BOOGIE AT MIDNIGHT – R&B Singles 1950-1952

The last time we opened up the History section of Celebrate Good Times, we looked at the Top 100 Soul Singles of 1963. This week’s blog ventures even further back into time and focuses upon the earliest era the book covers – the early Fifties. It is the pioneering black music champion Jerry Wexler who is credited with instigating the term ‘rhythm and blues’ when he was writing for Billboard magazine in the late Forties. Until then, black music had been known variously as race music, sepia music, Harlem music and other terms. Even though these terms originated in the black community, by the end of the Forties they were deemed to cause offence. So Wexler coined the term to rename the ‘race charts’ which for many years had identified the strongest selling black music records. In 1950, ‘rhythm and blues’ was still a relatively new term (also called R&B) but it stuck around for a couple of decades before finally being dubbed ‘soul music’ at the tail end of the Sixties. Basically used as a marketing concept by the record industry to encompass the many different kinds of black music which were popular at the time, it meant that ‘rhythm and blues’ featured different styles and strands of Afro-American music being recorded during this pivotal and important era. For a music nut like myself, investigating this particular era of the book has been particularly rewarding and satisfying. Having been particularly interested in vocal group music since my late teens, I was already familiar with a multitude of key doowop groups and records from the mid-late Fifties. An early interest in rock and roll also sparked an early love for R&B-based tunes of the era too. However, the many years of researching my book has uncovered a wealth of fantastic R&B music which I had hitherto been unfamiliar with. As explained before, the History section of the book features music predominantly released in the United Kingdom. In order that this amazing music of the period wasn’t neglected, I realized that I would have to make an exception and feature records that had only been released in the United States.

This hot 100 features a small selection of what I consider to be some of the outstanding rhythm and blues records which were released in the US between 1950 and 1952. In a later blog, the years 1953-1955 will also be resurrected, inspected and dissected. This particular chart has been one of the most difficult to compile as it covers a three year period instead of a singular one. Therefore, I researched literally hundreds of records issued over the three years before I was able to slim it down to just 100. Initially I attempted to do a more-or-less equal three-way-split – but felt that some of the later, better records deserved some attention and were being missed out because of that criteria. Therefore, the final compilation was done purely by musical pleasure – ending up with 29 records from 1950, 27 from 1951 and the rest from 1952.

The list features a wide range of musical styles and acts and includes a few records released on the major labels – but mostly these records were issued by the specialist black music record companies, such as Jubilee and Atlantic (out of New York), Chicago-based Chess and Los Angeles labels like Modern, RPM and Speciality. The records predominantly sold on 10-inch shellac 78s but many were also issued on the smaller 7-inch vinyl 45s format as well. It is these early singles that have become ridiculously collectable by vinyl enthusiasts.

Blues music was pretty much synonymous with early R&B in its early incarnation and derivatives such as jump blues, electric blues, Chicago blues and so on are all represented. Stand-out tracks include T-99 Blues (Jimmie Nelson & The Peter Rabbit Trio), Roy Hawkins’ Why Do Everything Happen To Me, Lowell Fulsom’s Blue Shadows and B.B. King’s 3 O’ Clock Blues.

The vocal group era exploded in the Fifties but the style had been pioneered in the Thirties and Forties by The Ink Spots. There are lush neo-doowop ballads by groups such as The Cabineers, The Larks, The Checkers, The Orioles, The Moonglows, The Swallows, The Ravens, The Five Crowns, The Four Buddies and King Odom Four. The Royals’ 1952 hit Every Beat Of My Heart was revived in the early Sixties by The Pips – featuring Ms. Gladys Knight. The Cardinals’ The Wheel Of Fortune was later a massive hit for Kay Starr. More uptempo vocal-group cuts include The Dominoes’ classics Sixty Minute Man (covered in the Seventies by The Trammps) and Have Mercy, Baby; The Du-Droppers’ Can’t Do Sixty No More; The Treniers’ Go! Go! Go! (which they re-cut a few years later); the popular tune One Mint Julep by The Clovers; and other records by The Tilters, The Four Blazes and Chris Powell & The Five Blue Flames.

Strictly instrumental hits such as Chica Boo by Lloyd Glenn’s Combo, Earl Bostic’s Flamingo, Jimmy Forrest’s slow and silky Night Train (later beefed up by James Brown in the early Sixties), Little Walter’s bluesy Juke, Tab Smith’s sweet version of Tony Bennett’s Because Of You  and the great arrangement by the Johnny Otis Orchestra of the standard Harlem Nocturne all prove that words are just sometimes not necessary.

Johnny Otis (father of Shuggie) was a key figure in the development of black music and discovered a considerable number of important singers and musicians. Little Esther Phillips was one of them – she sings on Cupid’s Blues, Mistrustin’ Blues and Double Crossing Blues along with Mel Walker.

