Chicago Session Men : Sax Mallard & King Kolax©2005JCMarion


The musician known to all as Sax Mallard was born Oett Mallard in Chicago in 1915. As a teenager he was taken by the saxophone and decided that this was his calling. He toured with a version of the Black musical revue "Shuffle Along" which made a stars out of Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake. In the nineteen thirties he spent some time with the local band of Kenny McVey. During the first half of the decade of the nineteen forties, Mallard was with many of the touring units that criss crossed the country. He spent some time in military service during the war and then in 1946 he began playing urban rhythm & blues with a combo led by "Jump" Jackson based in Chicago.

With the Jackson unit Mallard recorded his first sides backing blues singer and pianist Roosevelt Sykes, first for RCA Victor and then for Columbia Records. He also did some sessions behind guitarist and blues singer Tampa Red. late in 1946 Mallard played on an interesting session backing Roosevelt Sykes for Specialty Records with Sykes recording under the name "The Blues Man". At that time Mallard began to arrange some of the tunes that were recorded. At the end of 1946 mallard was a member of Big Bill Broonzy's Rhythm Band along with trumpeter Johnny Morton, Bill Casimir on tenor, Charles Belcher on piano, Ransom Knowling on bass, and Judge Riley on drums. The result was "I Can Fix It" and "Old Man Blues" on Columbia # 37502.

In 1947 mallard continued with the "Jump" Jackson combo backing vocalist Melrose Colbert, Arbee Stidham, Bill Broonzy again, Andrew Tibbs, Washboard Sam, and Sykes. Also late in 1947 Mallard was supposedly part of the orchestra of Dave Young backing Dinah Washington for Mercury Records, although some sources list the alto sax player on the date as Andrew Gardner. During the last few days of 1947 Sax Mallard had the first date in the recording studio under his name as leader. The side was released by Aristocrat Records (the forerunner of Chess) on the tunes "The Mojo" and "Let's Love Again" with vocal by Jimmy Bowman. Next he recorded with a group of session men in a combo called The Chicago All Stars with that city's "Cool Breeze" Bell and "Cozy Eggelston.

The following year had Mallard recording under his name as leader with vocalist Andrew Tibbs on "He's Got Her And Gone" on Aristocrat # 1106. In late 1948 his combo backed The Dozier Boys vocal group on the tunes "She Only Fools With Me" and "St. Louis Blues" on Aristocrat # 3001. In 1949 he began by backing vocalist Grant Jones for Coral, then Arbee Stidham and Eddie Penigar (known as "Sugarman") for RCA Victor. Mallard appeared as part of the studio band on Al Benson's early TV show during 1950, and in the first days of 1951 had the first release for the new Checker label owned by the Chess Brothers - "Slow Caboose" and "Let's Give Love A Chance" with vocal by Osie Johnson on # 750. Later in the year he was part of Bill Broonzy's Big Little Orchestra on Mercury. Sax Mallard's next recording was "Teen Town Strut" and "I'm Yours" on Checker # 755.

In late 1952 Mallard did some session work for Chicago independent label Chance Records backing vocalists Big Bertha and Lou Blackwell. In March of 1953 Mallard backed vocalist Mitzi Mars on "Roll 'Em" and "I'm Glad" on Checker # 773. In June Mallard backed the vocal group The Coronets on their famous recording of "Nadine" (b/w "I'm All Alone") on Chess # 1549, and the followup "Baby's Coming Home" and "Should I?" on # 1553. Mallard continued to show his versatility with leading the band behind "Guitar Slim" (Eddie Jones) Specialty session, and The Moonglows "Foolish Me" / "Slow Down" on Chess # 1598 and "Starlite" / "In Love" on # 1605. In late 1955 Mallard did a session with drummer Red Saunders that was produced by radio d.j. Al Benson for Parrot Records and then stopped recording for a number of years.

In the early nineteen sixties he played and recorded in the backing combo for Bobby Saxton and Piney Woods for Bea & Baby Records, and blues veterans Sunnyland Slim and Roosevelt Sykes. Oett "Sax" Mallard did his last recording session with King Kolax (also his last session), Robert Jr. Lockwood, and drummer Fred Below in 1970 for Chicago blues preservation label Delmark. He spent twenty five years as an employee of the Chicago Department of Parks and for years was a union official of the American Federation of Musicians. Mallard passed away in August of 1986 at the age of 70.


The musician known to the world as King Kolax was born William Little in Kansas City in November of 1912. In his early twenties he had honed his trumpet playing skills and arranging talent to form his own swing band. Into the forties he gravitated to Chicago where he joined the band of Ernie Fields and then became part of Billy Eckstine's groundbreaking big band in the mid forties. Kolax did session work in Chicago in the late forties with a number of combos and even recorded under his own name for the obscure Opera label. He was with the small band of J.T. Brown and also backed singer and future Count Basie vocalist Joe Williams with an early version of "Every Day I have The Blues" on Checker # 762.

After a session backing vocalist Johnny Sellers for Chance Records, Kolax recorded for Detroit's JOB label with "Why Don't They Tell Me?" and "Lonesome Man Blues" with Kolax on vocal on # 114. Late in 1952 Kolax backed Danny Overbea on "Train Train" and "I'll Wait" on Checker # 768. In early 1953 Kolax was session leader for The Flamingos (with Sollie McElroy on lead) for "Someday Some Way" and "If I Can't Have You" on Chance # 1133, and "Hurry Home Baby" and "That's My Desire" on # 1140. Sessions with Danny Overbea, Mabel Scott, and Rudy Green followed. After the demise of Chance Records, Vee-Jay in Gary, Indiana gave Kolax a recording opportunity. In December of 1954 "Vivian" and "Goodnite Blues" (vocal by Kolax) was issued on Vee-Jay # 136.

In the mid fifties Kolax backed vocalist Earl Pugh for two sides for JOB Records, and did a rare Chicago session for Texas based Duke Records with Billy Brooks on the tunes "Sleeping In An Ocean Of Tears" and "They Call Her Rosalie" released on Duke # 172. He did a last session for Stepheny with Grant "Mr. Blues" Jones in late 1957. He then became an A & R man for Marvello Records and then became a union official with the American Federation of Musicians in Chicago. He retired from performing in 1980 and passed away in December of 1991 at the age of 79.

(ed. note - some of the discographical information comes from Robert Pruter and Robert Campbell on the Red Saunders Research Foundation web site at Clemson University)

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