Revision note: We at last have a correct date of release for United 188 by The Moroccos and for States 149 by the Caravans. We've improved on our release date for States 163 by The Strollers. For James Bannister's rare (and delayed) blues single on States 141, we finally have a month of release—July 1955. Our thanks to Dan Kochakian for finding the ad in Cash Box that mentioned it. We have added information about Singing Sammy Lewis's release on United 202. We have added personnel for the Junior Wells session of April 15, 1954. We have added some information about the Di Mara Sisters, who apparently made their first records in the US for United. Prompted by Dave Penny, we have done some additional research on Annis House, a music publisher based in Detroit that was involved with United 210 and 214 (neither single was originally recorded for the company). We have added some information about Loretta Thompson, whose United 214 was recorded in Ohio. We've added something about United 215, by Don Reed, and about Leonard Allen's activities in 1958 after United closed.
We continue the United/States story as the company began its decline; for the first three years, see our Part I. In 1954 the indications would not be too dire, though recording activity did fall off somewhat.
A T-Bone Walker disciple, guitarist L. C. McKinley, was born on 22 October 1918, in Winona, Mississippi, but was located in Chicago by 1941. Though his membership card and death certificate give only initials, his two released sides bear composer credits to "Larry" McKinley. McKinley did not begin to play professionally until 1947; he joined the union on February 3 of that year. In the early 1950s he was a regular headliner at the famed 708 Club. In 1951 and 1952, he recorded as a sideman with pianist Eddie Boyd for JOB, appearing on Boyd's biggest hit, "Five Long Years." He first recorded as a leader in 1953 for the Parrot label, but Al Benson chose not to release his session. McKinley probably did some other poorly documented session work during this period. L. C. McKinley signed with States around the beginning of 1954 and was promptly brought into the studio on January 11. On his one session for the label, he was accompanied by an ace blues band of Eddie Boyd (piano), Ernest Cotton (tenor sax), Ransom Knowling (bass), and Odie Payne (drums).
The guitarist subsequently recorded two sessions for Vee-Jay in 1955, one for Bea & Baby in 1959, and a final one for Sunnyland around 1964. When L. C. McKinley died on January 19, 1970, he was working as a presser in a dry cleaning establishment in East Chicago, Indiana.
Obscure though these McKinley sides may be, they were among those selected for reissue in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when all reissues of United and States material were bootlegged and the tracks were dubbed right off the singles. Both sides of States 135 appeared on Negro Art M-12-SB-358, a French LP released around 1968 as Story of the Blues: Chicago Blues 1, and on Python PLP-KM 15, a frankly bootlegged release from 1971 titled Blues from Chicago Volume 3. The unssued tracks had to wait for a P-Vine Special LP in 1982 and a Delmark CD in 2000.
Sharing the session with L. C. McKinley was tenor saxman Ernest Cotton (born August 2, 1926), who did a solid job on vocals (no time to play the horn) on the simple stop-time number, "Empty Bed Blues." States left it on the shelf, and it had to wait till 1982 to see reissue. Eddie Boyd accompanied with real flourish. What is interesting is that during the first half of 1954 Cotton was the marquee name at the 708 Club, performing as "Ernest Cotton and His Trio," while McKinley on guitar was listed merely as a sideman, along with Bob Call on piano, and "Chink" Evans on drums.
In October 1952, Cotton had recorded "Going Back to Memphis" and three other numbers on a session he did with Sunnyland Slim for the JOB label; these items did eventually see the light of day, though JOB held off on releasing any of them until 1959.
Allen followed promptly with another productive gospel session by The Caravans. The great contralto singer Bessie Griffin (1922-1989) had joined the group, turning "Since I Met Jesus" into a mostly solo tour de force and lending her powerful lead to "Let Us Run." Griffin would soon leave to resume her solo career, making an obscure single for Parrot. She began recording regularly in 1956, when she signed with Specialty.
Tab Smith and his combo were in for another session on January 24, 1954. At this point the lineup consisted of Irving Woods (trumpet); Charlie Wright and Robert Darby (tenor and baritone saxes); Lavern Dillon (piano); Lloyd Anderson (bass); and Walter Johnson (drums). "Top 'n' Bottom" is a jaunty instrumental of Basie-ish cast, with drum breaks for Walter Johnson built into the theme. It couldn't be attributed to either the "Fabulous Alto" or the "Velvet Tenor" because Smith played both horns on it. Tab's alto solo shows both Lestorian and Ornithological influences, and the tenor solo makes you wonder how he would have fared in a battle setting with Zoot Sims or Wardell Gray. In a similar vein is "Zig Zag," an alto feature except for a brief passage on which Tab plays in unison with himself through the magic of overdubbing. His ballad feature, "My Ideal," remains straight out of Hodges, as is his own composition "How Long Has It Been" (though the latter features a brief piano solo reminisicent of a Baptist church). "Rock City" is a slow blues (gritty by Tab's standards, with a heavy backbeat) which he takes first on tenor and then on alto; the other horns play an occasional bop riff, and so does Tab when he slips across a patch of double-time. "The Moon Is Blue" is an exercise in relaxed swing. "If You Believe in Me" (another number left unissued) is Tab's last effort at crooning for United; after this session Leonard Allen seems to have talked him out of taking on the vocal chores himself.
On March 16, Memphis Slim and his House Rockers were back for another productive session. The lineup consisted of Jim Conley and Neal Green (tenor saxes), Matt Murphy (guitar), Henry Taylor (bass), and Otho Allen (drums). This session and its successor were the first of Slim's for United to be selected by the reissue programs. Pearl PL-10, Memphis Slim and his House Rockers Featuring Matt "Guitar" Murphy: Memphis Slim USA, appeared in 1978. It was compiled by Jim O'Neal for a Delmark subsidiary. A straight reissue of the LP appeared in Japan in 1982; P-Vine Special PJ-108 had the same title and track list. A late 1980s reissue on P-Vine Special PLP-372 repeated the title and track list.
At some point early in 1954, Junior Wells cut an audition tape featuring two numbers he wanted States to pick up for his second session (which would take place on April 15). He was accompanied by Louis Myers on acoustic guitar. Despite the rough-and-ready recording conditions, the tracks have cleaned up well and all three, including an alternate of "Please Throw This Poor Dog a Bone" have been made available on Delmark and P-Vine CDs. Which is just as well, because apparently Dave Clark and Leonard Allen didn't like them, and neither title was recorded on April 15.
The Four Blazes were going through some turmoil as they approached their fifth session. Tommy Braden, who had served as the lead vocalist on their hits, was demanding top billing; the group had shed its second guitarist, Shorty Hill, and acquired a pianist whose identity we aren't sure of. The session on April 13 yielded a release on United 177, under the name "Tommy (Mary Jo) Braden and his Flames." Eddie Chamblee was no longer accompanying the group in the studio. On their last two sessions for United the saxophonist was James "Red" Holloway, who was starting to pull down a lot of the session work in Chicago.
The second Junior Wells session, on April 15, 1954, yielded more classic blues for the company. A&R man Dave Clark had a hand in it; we know because he helped himself to some of the composer credits. Unfortunately, Junior had been drafted into the Army and was AWOL when he cut this session. His second session featured another all-star ensemble, this time featuring most of Muddy Waters' current lineup: Muddy Waters (guitar; Muddy had learned from his previous moonlighting not to draw attention to himself); Louis Myers (guitar), Dave Myers (guitar), Otis Spann (piano), Willie Dixon (bass), and Fred Below (drums). This was a four-tune session.
Junior Wells got 2 and a half releases out of this session: both sides of States 139, released in July, and one side of States 143, his final single, around December of 1954.
The bluesman would not be free to record again until late 1955 when he completed his term of service. As it happened, United was in decline by then and no other company picked him up right away. In the late 1950s, he resumed recording for the Chief and Profile labels, then benefited considerably from the blues revival with LPs for Vanguard and Delmark. After years of international fame on the blues circuit, Junior Wells died in 1998.
United picked up two sides by Italian-American pop vocalist Buddy diVito (these were recorded on May 19, 1954, location unknown). DiVito, who first came to prominence singing with Harry James' big band, had previously recorded in Chance's pop music series. United 179 might be diVito's rarest record.
The Five C's' second session, on May 25, produced another fine release on United 180 with the poppish uptempo tune "Goody, Goody." It was backed by nice ballad, "My Heart's Got the Blues." The record got little airplay outside of Chicago. Sam Evans claimed he could not keep enough "Goody, Goody" in his record stores, but that was typical promotional talk that publicists gave trade magazines at the time. This session also yielded a jump version of the Italianate standard, "There's No Tomorrow" (derived from "O Sole Mio") and a semi-jump of "I Long For You," both of which are most solid. However, United chose not to release them, and they had to wait till 1981 for a P-Vine Special LP. The band that accompanied the Five C's hasn't been documented. According to Marv Goldberg, Eddie Chamblee was the tenor saxophonist. In our judgment, Lefty Bates played guitar (and probably directed). The pianist, bassist, and drummer remain unidentified.
"My Heart's Got The Blues" was written by Miller Robinson. On the original United release he is the guest lead vocalist on the side, because the usual lead, Clarence Anderson, couldn't nail it. The vastly inferior alternate take by Anderson is the one that appears on Delmark reissues.
Tab Smith returned to the studio on June 24 to lay down five more tunes; he used the same combo as on his January session. "Mr. Gee" is a relaxed slow blues that features Dillon's piano (getting into some locked-hands stuff in his solo) alongside the leader's alto. "Prisoner of Love" is another one of those yearning ballads that waited years to see issue. It might have been a better choice for release than the extremely schmaltzy rendition of "For Only You" (without a vocalist this time), done so slowly as to leave no room for the leader to improvise. "Lady of Love" (also passed over for issue at the time) is another languid performance that strikes a better balance. There's no questioning Allen's judgment when it comes to the Latin-flavored "Tabolino," which features some strong lead trumpet by Irving Woods and an excellent solo on the Velvet Tenor; it was released on United 187. (Two blues vocals by Ray King, issued without matrix numbers on a Delmark CD that included this session, turn out to be from Tab Smith's session of January 24, 1957.)
Releases from the session were spread out across the next year. "For Only You" was used on one side of United 190, which was announced in a company ad on May 4, 1955 (Cash Box, p. 25), reviewed in Cash Box on June 11, 1955 (p. 32) and boosted in company ads on July 2 (p. 70) and July 16 (p. 25).
The Five C's got one more session on July 30, 1954, from which nothing was released at the time. As with most of United's vocal group material, these two sides (not officially released till 1981, in Japan, and not on Delmark till 2004, when they appeared on the last of three vocal group CDs) are as high in quality as the released songs. This third session produced a simply superb droopy doowop, "Going My Way" (a remake of the Gay Tunes' "Thrill of Romance"), and and a jump version of the old Savannah Churchill hit, "I Want to Be Loved."
Our source for Five C history was Marv Goldberg's "The 5 C's," published on Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebook [http://home.att.net/~freebizak/5Cs/5cs.html], accessed 27 March 2005.
The group again got terrific support from tenor saxophonist Eddie Chamblee's combo, which also recorded some material of its own at the session. There had been some turnover in the rhythm section since since the saxophonist's previous date; on this occasion Chamblee was backed by an ace unit of John Young, piano; Leo Blevins, guitar; Herbie Brown, bass; and Larry Jackson, drums. The two sides that were released both featured the leader's rather quizzical vocals. Both tunes were Chamblee's quirkily original compositions, but they don't seem to have found an audience.
It turned out to be Eddie Chamblee's last session for United, though he retained his affiliation with the company through the end of the year. In 1955 Chamblee led the studio band on a session for the new Club 51 label and did some sideman work for Chess, then went out on tour with Lionel Hampton's big band. After returning to Chicago in 1956, he worked with singer Dinah Washington in 1957 and 1958 (for about a year, he was Dinah's fifth husband; his role in her band, and in her life, came to a end when she made her point in a quarrel by smashing his saxophone against a barroom wall). He recorded two jazz LPs in Chicago for EmArcy in 1957 and 1958, on Dinah Washington's recommendation (she was a Mercury artist); he also accompanied her on many of her own sessions. After his split with Dinah Washington, Chamblee was a big draw at McKie's Disc Jockey Lounge for several months in 1958, then moved permanently to New York, where he led a series of jazz combos. (They eventually buried the hatchet; he would accompany Washington again on several occasions before her death in 1963.) Chamblee made an LP for Prestige with an organ trio (1964) and a reunion album with other Lionel Hampton alumni for the French label Black & White (1976). In the mid to late 1980s he led a quartet that played the Saturday afternoon "jazz brunch" at Sweet Basil in New York City. He died May 1, 1999 in a New York nursing home.
The most down-home blues session ever recorded by Leonard Allen featured harmonica player Alfred "Blues King" Harris and drummer James Bannister. The rest of the band on this August 9 session consisted of Earl Dranes (guitar), along with an unidentified second guitarist and bass player. Bannister got the vocals on "Blues and Trouble" and "Gold Digger," which were the only titles to be released from the session at the time. States 141 is a very rare record, and the label didn't get around to putting it out till July 1955 (it was mentioned as a "big new release" in a company ad in Cash Box, July 2, 1955). Harris sang on the rest, which did not see issue until they appeared on Pearl PL-12 many years later. Neither artist's life has been well documented. Bannister had made unissued recordings for Sun in Memphis and for Chess before cutting this session for States; he normally worked with saxophonists, not harmonica players. Bannister left the blues club scene in the early 1960s, after going into trances on the bandstand that convinced him that he was receiving divine signals; he dedicated himself to the church and forswore the blues. Harris, who could sing in the B. B. King manner and often billed himself as Blues King (as though "King" were his last name, and B. B. a relative), made one track for Modern in Memphis. He was booked into the Be-Bop Club for 6 months (contract accepted and filed by Local 208 on June 17, 1954) when Allen recorded him. In the late 1950s, Harris put out a single on J. Mayo Williams' low-circulation Ebony label. He dropped off the Chicago scene after 1959 and his later movements are untraced. The quality of the music they made for States indicates that these musicians did not deserve the obscurity into which they fell.
