Remembering Buddy Banks©2006JCMarion

Alvin “Buddy” Banks was born in Canada in October of 1921. He became interested in music at an early age and preferred the saxophone. His musical education was interrupted by the start of World War II, and in time arrived in Europe with the American armed forces. It was there in Germany that he began to play and study the bass fiddle. After the war Banks relocated to Los Angeles and became part of the growing music scene in that city especially along Central Avenue, the incubator of jazz and R & B at that time. Banks was put in touch with Art Rupe the head of Juke Box Records a local R & B independent where he recorded at a 1949 session. Soon after Rupe sold out his interests in the label but kept a number of masters including some by Banks. Rupe then established Specialty Records on which Buddy Banks recording of “Happy Home Blues” and “The Night Is Fading Too Soon” was released on # 336.

By 1950 Banks had his own combo and played a number of clubs on a regular basis. Buddy Banks and his band featuring vocalist Baby Davis and drummer Monk McFay is set for an extended engagement at the Downbeat Club during January of 1950. In April of the year Banks and his group appear at the annual Easter Promenade sponsored by the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper held at South Park. Also on the bill are The Treniers, Joe Lutcher, Calvin Boze, Toni Harper, Paula Watson, The Bits Of Rhythm, and others. Hunter Hancock is the mc. In May Banks and his band play an engagement at the Congo Club in Ventura. In June Banks and his combo do a number of personal appearance dates in San Diego, first at the Creole Palace along with singer Effie Smith, and then at the Club Royale. After a number of dates in Los Angeles, Banks reorganizes his band and the new unit heads for San Diego in October for a return to the Creole Palace. In mid December the Buddy Banks combo with Baby Davis will appear at the Los Angeles Sentinel’s annual Christmas Benefit Show. Headlining will be Louis Armstrong and also on the bill will be Jimmy Witherspoon, Monroe Tucker and his band, Johnny Otis with Little Esther, Floyd Dixon, and many others. Buddy Banks closes out the year with a week at the Washington Social Club over the Christmas holiday.

With apparent limited success in the field of Rhythm & Blues, Banks tries his hand in a more jazz oriented style and soon joined a number of expatriate musicians in Europe headquartered in Paris, France. He soon joins forces with Bill Coleman a trumpeter originally from Kentucky and they play a number of appearances throughout Western Europe and Scandanavia. From 1953 to 1955 he does a number of recording sessions in Paris with Mary Lou Williams, Lionel Hampton, and Bobby Jasper. After the mid nineteen fifties nothing more is heard from Buddy Banks. There is one report that by 1970 he had settled in Hawaii but it is unsubstantiated.

Buddy Banks was another of those musical artists that were on the periphery of the R & B scene of the late forties and early fifties that would revolutionize the sound of music around the world. He like so many of these performers are mostly obscure today and are distant memories to some, and complete unknowns to most. For a grateful few however, there names shall live on for their talents and presence at that most inventive time in our history. Buddy Banks and his music survive, thanks as usual to record producers in Europe who take these matters more seriously than the country of origination.

Blue Moon has the cd that sums up the R & B influence of Banks with “Buddy Banks : The Complete 1945-1949 Recordings”. Featured are vocalists Fluffy Hunter, Bixie Crawford, and Marion Abernathy (who recorded for Juke Box as “The Blues Woman”). Banks is also part of the compilation cds “Honkin The Boogie”, Jivin’ Jamboree”, “Specialty Legends of Jump Blues”, and “Ham Hocks & Cornbread” for JSP.

The jazz influence of bassist Buddy Banks is captured on the cds “Paris : 1953” recorded for Vogue featuring Mary Lou Williams, Don Byas, and Gerard Pochonet. Banks is on the cd “Hamp In Paris” recorded in November of 1953 on Mercury with Lionel Hampton which also features Mezz Mezzerow. Another Mercury cd features Banks with Mary Lou Williams on piano and drummer Louis Viale. Banks recorded a cd with Bobby Jasper called “Jazz In Paris : Jazz de Chambre” for the Sunnyside label. Buddy Banks work with Bill Coleman is documented on the cds from Jazz Classics in France – “Bill Coleman : 1951-52” , and “Bill Coleman : 1952-53” which also features Zutty Singleton and Dickie Wells on two live recordings from those years. Featured with Bill Coleman again, Banks appears on the cds “Jazz In Paris : 1917-1949” and “Bill Coleman : The Complete Philips Recordings”. That is the available recorded legacy of Buddy Banks – listen and enjoy.

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