Label: Document Records
Release Date: September 5, 1994
Releases: September 27, 2005
Recording Time: 56 minutes
Recording Date: April 2, 1935 - 1939
Styles: Piano Blues
Featured Artists: Cripple Clarence Lofton, Al Miller, Red Nelson.
Some of Lofton's best, with the selections "Strut That Thing," "Monkey Man Blues," and "Pitchin' Boogie" being particular standouts.
by Cub Koda
Cripple Clarence Lofton: piano, vocals.
With contributions by Big Bill Broonzy, Red Nelson, Al Miller and others...
Inforamative Booklet Notes by Keith Briggs.
Research has pin-pointed Clarence’s birth to March 28th 1887 in Kingsport, Tennessee. He moved to Chicago around 1917 at the age of forty. Surprisingly, it was not until he was in his late forties when he first recorded, for Vocalion, in April 1935.
In the company of Big Bill Broonzy he cut two tracks utilising themes that would recur time and again throughout his eight year career on record. On this occasion both piano performances were subservient to his hoarse vocals which were taken at a break-neck pace on Strut That Thing, the number being driven along by an unknown washboard player, and more reflectively on Monkey Man Blues which was enhanced by Big Bill’s distinctive guitar work.
Ten days after that session a recording was made for Bluebird by what appeared to be a man named Adam Wilcox employing the pseudonym Albert Clemens. The title recorded was Policy Blues and aural evidence makes it almost certain that the performer was Clarence Lofton moonlighting under a double disguise and trying to mask his memorable piano style by playing in a key he seldom used. Clarence was in the studio for ARC, again in the company of Broonzy, in July 1935 when he cut the jaunty boast Brown Skin Girls and walked the basses behind his blues You Done Tore Your Playhouse Down. Also in the studio on that date were Amos Easton, (Bumble Bee Slim) and “Red” Nelson Wilburn but the pianist on their recordings does not seem to be Lofton. However Clarence is certainly the pianist on the tracks cut by Red Nelson on February 4th and 6th 1936. This combination of a fine vocalist and brilliant pianist produced the classic Streamline Train on which Clarence plays a variant of “Cow Cow Blues” that he later recorded himself, both with and without a vocal.
The guitarist on those four sides was Al Miller whose activities on record dated back to 1927 and Clarence sat in with an unknown clarinettist (possibly Odell Rand on a bad day) and a bass-player to form Miller’s Swing Stompers for It’s Got To Be Done and Juicy Mouth Shorty. The benefit was all theirs.
The next six sides on this release were recorded at a private party on some unknown date in the late 30s. This is Clarence, the extrovert entertainer, in his natural environment. He storms his way through his own version of Streamline Train and an updated “Strut That Thing” now titled I Don’t Know under which name Willie Mabon would make it an R&B hit in 1953. When these cuts came to light, years after they were recorded, the instrumentals were allocated different titles by different sets of collectors.
The jazz label Solo Art was the next to commit Clarence’s work to wax when they recorded thirteen sides by him in 1939. The four that they issued were all Lofton staples and included an idiosyncratic version of "Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie" (BDCD-6007) that had his name indelibly written all over it.
Credits: Keith Briggs - liner notes; Big Bill Broonzy - guest artist, guitar; Albert Clemens - piano, vocals; Cripple Clarence Lofton - composer, piano, primary artist, vocals, whistle (human); Al Miller - guitar, guitar (rhythm), vocals; Al Nelson - performer, primary artist; Red Nelson - accordion, composer, primary artist, vocals; Johnny Parth - compilation producer, producer; Odell Rand - clarinet; Rudi Steager - executive producer.
Tracks: 1) Strut that thing - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 2) Monkey man blues - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 3) Policy blues (you can't 3-6-9 me) - Albert Clemens (Cripple Clarence Lofton); 4) Brown skin girls - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 5) You done tore your playhouse down - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 6) Crying mother blues - Red Nelson; 7) Streamline train - Red Nelson; 8) It`s got to be done - Al Miller; 9) Juicy mouth Shorty - Al Miller; 10) Sweetest thing born - Red Nelson; 11) When the soldiers get their bonus - Red Nelson; 12) Traveling blues (South side mess around) - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 13) Streamline train - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 14) I don`t know - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 15) Mistaken blues (Change my mind blues) - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 16) Pitchin` boogie (juke joint stomp) - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 17) Mercy blues State Street blues) - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 18) Had a dream - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 19) Streamline train (R 2772) - Cripple Clarence Lofton; 20) I don`t know (R 3361) - Cripple Clarence Lofton.