Skip to Main Content

Roots and Rhythms
Wednesday December 7th, 2016 with Renny
THE BIG ORGAN. A chronological look at the big organ sound with selections from R&B, soul, gospel, original ska and jazz.

The big organ: eclectic organ stylings from Lightnin' Hopkins to Jimmy McGriff.
Starting off with an unusual Lightnin' Hopkins track. Lightnin' is singing about zydeco but Bill Quinn, the label's owner, didn't know how to spell zydeco, so the song was labelled as "Zolo Go". Lightnin' normally played guitar but here he is playing an organ, probably a pump organ from the sound of it.

Sister Myrtle Fields is accompanied by the Austin McCoy Trio, with Austin McCoy on organ. Boogie woogie style organ is not usual in gospel music.

Bill Davis (a.k.a. Wild Bill) was a pioneer of jazz organ. He played in Milt Larkins' Texas big band from '39 to '42, he was the pianist, organist, arranger for Louis Jordan's Tympany Five in the Forties. This track is one of his few R&B recordings, released on the OKeh Records label.
Zolo Go (Gold Star, '49)
Lightnin' Hopkins - Zydeco - Arhoolie Records
I'm Toiling (Columbia, '50)
Sister Myrtle Fields with the Austin McCoy Trio - Roots 'n' Blues: The Retrospective 1925-1950 - Sony Music
Catch 'Em Young, Treat 'Em Rough, Tell 'Em Nothin' (OKeh, '51)
The "Wild" Bill Davis Trio - The OKeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-57 - Sony Music
Jimmy Coe was a honker, a tenor sax player who had played with the Jay McShann band. The organist on this track is Eugene Fox, who recorded some bizarre singles with Ike Turner band as the Sly Fox.

Chuck Higgins was a popular honking tenorman in Los Angeles in the Fifties, particularly with the Hispanic youth of the city's East Side. "Good Luck" was never released and the organist is unknown. It was recorded by John Dolphin, who owned the Recorded In Hollywood label, as well as Lucky Records, Money Records and the Cash Records.

Luis Rivera was a lounge organist from Los Angeles.
Fast Blues (Regal, '53)
Jimmy Coe with Eugene Fox on organ - Honkers & Bar Walkers Vol. 1 - Delmark Records
Bring The Money In (OKeh, '53)
The Bill Davis Trio - The OKeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-57 - Sony Music
Good Luck (unissued, '56)
Chuck Higgins - Pachuko Hop - Specialty Records/Fantasy Records
Fat Stocking (King, '59)
Luis Rivera - Battle Of The Organs - King Records
Doc Bagby was a prolific session man in the Fifties and Sixties, playing with everyone from jazz sax greats Eddie Davis and Sonny Stitt, to blues and R&B records, including those by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Thelma Cooper.

Earl Hooker was an amazing Chicago blues guitarist who died at the age of 40 from tuberculosis. This is from the Chief Records label, 1961 and featured Harold Tidwell on vocals. I'm not sure if this is an organ or an electric piano but the keyboard player is unknown.

Roland Alphonso was a Jamaican sax player and one of the orignal members of the Skatalites. This ska instrumental features organist Caroll McLaughlin and was released on Coxsone Dodd's Studio One record label in '61.
Hay Ride (King, '59)
Doc Bagby - Battle Of The Organs - King Records
Swear To Tell The Truth (Chief, '61)
Earl Hooker with Harold Tidwell on vocals - Blue Guitar - Paula Records
Set Back (Just Cool) (Studio One, '61)
Roland Alphonso & Caroll McLaughlin - Ska Bonanza - Heartbeat Records
Another ska organ instrumental featuring Cecil Lloyd on organ and Roland Alphonso on sax. This is also from 1961.

James Brown was not only a singer but he played organ as well. This is a recording from '62 that was released in '63 as a B-side to "These Foolish Things".

Jimmy McGriff was one of the main jazz organists of the 20th Century. In 1961 he recorded an instrumental version of Ray Charles' "I've Got A Woman" for Jell Records. Sue Records bought the masters from Jell Records and released an album by Jimmy McGriff. MCGriff's instrumental went to 20 on the pop charts and 5 on the R&B charts in 1962.

BillY Preston was only 16 years old when he recorded this organ instrumental for the Derby Records label in 1963. Derby was a subsiduary label of Sam Cooke's SAR Records label. Preston had grown up as an organist and choir master in his mother's church as was frequent session play for SAR Records.
Oceans 11 (Studio One, '61)
Cecil Lloyd & Roland Alphonso - Ska Bonanza - Heartbeat Records
(Can You) Feel It, Pt. 1 (King, '62)
James Brown - Soul Pride - The Instrumentals 1960-1969 - Polygram Records
I've Got A Woman (Jell/Sue, '62)
Jimmy McGriff - Sweet Soul Music - 28 Scorching Classics From 1962 - Bear Family Records
Greazee, Pts. 1 & 2 (Derby/SAR, '63)
Billy Preston - Sam Cooke's SAR Records Story 1959 - 1965 - Abkco Records
Booker T. & The MGs were the house band at the great soul label, Stax Records of Memphis. They backed many of Stax's biggest stars, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, The Staple Singers, etc.. When recording under their own name they specialized in soul instrumentals, their biggest hit being "Green Onions". "Boot-Leg" made it as high as number 10 on the R&B charts and 58 on the pop charts.

The Liquidator was a Jamaican instrumental that was recorded by the Harry J Allstars and released on the Harry J Records. Harry J was the owner of the label and the song was recorded by the Hippy Boys : bassist "Family Man" Aston Barrett, drummer Carlton Barrett, guitarist Alva Lewis all of whom went on to form The Upsetter and then The Wailers. The organist on this track is Winston Wright playing a Hammond organ. This instrumental was played at British soccer matches and became an anthem to the British skinheads.

Ansell Collins was a successful keyboard player in Jamaica in the Sixties and Seventies. "Night Flight" is based on the swing song "Sentimental Journey". Unfortunately this tune was never released. It was recorded by the famous reggae producer Leslie Kong who ran Beverly's Records in the late Sixties, early Seventies.
Boot-Leg (Stax, '65)
Booker T. & The MGs - The Very Best Of Booker T. & The MGs - Rhino Records
Liquidator (Harry J, '69)
Harry J Allstars - Old Skool Ska - Recall 2CD/Snapper Music
Night Flight (Sentimental Journey) (Bevery unissued, recorded sometime between '68-'70)
Ansell Collins - The "King" Kong Compilation: Historic Reggae Recordings 1968 - 1970 - Mango Records
Interactive CKCU