Cripple Clarence Lofton; vocal, piano.
Genres: Blues Piano, Boogie-woogie piano. Tennessee / Chicago
Inforamative Booklet Notes by Keith Briggs.
Clarence Lofton was a well known figure on the bar and party circuit in Chicago by the time white jazz fan Dan Qualey, through the good offices of Jimmy Yancey, located him playing in a sleazy State Street bar called The Big Apple and convinced him to record for the Solo Art label around 1939. The records were well received, although his treatment of the sacrosanct Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie raised a few eyebrows and Clarence slipped easily into the role of natural, untutored (and therefore “pure”) “proto-boogiest” for the keen new audience of white fans who were attracted by his rugged style and insouciant disregard for formal structure. As well as the four issued tracks nine others were recorded and it is those that open this volume. “The Fives” appears as Sixes And Sevens (Clarence had both a sense of humour and ego) while Lofty Blues reworks the amazing, issued “Had A Dream” at a faster tempo and with a different bass line.
It was in 1943 that saw Clarence’s last musical rally on record when he cut ten sides (eight issued at the time) for the Session label. The old numbers were still there, including two versions of Streamline Train and three of I Don’t Know, sometimes re-titled but still played with the rare exuberance that marked them as Lofton creations.
In his own eyes Clarence Lofton was primarily an all-round entertainer (one much quoted observer described him as “a three ring circus”). His self-taught skills on the piano he viewed as just another facet of his own talent and the few descriptions that we have of him at work and his chosen surroundings show him as a colourful performer, drinker and a ladies’ man; far from meek but with the talent to back up any boast that he might have made. Above all he could communicate joy to his listeners and he still can.