June 17, 2017

Key to the Highway      
2017-06-18    Monterey Pop Festival 50th       

Blues Project     
Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company    
The Who    
Jimi Hendrix    
The Mamas and the Papas
I am vacating my regular time slot, 2-5PM on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, for June and July because I have had construction workers disrupting my day sleeping habits since November and I just don’t feel comfortable driving to the station, but I am filling in for Mark Owens this weekend in order to remember the Monterey Pop Festival.  The show will be on Sunday, June 18th between 1-3PM.  Conveniently, Mark was going to find a fill-in anyway.  Good timing.  I plan to be back August 9th with a show dedicated to Chuck Berry in advance of our Oldies Marathon weekend a little more than a week later.
Dateline: June 18th 1967.  I was hanging out with my friends’ band, the Druids, after they had just finished a Saturday night gig in Los Gatos at Apogee West when three of us decided last minute to head down to Monterey to catch The Who performing at the Monterey Pop Festival.  Steve and I lived about two blocks apart so Mark drove us there to grab a quick change of clothes before we hit the road.  Mark had an Anglia, an English Ford that probably made a Volkswagen beetle seem roomy.  In fact, the car was so small that Mark wouldn’t let me tap my feet to the music because it shook the vehicle too much.

We must have gotten to the Fairgrounds around 3AM.  Mark grabbed a nap in the front set and I climbed into the back but Steve, who had vacated the back seat, was likely the most comfortable sleeping on the ground.

Since we had no tickets, we went to the box office and were told that the evening show was sold out but if we came back in a couple of hours we would get the first group of three cancellations.  I’m thinking that access to the grounds was free of charge so we went inside and tripped around the vendor area where, for the first time in my experience, we saw booths of hippie clothing, posters and paraphernalia.  Even if we didn’t get tickets, this atmosphere might have been sufficient to make the trip worthwhile, but when we revisited the box office they had a set of three tickets for us.  Perhaps we didn’t get onto the grounds until then, but after fifty years this is an item that is a little vague in my memory.

Anyway, the entire Sunday afternoon show was taken up by Ravi Shankar and friends.  We ran into a musician friend of Steve’s from high school and told him we came down to see The Who and he told us, “Yeah, The Who is going to be great, but check out this black cat coming back from Britain with a new band.”  So, the time has come and we enter the concert area and discover that our seats are in the first row of the general audience behind about a dozen rows of VIP seating.  And the cost was six, maybe seven bucks, for a lineup that had The Blues Project, then Buffalo Springfield, and a group called The Band with No Name.  Following these were Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, who had impressed enough on one of the earlier shows that they were brought back when, I presume, another band cancelled.  A piece of personal trivia: I had the opportunity to jam with Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew, but by this time about fifteen years ago he was playing saxophone. 

All the acts leading up to the group we went there to see were top-notch, with the possible exception of The Band with No Name whom I have yet to learn anything regarding who was in the ensemble, but when The Who came on stage it seemed to jump to another level.  The rhythm section was incomparable with Keith Moon absolutely wailing on his drums as John Entwhistle stood back calmly as if it was totally effortless to produce his often outrageous bass licks.  Peter Townsend had that windmill motion as he struck his power chords while singer Roger Daltrey swung his microphone above his head with the long chord acting like a cowboy’s lariat.  

The band had just released their second American album in May (known in the US as Happy Jack, reaching only #67 compared to its British charting of #4) and the first two numbers in the set, Substitute (#5 UK) and Summertime Blues (as far as I know never recorded in studio), were unavailable to US buyers and therefore relatively unknown to even the three of us.  These led to a couple of items they were promoting, Pictures of Lily, which reached #4 UK and eventually #51 after its June US release, and A Quick One and their March US-released Happy Jack, both from their new album.  The only readily recognizable tune was My Generation (#2 UK and only #74 US and the album of the same title #5 UK, no listing for its US charting, but the song justifiably remains a Rock anthem) and by the time the tune was over (and The Who’s set) any pent-up energy possibly remaining had been exhausted, particularly after Townsend had smashed his guitar on stage, something he had taken to doing but quite novel to this American audience.

Okay, I have never been a big fan of the Grateful Dead and when they followed the excitement of The Who they just seemed listless, and to be followed by Jimi Hendrix didn’t make them seem any more thrilling in hindsight.  It is well known that neither The Who nor Hendrix wanted to play after the other and Hendrix drew the short straw. While The Who had two American albums out by the time of the Festival, Jimi had only released three singles in England (a #3 and a couple of #6’s) and his Are You Experienced LP, which reached #2 UK but did not surface here until a couple of months after the Festival in August, the same month as his first 45, Purple Haze / The Wind Cries Mary.  Already, Hendrix had become such a sensation that his LP rated #5 but the single only #65.  As I saw it, if you wanted Hendrix, why would you buy the single when you could get the two tracks on the album, and anyone who wanted Hendrix probably wanted as much as they could get.

There’s not a whole lot I have to say about the Hendrix performance – I think it speaks for itself better than I could analyze it – except that he opened up with a Howlin’ Wolf tune (Killing Floor) and later a version of B.B. King’s Rock Me Baby with a couple of his exceptional self-penned rockers, Foxey Lady and Purple Haze in the set.  Jimi had Noel Redding backing him on bass and Mitch Mitchell behind the drum kit, but all eyes were on the amazing Mr. Hendrix, and when he got to his closing number, Wild Thing, which he referred to as “the English and American combined anthem”, he was not about to be outdone by The Who and so provided a bit of Stage theatrics by combining his guitar with a cigarette lighter to leave his audience with a memorable touch of pyrotechnics.

