Jumpin' At Small's : Paul Bascomb ©2002JCMarion


Paul Bascomb was born on February 12, 1910, in Birmingham, Alabama. He was part of a large family (nine other siblings) and from an early age on, felt that he would like to create music. By the time he was in his late teens, he was somewhat accomplished on both the clarinet and tenor saxophone. While in college at Alabama State Teacher's College he was a founding member of the Bama State Collegians, a well regarded regional swing band. During these years he also found time to play some dates with the band of C. S. Belton based in Florida. The Bama State Collegians stayed together as a professional unit from the mid thirties on and assumed the leadership of trumpeter Erskine Hawkins. Paul Bascomb stayed as a member of this unit until the mid forties except for a short stint with the band of Count Basie in 1939 serving as a replacement for Herschel Evans. The band of Erskine Hawkins during the swing years had some successes including "After Hours" featuring the band's pianist Avery Parish, the original version of "Tuxedo Junction" written by Paul and Hawkins, and "Tippin' In". By 1945 Paul had left the Hawkins band after more than a decade with the unit and led a series of small combos with his brother Wilbur Odell, commonly known as "Dud"

Paul Bascomb started out with a small combo under his name in New York in 1946 and recorded a number of sides for the Alert ("Nona" / "Tell It To Me" on # 205 and "Leap Frog" / "Lady Ginger Snap" on #206) and Hub labels "Behind Closed Doors" and the answer record "I Know Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well" on # 3027) . In 1947 he moved to the New Jersey based Manor label for a number of sides and began recording vocals as "Manhattan Paul". The sides for Manor included "There Ain't None Bad" and "My Nerves Baby" on #1106, "Dextrose" and "Robbin's Hop" on #1108, "Jumpin At Small's" / "Doing Your Tricks" on # 1117, "Boppin The Blues" / "Bad Weather Blues" on #1118, "Two Ton Tessie" and the historically named "Rock And Roll" (in 1947 !) on #1137, and "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Gibbs Idea" on #1146. Also that year he did a record session for the London label which included "Pink Cadillac" (sound familiar ?) and "Don't Put My Business On The Street" on #17005. In 1948 Paul Bascomb did a recording session with the Three Riffs (who became famous for their recordings with King Pleasure later) for the then fledgling Atlantic Records, but only two songs were ever released for the label - "Wish I Didn't Love You So" and "Hard Ridin' Mama" on #868.

In 1950 Paul Bascomb began a long association with night club business in the Chicago and Detroit areas. He had a long engagement at the El Sino in Detroit which began to feature both White and Black performers in their lineups. That year Bascomb recorded with the Freddy Washington quintet as manhattan Paul for the independent ASA record label with "After Midnight" and "What Makes You Look So Good" on #1004, and "For You My Baby" and the gorgeous ballad "When Tomorrow Comes" on #1006. The following year produced little for the vocalist / saxophone player who was now a veteran of two decades in the music business. Rhythm & Blues was becoming the big thing in dance music in the early fifties and Paul took notice. In April of 1952 Lew Simpkins announced the signing of Paul to his new venture, the United Records label of Chicago. In May the first release by Bascomb is on the subsidiary States label with the tunes "Blues And The Beat" and "Blackout" on #102 and was heavily promoted by Simpkins as jump tunes to "start a stampede to the juke boxes" as it said in their advertising. Paul Bascomb was now a heavy R & B tenor sax honker. This was followed by "Got Cool Too Soon" (also known as "How Cool The Moon") and "Coquette" on States #110, and "Body And Soul" and "Matilda" on States #121. In the middle of this output for the Chicago independent, the cross town major, Mercury Records released "Mumbles Blues" and "Nona" on #8299 trumpeting this release as part of an advertising campaign proving that Mercury Records was the top major label in the R & B field. The word was spreading.

In 1953 Paul Bascomb recorded "Driftin' Blues" and a redone "Matilda" for the parent label in Chicago United Records on #192. In Chicago Paul had an extended engagement at the Club Relax through most of the summer. This was followed by a weekend at the Crown Propeller and then two weeks at the Strand Lounge, also in Chicago. Paul was now recording for another Chicago R & B independent record label Parrot Records. In late 1953 Paul recorded "Jan" parts one and two for Parrot #792 and was promoted by Al "the old swingmaster" Benson, long time Chicago R & B disc jockey. In early 1954 Bascomb and his combo head the bill at the Heat Wave Lounge in Chicago with The Five Echoes vocal group. In March the Parrot recording of "Jan" is the best selling record of Paul Bascomb's solo career. The record sells especially well in Chicago. After spending the rest of the year doing club dates in the Midwest, Bascomb has two more releases for the Parrot label in 1955. "You Got Me Losing My Mind" and "Pretty Little Thing" recorded with The Five Arrows vocal group on #816, and "Jumping At The Encio" and the interestingly named "Alley B On Fifth Avenue" for Parrot #817.

By the end of 1955 Paul Bascomb began to realize that after all the years in music, his time as a viable personality of the moment was ended and so he continued to play occasional weekend and summer gigs. He appeared at a big R & B show in Chicago with dj McKie Fitzhugh in April of 1957. During much of the sixties and early seventies his major vocation was out of the music scene and became employed by the city of Chicago. He returned to playing in the late seventies and into the eighties, especially well received by European jazz fans remembering his work with Erskine Hawkins. It was the last hurrah for Paul Bascomb. He passed away in Chicago in December of 1986.

Fortunately, there is a large catalog of Bascomb's work that is readily available. There is an extensive series of Erskine Hawkins retrospectives for the Classics label from the mid and late thirties. This band included future R & B stars Haywood Henry (baritone sax player with Alan Freed's band), Julian Dash (famous for "Zero"), Sammy Lowe (R & B arranger in the 50s), and vocalists Dolores Brown and Billy Daniels. There are many compilation albums that feature Bascomb on some tracks. Some of these are : Original Soul Sister (Rosetta Tharpe), The Jubilee Sessions 1943 - 1946 (the radio program, not the record label), Count Basie : Alternative Takes 1940-1941, Roots Of Rhythm & Blues, Holiday For Swing : Erskine Hawkins Orch 1940 - 1948, Mercury Blues & Rhythm Story 1945 - 1955, Swinging At The Savoy 1937 - 1945, RCA Victor Blues & Rhythm Story, and Boogie Woogie Stomp. The early fifties sides for United and Parrot are available on the CD "Bad Bascomb" for Chicago's Delmark label. For all these songs still around for us to enjoy the talent of Paul Bascomb and his tenor sax stylings is rewarding, and hopefully many can also hear his vocal work as Manhattan Paul as I discovered years ago with a flea market purchase of his ASA sides. He may not have been a household name in the development of R & B but in many ways he was a giant of American music.

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