The Genesa Smith Singers, who recorded on August 16, 1954, were a gospel group that did just the one session for the company and released one single on States 142. We know nothing more about them.
Another stand-up vocalist recorded by Allen in 1954 was Tommy Brown, who was born in Atlanta, Georgia on May 27, 1931. He began his career as a drummer, forming a teenage band that worked the clubs in Atlanta in the late 1940s. Brown recorded as a singer in early 1951 for Savoy, but then shortly afterwards joined the Griffin Brothers Orchestra; his was the voice behind two of their biggest hits, "Weepin' and Cryin'" and "Tra-La-La." After nine months in the U.S. Marines, Brown returned to Savoy to record. He followed with a session for King in 1953, before joining United. By early 1953 Brown had moved up to Chicago to perform in the major black and tans, notably Martin's Corner (1900 West Lake) during 1953 where he was billed as "Tommy 'Weeping' Brown," and at the Club DeLisa (5521 South State) in early 1954.
His United session on August 26 featured an all-star lineup of Walter Horton (harmonica), Harold Ashby (tenor sax), Memphis Slim (piano), Lee Cooper (guitar), and Willie Dixon (bass); the drums are unknown. The United session was uncharacteristically down-home for Brown, who, as can be seen from the venues he frequented in Chicago, was not in the habit of using harmonica players. But there is no faulting the results. Brown biographer Brian Baumgartner said of the unreleased sides, "Regrettably the other two superior sides remained unissued. 'Card Game' was, of course, Tommy's version of Billy Wright's hit from 1951 'Stacked Deck.' Equally fine was the humorous 'Nosey Neighbors.'" Brown's entire United session was released on Delmark's Harmonica Blues Kings (CD DD-712). After his one session at United, Brown would record for the RCA Victor subsidiary Groove, for King (again), and for Imperial, mostly from his new home base in St. Louis, where he moved in 1955. During the 1960s, Brown made party comedy records on his own T&L label.(Biographical facts on Brown came from Brian Baumgartner's "Tommy Brown: Laughing at the Blues," Juke Blues No. 50 .)
Apparently the August 26 sessions were nearly out of studio time when Tab Smith and his regular combo (same personnel as on the two previous sessions from this year) were brought in. Either that, or someone was taken ill. Just one number could be completed, "In a Little Spanish Town." While the solo work is impeccable as always, the combo seems to have forgotten the lessons of "The Moon Is Blue," providing overly perky acccompaniment that verges on the cornball.
The Memphis Slim session of September 29, 1954, his fourth, is remarkable for the high quality of all of the tracks recorded (most of them in two usable takes). Then there's the medley of dead-accurate renditions of other people's hits that Slim and company launched into for fun (this was eventually released on a Pearl LP as "Slim Was Just Kiddin'"). Slim's House Rockers—again with Conley and Green (tenor saxes), Henry Taylor (bass), and Otho Allen (drums)—benefited especially from the presence of Matt "Guitar" Murphy, whose contributions are outstanding. United 186 was released around January 1955. United 189 followed in May 1955: the record was announced in a company ad in Cash Box on May 4, 1955 (p. 25), and given a further ad on July 2 (p. 70) United 201 lagged well behind; it came out in June 1956. The three singles came far from exhausting the sides that were recorded. Unfortunately, this would be Slim's last session for Leonard Allen, whose blues efforts dwindled sharply after 1954.
As soon as his United contract was up, Slim hooked up with the Money label, which was out of Southern California. This got him one release on Money 212 (reviewed in Cash Box on March 19, 1955, p. 29, and in Billboard on the same date, p. 46). The Money was actually out before Slim's last two releases on United. After that, a dry spell. Memphis Slim cut two unreleased solo sides for Cobra in 1957. He would resurface on the Vee-Jay label in 1958, and rarely lacked for recording opportunities after that.
The Moroccos came out of the Englewood community on the South Side. Initially, they consisted of Ralph Vernon (tenor), Melvin Morrow (tenor), George Kemp (also known as George Prayer, baritone), and Fred Martin (bass). Their first session on October 5, 1954 did not prove all that satisfactory. The group, then calling themselves the Four Chimes, did two songs: "My Easy Baby" and "When Was My Baby Born," the latter a reworking of the old religious folk song, "The Last Month of the Year." United shelved the numbers, which did not see issue until 2002. The group and Allen agreed that what they needed was not just a fifth member but an additional lead. The Moroccos responded by recruiting Sollie McElroy, who had sung lead with the Flamingos, and returned to the studio in January 1955.
On the same session United recorded an otherwise unknown vocal group called the Dewtones, whose two sides were also left in the can, not to be released until 2004. "Before I Met You" is a pretty ballad, while "Rockalick Baby" turns out to be an ebullient jump, full of goofy bebop scatting; it is too bad that Leonard Allen chose not to release them at the time. Accompaniment was by piano, electric guitar, bass, and drums. The group sounds more than a little like Prince Cooper's outfit, which would record a few months later for Club 51.
The Spiritualaires were founded in 1954 by DJ and music promoter Charles Derrick, who began a regular Sunday morning program on WOIC in Columbia, South Carolina, in July of that year. The group recorded demos at WOIC, one of which was sent to Leonard Allen at United. Allen was interested enough to bring the group to Chicago to record on October 14, 1954. The likely membership roster was Jimmy Foster (lead); Johnny ... (2nd lead); Fred Davis (tenor); "Sonny Boy" (high tenor); Charles Derrick (bass and percussion); and Sergeant Rose on guitar. On the demos, recorded at WOIC, Marion Parker played piano. The Spiritualaires sides are stirring hard gospel, but Leonard Allen never released any of them. Finally they are available with the 2002 release of On the Battlefield... Great Gospel Quartets (Delmark DE-760), which includes 4 studio tracks and 3 demos. This group should not be confused with another outfit called the Spiritualaires that recorded for Bowman (1955) and Vee-Jay (1956).
Harold Burrage (1931-1966) was born on the West Side of Chicago where both the gospel music of the church and the urban blues of the clubs exerted equal influence in forming his powerful shouting style. He first recorded in 1950 for Decca with the Horace Henderson Orchestra, and had a sizable hit with "Hi-Yo Silver." This was followed by a session in 1952 with the Jimmy Binkley Band for Aladdin, leading to one release in 1953. By 1954, when he signed with States, Burrage was the most ubiquitous of the stand-up urban blues singers working in the Chicago clubs.
Splitting a November 1 session with blues harpist Big Walter Horton, Burrage got impressive backing from Red Holloway and John Cameron on tenor saxes, Lafayette Leake on piano, Echford "Lee" Cooper on guitar, Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums. (Dixon was not tempted to continue with States after the record came out, proclaiming Leonard Allen as the composer of "Feel So Fine," which nearly any blindfold test participant would be able to identify as Dixon's work.) The company had trouble with his name, spelling it "Harold Barrage" on the labels to States 144. By the time that the release was being advertised (Cash Box, January 15, 1955, p. 24), the spelling had been straightened out.
Burrage would later record more prolifically for Cobra, Vee-Jay, and finally for M-Pac!. His early death from a heart attack was a major loss to Chicago blues and soul music.
Big Walter "Shakey" Horton (1917-1981) was one of the great postwar masters of the blues harmonica, who along with Little Walter Jacobs helped define the amplified Chicago-style harmonica. He is said to have recorded in Memphis with the Memphis Jug Band in 1927 (if this is for real, there has been some serious age shaving going on). He claimed to have been blowing amplified harmonica by 1940, which if true would put him in advance of Snooky Pryor and "Little" Walter Jacobs. Horton moved to Chicago in the late 1940s, but during 1951-54 made frequent trips to Memphis to record for Modern, behind other artists and under the name Mumbles. He also made sideman appearances for Chicago-based labels, with Muddy Waters for Chess (January 1953) and Johnny Shines for JOB (the same month). He recorded under the name Big Walter Horton for the first time when he signed with United in 1954. (Not a large man, he was billed as "Big" Walter only to avoid confusion with Chess hitmaker Little Walter Jacobs. In Memphis, it was Horton who had often gone as "Little" Walter.) "Hard-Hearted Woman," said Horton expert Michael Erlewine, "never fails to raise the hair on the back of my neck." States 145 was released jointly with Burrage's States 144 (see the ad in Cash Box, January 15, 1955, p. 24). The harmonica player next appeared as a leader on Cobra in 1956, as Shakey Horton; in the 1960s and 1970s he recorded prolifically for European and American labels.
Later in November the Caravans returned to make 6 gospel sides. On this occasion they were joined by James Cleveland; his hoarse baritone voice is featured on both sides of States 146. A second release would follow, on States 154; here Cleveland plays the organ but does no singing or sermonizing. The highlight here is a rollicking version of "Jesus on the Mainline," here retitled "Tell Him What You Want." The other two sides would not see release until the Caravans' entire output for States passed into the hands of Herman Lubinsky, whose Savoy label would concentrate on gospel during its final years.
The Reverend James Cleveland was born in Chicago on December 5, 1931. He began singing gospel as a boy soprano in the choir at Pilgrim Baptist Church, where Thomas A. Dorsey was the minister of music and Roberta Martin was the pianist for the choir. The hoarseness in his voice came from straining his vocal chords during his teens. Before Albertina Walker brought him in to work with The Caravans, he had been a member of a trio called the Gospelaires and had done compositions and arrangements for Roberta Martin.
Leonard Allen also recorded two blues artists—Morris Pejoe and Big Boy Spires—in Al Smith's basement (5313 South Drexel). Although the Pejoe session was interesting enough to justify putting matrix numbers on it, Allen eventually backpedaled, most likely because of the less-than-professional sound quality. Although both sessions were top quality from a musical standpoint, nothing saw release until Bob Koester licensed them to P-Vine Special, which put out two tracks by Pejoe and four from the Spires session in 1982. An LP from the Delmark subsidiary Pearl, which included all tracks from both sessions, followed in 1989.
Guitarist-singer Morris Pejoe (1924-1982) brought a regional flavor otherwise unknown to United's efforts (except to a small degree in the 1953 session by Ernest Kador, which was done before his style matured). The bluesman was born Morris Pejas in Louisiana, and began his music career on the violin. After moving to Beaumont, Texas, in 1949, he switched to guitar. In 1951 he was in Chicago, performing with pianist Henry Gray. During 1952-53 he recorded three sessions for Checker, accompanied by Gray among others. The United session—featuring blues and New Orleans-styled R&B—was held in December 1954, and had Stanley Grim on alto, Henry Gray on piano, Milton Rector on electric bass, and Earl Phillips on drums, plus an unidentified tenor sax. In May 1955 Pejoe recorded for Vee-Jay, again using Gray, Rector, and Phillips as his rhythm section. Thereafter he recorded for Abco, Atomic H, and Kaytown.
Arthur "Big Boy" Spires (1912-1990) was born in Natchez, Mississippi; he started playing guitar only in the late 1930s, in a style influenced by Son House and (later) Muddy Waters. Spires came to Chicago in 1943, and played house-rent parties during the decade. It was not until 1950 or 1951 that he graduated to nightclubs. He first recorded for Checker in 1952 (which produced his best known record, "Murmur Low"), and did a strong session for Chance in January 1953. In December 1953, Big Boy Spires and His Rhythm Rocking Three was advertised as the feature act in the grand opening celebration of the Palace Inn (the ad failed to list an address).
The date of the Spires session for Leonard Allen seems to be December 1954 or shortly thereafter. The musicians were Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (harmonica), Edward El (guitar), Ted Porter (drums), and Willie "Long Time" Smith (piano, plus vocals on "You Can't Tell" and "Wrapped in My Baby"); they were all members of Spires' working group, the Rocket Four. The undistinguished string bass added for the session appears to the work of Al Smith himself. Spires disbanded the Rocket Four in 1959 and recorded only one more time in his career: an unissued Testament session in 1965. He had to give up playing the guitar after developing arthritis.
Also at an uncertain date near the end of the year, Allen recorded the Staple Singers for the second and last time. He never used the four tunes from this session. After United folded, he would unload them to Savoy (which was on the lookout for gospel masters, especially after the Staple Singers had started drawing sales for Vee-Jay). Savoy put out two sides from the second Staples session ("Since He Lightened My Heavy Load" b/w "Low Is the Way") on its Gospel subsidiary: Gospel 1011 was released in January 1959 (reviewed in Cash Box on January 10, p. 36). The Staple Singers (as they were accustomed to calling themselves) began to enjoy commercial success after they signed with Vee-Jay in 1955, which is why Lubinsky wanted the tracks.
In December 1954, the Five Cs and Eddie Chamblee were the acts that United Records sent down to the annual WDIA Goodwill Show in Memphis, Tennessee. WDIA promoted an annual show to support education for crippled children. Record companies, to keep the influential station playing their product, would provide free talent from their record stables. The other Chicago labels to send artists were Vee-Jay, which dispatched the El Dorados, and Chess, which contributed Eddie Boyd.
