record store at 4648 South Cottage Grove in Chicago, and owned and serviced jukeboxes. The tiny operation was run out of the back of the store. It survived no more than a year.

Ping releases (all singles) ran from 1000 to 1007. Six releases have been documented. There is no evidence that Ping 1004 or 1006 were ever issued. Meanwhile we know four more sides were supposedly recorded for Ping that were never released; two of these survive on test pressings.

According to Homer Talbert, Ping was originally intended to have a sister label called Pong that would feature jazz records. But nothing came of those plans.


De'bonairs,
From the collection of George Paulus

The label came into being at the urging of Lawrence "Legree" Cox, the manager of a doowop group called the De'bonairs. The De'bonairs and their unusually distinguished backup (the Andrew Hill Combo) cut 8 tracks at a big session. This one session is a microcosm of the postwar Chicago scene: the same musicians backed four doowop numbers, then produced two hard bop piano trios, and two R&B-influenced jazz instrumentals.


An advert for Ping, Cash Box, November 1956
Ping Records as advertised in Cash Box, November 1956

The De'bonairs started in 1953, when all five members were attending Carver High School. In 1955, DJ Herb Kent, the Kool Gent, referred them to Lawrence Cox, who became their manager. In a letter to Big Joe Louis, dated November 16, 1987, Homer Talbert stated that the De'bonairs were Ralph Johnson, William "Sonny Boy" Nelson," Earl "Poochie" Vanorsby, Virgil "Nip" Talbert, and Homer "Pepi" Talbert. In a letter to Big Joe Louis of October 8, 1987, Lawrence Cox gave the same lineup. However, the original version of the group, which was still together when the De'bonairs recorded for Ping, had Edward Johnson (not related to Ralph Johnson) singing bass. Homer Talbert would replace him later on.


De'bonairs,
From the collection of Dr. Robert Stallworth

1. De'bonairs

The De'bonairs: Ralph Johnson (lead); Virgil Talbert (first tenor); William "Sonny" Nelson (second tenor); Edward Johnson (bass); Earl Vanorsby (baritone); acc. by the Andrew Hill Combo: Earl Lavon "Von" Freeman (ts); Laurdine "Pat" Patrick (bars); Andrew Hill (p except -1); Malachi Favors (b); Wilbur Campbell (d except -1).

Universal Recording, Chicago, October 1956

U-3310 Lanky Linda (F. Evans-L. L. Cox)
Ping 1000
U-3311 Mothers Son [sic] (R. Johnson-L. L. Cox) -1
Ping 1000
U-3312 Say a Prayer for Me (L. L. Cox)
Ping 1001
U-3313 Cracker-Jack Daddy (L. L. Cox)
Ping 1001

The lineup of the De'bonairs on this session comes from Robert Pruter, Doowop: The Chicago Scene. We also benefited from Xeroxes of labels to the 45-rpm singles provided by Kirk Roberts and Stuart Kremsky.


De'bonairs,
From the collection of Dr. Robert Stallworth

Ping 1000, "Mother's Son" b/w "Lanky Linda" (45 and 78 rpm) was released in November 1956; it was advertised in Cash Box in December. The saxes are prominent on both sides and get brief solos on "Lanky Linda." Malachi Favors plays a recognizable bass lead-in to "Mother's Son," and supports the entire performance on his own (his string bass is recorded much more prominently than any other instrument, and neither piano nor drums can be heard on the side). According to Ralph Johnson in his interview with Robert Pruter, "Mother's Son" was really by Johnson-Cox.


De'bonairs,
From the collection of Dr. Robert Stallworth

Ping 1001 was a 45-rpm single, released in December 1956. Presumably there was also a 78-rpm edition. There are "repros" of both 1000 and 1001; those that we have seen have black labels with white print, which makes them easy to distinguish from the original releases.

In an interview with Pruter, Ralph Johnson placed the session at the Chess Studios, but the matrix numbers are from one of the Universal Recording series, and both Lawrence Cox and Homer Talbert in their letters to Big Joe Louis placed the proceedings at Universal. Besides, we know from Nadine Cohodas's book, Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records (St. Martin's, 2000) that the Chess Studios at 2120 South Michigan Avenue weren't open and ready for business till June of 1957.