After the concert I could not tell you who I thought stole the show (since I present them both today, I’ll leave that decision to you, but I think Jimi shows up better as a recording while The Who were generally more visually impressive), but never before had I seen anything to compare with either The Who or Hendrix.  Jimi played at the Fillmore Auditorium the next weekend (The Who had played it the week prior to the Festival) and there was no way I was going to miss that.  Once again, the performance was phenomenal and as soon as it came out, I’m sure I bought the LP.  I loved (and still do) the album except for the psychedelic tune Third Stone From the Sun and, since that is the direction he moved toward, I pretty much lost interest and was well on my way to devoting almost all of my listening to Blues.  Actually, the Festival had a profound impact on me as I gave up the job I had at a gas station, have not trimmed my moustache since (50 years!) and began to take interest in things like trying to end the war in Viet Nam.  I proudly consider myself a hippie (which I did not then) because I still believe in the same basic things I did back then.

The concert was pretty much the brainchild of John Phillips so his band, The Mamas and the Papas, had the privilege of closing the last show of a great weekend.  I often hear about Woodstock being the first mega-concert but Monterey pre-dated it by about two years, I believe; summer of ’69?  Today’s show only presents you with the bands I saw, three of whom unfortunately were not presented on the four CD set which I believe was released as a twenty-fifth anniversary issue.  I wonder if there will be more coming out this year.

As usual, there is a projected playlist.  I have a few other numbers on the discs I made up for the show just in case, but what you see is about what I can fit in a two-hour show.
Since it is still relatively new, I thought I’d mention that KKUP is now streaming on the internet and, while it is still in a developing stage, we have been putting out the word.  I’m not all of that good with high-tech stuff, but it seems pretty easy to access.  If you go to our website at KKUP.org you will see on the home page a strip of options immediately above the pictures of the musicians the next to the last option being LISTEN ONLINE.  By clicking this, it brings up a choice of desktop or mobile.  I can only speak for the desktop but after maybe a minute I was receiving a crystal clear feed.  As already mentioned, this is still a work in progress and we are currently limited to a finite number of listeners at any one time.  I mention this so you will be aware to turn off the application when you are not actually listening.  (I put the player in my favorites bar for the easiest of access.)  Now we can reach our listeners in Los Gatos and Palo Alto, even my family in Canada.  Let your friends elsewhere know they can now listen to your favorite station, and while they have the home page open they can check out our schedule.
Down On Me
Combination of the Two
Ball and Chain
   Big Brother and the Holding Company

Summertime Blues
Pictures of Lily
A Quick One While He’s Away
Happy Jack
My Generation
   The Who

Killing Floor
Foxey Lady
Like a Rolling Stone
Rock Me Baby
Hey Joe
Can You See Me
The Wind Cries Mary
Purple Haze
Wild Thing
   The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Straight Shooter
California Dreaming
I Call Your Name
Monday Monday
Dancing in the streets
   The Mamas and the Papas   66mins