United and States were still productive on the recording front in 1954; the combined operations logged 131 new sides (counting usable alternate takes, but not gaps in the matrix number system). Three audition takes by Junior Wells have also survived. Activity had slacked off from the pace set in 1952 and 1953, but serious decline was not yet apparent.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|1410-5||L. C. McKinley||Disgusted||Delmark DE-717 [CD]||January 11, 1954|
|1411-2||L. C. McKinley||Tortured Blues||P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9040, Delmark DE-717 [CD]||January 11, 1954|
|1412-31||L. C. McKinley and Orchestra||Companion Blues
[Be My Companion*]
|States 135, Negro Art [Fr] M-12-SB-358, Python PLP-KM 15, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9040, Delmark DE-717 [CD]*||January 11, 1954||April 1954|
|1413-1||L. C. McKinley and Orchestra||Weeping Willow Blues||States 135, Negro Art [Fr] M-12-SB-358, Python PLP-KM 15, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9040, Delmark DE-717 [CD]||January 11, 1954||April 1954|
|1413 1/2-13||Ernest Cotton||Empty Bed||P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9040, Delmark DE-717 [CD]||January 11, 1954|
|1414||The Caravans | Albertina Walker, Soloist||The Angels Keep Watching||States 136||January 1954||April 1954|
|1415||The Caravans | Bessie Griffin, Soloist||Let Us Run||States 140, Gospel MG 3008||January 1954||Summer 1954|
|1416||The Caravans | Bessie Griffin, Soloist||Since I Met Jesus||States 136, Gospel MG 3008||January 1954||April 1954|
|1417||The Caravans | Bessie Griffin, Soloist||Blessed and Brought Up by the Lord||States 137, Gospel MG 3008||January 1954||April 1954|
|1418||The Caravans||Ain't That Good News||Gospel MG 3008||January 1954|
|1419||The Caravans||The Crucifixion||Sharp LP 2000||January 1954|
|1420||The Caravans||Keep Trusting||Gospel MG 3008||January 1954|
|1421||The Caravans||Just as I Am||unissued||January 1954|
|1422||The Caravans | Bessie Griffin, Soloist||Jesus Is a Rock||States 137||January 1954||April 1954|
|1423||Tab Smith and Orchestra||Top "n" Bottom||United 190, United LP 003, Delmark DL-429, Delmark DE-499 [CD]||January 24, 1954||May 1955|
|1424||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Orchestra||Rock City||United 174, United LP 003, Delmark DL-429, Delmark DE-499 [CD]||January 24, 1954||c. April 1954|
|1425||Tab Smith||My Ideal||Delmark DE-499 [CD]||January 24, 1954|
|1426||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Orchestra||How Long Has It Been||United 178, Delmark DE-499 [CD]||January 24, 1954||June 1954|
|1427||Tab Smith||The Moon Is Blue||Delmark DE-499 [CD]||January 24, 1954|
|1428||Tab Smith||If You Believe in Me||Delmark DE-499 [CD]||January 24, 1954|
|1429||Tab Smith||Zig Zag||Delmark DE-499 [CD]||January 24, 1954|
|1430-7||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||Wish Me Well||United 176, Delmark DE-710||March 16, 1954||May 1954|
|1431-3||Memphis Slim||Little Piece of Mind||Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||March 16, 1954|
|1432-4||Memphis Slim||Got to Find My Baby||Delmark DE-710 [CD]||March 16, 1954|
|1433-5||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||Four Years of Torment||United 182, Official LP 6006, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||March 16, 1954||c. September 1954|
|1434-5||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||Sassy Mae||United 176, Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||March 16, 1954||May 1954|
|1435-5||Memphis Slim||Banana Oil||Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||March 16, 1954|
|"girl singer"||Chocolate Colored Baby||unissued||March 16, 1954|
|Junior Wells||Please Throw This Poor Dog a Bone||Delmark DL-640, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-379, Delmark DD-640, P-Vine [J] PCD-20164||early 1954|
|[alt.]||Junior Wells||Please Throw This Poor Dog a Bone||Delmark DD-640, P-Vine [J] PCD-20164||early 1954|
|Junior Wells||Can't Find My Baby||Delmark DD-640, P-Vine [J] PCD-20164||early 1954|
|1436||Four Blazes||Drunken Blues||Delmark DE-704 [CD]||April 13, 1954|
|1437||The Blasers & Tommy (Mary Jo) Braden||She Needs to Be Loved||United 191, Delmark DE-704 [CD]||April 13, 1954||August 1955|
|1438||Tommy (Mary Jo) Braden and his Flames||Do the Do||United 177, United U-114 [CD], Delmark DE-704 [CD]||April 13, 1954||August 1954|
|1439||Tommy (Mary Jo) Braden and his Flames||Did You Ever See a Monkey Play a Fiddle||United 177, United U-114 [CD], Delmark DE-704 [CD]||April 13, 1954||August 1954|
|1440||Four Blazes||Don't Lose Your Cool||Delmark DE-704 [CD]||April 13, 1954|
|1441-4||Junior Wells||'Bout the Break of Day||States 139, Delmark DL-640, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-379, Delmark DD-640, P-Vine [J] PCD-20164||April 15, 1954||July 1954|
|1442-1||Junior Wells||Lord, Lord||Delmark DD-640, P-Vine [J] PCD-20164||April 15, 1954|
|1442-2||Junior Wells||Lawdy! Lawdy! [Lord, Lord*]||States 139, Python PLP-KM 9, Delmark DL-640*, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-379*, Delmark DD-640*, P-Vine [J] PCD-20164*||April 15, 1954||July 1954|
|1443-7||Junior Wells||So All Alone||States 143, Delmark DL-640, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-379, Delmark DD-640, P-Vine [J] PCD-20164||April 15, 1954||c. December 1954|
|1444-3||Junior Wells||Blues Hit Big Town||Delmark DL-640, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-379, Delmark DD-640, P-Vine [J] PCD-20164||April 15, 1954|
|1444-5||Junior Wells||Blues Hit Big Town||Delmark DL-640, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-379, Delmark DD-640, P-Vine [J] PCD-20164||April 15, 1954|
|Buddy diVito and Howard Zuegner's Orchestra||L'Odore della Rosa||United 179||May 19, 1954||June 1954|
|Buddy diVito and Howard Zuegner's Orchestra||I Remember||United 179||May 19, 1954||June 1954|
|1445-11||The Five C's||My Heart's Got the Blues||United 180, P-Vine [J] PLP-9036, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-776 [CD]||May 25, 1954||July 1954|
|1446-13||The Five C's||There's No Tomorrow||P-Vine [J] PLP-9036, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-776 [CD]||May 25, 1954|
|1447-4||The Five C's||I Long for You||P-Vine [J] PLP-9036, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-776 [CD]||May 25, 1954|
|1448-7||The Five C's||Goody, Goody||United 180, P-Vine [J] PLP-9036, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-776 [CD]||May 25, 1954||July 1954|
|1451||Tab Smith||Prisoner of Love||Delmark DE-499 [CD]||June 24, 1954|
|1452||Tab Smith||Lady of Love||Delmark DE-499 [CD]||June 24, 1954|
|1453||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Orchestra||For Only You||United 190, United LP 003, Delmark DL-429, Delmark DE-499 [CD]||June 24, 1954||May 1955|
|1454||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Orchestra||Mr. Gee||United 184, United LP 003, Delmark DL-429, Delmark DE-499 [CD]||June 24, 1954||September 1954|
|1455||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Orchestra||Tabolino||United 187, Saxophonograph BP509, Delmark DE-499 [CD]||June 24, 1954||February 1955|
|1456-4||The Rockin' and Walkin' Rhythm of Eddie Chamblee | Vocal by Eddie Chamblee||Come On In||United 181, Delmark DE-542 [CD]||July 30, 1954||c. September 1954|
|1457-5||The Rockin' and Walkin' Rhythm of Eddie Chamblee | Vocal by Eddie Chamblee||La! La! La! Lady||United 181, Delmark DE-542 [CD]||July 30, 1954||c. September 1954|
|1458-4||Eddie Chamblee||Rhapsody in Purple||Delmark DE-542 [CD]||July 30, 1954|
|1459||Eddie Chamblee||Time after Time||unissued||July 30, 1954|
|1460-5||Five C's||Only By You (I Want to Be Loved)||P-Vine [J] PLP-9036, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-776 [CD]||July 30, 1954|
|1461-1||Five C's||Going My Way||P-Vine [J] PLP-9036, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-776 [CD]||July 30, 1954|
|1462-1||Eddie Chamblee||St. James Infirmary||Delmark DE-542 [CD]||July 30, 1954|
|John Young||Invitation||unissued||July 30, 1954|
|John Young||Holliday||unissued||July 30, 1954|
|1463-3||Alfred Harris||Up Side the Wall||Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 9, 1954|
|1463-5||Alfred Harris||Up Side the Wall||Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 9, 1954|
|1464-2||Alfred Harris||Miss Ida||Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 9, 1954|
|1465-1||Alfred Harris||My Life Blues||Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, Delmark DD-775, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 9, 1954|
|1466-1||Alfred Harris||Great Lakes Boogie||Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 9, 1954|
|1467-1||Alfred Harris||Sundown Boogie Blues||Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 9, 1954|
|1468-3||James Banister [sic] and his Combo||Gold Digger||States 141, Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 9, 1954||July 1955|
|1469-4||James Banister and his Combo||Blues and Trouble||States 141, Python PLP-KM 15, Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 9, 1954||July 1955|
|1470||The Genesa Smith Singers||So Glad||unissued||August 16, 1954|
|1471||The Genesa Smith Singers | Lead Vocalist—Genesa Smith||Over in the Gloryland||States 142||August 16, 1954||late 1954|
|1472||The Genesa Smith Singers||He's Coming Back to Me||unissued||August 16, 1954|
|1473||The Genesa Smith Singers||Sweeter as the Days Go By||unissued||August 16, 1954|
|1474||The Genesa Smith Singers | Lead Vocalist—Genesa Smith||Look to the Hills||States 142||August 16, 1954||late 1954|
|1475||The Genesa Smith Singers||Grow Closer||unissued||August 16, 1954|
|1476-7||Tommy Brown and his Combo||Southern Women||United 183, Python PLP-KM 9, Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 26, 1954||c. October 1954|
|1477-2||Tommy Brown and his Combo||Remember Me||United 183, Python PLP-KM 9, Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 26, 1954||c. October 1954|
|1478-1||Tommy Brown||Card Game||Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 26, 1954|
|1479-1||Tommy Brown||Nosey Neighbors||Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||August 26, 1954|
|1480||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Orchestra||In a Little Spanish Town||United 184, United LP 003, Delmark DL-429, Delmark DE-499 [CD]||August 26, 1954||September 1954|
|1481-1||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||Blue and Lonesome||United 201, Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954||June 1956|
|1481-2||Memphis Slim||Blue and Lonesome||Red Lightnin' RL 006, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954|
|1482-6||Memphis Slim||Memphis Slim U.S.A.||Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954|
|1482-7||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||Memphis Slim U.S.A.||United 186, Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD], Delmark DD-775||September 29, 1954||c. January 1955|
|1483-1||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||She's Alright||United 189, Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954||May 1955|
|1483-2||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||She's Allright||Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954|
|1484-1||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||Two of a Kind||Delmark DE-762 [CD]||September 29, 1954|
|1484-2||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||Two of a Kind||United 189, Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954||May 1955|
|1485-1||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||Got to Find My Baby||United 201, Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954||June 1956|
|1486-1||Memphis Slim and his House Rockers||Blues All around My Head||Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954|
|1486-2||Memphis Slim||Blues All around My Head||United 186, Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954||c. January 1955|
|1486 1/2||Memphis Slim||Slim Was Just Kiddin'||Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954|
|1486 2/3||Memphis Slim||Jive Time Bounce||Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954|
|1486 3/4||Memphis Slim||Backbone Boogie||Pearl PL-10, P-Vine Special [J] PJ-108, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-372, Delmark DE-710 [CD]||September 29, 1954|
|1487-9||The Four Chimes [The Moroccos]||My Easy Baby||Delmark DE-761 [CD]||October 5, 1954|
|1488-6||The Dewtones||Rockalick Baby||Delmark DE-776 [CD]||October 5, 1954|
|1489-2||The Four Chimes
|When Was My Baby Born||Delmark DE-761 [CD]||October 5, 1954|
|1490-4||The Dewtones||Before I Met You||Delmark DE-776 [CD]||October 5, 1954|
|1491-3||Spiritualaires||Lay Down My Burden||Delmark DE-760 [CD]||October 14, 1954|
|1492||Spiritualaires||You Tell Heaven||unissued||October 14, 1954|
|1493-4||Spiritualaires||Love of Jesus in My Heart||Delmark DE-760 [CD]||October 14, 1954|
|1494-1||Spiritualaires||Our Prayer||Delmark DE-760 [CD]||October 14, 1954|
|1495-2||Spiritualaires||Heaven How Do You Do||Delmark DE-760 [CD]||October 14, 1954|
|1496-1||Big Walter and his Combo||Hard-Hearted Woman||Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||November 1, 1954|
|1496-3||Big Walter and his Combo||Hard-Hearted Woman||States 145, Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||November 1, 1954||January 1955|
|1497-2||Big Walter and his Combo||Back Home to Mama||Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||November 1, 1954|
|1497-4||Big Walter and his Combo||Back Home to Mama||States 145, Python PLP-KM 15, Pearl PL-12, Delmark DD-712, P-Vine [J] PCD-20162||November 1, 1954||January 1955|
|1498-8||Harold Barrage [sic] and Combo||Feel So Fine||States 144, Negro Art [F] M-12-SB-361, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9045, Delmark DE-717 [CD]||November 1, 1954||January 1955|
|1499-2||Harold Barrage and Combo||You're Gonna Cry||States 144, Negro Art [F] M-12-SB-361, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9045, Delmark DE-717 [CD]||November 1, 1954||January 1955|
|1500||The Caravans | Albertina Walker—Soloist||Tell Him What You Want||States 154, Gospel MG 3001||c. November 1954||February 1956|
|1501||The Caravans with James Cleveland||What Kind of Man Is This||States 146, Gospel MG 3001||c. November 1954||January 1955|
|1502||The Caravans with James Cleveland | Albertina Walker Soloist||The Man Jesus||States 146, Gospel MG 3001||c. November 1954||January 1955|
|1503||The Caravans | Cassietta George—Soloist||Wait for Me||States 154, Gospel MG 3001||c. November 1954||February 1956|
|1504||Caravans||The Crucifixion||Gospel MG 3001||c. November 1954|
|1505||Caravans||New Born Soul||Gospel MG 3001||c. November 1954|
|1506-1||Morris Pejoe||Let's Get High||Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|1506-4||Morris Pejoe||Let's Get High||P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9040, Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716, Delmark DD-775||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|1507-2||Morris Pejoe||You Messed Up||Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|1508-2||Morris Pejoe||I Wish My Baby||Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|1509-3||Morris Pejoe||Move It on out and Go||Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|1510-2||Morris Pejoe||May Bea||Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|1511-6||Morris Pejoe||Treat Me the Same||Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|1512-1||Morris Pejoe||Baby, You Know That's Wrong||Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|1512-6||Morris Pejoe||It Hurts My Feeling [sic]||P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9040||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|Arthur "Big Boy" Spires||Dark and Stormy Night||P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9040, Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|Arthur "Big Boy" Spires||Moody This Morning [Grooving This Morning*]||P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9040*, Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|Willie "Long Time" Smith||You Can't Tell||P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9040, Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|Willie "Long Time" Smith||Wrapped in My Baby [Rock with My Baby*]||P-Vine Special [J] PLP-9040*, Pearl PL-16, Delmark DD-716||c. December 1954
[Al Smith's basement]
|Staple Singers||Low Is the Way||Gospel 1011||c. December 1954||(January 1959)|
|1514||Staple Singers||This Same Jesus||Sharp 603||c. December 1954|
|Staple Singers||Since He Lightened My Heavy Load||Gospel 1011||c. December 1954||(January 1959)|
|1516||Staple Singers||This May Be My Last Time||Sharp 603||c. December 1954|
Leonard Allen opened 1955 by cutting 9 sides by one "M. Simpson." This was probably tenor saxophonist Mike Simpson. Born in 1916, Simpson was a veteran of the Swing bands and one of the better known white jazz players in Chicago. He also played the flute. Simpson worked many recording sessions from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, ranging from straightahead jazz to teen pop to exotica to the concisely named "Argo Rock." Just what he was up to on his January 18 session we have no idea, as none of it has ever been released.
