Born Myron Carlton Bradshaw, 21 September 1905, Youngstown, Ohio
Singer, songwriter, pianist, drummer, bandleader.
Tiny Bradshaw had a two-part career, in the 1930s in swing and from the mid-1940s on as a successful R&B artist. He majored in psychology at Wilberforce University, but chose music as a career. He moved to New York City in the late 1920s, starting his career as a drummer. Next Bradshaw sang with a few groups before forming his own band in 1933. In the autumn of 1934 he made his first recordings, during two sessions for Decca. Almost ten years would go by before he recorded again. Bradshaw’s band could excite any audience with its bluesy, Ellington-based sound. Over the years, the band produced such highly-regarded tenor sax players as Sonny Stitt, Red Prysock and Sil Austin. In many respects. Bradshaw’s band illustrates the changes taking place in black popular music as it evolved from big-band swing in the 1930s to jump blues in the 1940s to rhythm and blues in the 1950s.
When Bradshaw’s orchestra started recording again in early 1944 (for the AFRS-Jubilee label), it was still a big band (14 pieces), but the music was more R&B and jump-oriented. By the time he started recording for the King label (1949), Bradshaw’s band had been pared to a septet : trumpet, tenor sax, alto/baritone sax, piano, bass, drums and guitar, plus Bradshaw on vocals. He would remain with King until the end of his life. Most of the recordings were cut during 1950-54, although there would be one session apiece done in 1955 and 1958. “Gravy Train”, an instrumental from the band’s first King session, was a regional hit, but it was “Well Oh Well”, a Bradshaw vocal from the second session (February 8, 1950), that gave him his first national chart entry and the biggest hit of his career (# 2 R&B). The next big seller came in October 1950 with “I’m Going To Have Myself A Ball”, which peaked at # 5 on the R&B charts. Surprisingly, the seminal “The Train Kept A-Rollin’”, recorded in July 1951, failed to chart, though that song is now his best known number, with notable versions by Johnny Burnette’s Rock ’n’ Roll Trio in the fifties, the Yardbirds in the sixties and Aerosmith in the seventies. “Walking the Chalk Line”, from the same session as “Well Oh Well”, charted in September 1951 (# 10).
The Tiny Bradshaw band was an especially popular live attraction, travelling the country on a regular basis in the early 1950s. The hits slowed down, with only the instrumentals “Soft” (# 3 R&B) and “Heavy Juice” (# 9) scoring in 1953. Most of his recordings from this point on were instrumentals, perhaps because of his worsening health, perhaps because of changing tastes in music. Bradshaw had two strokes in 1954 and was left partially paralyzed. During his illness, Tiny Kennedy replaced him as vocalist on the road. Essentially Bradshaw’s career was over. The record buying public, led by teenagers, discovered Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Little Richard. Bradshaw was absent from the band’s only 1955 session (in January), which yielded four instrumentals. However, he did sing during the final session of his life (January 16, 1958), a dreadful cover of the Royal Teens hit “Short Shorts”.
While trying to make the transition to the rock and roll market, Bradshaw passed away of a third stroke on November 28, 1958, at his home in Cincinnati. He was only 53 years old. At the time of his death he was largely forgotten, but the intervening years have reinstated his reputation. Tiny Bradshaw is remembered not only as a fine jump blues shouter, but also as a bandleader who employed some of the greatest jazz and R&B players as sidemen.
More info : http://home.earthlink.net/~jaymar41/TinyBrad.html
Discography : http://honkingduck.com/discography/artist/tiny_bradshaw_and_his_orchestra
Recommended CD : Walk That Mess! : The Best Of the King Years (Westside WESA 824). 24 tracks from 1949- 1953. Released in 1999. Liner notes by Neil Slaven.
Acknowledgements : Jon Hartley Fox, Neil Slaven, Scott Yanow.
Dik, December 2017
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