Paul Serrano

Paul Serrano | Serrano family | tc819

Trumpeter and sound engineer Paul Serrano was born in Chicago, Illinois on 1 January 1932. He attended the DuSable High School in Chicago. He then attended the Chicago Musical College but was called up for military service in the US Army. After leaving the Army he travelled to New York and joined Woody Herman’s band. Returning to Chicago he became a session musician and can be heard on hundreds of records made by Chess, Mercury and Brunswick. In 1966 he opened his own recording studio, his experience as a musician guided his engineering work. In 1992 he closed his studios and went to work for Delmark Records, where he stayed for more than ten years. “He had great recording technique, especially with microphone placement, and he knew how to get the real sound of an instrument that a lot of people couldn’t get,” said Steve Wagner of Delmark, who regarded Mr Serrano as a mentor. The many artists he recorded included Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger. Ramsey Lewis recorded a number of albums at his studio, including the “Sun Goddess” album.

Mr Serrano died on 15 January 2015 after being ill with Parkinsons for many years.

Leonard Caston Jr.

Leonard Caston Jr. | Twitter | tc818

Songwriter, pianist, vocalist and record producer Leonard Caston Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 13 November 1943. After serving in the US Army, he joined the vocal group The Radiants, who were signed to Chess Records. He adapted a gospel tune into “I had a talk with my man last night” which became a hit for Mitty Collier. In 1965 he left The Radiants to become a full time session musician and producer at Chess. He plays piano on Fontella Bass’ “Rescue Me”. He also worked with Jan Bradley, Laura Lee and Bobby McClure. In 1967 he rejoined The Radiants and wrote and produced their final hit, “Hold on”. In 1968 he was recruited by Motown Records and went to work for them, notably on the Supremes’ “Nathan Jones”, Eddie Kendricks’ “Keep on truckin'” (that’s Caston on piano again), and many others. In the 1980s he and his wife moved to California and became pastors in Los Angeles. In the 2000’s he became active in recording again, producing albums of gospel music.

John Howell

John Howell | Discogs/Copyright control | tc817

Trumpeter John Howell first came to attention as a session musician based in Los Angeles and can be heard on recordings of that era by Stan Kenton and Cal Tjader. He then relocated to Chicago and is heard on recordings by The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield, and working extensively with Terry Callier at Chess. Mr Howell died on 17 May 1980.

Maurice Ellis

Maurice Ellis | Chicago Sun-Times | tc816

Trombonist and band leader Maurice Ellis was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 23 May 1929. He attended the DuSable High School in Chicago where he became interested in the trombone. He attended Howard University, Washington DC, where he obtained a degree in psychology. He worked in Chicago’s juvenile court for some twelve years. He was one of the founders of what is now the Chicago Jazz Fest. In demand as a session musician, he has backed The Chi-Lites, Donny Hathaway, The Impressions and many others. His orchestra backed and toured with Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Natalie Cole and others. Mr Ellis died at home in Chicago on 1 September 2017.

Julian Priester

Julian Priester | WBSS Media | tc815

Jazz and avant-garde trombonist and instrumentalist Julian Priester was born in Chicago, Illinois on 29 June 1939. He attended the DuSable High School, and in his teens began playing with Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Sonny Stitt and other bands. In 1956 he moved to New York to join Lionel Hampton’s band, then joined Dinah Washington’s band. He has also featured in the bands of Duke Ellington and Herbie Hancock. From 1979 to 2011 he was a teacher at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. He is now retired.

Johnny Board

Tenor saxophonist Johnny Board was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1919. He attended the DuSable High School before serving with the US Navy in World War II. After wartime service, he began a long career in music, playing with some of the biggest names in rhythm and blues and jazz, including Lionel Hampton, B. B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, Count Basie, Colman Hawkins and Woody Herman. He also regularly appeared in Chicago night clubs with various bands, until he suffered strokes, first in 1983 and then in 1985. Mr Board died in Chicago, Illinois on 15 December 1989.

Sonny Thompson

Sonny Thompson | Copyright Control | tc814

Rhythm and blues pianist and bandleader Alfonso “Sonny” Thompson’s details are uncertain; he may have been born in either 1916 or 1923, in Mississippi or in Chicago, and may have been called Hezzie Tompson. He began recording in 1946 and two years later had two number one hits on the rhythm and blues chart. In 1952 he was hired by King Records’ A&R department and employed as an arranger and pianist. He married singer Lula Reed, for whom he had produced a major hit recording. He also had success as a song writer, particularly writing with Freddie King. He died in 1989 in Chicago, Illinois.

CD: Laura Lee – That’s how it is: The Chess Years


Track listing: Are you doing me wrong | Need to belong | Dirty man | As long as I got you | That’s how it is | She will break your heart | It’s all wrong but it’s all right | It’s how you make it good | A man with some backbone | Love more than pride | Wanted, lover, no experience necessary | Hang it up | It’s mighty hard | It ain’t what you do | Uptight good man (alt)

Released on CD on Chess CHD-93005 in 1990. Also reissued on CD on Charly RED 27.

CD: Irma Thomas – Something Good: The Muscle Shoals Sessions


Track listing: Cheater man | A woman will do wrong | Good to me | We got something good | Let’s do it over | I gave you everything | I’ve been loving you too long | Security | Somewhere crying | Don’t make me stop now | Good things don’t come easy | Here I am take me | Yours until tomorrow | We got something good (alt)

Released on CD on Chess CHD-93004 in 1990.

CD: Jimmy Witherspoon – Spoon So Easy


Track listing: It ain’t no secret | Ain’t nobody’s business | Live so easy | Congratulations | I can make it without you | Goin’ down slow | When the lights go out | Crying | T.W.A. | Danger | I don’t know why | Garfield Avenue | Mack and Jack | Just to prove my love to you

Released on CD on Chess CHD-93003 in 1997.

%d bloggers like this: