Album:Night Train To Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970
Most jazz fans should be familiar with alto sax player Hank Crawford from his days as Ray Charles' musical director and then a long career as a leader. I saw him live in the 70s at The Colonial Tavern in Toronto. But I bet you don't know that before that he played sax and sang for the R&B group Little Hank & The Rhythm Kings. That's how he met Ray Charles. He was born Bennie Crawford Jr. Dec. 21, 1934 in Memphis. As a child, he played piano in the church choir. As a teen, he took up the alto sax. Influences include Charlie Parker, Louis Jordan and Earl Bostic. In 1958 he attended Tennessee State University in Nashville studying music theory and composition. That's when he started Little Hank & The Rhythm Kings. The nickname Hank was because he sounded like local sax legend Hank O'Day. Other members were Otha Hayes on piano, James Watkins on bass and Milt Turner on drums. They recorded a couple of singles including Christene. The most interesting thing is that Crawford not only played sax but he sang. The band didn't last very long because Turner left to join Ray Charles' band. And then he recommended Crawford and of course Crawford would eventually become Charles' musical director. Hayes is best known as co-writer of Shake A Tail Feather. You can get Christene on this 2CD history of Nashville R&B. Crawford left the Charles band in 1963 and he had a long career recording as a leader. But I don't think most jazz fans will be aware of his start leading Little Hank & The Rhythm Kings. Here's a video of Christene by Little Hank & The Rhythm Kings.