Earl Bostic was born in 1913 in that state that produced so many founding members of the rock 'n roll age, Oklahoma - Tulsa to be exact. Whatever it was in Oklahoma that made it the home of so many classic R & B musicians, Bostic had the drive to succeed in music. He attended Loyola University in New Orleans and got his basic musical education there and so by the late 1930s he was part of the Ernie Fields and the Fate Marable bands. By 1938 Bostic was in New York and got jobs with Don Redman and then Edgar Hayes. In the early forties he fronted a small combo and played gigs in New York such as Small's Paradise while also finding work as an arranger for Louis Prima, Artie Shaw, Lionel Hampton, Jack Teagarden, and others. He continued in the late forties and then in 1949 changed his style from jazz to playing standard tunes in a rough R & B style. This proved to be Earl Bostic's niche, and soon his stylings were extremely popular on the R & B charts.
Some early recordings Bostic made under his own name were Majestic #1055 - "The Man I Love" / "Hurricane Blues"; Majestic #1056 - "The Major And The Minor" / "All On"; Gotham #154 - "8:45 Stomp"/ "Earl's Rhumboogie"; Gotham #160 - "Artistry By Bostic" / "Temptation"; and Gotham #248 - "The Man I Love" / "Apollo Theater Jump".In 1949 Earl Bostic was recording for Cincinnati's R & B independent label, King Records, and released #4247 - "Joy Dust" and "Slightly Groovy" which received airplay on the growing number of radio stations programming R & B music.
Bostic began the year 1950 with a gig at Detroit's Valley Club and soon King #4343 was out pairing "No Name Blues" and "Chopping It Down". In April Bostic along with vocalist Helen Young and instrumentalist Gene Redd appeared in Maryland and Virginia. Soon both become permanent members of Bostic's crew which now numbers eight-Young as vocalist,and Redd on trumpet and vibes. Al Casey is also added as guitarist with the band. In May King #4369 is out and features "Serenade" and "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams". The band goes to the Midwest and plays The Rink in Waukegan, Illinois. The new band features Count Hastings on tenor sax and Joe Marshall on drums,and plays the W.C. Handy Theater in Memphis with singers Wini Brown and Herb Lance. The recording of "Serenade" gives Bostic his biggest seller since 1948's "Temptation" for Gotham, and could be his biggest ever.
In July Bostic announces plans to study the music of great American composers for the stage and possibly incorporate it into his music stylings. That month Bostic becomes the first Black entertainer to play the Atlantic Beach casino in North Carolina. Wini Brown will join the band on its upcoming national tour of one nighters. In August King #4387 - "Seven Steps" / "Portrait Of A Faded Love" is released. New York's Bop City is the site of a "battle of the bands" between Bostic and Al Sears. In October, because of the sales of "Serenade", Gotham Records re-releases Bostic's recording of "Apollo Theater Jump". In November the band is well received at the Celebrity Club in Providence, Rhode Island. At year's end Bostic and his crew are in New York to take part in the 25th anniversary of Small's Paradise, Harlem's number one night spot. To close out the year King #4420 - "Way Down" / "Merry Widow Waltz" is issued.
In January of 1951 Gotham releases two tunes that they had sitting on the shelf - "Serenade To Beauty" and "Tiger Rag" on #225. In March King #4437 - "Rockin' And Reelin'" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" vocal by Clyde Terrell,is released. This followed by #4444 - "Sleep" and "September Song" with vocal by Clyde Terrell. In June #4454 - "Always" and another Clyde Terrell vocal on "How Could It Have Been You And I?" is out. Still trying to cash in on Bostic's new found popularity, Gotham announces plans to issue a collection of tunes by the saxist on the new LP format. During the late summer and into the fall,one of the biggest draws on the R & B one nighter circuit is the Dinah Washington - Earl Bostic show. They tour throughout the South and then move to the Northeast and have dates at all the big theaters on the circuit. The recording of "Sleep" continues to sell especially on the West coast.
In October Bostic does an extended stay at Philadelphia's Club Harlem. About this time King #4475 is released featuring "Flamingo" and "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You". In November even as King quickly releases another Bostic recording, #4491 - two covers featuring Clyde Terrell,"Chains Of Love" a hit for Joe Turner, and "I Got Loaded" a hit for Peppermint Harris, "Flamingo" takes off and has the makings of a big national seller. As the record makes Earl Bostic a recognizable R & B star, he is seriously injured in an automobile accident in Georgia that December, and faces a long stay in the hospital. In his absence, Burnee Peacock will head the band and fill all scheduled dates.