The Danderliers began on the South Side in the Washington Park community. The group was discovered singing under the proverbial street lamp by Allen's nephew Smitty. At the group's first session in January 1955, the company cut "My Autumn Love" and "Chop Chop Boom." In March 1955 States released the pair back to back on States 147. The company first advertised the release in Cash Box on March 12, 1955 (p. 29); ads for States 147 and United 188 appeared on March 19 (p. 29) and April 2 (p. 70). That same week, Cash Box gave the record a Sleeper of the Week, which was duly commemorated in a company ad from April 9, 1955. Both sides are superb. Leonard Allen thought "My Autumn Love" would be the hit and made it the A side. With Red Holloway's tenor sax weaving through the group's romantically evocative nonsense-syllable refrain, a dozen "ho ahs," the record had all the marks of an instant classic. The jocks instead began flipping the record for the catchy jump tune (already given top billing in the March 12 ad). "Chop Chop Boom" scored well enough to make the national charts in April, lasting three weeks and peaking at position ten on Billboard's R&B survey.
The Danderliers' follow-up session on May 27, 1955 (again, they shared it with the Moroccos) featured two bluesy sides, "My Loving Partner" and "Shu-Wop." The title of "Shu-Wop" was originally intended to be "New Way." On the record the group backs Taylor with the line, "Dally got a new way, Dally got a new way." The record company's representative (probably Smitty) asked, "Dally got a new way to what?" After he found out, he decided "New Way" was too suggestive. The company expected a lot from the Danderliers. It got States 150 into record stores in July (see the company ad in Cash Box, July 2, 1955, p. 70; another ad followed on July 16, p. 25).
After their first two sessions, the Danderliers changed bass singers: Richard Thomas was replaced by Louis Johnson. The group's final session (again shared with other vocal groups), took place on October 19, 1955. It featured the magnificent ballad, "May God Be with You," backed with a jump, "Little Man." Again, States 152 was a priority release, out in December. Eugene Record of the Chi-lites related that "May God Be with You" was very big with teenagers in Chicago and he recalled the song with great fondness.
After adding Sollie McElroy as their new leader, the Moroccos went back into Universal Recording in January 1955 (for a session they shared with the Danderliers). One of the musicians in the studio had a set of maracas, which inspired the group to drop the Chimes and adopt the name Moroccos. The first session yielded a pretty ballad, "Pardon My Tears," and a dance tune, "Chicken," which when paired became the Moroccos' first release. While collectors generally hold the ballad in greater esteem, it was "Chicken" that got the radio play. We were under the impression that United 188 wasn't released till November or December, but this was way off the mark. On March 12, 1955 (Cash Box, p. 29), the company was already advertising United 188 in tandem with States 147, which the Danderliers had cut at the same session. Cash Box reviewed it on April 9 (p. 26).
The next session on May 27 produced the old Harold Arlen tune, "Somewhere over the Rainbow" (led by McElroy). It was backed with a catchy jump, "Red Hots and Chili Mac" (led by Vernon); hearing it, one could almost taste the greasy hot dogs and spicy sauce. This release in October 1955 was a double-sided hit in Chicago, and nationally it clicked on the ballad side.
Allen thought "Somewhere over the Rainbow" had pop potential, and sent a load of disks to a white distributor in Virginia. The distributor called back and drawled, "Sorry Mr. Allen, but we can't sell this Moroccos record here, the folks in this area won't even buy King Cole."
The Caravans continued their efforts for States in a session at an unknown date, which we've estimated as March 1955 (halfway between the January and May sessions for the company). Again James Cleveland accompanied the group, singing an impassioned lead on his arrangement of "Old Time Religion" and sermonizing on "The Solid Rock." The company got apparently got just two sides and one release out of it, States 149, which was advertised in Cash Box on July 16, 1955 (p. 25). Later, it was among the sessions that Leonard Allen would sell to Savoy.
Dennis Binder was born in Rosedale, Mississippi, on November 18, 1920. He began his career playing spirituals on piano. When he was young, his family moved to St. Louis and then in 1939 up to Chicago, where he got interested in the blues. He first shows up as a leader in Chicago on October 1, 1953, when he posted an indefinite contract with the Heat Wave with Musicians Union Local 208. On November 19 of the same year Binder posted an indefinite contract with the Fiesta Club. Heading south, he recorded a single under producer Ike Turner in Memphis in 1954; it got released on Modern. Returning to Chicago, Binder worked the Heat Wave in September 1954 (contract posted on September 2). During another trip to Chicago, Binder and his band knocked on Leonard Allen's door in May of 1955. The band he brought to the May 12 session included, besides Binder on piano, Vincent "Guitar Red" Duling on guitar, Bob Prindell on drums, and Raymond Hill and Bobby Fields on tenor saxes. Al Smith supplied the bass, without bringing ruination on the proceedings this time. Shortly after the session, Binder and band picked up work at the Fiesta Cotton Club (two contracts, one for 1 day and one "indefinite," were accepted and filed by Local 208 on June 2). In early July Binder started being featured at the Grand Terrace, which was undergoing one of its revivals at the time (indefinite contract posted on July 7).
In May 1956 Dennis Binder was back in town for a long-term engagement at the Rocket Lounge (he filed an indefinite contract and a 5 month contract with Local 208 on May 3). On August 2, he filed an indefinite contract with Tommy's Lounge.
Also featured on the May 12, 1955 session wereThe Drakes, a doowop group from East Chicago, Indiana. Tom Daniel was the group's tenor lead, and the composer of the songs they recorded for United. The other members were Lincoln Mabins (baritone) and three brothers, William Anderson (baritone), Robert Anderson (tenor), and Ira Anderson (bass). Unfortunately, both of The Drakes' sides were left in the can; they did not see release until they were included in a Delmark compilation of vocal group sides done for United.
July 11, 1955, brought an end to the Four Blazes' recording career, as they cut two final sides for United. The group broke up later that same year. Red Holloway guested on tenor, as he had on the 1954 session.
Some sources have put the next Tab Smith session on July 11, 1955, but the 2004 Delmark CD release of Tab's last 5 sessions for United gives the date as August 22. Tab made one concession to fashion, replacing his pianist with an organist; otherwise his approach remained unchanged. The 6 tunes on this session were done with just Tab in the front line and hid new rhythm section: Sam Malone at the organ and Vernon "Luck" King on bass. Walter Johnson continued in the drum chair. "Hurricane T" is a bop-flavored swinger with an alto solo followed by a tenor solo; Tab overdubs his tenor sax on the head. "Spider's Web" revisits a tune that Tab recorded in 1951 for Premium; it's a medium-slow blues enunciated in a straightahead fashion. Malone's accompaniment is good but his solo reveals for all to hear that he was no Jimmy Smith. "Mean to Me" and "Someone to Watch over Me" are great alto balladry in the Johnny Hodges tradition. On the crepuscular "T. G. Blues," Malone plays piano and overdubs his organ shadings. "Fast Blues," which lay unissued until 2004, goes from alto to tenor and combines the influences of Charlie Parker and Lester Young.
Judging from the number of records Allen chose to release on the Little Lucy Smith Singers, they must have been the company's third best selling gospel act, after the Caravans and the Reverend Robert Anderson. Lucy Smith was considered one of the gospel scene's premier piano players, and her group included some of the best singers Chicago had to offer: lead Gladys Beamon Gregory, Sara McKissick (soprano), and Catherine Campbell (alto). The group's first session, on August 22, 1955, also featured Herman Stevens on organ.
That session produced the group's biggest hit, “Somebody Bigger Than You and I,” which established their reputation in gospel circles. But Little Lucy Smith was already a well known name.
Smith was born Lucy Austin in 1925, in Chicago, the daughter of Rev. James Austin and Viola Smith. Her mother died when she was two, and Smith was raised by her father and her grandmother, the famed Pentecostal preacher and singer, Elder Lucy Smith, who founded the famed All Nations Pentecostal Church. Lucy, who started singing at age 4, became known as Little Lucy Smith. She began piano training under Roberta Martin when she was ten. By the mid-1940s, Little Lucy Smith had emerged as one of the foremost gospel talents in Chicago, known for outstanding work on the keyboards and graceful singing, as well as writing such gospel standards as “Oh My Lord, What a Time” and “What a Blessing in Jesus.”
The Pastels—Fred Buckley (lead), Charles McKnight (baritone), Norman Palm (first tenor), Robert Randolph (second tenor), and Charles Williams (bass)—recorded several sessions, but had only two sides released by the company, in 1956. The group signed with United in October of 1955. The songs they did at the October 19 session were "Bye Bye" and "Goodbye," both of which were fairly good, but Leonard Allen for some reason chose not to release them. (A later performance of "Bye Bye" that did see release was done by one of Sun Ra's vocal groups, The Cosmic Rays, for his Saturn label.) Leonard Allen obviously had plans for the group, because on November 23 the Pastels were recording again, putting on wax an average ballad, "Put Your Arms around Me," with a bouncy El Dorados-type jump tune, "Boom De De Boom." The latter song was originally intended for the El Dorados to record (on Vee-Jay), but the group was out of town when the person who brought it arrived from New York, so he took it to United. "Boom De De Boom" got the original airplay on local station WHFC, but then listener requests pushed "Put Your Arms around Me" onto the playlist.
At the request of the company, the Pastels replaced Buckley with a new lead, Julius Collins. Judging from the unreleased practice tapes that we have heard, this version of the group had a sound that could have taken them far. Unfortunately, United was in decline and never put the Pastels in the studio again.
The Pastels and The Danderliers actually shared the October 19 session with The Drakes. Again, the group recorded two sides; again they would not see release until many years later. After Larry Crues replaced William Anderson, The Drakes changed their name to The Dream Kings and recorded a single for Checker in 1957; "M. Y. T. L. T. T." was a local hit.
