The Honeyjumper : Oscar McLollie ©2001JCMarion


Oscar McLollie is a Los Angeles based R & B performer on the periphery of the Central Avenue scene in the late 40s. By February of 1951 McLollie is signed to the Mercury label which is mounting a push to become part of the R & B scene in American music. In about a month Mercury #8227 is released and the tunes are "I'm Hurt" and "Tears In My Heart and A Prayer In My Heart" and the backup on the record is by the Austin McCoy Combo. The record does well in certain areas of the country especially in New Orleans where it becomes the number one R & B selling record. There were two obscure followups for Mercury that went nowhere as McLollie picked up gigs where he could.

In 1952 Oscar recorded for Leon and Rafael Rene, pioneer Black record executives in Los Angeles. They had started both the Exclusive and Excelsior labels in the 1940s and now were pushing a new label called Class Records. In mid 1952 McLollie recorded a jump instrumental called "The Honey Jump" for the label on #501 with the flip side being an answer record to Willie Mabon's huge hit of "I Don't Know". The song is named "You Can't Bring Me Down" with vocal by Paul Clifton. After a slow start the record began to get airplay and pick up in sales. McLollie was now appearing with his own small combo and soon Modern Records purchased the master for "The Honey Jump". As name recognition for the record spreads, Modern gets McLollie and his combo back into the studio and recuts "The Honey Jump" into a two part jump tune and is soon released on Modern #902. Demand for the record pushes the Oscar Mclollie Combo into a position of popularity and more than thirty thousand orders are forwarded for the new Modern Records release. McLollie does turn away business at the Stardust Inn in Long Beach.

All during the summer the record is a hit on the radio and on the sales charts. By the fall the follow up record is out pairing "All That Oil In Texas" and "Be Cool My Heart" with a vocal by Berdell Forrest on #915. The side "All That Oil" has a shot at becoming a hit on the pop charts as it is gaining airplay. In late November Oscar McLollie and his band record a seasonal tune written by Leon Rene called "God Gave Us Christmas". Modern releases it on #920 with a novelty jump tune called "Lollipop" which goes nicely with Oscar's last name.

After the holiday season the recording of "Lollipop" does well especially in Philadelphia where a lollipop giveaway gimmick propels it into the top spot on the R & B charts. No less a personage than Louis Jordan covers the tune for Decca records, which turns out to be his last for the label after a long partnership. In the spring of 1954 Modern Records releases #928 - "Mama Don't Like" and "What You Call 'Em Joe" and it has a short life and soon disappears. During the summer Oscar takes part in the first R & B television show on KTTV in July called simply "Rhythm & Blues". The next release for Modern is #940 - "Love Me Tonight" and the strangely named tune "Take Your Shoes Off Pop". The following month saw the re-release of the seasonal tune "God Gave Us Christmas" on Modern #943.

In early 1955 Oscar and his combo perform at the Rock & Roll Jamboree at the Shrine Auditorium. Others on the bill are The Jewels, Medallions, Shirley Gunter & The Queens, Dominos, Richard Berry & The Dreamers, Joe Houston, Marvin & Johnny, and Chuck "Motorhead" Higgins. Oscar McLollie & The Honeyjumpers continue after two years at the Tradewinds Lounge in Inglewood. In April Modern #955 - "Pagliacci (With A Broken Heart)" and "Eternal Love" is released. In May McLollie teams with Dinah Washington to appear at the 5-4 Ballroom in L.A. In July Oscar and his Honeyjumpers play a successful engagement at the Hotel Riviera in Las Vegas, and have their option extended for three months. In October Modern #970 comes out and features "Convicted" and "Roll Hot Rod Roll". In November Oscar and his group appear on Hunter Hancock's television show.

1956 starts out for Oscar McLollie and his band as part of a West coast show for Gene Norman and Dick Hugg with the Eldorados, Shirley & Lee, and LaVern Baker among others. The ballad recording of "Convicted" is a huge seller, the biggest of Oscar's career and is making the national pop charts. McLollie appears on the Alan Freed network radio program with Count Basie and The Jacks. That summer on the heels of the success of "Convicted", Mercury Records signs McLollie to their company and releases the first recording on their subsidiary label Wing. It is "God's Green Earth" and "Got Your Love In My Heart" on #90083. Later on in the year Mercury #70964 is released which pairs "Blue Velvet" and "The Penalty". None of the Mercury recordings make any great inroads and during 1957 Oscar McLollie is now on Class Records. "Here I Am" and "Say" are released on #206. late in the year "Scold Me" and "The King Of Fools" is out on Class #216.

In 1958 Oscar McLollie returns to the Class record label and records a duet with Jennette Baker on Class #228 on "Hey Girl Hey Boy" and "Let Me Know, Let Me Know". As "Hey Girl" starts to sell Oscar does an extended engagement at the Terrain Club in Norwalk. The duet on "Hey Girl" sells well in many parts of the country especially in the Midwestern cities of Chicago and St. Louis. McLollie and Jenette are part of the performing cast at the first rock 'n roll show ever held at the Hollywood Bowl which is a salute to Dick Clark. The show's headliner is Bobby Darin. In September Oscar and his newly renamed duet partner Annette, have a new release on Class #238 - "The Rock-A-Cha" and "Let's Get Together". Oscar and Annette embark on an Eastern tour of big theaters including the Howard, Royal, and Apollo. In late 1958 Oscar and Annette appear on the earl McDaniel television show in Los Angeles along with Duane Eddy and Gene Mumford.

In 1959 Class Records releases "My Heart Speaks" and a re-issue of "Convicted" on #243 in February. For the rest of the fifties and early sixties, Oscar McLollie played clubs and theaters in the L.A. area but did not score with further recordings. He did have four solid hits, two of which made the national pop charts, but Oscar McLollie was basically a Los Angeles based performer who seldom traveled away from his base. However he was a solid R & B performer for more than a decade and became a part of the history of America's musical heritage.

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