Other female singers featured are Varetta Dillard, Damita Jo (Janet Jackson later named one of her albums in honour of the vocalist) and Dinah Washington. The great Annisteen Allen sings on the Lucky Millinder classic I’m Waiting Just For You. Laura Tate provides the vocal on the Joe Morris smash Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere. Lil Greenwood is accompanied by The Four Jacks on the lively Grandpa Can Boogie Too. Ruth Brown is another influential artist of the era and has three of her prolific output in the list – I wish there could have been room for more!

Male vocalists include a mix of screamers, shouters, wailers and charmers – more familiar names such as Rosco Gordon, Wyonie Harris, Percy Mayfield, Johnny Ace, Amos Milburn, Roy Brown, Charles Brown, Lloyd Price and Ray Charles rub shoulders with perhaps lesser known singers like James Waynes, Joe Houston, Teddy Reynolds, Clarence Garlow, Joe Liggins and the brilliant Calvin Boze. Lonnie Johnson (Seven Long Years) was a blues artist who had been around since the Twenties and Thirties. In honour of him, that British skiffle star and pioneer Mr. Donegan took his first name. I make no apologies for including crooners such as Nat “King” Cole, Arthur Prysock and Billy Eckstine – their lush ballads sold extensively in the R&B market.

Special mentions go to: the chart-topping Ray-O-Vacs with their wonderful version of Besame Mucho; Bull Moose Jackson for his risqué Nosey Joe (“…long as they’re women, he’s ready to stick his big nose in their business.”) – his brilliant Big Ten Inch Record also deserves an honorary mention; The Five Keys’ for their sublime rendition of The Glory Of Love; Doc Sausage & His Mad Lads for their excellent version of the much-recorded Rag Mop; Shirley & Lee with their glorious I’m Gone – Shirley finally hit the big time in 1974 with the disco classic Shame, Shame, Shame.

A final mention to Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats. This is one of the few records to be a contender as the first rock and roll record. It is actually Ike Turner’s Kings Of Rhythm under an alias. Whether it is or isn’t, it’s a damn fine record.

Here’s the very best of the very best:

1. BESAME MUCHO | The Ray-O-Vacs | 1950/Decca

2. NIGHT TRAIN | Jimmy Forrest | 1952/United

3. SIXTY MINUTE MAN | The Dominoes | 1951/Federal

4. I’M GONE | Shirley & Lee | 1952/Aladdin

5. THE GLORY OF LOVE | The Five Keys | 1951/Aladdin

6. BAD, BAD WHISKEY | Amos Milburn | 1950/Aladdin

7. CHICA BOO | Lloyd Glenn’s Combo | 1951/Swing Time

8. LAWDY MISS CLAWDY  | Lloyd Price | 1952/Speciality

9. FLAMINGO | Earl Bostic | 1951/King

10. PLEASE SEND ME SOMEONE TO LOVE | Percy Mayfield | 1950/Speciality

11. ROCKET 88 | Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats | 1951/Chess

12. TEND TO YOUR BUSINESS | James Waynes | 1951/Sittin’ In With

13. MY SONG | Johnny Ace | 1952/Duke

14. THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE | The Cardinals | 1952/Atlantic

15. GO! GO! GO! | The Treniers | 1951/Okeh

16. ONE MINT JULEP | The Clovers | 1952/Atlantic

17. RAG MOP | Doc Sausage & His Mad Lads | 1950/Regal

18. I’M WAITING JUST FOR YOU | Lucky Millinder & His Orchestra | 1951/King

19. I GOT LOADED | Peppermint Harris | 1951/Aladdin

20. DREAM GIRL | Jesse & Marvin | 1952/Speciality

21. ROLL WITH ME BABY | Ray Charles | 1952/Atlantic

22. MY REVERIE | The Larks | 1951/Apollo

23. ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANYWHERE | Joe Morris & His Orchestra | 1950/Atlantic

24. 3 x 7 = 21 | Jewel King | 1950/Imperial

25. CUPID’S BOOGIE | Little Esther w/ Mel Walker | 1950/Savoy

And here’s the very best of the very rest:

