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T.J. Fowler

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Biography

Born September 18, 1910, in Columbus, GA, near the Alabama state line, T.J. Fowler had three brothers who, like him, were anointed at birth with initialized first names: E.J., F.C., and K.C. At the age of six, little T.J. moved with his family to the industrial boomtown of River Rouge, MI. After studying piano at home and at the Detroit Conservatory of Music, Fowler began providing musical entertainment for patrons at his father's pool hall. His earliest professional engagements were with bands led by saxophonist Guy Walters and trumpeter Clarence Dorsey. Fowler assembled his own hot little group in 1947 and accompanied saxophonist Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams on that artist's first recordings for the Savoy label.

T.J. Fowler began making records as a leader in 1948, beginning with small labels like Paradise and Sensation and landing his own contract with Savoy in 1952, sometimes featuring singers Freddie Johnson, Alberta Adams, and Floyd "Bubbles" McVay. Fowler's ensemble was also used to back vocalist Varetta Dillard and guitarist Calvin Frazier. Near the end of 1953 Fowler took his act to Chicago to wax what are believed to have been the only recordings he ever made outside of Detroit. Issued on the States label, these sides were presented as by "T.J. Fowler and the Band That Rocks the Blues." Back in Detroit, Fowler and his men served as the backing band for T-Bone Walker and spent the next few years gigging around the Motor City and southeastern Michigan.

By the end of the 1950s, Fowler was living in the industrial city of Ecorse (just south of River Rouge), where he ran his tiny independent Bow record label and led a jazz organ combo. Hired in 1959 by the relatively inexperienced Berry Gordy, Fowler applied his music industry know-how and managerial expertise to help Gordy create and establish the Motown record label. Fowler continued gigging with his jazz band but eventually ceased performing altogether, operating a landscaping service and settling into semi-retirement as a businessman in Detroit, where he passed away on May 22, 1982.

Top Songs

Born:

18 September 1910 in Columbus, GA

Genre
Years Active:

'40s, '50s

Contemporaries