The Legends of the Rocking Dutchman - episode 35

The Rhythm & Blues Chart

This transcript of the radio show is an approximation of what I said in the show. The real spoken parts may differ slightly.

And legends is what you're gonna get from me, the legends of the fall of 1949 and all of 1950. The number ones on Billboard's list of best sold and most played in jukeboxes Rhythm & Blues records and we start on 15 October of 47 where we find Louis Jordan with a great double-sider telling how he got into a big fish fry on New Orleans Rampart Street and it was a rocking event until the law walked in and took everybody to the county jail. Here are five and a half minutes of smelling fish, booze and great music. Listen to the Saturday Night Fish Fry.

01 - Louis Jordan - Saturday Night Fish Fry

Louis Jordan and though he didn't dominate the charts like in the middle of the decade, he was still good for a few number one hits. The Saturday Night Fish Fry made it twelve weeks on number one.

On December 24 we find the last number one before we turn into the next decade. Larry Darnell with his immortal For You My Love peaked the R&B list for 8 weeks.

02 - Larry Darnell - For You My Love
02a - Jimmy Witherspoon - Big Fine Girl

Jimmy Witherspoon with the Big Fine Girl and though this one didn't make it to the top and actually nothing of Jimmy Witherspoon did, we find him in the Rhythm & Blues list pretty often.

The first number one hit of 1950 comes from Ivory Joe Hunter and he fills that piece of shellac from the MGM label with the bluesy ballad I almost lost my mind.

03 - Ivory Joe Hunter - I Almost Lost My Mind
04 - Little Esther & Johnny Otis - Double Crossin Blues

1950 brought new names to the top of the chart, and Little Esther, the most recent discovery of Johnny Otis, was one of them. Her Double Crossing Blues mad it to the top at once and we'll see her three greatest hits today. This hit number one for four weeks from March 4, and she replaced herself on the top of the list on April 15 with her Mistrusting Blues, a duet with Mel Walker and again Johnny Otis band for the instumental backing. Here is Little Esther.

05 - Little Esther - Mistrustin' Blues
06 - Ivory Joe Hunter - I need you so

May 13 of 1950 brought another ballad of Ivory Joe Hunter. I need you so took over the number one spot for two weeks. And here we see the fifties bring another phenomenon into the R&B: dubbing in strings. Now the strings had been a part of the jazz big bands in the thirties but gradually we'd lost them. But this was a whole other matter. Here the strings are added to make it sound more like pop music, to soften and romantisize the music, to take the harsh out of Rhythm & Blues, in order to get some interest of the big white audience. Well I don't make a trouble hiding my opinion about it. We'll se a blatant example of this later in this show.

Next Joe Liggins and his Honeydrippers, who were getting a little out of the picture - their monster hit the Honeydripper was already five years ago. They also tried it with a different sound and a different record label, and with success, because Pink Champagne hit number one for a solid 13 weeks from May of 1950. On the Specialty label, here is Joe Liggins.

07 - Joe Liggins - Pink Champagne
08 - Johnny Otis, Little Esther & Mel Walker - Cupid's Boogie

Once more Little Esther in a duet with Mel Walker. This hit number one on July 8 and though for one week only, she had her third number one hit in her debut year. But fifteen-year old miss Phillips made two wrong choices. Well the first one, of course you can argue about that because what-ifs are always difficult. Would she have remained succesful if she hadn't left the man who discovered and protected her, Johnny Otis? You never know, only that Otis had a knack for bringing talent to the spotlight succesfully. But anyhow she decided to leave him - and Savoy, for an adventure with the Federal label and that didn't bring her success anywhere near what she'd achieved with Otis.

But there's no question about the wrongness of her other choice, for the drugs, and in the following years things went downhill fast for little Esther. Her comeback would not come before twelve years after that succesful half year. In 1962 she hit number one again with Release me. Her heroin addiction would eventually lead to her death at the age of 48 and it was Johnny Otis, the man who'd brought her to the spotlight and from whom she'd turned away after such a short time, who conducted the funeral service.

