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The stuff I got'll bust your brains out, baby - it'll make you lose your mind - Robert Johnson, Stop Breakin' Down

Author Topic: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops  (Read 1216 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« on: March 18, 2012, 02:23:01 AM »
I've been rummaging though boxes of newspaper clippings and photocopies when I chanced upon a yellowing sheet which I just had to attempt an OCR. I must have had this for nigh on 40 years because it's one of those produced on light sensitive paper. I think it was worth spending all the salvage time.  (What was it I started looking for two hours ago?)

Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
Disappointed Dance Lovers Hurl Bottles at "Stewed" Singer
By Ted Williams
Houston Informer, August 29, 1942

Houston dance lovers, who turned out three thousand strong last Thursday to hear the famed Doctor Clayton, recording star of such juke box hits as "Cheating and Lying Blues," "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby," "Pearl Harbor Blues," and scores of others, witnessed what turned out to be the most rotten affair ever given by any performer to appear here, when the noted singer made his appearance in such a stage of intoxication that he was unable to sing a note.

People who had been preparing to attend this dance ever since it was announced that Clayton would be in Texas and in Houston for engagements were shocked when Clayton staggered on the stage, with his hair standing on his head and suit wrinkled as if he had been sleeping in it for a week.

Then when instead of singing, he began to holler and clown, the patrons couldn't stand any more. Bottles, paper cups, and everything else were hurled at him. Words of indignation were shouted to such an extent that the massive City Auditorium became a turmoil of confusion. Policemen were forced to rush him off the stage to prevent his being seriously injured.

Rumor was started that rival promoters had made Doctor Clayton drunk in order to make the dance a washout reports, however, show that Clayton does this everywhere he goes.

His manager admitted that whenever they are scheduled to play somewhere, unless he is able to keep constant watch over him he'll show up "stewed." Only recently in Fort Worth he pulled the same stunt.

Ferguson Brothers, booking agent for Clayton, wired and informed us that they had discontinued booking him. They report that he has been nothing but a problem ever since he has worked out of their office.

It has been reliably reported that the bus with the performers that accompanied him pulled out of town, leaving him behind on the streets of Houston, still drunk.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2012, 09:22:38 AM »
Not merely a drunk, an HEROIC drunk! This should be an inspiration to us all, subvert the show biz machine...that is if they let you close enough with this type of music. Pyrric I know but HA HA HA HAW LET MAYHEM RULE! Or not.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2012, 10:09:14 AM »
All I know about Doctor Clayton has come from a brief reading of Stefan's discography just now.
Some new music for me to listen to!
 8)

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2012, 10:22:14 AM »
As you can read in Chris Smith's Talking Blues article he was responsible for songs that became the staple diet of others, especially B.B. King.

Gotta Find My Baby
Cheatin' & Lyin' (I'm Gonna Murder My Baby)
Angels In Harlem
Hold That Train Conductor

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2012, 10:52:17 AM »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline dj

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2012, 05:57:01 PM »
It's always interested me how Doctor Clayton started out on his earliest recordings doing a sort of drunk "schtick", and, as his problems with alcoholism got worse, his performance got "straighter".  By the end of his recording career, he was one heck of a good singer.

Thanks for posting, Bunker.  I've seen an excerpt from this article somewhere.  It's nice to read the whole thing. 

Offline Pan

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2012, 06:11:12 PM »
Thanks for the introduction to this artist. He's a great singer indeed!



Cheers

Pan

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2012, 02:43:55 AM »
Thanks for posting, Bunker.  I've seen an excerpt from this article somewhere.  It's nice to read the whole thing. 
It was Paul Oliver who gave it to me so perhaps it crops up in his writing.

Offline jharris

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2012, 08:10:19 AM »
Got this from Bunker awhile back...

(From Blues & Rhythm 24, November 1986  pps 4-5)

I Ain't Gonna Drink No More: The Story of Doctor Clayton by Tony Burke

"Doctor Clayton was a good hearted boy. He wouldn't get a room, he wore tennis shoes in winter time and slept on pool tables and in alleys and basements, anywhere he could, because all the money he made from singing he would drink it up, or lose it in some kind of game."

When Big Bill Broonzy reminisced about his friends in the music business of the thirties and forties, in Yannick Bruyoghes "Big Bill Blues" his fondness for Doctor Clayton was illustrated by the sadness of his recollections of Clayton?s early life a his alcoholic, nomadic lifestyle in Chicago, (reflected in the above quotation from the book) and the fact that when Clayton died only Bill, his wife and Tampa Red attended his burial. Indeed, most of the information on Clayton?s life emanated from Big Bill and only a handful of his unique recordings are generally ,' available, and even now are becoming harder to find. He was a ,' bizarre character, usually wearing oversized spectacles and unusual hats more associated with film comedians like Lou Costello than popular blues singers.   Clayton's origins have been the subject of some speculation, as have his early recordings. According to Blues Who's Who he was born on April 19th 1898 in Georgia, however he himself claimed he was born in Africa and that he moved to St. Louis with his parents. He told Big Bill he came to the USA to go to school and eventually the self generated legend earned him the nickname of the "Ethiopian" after he claimed to have been born in that part of Africa, however, it is known both his parents were born in South Africa.

  During his early life, and on some of his earlier recordings he was known variously as Peter J. Cleighton, Joe Cleighton and Peter Cleighton. Clayton began his singing career in St. Louis. According to Blind John Davis, Clayton was not only a versatile singer he was extremely well educated. "He was a brilliant fellow. He went to 52nd grade in school and he could sing opera, he could sing semi-classics, he could sing the blues and everything". Whilst in St. Louis he occasionally performed blues and sentimental tunes along with spirituals, sometimes playing piano and ukulele.

