Archive for the ‘Red Saunders & His Orch.’ Category

Washboard Willie

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Listen: Ham Bone / Washboard Willie

Roger Armstrong played me ‘Ham Bone’ in ’07. I’d never heard the version prior, but hunted for it ever since. Let me tell you, this was one hard record to find. Forget about price, it was all about a copy turning up at all. Subsequently I’d been searching unsuccessfully for ages, but just prior to our London trip last week, the first pressing to list on eBay in years appeared. Not about to lose it, I put in a crazy high bid, and luck was on my side.

Funny enough, the auction closed while I was in the UK, sitting in Camden’s Spreadeagle pub with Roger himself. No lie. What a nice email alert to get anywhere, but nicely full circle in this case.

By far the most successful version, according the BILLBOARD chart number, is that by Red Saunders & His Orch. with Delores Hawkins & The Hambone Kids. Love it as you will, still Washboard Willie’s is clearly in a class of it’s own.

Having turned professional in ’52 at thirty years old, a very late bloomer even then, this full time car washer’s apparent first stroke of genius was to name his band Washboard Willie & The Super Suds Of Rhythm. Now who wouldn’t want every record they made on name alone?

Originally playing only his washboard from work, his second stroke, by ’55 he added a bass and snare drum, his third. Listen to Washboard Willie’s performance on ‘Ham Bone’, from ’64, and you’ll hear how he mastered a most primal idea, thereby achieving for himself a permanent slot in music history.

He was one fascinating guy with a fascinating discography as well.

Red Saunders & His Orch. / Delores Hawkins & The Hambone Kids

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

RaySaundersHambone, Red Saunders & His Orch., Okeh, Delores Hawkins & The Hambone Kids

Listen: Hambone / Red Saunders & His Orch. with Delores Hawkins & The Hambone Kids

Red Saunders found his first successful footing in the depression era Chicago clubs. His endless singles, on many labels, seemed to finally reach an early doo wop/RnB mix of ghetto wildness, a frenzy evident here.

First released in February 1952, the record was accompanied by large display ads in Billboard showing The Hambone Kids performing in front of Red Saunders and his drums. The originally issued take of ‘Hambone’ included Dolores Hawkins’ whistling but lacked her vocal interjections that appear on this version; it also included a brief passage for the full band and a tenor sax solo. The Kids’ rhythmic practice was known as hamboning or patting juba: slapping various body parts as a substitute for drumming. Dee Clark, one of those Hambone Kids, also loudly stamped his heel on the 2nd and 4th beats.

Peaking at #20 on the Billboard RnB chart, it was, like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put A Spell On You’, a consistent seller. By ’63, parent company CBS decided to reissue ‘Hambone’ as Okeh 7166, pictured here. And then again in ’67 (Okeh 7282). These reissues used an alternate take running 2:13, in which The Hambone Kids and Dolores Hawkins are accompanied throughout by guitar, bass, and drums only; the rest of Red Saunders Big Band / Orchestra contributing only shouts of “Hambone!” at the beginning and end of the piece.

There are many versions of ‘Hambone’ floating around this earth, as was the case with all big selling black records in the 50′s, endless vanilla white artists watered them down for middle America consumption. This here is the real deal though.