A minor singer/songwriter who got a flurry of chances to record over the course of a single year with some talented bands without making it pay off, his small place in rock history reduced to just a name on a handful of record labels and little else to show for it.

Clifford “Fat Man” Blivens was born in Dawson, Texas and aspired to being a singer but settled for being a chauffeur for Big Jay McNeely when the saxophonist first hit big in the winter of 1949. McNeely rewarded Blivens with a vocal on “Midnight Dreams”, as Jay expressed a desire to diversify his material by employing vocalists for certain songs, something he felt was especially important for live shows where an endless string of torrid sax instrumentals might get monotonous.

That record was more in a blues vein but Exclusive Records, for whom that was cut in February 1949, apparently thought enough of Blivens’ potential to arrange for a session separate from McNeely’s outfit which resulted in two singles on which he was backed by Edgar Hayes & His Stardusters with Blivens receiving the primary label credit.

In addition to his singing Blivens wrote all of those songs – as he did the lyrics on his work with Big Jay – but without any name recognition they got lost in the shuffle, competing in fact with Hayes’s own concurrent releases on the same label. Blivens remained employed by McNeely as a driver and singer at his shows after his session with Hayes and a subsequent side cut in April of that year with McNeely also failed to connect and his place as the occasional vocalist, at least on record, was taken by a succession of others by the next year.

Sticking around the Los Angeles scene Blivens landed at Swingtime Records for a lone session, one that history has recorded as having him backed in the studio by Johnny Otis’s band. The problem with that is the musicians – who are all listed on the record label – aren’t Otis’s, nor is Johnny credited in any way, including even the arranger who does get mentioned. Furthermore since the playing style of Otis’s band is well known and this sounds nothing like it, nor did Otis himself record for Swingtime Records at any point, chances are this is a case of someone mistakenly attributing it to the famed bandleader somewhere along the way and then countless others taking it as gospel and repeating the misinformation without any efforts to verify it.

Regardless of the circumstances and in spite of some decent compositions and solid vocals shown Blivens career as a recording artist was over just a year after it began and he faded into obscurity, leaving not so much as photograph behind in the public record with which to identify him.
CLIFFORD BLIVENS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Exclusive 105X; June, 1949)
An electrifying record with rampaging enthusiasm, searing guitar work by Teddy Bunn and a galloping pace even if the structure is fairly rudimentary, and so while exhilarating it falls tantalizingly short of greatness. (7)

(Exclusive 105X; June, 1949)
Serviceable B-side featuring Clifford’s bitter harangue backed by some bluesy guitar licks by Teddy Bunn and a decent arrangement, maybe it’s not very memorable but works well enough for what it aspires to be. (4)

(Exclusive 114X; August, 1949)
Neither Blivens nor the band, Edgar Hayes & His Stardusters, are able to match the sentiments of the song with the appropriate musical backing resulting in a well-meaning mess that offers nothing to overcome a weak composition. (3)

(Exclusive 122X; September, 1949)
As featured vocalist… for Big Jay McNeely. The limitations of Blivens as a singer are apparent here, even though he gives it his all on what is otherwise a very good song with a top notch arrangement and the requisite sax workout by Big Jay. (6)

(Modern 890; October, 1952)
A welcome return to the active ranks, for while they spelled his name wrong – Cliff Bivins – he’s the same dramatic deep-voiced singer we remember sounding pretty good here on his own composition… nothing fancy, but it shows he deserves more chances than he’s gotten. (5)

(Modern 890; October, 1952)
Here’s where Blivins shortcomings come back to haunt him, as though the story might justify his overly expressive vocals, that’s not how he sounds best on material like this, and the song’s predictability and lack of much depth doesn’t help either. (3)