Ransom Knowling, b. June 24, 1912 in New Orleans, LA, d. October 22, 1967 in Chicago, IL, rhythm and blues musician, best known for playing bass on many blues recordings made in Chicago between the 1930s and 1950s, including those of Arthur Crudup and Little Brother Montgomery. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and began playing professionally around 1930 in the New Orleans bands led by Sidney Desvigne and Joe Robichaux. As well as bass, he played violin and tuba. By the late 1930s, he had moved to Chicago, and played on many of the blues records made in the city, including those by the Harlem Hamfats, Big Bill Broonzy, Roosevelt Sykes, Washboard Sam, Sonny Boy Williamson, T-Bone Walker, and Muddy Waters. He played on Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right", recorded in 1946. He died in Chicago in 1967, aged 55.
by Eugene Chadbourne
Ransom Knowling, whose name sounds like the mutation of a kidnapping plot, played bass on at least one of the most influential records in rock history. He was part of the original rhythm section on Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's classic entitled "That's All Right" -- and in this case influence is measured by the extent to which certain important younger musicians were moved, namely Elvis Presley. Knowling's sense of time, a harbinger of when teenagers would seize control of pop music, was predictably developed through his association with various lively and important orchestras on the New Orleans jazz scene of the '20s and '30s.
While he didn't always play bass in the beginning, performing quite often on tuba and sometimes approaching the music from the other end on violin, proper syncopation was a philosophy and discipline transcending instrument families per se. Knowling would later move to the very center of the beat in his association with Chicago blues in the '40s and '50s, expertly pinning down what to many rhythm section players is simply an elusive butterfly. He began playing professionally in his late teens under bandleaders such as Sidney Desvigne and Joe Robichaux. By the late '30s, however, Knowling had packed up for Chicago and was beginning to fit into that city's active recording scene. While it wasn't the same rhythm section that played on every Chicago blues record, overlap was significant enough that discographers get away with making comments such as "the usual rhythm section with Ransom Knowling on bass is featured." Knowling is particularly, as well as usually, associated with the late-'50s activities of R&B performer Little Brother Montgomery.