There is evidence of decline for all to see when we total up the company's recording activity for 1955. United and States generated just 50 new sides, less than United recorded as a brand-new concern in the second half of 1951. If we are interpreting the master numbers assigned to the tapes correctly (master numbers earlier in the series were applied to the finished product), the company also produced its first LP in 1955. This was an 8-tune 10-inch compilation titled Music Styled by Tab Smith; it brought together some of his most popular early sides.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|1517||Mike Simpson||Revolving Door||unissued||January 18, 1955|
|1518||Mike Simpson||Beware||unissued||January 18, 1955|
|1519||Mike Simpson||It's a Holiday||unissued||January 18, 1955|
|1520||Mike Simpson||unidentified title||unissued||January 18, 1955|
|1521||Mike Simpson||unidentfied title||unissued||January 18, 1955|
|1522||Mike Simpson||unidentified title||unissued||January 18, 1955|
|1523||Mike Simpson||unidentified title||unissued||January 18, 1955|
|1524||Mike Simpson||unidentified title||unissued||January 18, 1955|
|1525||The Moroccos||Red Hots and Chili Mac||unissued||January 18, 1955|
|1526||The Moroccos | Solly McElroy Vocalist||Pardon My Tears||United 188, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||January 18, 1955||March 1955|
|1527||The Danderliers | Dallas Taylor Vocalist||Chop Chop Boom||States 147, B&F 1344, Delmark DE-703 [CD], United U-163 [CD], SHM9090 [CD]||January 18, 1955||March 1955|
|1528||The Danderliers | Dallas Taylor and James Campbell, Vocalists||My Autumn Love||States 147, B&F 1344, Delmark DE-703 [CD], United U-163 [CD]||January 18, 1955||March 1955|
|1529||The Moroccos | Solly McElroy Vocalist||Chicken||United 188, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||January 18, 1955||March 1955|
|1530||Mike Simpson||unidentified title||unissued||January 18, 1955|
|1531||The Caravans with James Cleveland||The Solid Rock
[That Old Solid Rock*]
|States 149, Gospel 1044*, Gospel MG 3000, Sharp 601, Sharp LP 2000||c. March 1955||July 1955|
|1532||The Caravans with James Cleveland||Old Time Religion
[The Old Time Religion*]
|States 149, Gospel 1044*, Sharp LP 2000||c. March 1955||July 1955|
|1533-16||The Drakes||Mellow Daddy||Delmark DE-703 [CD]||May 12, 1955|
|1534||The Drakes||Just a Dream||Delmark DE-703 [CD]||May 12, 1955|
|1535-8||Long Man Binder and his Thin Men||The Long Man||United 194, Pearl PL-17, Delmark DE-717 [CD], Delmark DD-775||May 12, 1955||October 1955|
|1536-2||Long Man Binder and his Thin Men||Feel So Good||Pearl PL-17, Delmark DE-717 [CD]||May 12, 1955|
|1537-1||Long Man Binder and his Thin Men||I'm a Lover||Delmark DE-717 [CD]||May 12, 1955|
|1537-12||Long Man Binder and his Thin Men||I'm a Lover||United 194, P-Vine Special PLP 9045, Pearl PL-17, Delmark DE-717 [CD]||May 12, 1955||October 1955|
|1538-10||The Moroccos | Vocal by Ralph Vernon||Red Hots and Chili Mac||United 193, B&F 1347, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||May 27, 1955||October 1955|
|1539||The Moroccos||Morocco Chant||Delmark DE-761 [CD]||May 27, 1955|
|1540||The Danderliers | Dallas Taylor, Vocalist||Shu-Wop||States 150, B&F 1346, Delmark DE-703 [CD], United U-163 [CD]||May 27, 1955||July 1955|
|1541||The Danderliers | James Campbell, Vocalist||My Loving Partner||States 150, B&F 1346, Delmark DE-703 [CD], United U-163 [CD]||May 27, 1955||July 1955|
|1542-4||The Moroccos | Vocal by Solly McElroy||Somewhere over the Rainbow||United 193, B&F 1347, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||May 27, 1955||October 1955|
|1543||The Blasers & Tommy (Mary Jo) Braden||Done Got Over||United 191, Delmark DE-704 [CD]||July 11, 1955||August 1955|
|1544||Four Blazes||Women, Women||Delmark DE-704 [CD]||July 11, 1955|
|1545||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Combo||Mean to Me||United 195, United LP 003, Delmark DL-429, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||August 22, 1955||c. November 1955|
|1546||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Band||Someone to Watch over Me||United 209, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||August 22, 1955||February 1957|
|1547||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Combo||Spider's Web||United 195, United LP 003, Delmark DL-429, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||August 22, 1955||c. November 1955|
|1548||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Combo||T. G. Blues||United 199, United LP 003, Delmark DL-429, Saxophonograph BP511, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||August 22, 1955||April 1956|
|1549||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Combo||Hurricane T||United 199, United LP 003, Delmark DL-429, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||August 22, 1955||April 1956|
|1550||Tab Smith||Fast Blues||Delmark DE-555 [CD]||August 22, 1955|
|1551||(Little) Lucy Smith Singers | Gladys Beamon (Soloist)||Somebody Bigger than You and I||States 153||August 22, 1955||1955|
|1552||(Little) Lucy Smith Singers | Gladys Beamon (Soloist)||Everytime I Feel the Spirit||States 153||August 22, 1955||c. January 1956|
|1553||(Little) Lucy Smith Singers | Gladys Beamon, Catherine Campbell Sarah McKissick and Lucy Smith | Gladys Beamon (Soloist)||Come unto Me||States 151, Delmark DE-702 [CD]||August 22, 1955||late 1955|
|1554||(Little) Lucy Smith Singers | Gladys Beamon, Catherine Campbell Sarah McKissick and Lucy Smith | Lucy Smith (Soloist)||Jesus Lover of My Soul||States 151, Delmark DE-702 [CD]||August 22, 1955||late 1955|
|1555||(Little) Lucy Smith Singers | Gladys Beamon (Soloist)||On My Knees||States 158, Delmark DE-702 [CD]||August 22, 1955||October 1956|
|1556||Lucy Smith Singers||He's My Everything||Delmark DE-702 [CD]||August 22, 1955|
|1557||Lucy Smith Singers||I Just Had to Call His Name||States 162, Delmark DE-702 [CD]||August 22, 1955||prob. Summer 1957|
|1558 (see 1286)||Tab Smith||tape for 10" LP Side A||United LP 001||1955|
|1559 (see 1287)||Tab Smith||tape for 10" LP Side B||United LP 001||1955|
|1560||The Danderliers | Dallas Taylor Vocalist||Little Man||States 152, Delmark DE-703, United U-163 [CD]||October 19, 1955||December 1955|
|1561||The Danderliers | James Campbell & Dallas Taylor Vocalists||May God Be with You||States 152, Delmark DE-703, United U-163 [CD}||October 19, 1955||December 1955|
|1562-7||The Pastels||Bye Bye||Delmark DE-761 [CD]||October 19, 1955|
|1563-2||The Pastels||Goodbye||Delmark DE-761 [CD], Delmark DD-775||October 19, 1955|
|1564-4||The Drakes||Take a Giant Step||Delmark DE-776 [CD]||October 19, 1955|
|1565-4||The Drakes||Let Them Talk||Delmark DE-776 [CD]||October 19, 1955|
|1566-6||The Pastels | Fred Buckley, Vocalist||Boom De De Boom||United 196, United U-143 [CD], SHM9080 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||November 23, 1955||c. January 1956|
|1567-5||The Pastels | Fred Buckley, Vocalist||Put Your Arms around Me||United 196, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||November 23, 1955||c. January 1956|
The Five Chances, a group from Chicago's South Side, first recorded for Art Sheridan's Chance label, whence they got their name. After a brief appearance on Al Benson's Parrot label and many personnel changes, the group signed with Leonard Allen's States label at the beginning of 1956. Personnel for their States session on January 7 were Johnny "Chubby" Jones (lead), Reggie Smith, Howard Pitman, Jesse Stafford, and Ronald Johnson.
The two sides released from this session in May, "Gloria" and "Sugar Lips" (States 156), rank among the best of the group's career. The ballad side, "Gloria," was written and led by Jones, who is both the regular lead and the high tenor wailing lead; a delicious example of mid-fifties exotic vocal harmony, with loads of atmosphere. The jump side, "Sugar Lips," was written by Pitman and led by Jones. (The original record label wrongly credits Pitman with singing lead; in interviews with Robert Pruter both Jones and Pitman confirmed that Jones handled the leads on both sides of the record.) The chanting is forceful and magnetic, and "Sugar Lips" was one of the few jump sides of the day that equaled the ballad side in appeal.
Despite the excellence of the States sides, Allen chose not to keep the group, and the Five Chances moved on to Federal in 1957.
The Di Mara Sisters were an Italian-American vocal group. They were recorded in Detroit, apparently on January 25. Rose, Lillian, and Marisa Di Mara were born in Italy; their mother was American and their father, an accordionist, was Italian. Already established as performers in Italy, they arrived in the United States in 1953 and in March 1955 made their first club appearance, which took place in Detroit at Club Alamo (Detroit Free Press, March 8, 1955, p. 16). They got a writeup in the Pittsburgh Courier, on the strength of being "discovered" by bandleader Maurice King (Pittsburgh Courier, June 11, 1955, p. 15). King knew Leonard Allen and could have brought them to his attention.
United 197 was apparently the sisters' first and could easily be their most obscure release. Starting in February 1956, they were billed as recording artists, but the only publicity we have seen that offers details claims that they were under contract to RCA Victor (has anyone seen a Di Mara Sisters single on Victor?). Since no titles are mentioned, and the group's first gig in Fort Lauderdale was transformed into their first club date anywere in the country ("Singing Sister Trio to Open at Local Club," Fort Lauderdale News, May 30, 1956, p. 4), skepticism is in order. Through the end of 1957, the sisters held down frequent engagements in Detroit. That same year, the sisters signed with Roulette, recording several LPs of Italian and American songs that were widely licensed in other countries. After their contract with Roulette ran out in 1964, the Di Mara Sisters did little further recording, although a single for P. I. P. is known from 1971.
We are inclined to doubt that Leonard Allen supervised the Di Mara session. The label copy from the single (really rare, and we haven't seen it) might give further clues as to its origin.
The Sheppards consisted of George "Sonny" Parker (first lead), John Pruitt (second lead), James Dennis Isaac (first tenor), Nathaniel Tucker (bass), Kent McGhee (baritone), and Oscar Boyd (second tenor). On "Sherry" there was Isaac (lead), Pruitt (first tenor), Tucker (bass), McGhee (baritone), and Boyd (second tenor). This group of Sheppards, which cut one session for United on February 1, 1956, should not be confused with the later more famous group that appeared on Apex and Vee-Jay. Though both groups bore the name of their manager, Bill "Bunky" Sheppard, each had a different history and personnel.
"Mozelle" garnered considerable local radio play so the group was somewhat of a celebrity in the Midwest. "Sherry," although equal if not better to contemporary ears, only got a few plays. The Sheppards leveraged their recording success, such as it was, into an engagement at Club DeLisa. They also parlayed a tour off the songs, playing numerous cities in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee with a group of chorus girls and blues singer Tiny Topsy. The two other songs at the "Mozelle" session, which remained unreleased, are aggressive jump tunes, "Pretty Little Girl" and "Just Let Me Love You," the latter featuring a roaring tenor sax solo by Tommy Badger.
The Sheppards broke up in 1957 after Pruitt and Tucker were drafted and Boyd had to quit because he had gone blind from cataracts. Isaac would become a member of the Apex/Vee-Jay Sheppards several years later.
Despite the tangible decline in the company's fortunes, Tab Smith was still recording steadily for Leonard Allen. His session of April 10 at Universal Recording yielded six quality sides, but just one release ensued, on United 203. At the time his front line supposedly consisted of Irving Woods (trumpet) and Robert Darby and Charlie Wright (tenor and baritone saxes). What we actually hear on the session is a trumpet player (presumably Irving Woods, he is prominent on "Caravan") and the same rhythm section as on the session of August 22, 1955: Sam Malone (organ), Vernon King (bass), and Walter Johnson (drums). But the tenor and baritone saxes that follow along with Tab's alto, sometimes in unison, sound overdubbed, and the tenor and bari both have a light sound… the kind they would have when an altoist is doubling. On "I Want You to Love Me," where Tab solos on tenor, just baritone sax and trumpet can be heard in the background. So we're inclined to think that Tab played the other saxes himself.
On this Tab Smith session, United resumed recording an occasional vocal. But Leonard Allen had closed the book on the leader's crooning. Instead, he brought in a soulful blues singer named Ray King, who makes a good pleading account of himself on "Feel like I Wanna Die"; Malone switches to piano on this number, and the leader delivers a wailing alto solo. "Yo Yo Blues" uses the old "Yancey Special" bassline; the alto solo takes the Hodges approach to the blues. The previously unissued "Fast Blues" uses a Count Basie-style head but the alto solo takes off on a Bird flight, one segment of which is expanded into an overdubbed ensemble passage. On "Caravan," Malone plays the piano, Woods proves that his plunger-muted trumpet lead is not being overdubbed, there is a rare drum solo from Walter Johnson, followed a fervent alto solo accompanied only by the drums and a quick coda for the entire combo. "Blues in My Heart" is a not nearly well enough known Benny Carter composition (we rather doubt that Smith was familiar with the 1946 recording for Miracle by Dick Davis and his sextet with vocals by Savannah Strong). "I Want You to Love Me" (which remained unissued till 2004) has another strong blues vocal by Ray King and a Lestorian tenor sax solo by the leader.
Recent research has shown that the last two tracks from the April 10 session, previously listed as unidentified titles, were actually by the Danderliers. These first versions of "My Love" and "She's Mine" have a looser feel to them—more like a live performance—than the originally issued versions, and sound quite good, now that they have been dusted off and released in 2004 on a Delmark vocal group CD. The accompaniment, by tenor sax (plus a baritone sax heard only on "My Love"), piano, bass, and drums, is definitely not by Tab Smith's combo; more research is needed.
Singing Sammy Lewis (1921-1994) was a long-time star in Chicago's gospel circuit. As a boy he was a member of the Roberta Martin singers. In 1949, he recorded under his own name for Aristocrat. In 1954 he cut two sessions for Vee-Jay, with a third following in 1955. In his liner notes to Working the Road: The Golden Age of Chicago Gospel (Delmark DE-702, issued 1997), Anthony Heilbut points up the influence of Mahalia Jackson in Lewis's singing, with his "bluesy runs and impassioned interjections." Lewis's only release for the company, United 202, came out in October.
The session of June 22, 1956 featured Lucy Smith on piano and Herman Stevens on organ; the Lucy Smith Singers laid down three tracks of their own the same day, two of which were released on States. States 162, which was held off for about a year after the session, is extremely scarce today.
The Lucy Smith Singers broke up in the late 1950s, and Lucy Smith became the pianist for the Roberta Martin Singers. In 1962, Savoy Records released an instrumental album of gospel hymns called “Little Lucy Smith at the Organ.” In the 1970s, Smith suffered a stroke, which left her unable to play the piano, but she continued to perform as a singer. She died on September 19, 2010.
In early July, Allen brought back J. T. Brown, whose "nanny-goat" tenor sax had sold records for United in the early going. Since Allen dropped him in 1952, Brown had recorded with Elmore James for Meteor, Checker, and Flair, appearing as a leader on 4 of the Meteor sides. He had worked as a sideman for JOB in 1953, and recorded a session as a leader for Parrot that Al Benson decided to shelve. Brown released one single under his own name from a January 1954 session for JOB; "Use That Spot" is a remake of one of those sides. The four tunes that Brown cut at Boulevard Studios were up to his usual standard, but Allen, who had turned away from blues recording, apparently questioned their commercial prospects and never released them. Brown subsequently recorded two sides for Atomic-H (1959 or 1960). In 1969, he appeared on a Fleetwood Mac session for Blue Horizon, playing tenor sax behind the group and various guest artists and singing his own "Blackjack Blues." He died a few months later.
On July 27, 1956 (another Boulevard Studios session) Artie Wilkins shared a session with The Palms, who also backed him on one of the numbers. Wilkins had a strong bass-baritone voice and some old-fashioned mannerisms (like using "uh, ruh" for a hesitation pause, and singing "Now'r'I'm beggin' and pleadin'"). The company released just one single on Wilkins: The jump, "Darling Patricia," put Wilkins in front of the Palms, while the ballad side "Please Come on Home," with lots of redundant piano triplets in the accompaniment, is strictly the singer's vehicle. Two blues sides were left in the can.
The Palms stuck around to make two sides of their own. These were good-quality doowop, but the company was now in sharp decline and the group had no name recognition, so the sides would sit unreleased for more than 40 years. All six tracks featured an excellent Al Smith-led studio band featuring Little Wash on tenor sax and Mac Easton on baritone. The whomping backbeats on "Darling Patricia" were the work of Vernel Fournier.
Joe Brown of JOB fame had something to do with this session. "Darling Patricia" is credited to him and published by Bud Brandom's Frederick Music. Meanwhile, "Please Come Back" is credited to Dennis Binder, who had recorded for United in 1955 but not been brought back for another session.