De'bonairs,
From the collection of Dr. Robert Stallworth

The De'bonairs in 1959
The De'bonairs in 1959. From left to right: Richard James, Virgil Talbert, Ralph Johnson, William Nelson, and Homer Talbert. Chicago Defender, August 10, 1959; from the collection of Robert Pruter.

Andrew Hill Trio at Musette's in June 1957
The Andrew Hill trio, with Malachi Favors, bass, and Peppi Brown, conga, at Musette's Lounge. From the Chicago Defender, June 8, 1957, p. 14.

Ping 1002,
From the collection of Billy Vera

2. Andrew Hill Trio | Andrew Hill Combo (Featuring) Von Freeman* | Andrew Hill Combo (Featuring) L. Patrick^

Same personnel and session: Von Freeman (ts except -1); Pat Patrick (bars except -1); Andrew Hill (p -1, 3; org -2); Malachi Favors (b); Wilbur Campbell (d).

Universal Recording, Chicago, October 1956

U-3314 Dot (Hill-Dot) -1
Ping 1002
U-3315 Mal's Blues (Hill) -1
Ping 1002
U-3316 After Dark (Freeman)* -2
Ping 1003
U-3317 Down Pat (Patrick)^ -3
Ping 1003

Ping 1003,
From the collection of Billy Vera

Ping 1002 and Ping 1003 were released in 45 and 78-rpm formats; both were advertised in Cash Box. Our information about Ping 1002 derives from a dub (ultimately Billy Vera's 45-rpm original) provided by Ben Young. A 45-rpm copy of Ping 1003 is in Len Bukowski's collection; both horns are heard on both sides of Ping 1003, but Hill plays organ on "After Dark."

Research by James Wolf of the Library of Congress shows that Pat Patrick copyrighted "Down Pat" on October 29, 1956, which is a strong argument in favor of October 1956 as the recording date. Some sources have hypercorrected "Down Pat" to "Down Patrick." According to BMI, Andrew Hill was actually the sole composer of "Dot."


Ping 1003,
From the collection of Billy Vera

Andrew Hill once identified LeRoy Jackson (who no doubt played in his trio at another time) as the bassist. Von Freeman recalls Malachi Favors as the bassist, and so did Lawrence Cox. The bass intro on "Mother's Son" and the prominent bass work on the trio sides are unmistakably Malachi's work. Besides, according to Andrew Hill, who provided this information for Marcel Safier's online Andrew Hill Discography, "Mal's Blues" was dedicated to him...


The first Ping session featured an all-star instrumental lineup. All five musicians have been important contributors to the jazz scene in Chicago... and well beyond.

According to an obituary by Howard Mandel, Andrew Hill was born in Chicago on June 30, 1931. Whether he shaved the 6 years off his age, or allowed others to do it, during his lifetime his year of birth was almost always given as 1937, the place was sometimes said to be Port au Prince, Haiti, and for a short while during the early 1960s, the pianist spelled his last name "Hille." Hill was 26 years old when he made the Ping sides. He had been a member of the Freeman Brothers band for a time, and may have appeared with them on a November 1954 session for Blue Lake, backing a vocal group called the Maples; he was definitely in the Dave Shipp Quintet when it recorded a bop session for Vee-Jay on November 4 of that year. But he only emerged as a notable artist in the 1960s, when he was considered part of the second wave of avant gardists, after the initial wave established by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, and Cecil Taylor.

Hill's reputed birth in Haiti was a bit of fiction that Hill concocted early in his career to help him overcome the "color caste system in Chicago." He came out of an impoverished family, and used to panhandle on the street playing an old accordion and tap dancing. His partner was Leo Blevins, later a prominent local guitarist, who accompanied on a washtub bass. He reached out to such mentors as Earl Hines, William Russo, and Paul Hindemith to become literate in music. Hill told jazz scribe John MacCalkies that he was influenced by Gene Ammons and Tom Archia; in a conversation with Ted Panken he referred to Willie Jones as an inspiration. The Ping sides raised Hill's profile in the postwar Chicago jazz community; he was soon playing house piano in clubs alongside such notables as Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, and Ira Sullivan. Hill claimed to jazz reporter Lloyd Sachs that, "Chicago was a good time for me, I was working 99 percent of the time." Certainly Hill's trios (and occasional larger combos) were regularly cited in Chicago Defender entertainment advertisements from 1956 through 1959. In fact, Hill's groups were often featured at Roberts Show Lounge.

