PeeWee Crayton ©2002JCMarion


Connie Curtis "PeeWee" Crayton was born December of 1914 near Rockdale, Texas. As a young boy he moved to Austin where he spent his formative years. From his first cigar box guitar, Crayton soon became adept on the trumpet, ukulele, and guitar. By the time he was 20 years old Crayton had moved to Los Angeles California, and then up the coast to Oakland. Formed a trio in the early forties playing dates in the bay area. By 1946 he was back in Los Angeles and joined the band of Ivory Joe Hunter and was on records by Hunter for the Pacific label in 1946 and 1947. Played dates on Central Avenue in Watts in the late 40s especially at The Barrelhouse and the Club Alabam.

In mid 1947, PeeWee Crayton made his first records under his own name with the Four Star label. The songs were "After Hours Boogie" and "Why Did You Go?" on #1304. The record went nowhere and Crayton went back to doing club dates in L.A. and back up in the San Francisco area. In 1949 he got his next shot in the recording studio, this time for the Modern Records label. "Blues After Hours" and "I'm Still In Love With You" were released on Modern #624. This time there was action on his record, and "Blues" did well in Southern California, Texas, and the South. Other releases during the year were "Texas Hop" (issued on Flair #1061 as by The Carroll County Boys) and " Rock Island Blues" on #643, "Rock Island Hop" and "The Bop Hop" on #659, "I Love You So" and "When Darkness Falls" on #675, and "Long After Hours", "Brand New Woman" on Modern #707, and "Old Fashioned Baby" and "Bounce PeeWee" on #719.

In early 1950 there is airplay for Modern #732 - "Please Come Back" (the flip side is "Rockin' The Blues"). In May "Some Rainy Day" and "Huckle Boogie" on #742 hits the streets. Both records feature PeeWee backed up by the Harry "Sweets" Edison band. "Rainy" reportedly selling big in Texas, especially in Dallas. In June PeeWee and King Perry will duel in a "battle of the blues" at the CIO Hall in Avalon. Later in the month Crayton is on stage with Tiny Davis, Roy Milton, Dinah Washington, and Lionel Hampton & his band at the "Cavalcade of Jazz" at L.A.'s Wrigley Field. The show was mc'd by Hunter Hancock. Unfortunately the show was cut short because of unruly fans at the front of the stage. In mid-July, Gene Norman presents a huge Rhythm & Blues Jubilee at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Along with PeeWee, were Dinah Washington, Helen Humes, Jimmy Witherspoon, Roy Milton, Tiny Webb, Roy Hawkins, "Slo" Walsh, Joe Lutcher, Lillie Greenwood, and others. Event will be capped off with a big "battle of the blues".

In August, Modern #763 is released - "Answer To Blues After Hours" and "Louella Brown". Crayton's own "answer" to his previous hit does well in sales and radio airplay. In November Modern plans to release its first LP album featuring sides by Crayton and other Modern performers. His latest single is also issued - "Dedicating The Blues" and "Good Little Woman" on #774. In February of 1951 Modern issues #796 - "Change Your Ways Of Loving" and "Tired Of Travellin'". In May, PeeWee is listed as one of the performers who will take part in the first all Black network radio show for the Mutual Broadcasting System. About that time "Thinking Of You" and "Poppa Stoppa" are released on Modern #816. The jump tune "Poppa Stoppa" is a big seller on the West Coast for Crayton. Despite the moderate success, Modern Records released PeeWee Crayton from his recording contract. He was immediately picked up by crosstown rival of Modern, Alladin Records in October.

On November 5, 1951, PeeWee recorded his first sides for his new label. He went in the studio with the band of Maxwell Davis. "When It Rains It Pours" and "Daybreak" were released in December on Alladin #3112. In early 1952 Crayton appears at the Lincoln Theater in Los Angeles along with Mabel Scott and The High Hatters. While he continued to work local clubs on the West Coast, the deal with Alladin Records did not work out. The only other new release from PeeWee during the rest of the year was one off the shelf from Modern Records. In November "Have You Lost Your Love For Me?" and "Cool Evening" was released on Modern #892. In March of 1953, PeeWee Crayton recorded with the combo of Red Callender which featured Bumps Meyers on tenor sax and future jazz star Chico Hamilton on drums. "Pappy's Blues" and "Crying And Walking" are released on Recorded In Hollywood #408. Crayton spends the fall of the year doing shows in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. He returns to L/A. for a big holiday show with Linda Hayes, and Little Willie Littlefield. "Baby Pat The Floor" and "I'm Your Prisoner" is released on Recorded In Hollywood #426.

