BIRMINGHAM RECORD COLLECTORS
DEDICATED TO THE COLLECTING OF MUSIC, ITS PRESERVATION AND LASTING FRIENDSHIP
NO MONTHLY MEETING IN JUNE
JULY MEETING TO BE DETERMINED
THIS MONTH’S MEETING
Due to the virus outbreak all Birmingham public libraries are closed until further notice. When info on the month of July is posted I will pass along our plans at that time. Take care during this time and we will get together ASAP.
2020 BRC AUGUST RECORD SHOW
At this time we are moving along as if the record show will be held. Contacting dealers about tables, talking with the Gardendale Civic Center personnel, and making plans for advertising but waiting on a definite decision before spending any money. Some of our guys had a meeting with the mayor of Gardendale and he said he feels confident at this time we can have the show but there may be some restrictions or changes made. So, hang in there and hopefully by next month’s newsletter we will have an answer.
MORE FROM THE ‘BIRTH OF ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC PROJECT 1954-59
Time for some more installments of Mike’s R&R project he has been working on. For those who enjoy good old Southern Gospel, the first installment will be of special interest.
Here we take note of one more piano player who was not only an early influence on Rock & Roll Music in the 1950s, but also an influence on any piano player who ever heard him play.
PART 13: Jack Marshall was born near Holt, Alabama, in Tuscaloosa County, in the year 1930. His mother insisted that he take piano lessons. He began to learn piano at age 5. By his 12th birthday, he had earned a reputation as a terrific piano player. He graduated from Holt High Scholl in 1949 and immediately moved to Memphis to be the piano player for the Hartford Southern Gospel Quartet. He accompanied the Hartford Quartet, creating a sensation whenever he played. In 1950, the Blackwood Brothers Quartet moved from Iowa to Memphis. After they heard Marshall play, they came calling with an offer for Marshall to join as their piano player. He accepted. James Blackwood: “The news got to us as soon as we moved to Memphis that this little 20 year old kid was the best piano player in Memphis. The news was accurate. All we had to do was listen to three or four bars. He could really tear up a piano. He was fantastic”.
Marshall was also a perfectionist who, while touring and recording with the Blackwoods throughout the 1950s, would also practice 6 hours a day. He became a close personal friend of the Presley family. In 1958, he was the pianist at the memorial services for Gladys Presley, Elvis’ mother. Marshall was her favorite. She considered him the greatest piano player in the world. At her services, Marshall played “Rock of Ages”, “I Am Redeemed”, “Precious Lord Take My Hand”, “In the Garden”, and “Precious Memories”.
He left the Blackwood Brothers in 1959 but remained in Memphis as the owner and operator of a music store. He also owned and operated a recording studio and a record label. At Elvis’ request, Marshall tracked down a 1912 Knabe piano that had been for decades the house piano at Memphis’ Ellis Auditorium. The instrument had been played frequently not only by Marshall, but also by W.C. Handy, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and many others. After purchasing the piano, Marshall sold it to Elvis for $818.85. It remains at Graceland today.
Between 1960 and 1980, Marshall began buying Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises and opening KFC restaurants. He opened the first KFC restaurants in Alabama. At one time Marshall owned 52 KFC franchises. Around 1980 Marshall moved back to Tuscaloosa. He composed and arranged for the U. of A. Million Dollar Band. He played for friends, relatives and at his church.
Around 2000 Marshall was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He gradually lost the ability to play his instrument. He died at age 88 on August 27, 2018.
We have selected two Blackwood Brothers records from the early 1950s that feature Marshall’s hard driving Gospel Boogie rhythm.
PART 14: The two attached selections are the final “Early Influences” in this project. All future parts will feature what we believe to be Rock & Roll Music from 1954-1959.
The Mercury 78 rpm disc was recorded at National Recorders Studio in New Orleans, LA in 1950. It features Lee Allen on Sax and Duke Burrell on Piano. The Dot 45 RPM disc was recorded in Nashville, TN in May of 1954. It features Rusty Bryant on Sax.
Lee Allen was born in 1927 in Kansas and grew up in Denver, CO. He learned to play the saxophone as a child. He won a combined athletics and music scholarship to Xavier University in New Orleans. Allen fell into the New Orleans music scene in the late 1940s, performing and recording with the leading players in the early days of New Orleans Boogie and R&B. He is heard on countless R&B and Rock & Roll records recorded in New Orleans between 1954 and 1959, including those of Little Richard, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Roy Byrd, and Earl King. King described Lee Allen as “part of the wallpaper” at Cosimo Matassa’s recording studio. He played on all of New Orleans R&R piano player Huey “Piano” Smith’s records in the 1950s. Allen was described by bandmate Phil Alvin as “one of the most important instrumentalists in R&R”, his sax tone as “one of the defining sounds in R&R”, and “one of the DNA strands of R&R”.
Duke Burrell was born in New Orleans in 1920. He was one of the leading piano players in the New Orleans dance halls and night clubs from the late 40s through the 1950s. He was also a frequent recording session musician in New Orleans. Burrell later moved to Los Angeles CA where he continued his musical career. He died there in 1993.
Rusty Bryant was born in West Virginia in 1929. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio where he learned to play the sax. He developed a reputation as a versatile sax stylist in Columbus in the early 1950s. In 1954 Bryant signed a recording contract with Dot records in Nashville. He relocated there in 1954, working and recording for Dot until the end of his contract in 1957. Bryant returned to Columbus at that time and continued his career, working as a bandleader for many years.
The selection that features Rusty Bryant is a speeded up cover of a Joe Liggins R&B number from 1950. This version is much closer to R&R than the Liggins original, played at a breakneck pace, with the electric guitar turned up and overdriven.
These two selections, one from 1950, the other from early 1954, have in place all the elements that we will hear in the 1954-1959 R&R selections to come.
A few months back I wrote about the Top 10 British Invasion groups that AXS TV featured on one of their Top 10 Revealed episodes. I hope to have something next month on some of the top bands from the U.S. featured. I will be glad to include your comments on that subject if you want to send them to me. I plan on dividing the bands into 2 groups: 1955-1963 and 1964-1969. Also I will be using only bands that hit the Pop or R&B charts during that time. Give it some thought and see who you think would be the best, your favorite or the nation’s most popular U.S. bands would be.
Something else to think about, what is the makeup of a band considered to be? Do you consider Elvis’ Sun recordings to be a band. The Sun label read, ‘Elvis Presley, Scotty and Bill’. Is that a band? The same for Johnny Cash. The Sun labels read, ‘Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two’. Just something to think about.