May 31, 2017

Key to the Highway          

Howlin’ Wolf    
Elmore James   
Jimmy Reed   
James Cotton                                                                                                         
Today’s show will be the first of three 2017 Blues Marathon kickoff shows where we will be offering an advance chance to order your James Cotton tee shirts.  Cotton for a tee shirt.  Is that right?  A marathon with fiber!
Today will mark the first fifth Wednesday show I will be sharing with my friend and alternating host, Gil de Leon.  Gil has been the head of the Blues department for many years now and he has once again put together a fine lineup for in-studio live music.  The full marathon lineup is included after today’s playlist.  I don’t know exactly what Gil intends to play so I cannot include his contributions in the playlist but he will be featuring our tee shirt cover boy James Cotton.
So, early on in my time at KKUP I had started changing from vinyl to CD because of the ease of programming but I was just spending too much money.  I decided to go all out one time in order to curtail the expenditures and ordered six box sets of almost all the output by some of the most “must have” Bluesmen in history, including Little Walter (4 discs), John Lee Hooker (6, but not nearly all of his output), Muddy Waters (9), and three by artists we’ll hear today, Howlin’ Wolf (8), Elmore James (4) and Jimmy Reed (6).  These are all Charly boxes and I paid $15 per disc, so the 37 discs cost me about $600 including tax.  Still, that only put a brief hold on my musical investing.
For today’s show I went with the earliest of each artist’s recordings, so for two of them I went with material previous to the collections.  For Howlin’ Wolf, born Chester Burnett, the box covered all of his Chess recordings (with two albums omitted) between 1951 and 1969, but at the beginning of these sessions he was not signed to Chess Records.  Before his teaming with Tina, Ike Turner was a young musician and talent scout in the Memphis area who brought musicians to Sam Phillips studio long before his Sun Records became famous for Rock-a-billy and Elvis releases.  Turner would often use the Phillips studio for many of his musicians and from there get them to outside labels.  For Wolf, these would be Modern and Chess Records, a situation neither company appreciated and complications ensued leading to an ultimate agreement that Chess would sign Howlin’ Wolf and Modern would get Roscoe Gordon.  I think we know who got the best of that deal.  If not, just listen to today’s opening set.
These early sessions, some sent to Modern and some sent to Chess, are documented on the CD Howling (sic) Wolf Rides Again (and likely several others since its 1991 release) and from this we hear some of the rawest and rockin’est of the Wolf’s material.  I grew up on the Wolf’s Chess albums, but United / Superior came out with two or three vinyl LPs around 1970 with much of this material which was new to me, but without any documentation it didn’t receive as much of my attention until released in this one compilation. 
This disc doesn’t have much documentation, but I feel safe in saying Wolf provides the vocal and harmonica while being backed up by guitarist Willie Johnson and drummer Willie Steele.  When there is a pianist, it is likely Ike Turner.  Shortly after these 1951 and 1952 recordings, harmonicist James Cotton joined the band, allowing Wolf to concentrate on fronting the group with his vocals and showmanship.  My records show that Cotton was in the studio with Wolf on only two sessions, those of April 17th and October 7th, 1952.  There seems to me no better way to begin delving into Wolf’s musical history than here.
Similar to Wolf’s box, the Charly Elmore James set is extremely comprehensive as it covers a few different labels, but Proper Records came out with a single disc which covers his very earliest recordings, although there are duplications of the first six Charly tunes.  The opening number is probably his most copied, Dust My Broom, on which he had the services of Sonny Boy Williamson II on harmonica sharing with Elmore’s bottleneck guitar.  I must have set the two booklets aside to put together a future write-up and now cannot locate them with their excellent documentation, so I must rely on my memory.  Until this recording, Elmore was not interested in recording in his own name, possibly even to the point that he might have not even known the tune was being recorded.  Or perhaps he thought it would be credited to Sonny Boy, I can’t recall.
Through the greater portion of his recordings, Elmore had one of Chicago’s finest backing groups featuring Odie Payne Jr. on drums, his cousin Homesick James Williamson on bass (who would later have a long career of his own as a singing guitarist much in the style of Elmore) and sax man J.T. Brown.  Elmore would often return to the riff from Dust My Broom on several of his recordings and he even re-recorded the tune for a different label, under the not so subtle name-change of Dust My Blues, which concludes our set.
Hey, I actually used the Charly Jimmy Reed box, The Vee Jay Years, for this final set, although I suspect Gil and I will be doing a lot of marathon hyping and most likely will not complete it.  Of the nine songs that made it to this disc, we took three from his very first session (June 6th 1953, which featured John Brim on guitar) and two from the second date, December 29/30th.  When I think of the harmonica and guitar playing singer, I also think of his lead guitarist Eddie Taylor.  Eddie accompanied Jimmy beginning on his second session all the way through the 50s, with one exception, and occasionally again in the 60s.  That exception included I Don’t Go for That and I Ain’t Got You, the latter becoming a Bay Area band anthem after both the Animals and the Yardbirds included a version in their repertoire.  Significant backup crew on that July 18th 1955 session were pianist Henry Gray in his only known session with Reed, although later a longtime member of Howlin’ Wolf’s band, and the first appearance of drummer Earl Phillips, who would not miss another Reed session until 1962.
Jimmy three times had hits that reached as high as #3, including Ain’t That Loving You Baby, and had 21 sides make the R&B top twenty or the Pop 100 between March 1925 and April 1963.  An excellent career that we will follow in more depth in the future.
I was wanting to do an essay about James Cotton for this show but never got around to it.  I have had construction workers causing a lot of noise around my apartment complex since November and, since I have been a night worker / day sleeper since the 80s, you should be able to imagine how this sleep disruption has cumulatively affected my concentration and therefore my writing.  Because of this and the fact that I am concerned about the effect it could take on my driving ability to and from the station, I have made arrangements to take a leave from my next four scheduled shows, coming back just in time to do a Chuck Berry presentation prior to the Oldies marathon.
Since it is still relatively new, I thought I’d mention that KKUP is now streaming on the internet and, while it is still in a developing stage, we have been putting out the word.  I’m not all of that good with high-tech stuff, but it seems pretty easy to access.  If you go to our website at KKUP.org you will see on the home page a strip of options immediately above the pictures of the musicians the next to the last option being LISTEN ONLINE.  By clicking this, it brings up a choice of desktop or mobile.  I can only speak for the desktop but after maybe a minute I was receiving a crystal clear feed.  As already mentioned, this is still a work in progress and we are currently limited to a finite number of listeners at any one time.  I mention this so you will be aware to turn off the application when you are not actually listening.  (I put the player in my favorites bar for the easiest of access.)  Now we can reach our listeners in Los Gatos and Palo Alto, even my family in Canada.  Let your friends elsewhere know they can now listen to your favorite station, and while they have the home page open they can check out our schedule.
House Rockin’ Boogie
Crying at Daybreak
Keep What You Got
Dog Me Around
Moaning at Midnight
Riding in the Moonlight
My Baby Stole Off
Worried About My Baby
Driving the Highway
   Howlin’ Wolf   28mins

Dust My Broom
Rock My Baby Right
Baby What’s Wrong
I Held My Baby Last Night
Early in the Morning
Hawaiian Boogie, part 2
Mean and Evil (The Way You Treat Me)
Can’t Stop Lovin’
Strange Kinda Feeling
Dust My Blues
   Elmore James   27mins

High and Lonesome
Jimmy’s Boogie
You Don’t Have to Go
Roll and Rhumba
I Ain’t Got You
Boogie in the Dark
I Don’t Go for That
Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby
You Got Me Dizzy
   Jimmy Reed   24mins

Marathon schedule

FRIDAY     June 2nd 2017
noon-3pm   Gil  will host live music:
  12:30pm   Virgil Thrasher and Rick Stevens
  1:30pm   Preacher Boy
3-6pm   "Blue Suede Dave" Stafford will continue with live music:
  3:30pm   Little Johnny Lawton
  4:30pm:  Rob Vye and Illya Portnov
6-9pm   Mike the Fly
9-midnight   Kingman

SATURDAY     June 3rd 2017
midnight-3am  Eric Hayslett
3-6am   Nightbird Susie
6-9am   Tomas Montoya
9-noon   Blue Radish   (AKA The Foggy-Eyed Radish)
noon-3pm  Mark Owens
3-6pm   Radio Re
6-8pm   Jim Dandy and friends   
8-10pm   Rhythm Doctor and friends
10-midnight   Johnnie Cozmik and the Honeybee