In late February of 1952 Earl Bostic finally is able to leave the hospital, and by April he is well enough to resume playing the sax and leading his band.His first appearance is at Boston's High Hat Club. Also in April King releases #4511 - "The Moon Is Low"/"Lover Come Back To Me". In May a report on buying trends of R & B recordings states that White record buyers prefer R & B instrumentals such as those recorded by Bostic, in large numbers. During the summer Bostic plays dates on the West coast including a big show at the Shrine Auditorium. King #4536 - "Velvet Sunset" and "Linger Awhile"is released and is a good seller immediately in the South. Meanwhile "Flamingo"is still selling in big numbers. Bostic continues his time tested format of recording R & B versions of pop music standards - #4550 - "Moonglow" / "Ain't Misbehaving" and #4570 - "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and "For You". In November Bostic plays a week at New York's Apollo Theater with vocalists Phyllis Branch and Lloyd Price. At the end of the year King releases #4586 - "You Go To My Head" and "The Hour Of Parting".
The year 1953 starts out on a bittersweet note for Earl Bostic. His band and vocalist Wini Brown will play the final show at Philadelphia's R & B showplace,the Earle Theater. After the show demolition will begin on the site which will become a WT Grant department store. The Earl Bostic-Wini Brown show is a huge draw during a tour through the Carolinas. In March King #4603 - "Sheik Of Araby" / "Steamwhistle Jump" is released. The band returns to the West coast for dates including Los Angeles' Club Tiffany. In May "Cherokee" and "The Song Is Ended" are released on King #4623. The summer release by King is #4644 - "Melancholy Serenade" and "What No People?".In September Bostic and his crew are in the Midwest which includes two weeks at Chicago's Capitol Lounge. The final two recordings for the year are #4653 - "The Very Thought Of You" and "Memories" and #4683 - "Offshore" and "Don't You Do It".
In early 1954 vocalist Sonny Carter joins the Bostic band as the Midwest tour continues. King #4699 is out in March - "My Heart At Thy Sweet Voice" and "Cracked Ice". Later that month the wave of the future of R & B is apparent as The Crows join Bostic at L.A.'s Embassy Ballroom. Another big show in that city headlines Bostic along with Christine Kitrell, The Robins, and The Flairs. In April King #4708 - "Jungle Drums"and "Danube Waves"(also known as "The Anniversary Waltz") is released. That month a study of personal appearance trends in the R & B field shows that Earl Bostic is a prime example of a performer that has the ability to break big in the pop music field. He is a solid attraction, and his band is booked solid into mid 1955. The leading R & B dance attractions are Bostic, Buddy Johnson, and Tiny Bradshaw. In June Bostic once again plays the last show at a long time R & B venue that is closing its doors. This time it's Chicago's Capitol Lounge, which was the last club in the Loop to feature R & B music. At the Regal Theater in the windy city,Bostic does a week with Dinah Washington. After Chicago, the Bostic band goes to Denver and appears at the Rainbow Ballroom. The East coast is next and while in New York City, Earl Bostic and his band appear for two weeks at Basin Street. The next King recording is an interesting departure for Bostic. On "Mambolino", Earl is featured with the rhythm section from the orchestra of Perez Prado.The flip side of King #4723 is "Blue Skies".
During the fall of the year King releases #4730 "Mamboistic" / These Foolish Things"; #4741 - "Time On My hands" / "Ubangi Stomp"; and #4754 - "Song Of The Islands"/Lieberstraum". At year's end Earl Bostic plays an extended engagement at Baltimore's Surf Club. Early 1955 releases on King are : #4765 - "Night And Day" / "Embraceable You"; #4776 - "Melody Of Love" / "Sweet Lorraine" and #4790 - "Cocktails For Two" / When Your Lover Has Gone". In May Earl Bostic and his band make a series of appearances at colleges on the West coast. Also during that month, what may be a first for R & B performers - a rare in person appearance in the Alaskan Territory at Anchorage's 1042 Club for a few nights. That particular booking says volumes about the widespread popularity of Bostic and his music. In May King #4799 features the songs "Cherry Bean" and "Remember". In mid July back in Los Angeles, Bostic plays a big R & B revue at the Shrine which also has on the bill - Chuck Higgins, The Clovers, Medallions, Meadowlarks, Jewels, Marvin & Johnny, and The Voices. In July King releases #4815 - "East Of The Sun" and "Dream" followed by "For All We Know" and "Beyond The Blue Horizon" on #4829. In November an extended stay at Pep's in Philadelphia is followed by a number of dates on the East coast.
