Thursday, September 01, 2005


the be-bop boy takes five

James Banister, Ain't Gonna Tell You No Lie.
Joe Hill Louis, Dorothy Mae.
L.C. Hubert, Lucy Done Moved.
Willie Nix, Bakershop Boogie.
Woodrow Adams, Train Time.
Elven Parr & the In the Groove Boys, I'm a Good Man.
Walter Horton, Little Walter's Boogie.

Rock & roll, like a medieval cathedral, is the work of anonymous craftsmen spread over the generations. Here is a slab of blues/rock recordings made in Sam Phillips' Memphis studio during 1952--none from any bluesman who made it big in any commercial sense; for most of them, these records were the high-water mark. Most were unreleased, some the product of a whim--a journeyman drummer's desire to sing; someone trying to give their trombone-playing cousin a break; a few traveling players coming together for a day or two, trying to find a sound.

Consider these tracks a substratum of R&B and rock--the fruit of musicians who had a few good songs in them, who put them on tape or acetate disc during a few afternoons in Memphis, and then vanished into the ether. These are their rocking epitaphs.

James Banister, who drummed with the Red Devils, a Chicago R&B unit, cut only one track at Sun: "Ain't Gonna Tell You No Lie", which was recorded on May 3 and never released. Banister allegedly became a minister by decade's end.

L.C. Hubert is a ghost--aside from having appeared on a few Howlin' Wolf sessions and having recorded "Lucy Done Moved" on June 14 (never released), there is nothing else known about the man.

Willie Nix's "Bakershop Boogie", recorded on October 9, was released as Sam Phillips' second single, Sun 179. Nix, a drummer, made a local name for himself and moved up to Chicago in 1953, but returned south in 1958, possibly to face a murder charge (he apparently was either never charged or was acquitted). He died in 1991.

Woodrow Adams, another cipher, recorded "Train Time" on May 24. It was never released.

Joe Hill Louis' "Dorothy Mae", recorded on July 18, was released as Checker 763. The brilliant Louis, born in 1921 in Whitehaven, Tennessee, supported himself doing odd jobs--at work he cut his thumb and died of tetanus in 1957.

Elven Parr's In the Groove Boys hailed from Osceola, Arkansas--Albert King was their singer for a time. On "I'm a Good Man", recorded on April 16 and never released, pianist Eddie Snow sings. Little if anything has been heard from Snow or any other of the Groove Boys since the Eisenhower years.

By contrast to most of these musicians, Walter Horton had a long and vigorous career. Born in 1917, Horton claimed to have recorded for Vocalion in the 1930s, though no evidence has turned up, and by 1952 he was travelling around the South, playing picnics and fishfries. "Little Walter's Boogie" is just one of the brilliant recordings he made for Phillips (and for which Phillips paid him $59 in total). Horton went up to Chicago and eventually played with Muddy Waters and Otis Rush. He died in 1981.

All these tracks can be found on Sun Records: The Blues Years, a fantastic 8-CD set that is now long out of print. Some of them are on this compilation.

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