MooseMania : "Bull Moose" Jackson©2002JCMarion
In 1944, Ben Jackson was approached by Lucky Millinder to join his touring big band. Millinder was coming off a very popular wartime recording of the tune "Sweet Slumber" with Trevor Bacon on vocal. As legend has it members of the band gave Jackson his nickname as a goof on his appearance, and "Bull Moose" would be his moniker forever. Millinder put Jackson in contact with Syd Nathan head of the Cincinnati based King and Federal labels. His first notice was an answer record to his former boss Lucky Millinder's hit "Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well". The record was released on Nathan's new label Queen Records. The tune was called "I Know Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well". Jackson named his new combo The Buffalo Bearcats in deference to his popularity in the city on Lake Erie.
The big breakthrough came in 1947 with Jackson's recording of "I Love You Yes I Do" for King (#4181) which turned out to be a huge national hit and put King Records on the R & B map. He followed up the next year with "Sneaky Pete", "All My Love Belongs To You", "Little Girl Don't Cry" (#4288) and "I Want A Bow Legged Woman". During the year Moose appeared in a motion picture directed by Josh Binney called "Boarding House Blues". The picture featured Dusty Fletcher, Jackie "Moms" Mabley, Una Mae Carlisle, and the Lucky Millinder band with Annisteen Allen and Bull Moose singing "I Love You Yes I Do". In 1949 hits for Jackson included "I Can't Go On Without You" and Wayne Raney's country classic "Why Don't You Haul Off And Love Me?" (the flip side was "Is That All I Mean To You" on #4322). He began 1950 with King release #4335 - "Must You Go?" and "Not Until You Come My Way". There are plans to reunite Jackson and Millinder for a show at Chicago's Regal Theater. In March King Records releases "A Fool In Love" / "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide" on #4352. Jackson decides to give up his group, the Buffalo Bearcats and becomes producer of a traveling music unit that tours the Midwest. Along with Bull Moose are performers Mabel Scott, Dusty Fletcher, and Lorraine Knight. The tour starts in Louisville, Kentucky, and does big business and will continue for six weeks. By April "A Fool In Love" is selling well on the West coast.
In June of 1950 Jackson reunites with the Buffalo Bearcats and appears at a big show at Baltimore's Royal Theater. Also on the bill are Jimmy Witherspoon, Camille Howard, and the duo of Butterbeans & Susie. That same month "Time Alone Will Tell" and "Sometimes I Wonder" is released on King #4373. Jackson does a week at Philadelphia's Showboat Lounge in the Hotel Douglas. In October Bull Moose cuts short his tour of one nighters to do a mammoth recording session for King Records in Cincinnati in order to boost the new sides by the popular Jackson. At year's end King Records releases "Big Fat Mamas Are Back In Style" and "My Beloved" on #4412. In early 1951 the records continue with "Without Your Love" and "Have You No Mercy?" with the Buffalo Bearcats getting label listing on #4422. In April "My Little Baby" and "Forget And Forgive" is released by King on #4433. Jackson plays the Club Harlem in Philadelphia in late September. At about this time, at the behest of King Records head man Syd Nathan, Jackson drops the "Bull" part of his nickname and will be now known as "Moose" Jackson. The first King release with the new name is a version of the country tune "Cherokee Boogie" and "I'm Lucky I Have You" on #4472. In November the seasonal tune "I'll Be Home For Christmas" is released by King. The flip side of the release on #4493 is "I Never Loved Anyone But You". The holiday tune is a big seller in the San Francisco area at the end of the year.
