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1945-1947

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One of the very first acts signed to the newly founded Mercury label in 1945 was a quartet calling itself the Cats 'N Jammer Three, a name derived from Rudolph Dirks' old-time comic strip, The Katzenjammer Kids. Their pianist and lead vocalist was Mississippi native and Chicago-based entertainer Bill Samuels. Adam Lambert played mellifluous amplified guitar, and rhythmic support was provided by bassist Sylvester Hickman and drummer Hillard Brown. The first of two versions of "I Cover the Waterfront" was terrifically successful for the Jammers and for Mercury. Stylistically, Samuels and his group sounded something like the King Cole Trio, tempered with the quaintness of the Charioteers and, at times, the cheerful carnality of the rising R&B movement. Comparisons could also be drawn with the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots, the Cats & the Fiddle, Slim Gaillard, the Delta Rhythm Boys, the Three Keys, the Four Blazes, and the Five Red Caps. "Waterfront" is smoothly romantic with cool background vocals, and the lovely "One Hundred Years from Today" epitomizes the old-fashioned aspect of Samuels' act. On the raunchier end of the spectrum, "Jockey Blues" and "My Bicycle Tillie" — with its repeated references to "pumping" — are distinctly and daringly copulative. This combination of cuteness and relatively overt sexuality was an important ingredient in R&B and early rock & roll. Tapping into a rowdy novelty routine popularized by both Count Basie and Louis Jordan, bassist Sylvester Hickman tried to out-squeal Jordan during the Jammers' rendition of "Open the Door, Richard." Three sides from July of 1947 find Samuels in front of a small band led by Ram Ramirez, with trumpet solos from Bill Coleman and guitar passages by Mundell Lowe. The Cats 'N Jammer Three seem to have disbanded during the 1948 recording ban. Samuels waxed only a couple of sides in 1949, then moved to Minneapolis where he managed to form a trio, eventually recording an LP and one last single. Bill Samuels passed away in March of 1964 at the age of 53. This is the heart of his musical legacy.

1945-1947, Bill Samuels
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