Operator : Bob Gaddy©2005JCMarion


Bob Gaddy was the son of a coal miner and was born among the mining country of West Virginia. At a young age he moved to North Carolina with his family and like so many others before him, gravitated toward music from the church. He began to learn the rudiments of the piano and continued to hone his musical skills during his teenaged years. Gaddy entered the military in 1944 and there came in contact with styles of the blues. He soon abandoned his reliance on gospel music and became an accomplished blues pianist. After his military discharge he thought about relocating to California, but making the rounds of night spots in Harlem soon put those plans on hold.

At a club in Harlem, Gaddy had the chance to sit in with budding blues great Champion Jack Dupree. He played an impressive set and this led to one booking after another in area clubs and soon Bob Gaddy was a mainstay on the New York City blues scene. Two of his long time partners in music are guitarists Larry Dale and Jimmy "Wildman" Spruill. He also played for a time with bassist Al Hall and drummer Gene Moore. Bob Gaddy and his combo did a lot of backup work in the late forties and early fifties for Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. In 1952 Gaddy had his first visit to the recording studio for the little known New York based Jackson label.The combo was labeled as Bob Gaddy & His Alley Cats and included McGhee and Terry. The songs were "I Believe You Got A Sidekick" and Bicycle Boogie" and released on Jackson # 2303.

The next recording by Bob Gaddy took place in March of 1953 for a subsidiary label of Bob and Morty Shad's Sittin In With called Jax Records. Bob Harris was on bass and George Woods on drums for the session. Jax released the songs "No Help Wanted" (a pop hit for Rusty Draper), and "Little Girl's Boogie" on # 308. Late in the year another Morty Shad label called Harlem Records released a side as by Bob Gaddy & His Keys. The songs were "Slow Down Baby" and "Blues Has Walked In My Room" on # 2330. The first three records by Gaddy were not very successful and so it was almost four years before he was recorded again.

In late 1956 he got a chance to record for Old Town Records a well known R & B independent label. Accompanied by Brownie McGhee Gaddy recorded "Operator" and "I Love My Baby" on Old Town # 1031. Through early 1957 "Operator" becomes Gaddy's best seller although not a national hit. It gets good airplay on local radio initially and then does moderately well in other parts of the country. In the summer of 1957 Gaddy enlists tenor sax man Jimmy Wright, and his old benefactor Champion Jack Dupree, and begins a long association with guitarist Larry Dale. They get together in the studio for Old Town and record "Paper Lady" and "Out Of My Name" on # 1039. The next session for the label followed and in late 1957 "Rip And Run" and "Woe Woe Is Me" is released on Old Town # 1050.

In early 1958 "Woe Woe Is Me" gets good sales in Atlanta, New Orleans, and Dallas, and the flip side "Rip And Run" is doing well In Memphis. Gaddy follows that side with a recording of "You Are The One" and "Take My Advice" released on # 1057 in August of the year. "What Would I Do?" and a re-issue of "Paper Lady" on Old Town # 1064 is released late in 1958 and in the early months of 1959 does a decent turn for the label especially in New Orleans where Gaddy has always done well. "Till The Day I Die" and "I'll Go My Way" is recorded during the summer and released by Old Town on # 1070. Gaddy has two more records for Old Town in 1960 - "Early One Morning" and "What Wrong Did I Do?" on # 1077, "Don't Tell Her" and "Could I" on Old Town # 1085. Early the following year Old Town releases one last effort by Bob Gaddy on the tunes "Forgive Me" and "I'm Gonna Be At The Station" on # 1119.

For the next three and a half decades, Bob Gaddy is a mainstay on the New York club and recording scene. Some of the artists they have played sessions for include Wilbert Harrison, Eugene Church, Buster Brown, Chuck Jackson, and Don Gardner. Gaddy most often played with his two guitar stalwarts - Jimmy Spruill and Larry Dale, and has been featured with a great many musicians keeping the sound of the blues alive. Among those are many British rockers and blues renaissance people such as John Hammond and Paul Oscher. It was in fact Paul Oscher who produced a CD by Gaddy entitled "Alone With The Blues" for Mojo Productions. Gaddy was also a guest artist with the European group The Mojo Blues Band on their 2000 CD release. Finally there are a lot of compilation CDs featuring a tune or two from Bob, but the one to have to hear this great blues artist in his prime is the British release for Ace (U.K.) called "Harlem Blues Operator" with 21 tracks including all seventeen Old Town recordings, covers of T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday" and Guitar Slim's "The Things I Used To Do", and a gospel tinged song called "Come Little Children".

Bob Gaddy recently passed away, and fortunately there are those that remember his music and his time with us.

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