Biographies have given Malachi Favors' date of birth as August 22, 1937, and the place as Chicago. His obituary in the Chicago Tribune (February 3, 2004), citing his daughter Malba as the source, showed that he was really born on August 22, 1927, in Lexington, Mississippi. He was one of 10 children born to Isaac and Maggie Mayfield Favors. By the time that Malachi was in high school (he graduated from Wendell Phillips), the family had moved to Chicago, where he studied the string bass with Wilbur Ware. We have not been able to trace his earliest professional gigs (his work as a musician was interrupted by military service during the Korean War) but soon after his return to Chicago in 1953, he was recruited by veteran tenor saxophonist Paul Bascomb for his band that played the Strand Show Lounge. Favors recorded "Jan" with the Bascomb band for Parrot, probably in October 1953. In 1955-1956 he was a regular member of King Kolax's NBC Quintet, recording with them for Vee-Jay in December 1955. Malachi Favors may have made a further recording with Kolax for JOB, behind soul singer Earl Pugh in December 1956, but at some point during the year he became a regular member of Andrew Hill's trio, remaining with Hill in 1957. He would rehearse with Sun Ra on a few occasions in 1957; Lucious Randolph remembered working an Arkestra gig with him.

In 1961 Favors made his own entry into the second wave of the jazz avant-garde when joined pianist Muhal Richard Abrams in his Experimental Band, a pioneering free-form jazz outfit that by 1965 had evolved into the AACM. In 1968 Favors joined the highly influential Art Ensemble of Chicago (the other members were Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, and Joseph Jarman). Malachi Favors Maghostut, as he was known in his later years, died of pancreatic cancer in Chicago on January 30, 2004.

Wilbur Campbell was considered the premier drummer in Chicago’s post World War II jazz world. He was born on July 30, 1926, and studied with Capt. Walter Dyett as a member of the DuSable High School band. One of Campbell's early gigs was with Buster Bennett in 1952; this did not go well, as Bennett complained that the drummer, who had already gone through the "dope cure" in Lexington, Kentucky, was still using. Wilbur Campbell was a versatile musician, who also played piano and vibes, and according to jazz scribe Howard Reich, "comprehended the subtle harmonic underpinnings of the music he was playing." While a superb timekeeper, Campbell was a supreme practitioner of the bebop school of drumming, playing off the beat and producing "syncopated eruptions of sound." His work with Johnny Griffin and Ira Sullivan on the Delmark label established his international reputation. But he remained a local musician. When Campbell died on December 30, 1999, he was working as a substance abuse counselor.

Von Freeman, whose full name is Earl Lavon Freeman Sr., was born in Chicago on October 3, 1923 (in 2011, Howard Reich revealed that the usual 1922 date was incorrect: see http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-01-10/entertainment/ct-live-0111-jazz-von-freeman-20110110_1_vonski-new-apartment-lounge-chicago-jazz). He played his first professional gig (in Gary, Indiana) at the age of 12. Freeman attended DuSable High School, where he, too, studied under Capt. Walter Dyett. In 1940-1941 he was a member of Horace Henderson's big band. After playing in a Navy band during World War II, he returned to Chicago in 1945. From 1946 through 1950 he was a member of the house band at the Pershing Ballroom, along with his brothers George and Bruz; unfortunately, it so happens that on the best-known live recording from the Pershing, in which the house band backed Charlie Parker (October 23, 1950), Claude McLin was in the tenor sax chair. In the early 1950s, he co-led the Freeman Brothers Band along with George Freeman, who played guitar, and Eldridge "Bruz" Freeman, one of the leading jazz drummers on the Chicago scene. In the earlier part of his career, Von Freeman got very few opportunities to record. His only previous studio recording was for Blue Lake in November 1954, backing an ad hoc vocal group called the Maples; Andrew Hill probably played piano on the session.