SUNDAY     June 4th 2017
midnight-6am   Bobby G 
6-8am   Nightbird Susie
8-10am   Paul Jacobs
10-Noon   Lars
Noon-2pm   Jim & Gratia    
2pm until live sessions   Jammin' Jim Farris

3pm-midnight will be live performances in the station
  3pm:   Scooby Valdez and the Infuego Band
  4pm:   Hipshake
  5pm:   Pam Hawkins and the Back to Lyf Band
  6pm:   Amy Lou and the Wild Ones
  7pm:   Gil de Leon’s Benton Street Band
  8pm:   Patrick Ryan and Chris James
  9pm:   International Harmonica Blowout
  10pm:   John Clifton
  11pm:   J.C. Smith Band

May 24, 2017

Key to the Highway                     

Magic Sam  
Paul Butterfield Blues Band  
Luther Allison  
Michael Bloomfield                                                 
No time for long write-ups, in fact I just got started on this show within the last 24 hours.  The upside is that I took albums I knew really well and, therefore, some of my very favorite stuff, all Chicago Blues spanning the mid-60s to the mid-70s.

Magic Sam has been one of my favorites, along with Howlin’ Wolf and Freddie King, since discovering him right after he died.  Having released singles beginning in the 50s, Sam’s first album, West Side Soul, was recorded in July and October of 1967 for Delmark Records and earned album of the year kudos for the label the year after the label had garnished the same award the previous year with Junior wells’ Hoodoo Man Blues.  My personal favorite, Black Magic, came out the next year but Sam’s life and career was cut short soon after its release.

Probably within the last decade I admitted to myself that Luther Allison had supplanted his contemporaries Sam and Freddie as my all time favorite Bluesman.  His limited earliest releases were on Delmark as well, but today we hear the best of his output for the Motown label as their first and maybe only Blues artist.  His first two albums for the Detroit Soul company, Bad News is Coming (1972) and Luther’s Blues (1974), comprise the bulk of his portion of this show.  Luther cut a third disc for the label, Night Life, but I heard either directly or through friends that it wasn’t worth wasting my time or money, but a third CD in my collection, the highly recommended Motown Years 1972-1976, has three tracks from the album included (as opposed to about half of the first and the full second release) of which we only chose That’s What Love Will Make You Do as being worthwhile for this airing.  Each of my three discs contain previously unreleased material, including our closing set of two live performances at the Ann Arbor Blues Festivals of 1972 and 1973.

What needs to be said about the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s eponymous 1965 first album?  For me at least, they and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers were the groups that made me look up the authors of their tunes and led to the discovery of the music I would come to love so much.  We present the entire first side of the LP and a couple of tunes from side two.

Butterfield was the harmonica playing vocalist and he had two guitarists, Elvin Bishop and Michael Bloomfield.  You hear some Bloomfield stuff from the CD Don’t Say That I Ain’t Your Man!  Essential Blues 1964-1969, three tunes from December 1964 featuring Charlie Musselwhite (there are a couple more from this session which were already presented in their Butterfield versions) followed by Albert’s Shuffle from the Super Sessios LP with Al Kooper and three live tunes from 1968 and 1969 San Francisco concerts and a studio number, Don’t Think About It from the It’s Not Killing Me album thrown in between.
Since it is still relatively new, I thought I’d mention that KKUP is now streaming on the internet and, while it is still in a developing stage, we have been putting out the word.  I’m not all of that good with high-tech stuff, but it seems pretty easy to access.  If you go to our website at KKUP.org you will see on the home page a strip of options immediately above the pictures of the musicians the next to the last option being LISTEN ONLINE.  By clicking this, it brings up a choice of desktop or mobile.  I can only speak for the desktop but after maybe a minute I was receiving a crystal clear feed.  As already mentioned, this is still a work in progress and we are currently limited to a finite number of listeners at any one time.  I mention this so you will be aware to turn off the application when you are not actually listening.  (I put the player in my favorites bar for the easiest of access.)  Now we can reach our listeners in Los Gatos and Palo Alto, even my family in Canada.  Let your friends elsewhere know they can now listen to your favorite station, and while they have the home page open they can check out our schedule.
Mama Mama, Talk to Your Daughter
That’s All I Need
I Feel So Good (I Wanna Boogie
I Found a New Love)
Lookin’ Good
Sweet Home Chicago
   Magic Sam

Born in Chicago
Shake your Money Maker
Blues with a Feeling
Thank You Mister Poobah
I Got My Mojo Working
Mellow Down Easy
Last Night
Look Over Yonder’s Wall
   The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Little Red Rooster
Raggedy and Dirty
The Stumble
Evil is Going On
Dust My Broom
Take My Love (I Want to Give It All to You)
Someday Pretty Baby
Luther’s Blues
Now You Got It
That’s What Love Will Make You Do
San Jose
   Luther Allison

I’ve Got You in the Palm of My Hand
Goin’ Down Slow
Feel So Good
Albert’s Shuffle
Mary Ann
Don’t Think About It
It Takes Time
Carmelita Skiffle
   Michael Bloomfield

Last Night I Lost the Best Friend I Ever Had
Medley: I’m Gonna Miss My Baby / Bad News Is
     Coming / The Thrill is Gone
   Luther Allison

May 10, 2017

Key to the Highway            

Jimmy Yancey             
Sam and Dave            
Shakey Jake Harris                                                                       
P.L.K. Blues
South Side Stuff
Rolling the Stone
Steady Rock Blues
Yancey’s Stomp
How Long Blues
Yancey’s Getaway
   Jimmy Yancey   21mins