A session in late August 1956 produced the Danderliers' last release, which came out in November (we don't have exact dates for some of the Boulevard Studios material, so we have estimated them from the Boulevard "work order" numbers, using the known dates of January 7 and July 27, 1956 as anchors). Apparently Leonard Allen wasn't satisfied with "She's Mine" and "My Love" from the April 10, 1956 session, and brought the group in to remake them. Indeed, the ballad side, "My Love," might have had a more doowoppy sound had Allen not interfered. On the master tapes heard by Robert Pruter, the group puts a lot of whoo-whooing in the vocal mix, but after several bars, Leonard Allen halts the take, and yells at the group, "what's with this whoo-whoo shit!" Thereafter, on subsequent takes, the Danderliers sing the song straight without any vocal baroque background flourishes. Although "My Love" did well in Chicago, United Records simply lacked the clout at this point in its history to get the record going nationally.
The Danderliers made just eight sides for Leonard Allen, but none was less than good and most were exceptional. They belong in the pantheon of great R&B groups from Chicago.
The Moroccos shared the late August session. George Prayer wrote some of the songs, but shortly before the group was scheduled to go into the studio, he joined the Marines. The Moroccos recruited Calvin Barron (who is best known today for singing lead in The Cosmic Rays, one of Sun Ra's vocal groups, during 1958 and 1959) to replace him. The session produced two releases for the group. The first, on United 204, paired Prayer's saccharine composition "What Is a Teen-Ager's Prayer," in which McElroy gives a fine reading, with the excellent loping "Bang Goes My Heart." The record came out in September 1956 and despite the songs' evident commercial potential, neither made it.
The second release from this session (United 207, which turned out to be the group's last) featured the lovely Prayer-penned "Sad Sad Hours," which had McElroy trading the lead with Vernon. On the flip side, "The Hex" was a dreadful novelty jump. As with the previous release, the record (which suffered from uncharacteristically blowsy sound, no doubt the fault of the budget studio) enjoyed little sales action. United was going down the tubes by this time and proved incapable of promoting the Moroccos.
The last session of the year was done in September. The Caravans turned out 5 more sides, two of which were promptly released on States 159. "Onward Christian Soldiers," complete with "battle" rhythms from the organ, was an original composition unrelated except in title to the Baring-Gould hymn.
United and States recorded just 50 new sides during 1956. Even the money-saving stratagem of recording at Boulevard Studios did nothing to raise the output. Probably the company's biggest accomplishments were its second and third LPs (a second Tab Smith compilation and a Jimmy Forrest, each consisting entirely of previously released material). Both were 12-inch LPs, as was now the norm.
A sign that the company was in trouble was the sale of half of the in-house publishing company to pay off back taxes. Except during the very earliest days, the company-controlled publisher was called "Pamlee": Pam and Lee were Lew Simpkins' daughters. In his 1976 interview with Jim O'Neal, Allen said that at one point he owed the government $18,000 in taxes, but the government was willing to accept $8,000. Allen went to Bud Brandom and sold him Samuel Smith's half of the publishing company for $10,000. Allen engaged in a bit of sharp practice; he actually told Smitty that he hald sold all of the publishing to Brandom, that he would get $10,000 for it, and that after paying the government the taxes due, they would split the $2,000 for $1,000 each. Allen attached no date to this event, but obviously it came when the company was in financial trouble, and the changeover in publishing companies can be documented from other sources. It was toward the end of 1956 that "Brandom" or "B&F" began to show up on the labels.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|1576||Five Chances | Lead Vocalist Howard Pitman [sic]||Sugar Lips||States 156, Delmark DE-703, United U-163 [CD], Famous Groove [F] FG.971016 [CD]||January 7, 1956
|1577||The Five Chances||Bashful Boy||Delmark DE-703||January 7, 1956
|1578||Five Chances | Lead Vocalist Johnny Jones||Gloria||States 156, Delmark DE-703, United U-163 [CD], Famous Groove [F] FG.971016 [CD]||January 7, 1956
|1568||The Di Mara Sisters||Whose Heart Are You Breaking||United 197||January 25, 1956
|1569||The Di Mara Sisters||Don't Trust Yourself||unissued||January 25, 1956
|1570||The Di Mara Sisters||Story Love||United 197||January 25, 1956
|1571||The Di Mara Sisters||Please Be Mine||unissued||January 25, 1956
|1572-7||The Sheppards | John Pruitt Vocalist||Mozelle||United 198, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||February 1, 1956||c. April 1956|
|1573-5||The Sheppards||Just Let Me Love You||United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||February 1, 1956|
|1574-5||The Sheppards | James Issac Vocalist||Sherry||United 198, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||February 1, 1956||c. April 1956|
|1575-2||The Sheppards||Pretty Little Girl||Delmark DE-761 [CD]||February 1, 1956|
|1579||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Orchestra||Yo Yo Blues||United 203, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||April 10, 1956||October 1956|
|1580||Tab Smith||Bounce Blues||Delmark DE-555 [CD]||April 10, 1956|
|1581||Tab Smith and Orchestra | Vocal by Ray King||Feel like I Wanna Die||United 203, Saxophonograph BP503, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||April 10, 1956||October 1956|
|1582||Tab Smith||I Want You to Love Me||Delmark DE-555 [CD]||April 10, 1956|
|1583||Tab Smith||Blues in My Heart||Delmark DE-555 [CD]||April 10, 1956|
|1584||Tab Smith||Caravan||Delmark DE-555 [CD]||April 10, 1956|
|1585||The Danderliers||She's Mine||Delmark DE-776 [CD]||April 10, 1956|
|1586||The Danderliers||My Love||Delmark DE-776 [CD]||April 10, 1956|
|1587||male gospel quartet||I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray||unissued||May 29, 1956|
|1588||male gospel quartet||I'm a Goin'||unissued||May 29, 1956|
|1589||male gospel quartet||Key to the Kingdom||unissued||May 29, 1956|
|1590||male gospel quartet||I Wait on Jesus||unissued||May 29, 1956|
|1591||Lucy Smith Singers||He's So Divine||unissued||June 22, 1956|
|1592 [alt.]||Lucy Smith Singers||Hold the Light||Delmark DE-702 [CD]||June 22, 1956|
|1592||(Little) Lucy Smith Singers | Gladys Beamon (Soloist)||Hold the Light||States 158, Delmark DE-702||June 22, 1956||October 1956|
|1593||Singing Sammy Lewis with The Lucy Smith Singers||The Man beyond the Clouds||United 202||June 22, 1956||October 1956|
|1594||Sammy Lewis||I'm Heaven Bound||United 202, Delmark DE-702||June 22, 1956||October 1956|
|1595||Lucy Smith Singers||He'll Make You Happy||States 162, Delmark DE-702||June 22, 1956||c. Summer 1957|
|42-4311-5||J. T. Brown||Going Home to My Baby||Pearl PL-9, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-378, Delmark DE-714||early July 1956
|42-4312-10||J. T. Brown||It's a Shame to Tell the People||Pearl PL-9, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-378, Delmark DE-714||early July 1956
|42-4313-5||J. T. Brown||Lonely (as a Man Can Be)||Pearl PL-9, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-378, Delmark DE-714||early July 1956
|42-4314-2||J. T. Brown||Use That Spot||Pearl PL-9, P-Vine Special [J] PLP-378, Delmark DE-714||early July 1956
|5001; 5002-2||Artie Wilkins||Please Come Back||States 157, P-Vine Special PLP-9045, United U-163 [CD]||July 27, 1956
|5002; 5001||Artie Wilkins and The Palms||Darling Patricia||States 157, United U-163 [CD]||July 27, 1956
|5003-3||Artie Wilkins||Traveling Blues||P-Vine Special PLP-9045||July 27, 1956
|5004-4||Artie Wilkins||Going Home to My Baby||P-Vine Special PLP-9045||July 27, 1956
|5005||The Palms||I Knew I Had a Chance||Delmark DE-703 [CD]||July 27, 1956
|5006||The Palms||Dianne||Delmark DE-703 [CD]||July 27, 1956
|5007||The Danderliers | Dallas Taylor and Louis Johnson—Vocalists||She's Mine||States 160, Delmark DE-703||late August 1956
|5008||The Danderliers | Dallas Taylor and James Campbell Vocalists||My Love||States 160, Delmark DE-703||late August 1956
|5009-5||The Moroccos | Ralph Vernon—Vocalist||Bang Goes My Heart||United 204, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||late August 1956
|5010-4||The Moroccos | Lefty Bates Band||Sad Sad Hours||United 207, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||late August 1956
|5011-2||The Moroccos | Solly McElroy—Vocalist||What Is a Teen-Ager's Prayer||United 204, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||late August 1956
|5012-2||The Moroccos | Lefty Bates Band||The Hex||United 207, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||late August 1956
G90P-7101 (in vinyl)
|Tab Smith||Red Hot and Cool Blue Moods||United LP 003 Side A||Fall 1956|
G90P-7012-2 (in vinyl)
|Tab Smith||Red Hot and Cool Blue Moods||United LP 003 Side B||Fall 1956|
|1598||Jimmy Forrest||United LP 002 Side A||Fall 1956|
|1599||Jimmy Forrest||United LP 002 Side B||Fall 1956|
|1600||Caravans||Steal Away||Sharp LP 2000||c. September 1956|
|1601||Caravans||Standing in the Need of Prayer||Sharp LP 2000||c. September 1956|
|1602||The Caravans||None but the Righteous||States 159, Sharp LP 2000||c. September 1956||October 1956|
|1603||The Caravans||Onward Christian Soldiers||States 159, Sharp LP 2000||c. September 1956||October 1956|
|1604||Caravans||Jesus||Sharp 601, Sharp LP 2000||c. September 1956|
On January 24, 1957, Leonard Allen went to his most reliable performer, Tab Smith, for a 6-tune session at Universal. Smith had moved closer to the conventional organ combo instrumentation. Now filling out Smith's working unit of Sam Malone (organ), Vernon King (bass), and Walter Johnson (drums) was Lefty Bates (guitar). And unlike Smith's past front-line partners, the veteran guitarist was given some solo space. United 205 was a strong coupling of "Pretend," a ballad feature for Tab's alto sax, and "Crazy Walk," a loping medium-tempo number on which he plays alto and tenor. "Soft Breeze," a funky blues feature for Tab's alto, appeared on United 209, coupled with "Someone to Watch over Me" from the previous session. (Until research was done in 2004 for the Delmark CD that completed the company's Tab Smith series, the date on this session was unknown; we previously placed it in late 1956.)
Matrix numbers 1609 and 1610 (listed in Koester's article as "Crying My Blues Away" plus an unidentified title by an unidentified artist) turn out to be by blues singer Ray King, making his second appearance with Tab Smith's combo. They were released, with no dates, matrix numbers, or identification of the singer, on the same Delmark CD as Tab Smith's November 1953 session and his 1954 sessions. "Crying My Blues Away" is an intense gospelly blues performance, with Tab and company in a strict accompaniment role (and note the rhythm guitar...). King is also the singer on "Baby Please Don't Go," which includes a tenor solo by the leader and a long "preaching" sequence by King with shouted responses from the band. Malone plays piano on these two numbers, and Bates lays out on "Baby Please Don't Go."
Allen went back one last time to his most reliable gospel group, recording The Caravans in February. Made at Universal, the two sides would be the company's very last efforts at sacred music; States 161 was the valedictory release in a distinguished Spiritual Series. James Cleveland was still working with the group when these sides were cut. He would move on to the Gospel All-Stars and the Gospel Chimes, and in 1960 he would begin recording on his own. He recorded with the Angelic Choir for Savoy in 1962, and went on to found the Southern California Community Choir and the Gospel Singers Workshop Convention. He died in Culver City, California, on February 9, 1991. The Caravans, meanwhile, would remain with their new company, Savoy, until its founder, Herman Lubinsky, died in 1974. With Shirley Caesar as a new featured soloist, they would rise to the top of the gospel world.
William "Lefty" Bates was born in Leighton, Alabama, on March 9, 1920. He was raised in Saint Louis and went to Vashon High School. While still in secondary school Bates formed a vocal/string band, a kind of ensemble that was extremely popular in the black community during the 1930s and the 1940s. The group was called the Hi-De-Ho Boys, and consisted of Tommy Powell (dance / vocals), James Crosby (bass /vocals), Lefty Bates (guitar /vocals), Bill Williams (guitar / vocals), Walter Jones (guitar / vocals), and Cleo Roberts (guitar / vocals). The Hi-De-Ho Boys moved to Chicago in 1936, recorded on Decca, and became a semi-regular act at the Club DeLisa from 1937 to 1950.
Bates served in World War II, and when he got out formed his own combo. He then joined the Aristo-Kats, who successfully recorded for RCA Victor in 1946 and 1947. When the group broke up in 1948, Bates rejoined the Hi-De-Ho Boys.
In 1952 Bates formed a trio with Quinn Wilson (bass), and Horace Palm (piano). Through much of the decade he played regularly with this trio in the clubs; sometimes a horn player was added to make it a quartet. The Bates trio could be found at Duke Slater's Vincennes Lounge (601 East 36th), the Shalimar Club (5659 Wentworth), the Trocadero Lounge (4719 Indiana), and Spruce's Duck Inn Lounge (5550 South State). This was the core group that recorded his United session on February 26, 1957. Horace Palm, a balladeer, was responsible for two vocals; the group also laid down an instrumental, "Chicago Cha Cha." On the cha cha, the prominent front line consists of a trumpet, a tenor sax, and a baritone sax, as well as possibly a trombone (the same horns are on Palm's vehicle, "Somebody Will Understand," but recessed). The horn players still need identifying, as does the drummer.
Bates recorded minimally under his own name, producing one release on Boxer earlier (1955). A little later he would do a session on Mad (1958) and two for Apex (1959). Recordings as a leader were in any case incidental to Bates' career; he earned his money from club gigs and session work. A full list of the recording sessions he worked for Vee-Jay would easily run past 100 entries, and he had been fairly busy in the studios for United and States in the past. Bates's last musical affiliation was with the Ink Spots, during the 1970s. Because of the onset of Alzheimer's disease, he had to enter a nursing home in 2001. Lefty Bates died on April 7, 2007.