In March 1959, Von Freeman appeared on an all-instrumental session for Vee-Jay, the very last in a long run of studio outings under the leadership of Al Smith; unfortunately nothing from it has ever been released. During the late 1950s and much of the 1960s, he was on the road backing blues singers or participating in R&B revues. He reestablished himself as a full-time jazz musician in 1969 and made his breakthrough recording as a leader when he cut an LP for Atlantic in 1972. LPs followed for such labels as Nessa and Daybreak. In the early 1980s he recorded with his tenor-playing son Chico Freeman on LPs for Columbia and India Navigation. Von Freeman died of heart failure in Chicago on August 11, 2012.

Pat Patrick was born Laurdine Patrick Jr. on November 23, 1929 in East Moline, Illinois. While in high school, Patrick moved to Chicago with his mother so he could attend DuSable High, where he came under the tutelage of Capt. Walter Dyett as a member of the high school band. His first recording session was a Sax Mallard date for Chess in 1950.. Around 1951, he joined pianist Sun Ra and drummer Robert Barry to form a Space Trio. After a brief stint in Paul Bascomb's Strand Lounge band, Patrick left town in 1953 to attend Florida A&M university. He rejoined Sun Ra the following year and began recording with Ra's Arkestra with its first studio outings in 1956. From that point on Patrick, one of the leading baritone saxophonists in his generation, would be a mainstay in Sun Ra's Arkestra for many years; he also played alto and tenor saxes, flute, and various percussion instruments. At the end of 1959, Patrick moved to New York City, but rejoined the Arkestra in October 1961 after Sun Ra and several other members of the Arkestra migrated there. He left Sun Ra in 1971 but returned on several occasions; by the time of his final tour with Sun Ra (1985 to 1988) he had hung up the big horn and played only alto sax, clarinet, and electric bass. Patrick died of leukemia in East Moline, Illinois, on December 31, 1991. His son Deval Patrick was an official in the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton and was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2006.


For the remaining known releases, the Ping enterprise moved to another, less pricey, studio—when it used studios at all.

We know very little about Deacon Leroy Shinault. According to the Social Security Death Index, he was born on February 7, 1902, and his Social Security card was issued in Tennessee. By the time that portions of his sermon were recorded in 1957, he must have been a well-established preacher in Chicago. Deacon Shinault died in Chicago in March 1970.


Lord I Come to Thee on 78
From the collection of Tom Kelly

3. Deacon L. Shinault

Deacon Leroy Shinault (voc); congregation (voc).

Live in church, Chicago, 1957

1265 Lord I Come to Thee (Doc. Watts)
Ping 1005, Blues Classics 19, Document DOCD 5464
1266 I Cannot Live in Sin (Doc. Watts)
Ping 1005, Blues Classics 19, Document DOCD 5464

Our thanks to Tom Kelly for providing label copy and a tape dub. On both sides, the Deacon sings lines from his sermon while his congregation accompanies with great ululating undulations. Both sides are probably extracts from the same sermon. Kelly's surmise that the record was cut live in church seems on the money; the engineer had trouble with the vocalizing congregation, and a heap of distortion seems to be coming right off the master tape, instead of being blamable on the mastering and pressing operations.

This is the only Ping to have been reissued, on Negro Religious Music Vol 3, Singing Preachers and Their Congregations, Blues Classics 19, an LP that appeared during the 1960s. A second reissue took place in the 1990s, on Document DOCD-5464, 1950s Gospel Classics. While Ping 1005's commercial potential must have been very low at the time, its attraction to these compilers is easy to understand; it is a raw, unpasteurized sample of a fervent church service. Document gives 1956 as the date, but it also supplies Deacon Shinault's full name.


I Cannot Live in Sin on 78
From the collection of Tom Kelly

The last Ping release featured alto saxophonist Porter Kilbert. Kilbert began his career as a Swing musician, out of the Johnny Hodges dispensation. He was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on June 10, 1921. From 1943 through 1945, he was a member of Benny Carter's big band; he also worked in Roy Eldridge's big band in 1945. Porter Kilbert joined the Red Saunders combo in late September or early October 1946, while it was playing Kelly's Stables in New York City; he returned to Chicago with Red and was on hand when Saunders signed a new contract at Club DeLisa and bulked up to big band status in May 1947. Kilbert remained as Saunders' lead altoist until January 1952, and appeared on many recordings with him. In addition, a Porter "Kilmer" Orchestra, actually a disguised Red Saunders unit, backed Clarence Samuels for Aristocrat in December 1947.