In 1956 the two constants in the career of Earl Bostic are an unending string of playing dates across the country, and regular releases on King of his stylings of pop music standards. He enjoys steady if not spectacular success by sticking with this formula which shows no signs of slowing down. Early 1956 releases are : #4883 - "I Love You Truly"/ "Cause You're My Lover"; #4905 - "I'll String Along With You"/ "Bugle Call Rag"; and #4930 - "Mean To Me" and "Bo-Do Rock", the latter recorded with King Records other instrumental star, organist Bill Doggett. In June Bostic is in New York to appear at the Savoy to take part in a benefit concert to financially aid the family of sax man Arnett Cobb who was seriously injured in an auto accident. In July Bostic is hospitalized in Los Angeles suffering from a nervous breakdown caused by his excessive work load. At this time #4943 - "Roses Of Picardy" and "Where Or When" is released. Further medical tests reveal that Bostic suffered a serious heart attack and so remains hospitalized.One further King record is out late in the year - #4978 - "Harlem Nocturne" and "I Hear A Rhapsody". In December King Records releases two LPs - one called "After Hours" which features three tunes by Bostic, and the other a full album of Bostic music called simply, "The Best Of Bostic" (King LP#500).
Much of early 1957 was inactive for Earl Bostic because of his medical condition, and the recordings were releases of tunes recorded in previous sessions(including a King LP called "Earl Bostic For You" #503). In April he gets back on the road with The Platters on the West Coast. "Avalon" and "Too Fine For Crying" are released on King #5025. "September Song" and "Temptation" follow on #5041. In June Earl and his combo appear with The Del Vikings in Pasadena, California. That month "Excercise" and "She's Funny That Way" are released on King #5056.In July Bill Jones records with Bostic and the tunes "My Special Dream" and "Here Goes A Fool" are on King #5061. "Vienna City Of My Dreams" and "Just Too Shy" are released on King #5071. "Gay Day" and "Answer Me" follow on #5081, and in November does a number of night club dates in Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee. Earl Bostic headlines a Thanksgiving show and dance for Al Benson at Chicago's Midway Arena, and closes out the year with the release of "Josephine" and "Jeanine, I Dream Of Lilac Time" on #5092, and an LP for King Records entitled "Invitation To Dance With Bostic." King #5106 was released late in the year and featured "Southern Fried" and "No Name Jive". In January of 1958 the International Fan Club of America group of Philadelphia gave Bostic an award as being the musician most deserving of a comeback. Bostic tells the group he will no longer do the grueling one nighter tours. In March King #5120 features two swing era classics getting the Bostic treatment - "Pompton Turnpike" and "Lester Leaps In". In April Bostic is at The Brass Rail in Milwaukee, followed by The Zanzibar in Buffalo,and The Surf Club in Baltimore, one week at each location. In late April King #5127 is released - "Back Beat" / "Honeysuckle Rose". King continues with #5133- "Woodchopper's Ball";"and "John's Idea", and #5136 - "Over The Waves"and "Twilight Time". In August King releases #5144 - "Pinkie" / "Home Sweet Home Rock". In October Bostic and his combo appear at an extended stay at Chicago's Blue Note Cafe. "Goodnight Sweetheart" and "Indian Boogie Woogie" are featured on King #5152 in October. Earl Bostic closes out the year recording in Los Angeles and King releases #5161 - "Rockin With Richard" and "Redskin Cha Cha".
In February of 1959 King releases "Barcarolle" and "My Reverie" on #5175. In April the timely "Up There In Orbit" and "Sweet Pea" is out on King #5190. In May of the year Earl Bostic and his combo participate in a marathon recording session for King Records in Cincinnati. He will record 96 songs for a series of 8 LPs for the label. In may the LP "Sweet Tunes of the Roaring Twenties" is issued on King #620. In June "La Cucuraucha" and "Dancing In The Dark" is released by King on #5209, which was followed by "Feeling Good" and "Who Cares?" on #5229. In August Bostic performs at the Playboy Jazz Festival. In September "Dark Eyes" and "White Horse" are released on King #5252. "Once In A While" and "Gondola" are paired on King #5263, and closed out the year with "Tut Strut" and "All The Things You Are" on #5290.
After 1959, Bostic's recording career with King Records moved mostly in the direction of LP albums as the singles were not big sellers anymore with the 45 rpm record being almost exclusively aimed at teenagers. He also performed sporadically during the early sixties, as there was always a fan base for his stylings of pop standards.It was at just such an appearance at the Midtown Tower Hotel in Rochester, New York in 1965, that on his opening night he suffered a major heart attack from which he did not recover. He passed away two days later at the age of 52. For over a decade he recorded for King Records,and on that label he left a prolific catalog of music. It took close to fifteen years to accomplish, but his recording of "Flamingo" was certified a million seller by the R.I.A.A.,and is considered his best known tune. Besides his legacy of recorded music, Bostic also was the composer of jazz tunes such as "Let Me Off Uptown" (a huge hit in the forties for Gene Krupa-Anita O'Day-Roy Eldridge), "The Major And The Minor" and "Brooklyn Boogie" (recorded by Louis Prima and actual members of the Brooklyn Dodgers). That is the story of Earl Bostic, alto sax star of the R & B years. He is another one of those who never experienced the huge successes of the music he helped create, but one we are fortunate to have added his contribution to the music we love.
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