The Palms had the misfortune to be one of those unheralded groups that had a lot of talent but never received the opportunity to shine. They came out of the West Side and attended Creiger and Crane high schools. Members of the Palms were Wilbur Williams (lead), Willie Young (tenor), M.C. Ward (bass), O.C. Perkins (second tenor), and Murrie Eskridge (first tenor and sometimes lead). They were backed by Lefty Bates' combo on the February 26 session, which produced "Tear Drops."
The final effort by The Palms took place on April 5, 1957; they shared the session with the Strollers and the Answers, two vocal groups of which we know absolutely nothing. Accompaniment was handled by a strong Lefty Bates combo, this time with Red Holloway on tenor, Mac Easton on baritone sax, and Paul Gusman on drums ("Edna" by The Palms leaves off the baritone sax). "Keeps Me Worried All the Time" by the Answers includes a blistering tenor solo by Holloway, and there is another strong Holloway solo (with counterpoint by Easton) on the Strollers' jump side, "Go Where Baby Lives." We'd thought that Lefty's regulars—Horace Palm and Quinn Wilson—once again handled the piano and the bass. However, "In Your Dreams" by the Strollers is credited to one Dixon, and the string bass on the side sounds like Willie's.
The Palms got just one release with Allen: "Edna" b/w "Tear Drops" on United 208 (some sources have claimed another single on States 162 on which the group was called the Five Palms—but States 162 was by the Lucy Smith Singers). United 208 was released in June 1957, and despite some airplay never made it even as a local hit. "Edna," done to a cha cha beat, and the ballad "Tear Drops," both put Williams' lead well to the front and the rest of the group to the background, and that was part of the problem. There were four Palms songs in the can, all better than the released sides, that never saw the light of day. Most noteworthy among these was "Dianne," which had been cut at the group's first session on July 27, 1956; this was the one song that the group had hoped the company would release. But in 1957 United was in the process of going out of business.
The Palms broke up and evolved into the Ballads, whose members were Perkins and Eskridge, O. C. Logan, Willie Logan, and Kermit Chandler. In late 1958 the Logan brothers left the group and joined two other singers to form the Equallos, who recorded for Mad. The remainder of the Ballads joined the Apex/Vee-Jay Sheppards group.
We had thought The Strollers' one release, States 163, might have been held off a couple more months, but on the strength of a rather positive review in Cash Box (June 22, 1957, p. 40), we've learned it was out the same month as United 208.
On May 23, Tab Smith carried his fabulous alto into Universal Recording for the last time. Again he was accompanied by Lefty Bates on guitar, Sam Malone on organ, Vernon King on bass, and the faithful Walter Johnson on drums. Just two of the sides were released ("My Mother's Eyes" b/w "Dansero" on United 211). "My Mother's Eyes" is a remake of a sentimental old song that Smith had recorded back on June 11, 1952. On the 1957 version Ray King makes listeners believe they are hearing a gospel hymn. "Dansero" is a spirited rhumba. Also included were a glowing, Hodges-like rendition of "Stardust" (not issued on United), and a ballad feature, "Alone without You," on which Ray King again proves that he was the best singer that Tab Smith carried during his United years.
The soul-blues number "Pick Up the Tab Part 1" (on which Swing veteran Walter Johnson shows he'd learned how to do a prominent backbeat) was released in 2004 Delmark DD-904, a 2CD jubilee collection entitled 50 Years of Jazz and Blues: Jazz. Is "Pick Up on Tab Part 1" as released on recent Delmark CDs the same piece that showed up on B&F 1348 (as "Pickin' up the Tab") after United folded? It wouldn't hurt to check. The sequel, "Pick Up on Tab Part 2," probably saw its first release on the final Tab Smith CD on Delmark. The other side of the B&F was called "Moonstone" there, and was later reissued on Saxophonograph BP511 under the same title. Could someone have retitled "Stardust" so as to avoid having to pay composer royalties? To be researched.
Leonard Allen next picked up two sides by John Hampton (recorded May 24, 1957). The involvement of Annis House as the publisher (on these two, as well as the Loretta Thompson session covered below) tells us that the sides were not originally intended for United. Although Annis House was active for roughly five years trying to get artists to record its songs, it worked mostly with small indies and strictly regional operations. The first media mention of the pubbery comes from Billboard for February 6, 1954 (p. 22): "George Annis, who heads the Annis House of Music, Detroit, flew East for a quick conference with Mercury Record executives on future cutting sessions for the Gaylords, for whom he is arranger." The Detroit-based vocal group duly released "A Kiss to Call My Own" on Mercury 70427, with George Annis and His Orchestra, and Annis House as the publisher (reviewed in Billboard, August 21, 1954, p. 40). The Gaylords got a lot of chances to record, but Annis had a low success rate in getting them record other songs that he controlled—the group either cut standards, or the songs were written by its own members (who had the business sense to open their own publishing companies). Nor was Annis House often able to exploit its owner's connection with Mercury. Annis got Mercury to cut (or pick up) two Jon Thomas sides in 1957; if there are others we haven't spotted them. Hence the turn to small regional companies.
By 1957, Annis House had an office in Chicago, but it was recording a lot of its material in Cincinnati. Or so we learn from the recollections of Larry Short, the proprietor of Ruby Records. Short landed some Annis House business when he agreed to record Bobby Martin and the Tune Twisters on an emergency basis, for a session that started at midnight on January 2, 1957: "Charles Kanter, a representative of Annis House, a publishing firm in Chicago, Ill., had intentions of using a major studio in Cincinnati, to record the group. When they arrived at the studio, the engineer was intoxicated, so Charlie brought them to us" (Larry Short as interviewed by Derek Glennister, "The Story of Ruby Records," New Kommotion #16, Summer 1977, http://www.bopping.org/ruby-records-hamilton-ohio/). Ruby was in Hamilton, one county north of Cincinnati.
This session, which produced Ruby 390, wasn't the first to involve Ruby Records and Annis House. There are 1956 releases on Ruby with Annis House credits, such as Ruby 100 by Walter Scott and 290 by Ray Pennington, but the pace definitely picked up in 1957: besides several by Bobby Martin and the Tune Twisters, there were releases on Bill Stucker, the Begley Sisters, and Arnold van Winkle. To the point where we figure Annis House was recording material in Hamilton, Ohio, or in a Cincinnati studio it could still depend on, and dealing some of it to United.
The affiliation between Annis House and Ruby didn't continue into 1958. The Tune Twisters' manager, Vic Bellamy, started his own label in Cincinnati, Bel-Kay. Bellamy's own sacred music sides on Bel-Kay 601, along with "Back to School Rock" by Bobby Martin on Bel-Kay 605, were published by Annis. In the meantime Ruby increasingly relied on its house publisher, L & R. The latest Annis House credit we have seen is on a Joe Brown/Bud Brandom release, Oriole 1319, which came out in 1959. The Gaylords had previously cut tunes published by Brandom entities, such as Frederick and B&F, so there could have been a direct transaction between George Annis and Bud Brandom.
John Hampton's United 210 is pure rockabilly. "Honey Hush" (which had been a big hit for Joe Turner) brings out Hampton's best Elvis impression; "Shadow Blues" is rockabilly not trying to sound like Elvis. Hampton's instrumental lineup consisted of steel guitar, guitar, string bass, and drums. "Honey Hush" rather unusually features a drum solo. "Honey Hush" has been reissued on two different anthologies with the appropriate title We All Want to Sound like Elvis; "Shadow Blues" has been adopted by a couple of other rockabilly collections.
Allen also acquired two sides by Don Reed and His Swingin' Reeds. The Reed sides were recorded in Los Angeles, then slotted into the Boulevard martix series. Reed was a songwriter and a one-time member of the Red Surrey Trio, which recorded for Chance in 1953. In 1954, he signed with Gilt Edge (making his first session with his new label at Universal in Chicago) and our guess is that these sides had a Country or even a rockabilly flavor (not that it would hurt to hear them).
Arbee Stidham was the last blues artist to record for Leonard Allen, and was responsible for the very last release on States. Stidham was born 9 February 1917 in DeValls Bluff, Arkansas. He came to Chicago in the 1940s and his first recording session for RCA Victor in 1947 produced a number one R&B hit on the Billboard race chart, "My Heart Belongs To You," which featured Sax Mallard's lachrymose alto work. Stidham recorded five sessions altogether for Victor through 1950, using excellent musicians such as Mallard, Bill Casimir, and Cozy Eggleston, but never got another chart record. He subsequently recorded for Bob Shad's Sittin' in with label (1951), Checker (1952-53) with Tommy "Madman" Jones on tenor sax, and Joe Brown and Eli Toscano's Abco (1956) before inking with States.
Stidham did this session on July 12, 1957 with a Lefty Bates Band that featured Earl Hooker on lead guitar, "Sugarman" Penigar and "Madman" Jones on tenor and baritone saxes, and Fred Below in the drum chair. Again Al Smith played bass without significantly degrading the quality of the material. It turns out that the takes of "Look Me Straight in the Eye" and "I Stayed Away Too Long" actually issued on States 164 were not the same ones featured on Pearl and Delmark reissues; all of the surviving complete takes were finally brought together in 2004 on Blue Moon BMCD 6039, Arbee Stidham, The Complete Recordings 1947-1957: Vol. 2 (1951-1957). Two LP sessions for Folkways (both featuring Memphis Slim) followed in 1960 and 1961. His last session was done for Sam Phillips in Memphis in 1965; nothing was released off it till years later. Arbee Stidham died in Chicago in 1988.
The same band backed a vocal group called The Earls for two sides. The last of Leonard Allen's vocal groups to record, the Earls (whose lineup remains unknown to us) were also the most modern. "Meet Me after School" sounds very much like what the El Dorados might have been putting out. "I Love You So" is a ballad, trending toward soul music, in which the group sings with élan and vigor. Sugarman Penigar's solo is particularly pleasing on "Meet Me after School." Given the group's name, Earl Hooker may have brought them to the session, though the guitarists are strictly in a rhythm role on the vocal group tracks. These sides should never have been left in the can, but his company was faltering, and Allen probably chose not to release an unknown group on the market. The Earls finally got a hearing in 2004, when their tracks were included in the final Delmark collection of vocal group recordings for United and States.
In the fall, United tried a group called Loretta Thompson and Her Rockers. This was basically a Country group, judging from the playground love song "Let's Change the Alphabet" (to put U next to I...), but they managed some country-rock on "Hi De Ho Rock and Roll." The other two tracks were never released. The singer was actually on her second try at changing the alphabet. As Little Loretta Thompson, she first recorded the song for Fayette, a small label out of Lexington, Kentucky, in November 1954 ("Cincinnati Cut-Ups," Cash Box, November 13, 1954, p. 34). She was 12 years old at the time.
The instrumental lineup we hear on United 214 is steel guitar, guitar, piano, bass, and drums. The pianist, steel guitarist, and guitarist all solo. One wonders whether some of the same musicians had accompanied John Hampton. Annis House, the publisher for both of the tunes that were released, had formed a relationship with Ruby Records out of Hamilton, Ohio, and Ruby had a house band that could have been called upon for the occasion. According to a somewhat confusing item placed in the Cincinnati Enquirer on October 22, 1957, "Two new songs, by Isabelle Carter, Cleves, in collaboration with Cincinnati lyricist Lilian Munz, have just been released by United Records. One, titled "Let's Change the Alphabet," is sung by 15-year-old Loretta Thompson of Middletown..." (p. 9). (The second Carter-Munz song, recorded by a different singer, wasn't released on United; it came out in January 1958 on a small label in Cincinnati.) Middletown being a few miles north of Hamilton, we suspect the tracks were cut in Ohio and slotted into the Boulevard matrix series. The announcement in October was a little premature; United 214 came out in mid-November. Loretta Thompson made one more recording that we know of. Probably also done in Ohio, it was released on a Nashville-based label called Skoop: her memorial tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper was reviewed in Billboard on March 30, 1959 (p. 47) and in Cash Box on April 11 (p. 12).
Had Leonard Allen made a move into rock and roll earlier, it would have significantly enhanced the label's commercial prospects.
Around the time of the Loretta Thompson outing, the company brought Tab Smith in for a farewell session. We'd thought it was recorded at Boulevard Studios, which remains a possibility—but it could have been recorded somewhere else and mastered at Boulevard. Heavy-handed production had been avoided throughout his long relationship with the company, but now it was brought to bear. Smith's alto sax (had he hung up the velvet tenor?) found itself in the company of a trombone section (probably 3 of the sliphorns all told), piano (switching to organ on "Just One More Time"), guitar, bass, and drums. The guitarist who chicken-scratches, and throws out a mechanical little solo on "Mambolino," is not Lefty Bates; the drummer is not Walter Johnson. The group sound resembles what can be heard on some ofAl Smith's instrumentals from 1957 and 1958: trying at rock and roll and coming out garish, corny, and stiff instead. When Smith reaches the coda to "Mambolino" he flutters and tosses like a bird trying to escape from a cage; he gets a briefer reprieve from the formula at the end of "Just One More Time."
Just the titles that were released on United, "Mambolino" and "Just One More Time," have survived; they had to be dubbed off a United 78 for the final installment in Delmark's Tab Smith series. Koester listed a 5019 from the same session, but nothing more is known about it and there is a good chance that it has been lost.
It was getting to be mop-up time. Two sides by Jack Medell appear, from their titles, to be instrumental Latin exotica, which was enjoying a vogue at the time. Jack Medell, known on the bandstand as Pancho, led a series of Latin bands in Chicago during the 1950s. The record was an independent production leased to Leonard Allen; the masters were returned to Medell after the company folded.
Last to record for United were a vocal trio: Carol, Linda, and Cathy. Their sides were cut at Universal Recording at some point in the fall of 1957; with titles like "I Don't Wanna Be the Last on Santa's List" they were obviously intended for holiday release. Alongside the Christmas offering on United 216, the company put forth its final coupling by the ever-reliable Tab Smith on United 217. We had thought that United and States were gone by the end of year, but a late review of United 217 in Cash Box suggests that Allen may have hung on into February 1958.
