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The Four Blazes

Holy blazes! How many Blazes were there? This influential vocal group recorded as the Four Blazes, the Three Blazes, the Five Blazes, and even the just plain Blazes on a bad counting day in the studio. The group was founded in 1940 as the Four Blazes by drummer Paul Lindsley "Jelly" Holt, already a veteran of sizzling string groups such as the Five Rhythm Rocketeers. The other charter Blazes, previously known under the nasty band moniker of the Four Dusty Demons, were Jimmy Bennett and William "Shorty" Hill, who between them covered guitar, tipple, ukulele, and mandolin, with Prentice Butler on bass. All sang and did impressions as well. In 1941, swing stalwart Floyd McDaniel switched from acoustic to electric guitar and replaced Bennett, considerably changing the sound of the group in the process. A further addition was made in 1945 in the form of Pittsburgh pianist Ernie Harper. Legendary Chicago bandleader Duke Groner was the Blazes' bass at some point between 1943 and 1946.

By this time, it seemed prudent to change the name to the Five Blazes, but this caused confusion, since a Los Angeles-based group also called itself the Four Blazes at the time. The group even recorded a number, entitled "Chicago Blues," as if intentionally obscuring those who track down missing groups by looking for locational clues in song titles. The Chicago group's recording career actually didn't begin until 1947, with Aristocrat. As the Five Blazes, the group was only the second act to cut sides for what would become an important Chicago independent label, eventually to be transformed into the Chess blues kingdom. Three years later, it was back to the Four Blazes, with Ernie Harper going out in 1950. (He died around the same time.) At the end of 1951, a bassist named Tommy Braden pulled into town with saxophonist J.T. Brown's band. Braden's singing and songwriting would be central to the Blazes' sound for the remainder of the group's existence. His 1952 ditty "Mary Jo" hit the top on the R&B charts. Recordings made in this period utilized the talents of session reed player Eddie Chamblee, who pitched in on both clarinet and tenor sax. Although when he overdubbed himself on "Perfect Woman," the result was so imperfect that even a heavy dose of reverb couldn't fix it.

The group continued recording until nearly the mid-'50s, but the final recording sessions indicate more lineup changes. An organist named Gordon Fairholt is suspected of having played piano on some tracks, but has yet to be completely proven as the culprit. In 1953, there were newspaper advertisements for the Five Blazes, suggesting further incendiary growth. The fire was stoked further by the presence of sax giant Red Holloway on the last sessions and not Chamblee, as sometimes listed in discographies. This session produced the classic "Did You Ever See a Monkey Play a Fiddle," once again written by Braden, who left soon thereafter to form his own Tommy Braden Quintet. The Four Blazes went on with another vocalist, though Braden still seemed interested in the studio projects and was back in the fold for the last session in 1955. The group broke up the same year. Tommy Braden died in 1957, Jelly Holt carried on singing with the Four Whims (retiring in the early '60s), while Floyd McDaniel (1915-1995) continued on the scene, including years with the Ink Spots. Chicago blues fans noticed he was still around in the '80s and he made at least one CD after his rediscovery. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Chart Toppin' Doo Woppin' Vol. 1: Rock Me All Night Long

1. Double Crossing Blues

2. Goodnight Irene

3. Sixty Minute Man

4. Don't You Know I Love You

5. The Glory Of Love

6. Fool Fool Fool

7. I Will Wait

8. Eyesight To The Blind

9. Shouldn't I Know

10. Will You Be Mine

11. Ting-a-Ling

12. Have Mercy Baby

13. Mary Jo

14. One Mint Julep

15. Hey Miss Fannie

16. Rock Me All Night Long

17. The Wheel Of Fortune

18. Where Are You (Now That I Need You)

19. Baby, Don't Do It

20. Beside You

21. Crying In The Chapel

22. Money Honey

23. Help Me Somebody

24. Marie

25. Dream Girl

26. Good Lovin'

27. Rags To Riches

28. I Wanna Know

x

Track List: Vocal Groups: Classic Doo Wop

Disc 1

2. Sweet Georgia Brown

3. Sweet And Slow

4. Swing Is The Thing

5. My Walking Stick

6. I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water

7. If I Didn't Care

9. Whispering Grass

11. That's The Rhythm

12. I Like Pie, I Like Cake

13. Milk Shake Stand

15. The Blues Can Jump

17. Hoe Cake, Hominy And Sassafras Tea

19. Wig Blues

20. Write Me A Letter

21. Around About Midnite

22. Ever Lovin' Slick

23. It's Too Soon To Know

24. Five O'Clock Blues

25. Jumping Jack

26. Rival Blues

Disc 2

1. Too Much Of A Little Bit

2. What's The Matter With You

3. Lemon Squeezing Daddy

4. Please Don't Leave Me

5. My Baby's Gone

6. How Could You

7. One More Time

8. Will You Be Mine

9. Sixty Minute Man

10. Make Me Thrill Again

11. Mary Jo

12. Ting-A-Ling

13. Stormy Weather

14. Eyesight To The Blind

15. The Glory Of Love

17. Good Googa Mooga

18. Just Walking In The Rain

19. I Wasn't Thinkin', I Was Drinkin'

20. Money Honey

21. Gee

22. I Found Out

23. A Sunday Kind Of Love

24. Get With It

Disc 3

1. Be Bop Wino

2. Feel So Good

3. Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite

5. Tell Me

6. Big Leg Mama

8. Is It A Dream

11. Hearts Of Stone

12. Baby Let Me Bang Your Box

13. The Stars Are Out Tonight

15. Gloria

16. Riot In Cell Block No.9

17. Oop Shoop

18. Grief By Day, Grief By Night

19. What Do You Do

20. Mary Lee

23. Buick '59

24. Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)

25. Newly Wed

Disc 4

1. Smokey Joe's Cafe

2. You Didn't Learn It At Home

3. Witchcraft

4. Chop Chop Boom

5. Rollin' Stone

6. No No Cherry

7. My Angel

8. I'm Leavin' (Clickity Clack)

9. The Door Is Still Open

10. That's Your Mistake

11. Baby Let's Play House

12. Be Bop Baby

14. Hug A Little, Kiss A Little

15. I Need You So

16. When You Dance

17. At My Front Door

18. Lonely Nights

19. Red Hots And Chili Mac

20. Bye Bye

21. A Story Untold

22. Don't Play No Mambo

23. Peace And Contentment

24. Nobody Knows

26. The Great Pretender

x

Track List: What's Your Name? (El Toro R&B 106)

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