Who was/is Dave Clark's Blues Swingers ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

Dave Clark was a genuine swing disciple.When the tenor sax-ist/arranger assembled the first edition of his Blues Swingers. the swing movement had yet to coalesce. Nor was the Chicago blues circuit entirely ready to embrace the concept of a large. horn-driven outfit deftly driving through jump blues and jazz numbers as though it was 1948.

Fortunately, Dave had an unbeatable musical ace up his sleeve: veteran front man and guitarist Floyd McDaniel. 'I met Floyd in '86, and we immediately started having rehearsals and jamming, and then slowly put the band together,' says Clark. who initially found obtaining engage-ments frustrating. 'We couldn't buy a gig,' he recalls. 'They thought it was too jazzy. or too sharp-sounding. Finally. Bill Gilmore at B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera gave the Blues Swingers a once-a-month slot. Delmark bossman Bob Koester soon caught one of their shows, and in 1994, Delmark released their debut CD, Let Your Hair Down! (Delmark 671) Besides bringing his honeyed voice and crisp T-Bone Walker-inflected guitar to the Blues Swingers. McDaniel brought intangible qualities that could only derive from decades of onstage experience. 'He was just the sweetest guy,' says Dave. 'Floyd was from the old school, where he wanted to teach and help the younger guys.' Floyd's legacy was truly amazing.

Born July 21, 1915 in Athens.Alabama, he moved to Chicago as a youth. and before long his entertaining skills made him money. 'We took to the streets, played on the street corners.- said Floyd in 1995. 'I was a teenager. That was like '31.' He played the World's Fair with the Rhythm Rascals in 1933 and journeyed with the group to New York mid-decade. where they spent four years at the fabled Cotton Club and toured with Cab Calloway. 'All of us danced.- he said. 'We had everything—singing, dancing, acting a fool!' Returning to Chicago. Floyd joined the Four Blazes in 1941. switching to electric guitar the same year.

The Blazes debuted on Aristocrat Records in 1947; five years later, the Four Blazes sat atop the R&B charts with the jumping 'Mary Jo' for United Records with Tommy Braden their lead vocal-ist (available on Mary Jo, Delmark 704). But for the decade-and-a-half prior to his coming aboard the Blues Swingers. Floyd anonymously toured in one of the myriad groups billing themselves as latter-day Ink Spots, so few folks knew of him on the local blues scene prior to his celebrated return. The nine tracks featuring Floyd on this album were demos cut in 1991 (when Clark's combo included ARCM mainstay Mwata Bowden on baritone sax) and 1992, predating the Del-mark sessions. 'We recorded it as a demo, not really planning on releasing it.' explains Dave. 'We just did it to get gigs.' Dave wrote the incendiary opener 'Untrue Woman,' which swings with a vengeance, while Louis Jordan's 'Caldonia,' Leroy Carr's 'How Long Blues,' and W.C. Handy's immortal 'St. Louis Blues' (here in two takes) were fine vehicles for Floyd and his fellow swingers. The Blazes' 'Mary Jo- proved as enticing as ever. and McDaniel's T-Bone allegiance came to the fore on faithful treat-ments of 'West Side Baby' and 'Cold. Cold Feeling,' both sporting Floyd's deliciously concise guitar solos straight out of Walker's bag. McDaniel even managed to pull off Louis Arm-strong's 'What A Wonderful World'.

When the swing revival took root. the band was positioned to take advantage. 'It's one of those types of music that just won't go away. I guess it sounds like the big bands. too.' Floyd noted. 'That's what I tell the people in my performances: 'You know. this might sound like jazz to you, but the blues was here before jazz. They stole a lot of stuff from the blues.'
From all outward indications. 1995 looked to be the Blues Swingers' year. their itinerary at last loaded with local club bookings. But it didn't turn out that way. 'We were scheduled to do the Chicago Blues Festival and the Chicago Jazz Festival, which I don't think any band had ever done. because we covered both bases.' says Dave. 'We went to Ire-land in May. and then we played the Blues Festival in June, and then Floyd passed in July. Floyd passed away on the way home after his 80th birthday celebration at The Green Mill. That night the place and the band was jumpin'. After the set we came down for a break, except Floyd who was besieged by fans wanting him to sign their CDs. It was a special night and after the encore they still wanted more.

The band came off the stage. but Floyd stayed up by himself and did 'One Hundred Years From Today.' which I thought was rather pro-found. That was the last song Floyd ever sang.' The band's jazz festival set that autumn turned into a Floyd McDaniel memorial tribute. Then it was time for a hiatus. 'I just kind of stopped the band for a while and cleared my head. Then I saw this swing thing that was coming back.' says Clark, who reformed the group in 1997. 'We did a lot of work on the swing scene. We were doing corporate gigs and festivals and playing ballrooms. I never worked so much in my life! Good paying gigs! I used to tell everybody—Floyd would have loved it!' By the time the Blues Swingers laid down the rest of the material on this disc in 1999, the lone holdover besides Clark was saxist Van Kelly, who moved from baritone to alto.

'He's got that old Benny Carter. Marshall Royal first-alto sound, which none of the young guys have.' says Dave. On guitar was Windy City blues vet Mark Wydra. while young Michigan emigre Jasen Schrock handled the vocal duties. 'Jasen moved to Chicago to do acting,' says Clark. 'I ran into him and told him my thing. and he was willing to do any-thing. He had never been in a band. It was a first thing for him. But he worked out. He's a nice-looking guy, and all the girls liked him on the swing scene.' Born April 25. 1955 in Jackson, Michigan. Dave arrived in Chicago in 1975, guitar in hand, aiming to break into the competitive Chicago blues circuit. He didn't have to wait long for gigs: he played with harpist Scotty Bradbury's Bad Boys and joined pianist Bob Riedy's band in 1976, backing Johnny Littlejohn and Carey Bell.

'We'd do some road trips, and Otis Rush would come with us.' he says. 'I'm riding down the highway, riding around with Otis Rush. I got a kick out of that!' Clark's resume from this period looks like a Who's Who of Chicago blues: sideman jobs with Kansas City Red, Eddie Taylor, John Brim, Sam Lay, and several valuable years behind Chicago legend Jimmy Rogers. But playing guitar eventually lost its luster. 'Frankly. I was getting tired of the same old Chicago-style blues stuff,' he says. So Dave cured his malaise by purchasing a sax. 'I just went out one day and bought a used horn. It turned out to be a really nice vintage Conn like Lester Young used. I bought a book and just started playing along with records.' he says.

'After I thought I was good enough, I just started trying to sit in with people. But when I really start-ed trying to play onstage was with Floyd.' The last incarnation of the Blues Swingers broke up in 2001. In January of 2002. Dave relocated to Los Angeles, a perennial hotbed of jump and jive. 'I'm out here trying to put something new together,' he reports. 'It's going to be the same style stuff as the Blues Swingers. and it's going to be some great players and a great singer. It's going to be a good thing.' And you can bet it'll swing. — BILL DAHL

More information about Dave Clark's Blues Swingers on
Dave Clark's Blues Swingers: Switchin' In The Kitchen
Art-Nr.: CDDE768

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This set is especially of interest because the late great Floyd McDaniel is participating. Floyd, who died in 1995 on his 80th birthday, was one of the most fascinating humans I have ever met. He started working as a professional guitarist in 1933(!), and when we...

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