In late February Moose shares the stage at the Apollo Theater in New York with Sarah Vaughn for one week. In March of 1952 Moose Jackson records his raucous double entendre jump tune called "Nosey Joe". The flip side is a song called "Sad" on King #4524. In that same spirit came "Big Ten Inch Record" which is constantly being discovered by new generations even though it got very little airplay at the time. In April, Moose Jackson appears at the Earle Theater in Philadelphia along with The Clovers, Dusty Fletcher, and Maxine Sullivan for a successful week long run. In May "Let Me Love You All Night Long" and "Bootsy" are released by King on #4535. During the summer Jackson tours with The Dominos and a two week stay at Weeke's Lounge in Atlantic City is part of the tour. Jackson also does a week at the Savoy Ballroom in New York. In late summer "Bearcat Blues" and "There Is No Greater Love" is out on King #4551. In late August Moose stars with Varetta Dillard and the Five Keys at the Howard Theater in Washington D.C. In October the Apollo Theater is the scene for a weeklong stay with Jackson starring with Wini Brown and the Four Tunes. Detroit's Plantation Inn welcomes Moose Jackson for a week in late November, as he continues to do well on the road despite lower record sales numbers.
Moose starts off the new year with a stay at one of his top drawing clubs, Philadelphia's Showboat Lounge. In February Jackson appears for a week at New York's Savoy Ballroom. In June Jackson is once more listed by King Records as Bull Moose Jackson with the release of "Meet Me With Your Black Dress On" and "Try To Forget Him Baby" on #4634. Jackson continues to be a big draw in Philadelphia as he stars for a week at Emerson's in September. That month "Hodge Podge" and "If You'll Let Me" are released by King on #4655. Late in the month Jackson shares the stage at the Howard Theater in D.C, with Willie Mabon. In November radio dj Alan Freed from Moose's hometown of Cleveland, holds a Harvest Moon Ball in Akron, Ohio. Appearing on stage with Jackson, are Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters. The same lineup do appearances at other locations in northern Ohio to huge box office success. Moose ends the year with a three week extended engagement at Detroit's Flame Show bar.
In March of 1954, Bull Moose Jackson returns to Philadelphia once again with a stay at Pepe's Musical Bar. In April at Detroit's Graystone Ballroom, Bull Moose Jackson appears on stage with Tiny Bradshaw, Wynonie Harris, and Big Maybell. The Moose appears at a July 4th jamboree, picnic, and show hosted by Newark, New Jersey R & B radio outlet WNJR in nearby Kenilworth at Grove Park. Others appearing at the big show are Big Maybell, The Orioles, Roy Hamilton, Larry Darnell, Joe Liggins, Nappy Brown, and Varetta Dillard. During the summer Jackson has a successful engagement at the El Dorado night club in Houston Texas.
By the beginning of 1955 it is apparent that Bull Moose Jackson would not make the transition from adult R & B attraction to rock 'n roll star for the increasing teenage (and White) record buying public. This is what happened to the majority of the R & B pioneers that came up in the 1940s (Joe Turner is a notable exception). In February King Records releases Jackson's version of Buddy & Claudia's "I Wanna Hug Ya, Kiss Ya, Squeeze Ya" (also covered by the Billy Williams Quartet for Coral) and "If You Ain't Loving" on #4775. In March Moose is back for a week at the Flame Show Bar in Detroit, and follows with a two week stay back in Philadelphia at the wonderfully named Creole Cabana. On Easter Sunday in Jackson's home town of Cleveland, there is a huge show and dance featuring Moose and the Buffalo Bearcats. Also appearing are the Ravens with Jimmy Ricks, Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters, Madeline Green, Willie Mabon, and Todd Rhodes and The Toddlers. New York female vocal group The Hearts have a hit on Baton with Jackson's old hit "All My Love Belongs To You". In June King releases "I'm Glad For Your Sake" and "Must You Keep On Pretending" on #4802. In Nashville, Tennessee, Bill "Hoss" Allen presents Bull Moose on stage as part of a big R & B revue starring Buddy Johnson and his band with Ella Johnson. Also on the bill are Chuck Berry, Al Savage, Arthur Prysock, The Four Fellows, and The Nutmegs. On July 4th Moose starts a two week stay at the Club Zanzibar in his old stomping grounds of Buffalo, New York. By the end of 1955 King Records gives up on their original R & B hitmaker, and after a decade with the Cincinnati company is set free. Bull Moose Jackson was the original that made King Records into the R & B giant independent that it became but this is the nature of the business. Jackson ends 1955 by signing with Chicago based Chess Records, and it is the end of an era for one of R & B's definitive performers.
