Previous Vocal Group Record of the Week
#895 (9/9/17)

SPOTLIGHT ON LITTLE ESTHER - PART ONE   

"Double Crossing Blues"
Little Esther And The Robins
on Savoy 731-A
released in 1950

"Just Can't Get Free"
Little Esther And The Beltones
on Savoy 750-A
released in 1950

"Cupid's Boogie"
Little Esther And Mel Walker
on Savoy 750-B
released in 1950


[The above photo provided by Paul Ressler.]

Above: Little Esther.

ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL (New Mexico), December 3, 1950: ROAD SHOW HERE TO STAR GIRL, 14—"Little Esther" Jones, the new 14-year-old sensation among sepia singers, will be the star of a musical revue and dance at the Armory Friday. Coyal J. Marlin, who has arranged for the appearance, said the show is entitled the Double-Crossing Blues Revue, after Little Esther's best-selling recording, and will include the Johnny Otis band and vocal quintet.
The Otis organization has backed the young vocalist ever since her rise to stardom in a Los Angeles amateur show. Included in the entourage for the traveling show are Little Esther's mother, a tutor who gives her two hour's schooling a day and her manager.




The Billboard 3/11/50.

March 1950.




The Billboard 6/10/50.

June 1950.




The Billboard 6/24/50.

The Billboard 7/1/50.




The Billboard 7/22/50.

The Billboard 8/8/50.




Unknown, Little Esther, Johnny Otis.

Redd Foxx, Johnny Otis, Little Esther.

[The above photos provided by Hans-Joachim Krohberger.]
The trophies in the above left photo appear to be Billboard Magazine Awards. In May 1951, Little Esther, Mel Walker and Johnny Otis each received a Billboard Award for making the most money for juke box operators. The "unknown" at left could be Ben Atlas, a Billboard representative.

NEW YORK AGE DATED 4/15/50:

Little Esther To Apollo:

A newcomer arrives in the entertainment world just a little bit different from all the rest making her first New York appearance at the 155th Street Apollo for the week beginning on Friday, April 14. Her name: Little Esther.

She's recorded "Double Crossing Blues," "Mistrustin' Blues," "Misery" and other tunes which have set the jazz world on its ear during just a few months. She's only 14 years old. And for this engagement, special permission for her appearance had to be obtained by the Apollo management.

There's a uniqueness about her style. Little Esther is not just another blues singer, but a child star with talent so unusual that she has... in a flash... captured the imagination of thousands.

The rest of the cast includes the Step Brothers. There's ace drummer Johnny Otis and his band. Ralph Cooper does a superb and relaxed job as M.C. There's the six Marco Brothers, aerobatic troupe, ace comic "Crackshot" Hackley, and the dancing of The Hawkins Trio in their initial Apollo appearance.






New York Age 9/9/50.

Newport Daily (Rhode Island) 9/14/50.

Albuquerque Journal 12/8/50.

Albuquerque Journal 12/7/50.


EXTRA AUDIO (Windows Media Player):

At Left: Label images of Modern 20-715B first released in October 1949.

"Double Crossing Blues" wasn't Esther's first release. In October of 1949, Modern issued #20-715 by Johnny Otis and His Orchestra, the 'A' side listed as an instrumental called "Thursday Night Blues," featuring a monster guitar solo by another of Otis' finds, Pete "Guitar" Lewis, and was coupled by a blues called "I Gotta Gal," and in small print the singer was listed as 'Esther Jones'! This record was later reissued, now correctly titled "I Gotta Guy," credited to 'Little Esther' with Johnny Otis and His Orchestra, to coincide with her smash hit, "Double Crossing Blues," some four months later!

Listen to "I Gotta Guy" - "Little" Esther - Modern 20-715B - 1949 (no vocal group).




EXTRA EXTRA AUDIO (Windows Media Player):
[Audio restoration by Dave Saviet.]

Above: Clipping from The Cash Box dated 4/1/50.

At Left: Label image of Savoy Label 735 recorded in February 1950 and released in March 1950.


The Cash Box Review (3/18/50): LITTLE ESTHER AND MEL WALKER — SAVOY 735.... Mistrustin' Blues/Misery
Little Esther is presently hot as a pistol in juke boxes everywhere and you can never tell when one of her platters is going to turn into another smash. "Mistrustin' Blues" gets an added dash of sauce with a chorus that has Mel Walker joining the thrush in excellent fashion. Disk features a blues intro that is inviting, and the strong tempo of a low-down beat winding in and around Little Esther's vocalizing. "Misery" shows Esther again in a torchy, effective ballad with a lot of shmaltz. Walker turns in a very good job. If there was such a thing as a "Jazz 'N' Blues" sleeper, this disk would grab it!!

