CROWN PRINCE WATERFORD (By Dave Penny)
Born Solomon Charles Waterford, 26 October 1916, Jonesboro, Arkansas
The Kansas City jazz scene between the two world wars was a fertile breeding-ground for musical invention and innovation. Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson, Hot Lips Page, Andy Kirk and Mary Lou Williams were just a few of the local musicians whose contributions were to enrich future American music. Another, Jay McShann, also led a band that carried more than its fair share of talent, having a concurrent effect on the slowly dividing jazz and blues fields; Charlie Parker would eventually take his futuristic jazz ideas to New York City with the group, while the band's unique blues singers would bring fame and fortune with the ordinary folk and the next generation of jump and r&b singers.
Charles Waterford was from Jonesboro, Arkansas, born there on 21st October 1919 to musical parents who encouraged young Charlie in his singing career. According to his King publicity file, his first professional job was with Andy Kirk's 12 Clouds Of Joy at the Savoy Ballroom in Chicago, but he was also known to have fronted the KC-based Leslie Sheffield's Rhythmaires at Oklahoma City's Ritz Ballroom as far back as 1936, where he shared the bandstand with a rhythm section comprising Charlie Christian, Abe Bolar and Monk McFay. Sometime around early 1945, Waterford, by now billing himself as "The Crown Prince Of The Blues", scored a top job with Jay McShann's Orchestra as a replacement for the unreliable Walter Brown. Waterford was a blues-shouter in the modern post-war mould; emotional and expressive. He stayed less than a year, recording just three songs with McShann's new sextet during the summer of 1945 (cf: Classics 966) before striking out alone. For the rest of the 1940s he was subjected to a series of one-shot recording sessions (for Freddie William's Hy-Tone label; for Aladdin, backed by Gerald Wilson's powerful orchestra; and for Capitol, with an all star quintet led by Pete Johnson). By the end of the decade he had joined King Records, which seems to have been the label of choice for all the best blues shouters, recording just two contrasting sessions with Harold Land's bop sextet and with Joe Thomas' jump combo. After being dropped by King in 1950, apart from Bob Sutton's Dallas-based Torch label unearthing a couple of old West Coast recordings with Jay McShann in 1952, he had to wait many years for his next release on Ernie Young's Excello Records (1955) and for subsequent releases on Orbit (1959 and 1962) and Stampede (1965). By the late 1950s and early 1960s, his sophisticated, jazzy style was sadly out of favour with the buying public and he had long since lost his crown, so he left the devil's music behind and began dedicating his powerful voice to the almighty. Last reports confirm that he is still alive and well and known as the Reverend Charles Waterford.
This CD features Waterford's entire 1946-50 post-McShann recordings and although he never enjoyed any r&b chart hits, he was a distinctive blues shouter who comes across well on both uptempo shouts ("Coal Black Baby","Pow Wow Boogie" etc.) and slower blues ("Undercover Blues", "Weeping Willow" etc.). His "You Turned Your Back On Me" obviously made something of an impact, as it was recorded several times in the 1950s - notably by Wynona Carr (as "Now That I'm Free"); Waterford himself had stolen the song from his old boss, who had recorded the song the previous year for Down Beat with Lois Booker!
Dave Penny - September 2001
(Liner notes for Classics CD 5024, "The Chronological Crown Prince Waterford, 1946-1950". Reproduced with Dave's permission.)
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