In early 1956 Chess Records announces plans to record Bull Moose Jackson on their new subsidiary label Marterry. These plans are soon put on hold as the entire Marterry project is soon disbanded. The one release on the label by the vocal group The Daps (#5249) becomes a collector's item. Through the year the connection with Chess Records yielded nothing and by the end of the year Moose had moved on. He could still draw a crowd as proven by his six week stint at The Dunes in Las Vegas, and was signed by a new independent label in Hollywood called Encino Records. In january of 1957 the tunes "Understanding" and "Watch My Signals" were released on Encino #1004. In February Moose and his band back up an all doo-wop show at Brooklyn's Empire Theater. Stars of the show were The Heartbeats, Valentines, Teen Chords with Lewis Lymon, and The Channels. The tune "Understanding" sells well in Philadelphia. Jackson and his combo appear at an all star show for one week in Philadelphia in April. On the bill are Nappy Brown, Eddie Cochrane, Al Hibbler, The Willows, and Gene Vincent. "Look For Me" is recorded for Encino but disappears almost immediately. Jackson joins Lewis Lymon & The Teenchords and Clarence "Frogman" Henry for a two week tour of the British West Indies. By the end of the decade Jackson was now in his forties, and even though a re-recording of one of his old King hits "I Love You Yes I Do" for the 7 Arts label did some business in the early sixties, it was time for the R & B legend to make a change.
For the next two decades Bull Moose Jackson got by working for a catering concern connected to Howard University in Washington, D.C. But the Moose would be loose one more time. In the mid eighties a local Pittsburgh rock band (in the mold of the Iron City Houserockers) called The Flashcats used to perform a couple of Jackson's old up tempo tunes. They were soon put in touch with the man himself via intervention by the leader of The Flashcats Carl Grefenstette and local radio personality Bumble Bee Slim. Before long the Moose was performing again and recording for the first time in decades. He soon became an overnight sensation (after more than 40 years in the business) in the city of Pittsburgh, thanks to The Flashcats. The first results were a single version of "Get Off The Table Mabel" and a following LP called "Moosemania". The man was back ! Suddenly Bull Moose Jackson was back on stage where he belonged. Carnegie Hall, and a European tour with Johnny Otis got the benefit of the R & B pioneer. Moose had a wonderful run of four years or so, reliving old glory and making many new fans finding out where the music they called their own had come from.
Bull Moose Jackson gave his last performance in April of 1988 with The FlashCats in Pittsburgh. Now in declining health, he spent his last days in his home town of Cleveland being taken care of by an acquaintance from the old days. Jackson passed away on July 31, 1989 knowing that he gone on one last ride performing the music that he had originated all those years ago. His acceptance by a whole new generation of music lovers must have been a sweet reward for all those years on the road, and the recent times of near obscurity. But through it all the music endured, and a local band in Pittsburgh was good enough to pay homage to one of the real pioneers of R & B and give him the opportunity to hear the applause one last time.
The music of Bull Moose Jackson is available on CD with two releases by The Flashcats label Bogus records out of Pittsburgh. "Moosemania " and "The Final Recordings" are both recorded with The Flashcats during the 1980s. The classic R & B of Bull Moose Jackson is available on 2 CDs released in Sweden and available from Bogus - "Moose On The Loose" and "Big Fat Mamas Are Back In Style". Also "Greatest Hits Vol 1 and 2" on King, "Badman Jackson, That's Me" on England's Charley label, and "All Time Hits" on Audio Lab.
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