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Rock'n Roll Saxophone

STYLES: The Billboard Top 40 hits of the 1950s/60s

By John Laughter

"The Shot Heard 'Round the World."

BillHaley's chart hit, "Rock Around the Clock".

Theworld of music would never be the same again.

Saxfuelled "rock n' roll" hits soon would sweep the Top 40 charts.

Teenparties, car cruisin', drive-in burger joints and movies, dances and jukeboxes.

Itwas an exciting and fun time to be a Top 40 sax player!

Thefirst sax filled instrumental that caught my attention in 1956 was "Honky Tonk"by Bill Doggettfeaturing Clifford Scott's tremendous solo. When I heard it on the radio, Iimmediately was hooked on sax and signed up for 7th grade band.

Top40 hits came from a mixture of rockabilly, rhythm & blues, and rock &roll. The hits kept me busy, trying to pick out notes and learning the"effects" that were used by sax players on records by Little Richard, FatsDomino, and Billy Vaughn.

Fromthe mellow, "Sail Along Silvery Moon" by Billy Vaughn to the wild, "Keep aKnockin'" by Little Richard, I began to realize that many of the solostyles, although different in some respects, had many similarities.

Thesehits introduced a new generation of sax players to "effects" such as thegrowl, flutter tongue, subtone, lip bends, gliss's, ghosting, alternatefingerings, slap tongue and many different tone qualities.

Althoughsaxophone players came from various backgrounds such as jazz, blues, and rock,they were sharing many of the same solo ideas. Some musicians even played in bigswing bands while doing rock & roll session work.

Theflutter was used in "Honky Tonk" and "Tequila."The growl added a unique quality to the solos by Lee Allen and Boots Randolph.

Thosewho had been influenced by R&B played with a certain "feel" or"expression" that some called "soulful" or "gettin'[/B]down." Whatever the explanation, the solos caught my attention. I laterlearned that many of these musicians were influenced by performing not only inbig city night clubs but also for the "chitlin'circuit", roadhouse dances, and back alley clubs, as well as listening tojazz and jump blues bands.

Those with rock & roll experiences produced great ideas and sounds. Iremember some of the terms that were used for rock sax players such as"wailing" or "hip." With the exception of a few solos which seemed tohave a jazz foundation, I always had the impression that most of the rockers maynot have seen or played for the same hip grinding crowds that some of theR&B guys were gigging. Although some nightclubs allowed rockers to certainlyget down and rowdy in their own way, teensock hops and proms were more the order of the day for the young rock &roll sax player in the 1950s.

Foran example of some obvious style contrasts, I must mention several recordings,which caused discussion, and controversy, among musicians. PatBoone "covered"the following R&B hits; Fats Domino'sAin't That A Shame[/I], The El Dorados'At My Front Door (Crazy Little Mama[/I]), LittleRichard's Tutti Frutti[/I] andLong Tall Sally[/I]. Take a listen and compare the lead vocal, sessionmusicians, and especially the sax solos, between the different versions ofAin't That A Shame, Tutti Frutti[/I] andLong Tall Sally[/I].

Hereare a few examples from the 50s/60s generally thought of as representative ofthe Rhythm & Blues sound:

AT MY FRONT DOOR-EL DORADOS-REDHOLLOWAY-TENOR[/B]
TWEEDLEE DEE-LAVERN BAKER-SAM "THEMAN" TAYLOR-TENOR
HONKY TONK (PART 2)-BILL DOGGETT-CLIFFORD SCOTT-TENOR
I CAN'T LOVE YOU ENOUGH-LAVERN BAKER-SAM "THE MAN" TAYLOR-TENOR
I'M IN LOVE AGAIN-FATS DOMINO-LEE ALLEN-TENOR
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL-SHIRLEY AND LEE-LEE ALLEN-TENOR
LONG TALL SALLY-LITTLE RICHARD-LEE ALLEN-TENOR
SLIPPIN' AND SLIDIN'-LITTLE RICHARD-LEE ALLEN-TENOR[/B]
MISS ANN-LITTLE RICHARD-LEE ALLEN-TENOR[/B]
SLOW WALK-SIL AUSTIN-TENOR

[/B]

YOUNGBLOOD-COASTERS-PLAS JOHNSON-TENOR

[/B]

QUEEN OF THE HOP-BOBBY DARIN-JESSE POWELL-TENOR[/B]
WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE?- FRANKIE LYMON& THE TEENAGERS-JIMMY WRIGHT-TENOR[/B]
BONY MORONIE-LARRY WILLIAMS-PLASJOHNSON-TENOR[/B]
OOH POO PAH DOO-PART II-JESSIE HILL-DAVIDLASTIE-TENOR