Soul Man
I Thank You
When Something is Wrong with My Baby
You Don’t Know What You Do to Me
Soul Sista, Brown Sugar
Soothe Me
Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody
You Got Me Humming
Hold On!  I’m Coming
   Sam and Dave   25mins

Worried Blues
Keep a-Loving Me Baby
My Foolish Heart
Huffin’ and Puffin’
Jake’s Blues
You Spoiled Your Baby
Just Shakey
   Shakey Jake Harris   16mins

Yancey’s Bugle Call
State Street Special
Crying in my Sleep
Tell ‘em about Me
Make Me a Pallet on the Floor
La Salle Street Breakdown
   Jimmy Yancey   18mins

You Don’t Know Like I Know
I Take What I Want
I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down
Can’t You Find Another Way
Gimme Some Lovin’
(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay
Bring It On Home
Another Saturday Night
Wrap It Up
   Sam and Dave   30mins

It Won’t Happen Again
Mouth Harp
Love My Baby
Jake’s Cha Cha
Easy Baby
Gimme a Smile
My Broken Heart
   Shakey Jake Harris   27mins

White Sox Jump
Five O’Clock Blues
Monkey Woman Blues
The Mellow Blues
35th and Dearborn
Shave ‘em Dry
Yancey Special
   Jimmy Yancey   21mins

April 26, 2017

Key to the Highway        

2017-04-26   Jazz                                          

Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald      

Mose Allison       



With the annual KKUP Jazz Marathon beginning in two days, it gives me another excuse to indulge a little farther away from my Blues roots, although this year I have been incorporating more Jazz into my airings.  But today it is all Jazz, with the largest share going to Chick Webb and his orchestra and, since Ella Fitzgerald graces this year’s commemorative tee shirt and Chick was the one who presented the thirteen year old Ella to the world, her vocals will be heard on the bulk of that half of our show.

Pianist Mose Allison kinda straddles the fence between Jazz and the Blues.  Guess which side we will be taking today’s portion from.  We’ll get into his Blues side in a future show when I will be giving you his biography.  Suffice it to say that many thought this white man was black, read authentic, making it possible to write a song titled Ever Since I Stole the Blues.

If the name Octobop doesn’t jump out at you, it is because it is the South Bay Jazz group with whom Bill Hazzard played vibes.  You may remember Bill’s KKUP The Hazzard Zone which was firmly entrenched in the five to eight PM time slot when I began my show in 1990.  I don’t recall exactly how long I preceded Bill but it had to be at least twenty years, then the Razzberry took over the time slot.  One of my fond memories is, one year when I decided to drop Christmas cards in people’s mail slots at the station, Bill appreciated my humor in referring to him as my longest follower.

I am very fortunate to have the Razzberry after me because he will allow me to run a bit into his show.  Bill was not like that; if it ran more than about ten seconds into his show he would cut it off …. until I ended the show with a couple of Octobop tunes.  I found humor in that and so I decided last year to wind up my pre-Jazz marathon shows with a short set of Octobop.  Bill turned me on to three albums he played on so we’ll see if my memory lapses before I run out of music.

Sources vary on the year that Chick Webb was born, somewhere in the span between 1902 and 1909 (for our purposes we will use 1909 as our reference date), but all sources agree he celebrated his birthday on February 10th.  What is not in doubt is that Chick was among the top, if not the very peak, of drummers of his time.  Buddy Rich: “He represented true hipness.  His playing was original, different, completely his own.”  And Gene Krupa: “I found direction when I first heard Chick.  He changed everything around me not long after I first came to New York.  Why?  He thought in an original way and knew exactly what to do particularly in a big band.  He had style.  But there was so much beyond style.  Chick had drive and ingenuity and magnetism that drew drummers by the dozens to where he was working.  All of us in that ‘learnin’ groove’ in the 1930s were enlightened by him.”

Webb had to overcome more hurdles than the normal black musicians.  Very early on, several of his vertebrae were smashed when he was dropped on his back, allowing him to reach only four feet in height, and ultimately contracted tuberculosis of the spine.  A 1939 Downbeat article described him as “deformed, dwarfish and delicate”.  He was always in pain but found an outlet in percussion.  Enticed by the drums of a marching band he heard every week on his way to church, Chick could be found slapping out his rhythms on doorsteps, garbage cans, pots and pans, just about anything he came across that stayed still long enough.

Born William Webb in Baltimore, Chick was the youngest of three children who were raised in his grandfather’s home after his mother moved the family there.  Because of his diminutive size, he acquired the name Chick from his playmates and it stayed throughout his short life.  By the age of nine, Webb had foregone schooling and was selling newspapers, which allowed him to buy his first set of drums that he played relentlessly in his grandfather’s front room.

In 1922, when he was presumably thirteen years old, Webb became part of Brown and Terry’s Jazzola Boys, an early hot band around Baltimore that played on Chesapeake Bay’s excursion boats, where he forged a lifelong friendship with banjoist / guitarist John Trueheart.  The two left the Jazzola Boys in 1924 to head to New York City.

Now roommates in Harlem, the pair found work rather quickly with Edgar Dowell’s band at the Palace Garden Café, but that didn’t last long and Chick worked occasionally but was mostly unemployed.  He did, however, make the Monday night jams at Small’s Paradise Café as well as going down to the Band Box where musicians hung out in hopes of setting up gigs.