GRANDPA CAN BOOGIE TOO | Lil Greenwood & The Four Jacks | 1952/Federal

BOOGIE AT MIDNIGHT | Roy Brown | 1950/Deluxe

MY BABY’S GONE | The Ravens | 1950/Atlantic

EACH TIME | The Cabineers | 1951/Prestige

TEARDROPS FROM MY EYES | Ruth Brown | 1950/Atlantic

3 O’ CLOCK BLUES | B.B. King | 1951/RPM

HAVE MERCY, BABY | The Dominoes | 1952/Federal

LOVE DON’T LOVE NOBODY | Roy Brown | 1950/Deluxe

BESIDE YOU | The Swallows | 1952/King

BOOTED | Rosco Gordon | 1952/Chess

BEST WISHES | Roy Milton & His Solid Senders | 1951/Speciality

I DON’T KNOW | Willie Mabon & His Combo | 1952/Chess

ROCKIN’ WITH RED | Piano Red | 1950/RCA Victor

I APOLOGIZE | Billy Eckstine | 1951/MGM

SUMMER’S ON ITS WAY | Teddy Reynolds | 1950/Sittin’ In With

DOWN IN THE BOTTOM | Chris Powell & The Five Blue Flames | 1950/Columbia

LATER BABY | Fat Man Matthews & The Four Kittens | 1952/Imperial

CAN’T DO SIXTY NO MORE | The Du-Droppers | 1952/Red Robin

EE-TIL-YA-DEE | The Tilters | 1952/Atlantic

LOOPED | Tommy Ridgley | 1952/Imperial

BABY DON’T DO IT | The Five Royales | 1952/Apollo

HARD TIMES | Charles Brown | 1952/Aladdin

ROCKET 69 | Todd Rhodes Orchestra | 1952/King

BON TON ROULA | Clarence Garlow | 1950/Macy’s

JUKE | Little Walter | 1952/Checker

IT ISN’T FAIR | Dinah Washington | 1950/Mercury

WEEPIN’ AND CRYIN’ | The Griffin Brothers | 1951/Dot

LUCKY | King Odom Four | 1952/Abbey

LAST CALL FOR ALCOHOL | Hot Lips Page & His Orchestra | 1952/King

BLOWIN’ CRAZY | Joe Houston | 1952/Modern

WHY DO EVERYTHING HAPPEN TO ME | Roy Hawkins | 1950/Modern

I’M IN THE MOOD | John Lee Hooker | 1951/Modern

IF I COULD SEE MY BABY | Little Caesar | 1952/Hollywood

ROUND HOUSE BOOGIE | Bep Brown Orchestra | 1952/Meteor

I LOVE MY BABY | Larry Darnell | 1950/Regal

FIVE LONG YEARS | Eddie Boyd | 1952/J.O.B.

THE FAT MAN | Fats Domino | 1950/Imperial

MARY JO | The Four Blazes | 1952/United

TING A LING | The Clovers | 1952/Atlantic

MIDNIGHT BLUES | The Ravens | 1951/Columbia

I’VE BEEN LOST | Little Willie Littlefield & Little Lora Wiggins | 1951/Modern

I BELIEVE | Elmore James | 1952/Meteor

SHAKE BABY SHAKE | Champion Jack Dupree | 1952/Red Robin

MONEY BLUES | Camille Howard & Her Boyfriends | 1951/Speciality

JAY’S FRANTIC | Big Jay McNeely | 1950/Aladdin

SOFT | Tiny Bradshaw | 1952/King

MOONGLOW | Earl Bostic | 1952/King

SAFRONIA B | Calvin Boze | 1950/Aladdin

BECAUSE OF YOU | Tab Smith | 1951/United

BABY TAKE IT EASY | Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown | 1952/Peacock

NIGHT’S CURTAINS | The Checkers | 1952/King

EASY, EASY BABY | Varetta Dillard | 1952/Savoy

UNFORGETTABLE | Nat “King” Cole | 1951/Capitol

SEVEN LONG DAYS | Lonnie Johnson | 1951/Federal

WE’RE GONNA ROCK | Cecil Gant | 1950/Decca

NOSEY JOE | Bull Moose Jackson |1952/King

BLUE LIGHT BOOGIE | Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five | 1950/Decca

5-10-15 HOURS | Ruth Brown | 1952/Atlantic

MONA LISA | Nat “King” Cole | 1950/Capitol

DOUBLE CROSSING BLUES | Johnny Otis Quintette | 1950/Savoy

THE HONEY JUMP | Oscar McLollie & His Honey Jumpers | 1952/Modern

ONE MONKEY DON’T STOP NO SHOW | Stick McGhee | 1951/Atlantic

T-99 BLUES | Jimmie Nelson & The Peter Rabbit Trio | 1951/RPM

BLUE SHADOWS | Lowell Fulsom | 1950/Swing Time

I’D DO IT AGAIN | Damita Jo | 1952/RCA Victor

I JUST CAN’T TELL NO LIE | The Moonglows | 1952/Champagne

BABY PLEASE DON’T GO | The Orioles | 1952/Jubilee

HARLEM NOCTURNE | Johnny Otis Orchestra | 1951/Savoy

I DIDN’T SLEEP A WINK LAST NIGHT | Arthur Prysock | 1951/Decca

EVERY BEAT OF MY HEART | The Royals | 1952/Federal

A STAR | The Five Crowns | 1952/Rainbow

I LIKE MY BABY’S PUDDING | Wyonie Harris | 1950/King

SHINE ON-BIG BRIGHT MOON SHINE ON | Ruth Brown | 1951/Atlantic

MISTRUSTIN’ BLUES | Little Esther w/ Mel Walker | 1950/Savoy

PINK CHAMPAGNE | Joe Liggins | 1950/Speciality

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