BIOGRAPHY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

Colorful character whose time in rock coincided with the birth of genre itself and who helped introduce much of its exuberance and off-color appeal in those early days.

Charles Waterford was born in Arkansas but got his start singing professionally while still in his mid-teens in the Midwest for a band originating from Kansas City, Leslie Sheffield Rhythmaires, a territory band with whom he appeared for awhile in Oklahoma alongside soon-to-be revered jazz guitarist Charlie Christian.

He moved to Chicago joining the acclaimed Andy Kirk and his 12 Clouds Of Joy but World War Two intervened before landing with noted pianist Jay McShann, with whom he made his recording debut in 1945. Though these were jazz sides, leaning towards blues, Waterford’s style was already a bit too restless for those confines and he was replaced by Jimmy Witherspoon who was far more suited for that milieu.

Over the next year and a half he recorded a handful of sides for the small Hy-Tone label and then the larger independent Aladdin, already specializing in lewd sexual themes delivered with a joyous fervor. But it was ironically with major label Capitol Records at the dawn of rock where he cut his most acclaimed (and notorious) sides.

Failing to make a commercial dent he moved to King Records in 1949 which should’ve provided him with the ideal platform for his work, the strongest of the independent labels with solid musicians and producers who knew how to market rock as evidenced by their roll call of hits to date. But whether lost amidst the more established names in the same vein already recording for the label, such as Wynonie Harris, or because his skills were rather limited, unable to handle diverse material convincingly and reliant on the same melodic framework for the songs most suited for his delivery, he failed to connect here as well.

Over the next decade and a half he was a journeyman singer, performing where and when he could with diminishing acclaim, recording only sporadically for ever smaller labels, Waterford eventually gave up secular music and moved into gospel when he became a minister in Florida in the mid-1960’s.

Late in life his rock material received some belated attention and he made a well-received, albeit minor comeback, recording a final album at the age of 85. Waterford passed away in 2007 at the age of 90 having recorded music in styles ranging from the pre-war jazz and blues idioms to gospel, but he found his most lasting legacy in rock ‘n’ roll.
 
 
CROWN PRINCE WATERFORD DISCOGRAPHY (Reviews To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):
 
 
MOVE YOUR HAND, BABY
(Capitol Americana 40074; December, 1947)
Rip-roaring workout that amounts to a duel between the lusty shouted vocals of Waterford and the storming piano of Pete Johnson on a no-holds barred sexual declaration/confession bordering on the obscene… and possibly the illegal. (7)

WEEPING WILLOW BLUES
(Capitol Americana 40074; December, 1947)
Trying to awkwardly combine three distinct musical genres into one isn’t going to work even without Waterford running roughshod over the desolate mood with his harsher vocal technique, but Tiny Webb shines on guitar when he can be heard through the din of the Crown Prince. (2)

COAL BLACK BABY
(Capitol Americana 40103; March, 1948)
More of the same as Waterford stakes his claim for yet another sexual conquest but despite some inspired playing and singing the total lack of restraint works against it, sending this runaway train over the cliff, exhilarating but harrowing. (4)

CROWN PRINCE BLUES
(Capitol Americana 40103; March, 1948)
Even on a ballad Waterford’s ego doesn’t take a back seat to the more subdued tone he sings with – and carries off quite well – in this reprimand to a girl who left him that finds him seemingly unaware that it was probably for good reason. (4)

STRANGE WOMAN’S BOOGIE
(Capitol Americana 40132; July, 1948)
Waterford meets with diminishing returns as much of his previous work – melody, delivery, framework – are recycled here but the lyrics change the plot and make those other attributes inappropriate, though nobody seems to catch their breath enough to notice. (3)

L.A. BLUES
(Capitol 40132; July, 1948)
Toned down elegy to the Central Avenue night life features strong support by Maxwell Davis on sax and Pete Johnson on piano with Waterford’s vocals pushed back in the mix, at least until he tries making himself heard by ramping up his singing which conflicts with the mood. (4)

LEAPING BOOGIE
(Capitol 40137; November, 1948)
Same basic song structure but with a notable twist, as the band members switch up instruments and ease back on the intensity, giving this a more casual jam session feel, offering a rare peek behind the curtain of early rock. (5)

P.I. BLUES
(Capitol 40137; November, 1948)
Though this is his best ballad performance the Crown Prince still struggles at times to stay in key and pronounce the words properly, but for once he matches the song’s mood and the support of Maxwell Davis and company is solid as always. (4)

YOU TURNED YOUR BACK ON ME
(King 4310; September, 1949)
A mournful song complete with a more pop-oriented backing actually is a good fit for the usually upbeat and outrageous singer, as this gives him a new and even slightly sympathetic wrinkle to his well-worn one-note character. (5)

POW WOW BOOGIE
(King 4310; September, 1949)
An insensitive caricature of Native Americans used to give Waterford another potentially criminal (under-aged) target for his sexual conquests, delivered with his usual enthusiasm that is tolerable elsewhere, but not so here where the band further indicts him with outdated solos. (2)