Despite the small number of appearances, Chick did not miss the scrutiny of some prominent players on the New York Jazz scene.  When Duke Ellington was offered a residency at the Black Bottom he could not accept because he had a commitment ar the Kentucky Club in Manhattan, he convinced Chick to put together his own five piece band for the gig.  In addition to Trueheart, Webb employed saxophonist Johnny Hodges, trumpeter Bobby Stark and pianist Don Kirkpatrick for the five month run that ended in the summer of 1926.  Ellington kept Chick working with a gig at the Paddock Club, for which the band added tenor saxist Elmer Williams and a trumpeter remembered only as Slats.  The job lasted almost ‘til the end of the year when the club was closed due to fire damage

Chick Webb and his Harlem Stompers were not shut down too long, as they began a residence at the Savoy Ballroom in January of 1927.  It was during his tenure there that they took part in a show that was dubbed the Battle of Jazz on Sunday, May 15th 1927, pitted against three of the top contemporary orchestras, those of Fletcher Henderson, King Oliver, and Fess Williams.  They must have held their own or the New York Amsterdam News would not have proclaimed that it was “difficult to determine who won this historic battle of music”.

Also while at the Savoy, the band went into Vocalion’s studio on August 25th 1927 and laid down some tracks that never went on the market.  When his contract with the ballroom expired, Chick took the band on a short tour.  Upon returning, he requested management of the Savoy to renew with a larger orchestra but the club declined.  Webb was able to get some gigs at the Strand Roof and Healy’s Balconnades, but the pickings were slim until he got a residency at the Rose Danceland at the end of 1927.

Chick made an ill-conceived decision to go on a vaudeville tour despite the Danceland offering more money to stay, but when the tour turned out to be a disaster and Webb returned to New York he discovered that the Danceland was so upset with the drop in business upon his departure that they marked him permanently persona non grata.  Unable to find gigs to keep working, his band disintegrated.  Ellington took Hodges, Stark went to Henderson, Ward Pinkett signed on with Jelly Roll Morton and Benny Carter took half the men to start his own band.

Chick was seldom able to find work, but he was now quite resigned to being a bandleader, turning down offers to join both the Ellington and the Henderson bands.  He took on more TOBA vaudeville tours which rarely turned a profit, but he had a core of musicians who stuck with him through rehearsals just waiting for things to get better.  In June of 1929, the Webb ensemble recorded two sides for Brunswick under the name The Jungle Band, a reference to the style the Ellington band was currently popularizing, with the titles Jungle Mama and Dog Bottom.  In July, Webb covered Ellington’s commitment at the Cotton Club while the Duke went on tour.

Late in 1929, Chick signed on with Moe Gale’s agency.  In addition to becoming Webb’s personal manager, Moe was the booker and part owner of the Savoy Ballroom.  Gale got the band a booking at the prestigious Roseland Ballroom which paid $1500 a month, a tidy sum at this time in the Depression.  In addition to regularly playing Roseland over the next two years, the band was also heard with some regularity at the Savoy.

An unusual turnover took place when saxophonist Russell Procope and trombonist Benny Morton moved to Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra while Benny Carter and Jimmy Harrison joined Webb at the end of March 1931.  As reported in the New York Age, “None of the musicians lost a day’s work and both principals are satisfied and think their orchestra is strengthened by this unprecedented incident”.  Not only did Carter play alto sax and clarinet for the band, he also did the arrangements of the three songs they recorded on March 30th for Brunswick.  These numbers kick off the Proper 4CD box, Stomping at the Savoy, but we don’t get into it until a few years later when Ella Fitzgerald was singing with the band.

The records had little commercial impact and in June 1931 Webb lost his gigs at Roseland.  Webb took on a booking at the Savoy Ballroom, with a substantial reduction in pay, followed by a tour of one-nighters.  When the band hit a two week dry spell in August, Carter left to take over McKinney’s Cotton Pickers with half of Chick’s orchestra joining him.  Once again, Webb had to break in a new batch of performers.

In August 1932, Chick was booked in at the Savoy.  During this stay, the band took part in a breakfast show with the orchestras of Cab Calloway and Fletcher Henderson which set an attendance record of 4600.  On December 8th 1932, the band backed Louis Armstrong on an RCA-Victor session which elevated the public’s awareness.

Early in 1933, Chick acquired a residency at the new Dixie Ballroom which was the site of the old Rose Danceland.  By August, Webb became a prime choice again at the Savoy Ballroom now that the club had ridden the storm of financial hard times and was able once again to employ the highest caliber groups.  On December 20th 1933, Chick Webb’s Savoy Orchestra was in the studio again, this time for Columbia.  Another Columbia session was held on January 15th 1934, from which I Can’t Dance (I’ve Got Ants in my Pants) climbed to #20 in the Hit Parade ratings.

Chick achieved the pinnacle of success with the May 18th 1934 recording of Stompin’ at the Savoy, becoming a big hit upon its release in June 1934 and climbing to #10 on the Hit Parade.  The song was written and arranged by Edgar Sampson, who would create the mood for much of the Webb sound as its primary arranger.  When Benny Goodman chose Sampson’s song and arrangement for his big band in 1936 (and a few months later with his quartet), it became one of the Swing era’s monster hits. 

Chick’s final session with Columbia was on July 6th 1934.  The label suffered a severe blow from the depression, so Moe Gale signed the band onto the new Decca Recording Company and, as one of the label’s earliest signees, was in their studio on September 10th 1934, followed up about six weeks later on November 19th and producing another hit (#20) in Don’t Be That Way, another Sampson number that Goodman took to even loftier heights with his larger fan base when he put out his version in 1938.  Another Swing standard from that November date, again entirely Sampson’s creation, was Blue Lou.

