BIOGRAPHY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

Los Angeles based pianist/singer who recorded briefly for Imperial Records before the company went all-in on rock ‘n’ roll and while his records were consistently good they met with no commercial success and he wasn’t afforded more opportunities to record.

Davis was a club performer – most likely at the Down Beat Club where trumpet player Jake Porter held court – who was signed by Imperial just before the year long recording ban went into effect essentially just to give the label additional records to release during the prolonged work stoppage.

The band found themselves on the fault-line between eras and styles in 1947 as rock ‘n’ roll began to displace jazz as the hottest sound in black music and while Davis’s boogie piano and rough enthusiastic vocals pointed towards the future, many of the horn charts remained stuck in the past.

While Davis’s backstory is unknown as are his whereabouts after his brief stint on record, Porter had a much more successful career both before and after the sessions with Davis. A jazz musician at heart he was based in San Francisco before World War Two but settled in Los Angeles by 1940. After serving in the Army he resumed his career playing with a wide variety of jazz stars, among them Lionel Hampton and Fletcher Henderson and in 1951 he started Combo Records, a small but interesting label that stuck mostly to rock ‘n’ roll for the next decade with him at the helm.

The sides Davis and Porter recorded in 1947, though unsuccessful commercially, offer a noteworthy glimpse at the music world at a key juncture where rock began to take hold.

 
CHARLIE “BOOGIE WOOGIE” DAVIS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

SAN QUENTIN BAIT
(Imperial 5011; December, 1947)
Good subject with a strong delivery both vocally and on piano by Davis but the limitations he was forced to adhere to lyrically plus an increasingly ill-suited trumpet solo keep this from making a really big impression though it’s still a very good debut. (6)

CRACK UP
(Imperial 5013; January, 1948)
Though the record label didn’t help matters by issuing this on the heels of his debut, the bigger sin is another extended trumpet solo which undercuts the song’s content and Davis’s strong vocals which fall right in line with the emerging rock aesthetics. (4)

OLD TIME BLUES
(Imperial 5013; January, 1948)
Though thematically it’s a little misleading, vocally Davis places this squarely in rock ‘n’ roll but unfortunately his extended piano solo belongs to no known genre because none wanted to be associated with such cringe-worthy non-musical clunkiness. (3)

17 MILLION $ BABY
(Imperial 5019; April, 1948)
A decidedly off-color macabre story sung with lusty enthusiasm and a rousing musical track make this an excellent buy for listeners who are running about 16 million, 999 thousand dollars (and 21 cents) short of the amount referred to in the song. (7)

I KNOW WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT
(Imperial 5021; May, 1948)
An attempt to mix things up stylistically but is almost overly ambitious by focusing on a unique structure rather than selling it with true conviction, Davis comes off as something of a disingenuous salesman who’s not helped by less than compelling musical showcases. (3)

BOOGIE WOOGIE BABY
(Imperial 5024; May, 1948)
A calling card type of record for Davis and rock’s attitude in general highlighted by a good arrangement and solid lyrics about sex disguised as dancing which Davis delivers in his strongest vocal performance amidst a raucous party atmosphere. (7)

YOU SURE GOTTA LOTTA NERVE
(Imperial 5026; June, 1948)
Though not breaking any new ground what’s here works fairly well, from Davis’s energetic vocals and strong left hand on the keys to a good sax solo and a few nice lines thrown into the standard story about a rift with his girlfriend. It gets the job done. (5)

YOU FINE AND HEALTHY THING
(Imperial 5033; December, 1948)
The slightly unusual structure with its spoken interlude to go along with Davis’s usual vocal enthusiasm makes for the most notable aspect and renders the fairly crude come-on to a woman fairly harmless as it sounds as if even he isn’t taking it seriously. (4)

HEY! HEY! PRETTY MAMA
(Imperial 5038; March, 1949)
Aside from adding an extra “Hey!” in the title Davis doesn’t improve on Jump Jackson’s original, cut just a month after that was out but held over for more than a year which makes the musical accompaniment even more outdated for its time, despite a good effort vocally by Davis.
(3)

SINGING AND CRYING THE BLUES
(Imperial 5051; November, 1949)
The two years between its being recorded and being released is all too apparent in its musical trappings, but while this may be too mild to connect with the rock fan of late 1949 it’s still easy to admire Davis’s affable persona that shines through all the same. (4)