Singing Sammy Lewis

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A Sammy Lewis LP | Popsike | tc484

Samuel Allan Lewis was born in Chicago,Illinois on April 4, 1925, started singing at 5 years and at age 6 he was singing gospel music on radio station WSBC.

In 1943 he entered army service and on his return he became director of the Radio Choir of the Evangelist Temple Church of God In Christ, touring with Mahalia Jackson.

He signed to Chess in 1949 but again entered army service in Korea in 1950 serving for two years. He continued to have recordings issued on the Checker label throughout the 1960s.

He was considered one of America’s top ten gospel singers, but there has been no record of him for some time and it is feared the gentleman has died.

Little Miss Cornshucks

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Little Miss Cornshucks | Planet Barberella | tc404

Mildred Cummings Jordan (Little Miss Cornshucks) was born on 26 May 1923 and died on 11 November 1999. A night club singer of many years standing, she had a long season in Chicago night clubs. She was very influential, with Aretha Franklin among those naming her as an influence; and was responsible for Atlantic Records’ Ahmet Ertegun becoming interested in recording music. “Little Miss Cornshucks” was a character of “a country girl lost in a big city” which was designed to appeal to the many men who had migrated to Chicago from the Southern States. \After recording over a number of years for many labels she recorded an LP for Chess in 1960, from which a single was taken, but her act suddenly became old fashioned and she ended her live appearances in 1961.

Washboard Sam

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Washboard Sam | Keeping the Blues Alive | tc366

Robert Brown (Washboard Sam), pictured, was born on July 15, 1910 and died on November 6, 1966 of heart disease. He is reputed to be related to Big Bill Broonzy. He recorded widely from the 1930s. When his career hit a lull in the late 1940s he became a Police Officer. Until a successful appeal in 2009, his grave had been unmarked.

Leroy Kirkland

Arranger, bandleader, guitarist and song writer Leroy Kirkland was born on February 10, 1906 and died on April 6, 1988. His career went from the 1930’s pre-swing era to soul. In the 1940s he worked with Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and began arranging music at Savoy Records, OKeh Records, Mercury Records and other companies including Chess.

His successes included Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell On You”, Big Maybelle’s “Gabbin’ Blues” and Barbie Gaye’s original version of “My Boy Lollipop”. He is also associated with Wilbert Harrison, Etta James, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, The Righteous Brothers, The Supremes, Brook Benton and the Five Satins.

Floyd Jones

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Floyd Jones | Jim O’Neal | tc372

Blues singer, musician and songwriter Floyd Jones was born on July 21, 1917 and died on December 19, 1989. His best known song, “On the road again”, also became a hit for 1960’s group Canned Heat. Several of his songs have economic or social themes. He was given his first guitar by Howlin’ Wolf. He began recording in 1949 and was with Chess by 1951. In later years he switched to an electric bass guitar. He continued to perform until he died.

Lafayette Jerl Thomas

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Lafayette Jerl Thomas | Living Blues Magazine/Wirz | tc373

Guitarist Lafayette Jerl Thomas was born on 13 June 1928 in Shreveport, Louisiana into a musical family, and died on 20 May 1977 of a heart attack. The Blues Encyclopaedia notes that he began playing with big bands in the 1940s and because of his on stage acrobatics, he was given the nickname “The Thing”. His first recordings were under the name of L J Thomas and his Louisiana Playboys. He can be heard playing on recordings by Jimmy Wilson, Juke Boy Bonner, Big Mama Thornton and others. He did session work for many labels, especially Prestige where he backed Memphis Slim and others. He continued in music playing in Sugar Pie DeSanto’s band and others until he died.