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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New and Improved...2/22/12....A The Cats and the Fiddle list.....Jest A little Killin' jive for a Hepcat's holiday :)

The Cats and the Fiddle


The Cats And The Fiddle

By Marv Goldberg

Based on interviews with Austin Powell

(Based on an original article by Peter A. Grendysa,
George Moonoogian, Rick Whitesell and Marv Goldberg,
which appeared in
Yesterday's Memories, Volume 2, Number 2 - 6/76.)

© 2001, 2009 by Marv Goldberg

"I Miss You So," the signature tune of the Cats And The Fiddle, has become an established standard. Over the years, there have been versions by the 4 Clefs, the Charioteers, the King Cole Trio, Lionel Hampton, the Orioles, Herb Kenny and the Rockets, Faye Wilson, the Red Caps, Lee Andrews, the Mills Brothers, the Miller Sisters, Fats Domino, Paul Anka, and Little Anthony and the Imperials.

Stylistically, the Cats And The Fiddle were quite unique and bore little resemblance to the other established groups of the period. On uptempo sides such as "Gang Busters," there were frenetic scat parts designed to twist the most athletic tongue; ballads such as "Please Don't Leave Me Now" and "I Miss You So" could readily pass for recordings of a later vintage in terms of style; while blues-based numbers such as "I'm Gonna Pull My Hair" sound reminiscent of a New Orleans jam session. Tight harmony prevailed over the instrumental accompaniment on all sides.

The story of the Cats And The Fiddle goes back to 1937, when the Mills Brothers were enjoying one of their peaks of popularity and the Charioteers and Ink Spots had already launched the radio and recording careers that would take them to fame and at least some degree of fortune. With simulated instrumentation, which made them sound like a small jazz band, the innovative Mills Brothers inspired dozens of groups to form in the 30s. One of these was Chicago's "Harlem Harmony Hounds," led by Austin Powell. The group's choice of name wasn't inhibited by the fact that none of them had ever been near Harlem! They had formed in high school, around 1934, and, at an amateur show, had won a week appearing at the Grand Terrace Cafe, with a then-little-known Count Basie. This led to a daily radio show on Chicago's WCFL, where they entertained in a Mills Brothers vein.

When Austin left the Harlem Harmony Hounds, he teamed up with three other Chicagoans who were already performing together and looking for a fourth member. Like many other groups of the period, they were a self-contained vocal-instrumental combo. Besides singing lead, Austin Powell played four-stringed tenor guitar (a regular sized instrument with only the highest-pitched four strings, and thus a narrower neck); Chuck Barksdale both sang and played bass; Jimmy Henderson was a first tenor and tipple player; and second tenor Ernie Price played both the tipple and the guitar. (The tipple [also spelled 'tiple'] is a ten-stringed instrument which looked and sounded somewhat like a ukulele, but had an extended range. Although used widely for rhythm accompaniment behind early vocal groups, the instrument pretty much became extinct in the early 50s.)

The new group named themselves after a line from the nursery rhyme "Hey Diddle Diddle" that could also be interpreted as jazz slang: the "Cats And The Fiddle." (The "fiddle" represented the stand-up bass, and they were all "hepcats.")

The Cats And The Fiddle spent the next two years playing one-nighters in Chicago area clubs. They also appeared at proms, weddings, and graduations.

Although 1950s groups could break through the racial barriers of the music industry (because of an enthusiastic consumer public which wanted something new and different), the pioneer artists of the 30s and 40s were much more limited by the industry's rigid distinctions concerning the color of the musicians and the audience their music would be allowed to reach. Some distributors' catalogs and listings placed the Cats And The Fiddle releases under the unlikely, and inappropriate, heading of "Hill-Billy Music"!

In spite of all this, the quartet still managed to make a name for itself. They had an interesting movie career (even before they recorded), appearing as extras in 1938's "Too Hot To Handle" (starring Clark Gable and Myrna Loy). They could be seen, although not picked out, as South American "natives." Austin showed me a still from the film and pointed himself out. Next to him, as another "native" extra, was Nat "King" Cole.

