Wildman of the Tenor : Arnett Cobb©2004JCMarion


Arnett Cleophus Cobb was born in Houston, Texas, in 1918. In his childhood he was taught the rudiments of violin and piano, and soon in his high school years took up the tenor saxophone. By the early nineteen thirties he joined local bands led by Frank Davis and then Chester Boone. At the age of 18 he became a member of the band of Milt Larkin's band and stayed on for six years. In 1942 Cobb joined up with the big band of Lionel Hampton replacing the great Illinois jacquet. Hamp re-recorded his signature tune "Flying Home" with Cobb on tenor solo made famous by Jacquet, and Cobb created a blasting solo that made him famous as the "Wild man of the Tenor". In 1947 after five years, Cobb left Hampton and started his own small group. He recorded such tunes as "Dutch Kitchen Bounce", "When I Grow Too Old To Dream", "Perdido", and "Big Red's Dream". Before he could achieve recognition for his new band he became ill with a spinal disease and endured a long hospital stay and recuperation process. He recovered and reformed his R & B combo in early 1950.

During the summer of 1950, Cobb plays a number of dates in and around Philadelphia. In September, Columbia Records in an effort to increase its showing in the rhythm & blues field signs Arnett Cobb and his combo to a recording contract. Also that month, Cobb and his band appear at Philadelphia's Earle Theater in a re-opening of stage shows at that house. The show also features The Ravens, Dinah Washington, and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson. Apollo Records plans to issue its first 45 rpm sides including one by Arnett Cobb. In October Cobb and his band battle the combo of Eddie Chamblee in a "battle of the blues" in Chicago's Pershing Ballroom held by d.j. McKie Fitzhugh. Cobb's bass player Walter Buchanan weds blues and jazz singer Dinah Washington in Baltimore during the month of November. Cobb plays at the Celebrity Club in Providence, Rhode Island. late in the year Columbia Records releases "Smooth Sailing" and "Your Wonderful Love" on #39040.

In 1951 Arnett Cobb and his band are signed for the entire summer to appear at the Beachcomber Club in Wildwood, New Jersey. In may Cobb enters the hospital for treatment of a back ailment and suspends his personal appearances. Columbia Records reactivates its Okeh label to concentrate on the sound of rhythm & blues and moves Cobb to that label. During the summer the Paradise Theater in Detroit reopens with a big show featuring Dinah Washington, The Dominos, and Arnett Cobb's band. In October "Walking Home" and the standard oldie "Cocktails For Two" are released by Okeh on #6823. Okeh also releases a former Cobb side for the parent Columbia label of "Smooth Sailing" and "Your Wonderful Love" on #6830.

In January of 1952, Arnett Cobb records two pop standards for Okeh - "Charmaine" and "I'm In The Mood For Love" on #6851. Cobb plays Birdland in New York in February, and is introduced there as "Arnett Cobb and his Mob". The new name coined by m.c. Peewee Marquette sticks and Cobb has plans for a new tune to celebrate his new identity. In May "Jumpin' The Blues" and "Without A Word Of Warning" are released by Okeh Records on #6872. In June a show at Philadelphia's Earle Theater breaks all attandance records. The show features Dinah Washington, The Ravens, Harold King, Arnett Cobb and his band, and a young singer discovered by Ella Fitzgerald named Leslie Uggams. In July "Whispering" and "Open House" are out on Okeh Records #6887. In August Cobb's band and Dinah Washington appear at Chicago's Pershing Ballroom again for McKie Fitzhugh. At year's end "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "The Shy One" are released by Okeh Records on #6912. In mid-December Cobb and his band appear at the Amsterdam News annual midnight benefit show at the Apollo Theater. Show business personalities such as Milton Berle, Red Buttons, and Vic Damone are at hand along with R & B stars such as The Ravens, Bette McLauren, and Buddy Johnson and his band.

Cobb starts off the year of 1953 with a new release for Okeh - "Linger Awhile" and "Lil' Sonny" on #6928. In February Cobb leaves Okeh Records and signs with Mercury. That month Cobb and his band play an extended engagement at the Hilltop Lounge in Washington, D.C. In March his first record for Mercury is released with the tunes "Poor Butterfly" and "Congratulations To Someone" on #70101. In June Cobb and his combo play Philadelphia's Showboat Lounge. That month Mercury Records releases "The Traveler" and "April Wine" on #70171. In August Arnett Cobb is in Chicago for a number of playing dates in the region including the Capitol Lounge. In the spring of 1954 Cobb and his band do a series of in person dates on the West Coast. Also on the tour are Roy Brown and Percy Mayfield. Heading back East, Arnett Cobb and his combo appear at a historic show - Alan Freed's "Moondog Coronation Ball" held at the Sussex Avenue Armory in Newark, New Jersey. It was Moondog Freed's very first show in the Eastern United States and was being watched for the popularity of Freed and his R & B music outside of his Ohio base. The result was pandemonium as ten thousand crowded the hall and thousands more turned away proving that this was the music of the future. besides the Cobb unit others on the bill were The Clovers, Harptones, Charles Brown, Muddy Waters, Buddy Johnson and his band, and Sam Butera. Most important to the future appeal of the music was that 20 to 25 per cent of the crowd were White teenagers.

