BIG T TYLER (Chris Tyler)
Big "T" Tyler made only one record, but what a record. "King Kong"/ "Sadie Green" must rank of one of the great double-siders of 1950s rock 'n' roll. Unfortunately, biographical information on the man is almost non-existent. His real name is Chris Tyler and according to Stuart Colman, he was a blues singer from Tyler, Texas. Rob Finnis calls him a gospel shouter and tells us that Tyler was signed to a management deal by L.A. songwriter Norman Malkin (the husband of Margie Rayburn) in May 1957. Apparently it was Malkin who came up with the moniker Big T Tyler, to complement his 15-stone physique. Both "King Kong" and "Sadie Green" were written by Tyler himself and recorded on April 25, 1957, at Master Recorders on Fairfax Avenue in Hollywood, California. An all-star cast had been assembled to provide the accompaniment, including Rene Hall on guitar, Earl Palmer on drums, Plas Johnson on tenor sax and his brother Ray Johnson on piano.
In 1999, while writing the liner notes for the "Backbeat" CD by Earl Palmer, Stuart Colman still believed that it was good old Ernie Freeman hammering out the keys, but in a later article in Now Dig This (August 2007) he gave piano credit to Ray Johnson, after having spoken to the man himself.
The session was produced by Earl Palmer, who had migrated from New Orleans to Los Angeles just a few months earlier, in February 1957. The reason for this move was revealed in 1999 in Palmer's (auto)biography : he'd got himself into a mess after falling in love with a young white woman. This was the South, remember. Just as he was dreading what might happen next, out of the blue Aladdin Records offered him an A&R position out in California. So Earl packed his bags, leaving a wife and four children behind, and headed West. Palmer was quick to let Aladdin boss Eddie Mesner know that he wasn't just a drummer but a music school graduate who could compose, arrange, and supervise a record session.
Aladdin released "King Kong"/"Sadie Green" on June 11, 1957 (Aladdin 3384). Though it wasn't a hit in the US, the record was also released in the UK, on Vogue V 9079, in August. In that month, a snippet in the trade journal Cash Box reported : "Big T Tyler, new artist on the Aladdin label, broke it up at Rocky's in Burbank over the weekend with his new release 'Sadie Green' ". Norman Malkin's belief that Tyler was a potential rival to Little Richard turned out to be unjustified and Tyler was soon dropped. Rob Finnis writes that he later recorded two singles as Chris Tyler for Bobby Mizzell's Kim label (1960). I suspect that Finnis never heard these Kim recordings (both A-sides covers of Ruth Brown songs), as they are clearly by a white artist and do not sound like Big T at all. You can judge this for yourself at http://rcs.law.emory.edu/rcs/artists/t/tyle0700.htm It seems safe to say that "King Kong" is Tyler's solitary release. The song was revived by Mike Sanchez in 2003 on his CD "Women And Cadillacs" and by the US group Rocky Velvet in 2007 on their album "It Came From Cropseyville". Both versions are exciting.
Both "King Kong" and "Sadie Green" have been reissued on many compilations. For instance, the Earl Palmer CD "Backbeat : The World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Drummer", annotated by Stuart Colman (Ace 719), has both sides ; the Ace CD "Rockin' From Coast To Coast, Vol. 2" (Ace 715, annotated by Rob Finnis) includes "King Kong" .
With thanks to Jan-Jaap Been for the recording and release date.
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