So let's listen now to something else - Roy Brown with the Hard Luck blues on the DeLuxe label that made it three weeks to the top from August.

09 - Roy Brown - Hard Luck Blues

(background - Nat King Cole - Mona Lisa) Violins and the sweet-toned voice of Nat King Cole with a song that you can't possibly call rhythm & blues anymore. Nat King Cole tried his luck on the pop market and with succes, this stayed eight weeks on the pop number one, the song being granted an academy award for best original song and Cole's version - he was only one of many performers - was inducted in the Grammy hall of fame.

And actually this was meant to be the flip, with a playful song on how God created the world on te A-side called The greatest inventor of them all. But the discjockeys favoured Mona Lisa and that's what the customers came asking for in the record store. Mona Lisa stayed four weeks on top of the Rhythm & Blues chart but as said did significantly better on the pop chart where it belonged.

So let's just move on with Louis Jordan. Still going strong in the new decade, here is his double-sider Blue Light boogie, that hit number one for seven weeks from September 9.

11 - Louis Jordan - Blue Light Boogie
12 - Lowell Fulson - Blue Shadows

Blue Shadows, you heard Lowell Fulson on the Swingtime label and that took the top position on the R&B chart for four weeks from October 29.

From November 4 we find Joe Morris and his band on number one. Laurie Tate does the vocals on this and this is the first number one for the young Atlantic label. The record was so succesful that Atlantic decided to bring it out on that new 45 RPM format, their first time on vinyl - though I'll play the regular shellac record here. Listen to Anytime Any Place Anywhere.

13 - Joe Morris feat. Laurie Tate - Anytime Any Place Anywhere
14 - Percy Mayfield - Please Send Me Someone To Love

Percy Mayfield brought it to number one with Please Send Me Someone To Love on the Specialty label on November 25 for two weeks. And the last month of 1950 brings another new star of the new decade to the top of the chart. Ruth Brown had one single before on the Atlantic label, So Long that was released in 1949, and this was her second one and that remained a solid 11 weeks on number one of the Billboard list of Rhythm & Blues records. And many hits followed, helping secure the pretty new Atlantic label. Atlantic was often called 'The house that Ruth built' to tribute her great contribution to the record company of Herb Abramson, a former dentistry student, and Ahmet Ertegun, son of the Turkish ambassador in the United States. The Ertegun brothers were big fans of jazz and Rhythm & Blues and had collected some 15,000 records in the genre. The label started in the fall of 1947 and faced its biggest challenge just a few months later: the second recording ban of the American Federation of Musicians.

Ruth Brown, from Washington DC, was one of the talents scouted by Ertegun but she had a severe car accident on her way to New York for her audition at Atlantic. But the label management had so much confidence in her that they supported her for nine months before she'd recovered enough to get into the studio and record.

Listen to that first number one hit of hers, Teardrops from My Eyes.

15 - Ruth Brown - Teardrops From My Eyes

And with Ruth Brown we close the year 1950. We left the decade behind us that brought us the war, the two greatest R&B hits ever, the demise of the big bands and the era of jump blues. We went into the decade that would bring us rock 'n roll and the first precursors of what later would be called soul music. Turbulent years, bringing great changes in society - and in music. African American music that was made in the forties and these early fifties would eventually change all of popular western music, something that's overlooked so easily. I don't do this program solely because it's such great music. We just should not forget the enormous impact that this music had on all the music that we listen to ever since Rock 'n Roll made it cross over to the mainstream white audience.

And so I hope you enjoy this program and the message it brings, and if so, or if you have anything to ask, comment of tell me, just send me an e-mail at Or visit me on the web, just google after the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman and my web site will show up first. As for now byebye, and have a great day. No, have a rocking day. See you next time on the Legends of the Rocking Dutchman!