Late in May, Cobb is signed to the Atlantic label. Soon after the signing Cobb and crew head for the Eastern seaboard for a series of one nighters. In June, Cobb and his band play the Apollo Theater in New York with The Spaniels then travel down to Houston, Texas, to appear at the El Dorado Lounge. That month Atlantic releases Cobb's first recording for the label with "Night" and "No Child No More" on #1031. In September as Moondog Freed moved his base of operations to New York City Atlantic releases "Mister Pogo" and "Horse Laff" on #1042. Cobb and his mob hit the road again as they journey to the South for a number of appearances. In early 1955 Cobb has a new record for Atlantic featuring the tunes "Light Like That" and "The Flying Home Mambo". In July disc jockey Hal Jackson sets up a big R & B show at the Apollo Theater with Arnett Cobb and his band backing The Cadillacs, Honeytones, Titus Turner, Little Jimmy Scott, Charlie & Ray, and Annisteen Allen. Cobb plays through the fall at a number of locations closing out the year once again at New York's Apollo Theater with The DellTones and The Orioles. In March of 1956 Cobb switches labels again, this time he moves to Vee-Jay Records.

Soon after, in late April Cobb and his family are involved in a very serious auto accident. The prognosis for Cobb is a long period of hospitalization, and so an all star tribute to the musician will be held to raise funds for him and his family. Harlem's Savoy Ballroom will be the location for the benefit to be held on July 25th. Some of the performers at the benefit will be Sammy Davis Jr., Earl Bostic, Bill Doggett, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, The Ravens, Cadillacs, Illinois Jacquet, Faye Adams, Charlie Ventura, Lionel Hampton, and Charlie & Ray. In June of 1957 Cobb has recovered sufficiently to go out on the road once more, although he will endure pain and discomfort for the rest of his life. He also will be on crutches or in a wheelchair from that point on, but does not let all of these setbacks alter his life of music. . He heads out with Little Willie John and Linda Hopkins on a long tour playing 118 dates in 130 days beginning in mid June. In August the show does so well at L.A.'s 5-4 Ballroom that they are held over for two weeks. The long running show moves East and has a stop at New York's Apollo Theater in early November and will be augmented by The Channels, Heartbeats, Dubs, Sentimentals, and Donnie Elbert. The show will be mc'd by WOV personality Evelyn Robinson.

In March of 1958 Cobb and his band are in Houston Texas for a show with Clifton "King Bee" Smith that also includes Buddy Johnson and his band, B.B. King, Sam Cooke, Ernie Freeman, The Dubs, and Drifters. In October the Arnett Cobb band joins LaVern Baker, Bobby Day, Jackie Wilson, and Lee Andrews & The Hearts. The thirty day tour will begin in Richmond, Virginia, and cover the Southeast. By 1959 Cobb follows other instrumentalists by moving from R & B music into the jazz field and is signed by Prestige Records. A jazz single with an unusual title from his late forties period called "Dutch Kitchen Bounce" is released on Prestige #133.

In 1960 Cobb returned to his hometown of Houston, Texas. There he ran a night spot called Club Ebony and performed locally with his combo and occasionally toured (sometimes with Lionel Hampton). He also found the time to establish the Jazz Heritage Society of Texas and Jazz Archives of the Houston Public Library. In later years Cobb received a Grammy nomination in 1979 for best instrumental jazz performance . After a great career and enduring a thirty year battle with physical ailments Cobb passed away in March of 1989 in Houston. An incredible life in the worlds of jazz, R & B, and blues, have made the work of Arnett Cobb something for all to cherish as part of the history of who we are.

Some available CDs that feature the work of Arnett Cobb are :

Cobb & His Mob In Concert w/Dinah Washington (HighNote) 2000

Arnett Cobb & Dinah Washington (HighNote) 2000

Arnett Cobb Live (Timeless) 2000

Texas Sax (Aim) 1999

The Wildman of the Tenor Sax 1944-47 Recordings (Jazz Archive ) 1999

Party Time (Original Jazz Classics) 1995

Arnett Cobb Is back (Progressive) 1994

Live At Sandy's w/Buddy Tate & Muse All Stars (Muse) - Grammy Award nominee

Blue And Sentimental w/Red Garland Trio (Prestige) 1993

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