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

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.

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