Larry Darnell : Singing My Blues ©1999JCMarion


This great R & B performer started out in 1950 with two well received recordings on the Regal label. Number 3236 - "I'll Get Along Somehow" and soon after #3240 - "For you My Love". "I'll Get Along" is an immediate hit on the West coast. Larry appears with the Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams orchestra at the Paradise Theater in Detroit in mid February. In early March Darnell takes to the stage at the usually jazz featured club, Birdland in New York City. In April the New Jersey label announces that Darnell has three of the top seven best sellers for the company. "For You My Love" is the number one seller, while "I'll Get Along Somehow" is number three, while Darnell's most recent release #3260 - "You Better Pack Your Bags And Go" is already the number seven seller all time for the label. The new releases from Darnell come rapidly. #3262 is "Why Do I Love You" / "I Love You So". In June #3274 is out. It pairs "You're My Kind Of Baby" and "I Love My Baby". At the Royal Theater in Baltimore in June, Larry is featured along with Chubby Newsome, Erroll Garner, and the Paul Williams Orchestra. The following month Darnell appears at the Savoy Ballroom in New York, and soon after will embark on a series of one nighters in the South. After the tour Chicago calls and Darnell appears with Chubby Newsome and the Paul Williams band at the Regal Theater and then a week at the Pershing Ballroom. In November Regal releases Darnell's version of the big pop tune by Louis Prima "Oh Babe" backed by the seasonal tune "Christmas Blues" on #3298.

For the year 1950, Larry Darnell put up some impressive sales numbers for Regal Records. "For You My Love" easily topped the half million mark, "I'll Get Along Somehow" sold three hundred thousand, and "My Kind Of Baby" was over two hundred thousand with "Pack Your Bags And Go" not far behind that. In late January of 1951 Regal #3310 is released. It is "That Old Feeling" and "Don't Go, Don't Go". In the Spring the followup is Regal #3315 - "Nobody Knows, Nobody cares" and "Why Did You Say Goodbye". That summer Larry Darnell is part of a well received show that does a number of one nighters in the Northeast followed by an extended stay in Philadelphia. Along with Larry is Chubby Newsome and Paul Gayten and his band. Regal #3328 features a duet with Mary Lou Green on "Do You Love Me Baby?" and the flip by Larry called "Sad And Lonesome". That November in a sudden and unexpected move, Regal Records goes out of business and liquidates its assets. It sells the recording contract of Darnell to Columbia Records who plans to record him on their subsidiary label Okeh. By the end of the year the new label has Darnell's first record for them out on Okeh #6848 - "I Left My Baby" and "Work Baby, Work".

In January of 1952, Okeh releases the Larry Darnell debut disc on 45 rpm. In early April, Larry joins Wynonie Harris and the Eddie Durham band for a tour of one nighters in the Midwest and Texas. Coinciding with this tour is the new Okeh release #6869 - "Darling" / "Boogie Oogie". In early August Larry and Wynonie Harris bring their show east to the Royale Theater in Baltimore. In August Okeh #6902 features "Better Be On My Way" and "What's On Your Mind?". This is followed two months later by #6916 - "Singing My Blues" and "In No Time t All". In November Okeh tries a remake of "I'll Get Along Somehow" parts one and two on #6919. The Okeh recordings are well produced but the public demand is not there and all of them fail to generate any appreciable sales or air play. It seems the magic died with the demise of Regal Records. Okeh keeps them coming though, as a year end release of "I Am The Sparrow" and a remake of "Christmas Blues" is issued on #6926. In mid December Peppermint Harris joins Wynonie and Larry for a three month tour of the South.

In January of 1953 singer Varetta Dillard joins the tour with Darnell and the two Harris blues men. In April "I'll Be Sittin' and I'll Be Rockin'" and "Crazy She Calls Me" is released on Okeh #6954. The famous R & B popularity poll held by the Pittsburgh Courier places Larry Darnell third among all male performers attesting to his lasting appeal despite slumping record sales. Some of the shows on tour offer an all out "Battle Of The Blues" between Wynonie Harris and Larry Darnell. For the rest of the year there are few recording sessions, as Darnell concentrates on his personal appearances especially in the South where he retains his popularity. The next year brings more of the same, where he remains a performance artist rather than a recording artist. During the July 4th weekend of 1954, Larry appears at the R & B picnic held by radio station WNJR in Newark, New Jersey. In August, Okeh # 7039 pairs "Thank You Darlin'" and "I'm Gonna Change". After this record like all the other Okeh releases fail to cause any action among sales charts the label lets his recording contract lapse and leaves Larry to search for a new home base. Despite this setback, Darnell continues to enjoy a nearly full schedule of personal appearances and club dates.

In the first week of 1955, Darnell gets a record deal with old New Jersey standby Savoy Records. In February Savoy releases #1151 - "That's All I Want From You" and "Who Showed My Baby How To Love Me?". Savoy advertises Darnell as 'Mr. Heart And Soul'. A hot R & B show plays Boston in March which features Larry along with Roy Hamilton, Big Maybelle, and the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra. In June Okeh Records releases one they had in the "can" from the previous year. It is #7056 - "My Love For You" / "Feeling Mighty Sad And Low". At the end of the year Larry Darnell is featured in the Studio Films release "Rock 'n' Roll Revue" along with Nat Cole, The Clovers, Ruth Brown, Dinah Washington, Joe Turner, and The Delta Rhythm Boys. This misnamed film is an example of the power and popularity of the new music that has taken hold across the country. By the mid fifties however, one of its real "name" practitioners, Larry Darnell, has faded from the scene. He suffers the same fate as so many of the R & B pioneer - by the time the music has invaded the mainstream of America, it is the personal property of the country's teenagers as they make it their own. The adult-oriented performers are now left to fend for themselves, mostly living off past glories, their time come and gone. Darnell continued to record, such as a series of releases for the DeLuxe label - #6123 - "Ramblin man" / "I Care"; #6136 - "If You Go"; and #6141 - "Just Tell Me When" / "It Must Be Love". By the late fifties he was still around with a few unsuccessful tries with Epic Records and then a shot with a local label out of Newark, New Jersey called Map Records with #501 - "Flame Of Love" and "One More Chance", but by the turn of ther decade he had faded into obscurity. But-for a time in the early fifties he was one of the top record sellers and personalities in the world of R & B while the rest of the world was waiting to catch up on what they had been missing.

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