Webb was now on firm financial ground and was able to move to better digs, buy a car and hire a chauffeur who made the cripple’s life generally more bearable in many ways.  A 1938 Down Beat article noted, “Now followed what is in a sense the most interesting period of Chick’s career … Up until this time he had always had astoundingly good bands about which there was certainly nothing commercial.  He had a style, but it was a purely musical style and not one which would be easily recognized by the general public.  He had seen Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway work out their futures and he observed the manner in which business was conducted.  He began to understand that it was the finished product that mattered …”

At this point, when a singer was desired, it would be either Charles Linton or trumpeter Taft Jordan, but now Chick was urged to find a girl singer to bring in a larger mainstream following and Webb agreed.  Finding the right girl was put on Linton as he knew the club scene and his looks made him popular with the ladies.  One of the chorus girls at the M & S Theater made him aware of the seventeen year old winner of the Apollo Theater’s November 21st 1934 amateur night.  The girl had also won the January 1935 Tuesday Amateur Night at the Harlem Opera House but had no set address, so it took a few days for the chorus girl to find her for Linton.  Enter Ella Fitzgerald.

Ella chose the number that earned her the Apollo award to sing for Linton and he promptly took her to Webb.  Despite her less than great looks, the Fitzgerald voice was sufficient get a two week trial at the Savoy.  With many other musicians regularly coming to hear the band, Chick solicited their opinions.  Fletcher Henderson’s drummer Kaiser Marshall expressed it thoroughly: “You damn fool – you better take her.”  Ella’s recording debut came on June 12th 1935 with two vocals among the band’s four tune session. 

Ella’s addition increased the vocal opportunities both on stage and in studio for even the male singers in the band that had previously devoted itself mostly to instrumental Jazz.  The winter of 1935/1936 was spent at the Savoy with the exception of a week at the Apollo Theater in November.

Our show today opens with a February 9th 1936 radio transcription of Webb’s version of the classic instrumental King Porter Stomp before we get to hear the magnificent voice of Miss Fitzgerald.  Crying My Heart Out for You comes from an April 7th session as do Under the Spell of the Blues and When I Get Low I Get High, but sandwiched in there is the earlier (October 12th 1935) instrumental, Facts and Figures.  One song that was the last to be cut from today’s show, Sing Me a Swing Song (and Let Me Dance, recorded June 2nd) climbed to #18 one week in July 1936. 

After that session, the band went on a 3+ month tour, returning to New York and the Savoy Ballroom in October and the Decca studio on the 29th of the month, and we present you (If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have to Swing It and Swinging on the Reservation.  We close the set with Clap Hands! Here Comes Charley, an instrumental from a March 24th 1937 session.

Louis Jordan adds his alto sax as well as occasional vocals to the ensemble, but his stay was cut short when Chick decided to drastically cut his chances to sing, leading to Louis’ massively successful career with his Tympani Five.  Indeed, it was my wanting to hear Jordan’s contributions to the band that led me to the purchase of the Proper 4CD set, Stomping at the Savoy, from which all three sets of Webb material are taken.  With the exception of the Little Chicks jams, Louis appears on all tracks laid down beginning with the October 29th dates through the first tune of the final set, but not included are any of his vocals.  This is Ella’s show.

Radio broadcasts brought the mass appeal Chick had been seeking when Moe Gale convinced NBC to air nationwide Gale’s production, Good Time Society, which presented the orchestra plus Linton and Fitzgerald along with the occasional guests every Saturday.  The show brought in 5,000 fan letters weekly.  Ultimately, Chick would host a record eight shows a week including three broadcast from the Savoy Ballroom.

In 1937, the Savoy hosted Battles of the Bands where the Webb orchestra would take on significant competition and rarely lose.  Three competitions of note were February 28th being challenged by the Fletcher Henderson group, March 7th when Chick lost out to Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, and especially May 11th when the challenge from Benny Goodman brought in a Savoy record audience of over 4,000 admissions while another 5,000 were turned away.  Webb won that one, too!  One of Chick’s trumpeters, Mario Bauza, recalled, “It was a helluva night.  Do you know, Chick say, he tell everyone the night before, ne say, ‘Fellas, tomorrow is my hour, anybody that miss notes don’t look for notice, don’t come back to work!’  This was a big night.  Everybody in Benny’s band, you know, they were congratulating Chick, and Gene Krupa, Chick was like a father to Gene Krupa.”

Perhaps Louis Jordan’s first vocal charting came on his March 24th 1937 recording of Rusty Hinge for the Webb orchestra, reaching #17 on the Hit Parade.  The session also brought out some standout drumming which can be heard on our first set closer

Our second Webb set opens with a couple of instrumentals (Sweet Sue, Just You and I Got Rhythm) by Chick Webb and his Little Chicks, trimming the band down to five pieces with Chauncey Houghton’s clarinet and Wayman Carver’s flute playing over the rhythm section of Webb, bass player Beverly Peer and pianist Tommy Fulford.  Then the brass is back (trumpeters Mario Bauza, Bobby Stark and Taft Jordan, trombonists Sandy Williams and Nat Story, tenor saxist Ted McRae, alto sax man Louis Jordan and guitarist Bobby Johnson; here, Carver plays tenor sax as well as flute and Houghton plays both clarinet and alto sax), joining the Little Chicks to make up the full orchestra for Holiday in Harlem.

The band was on the road in December but returned again to the Savoy in January 1938, having another notable face-off on the 16th when they took on Count Basie and his band.  Earlier that evening, Benny Goodman performed at a special Carnegie Hall Concert, so several Jazz luminaries were in the audience.  Metronome gave Webb the victory while Down Beat saw it as a win for Basie, but everyone agreed that Ella had outshone the Count’s vocalist, Billie Holiday on this occasion.