In the early 1950s, altoists of the Hodges school fell out of favor with the R&B audience. Kilbert landed a job as lead altoist for a middle-sized Horace Henderson band that performed regularly at the Trianon Ballroom in the summer of 1954; he can be heard in action on a recent IAJRC CD, which collected two radio broadcasts and one binaural (!) recording made at the Trianon Ballroom. But Kilbert found it prudent to hedge his bets; like Oett "Sax" Mallard, and even Tab Smith, he started featuring the tenor sax in many of his public appearances.

His strong tenor work with the Dave Shipp Quintet (which recorded four sides in November 1954 for Vee-Jay, with Andrew Hill at the piano) features a blunt sound with little vibrato and much bebop influence. (When interviewed by Kurt Mohr, Kilbert recalled working at Basin Street with King Kolax, Billy Wallace, and William Hobbs in a quintet led by Shipp. Shipp indeed posted a contract as a leader with Basin Street on September 16. But the band that recorded for Vee-Jay in November included former Flame Lounge bandleader Melvin Moore on trumpet and Andrew Hill on piano along with Kilbert and Hobbs. Billy Wallace couldn't have been in Shipp's band for long, as he posted his own contract with the Hi-Hat Club on September 16, 1954. And King Kolax spent the last 6 months of 1954 leading the house band at the Crown Propeller Lounge, where his band was named in weekly Defender ads. King Kolax did play Basin Street two nights each week in February and March 1955, but on that gig he was listed as the bandleader.)

For a time in 1955, Porter Kilbert replaced Wallace Burton as the saxophonist in Duke Groner's quintet, which was playing such venues as the brand new Roberts Show Club. From 1955 through 1957 the C&C Lounge featured Kilbert in staged "Battles of the Saxes" with Tom Archia and others. Kilbert was sidelined for a while in 1956 after suffering a stroke; although apparently mild, this vascular incident did not bode well.

On his session for Ping, Kilbert once again featured the alto sax, with a greatly changed sound that owes more than a little to Charlie Parker. The ensemble and arrangements are rather reminiscent of the Red Saunders band of old. In fact, baritonist Mac Easton was still with Red when this session was cut; Johnny Avant, a fluent trombonist much in demand for session work at the time, was a Saunders alumnus, and so was trumpeter Fip Ricard. Ricard and Avant had both worked with Kilbert more recently in the C&C All Stars.

Unfortunately, despite getting regular work in the South Side clubs, Porter Kilbert had few opportunities to record after this session. He led the house band at Roberts Show Club for a number of stretches; when Red Saunders acquired a virtual lock on the Roberts gig in July 1958, he picked up at Budland during that club's gradual decline, staying there about a year. We don't know who else was in his band, but we suspect that Hobart Dotson played in it during some of the Roberts Show Lounge gigs, possibly continuing into part of the Budland run. After leaving Budland in 1959, Kilbert found fewer emploment opportunities. Besides a sideman appearance on a New York recording session in 1959, we know only of a couple of studio gigs with Sunnyland Slim and Roosevelt Sykes (see the Sax Mallard discography) on the Bea & Baby label. In the summer of 1960, Porter Kilbert was chosen for the Quincy Jones band that toured Europe for a time, performing in Paris and Lausanne, Switzerland, among other places. His last recordings were with this band, but since Phil Woods was also in the sax section we don't know whether he got any alto solos. Not long after returning from Europe, Porter Kilbert suffered another stroke and died in Chicago on October 23, 1960; he was only 39.


Porter Kilbert as a member of the Quincy Jones band, summer 1960
The Quincy Jones band performing in Lausanne, Switzerland, in the summer of 1960. Jones is conducting. The sax section, from left to right, consists of Jerome Richardson (tenor), Phil Woods (alto), Porter Kilbert (checked shirt, alto), Harold McNair (tenor), and Sahib Shihab (baritone).

The studio with the 1200 matrix series may have been MBS Recording, which we know was the source for the label's unissued Shakey Jake session.


Porter Kilbert,
From the collection of Tom Kelly

4. Porter Kilbert and Orchestra

Porter Kilbert (as); Fortunatus Paul "Fip" Ricard (tp); Hobart Dotson (tp, arr); Lewis "Bill" Ogletree (tp); Johnny Avant (tb); Eddie Williams (ts); McKinley "Mac" Easton (bars); Billy Wallace (p); Eddie Calhoun (b); Vernel Fournier (d, cowbell).

