Al Savage ©1999 JCMarion
The first mention of Al Savage on record is as the vocalist on a Herald Records release (#417) in September of 1953 as by the Joe Morris Orchestra. The tunes are "I Had A Notion" / "Just Your Way Baby". As the record began to rack up good sales, the subsequent releases had the title as by Al Savage with the Joe Morris Orchestra. As he tours with the Joe Morris band with Faye Scruggs (Adams), Savage is a big draw especially among female fans and begins to cause fan frenzy. Already Al Savage is being mentioned as one of the top favorite vocalists among R & B fans. Quite a debut for the singer ! The Joe Morris show opens the new year at Harlem's Apollo Theater and is a huge draw, especially the performance of Savage. Soon after the Apollo run, the group heads for the South where they will be joined by the Orioles on a fantastic bill that will tour the states of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. In February the newest Herald release is out - it is #421 and features "Love Is A Funny Thing" and "Life Begins At Forty". In June the next release is Herald #430 "I'll Be Seeing You In My Dreams", the flip side being "Take Your Time". From now on the label lists only Al Savage as the performer, as he has acquired great "name" recognition from the busy touring schedule he has maintained.
The wave of the future is apparent at an Alan "Moondog" Freed Birthday Ball held in Akron Ohio. The Joe Morris crew with Faye Adams and Al Savage, joined by the Five Keys and Joe Turner, did SRO and turn away business. More than one third of the audience was White attesting to the growing popularity of the music and the performers. During the summer the Joe Morris band, still with Faye Adams and Al Savage and joined again by the Orioles, will do another extensive tour of Southern states. After the tours the new Herald record is released. It is #437 and pairs "I Want To Know" and "Don't Tell Me" (a curious pair of titles). In October, Savage with Joe Morris (now without Faye Adams) does some one nighters on the West Coast. Herald Records release #441 by Al is "You Told Me So" and "That's Why I Love You Like I Do". The three R & B stars got back together along with new Morris find, vocalist Ursala Reed, for a big show in Chicago in November at the "Jam With Sam" revue. Soon after the holidays Herald releases "Dream Girl" / "Be Fair To Me" on #445. During the summer Al Savage joins the Buddy Johnson R & B Revue which tours extensively in the South and Midwest. Featured performers on the show are the Nutmegs, Chuck Berry, Arthur Prysock, the Four Fellows, and Bullmoose Jackson.In September Herald releases #460 by Savage called "Paradise Princess" and he tours the Midwest in support of his new record. "Paradise Princess" turns out to be the biggest record of Al Savage's career outdoing his previous big one "I Had A Notion". The big difference is now the wide spread exposure of the record on many radio stations that cater to a mainstream pop audience as the sound of Rhythm and Blues has captivated many White teenaged listeners.
In late March Herald follows up "Princess" with #468 - "What Will I Do" / "A Teenage Romance" the second tune an obvious attempt to appeal to his new audience. The wide appeal of "Paradise Princess" seems to affect sales of the new release and it is quickly forgotten. Herald tries again in late July with "Bridge Of Love" and "Sugar Wugar" on #482. Once again the sales and airplay are missing and this release does a quick fade. Herald #494 is "Happy Tears" / "Still In Love With You" . but the result is the same. At this time Savage falls victim to the times in the same way that many other R & B artists did. Viewed as an adult performer from the R & B years, he failed to connect with the now mostly teenage record buyers. Some did make this transition - Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and Lavern Baker, to name three examples, but many many more had their recording careers put on hold, sometimes permanently, because of these factors. He and Herald kept at it in 1957 with "Happy Tears" and "Still In Love With You" on #494 and #505 - "A Fool Was I" and "Trouble On My Mind". Late in the year Savage appears at an all star show hosted by Paul Sherman WINS dj.
Al Savage was certainly one of those who had the ability and performing talent to become that first great crossover star, but he was a victim of the times. A remaining memory I have of Al Savage, is the wonderment of some of my friends at the times when they found out he was Black. Listening to those great sonorous vocals especially on "I Had A Notion" and "Paradise Princess", he was the embodiment of the great baritones that had dominated pop music up to that time-Tony Bennett, Alan Dale, Don Cornell, Vic Damone, Bob Manning and others. This is the one reason that I think he had what it would have taken to be that historic breakthrough singer. It didn't happen to him, but he provided many great musical moments and memories.
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