In February, Chick moved on to Boston for a five week gig at the Flamingo Room of Levaggi’s restaurant but the reception, much from Harvard University students, was more than sufficient enough to extend the contract until May 1938.  As Down Beat noted, “Business in what is one of the worst slumps Boston night life has ever experienced is downright stupendous.  Chick himself is exciting as hell.  Ella Fitzgerald is fine, of course …  Her appeal to the public is an amazing thing.  Every time she sings she stops things cold, and if the patrons at Levaggi’s are any indication, she’s far and away the most popular songstress in the business today.”  Toward the end of the residency, Chick had to be hospitalized and had to be replaced on drums by his friend Scrippy for two weeks in April.

Returning to our set two, May 2nd 1938 brought about the recording of what would become Ella’s best-known tune, A-Tisket, A-Tasket, the highest selling release of 1938 and among the highest of the decade.  It held the #1 spot on the Hit Parade for ten weeks beginning in April and not coming down until June, winding up with over a million sales.  We also hear a great rendition of Duke Ellington’s instrumental, Azure, and I’m just a Jitterbug from the same session before we close down with Harlem Congo, another instrument that came from an earlier session back on November 1st 1937, the same date as the set opener although this number is a full orchestra piece.

Our third and final set of Chick and Ella presentations begins with a great drum tune recorded on May 3rd 1938, Liza (All the Clouds Roll Away), followed by a couple of numbers from June 9th, MacPherson is Rehearsin’ (to Swing) and Everybody Step.  Between those two sessions, the band played a week at The Apollo and a bunch of one nighters before returning to the Savoy Ballroom.  We also hear three tracks from an August 17th and 18th session, Gotta Pebble in my Shoe, I Can’t Stop Loving You and the instrumental Who Ya Hunchin’.

The band then went on a Mid-West tour including a two night stay in Kansas City, the first night for a white audience and the second for blacks, showing that Chick was a universally appreciated artist crossing over into the Pop world.  The gig in St. Louis, guaranteed at $750, was so successful that after the split the band left with an amazing $1600.  Back in New York in September, the band surpassed a five year record for the huge “whites only” Paramount Theater as the third black band to appear, preceded by only Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway.  That same month, Chick’s manager Moe Gale had to turn down an offer to appear in a Dick Powell movie because the band was all booked up.  In December, the band was the first black act to appear at the Coconut Grove in the Park Central Hotel since Noble Sissle a number of years earlier.

Continuing on with our closing set, we hear a transcription made for NBC on January 9th 1939, the instrumental By Heck.  The orchestra followed their Coconut Grove residency with another tour, but Chick’s health was so bad that he had to frequently rest backstage due to his contracting tuberculosis of the spine. 

We moved February 17th 1939’s In the Groove at the Grove up to the fourth song of the set while, from the same date, we also hear Undecided and ‘Tain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That Cha Do It).  Chick’s final Decca date was on April 29th 1939, after which he entered Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital to take care of the fluid in his back.  The band kept working with Jesse Price, Sid Catlett or Bill Beason behind the drum kit.  Our closing number, Breakin’ ‘em Down, comes from a May 4th broadcast taken from Boston’s Southland Café as the band took up residency after Louis Armstrong moved on.

Following the Southland gig, the b and had to continue its tour with Bill Beason filling in due to Chick’s return to Johns Hopkins on June 9th, where Chick would die in his mother’s arms on June 16th 1939 at the age of 32.

This essay deals mostly with Chick Webb, but almost all of his music presented today features the vocal talent of Ella Fitzgerald, who graces this year’s KKUP Jazz marathon tee shirt.   enjoy


Since it is still relatively new, I thought I’d mention that KKUP is now streaming on the internet and, while it is still in a developing stage, we have been putting out the word.  I’m not all of that good with high-tech stuff, but it seems pretty easy to access.  If you go to our website at KKUP.org you will see on the home page a strip of options immediately above the pictures of the musicians the next to the last option being LISTEN ONLINE.  By clicking this, it brings up a choice of desktop or mobile.  I can only speak for the desktop but after maybe a minute I was receiving a crystal clear feed.  As already mentioned, this is still a work in progress and we are currently limited to a finite number of listeners at any one time.  I mention this so you will be aware to turn off the application when you are not actually listening.  (I put the player in my favorites bar for the easiest of access.)  Now we can reach our listeners in Los Gatos and Palo Alto, even my family in Canada.  Let your friends elsewhere know they can now listen to your favorite station, and while they have the home page open they can check out our schedule.


King Poretr Stomp

Crying My Heart Out for You

Facts and Figures

Under the Spell of the Blues

When I Get Low I Get High

(If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have to Swing It

Swingin’ on the Reservation

Clap Hands! Here Comes Charley

   Chick Webb with Ella Fitzgerald   25mins

Ask Me Nice

Back on the Corner

Swingin’ Machine

Stop this World

I’m the Wild Man

You Can Count on me to Do My Part

If You’re Goin’ to the City

Everybody Cryin’ Mercy

Feel So Good

Your Molecular Structure

Wild Man on the Loose

   Mose Allison   27mins

Sweet Sue, Just You

I Got Rhythm

Holiday in Harlem

A-Tisket, A-Tasket


I’m Just a Jitterbug

Harlem Congo

   Chick Webb with Ella Fitzgerald   27mins

I Don’t Want Much

Western Man

The Tennessee Waltz

Ever Since the World Ended

Top Forty


You Call it Joggin’

Gettin’ There

The Getting’ Paid Waltz

Big Brother

   Mose Allison   37mins

Liza (All the Clouds’ll Roll Away)

MacPherson is rehearsin’ (to Swing)

Everybody Step

In the Groove at the Grove

Gotta Pebble in my Shoe

I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You

Who Ya Hunchin’?

By Heck


‘Tain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That Cha Do It)

Breakin’ ‘em Down

   Chick Webb with Ella Fitzgerald   34mins

Westwood Walk

Playboy Theme


   Octobop   13mins