Brad's Blues :
Tiny Bradshaw, bandleader, vocalist, arranger, and producer of many talented R & B musicians was born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1905. Deciding to make music as his life's profession he organized his first small band in Ohio in 1933. Along the way his band has been the incubator for such accomplished sax men in the jazz and R & B field as Sonny Stitt, Red Prysock, and Sil Austin. Vocalists along the way for Bradshaw have included Arthur Prysock, Tiny Kennedy, Lonnie Johnson, and Roy Brown. By the late 1940s Bradshaw shifted his musical direction away from jazz tinged tunes to the more rhythmic sound of Rhythm & Blues. By late 1949 he was attracting attention to the music of his small group and they were signed to the well known R & B independent label King Records of Cincinnati.
In January of 1950 King released the first Bradshaw single on #4337 - "Gravy Train" / "Tear Drops". The record was given a good amount of airplay and it spread the message of the arrival of the Tiny Bradshaw combo on the scene. By April of that year Bradshaw had recorded his breakthrough record on King# 4357 - "Well Oh Well". The flip side was "I Hate You". Almost immediately "Well Oh Well" gets huge sales in Southern California, and spreads like wildfire across the country. In a short time it is a huge national hit. As a kind of R & B version of the pop tune "Don't Fence Me In", it attracts huge numbers of listeners including many White buyers not usually inclined to rhythm record purchases. On the strength of the record Bradshaw and his band went on tour across the country playing the major theaters such as the regal in Chicago, the Howard in D.C., and the Apollo in New York. An appearance at Carr's Beach Pavilion in Annapolis follows. During this time Tiny Bradshaw puts in almost a year as the house band at the Cotton Club in his adopted home town of Cincinnati.
In August King #4376 is released - "Boodie Green" and "After You've Gone". By November "Well Oh Well" is still a big seller and remains in the top ten in both Chicago and Detroit. In October #4397 - "Gonna Have Myself A Ball" and "Butterfly" is out. In December King #4417 is issued - "Breaking Up The House" and "If You Don't Love Me Tell Me So" vocal by Tiny Bradshaw and Mary Lou Green. In 1951 Bradshaw ventured away from his Cincinnati base every so often on short tours while the King recordings kept on coming. In February "Walk That Mess" and "One Two Three Kick Blues" voc by Dorena Dean. In May #4447 - "Brad's Blues" and "Two Dry Bones On The Pantry Shelf". In June King #4457 is released - "Brad's Boogie" and "Walking The Chalk Line". The band spent a great part of the summer doing club dates in Buffalo, New York. There were two more King records in 1951 - #4467 - "T-99" and "Long Time Baby"; and #4487 - "I'm A High Ballin' Daddy" and "You Come By".
The first Bradshaw release of 1952 is #4497 - "Knockin' Blues" and "Train Kept A-Rollin". The 'A' side "Train"was a decent seller for King, but the song itself has an important history as one of the cornerstones of rock history. It was recorded three years later by the Rock & Roll Trio featuring Johnny Burnette which defined the rockabilly sound (outside of Elvis) which dominated music in the late fifties. The Burnette version of Bradshaw's tune is also cited by music historians as the first use of the fuzztone distortion technique on the electric guitar. Later that spring Bradshaw joined B.B. King and Tab Smith for a series of shows at the Howard Theater in Washington D.C. In April King #4537 features "Mailman's Sack" and "Newspaper Boy Blues" with vocal by Tiny Kennedy and features Calvin "Eagle Eye" Shields. Tiny Kennedy vocalizes on the next release - "Rippin' And Runnin'". The flip of King #4547 is "Lay It On The Line". Kennedy and female vocalist Mabel Scott become permanent members of the Bradshaw band and embark on a national tour of one nighters in September. In November #4577 - "Soft" and "Strange" was released. "Soft" starts to break out in Texas and the Southwest by the end of the year.
Tiny Bradshaw began 1953 with a week long stand at the Apollo Theater in New York on the bill with headliner Ruth Brown, and the Milt Buckner Trio. "Soft" hits number one in home town Cincinnati and still sells well across the country. Bradshaw goes on the road again, this time with vocalist Wini Brown. In April King #4621 - "The Blues Came Pouring Down " and "Heavy Juice". During the summer Tiny Bradshaw plays a big time show at the Graystone Ballroom in Detroit. On the bill with Bradshaw were Billie Holiday, Charlie Ventura, and Roy Milton & his Solid Senders. In late summer "Off And On" and "Free For All" are released on King #4647. Soon "Free For All" starts selling big in the Midwest and Philadelphia. In October Bradshaw is part of the World Series of the Blues show that tours the West coast. Included on the bill along with Tiny are Sonny Thompson, Little Willie Littlefield, Roy Milton, Lula Reed, and Camille Howard. The latest release from King is "South Of The Orient" and "Later" on #4664. By November the record shows good sales in the Midwest and Pittsburgh. King Records closes out the year for Bradshaw with #4687 - "Powder Puff" and "Ping Pong".
In 1954, the tune "Ping Pong" becomes a signature tune of tenor sax man Sil Austin,who was part of the Bradshaw band. Tiny Bradshaw and his band with vocalist Tiny Kennedy play New York's Apollo Theater in March. In April another tenor sax man with the band, Red Prysock, leaves to sign with Mercury Records to record under his own name. He had played on the big hit "Soft" and "Heavy Juice" with Bradshaw. In April the band tours the Pacific Northwest and the next month heads to the mid Atlantic for play dates at VMI in Virginia, then to Philadelphia and Cleveland. In May #4713 - "Overflow" and "Don't Worry About Me" is released by King. In June Tiny and his band play a big show with Alan Freed in Cleveland along with Ruth Brown and The Clovers. Sil Austin known as "Mister Ping Pong" decides to leave Bradshaw and go out on his own. "Spider Web" and "The Gypsy" are released in June on #4727. In July Bradshaw heads back to the West coast for a tour of Northern California with Dinah Washington. The tour winds up at the 10th Annual Disc Jockey Awards Ball at the Elks Club in Los Angeles.
In September the band is back on the East coast this time, as King #4747 "Cat Fruit" and "Stocks Of Dollars" is out. On November 8 Bradshaw is felled by a stroke which is originally reported to be fatal. This was the second stroke suffered by Tiny, and he is reported to be paralyzed from the waist down. He is in a Florida hospital hoping to begin recovering from this medical setback. The following February in 1955 King releases #4777 - "Cat Nap" and "Stomping Room Only" from a previous session. During the next two years, Tiny Bradshaw recovers from the effects of the stroke slowly and by October returns to lead his band and starting slowly on doing tours and playing dates. In February of 1958, Tiny Bradshaw has his first record in two years for King #5114 - a flute led instrumental called "Bushes" and a cover of the Royal Teens "Short Shorts". The record was lost in the shuffle as his attempt to reach the teenage market failed. Before he could try a new direction, weakened by his health problems over the past two years, Tiny Bradshaw passed away in his home town of Cincinnati. He was 53 years of age.
Tiny Bradshaw was an original performer during the great days of Rhythm & Blues. He will always be remembered for the monster hits "Well Oh Well" and "Soft" as well as the wealth of talent that was a part of his small band for so many years. Seek out his recordings saved for posterity and you will hear the origins of rock 'n roll.
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