Red Saunders & his Orch. with Dolores Hawkins & The Hambone Kids* / Red Saunders & his Orchestra

Red Saunders (d, ldr); Fip Ricard (tp); Sonny Cohn (tp); Harlan "Booby" Floyd (tb); John Avant (tb); Riley Hampton (as); Leon Washington (ts); McKinley Easton (bars); Earl Washington (p); unidentified (g -1) Jimmy Richardson (b); Dolores Hawkins (voc, whistling -1); The Hambone Kids: Delecta "Dee" Clark, Sammy McGrier, Ronny Strong (voc, hamboning -1); Sonny Blount (arr -1).

Columbia Studio, Chicago, January 18, 1952
CCO 5314 Hambone* (Saunders-L. Washington-H. McGrier) -1
OKeh 6862
CCO 5314 [alt.] Hambone -1
OKeh 7166, OKeh 7282, Epic LP 22125, Epic EG 37649, Edsel ED 149, Edsel ED CD 149, Century CD #
CCO 5315 La Raspa (trad.)
OKeh 6884

OKeh 6862 was a single issued on 45 rpm and 78 rpm in February 1952 (a large display ad in Billboard showed the Kids performing in front of Red and his drums). "Hambone" was the A side. The originally issued take of "Hambone" included Dolores Hawkins' whistling but lacked her vocal interjections; it also included a brief passage for the full band and tenor sax solo. What was inadequately called tapdancing (!) in earlier versions of this discography is "hamboning" or "patting juba": slapping various body parts as a substitute for drumming. Dee Clark, as Sammy McGrier pointed out in Pruter's book, also stamped with his heel on the 2nd and 4th beats. Horace McGrier Sr. wrote two verses for the song, though he is not credited on the label (shame, shame).

"Hambone" was Red Saunders' only hit: it went to #20 on the R&B charts for one week, and according to an October 1952 article in Billboard, "OKeh Records hit the 80,000 figure with the Red Saunders waxing." Red's own comment was "It got us this house--the down payment." What purported to be a straight reissue of "Hambone" appeared as the A side of OKeh 7166 (in 1963) and again on OKeh 7282 (in 1967); both were 45-rpm singles. It turns out to be an alternate take, in which the Hambone Kids and Dolores Hawkins are accompanied throughout by guitar, bass, and drums only; the rest of the band contributes nothing, except shouts of "Hambone!" at the beginning and end of the piece. Thanks to John McCarthy for pointing out that the reissue of "Hambone" was on OKeh 7282 as well as OKeh 7166 as reported in Leadbitter, Fancourt, and Pelletier's blues discography, and for providing a dub of OKeh 7282.

The flip side of both reissue singles was "Rumble Mambo" by Link Wray and the Wraymen, obviously not a Red Saunders number (as erroneously stated in Leadbitter). Thanks to an online Link Wray discography for confirmation that there was an OKeh 7166, as well as an OKeh 7282, and for the release dates (Robert Pruter mentions the 1963 reissue of "Hambone" in Doowop: The Chicago Scene).

The coupling of "Hambone" and "Rumble Mambo" (it would be interesting to know the record-company logic behind it...) has caused confusion in the Link Wray camp as well. Jeff Hall points out that a collection of what were supposed to be 16 of Link Wray's late-1950s recordings was issued on in England on Edsel ED 149 [LP] and ED CD 149 in 1989. The collection was titled Link Wray & The Raymen. It included the alternate take of "Hambone" as a Link Wray performance! A subsequent CD collection of Wray material from this period on the Sony label avoided this blunder.

The alternate take was probably used on Epic LP 22125 (a 2-LP set of OKeh Rhythm and Blues released in 1982) and definitely on Epic EG 37649, Okeh Rhythm & Blues, (apparently a reissue of this 2-LP set). On a recent bootleg doo-wop "repro" single, "Hambone" appears as the A side (the B side is "Zeke'l Zeke'l" from the next session); the "repro" is billed as derived from OKeh 6862. A 1990s compilation CD, Pop Fifties Vol. 7, includes "Hambone" (in the company of "Cry" by Johnny Ray, "The Twelfth of Never" by Johnny Mathis, and other distinctly non-R&B material); it was issued by Century Records in Canada for use by radio stations. "Hambone" is said to have been taken from OKeh 6862; we have not been able to check the CD.

OKeh 6884 was a single issued on 45 and 78 rpm in May 1952. "La Raspa" was the B side. Chris Trent is sure that Sonny Blount did not arrange "La Raspa," which he describes as "a medley of European and Latin American tunes for which [Sonny] could never have been responsible." Clearly true. "La Raspa" is clumsy march music without swing or convincing Latin rhythm, and the sectional writing is incompetent. "Hambone," on the other hand, is the historical intermediary between the "band vocals" of the Swing era and such numbers as "It's Christmas Time," which Sonny recorded with a group called the Qualities in 1956--as well as Sonny's ubiquitous space chants.

Red Saunders bio