The Billboard Review (3/25/50): LITTLE ESTHER - JOHNNY OTIS ORK — SAVOY 735....
Misery
(85) The vibrant young thrush pours a world of passion into a sure-fire blues-ballad job. Little Esther shows a style here that promises to challenge Dinah Washington.
Mistrustin' Blues (81) [With Mel Walker] Duet blues doesn't pack quite the wallop of flip, but has enough to score on its own.
(NOTE: A ratings range of 80-89 was considered "excellent.")

Listen to "Mistrustin' Blues" - Little Esther With Mel Walker - Savoy 735-A - 1950.
Listen to "Misery" - Little Esther - Savoy 735-B - 1950 (no vocal group).
BOTH SIDES played in sequence.



Above Left: Label image of Savoy 731-A recorded on December 1, 1949 and released in January 1950. The flip , "Ain't Nothin' Shakin'," is the Johnny Otis Orchestra with a male vocalist (Leon Sims).

Above Right: Clipping from The Cash Box dated 6/17/50.

The Cash Box Review (1/21/50):

JOHNNY OTIS — SAVOY 731.... Double Crossing Blues/Ain't Nothin' Shakin'
Pair of sides which music ops should get next to are these set up by maestro Johnny Otis. Top deck is a hot blues number with Little Esther and the Robins highlighted. Music weaves in a slow moody pace, and is the sort that consistently wins juke box play. Flip is a medium tempo'd jump number with Leon Sims handling the vocal work. It's the top side that should get the gravy.

The Billboard Review (1/21/50):

LITTLE ESTHER-THE ROBINS-JOHNNY OTIS — SAVOY 731....
Double Crossing Blues
(85) Teenage thrush cries an insinuating blues with shrill, unpolished ferver. Her very crudity makes this a potent job—rough, sincere, vital. Male quartet makes a good foil.
(NOTE: A ratings range of 80-89 was considered "excellent.")


Above Left: Label image of Savoy 750-A recorded on May 3, 1950 and released later that month. The flip, "Cupid's Boogie" featuring Little Esther and Mel Walker, had been recorded in February 1950. Little Esther had nine released sides on the Savoy label, all in 1950.

The labels give composer credit to Johnny Otis for "Double Crossing Blues," "Mistrustin' Blues," "Misery," "Just Can't Get Free," and "Cupid's Boogie."

Above Right: The Four Buddies, who, as The Beltones (a name owned by Johnny Otis), backed Little Esther on this side. At the time of this recording, The Four Buddies were known as The Metronomes. Later in 1950, The Four Buddies signed a contract with Savoy Records, resulting in ten releases between 1950 and 1953.

The Cash Box Award O' The Week (6/3/50):

LITLE ESTHER — SAVOY 750.... Cupid's Boogie/Just Can't Get Free
There's no stopping this gal! Following on the heels of her sock success via "Mistrustin' Blues," chirp Little Esther comes up with a big one in this excellent rendition of "Cupid's Boogie" and "Just Can't Get Free." The gal's great set of tonsils pitch the flavor of this pair in top notch manner from start to finish. Top deck is the one they'll go wild about. Mellow tempo of the Johnny Otis ork, coupled with Little Esther's superb vocal job will surely catch on in a big way.

The gal really sells a song, and that's what music ops and fans alike are buying today. Tune rolls in moderate tempo, with a winning set of lyrics to match the excellence of the vocal performance. On the other end with "Just Can't Get Free," Little Esther once again comes up with a potential winner in a melancholy bit of blues patter. Vocal addition of Mel Walker on this side [sic] brightens the wax all the more. This biscuit is a cinch to score—ops should grab it! (NOTE: Mel Walker is on the "Cupid's Boogie" side.)

The Billboard Review (6/3/50):

LITTLE ESTHER (JOHNNY OTIS ORK) — SAVOY 750....
Just Can't Get Free
(84) The fast coming young miss registers with a winning note-bending rendition of a likely torch ballad.
Cupid's Boogie (86) Medium boogie blues has marks of a surefire winner, with Esther and Mel Walker alternating lines on an effective series of breaks.
(NOTE: A ratings range of 80-89 was considered "excellent.")

NOTE: Most discographical information provided at this website is from Ferdie Gonzalez' Disco-File.


Listen to this week's selections featuring Litle Esther on Savoy from 1950:
[Audio restoration by Dave Saviet.]

     A. Stream RealAudio...
 
          1. Double Crossing Blues
          3. Just Can't Get Free
          2. Cupid's Boogie
 
          ALL THREE played in sequence

     B. Download RealAudio...
 
          1. Double Crossing Blues
          3. Just Can't Get Free
          2. Cupid's Boogie

     C. Stream/Download Media Player...
 
          1. Double Crossing Blues
          3. Just Can't Get Free
          2. Cupid's Boogie
 
          ALL THREE played in sequence


(The Billboard 2/11/50)



      [To download audio files, right-click on link and then select "Save (Link) Target As..."]


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