  Big Bill recalled: "He started going out with a girl, he got married and he got a job in a factory. His wife had four kids and they was doing fine for six years". What sounded an idyllic lifestyle turned to tragedy when Clayton returned home work to find his house burnt down with his children and wife killed in the blaze. In total despair he left St. Louis with Junior Lockwood and headed for Chicago.

   No firm dates surround these events, however. Big Bill this move to Chicago as 1937. Although his first d recording session was in 1935, Blues and Gospel Records speculates that a Jesse Clayton who cut 2 sides for Vocalion 1930 could have been Peter Clayton or two other vocalists discography). Having never heard these sides it is impossible to confirm that the Vocalion release was his first recording session.

   The 1935 session for Bluebird was a failure with four six sides cut, remaining unissued. He wasn't to record again for another six years. As Neil Slaven?s notes to ?Pearl Harbour Blues" out "These years must have been spent in desperate conditions. He hung about clubs drinking and gamblin little thought of getting a job".

   By 1941 he obtained a chance to record for Decca. According to Jim O?Neal?s notes to "Chicago Blues", he travelled with Lockwood to Chicago "ostensibly to record for J. Williams and Decca by arrangement with St. Louis guitarist and talent scout Charley Jordan". (Whether Clayton returned to St. Louis in the late forties or there is confusion about at which period Robert Junior travelled to Chicago him Is unknown.) What is known is that Williams was in York when they arrived, instead Lester Melrose audit Doctor Clayton "and he went crazy . . . Doctor Clayton had  rare voice, so that, man, he was gonna record Clayton t /Williams got back here" recalled Lockwood, who also c Melrose and accompanied Clayton on the session for O

   Clayton was an exceptional songwriter and recorded c solely his own songs, with the obvious exception of a version of Walter Browns hit "Confessin' the Blues' records began to sell steadily and he regularly appeared at ,Chicago clubs such as Sylvios working with Lockwood Sunnyland Slim (later to adopt the name "Doctor Clayton?s Buddy").

  Melrose switched Clayton to the Bluebird label where he made perhaps his most famous recordings including the brilliant commentary on the Japanese bombing of the US Navel Base in "Pearl Harbour Blues" and the social commentary on the USA's involvement in the Second World War.   Many of these sides have now become blues classics particularly the March 27th 1942 session which features the unusual inclusion of Ransom Knowling on tuba, which gives those sides a unique effect, particularly on "My Own Blues" on which Clayton urges Knowling to "Toot Your Horn Mr. Ransom".

   Sadly Clayton?s alcoholism, unreliability and lack of personal attention to his well-being began to ruin his career as well as his health, indeed, if the reference to gender were removed "Moonshine Woman Blues" could be autobiographical in its description of the excessive intake of cheap alcohol and its eventual addictiveness. Robert Lockwood attests that at times Clayton went barefoot even in the freezing Chicago winter.

   His next session was in February 1946 with a small group led by "Baby Doo" Caston. He cut the original version of "Root Doctor" and "Angels in Harlem". Both sides were recut in August 1946 at what was to be his last session.
   Almost ironically he cut "Aint Gonna Drink No More" at this last session, although his abstention as due to losing his wife and the way this brought on the blues when drinking. By January 7th 1947, during a bitter winter, Clayton had died, having contracted pulmonary tuberculosis, through living rough "More than ten years of dissolute living brought his life to a logical ending?, wrote Neil Slaven. ?Only 10 people attended his funeral and only Bill Broonzy, his wife and Tampa Read went to the graveside."

  Undoubtedly, Clayton was a unique talent, he had a powerful, expressive voice with a wide range which at times was caused to wail and whoop. He wrote some perceptive, witty and moving songs and lived a hard life. The few pictures of him show him looking somewhat bizarre for publicity photos, although Robert Lockwood states he never wore hats even during the depths of winter! Although his recordings have been encompassed within the general criticism of Lester Melroses Bluebird recordings, his vocal expression and choice of sidemen, (not forgetting the tuba!) should be given more reissue attention than they have.
   ?Pearl Harbour Blues" contains 8 sides from Bluebird, whilst "Chicago Blues" contains just one track, the excellent cover of "Confessin' the Blues".  RCA's Groove subsidiary saw fit to reissue two sides many, many years ago and that is about it, hopefully Columbia or one of the enterprising reissue companies may consider reissuing his Okeh sides in full one day. In the meantime seek out "Pearl Harbour Blues" if you can find it.

Recommended Listening: Pearl Harbour Blues RCA International lNT1176 (Issued 1970) Chicago Blues: Epic EG37318.

Sources: Blues Who's Who- Sheldon Hams Big Bill Blues - Yannick Bruynoghe Sleeve Notes to Pearl Harbour Blues - Neil Slaven Sleeve Notes to Chicago Blues - Jim O'Neal Blues and Gospel Records, Jepsen Jazz Records. As always any additions, corrections or comments are most welcome.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2012, 12:05:03 PM »
Robert Ford very kindly sent me this from the Pittsburgh Courier 19 September 1942

(click image to zoom)
« Last Edit: March 20, 2012, 12:06:10 PM by Bunker Hill »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2012, 12:10:41 PM »
Cool. Historical spin.

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2012, 12:54:46 PM »
Maybe he was the first Spin Doctor.

Lyle

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Doctor Clayton Pulls Drunk Dance Flops
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2012, 10:11:11 AM »
Maybe he was the first Spin Doctor.
Lyle
Love it.  :)

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