Monday, June 01, 2009

Mr. 5X5

Jimmy Rushing, known as Mr. 5X5 was the first blues singer I had any serious exposure too. My dad loved his singing, with the Basie band but especially he loved a later recording called Mr. 5X5, produced by the legendary Colombia Records talent man, John Hammond (yes, his son is John Hammond the bluesman). Rushing lived from 1901 to 1972. He sang with the Basie band from 1935 to 1948. Here's Take me Back Baby...

Mr. Rushing was what you might call a blues shouter, a Kansas City style jump blues specialist. Naturally I hated his music. After all, it was my father's music and what did he know?

Here he is solo, playing piano and singing Good Morning Blues, from 1962...

This next piece features Benny Goodman on clarinet with Jimmy Rushing on vocals.

On the recording Mr. 5X5 there is a cut where they play together, which I believe is called Brussels World's Fair Blues. I wish I had that one for you because man does it rock. Rushing sings, we're gonna rock this joint, we're gonna smoke this joint, we're gonna sell this joint, we're gonna rock this joint.

It took me years before I appreciated that music, but it gave me a different foundation in blues than most of my friends, who came at the music from a rock n roll guitar hero point of view. That foundation has stuck with me and I thank my father for it. Today, when people talk about the blues, hardly anyone thinks about an orchestra with a full horn section.

At the time, though, I was convinced that my father had no taste and I went looking for acoustic blues. I discovered Blind Boy Fuller and heard songs like, I'm a Rattlesnakin Daddy...

Fuller was from North Carolina and played in a tradition known as Piedmont Blues. I soon discovered another pair of musicians out of the same tradition, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

Through Sonny and Brownie, I stumbled into another performer from the same area, the amazing guitar picker, Doc Watson. Here's Deep River Blues.

I felt I had left my father and his jazz infused blues far behind as I searched for a more rural and what I felt was more authentic tradition. I felt pretty sheepish years later when I called him up and said, hey Dad, you still have that old Jimmy Rushing record? Think I could borrow it?

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