Honkers and Screamers, Be-Boppers and Doowoppers, Rockers, Rollers and Boogie Woogie Jukebox Chicks
Monday, 12 September 2011
Calvin Boze – Choo, Choo's Bringing My Baby Home
1. Choo Choo's Bringing My Baby Home
2. My Friend Told Me
3. Good Time Sue
4. Stinkin' From Drinkin'
5. Slippin' And Slidin'
6. I Can't Stop Crying
7. Beal Street On A Saturday Night
8. Hey Lawdie, Miss Claudie
9. Have You Ever Had The Blues
1. Waiting And Drinking
2. Blow Man Blow
3. Safronia B
4. Angel City Blues
5. Baby You're Tops With Me
6. I'm Gonna Steam Off The Stamp
8. Look Out For Tomorrow Today
10. I've Got News For You
I first came across the music of Calvin Boze back in the early 1980s via the old Pathe Marconi compilation “Aladdin’s Rock’n Roll Sock Hop.” When I heard his “Hey Lawdy, Miss Claudie” on Side One of the LP, three thoughts raced through my mind:
(1) Nope, that’s not the Lloyd Price song which was brilliantly covered by Elvis
(2) That guy sounds just like Louis Jordan
(3) What’s this old 1940s jump blues doing on a rock and roll album?
Not that I didn’t like “Hey Lawdy, Miss Claudie,” mind you. There was another Calvin Boze track on Side Two, “Good Time Sue” which wasn’t quite as good, but it had the same eerie resemblance to the sound of Louis Jordan. And it turned out that both tracks were from the early 1950s rather than the 1940s. Apart from a 1949 Amos Milburn opus (“Bow Wow”), the rest of the tracks on the album WERE rock and roll by the likes of Gene & Eunice, Thurston Harris, Shirley & Lee, The Jivers, Lee Allen and Little Wilbur and the Pleasers.
In the late 1980s two Calvin Boze compilation LPs appeared. “Havin’ A Ball” was issued on Moonshine. The LP had indifferent sound quality, having been obviously mastered from shellac or vinyl records. The LP on this post, “Choo, Choo’s Bringing My Baby Home” was issued by Route 66 in 1989. As with the Moonshine LP, the tracks are mastered from old records but with slightly better sound quality.
Some Calvin Boze tracks turned up in pristine sound quality on the great Billy Vera double CD compilation on Capitol, “Jumpin’ Like Mad: Cool Cats & Hip Chicks.” The second track on the first disc was the unforgettable “Safronia B” and there were three more gems on the set: “Looped,” “Blow Man Blow,” and “Keep Your Nose Out Of My Business”. How could the last track not be by Louis Jordan? Heck, even the song title was pure Louis. “Safronia B” also turned up on the terrific “The Aladdin Records Story” double CD set.
What was noticeable from these reissues was that very little was known about Calvin Boze. Indeed there seemed to be only one photograph of him, the photo that’s on the front of this Route 66 LP. “Rock and Roll Sock Hop” used a drawing of him that originally appeared on Aladdin record sleeves of the 78 era and this drawing was adapted for the illustration on the front of “Havin’ a Ball.” The most thorough notes on him were by Dave Penny for “Choo, Choo’s Bringing My Baby Home” and even at the time of the writing of these notes in 1989, Calvin’s place and date of birth were unknown.
However, time moves on and more facts about Calvin Boze have come to light. He was born in Trinity County, Texas on October 15th, 1916. He was educated in Houston and in the 1930s he played trumpet and led the Wheatley High School band which numbered Tom Archia, Russell and Illinois Jacquet, and Arnett Cobb among its members. Thereafter Calvin attended Prairie View College where he led the Collegians who included his old school band mate Tom Archia and Charles Brown.
At some time in the mid 1940s Calvin relocated to Los Angeles, possibly after his military service. His first recording was for Globe Records in LA in 1944-45 with Russell Jacquet’s band which included Teddy Edwards on alto sax, Charles Mingus on bass and Chico Hamilton on drums. Two sides were issued on Globe 105 – “Penny’s Worth of Boogie” and “Look What You’ve Done To Me.”
