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)