PeeWee begins 1954 with a series of one nighters in the Southeast. Hollywood Records releases #1055 by Crayton, listed on the label as by "Homer The Great". The songs are "Steppin' Out" and "Hey Little Dreamboat". In mid February he teams again with Linda Hayes and Red Callender for a series of appearances in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. In June PeeWee is now signed to Imperial Records, another L.A. R & B independent. He goes to New Orleans and records with the house band at J & M studios led by Dave Bartholomew. The first release on Imperial is in June on #5288 - "Do Unto Others" and "Every Dog Has It's Day". This is followed by "Win-o" and "Hurry Hurry" on #5297. In October, PeeWee and Joe Houston do some dates in the Southern California area. In December Imperial #5321 is released. The songs are "I Need Your Love" and "You Know Yeah".

In January of 1955 "I Need Your Love" starts to take off out West, and helped by Alan Freed in New York, the record begins to sell nationally. It's blend of R & B and country music feel (predating Chuck Berry's "Maybelline") generates great interest. It is easily his biggest seller since "Blues After Hours" and possibly his best ever. In February Crayton heads for the Pacific Northwest again, this time with Little Willie Littlefield, Eddie Vinson, and Chuck Higgins. As "I Need Your Love" continues to rack up sales and becomes PeeWee's biggest ever, Imperial has the next one ready - it is "I Got New For You" and "My Idea 'Bout You" on #5338. In early April Crayton joins Eddie Vinson, Chuck Higgins, and Dolores Gibson for a series of one nighters throughout the South. "Eyes Full Of Tears" and "Running Wild" are released by Imperial on #5345. In late July "Yours Truly" and "Be Faithful" are released on Imperial #5353. Late in the year, small Imperial subsidiary label Post issues "Don't Go" and "I Must Go On" on #2007.

In March of 1956 Hollywood Records re-issues "Steppin' Out" and "Hey Little Dreamboat" on #1055. He continues club work mostly on the West Coast, and is now on Midwestern based Vee-Jay Records. "The Telephone Is Ringing" and "A Frosty Night" are released in October on Vee-Jay #214. The sporadic releases on Vee-Jay continued into 1957 recorded with the Red Holloway Combo with Red on tenor sax, McKinley Easton on baritone sax, Horace Palmer on piano, Lefty Bates on guitar, Quinn Wilson on bass, and Paul Gussman on drums. "I Found Peace Of Mind" and "I Don't Care" are on #252, and "Is This The Price I Pay" and "Fiddle Dee Dee" are released on #266. In 1957 PeeWee plays some dates in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and during the summer plays a show in Gary, Indiana for Vivian Carter, long time R & B dj on WWCA and wife of the president of Vee-Jay Records.

PeeWee Crayton faded on the scene in the late 50s, but he still recorded from time to time. In late 1960 Crayton recorded "Taint Nobody's Business" and "Little Bitty Thing" on Jamie #1190. In 1961 "I'm Still In Love With You" and "Time On My Hands" were recorded for Guyden Records on #2048. A year later with R.A. Blackwell's Orchestra PeeWee recorded "Git To Gittin'" and "Hillbilly Blues" on Smash #1774. In 1970, PeeWee Crayton surfaced as part of Johnny Otis traveling caravan of R & B stars doing one last go around. The historic double live album from the show in Monterey proves that PeeWee was still a great R & B performer.

PeeWee Crayton is a great example of the vitality and drive of classic Rhythm & Blues, the music that was the foundation of rock 'n roll. He is part of that foundation and so is a very important part of the history of popular music and culture of America and the world.

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