Chicago, 1957

1261 Swinging with a Mombo [sic] (Kilbert)
Ping 1007
1262 Lee's Bounce (Kilbert)
Ping 1007

unidentified title
Ping (unissued)

unidentified title
Ping (unissued)

The personnel are derived from Tom Lord's Jazz Discography. However, Lord has a "Fip Richard" on trumpet, and an unidentified drummer. Vernel Fournier confirmed that he was behind the drums on this session.

There is a copy of Ping 1007, a 45-rpm single released in 1957, in Len Bukowski's collection. 78 rpm copies of Ping 1007 are also extant. (To confirm the date we have Tom Kelly's recollection of opening a package containing Ping 1005 and 1007 while doing some part-time work at a Saint Louis radio station, in the early summer of 1957.)


Porter Kilbert,
From the collection of Armin Büttner

There are no solos on "Swinging," but the tight, well executed arrangement sounds like the work of Hobart Dotson, who for about a year (from May or June 1958 to June 1959) would be playing lead trumpet and writing for Sun Ra's Arkestra; on some live gigs from the period, Dotson was billed as the leader. Interestingly, Hobart Dotson, Eddie Williams, and Eddie Calhoun had also served in the big band that Horace Henderson led (with Porter Kilbert as a featured soloist) during the summer of 1954. And in January 1956, Kilbert was working in the C&C All Stars with a four-horn front line whose other members were Fip Ricard, Tom Archia on tenor sax, and Gus Chappelle on trombone—plus Eddie Calhoun and Vernel Fournier in the rhythm section.

"Bounce" has a trumpet lead by Hobart Dotson, a short bass statement, and a long featured solo by the leader, illustrating the effect Charlie Parker had had on his style by this time. (For more on Hobart Dotson, see the Dotson discography at Michael Fitzgerald - Jazz Research.) On both the 45-rpm and 78-rpm releases, the spelling "Mombo" is used.


Porter Kilbert,
From the collection of Tom Kelly

The last Ping session featured bluesman Shakey Jake; all that survives is a 45-rpm acetate from MBS Recordings. According to George Paulus, who acquired the Shakey Jake acetate in the early 1970s, the single was intended for release but the label went out of business before the plan could be carried out.
Shaky Jake,
From the collection of George Paulus

5. Shaky Jake [sic]

Shakey Jake [Harris] (voc, hca); Magic Sam [Samuel Maghett] (eg); poss. Mack Thompson (eb); unidentified (d).

MBS Recordings, Chicago, 1957


Angry Lover
Ping (unissued)

Things Are Different
Ping (unissued)

According to Tony Burke of Blues & Rhythm, "The first side is yet another clone of Magic Sam's 'All Your Love' and his guitar playing on both sides is unmistakable. The identification of the bass guitar player is tentative but his compatibility with Sam's busy guitar work makes him the obvious candidate." Shakey Jake later recorded for several Chicago labels with Magic Sam's backing.

The Shakey Jake test pressing bears the logo of MBS Recording Studios on South Wabash Avenue. This may have been the lower-cost venue that Ping adopted after its one session at Universal. To be researched.


Sales figures for the Pings were undoubtedly low, though the releases helped the artists in their search for gigs; Ping recordings are mentioned in 1957 nightclub advertisements for both the Andrew Hill Trio and Porter Kilbert's Combo. According to Anthony Gribin and Matthew Schiff in their book Doo-wop: The Neglected Third of Rock and Roll, the remnants of Ping were acquired by Vee-Jay. But this seem unllkely, as we have never heard of Vee-Jay master numbers being assigned to the sides, and Vee-Jay never issued any Ping material.


