Much traveled saxophonist of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s whose role in rock history is often clouded because he’s confused with other rock figures over the years who shared the same name.

This Charlie Singleton was born in Kansas City in 1930 where he grew up studying music under Leo Davis who had also been Charlie Parker’s instructor. Like Bird, widely regarded as the greatest saxophonist ever, Singleton began on alto sax when he first arrived in New York City as a teenager in the late 1940’s, already leading his own band. Signed in mid-1949 by Apollo Records, already a successful independent label in the gospel and jazz fields who were now making their first excursion into rock, Singleton cut just two sides for them and while the results were promising they didn’t keep him under contract leading to something of a vagabond existence for young hot shot.

Bouncing from one small label to another over the next two years, with a short stay at major label Decca along the way, Singleton finally found a permanent home with Atlas Records during which he switched to tenor sax – although he’d often played alto with the fury of a tenor – as well as backing other artists, most notably vocalist H-Bomb Ferguson on some of his most enduring sides.

Singleton’s band also served as a magnet for many bigger names who’d made their reputation in the jazz field such as Lou Donaldson and Morris Lane. For one session he was even joined by another notable rock sax player in Big John Greer.

Following his most productive three year stint with Atlas he left in 1953 and landed at Sunset Records for two years before moving overseas. His career as a recording artist all but over now in his mid twenties he is believed to have returned to Kansas City in the late 1950’s and played the club circuit the remainder of his days, his contributions to rock’s formative years largely forgotten.

In the decades since he has been mistakenly attributed as another Charlie Singleton who gained fame in the mid-1950’s as a well-known songwriter with a long list of impressive credits (though our saxophonist did write his own material) and then much later down the road another musician from the group Cameo scored hits on his own which further confused researchers.

The saxophonist Charlie Singleton’s career however is impressive in its own right and he was one of the formative musicians in the style that dominated his era of rock.

CHARLIE SINGLETON DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Apollo 794; August, 1949)
A striking debut by the teenage saxophonist who offers up a blistering instrumental featuring a strong arrangement and excellent support by the band on a record that is fierce, haunting, loud, aggressive and downright demonic by the end. (8)

(Apollo 794; August, 1949)
A compromised track which replaces the driving intensity of the top side with a mellower ambiance, almost as if they were trying to placate those unconvinced of rock’s potency, yet it became a small regional hit all the same showing the tamer style still had its appeal. (3)

(Star 718; March, 1950)
An ill-conceived throwback sound – to the 40’s jive scene – that has bad lyrics and a worse singer as its centerpiece rather than let his own sax take over thereby squashing any chance this idea had of finding an audience. (3)

(Star 719; March, 1950)
A maudlin song, ponderous in execution, featuring the limited vocal abilities of Linwood Sutton and minimal contributions from Singleton himself on alto sax make this another curious decision in his young career. (3)

(Rainbow 11111; August, 1950)
A record that more than lives up to its colorful title, as this is a frantic howling act of musical destruction with horns churning, piano pounding and drums crashing leading you to believe the end of the world is surely imminent. (7)

(Rainbow 11111; August, 1949)
An addictive slinky workout on sax after an intentionally drab piano intro gives the impression of a condensed version of an extended suite, packing in a lot of creativity in a short time frame and yet still working as a single. (7)

(Decca 48193; January, 1951)
Completely unexpected in that Singleton was reviving a crude Joe Swift record from two years earlier and releasing it on major label Decca of all places, but he does improve it with a faster pace and more confident vocals by Freddie Jackson. (6)

(Decca 48193; January, 1951)
The real reason Decca brought him in was to try and get a “legitimate” version of this pop novelty concoction that merely uses “rock” as a marketing ploy and while Singleton adds a decent sax part, the song itself is a bad joke on all of them… and on us. (2)

(Atlas 1002; December, 1951)
A confidently arranged instrumental that features multiple sections which can stand individually as well as combine to create a coherent whole as Singleton’s sultry sax is the star but the rest of the band contributes nice touches along the way. (6)

(Atlas 1002; December, 1951)
A concentrated dose of raucous unbridled excitement courtesy of Singleton and Big John Greer blowing hard with some relentless drumming and a scene stealing guitarist slashing and burning behind them throughout the record. (7)

(Atlas 1003; January, 1952)
A throwaway track issued as the B-side of a poor attempt at an instrumental cover of the massive vocal hit “Cry”, and while this one is better suited for rock as at least Singleton plays decent riffs, it’s far too lightweight otherwise and hardly worth the time. (3)

(Atlas 1006; March, 1952)
An atmospheric and somewhat ominous sounding late night mood piece works very well at first before Singleton pulls back on those effects and brightens the mood a little too much down the stretch to ease your fears and dilute the record in the process. (5)

(Atlas 1021; September, 1952)
The chugging rhythms behind Singleton explain the train reference in the title, but this engine has very little power, struggling to make it up the inclines on the track even though the parts are all in working order. (4)

(Atlas 1021; September, 1952)
A record more notable for its title, celebrating NYC disc-jockey Tommy Smalls who’d help to push rock ‘n’ roll to ever greater heights throughout the decade, than anything found on the record which only really gets going in the second half. (4)