Misses 101 – Cleveland
We all tout our “hits”, and rightly so, for from them our knowledge and appreciation of the music grows. What we seldom mention is our many “misses” out of embarrassment or some such similar feeling. This is a series of pieces on mine – I make no apology for them, save being only one person in a world of the 70s where nobody seemed to give a damn! Money and time have to be rationed, and there came a time when I did not have much of either to spare; therefore not EVERYthing could be done, no matter how hard I wished it could have been.
While I can be proud of my Robert Lockwood albums, I missed out on doing some other recordings in Cleveland, OH in my latter days as an active record company. Lockwood took me around to hear a few other musicians in the area – he had high standards, so there were no dogs. One of them was Eddie Baccus, a jazz organist. Now that may not turn on your switches, but let me tell you, Baccus was (and still is) memorable. Robert took me to a Sunday afternoon jam session where Baccus was playing – he had a Farfisa, not the most top shelf electric organ, but it made no difference to what I was hearing. The man is incredible – I style him as the Art Tatum of the jazz organ, and not just because he’s blind.
I watched him play and I have no idea how he did many of the things he did with that one keyboard… with a Hammond, OK, but not with that instrument! A look onto YouTube gets a few clips of his playing, including on piano. Styled as the jazz realm equivalent of Robert Lockwood’s blues realm, it’s my understanding from what Lockwood told me (as well as bassist Allen Murphy, who I knew in Ulster County, NY and who had played with Baccus in Cleveland in earlier days) that his wife didn’t want him to leave town and so he remained a big fish in a small pond.
According, again, to Lockwood, he and Baccus recorded in Florida some decades back under the aegis of B.B. King. His only LP was called “Feel Real” and came out on the Smash label, a Mercury subsidiary and it was produced by Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He and Kirk, plus drummer George Cook (found also on “my” first Lockwood LP) once worked as a trio around Ohio and the Mid-west billed as “The Three Blind Mice”… I kid you not, I’m nowhere imaginative enough to make up something like that! [Read: KRUTH, John: Bright Moments. The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. (Welcome Rain Publishers, New York 2000) for some details on that politically incorrectly-named combo.] Kirk appears on the Smash LP playing the flute on one tune, billed as “Theotis Tannis” – odd, because he was contracted to Mercury in those days! Re-issued in Japan on CD, the album is in the category that Bruce Bastin calls “soddingly rare” and copies are hard to come by and costly.
Eddie is an eminence gris in Cleveland’s jazz world and still plays locally in 2012. I so wanted to record him, but was unable to get the time, money, and energy together to do anything about it personally. I talked him up with any jazz label I knew (Muse, Delmark, HighNote), all to no avail. There is a club recording headed by Joe Lovano that has Eddie playing with him thatb is well worth hearing. He deserves serious recording in depth while still possible. His son is Eddie Baccus, Jr., a member of Pieces of a Dream, a “smooth jazz” band… he’s on a couple of the YouTube clips with his dad, and there’s nothing smooth about his gutsy playing. Would that he could/would do something about his father’s lack of recording… he deserves better. Never interviewed, hardly recorded.
Staying with Cleveland and jazz, I did record an LP with Robert’s sax player, the late Maurice Reedus, El – what better surname for a sax player! He rehearsed with a bunch of musicians and was ready to go when I came to Cleveland the last time in 1975 (I also recorded Lockwood’s second LP for Trix) so that it wouldn’t be just another blowing date. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!! He was to record first – we planned on going straight into the studio and DO it. The night before, ALL the musicians he’d been rehearsing with dropped out (crabs in a bucket phenomenon?): he had to call a lot of friends to put something together that turned into another blowing date. The drummer, Drew Evans, drove over from East Lansing, Michigan through a snow storm to make it… hell of a way to find out who your friends were. Maurice’s son (Maurice, Jr.), an alto player, happened to be in town backing The O-Jays and dropped by to augment the band on a couple of tunes. While not what Maurice and I set out to do, the session was really good and was planned as Trix 3318, “Get Outta Town, Man!”. One of Maurice’s catch phrases. It was mastered with stampers on the ready, liner notes written by friendly sax maniac Bob Porter, and me working on the LP cover layouts. As I’ve mentioned, “things” often got in the way and I never got to the final stages. When I sold the released Trix masters to Joe Fields, I also sold Maurice’s album, thinking that Muse would be an appropriate location. It was not to be, and I still feel badly that that happened this way, still unreleased.
Reedus was a wonderful person, always with a quip or a joke, as well as being a damn fine post-bop tenor player. Somewhere in there I was in California for the annual NAIRD meeting (see O&S tba) in the Bay Area. Bob Porter was there and was going to Los Angeles after all was said and done in San Francisco to record an Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson jazz album for Muse Records. I volunteered to go along with my camera to take session shots, interview the participants for the liner notes, and to not get in the way! I was staying with my long-time friend Darryl Stolper. Reedus had moved to LA and wanted to meet Vinson: since I had an idea for the cover shot, I hooked up with Maurice, we picked up Eddie, and traveled about LA. The LP was to be named “The Clean Machine”: I saw that there was a laundry so named listed in the Yellow Pages, so we tried to find it… all to no avail. There was an abandoned car wash, so my idea was to shoot Cleanhead so that the sign was visible up top of the field for later dropping in type with title, etc. Joe nixed that great idea, saying that folks would be confused since there was the film and the LP entitled “Car Wash” (by Rose Royce)! Never figured out that logic; the jazz and R&B marketplace were not all that close together back in the day. Oh, well. Reedus left me at Darryl’s place and took Vinson back home. He was really helpful to me on that day.
Maurice died less than a year after Robert of complications from cancer – his album being the recorded equivalent of the “desk drawer” book never sat well with me. There was a mix of standards (“Canadian Sunset”, “Song For My Father”, “I’ll Always Be In Love With You” [w. vocal], “My Funny Valentine”, “Back To The Chicken Shack”, “5 O’Clock Whistle”/”Good Bait”, “Stella By Starlight”) and originals (“Get Outta Town, Man!”, “Ebony’s Delight”, “Dawn Awakening”). This is a good album, not great, but definitely very good and deserving release. Sorry ‘bout that, Maurice.
Further Cleveland adventures that didn’t take place are two: the first was a harmonica player named Roosevelt whose last name I never picked up on. I met him while staying with Robert; he was part of a group who played dangerous games of checkers on Lockwood’s front porch! Now, Robert knew from harp players, so if he said that this person was good, that would be high praise from one who played with Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson. He was, understandably, hypercritical of harmonica players at a time when there were dozens who called themselves that. Another missed opportunity.
The final Cleveland individual was one Nathaniel Savage, known in Cleveland as “Guitar Slim”. Once again, Lockwood tool me to a gig and I was impressed by the quartet – John Winston on second guitar, brother R.B. Winston on bass guitar, and James Jones on drums. I briefly interviewed Slim and took down information, as well as photos at the gig – they had been together for decades, a good thing. I was a bit surprised by sophisticated Robert’s appreciation of their lacking in subtlety, for this was a band a la Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers, or J. B. Hutto & the Hawks. My prejudice, for it was a serious slide guitar lead bar band that was tighter than a crab’s ass… and that’s waterproof! I imagined that I had found an equivalent for Trix to Taylor or Hutto, but the readies were not there and I never got back to Cleveland. Canna do them all, sad to say, frustrating though that may be.
As a post script, I just remembered that Robert also put me in touch with Arbee Stidham, who I went to see at his home – talked with him some and took his picture. That was that. The land of Cleves was “interesting” and I wish that someone else had done something.
PETER B. LOWRY