Acrobat Music

Acrobat's "R&B Hits of 1950" gets substantial review in Blues & Rhythm magazine

Acrobat's "R&B Hits of 1950" gets substantial review in Blues & Rhythm magazine

Blues & Rhythm

THE GREATEST HITS OF 1950 Acrobat ACQCD7089 (Four CDs: 75:OO; 75:OO; 74:OO;76:00)

 This is another in Acrobat's series of 'Greatest R&B Hits' devoted to individual years in the post-war period. This collection claims to contain every record (less a couple of Xmas hits) which peaked in the top ten of the Billboard R&B chart in 1950 (l haven't checked the veracity of this claim however I have no reason to question it). With four discs and 101 tracks, an extensive overview would be impossible, so I'll name check items that caught my ear, some good, some not so (and will probably have you, dear reader rushing for the brandy decanter by quoting chart position, length of time on chart and other boring stuff etc etc!).

 CD one kicks off with Mercy Dee Walton's lovely solo piano and vocal 'Lonesome Cabin Blues', from his debut date for the small Fresno-based Spire label, it got to seven on the chart, and remained on the chart for five weeks. 'Blow Donald' shouts Amos Milburn, and Don Wilkerson (better known for his Blue Note sessions with guitarist Grant Green) obliges with a booting chorus on 'Real Pretty Mama Blues', peak chart position nine.

Jimmy Witherspoon's Modern release 'No Rollin' Blues'/'Big Fine Girl' was recorded at a live performance in May 1949 at a Gene Norman 'Just Jazz' concert in Pasadena, ten weeks on the chart, peak listing number four. From New Haven, Conn., The Shadows are a new name to me, their 'I've Been A Fool' is a typical vocal group outing, it hung around the chart for five weeks.

'School Days' by Louis Jordan is a characteristic jump blues, it's a witty number based on nursery rhyme themes. 'If It's So Baby' by The Robins was their debut single for Savoy, getting them to number ten on the chart. Lionel Hampton's take on Johnnie Lee Wills/Deacon Anderson's 'Rag Mop' features a steel guitar, no doubt imported into the ranks of Hamp's big band for the occasion. 'Rag Mop' pops up again in versions by Doc Sausage (Lucius Tyson) And His Mad Lads (peak chart position number four), and Joe Liggins And His Honeydrippers (also peak chart position number four). Hamp and Doc were in the charts in February, Liggins the following month, the 'Rag Mop' must have struck a chord with the record-buying public. Clarence Garlow's Macy's waxing 'Bon Ton Roula' is a tasty slice of Zydeco, it only hung around the chart for two weeks, but helped introduce the public to the musical form.

Disc two opens with 'Double Crossing Blues' (Savoy 731) by Johnny Otis (vocal by Little Esther and The Robins). Esther duets with Bobby Nunn and Otis tinkles prettily on vibes on this medium tempo blues that spent 22 weeks on the charts. Big Joe Turner is, as always, on top form on 'Still In The Dark' waxed for Freedom in Houston, number nine was its peak chart position. 'Because' by Buddy Johnson is a turgid blues ballad that unsurprisingly only spent one week on the chart, we are subject to both parts here, one of those cuts that makes you reach for the skip button. Billy Eckstine was a quality vocalist (and had also fronted a superb big band that nurtured many young bebop musicians), equally at home with r&b or pop material, 'Sitting By The Window' is pure pop and not surprisingly it made number 26 on the pop chart as well as R&B number six. 'For You My Love' is a sparky, jazzy duet by Nellie Lutcher and Nat Cole, it spent three weeks on the chart. 'Easter Parade' by saxman Freddie Mitchell is an unlikely choice of material, it's another cut that has you reaching for the skip button, however when Mitchell's rasping sax kicks in things improve.

Roy Hawkins' Modern waxing 'Why Do Things Happen To Me', one of only two hits in his career peaked at two but spent a big nineteen weeks on the chart. Texas-born Jewel King's '3 X 7 = 21' was cut at her debut session for Imperial, with Dave Bartholomew at the helm and a band of New Orleans veterans on board (including Earl Palmer, Lee Allen, Red Tyler). It made number four on the chart but her career fizzled out and she was destined to be a one-hit wonder, a pity as Jewel had a decent set of pipes and with the right handling potentially could have done well. 'Pink Champagne' is one of those tracks that has been covered extensively, including versions by Ralph Flanagan, Lionel Hampton, Rusty Bryant, and The Hi Fi Guys (no, I don't know who they are either!). Joe Liggins' version is however the original and best, peaking at number one and hanging around the chart for a big 25 weeks. Another Dave Bartholomew production, 'Stack A'Lee' by New Orleans pianist/vocalist Archibald (Leon T. Gross) was recorded for Imperial, Archibald did not record again after 1952, a pity as he was an influential early N.O. musician. Finally, 'Safronia B' by vocalist/pianist Calvin Boze (Aladdin 3055) features tenor man Don Wilkerson on a Louis Jordan-inspired jump blues. This proved to be Boze's only chart entry and sadly he did not record again after 1952.