[/B]

Compare the above to the following, which reflect the various style sounds of Rock& Roll:

TWO HOUND DOGS-BILL HALEY AND HISCOMETS-JOEY D'AMBROSIA-TENOR[/B]
RAUNCHY-BILL JUSTIS-BILL JUSTIS-ALTO[/B]
TUFF-ACE CANNON-ALTO[/B]
WHITE SILVER SANDS-BILL BLACK'SCOMBO-ACE CANNON-TENOR[/B]
RED RIVER ROCK-JOHNNY & THEHURRICANES-JOHNNY PARIS-TENOR[/B]

REBEL ROUSER-DUANE EDDY-GIL BERNAL-TENOR[/B]
REVEILLE ROCK-JOHNNY & THEHURRICANES-JOHNNY PARIS-TENOR[/B]
TALL COOL ONE-WAILERS-MARK MARUSH-TENOR[/B]
FORTY MILES OF BAD ROAD-DUANE EDDY-STEVEDOUGLAS-TENOR[/B]
HEARTS OF STONE-THE FONTANESISTERS-?-TENOR

[/B]

BOSS GUITAR-DUANE EDDY-JIM HORN-TENOR[/B]
LONG TALL SALLY-PAT BOONE-?-TENOR[/B]
TUTTI' FRUTTI-PAT BOONE-?-TENOR[/B]
POOR BOY-ROYALTONES-GEORGE KATSAKIS-TENOR[/B]
SHORT SHORTS-ROYAL TEENS-LARRY QUALIANO-TENOR[/B]
DON'T BE CRUEL-BILL BLACK'S COMBO-ACECANNON-TENOR[/B]

Whatabout the late and great Jr. Walker and King Curtis? Or, Boots Randolph who hasan outstanding history of session solos? Their hits have been played and enjoyedby many. I always felt that they were somewhere in the middle of both styles,producing sounds that although very successful, weren't as heavily slantedstylishly to either of the more typical R&B or the R&R sounds. KingCurtis was especially noted for his ability to cross over into the world of blues,rhythmand blues, and jazz

Latergenerations of Top 40 players would have a major impact in recording sessionsand on the sax community. David Sanborn, Michael Brecker, Ernie Watts, ClarenceClemons, Pete Christlieb, Tom Scott, Mel Collins, Kenny G, Candy Dulfer, RichieCannata, Grover Washington, Jr., Lee "Kix" Thompson, Gerald Albright, BobbyKeys and Branford Marsalis to name a few.

Manyof the new styles represented a mixture of many elements and ideas. Some new andsome handed down. One can no longer try to classify a sound as R&B orR&R. From the mild to the wild, Top 40 saxophone solos have created aculture of their own.

To appreciate the various styles which have been used on Top 40 records, a youngsax player should join an internet music download site and start listening toall of the hits from the 50s through the present. You can obtain a free list ofTop 40 hits from 1955-2005 which contain a sax solo, by sending an email to [emailprotected] or by down-loading it from the SOTW Web Directory (Word document, 463 kB, 68pages).


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John began playing saxophone in 1956 after hearing Clifford Scott's solo on the hitrecord, Honky Tonk[/I] by the Bill DoggettCombo. Other inspirations followed; Lee Allen and Grady Gaines (Little Richard),Herb Hardesty (Fats Domino), Sam Butera (Louis Prima), Sil Austin, Plas Johnson,Johnny and the Hurricanes, Billy Vaughn and The Champs. John began playingnightclubs in 1958, spent the summers of 1959-62 performing in Virginia Beach,Virginia nightclubs and continued to perform while in the United States AirForce (1963-1967). In 1973, he graduated from the University of South Florida,Tampa, Florida with a degree in instrumental music education and taught publicschool band for ten years. While in college, John performed in classical, popand jazz ensembles including jazz concerts with Don Ellis, Maynard Ferguson andDizzy Gillespie. John continues to perform with a variety of musical groups inMacon, Georgia. His bands have performed on stage with The Temptations, The FourTops, Chubby Checker, The Drifters, The Platters, The Tams, The Swingin'Medallions, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, The Shirelles and Ray Charles.[/QUOTE]John Laughter is the author of "Rock & Roll Saxophone-2ndEdition", "Contemporary Saxophone" and co-author of "The History of Top40 Saxophone Solos-1955-2005." [/QUOTE]
www.saxontheweb.net
Created: December 21, 2006.
Update: July 8, 2012
©2006-2012, HarriRautiainen and respectiveauthors

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