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Joe Lutcher

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Alto saxophonist and vocalist Joe Lutcher had R&B hits in the late '40s with "Shuffle Woogie" (for Capitol in 1948), "The Rockin' Boogie" (for Specialty in 1948), and "Mardi Gras" (for Modern in 1949). While he was a competent vocalist, his true forte was the sax. His repertoire mixed instrumentals with vocal numbers, employing an approach that generally fell within the Los Angeles jump blues-R&B style of the late '40s and early '50s, although he often added New Orleans accents and sometimes went into a straighter big-band jazz mode. He's not nearly as well known, though, as his sister Nellie Lutcher, who was a more successful hitmaker as a vocalist. Lutcher was born in Lake Charles, LA, moving to Los Angeles in the early '40s, following his sister (who had moved there in the mid-'30s). He played sax with the Nat King Cole Trio for a time before forming his own band and signing to Specialty in 1947. After some success with both Specialty and Capitol (where Nellie Lutcher recorded), he joined Modern in 1949. Modern encouraged him to add New Orleans spice to his recordings, and one of those tracks, "Mardi Gras," was an R&B Top 20 hit, preceding the more famous version of the song by Professor Longhair. Lutcher did some subsequent records for Peacock, London, and Masters Music, but left R&B for gospel music, forming the gospel label Jordan Records. It's been written that he was influential in advising Little Richard to leave rock & roll for religious studies in the late '50s. ~ Richie Unterberger

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Years Active:

'40s, '50s