Born 22 September 1924, Caldwell County, Louisiana
Baritone singer / orchestra leader Oscar McLollie was one of the missing links between jump blues and rock 'n' roll. For someone who had only one modest hit, he had a lot of influence : many of his records were covered, as we shall see below.
In the armed forces during World War II, Oscar sang in a quartet called The Bullets, putting on USO shows for fellow servicemen. After the war, he made his way to Los Angeles, the location where he would make all of his recordings.
After a short stay at Mercury Records in 1951, McLollie started to record for Leon Rene and his son Rafael, also known as Googie. They had just set up a new label, Class Records, after the bankruptcy of Exclusive Records, but decided to make a quiet start and struck an arrangement with the Bihari brothers to release the Class masters on Modern Records. Leon Rene would be Oscar's manager, producer and chief songwriter (often using his pseudonym Jimmie Davis) throughout his recording career. McLollie's first release under this arrangement was "The Honey Jump" (Parts 1 & 2, 1953), credited - as would be all of his Modern records - to Oscar McLollie and his Honey Jumpers. Though not yet quite rock 'n' roll, it has many elements of the genre. Two saxes try to out-honk each other, while the piano man is pounding away on the 88 keys. Wild stuff. The song was covered by the Sauter-Finnigan Orchestra on RCA and by Jackie & Roy with Charlie Ventura on Coral. McLollie's follow-up, the witty "All That Oil In Texas", was outsold by a cover version by Ralph Marterie on Mercury. For Christmas 1953, Leon Rene wrote the old-fashioned "God Gave Us Christmas", which failed to catch on, but after the holidays, the swinging flip, "Lolly Pop" (written by Googie Rene), started to make noise for Oscar. It was covered by none other than Louis Jordan for his final Decca date. The year 1954 saw several good up-tempo releases by McLollie, like "Mama Don't Like", "What You Call 'em Joe" and "Wiggle Toe", but with no commercial success. "Love Me Tonight"/"Take Your Shoes Off, Pop" became Oscar's only UK release, on London HL 8130. "God Gave Us Christmas" was reissued by the Biharis for the 1954 Yuletide season, this time with a jumping B-side, "Dig That Crazy Santa Claus", hoping to appeal to the growing teenage market.
By 1955, Oscar and his Honey Jumpers were in heavy demand as live performers. More Modern singles were released in that year, among them "Roll Hot Rod Roll"/"Convicted" (Modern 970). The former starts off with a "One for the money" chorus that resembles the one that Carl Perkins would use to kick off "Blue Suede Shoes" a few months later. "Convicted" (his biggest seller on Modern) showed that McLollie was also a fair ballad crooner and was covered by Lu Ann Sims and Gene O'Quin. It was also recorded by Dale Hawkins, whose version remained unissued until 1998.
After an interval at Mercury, Oscar was reunited with Leon Rene on his reactivated Class label. It was here that he scored his only (pop) hit, a duet with Jeanette Baker, "Hey Girl, Hey Boy" (# 61) in 1958. The tune was covered by Louis Prima and Keely Smith and turned into the title of one of their movies.
For the rest of the fifties and early sixties, Oscar McLollie played clubs and theaters in L.A., but did not score with further recordings. Reportedly, he moved to the Philippines, where he appeared in low-budget martial arts flicks. He is said to be now living in the Pacific Northwest, where he still works the lounges, singing his jump tunes and big ballads.
More info: http://home.earthlink.net/~jaymar41/mclollie.html
Recommended listening: Oscar McLollie and his Honey Jumpers, Hey! Lollie Lollie (Ace CDCHM 879). 18 tracks. Released in 2003, this is an anthology of his up-tempo sides for Modern. It uses previously unissued alternate takes of "Dig That Crazy Santa Claus" and "Hey Lolly Lolly", an undubbed version of "Wiggle Toe" and previously unissued instrumental versions of "Hot Banana" and "Mama Don't Like It", as well as a previously unissued alternate take of "Roll Hot Rod Roll". There is particularly fine saxophone work throughout.
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