Any recording, however, had been done in 1957. In its final year of operation, the company managed 49 new sides, of which probably 10 were purchased from other sources.
|Matrix||Artist||Title||Release Number||Recording Date||Release Date|
|1605||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Band||Soft Breeze||United 209, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||January 24, 1957||February 1957|
|1606||Tab Smith Featuring the Tenor Sax and his Band||Crazy Walk||United 205, Delmark DE-555 [CD], Delmark DD-775||January 24, 1957||February 1957|
|1607||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and his Band||Pretend||United 205, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||January 24, 1957||February 1957|
|1608||Tab Smith||Slow Blues||Delmark DE-555 [CD]||January 24, 1957|
|1609||Tab Smith (vocal by Ray King)||Crying My Blues Away||Delmark DE-499 [CD]||January 24, 1957|
|1610||Tab Smith (vocal by Ray King)||Baby Please Don't Go||Delmark DE-499 [CD]||January 24, 1957|
|1611||The Caravans||Come on Jesus||States 161, Gospel MG 3007||c. February 1957||early 1957|
|1612||The Caravans||Crucifixion||States 161, Gospel MG 3007||c. February 1957||early 1957|
|1613-5||The Palms and Lefty Bates Band||Tear Drops||United 208, Delmark DE-776 [CD]||February 26, 1957||June 1957|
|1614||The Palms||Little Girl of Mine||unissued||February 26, 1957|
|1615||The Palms||One More Time||unissued||February 26, 1957|
|1616||Lefty Bates and his Band||Chicago Cha Cha||United 206||February 26, 1957||c. March 1957|
|1617||Lefty Bates and his Band | Vocal Horace Palm||Why Can't You Love Me||unissued||February 26, 1957|
|1618||Lefty Bates and his Band | Vocal Horace Palm||Somebody Will Understand||United 206||February 26, 1957||c. March 1957|
|1619-4||The Palms and Lefty Bates Band||Edna||United 208, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-776 [CD]||April 5, 1957||June 1957|
|1620||The Strollers and Lefty Bates Band||In Your Dreams||States 163, Delmark DE-703 [CD]||April 5, 1957||June 1957|
|1621||The Palms||Love Is No Thing to Play With||unissued||April 5, 1957|
|1622||The Strollers and Lefty Bates Band||Go Where Baby Lives||States 163, Delmark DE-703 [CD]||April 5, 1957||June 1957|
|1623||The Strollers||Bitter Dreams||unissued||April 5, 1957|
|1624-1||The Answers and Lefty Bates Band||Have No Fear||United 212, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||April 5, 1957||c. September 1957|
|1625-1||The Answers and Lefty Bates Band||Keeps Me Worried All the Time||United 212, United U-143 [CD], Delmark DE-761 [CD]||April 5, 1957||c. September 1957|
|1626||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and His Band Featuring Ray King on Vocal||My Mother's Eyes||United 211, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||May 23, 1957||August 1957|
|1627||Tab Smith||Alone without You||Delmark DE-555 [CD]||May 23, 1957|
|1628||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and His Band||Dansero||United 211, Delmark DE-555 [CD]||May 23, 1957||August 1957|
|1629||Tab Smith||Pick up on Tab, Pt. 1||B&F 1348 [?], Delmark DD-904 [CD], Delmark DE-555 [CD]||May 23, 1957|
|1630||Tab Smith||Stardust||Delmark DE-555 [CD]||May 23, 1957|
|1631||Tab Smith||Pick up on Tab, Pt. 2||Delmark DE-555 [CD]||May 23, 1957|
|John Hampton and his Band||Shadow Blues||United 210, Chief CD 1156510, True Blue Rockabilly CD 002||May 24, 1957
[Cincinnati or Hamilton, Ohio]
|John Hampton and his Band||Honey Hush||United 210, Revival LP 0002, Popular CD 5004||May 24, 1957
[Cincinnati or Hamilton, Ohio]
|5015||Don Reed and His Swingin' Reeds||Western Union||United 215||June 13, 1957
[Radio Recorders, Los Angeles]
|c. November 1957|
|5016||Don Reed and His Swingin' Reeds||Why Don't You Believe Me||United 215||June 13, 1957
[Radio Recorders, Los Angeles]
|c. November 1957|
|1634-?||Arbee Stidham | Lefty Bates Band||Look Me Straight in the Eye||States 164, Crown Prince [Swe] IG-404, Blue Moon BMCD 6039||July 12, 1957||November 1957|
|1634-5||Arbee Stidham||Look Me Straight in the Eye||Delmark DE-717 [CD], Blue Moon BMCD 6039||July 12, 1957|
|1635-?||Arbee Stidham | Lefty Bates Band||I Stayed Away Too Long||States 164, Crown Prince [Swe] IG-404, Blue Moon BMCD 6039||July 12, 1957||November 1957|
|1635-4||Arbee Stidham||I Stayed Away Too Long||Delmark DE-717 [CD], Blue Moon BMCD 6039||July 12, 1957|
|1635-9||Arbee Stidham||I Stayed Away Too Long||Pearl PL-17, Delmark DE-717 [CD], Blue Moon BMCD 6039||July 12, 1957|
|1636-9||The Earls||Meet Me after School||Delmark DE-776 [CD]||July 12, 1957|
|1637-5||The Earls||I Love You So||Delmark DE-776 [CD]||July 12, 1957|
|5013||Loretta Thompson and Her Rockers||Let's Change the Alphabet||United 214||c. October 1957
[prob. Hamilton, Ohio]
|5014||Loretta Thompson and Her Rockers||Hi De Ho Rock and Roll||United 214, Buffalo Bop CD 55076||c. October 1957
[prob. Hamilton, Ohio]
|Loretta Thompson||Stealin' Your Stuff||unissued||c. October 1957
[prob. Hamilton, Ohio]
|Loretta Thompson||I Didn't Believe Me||unissued||c. October 1957
[prob. Hamilton, Ohio]
|5017||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Orchestra||Mambolino||United 217||Fall 1957
[poss. Boulevard Studio]
|5018||Tab Smith His Fabulous Alto and Orchestra||Just One More Time||United 217||Fall 1957
[poss. Boulevard Studio]
|5019||Tab Smith||unidentified title||unissued||Fall 1957
[poss. Boulevard Studio]
|1638||Jack Medell and his Orchestra | Trumpet Solo - Dom Geraci||Enchantment||United 213||1957||c. October 1957|
|1639||Jack Medell and his Orchestra | Trumpet Solo - Dom Geraci||Umbé||United 213||1957||c. October 1957|
|1640||Carol, Linda, and Cathy||I Don't Wanna Be the Last on Santa's List||United 216||Fall 1957||November 1957|
|1641||Carol, Linda, and Cathy||Merry Christmas Window||United 216||Fall 1957||November 1957|
Leonard Allen's operation was clearly going downhill in 1955, yet it took another two years to die. We saw that in 1956 United/States relied heavily on the second-tier Boulevard Studio, to save on recording expenses. In 1957, the company was purchasing masters wherever it could find them. The release schedules for both labels slowed to a crawl. The rock 'n' roll revolution was at full throttle during these years, but Leonard Allen did not know how to build his groups into rock 'n' roll stars. The Danderliers, perhaps also the Moroccos and the Palms, had what it took to become a part of the rock 'n' roll revolution, but their company did not. By the time that Allen began to acquire other rock and roll material in 1957, he no longer had the marketing clout to move the sides. Meanwhile, both urban and bar-band blues were losing their mass appeal, as were the jukebox jazz stylings of Paul Bascomb, Jimmy Forrest, and Tab Smith.
Leonard Allen would make a final attempt to reenter the record business. Ben Grevatt's "On the Beat" column (Billboard, July 28, 1958, p. 45) carried this curious item:
United records, helmed by Leonard Allen, will probably merge with J.O.B. records, owned by Joe Brown, soon. Allen will handle the business side primarily, while Joe Brown will direct A&R chores. J.O.B. label will be the moniker used. Allen has turned over the contract of altoist Tab Smith, former Count Basie sideman, to the Chess brothers, who are readying a release ...
JOB was experimenting with a variety of business alliances in 1958, and Joe Brown's negotiations with Leonard Allen explain how some JOB master tapes ended up in Allen's hands. But nothing came of their projected partnership, except a JOB LP by Nelda Dupuy and a Sax Kari single.
The Tab Smith transaction was for real. (In fact, the tapes of Smith's sessions for United were held by the Chess operation for years, and had to be retrieved before Delmark could start reissuing any of his work.) After his 6-year run with United, the saxophonist recorded an LP in Chicago for Checker (done over 3 sessions in 1958 and 1959); it was titled Keeping Tab. The first single appeared in July 1958 (Argo 5304 was reviewed in Billboard on July 28, p. 42, and in Cash Box on August 9, p. 12). Judging from the two sides of Checker 933, the Chess brothers recorded Tab with a rhythm section of piano, guitar, bass, and drums, but insisted on layering on the middle-of-the-road treatment. "Because of You" (a remake of his biggest hit) and "The Nearness of You" are encumbered with strings and a choir (which sings wordlessly, waiting till the end of each piece to proclaim the title.) While Tab was still in excellent form, the sweetening would have deterred some of his old audience without garnering him a new one.
Neither the LP nor the single on Checker and the 2 singles on Argo that were extracted from it did much business. The Chess brothers let his contract expire in 1959, and in 1960 Smith moved on to King, doing two sessions in Cincinnati from which the company harvested a total of three singles. Faced with a record-buying public that now regarded his music as dated, Tab Smith went into the real estate business; his main musical activity now was playing piano in a steakhouse.
A final session was done for a local St. Louis label operated by former Swing bandleader Eddie Johnson. ELJ 8013/8014 features Smith in rather tired voice singing "Burning Flame of Love," and Smith and one V. Watson doing some uptempo blues on "I'm Tore Up". The backing is by organ and drums; V. Watson was most likely drummer Virgil Watson, who in 1960 and 1961 was a member of the trio led by singer/pianist Joe Buckner. The alto sax work on the ELJ lacks the authority that it would have had in Tab's prime. The ELJ single appears to have been done in the early 1960s, after Tab Smith took the day job. Tab Smith died in St. Louis on August 17, 1971.
In 1958, Allen unloaded all of the Caravans' masters to Herman Lubinsky of Savoy. Some previously unissued tracks ended up on Savoy's Gospel subsidiary. It could be that the Staple Singers items were included in the same transaction. As usual with Lubinsky's acquisitions, the details are not fully clear. Cash Box noted (October 13, 1958, p. 44) that the Caravans had been signed to Savoy, and it si reasonable to suppose that their States masters changed hands around the same time.
After his record company folded, Leonard Allen reverted to his tailor shop to make a living. Then he joined the Cook County Sheriff's Department and worked as a deputy for several years. Between 1959 and 1962, a number of United/States releases were reissued on the B&F label. Located at 1329 South Michigan Avenue, B&F was a company owned by Bud Brandom, who had bailed Allen out in 1956 by buying a 50% share in the publishing arm of United/States. According to Bob McGrath's reference volumes, The R&B Indies, which are more thorough on the B&Fs than Koester's discography, one B&F release (1348) came from previously unissued United material, and 7 more (1325, 1338, 1341, 1342, 1344, 1346, and 1347) were reissues from the United and States catalogs. In his last years Allen supplemented his meager Social Security income by doing tailoring in his apartment.
The rich United/States catalogue remained in Allen's hands. In 1975, Bob Koester, owner of the Delmark label, a Chicago-based jazz and blues imprint, purchased the masters and rights to the United/States catalogue, and since that time a considerable portion of United/States' output has been reissued, including a remarkable number of unreleased sides. Because Delmark (along with its subsidiary Pearl and its Japanese licensee P-Vine Special) has operated an orderly and reasonably comprehensive reissue program, we have listed all of the reissues here. Leonard Allen died on July 16, 1985.
Unlike virtually every other indie label we've encountered, United and States kept their release series almost perfectly consecutive. United singles ran from 101 to 217, for a total of 116 releases; only United 200 was skipped over (everyhting else was so regular, we assume this was done on purpose). States ran gaplessly from 101 to 164, for a total of 64. In 1955 and 1956 United dipped a toe into the LP market, releasing two on Tab Smith and one on Jimmy Forrest. The 1955 release was a 10-incher; the two from 1956 were 12-inch LPs. At least the second Tab Smith, Red Hot and Cool Blue Moods on LP 003, was pressed by RCA Victor.
The backbone of our discography is, of course, Robert Koester's exhaustive listing, "The United/States Masters" in Blues Unlimited, no. 123, January-February 1977, as supplemented by information from LP releases on Delmark and Pearl and CD reissues on Delmark. The main deficiency in Koester's work is his reliance on titles from company files instead of the actual singles—in consequence, Delmark has often changed titles on reissue. (Starting with its reissues from 2001, Delmark has been checking with collectors to find the titles as issued.) Taking advantage of Tom Kelly's extensive holdings, we have corrected the artist identifications and titles from the original labels wherever possible. Bill Daniels supplied us with the dates of every advertisement or review of United and States releases in Billboard; we would not be able to provide accurate information in our righthand columns without his help.
Our history of the labels was built on interviews with Leonard Allen by Jim O'Neal and Robert Pruter, plus the following published sources: Peter Grendysa, "The United and States Labels," Goldmine, 13 February 1987, pp. 79+; Robert Pruter and Jim O'Neal, "Leonard Allen and the United/States Story, Part One." Living Blues 92 (July/August 1990): 37-40; Robert Pruter and Jim O'Neal, "Leonard Allen and the United/States Story, Part Two." Living Blues 93 (September/October 1990): 34-36; Robert Pruter and Jim O'Neal, "Leonard Allen and the United/States Story, Part Three." Living Blues 95 (January/February 1991): 41-46. Our thanks to Mark Seganish and to Terry Gordon's Rockin' Country Style site (http://rcs.law.emory.edu/rcs/index.hm) for further information about John Hampton and Loretta Thompson's United recordings. Stefan Wirz's American Music site (http://www.wirz.de/music/american.htm) has been most helpful with pre-Delmark and P-Vine reissues of United and States material.