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She got up this mornin', come-a-tippin' 'cross the floor. Said mama, in her lovin' stockin' feet: "Honey, fare thee, Papa fare the well. I done all in the world I could trying to get along with you - Blind Lemon Jefferson, Stocking Feet Blues

Author Topic: Dr. Ross Recording Session 1972  (Read 1843 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Dr. Ross Recording Session 1972
« on: March 18, 2007, 11:40:26 AM »
The following is from the third issue (Jan 1973) of a short lived "fanzine" called Solid & Raunchy. Hope it's interesting enough to pass on here.
Bear with Us...A Dr Ross Recording Session
Roy Simonds

Despite being one who has written about music for the last 9 years or so, recording sessions that I have attended have been few and far between. So it was with great pleasure that I received from Simon Gee of Polydor an invite to go and see Dr.Ross recording in London early in December, for Jim Simpson's Big Bear Music.

Unless you're a blues fan you may well not have heard of Big Bear, so I?ll just relate a brief sketchy history of the outfit that was elicited from Katie Munn, the delectable distaff half of the outfit. Jim Simpson, who put together the strands to bring it to fruition, came into the music business initially as a trumpeter, and graduated from there into managing the group he'd been playing with. He later became involved in the management of groups like Black Sabbath and Bakerloo, but hassles in the commercial pop field eventually led him to decide to do what he really wanted - promote and record blues. The Big Bear's outfit was formed, and U.K. tours by Eddie Burns, Lightnin' Slim, Doctor Ross, Whispering Smith amongst others were set up, and successfully run from the Birmingham base. The first recordings were two albums by Eddie Burns, a showman of the guitar and harmonica, and ex-John Lee Hooker side man, done for B&C Records; the first of which is now available. ("Bottle UP & Go", Action LP 100). Regular readers will recall the John Clarke article on Eddie a couple of issues ago in Raunchy magaine.

With Jim's commercial pop experience, he was able to elicit a good distribution deal from Polydor, and so the Big Bear logo came into being. To date two albums have been put out through this deal: "Dr Ross Live At Montreux", with Lafayette Leake & The Chicago Aces", and another by an unknown blues name, Johnny Mars ("Blues From Mars").

The session I attended, at Chalk Farm Studios on the evening of December 5th, was for Dr. Ross' next album, for which no release date has yet been set. The format was more of an orthodox country blues style, with Ross playing solo, except for being joined by Bob Hall on piano for one rocking boogie number. The Doctor used only his harmonica and guitar, for he professed early on in the session that he wasn't happy with the drums he'd been supplied with. So the full one-man-band bit didn't really come to the fore. But the blues  were certainly in evidence - down-home country to upbeat boogie. We heard some familiar themes to begin with: "Decoration Day", "That's Alright", "Ethel Mae", "Mannish Boy", "Frisco Breakdown", and other variations on themes, although Jim told the Doc that he was making 'em all too long, so whether those will appear on the album ultimately I don't know. Playing just harp after the intermission for sandwiches and drinks the Doctor did rather introspective versions of "Blues In The Night" and "You Are My Sunshine". After some more stomping sounds the Doctor was told the next was the last number. He rapped a little about Jim, who had lost his voice with flu and how he was gonna cure him with his boogie medicine! Anyway, he then launched into a blues tribute to Jim and the Big Bear outfit, and how they had treated him a lot better than anyone else in the U.S.A. ever had done. Must be the first time Polydor Records have got a mention in the lyrics of a song too...!

Speaking for myself, I hope that Jim on editing decides to keep this final tribute, and also the unusual "Blues In The Night" and "You Are My Sunshine". as I feel these three were enough out of the rut to make them interesting to all blues fans.

Following this tribute, Bob Hall called the session to a close, and whilst the studio technicians began to dismantle microphones, etc., the assembled onlookers began to gather in small knots. Mike Leadbitter had a buddy with him, a tall genial coloured guy named Candy Green, who seated himself at the piano, and began to play some nice easy listening blues and boogie. Mike told me he had recorded ages ago for Peacock in Houston, but had been in Europe since 1958. Certainly somebody somewhere should snap him up to record; his piano end vocal styles - in the vein of Charles Brown on the slow stuff - are something not to be heard live in Britain except on extremely rare occasions.

But to return to the Big Bear scene; I hope most readers and especially blues fans will be shelling out for the two LPs on Polydor issued so far, and the future issues. Blues is a bloody difficult area in which to sell records, and it really depends on those sales as to whether music of its ilk is heard in Britain in the future. U.S. record companies are increasingly loathe to record pure blues, and wholehearted support should be given therefore to projects such as these.

Of special interest to me, and to many others I would guess is the news that Lightnin' Slim, currently still contracted to Excello, who haven't recorded him in quite a time, is considering the idea of signing for Big Bear; and others have also been approached - like Clifton Chenier. So watch points closely in the coming months - and for Chrissake, buy the bloody albums!

[EDIT: If you want to see the two albums which resulted where else to look but at Stefan's Dr. Ross page]
« Last Edit: March 18, 2007, 01:33:41 PM by Bunker Hill »

Offline dj

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Re: Dr. Ross Recording Session 1972
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2007, 11:24:16 AM »
Thanks for posting this, Bunker Hill.  I have absolutely no memory of the Big Bear label, but it seems from Stephan's Dr. Ross discography that it must have had 15 or so releases.  I hope people did "buy the bloody albums".  But it's an amazingly small market.  It's a little disheartening to realize that if every person who ever registered with Weenie Campbell went out and bought a copy of a given country blues CD, that would mean fewer than 2,000 copies sold worldwide.   

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Dr. Ross Recording Session 1972
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2007, 12:10:21 PM »
What amused me when posting that piece was the mention of "unknown blues name, Johnny Mars". Of course, then he was unknown. He first popped up in the UK in 1969 at a Howlin' Wolf benefit held at London's 100 Club and subsequently took up residence here.

Jim Simpson sold the Big Bear recordings to Sanctuary a couple of years back. To date I think they've only released a double CD comprising the 1973 live LP (American Blues Legends) and Homesick James/Snooky Pryor but I'm sure Stefan's recent Homesick/Snooky pages must list this compilation.


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Re: Dr. Ross Recording Session 1972
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2007, 11:05:26 PM »
Very interesting, I'd like to hear those.

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