Big Joe Turner, Slim and Slam, and Jump Boogie

While I was in the car recently, I flipped through my dials … and all of a sudden the wonderful sound of a bluesy jazzy piano filled my car. A man was singing:

I’ve got a pocket full of pencils, can’t even write a doggone line;

I’ve got a pocket full of pencils, can’t even write a doggone line;

I’ve got a mouthful of gold; and I don’t have a lousy dime.

The man singing was Big Joe Turner, and the song was A Pocket Full of Pencils, a track on Texas Style.  I highly recommend the album.

Joe Turner - Texas Style

Joe Turner – Texas Style

What I loved about the Joe Turner song, and Turner’s style, is that it’s both Blues AND Jazz. I’m not an expert on this era, but I know enough about it to know it was an interim period when Blues and Jazz intermingled more freely.

Check this out… Big Joe Turner singing Shake, Rattle and Roll, from 1954.

What’s especially interesting to me, as a huge BB King fan, is that now… years later, listening to Joe Turner for the first time, I can clearly see BB King’s lineage as a musician. It comes directly from Turner, who had hits Ain’t Nobody’s Business, which BB King made a central staple in his own repetoire throughout his career.

You should also notice the name of the base player in the center of the Texas Style album cover: Slam Stewart.

Slam was, at one time, part of a duo called Slim and Slam. Slim Galliard, another musician I’ve been turned onto through a drummer friend of mine recently, is an AMAZING talent. Slim is a very funny guy, and in all of his live recordings, the audience laughs as much as they clap with joy.

Galliard songs like Flat Footed Floozy with the Floy Floy are classics in the “Jump Boogie Style.”

Just like Turner. Which is why Slam, Slim’s partner, would be playing his base on the Turner album.

Which is a strange way of me saying… hmm, when I listen to music I start seeing these connections between the musicians. I don’t consider myself knowledgeable about the Jump Boogie era, but I know what I love and I love Swing Jazz, and I love the Blues, so it makes sense that I would also love Jump Boogie.

But PLEASE don’t take my word for it.

Watch this clip, from Hellzapoppin which features Slim Galliard on piano/guitar and Slam Stewart on base, and an amazing set of musicians and dancers. What a gem!

Jazz musicians today don’t achieve the same level of “entertainer” status as they did in the 1940’s.

For instance, watch Slim Galliard play Cement Mixer on piano with his hands UPSIDE DOWN. He’s got amazing piano player hands.

This music is exciting for me to “discover” as I expand my jazz education. Jazz is leading me back into the Blues roots I love, and now finding extraordinary Jump Boogie musical talents like Big Joe Turner, Slim Galliard, and Slam Stewart make it fun to connect all the dots.

Big Joe Turner - Greatest Hits

Big Joe Turner – Greatest Hits


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