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Album Review

Decades after his music first appeared on 78 rpm platters, the Classics chronological series reissued several volumes devoted to the rhythm & blues recordings of pianist and bandleader Todd Rhodes, whose formative years were spent as a member of McKinney's Cotton Pickers during the 1920s. In 2005, Classics presented Rhodes' output from the years 1952-1954. Given the fact that all of the selections are less than three minutes in duration (with fully half of them lasting less than two-and-a-half minutes), it seems unfortunate that Classics only provides 16 titles. Vocalists heard on this collection are LaVern Baker, Saddie Madison, and Cornelius "Pinnochio" James. Rhodes' band, fortified with trumpet and saxophones, did its best to ride the rapidly changing currents of popular music. Despite heroic efforts like "Chicken Strut," "Thunderbolt Boogie," "Snuff Dipper," "Hog Maw and Cabbage Chow," and "Your Mouth Got a Hole in It," Rhodes' contract with King Records expired in 1955 and was not renewed. After gigs became scarce and the band dissolved, Rhodes moved to Flint, Michigan in 1958 and then to Detroit in 1960. His last regular gig was as house pianist at the bar in the Morden House Hotel in Sarnia, Ontario, where patrons were encouraged to sing along with him karaoke-style. It was during this rather degraded engagement that he suffered a stroke, and he passed away months later in Detroit on June 4 1965, a victim of diabetes. In addition to several volumes on Classics devoted to Rhodes' works as a leader, Ace Records crammed 28 of his early Sensation recordings onto one disc in 2002, including numerous previously unissued rarities.


Born: 31 August 1900 in Hopkinsville, KY

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

Todd Rhodes' career can be easily divided into two parts. He studied early on at the Springfield School of Music (1915-17) and the Erie Conservatory (1919-21), not only as a pianist but as a writer. Rhodes was the pianist and one of the main arrangers for McKinney's Cotton Pickers from 1922-32 and 1933-34, appearing on most of the band's most important recordings. After leaving The Cotton Pickers, Rhodes settled in Detroit, playing locally for years. By 1946 he had switched to R&B and recorded extensively...
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1952-1954, Todd Rhodes
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