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Buddy Lucas

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The solo recording career of Buddy Lucas, a tenor saxophonist who doubled on harmonica, started a bit less than a year before fellow R&B honker Jimmy Forrest rode the first hit version of the instrumental entitled "Night Train." Once that express had left the station, opportunities to follow in hot pursuit were aplenty for saxmen such as Lucas, Earl Bostic, and Sam "The Man" Taylor. Lucas' run of recordings under his own name continued on into the '60s, running on a parallel track with his work as a studio session player. Undoubtedly the majority of his performances on record stem from the latter category, particularly his blowing on the questioning "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" by the Teenagers in 1956 and the soggy "Tears on My Pillow" by Little Anthony & the Imperials in 1958. Meanwhile, Lucas was responsible for dozens of singles and albums, enjoying a creative run in which the names of labels, songs, and bands all vie for the groovy gravy. He cut sides for Groove, Gone, Jubilee, Tru-Sound, Mohawk -- even a record company called Lawn. The labels presented his name at times in company of bands such as Buddy Lucas & His Band of Tomorrow, the Gone All Stars, and Buddy Lucas & His Shouters, sometimes expanding the leader into "Big" Buddy Lucas. Then there were the songs themselves, a combination of popular and sentimental vocal music standards and wild-ass novelty songs and instrumentals out of which tales of drunken revelry could easily be spun: "Greedy Pig," "Let's Go to the Party," "I Got Drunk," "I Need Help," "No Dice." "Money, Money, Money, Money, Money" was hopefully the result. At least one album spotlighted his harmonica playing, the jam-packed 50 Harmonica Favorites, credited to "Big" Buddy Lucas & the Wigglers. This artist also recorded a pair of albums in the '50s for the Savoy label accompanying dynamic blues singer Big Maybelle. In the late '60s he was featured with Nina Simone, coming up with a fine harmonica part for the standard "Since I Fell for You." Lucas' session activities also led into the realm of modern jazz, usually when a performer known for far-out sounds attempts to display his funkier side: prime examples are Albert Ayler's New Grass and the Atlantic Blue Yusef Lateef LP. Lucas eventually ran his own label, Steamboat, and among his pet projects was a doo wop combo featuring his son, Buddy Lucas, Jr. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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