De'bonairs,
From the collection of George Paulus

The De'bonairs may have lacked the tight ensemble of the best doowop groups, but their sides are enjoyable and the prominent sax work is a treat. Although their records got only local sales, the group appeared on "Time for Teens," a TV show hosted by a DJ Jim Lounsbury. Presumably they had mixed feelings about "Mother's Son" being covered on a February 1957 session for Vee-Jay by Dee Clark and the Kool Gents (billed on that occasion as The Delegates). But they get a chance to perform at a vocal group concert that the Kool Gent himself organized, which took place at Hyde Park High School in April 1957. Cox recalled (in his letter of October 8, 1987) that the group later recorded for the Chess brothers. Around January 1958, the De'bonairs accompanied Lula Reed on "Anything to Say You're Mine" (matrix 8724, released on Argo 5298). Three unissued sides (matrix numbers 8721 through 8723) were attributed in the notoriously inaccurate Chess master list to the "Debutantes"; these may well be by the De'bonairs, as Cox recalled making two tracks that were not relased. By this time, Homer Talbert may have replaced Edward Johnson as the bass singer in the group; later in 1958, Richard James replaced Earl Vanorsby as the baritone singer. In August 1959, the group performed at the Chicago Defender's annual Bud Billiken picnic. The group made a final session in 1961 for Bud Brandom's B&F label, resulting in the release of one single, "Fool's Love" b/w "Ah La La"; soul blues singer Billy "the Kid" Emerson produced the date. Thereafter, the De'bonairs became less active, dissolving for good in 1964.

The instrumental tracks by the Andrew Hill trio and combo have been treated more as rumors than realities by jazz critics; perhaps their palpable presence on a CD would change some attitudes... Andrew Hill and Malachi Favors were already distinctive voices. Von Freeman, though a fully formed artist by this time, had appeared on just one studio session. Pat Patrick had already made several sessions in 1956 with the Sun Ra Arkestra; though more conventional than some of the solos he was laying down with Sun Ra, his contributions here will stand with the best of his early work. Deacon Shinault is a singing gospel preacher, recorded with raw immediacy. The Porter Kilbert session has a precision ensemble, interesting arrangements, and good work by the leader, including his longest solo on record. All of the Pings would bring credit to a postwar Chicago anthology.


Of the musicians who participated in the legendary first session for Ping, only Von Freeman is still playing and recording.

Probably after his Ping sides, Andrew Hill did another recording in Chicago with Malachi Favors and drummer James Slaughter (most commonly placed in 1958, but various other dates have been given). The LP, whenever it was done, was released on the Warwick label in 1959 as So in Love with the Sound of Andrew Hill. In 1961, he relocated to New York to work with Dinah Washington as her accompanist. During 1962-63, Hill worked with Raahsan Roland Kirk in Los Angeles, but in 1963 was back in New York. There for the next several years he recorded a series of musically ambitious albums for the Blue Note label, notably Black Fire (1964), Point of Departure (1965), and Compulsion (1966). Blue Note had built its reputation recording much of the cream of the hard bop artists during the 1950s, but Hill's recordings for the label were transitioning the music from hard bop to freer forms. He was soon recognized as an outstanding composer in the jazz idiom, and during the 1970s held various academic posts. He was artist in residence at Colgate University in 1970-71, where he got his doctorate. He toured the United States on the Smithsonian Heritage Program during 1973-74, and in 1975 was awarded a Smithsonian Fellowship. For a time he worked as an associate professor at Portland State University. Hill moved to California in 1977, and this commercial career was reenergized during the 1980s, with such outstanding albums as Shades (1987) and Eternal Spirit (1989). He recorded a CD for Palmetto in 2000 called Dusk. Hill returned to Chicago in 2000 to play at the Chicago Jazz Fest, which reunited him with Von Freeman. It was the first time they had played together since the Ping Records session. In 2002 he was awarded the International Jazzpar Prize. Andrew Hill recorded his last sessions in 2004. On April 20, 2007 he died of lung cancer at his home in Jersey City, New Jersey.


An edited, much earlier version of this page (minus the Shakey Jake item, which we hadn't learned about back then) appeared as "The Ping Records Discography" in Blues and Rhythm No. 129,May 1998, pp. 4-5. Thanks also to Eric LeBlanc for his research on Porter Kilbert's birth and death dates, to Mike Kredinac and Tom Kelly for further help with Ping 1005 and 1007, to Billy Vera for label shots of Ping 1002 and 1003, to Dr. Robert Stallworth for label shots of Ping 1000 and 1001, to George Paulus for scans of the 78 rpm releases of Ping 1000 and 1001 and of the Shaky Jake acetate, and to Big Joe Louis for further research material, including letters from Homer Talbert and Lawrence Cox.


Click here to return to Red Saunders Research Foundation page.