Calvin’s next recordings were as vocalist with Marvin Johnson and his Orchestra (in reality a seven piece jump band) on November 2nd, 1945, for the G&G label. Billed as Calvin Boaz, he sang on “Just A Dream” and “Saffronia Bee,” which he would re-record several years down the line for Aladdin.
In August 1949 Calvin signed for Aladdin Records for whom he recorded a total of seven sessions, commencing on August 15th, 1949 and ending on August 15th, 1952. The recordings, under the supervision of Maxwell Davis, showed a remarkable resemblance to the jump blues hits of Louis Jordan. Not only was Calvin’s singing voice very like that of Jordan (perhaps with the exception of a couple of the slow blues numbers), but the material itself can be described as Jordanesque. It was mostly melodic good humoured jump and jive with “Beal (sic) Street on a Saturday Night” being similar to Jordan’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry” with its description of street life and rambunctious goin’s on – in Memphis in Calvin’s song, as opposed to New Orleans in Jordan’s number. There’s lots of fun for jump blues fans here in spotting the similarities between Calvin’s songs and various Louis Jordan numbers.
As we’ve seen in a previous post, only “Safronia B” had a brief brush with the national R&B chart. However it has stood the test of time and has featured in numerous official and unofficial jive compilations and to this day remains a favourite at jumpin’ record hops. Calvin and his road band were a successful live act, with residencies and appearances in the LA area and several national tours supporting Dinah Washington. Aladdin promoted Calvin’s sides well and even featured his likeness on their record sleeves, but after his final session in August 1952, Calvin faded from the music scene.
Back in the 1980s and early 90s his disappearance from the entertainment world was seen as another aspect of the Calvin Boze mystery. In fact we now know that he took up a career in teaching.
A few years back I posted the Moonshine LP “Havin’ A Ball” and last year I received an email from a former pupil of Mr. Boze. I can’t say how long a gap there was between Calvin Boze’s final recording session in 1952 and the start of his new career as an elementary school teacher. According to our anonymous correspondent he was teaching at George Washington Carver Elementary School in the Willowbrook district of South Los Angeles by 1963.
In a short series of emails our informant has painted a picture of a dedicated and very effective teacher. Mr. Boze was able to guide his young charges through the difficult days in the aftermath of the assassination of JFK. In a lighter moment one Friday afternoon he gave his class a demonstration of how to do “The Mashed Potato” much to their noisy delight. Once a hep cat, always a hep cat.
Sadly Calvin Boze passed away in June 1970 at the comparatively young age of 53.
The J.C. Marion website has a page “Remembering Calvin Boze” at this link:
The article has interesting information about his live appearances.
“Spyder John” has informed me that issues 9 and 10 (volume 1) of ‘Fessa John Hook’s “Dancing on the Edge Journal” contain a two part article on the origins of “Safronia B.” There is an exploration of the California big band scene of the 1930s as well as info on Marvin Johnson and Calvin Boze. See:
“Calvin Boze: the Complete Recordings, 1945 –52 (Blue Moon BMCD 6014) was issued in 2007 and is still available.
“Marvin Johnson: Jumpy Rhythm Jive, the Complete Recordings, 1946–51 (Blue Moon BMCD 6050) was issued in 2006 and is also still available at mid-price if you look around.
I’ve ordered my copies of the Blue Moon CDs from Amazon.co.uk marketplace. So much for the argument that blogs discourage CD sales.
There are twelve of Calvin Boze’s Aladdin sides on the previously recommended 4 CD collection on JSP “Rare West Coast Jump ‘n’ Jive 1945 – 1954.” Tip - search around for a reasonable price on this set. The people at Amazon.co.uk are doing it for £9.99. Don’t go paying around £20 for it!
Ripped from vinyl at 320 kbps. Password = greaseyspoon
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