Disc three now, the lush big band ballad 'It Isn't Fair' got Dinah Washington to number four on the chart, pop, but quality pop. 'Everyday I Have The Blues' took Lowell Fulson to number three, support includes the great Lloyd Glenn on a classy reading of Memphis Slim's original. 'Well Oh Well' is one of those fun numbers that I always enjoy, it took Tiny Bradshaw to number two, and charted for a big 21 weeks.' Roy Milton's 'Junior Jives' is a jumping boogie instrumental that features Johnny Rodgers on guitar, only stayed on the chart for a week though. 'Danny Boy' is a song beloved of pub singers at chucking out time, let's face it, you either like it or hate it, personally I have a soft spot for this number and enjoyed Al Hibbler's version. Joe Fritz was a one-hit wonder, his Sittin' In With recording of 'l Love You My Darlin" charted at number six, a move to Peacock produced no more hits and sadly that was to be it. 'Good Morning Judge' is a typically humorous, jumping blues by Wynonie Harris, this King waxing hung around the chart for six weeks. 'Mona Lisa' was a big hit for Nat Cole, too saccharine for me but the buying public snapped it up and it peaked at number one and charted for fifteen weeks. Saxman Lynn Hope's reading of 'Tenderly' gets too close to schmaltzy pop for me, it only charted for two weeks. 'I'm Yours To Keep' is a respectable outing by little-known singer/pianist Herb Fisher, this Modern outing went to number four. Roy Byrd (aka Professor Longhair) charted at number five with 'Bald Head' from his Mercury debut in 1949.

Finally, disc four, 'I'm Going To Have Myself A Ball' by Tiny Bradshaw was his follow up hit to 'Well Oh Well' and is essentially the same number, it stayed on the chart for four weeks, reaching the number five spot.'Cadillac Baby' by Roy Brown was the flip of 'Long About Sundown' which had charted a couple of weeks earlier, this rocking jump blues took Roy to the six spot but only lasted two weeks on the chart. Laurie Tate was one of the first in a long line of r&b divas who shaped the sound and success of Atlantic Records. In the summer of 1950 she signed to Atlantic and soon after entered the studio with the Joe Morris band. The sizzling ballad 'Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere' went on to top the Billboard R&B charts, establishing Atlantic as a true commercial force. 'Tamburitza Boogie' by Louis Jordan features Wild Bill Davis on organ, it's a nice, jivey number marred for me by the over the top organ. Johnny Otis enlisted vocalists Little Esther, Mel Walker, and Lee Graves on 'Wedding Boogie', this novelty number was great fun though, it made number six. Lightning Hopkins 'Shotgun Blues' sits uncomfortably alongside the other material on this set, however the record buying public parted with their cash and it made number five and charted for four weeks. 'Please Send Me Someone To Love' by Percy Mayfield was his Specialty debut and took him to the number one spot and remained on the chart for 27 weeks. Quality will always out, and it has become a classic, with a substantial body of cover versions. Jimmy Preston's take on Louis Prima's 'Oh}Babe!' is very much Louis Jordan inspired, but it took a trick with the public and charted at number five. Larry Darnell took a run at it also, charting at number five. Written by Rudy Toombs, Ruth Brown waxed 'Teardrops From My Eyes' for Atlantic in September 1950, released in October, it was number one on the Billboard chart and charted for 25 weeks. The hit earned her the nickname 'Miss Rhythm', and she had over twenty hits in the following decade. The Five Blind Boys took their Peacock waxing of 'Our Father (Which Art in Heaven)' to number ten, bit of a novelty on the R&B Top Ten. And finally, Dinah Washington's 'Time Out For Tears' is a pop ballad recorded for Mercury which achieved a peak position of number eight.

So, there you have it, I've barely skimmed the surface and this review is growing arms and legs. I must acknowledge the information contained within the booklet for the facts and info I have quoted above. If you are collecting the other releases in this series then obviously you'll want this one, others look to your groaning shelves and check duplication. Shop around the internet and you can pick up a copy for under fourteen pounds.

Phil Wight


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