Camille Howard


Camille Howard was born and raised in the Texas Gulf town of Galveston. She learned music at an early age and for five years in her teens she was a member of a small local group called The Cotton Tavern Trio. After her schooling was completed she looked westward for a greater opportunity in music and became part of a large exodus of top R & B talent who came to Southern California from Texas and Oklahoma in the mid forties. In a short time she joined a small group called the Roy Milton Trio with trumpeter Hosea Sapp and leader and drummer, Milton. In 1945 the group fashioned a huge R & B hit called "The R. M. Blues" and from this point on the newly expanded group (now numbering seven) was known as Roy Milton & His Solid Senders.

The recording of "The R.M. Blues" first on Roy Milton Records (later Miltone) was immediately picked up and reissued on the Juke Box label (soon to become Specialty Records) and the tune was one of the all time big sellers of R & B in the 1940s. Camille stepped out on the instrumental tune "Camille's Boogie" (Juke Box and then on Specialty #510) and the vocal on "When I Grow Too Old To Dream" on Specialty #517. The next release for the band in 1947 featured Camille on vocal on the tune "Thrill Me" as the flip side to "Big Fat Mama", which was a huge seller especially in California. This was the record that made Camille Howard a star in her own right. It was at this time that Specialty president Art Rupe decided to record Camille under her own name and feature tunes tailored for her. The first release was an immediate sensation, a stomping boogie instrumental called "X-Temporaneous Boogie" on # 307. The blues ballad "You Don't Love Me" on the other side of the instrumental was also a good seller in its own right. This was followed by "Going Home Blues" and an interesting treatment called "Baccarolle Boogie" on #309 adding her personal eight to the bar style to classical music themes.Her addition made the Roy Milton unit one of the music's biggest in person attractions during the late 1940s.

During the late forties her recordings continued to sell both with Milton and on her own as part of the Camille Howard Trio as a small group within the Solid Senders. Specialty #318 - "Bump In The Road" and "Sundays With You" was followed by "Instantaneous Boogie" and "The Mood That I'm In". Another big seller for Howard was 1949's "Fiesta In Old Mexico" / "Miraculous Boogie" on #332. Now advertised as "The Boogie Rhythm Girl", she announces that she will leave the Milton unit and perform on her own. Soon her first record out in the year 1950 is "Within This Heart Of Mine" and "O Solo Mio Boogie" on Specialty #352. Camille forms her new trio with Winston Williams on bass and Walter Murden on the drums. The first musical gig for the new unit comes in mid February at Los Angeles' Club Oasis where they are well received. A powerful touring unit is formed with the Camille Howard Trio, Jimmy Witherspoon, Little Willie Littlefield, and Joe Liggins & The Honeydrippers. In May of that year, Joel Cowan talented guitarist for the Do-Ray-Me Trio joins Howard making it a foursome. At about the same time Specialty releases the first sides by Camille's own group on #359 - "Ferocious Boogie" and "Maybe It's Best After All".

Gotham Records of Philadelphia buys a number of masters from the defunct Miltone Recoding Company, which includes some recordings by Camille. She is part of a big show in June at the Royal Theater in Baltimore with Jimmy Witherspoon and Bull Moose Jackson & His Buffalo Bearcats. In late summer Camille Howard meets up with Roy Milton at the big Blues & Rhythm Cavalcade in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium. Also on the bill are Dinah Washington, PeeWee Crayton, Helen Humes, Joe Lutcher and many others. In August Specialty releases "Fire Ball Boogie" and "I'm Blue" on #370. A new seven piece combo now backs up Camille with the addition of Vernon Smith on trumpet, John Randolph on tenor sax, and Earl Jackson on alto sax. Jackson also moonlights with his own quintet.

In a surprising development, Camille Howard rejoins the Roy Milton Solid Senders unit in November after most of the year on her own. She travels to Detroit and becomes part of the group there. In December the Milton unit ends its tour of the country, the most successful one in its history and one of the biggest tours in the history of R & B music. The unit now includes Milton, Howard, and vocalist Lil Greenwood as featured performers. At the end of the year, Specialty releases #378 "I Ain't Got The Spirit" and "Shrinking Up Front" under Camille Howard's name.

The following year finds Howard back as part of the Milton recording and touring unit. In March of 1951 Specialty releases #386 as by Camille Howard with Roy Milton & His Solid Senders - "That's The One For Me" and "Bye Bye Baby Blues". In May #401 is released as by Camille Howard & Her Boyfriends - "Money Blues" and Easy". During July Camille becomes part of the very first all Black radio network program for the Mutual Broadcasting System. It is a musical revue and Howard performs with the Roy Milton band. "Bagging The Boogie" and "Schubert's Serenade Boogie" (returning to a theme used back on "Baccarolle Boogie") is issued on Specialty #404. Late in the year "Money Blues" is still a steady seller especially in the East and Northeast. The last record of the year is Specialty #417 - "Please Don't Stay Away So Long" and "Million Dollar Boogie".

Camille Howard begins 1952 with Milton at the Apollo Theater in New York. The unit will move to the Howard Theater in Washington D.C., and then an extensive tour of one nighters throughout the South. In July Specialty issues #433 - "Old Baldy Boogie" and "Song Of India Boogie". Late in the year Camille tries for a return shot with a remake of "X-Temporaneous Boogie" and a continuation of her exploration of classical themes converted into modern rhythms with "Baccarolle Boogie" on Specialty #449 (from original Specialty #307 and #309). After a long tenure for Art Rupe, Camille leaves Specialty Records in March of 1953 and is signed by Federal Records of Cincinnati. Her first release for the Federal label is #12125 - "I'm So Confused" and "Excite Me Daddy" in April. Two months later Federal tries again with #12134 - "Hurry Back Baby" and "I Tried To Tell You". The records may not be selling very well for Howard but her name is still a selling point as she appears at the Fourth Annual Rhythm & Blues Jamboree presented by Gene Norman in Los Angeles during the summer. Camille joins Roy Milton, Johnny Ace, Helen Humes, The Robins, Willie Mae Thornton, and others. In October Howard takes part in another huge revue of R & B talent, the World Series of the Blues in Oakland. At this time Federal #12147 - "Losing Your Mind" and the put down tune "You're Lower Than A Mole" is released.

In 1954 Camille Howard continues to perform with the Roy Milton band which now also features Mickey Champion. They do a series of one nighters and featured appearances on the West coast. After that the band will tour Texas and the Southwest during the middle part of the year. In June of 1955 Howard takes part in a celebration party held for Roy Milton's twenty years in show business. In 1956 Camille is back as a solo performer and is touring with a unit that includes Roy Brown, Little Willie John, The 5 Royales, and Joe Tex. She is part of the bill at Cleveland's Rock & Roll caravan in April with many of the stars from the touring unit. In May Camille signs with the Vee-Jay label. Camille plays to enthusiastic audiences at Detroit's Flame Show Bar. The news is that Camille will soon open her own night club in Los Angeles. After a decade of performing Camille Howard has become one of the true founders of the music now known as Rock and Roll which will dominate the world's stage from that time on. All who follow owe her a debt of gratitude for leading the way and starting the fire.

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