Another 1938 cinematic triumph was an appearance in a short called "Snow Gets In Your Eyes," starring Virginia Grey and Roger Converse. It's the chair-gripping tale of a ski-jumping contest held inside a department store (don't ask!). The uncredited Cats are on hand (dressed in Tyrolean hats and lederhosen) to provide instrumental and harmony backup behind the Dandridge Sisters (Dorothy Dandridge, Vivian Dandridge, and Etta Jones) for a song called "Harlem Yodel." Some nice scatting is done by two uncredited male singers.

In 1938, they were in "The Duke Is Tops" (aka "The Bronze Venus"), in which they sang "Killin' Jive." Another movie that year was "Two-Gun Man From Harlem," a western starring Herb Jeffries (billed as "Herbert Jeffrey") and the 4 Tones. The Cats backed up Jeffries on "I'm A Happy Cowboy" (although it's the 4 Tones behind him on the 1939 D&S recording).

Then there was 1939's "Going Places" (with Dick Powell, Anita Louise, and Louis Armstrong), in which they appeared as stable boys, singing "Jeepers Creepers." They can also be heard on the soundtrack of 1945's "The Clock" (starring Judy Garland and Robert Walker). Finally, they appeared in many short features (such as "Swingtime In The Rockies") and various all-black productions.

At one of the functions they played, they met Victor Records' agent Lester Melrose, who offered to record them on his company's Bluebird subsidiary. Of the ensuing output of 21 discs for the label, all but two appeared on Bluebird's 8000 "race" series.

On June 27, 1939, the Cats And The Fiddle entered Bluebird's Chicago studios (where all of their Bluebird masters would be recorded) and cut ten songs in a marathon session: "Gang Busters," "Chant Of The Rain," "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," "Nuts To You," "Killin' Jive," "Thursday Evening Swing," "Killer Diller Man From The South," "We Cats Will Swing For You," "Till The Day I Die," and "Please Don't Leave Me Now." Most of these feature unison singing, but "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water" and "Please Don't Leave Me Now" are led by Austin Powell.

Bluebird released a steady stream of Cats And The Fiddle recordings: "Nuts To You"/"Killin' Jive" (August 1939), "Gang Busters"/"Please Don't Leave Me Now" (September), "Killer Diller Man From The South"/"Thursday Evening Swing" (November), "We Cats Will Swing For You"/"Till The Day I Die" (December).

The Cats had their second session on December 7, 1939. Not as exhausting as the first, they still churned out eight sides: "Mister Rhythm Man" (led by Austin Powell), "When I Grow Too Old To Dream" (all), "Public Jitterbug No. 1" (all), "That's On, Jack, That's On" (all), "Gone" (all), "Just A Roamer" (Austin Powell), "I Miss You So" (Jimmy Henderson), and "Left With The Thought Of You" (Chuck Barksdale). Note that "I Miss You So," which ended up as the group's signature song, was recorded towards the end of the session, indicating that they had higher hopes for the other tunes.

Bluebird issued "Chant Of The Rain"/"I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water" in April 1940. The company must have seen something in "I Miss You So," since they issued it as the first release from the Cats' second session. In May 1940, it was paired with a great jive tune: "Public Jitterbug No. 1." Just to hedge their bets, though, Bluebird also released "When I Grow Too Old To Dream"/"Left With The Thought Of You" that same month. "Mister Rhythm Man"/"Gone" was right behind them, in June, and August saw the issuance of "That's On, Jack, That's On"/"Just A Roamer."

The Cats And The Fiddle acquired their following, not from their movie appearances, but from their record releases. "I Miss You So" was by far the most successful of these. The tune was just beginning to break in mid-1940 when Jimmy Henderson (who had not only led the song, but had composed it) contracted meningitis; he would pass away by the end of the year. 

Herbie Miles, a first tenor who had formerly been with Powell's Harmony Hounds, replaced Jimmy Henderson initially, and was on the eight tunes done at the July 31, 1940 session: "You're So Fine" (led by Austin Powell), "Nothing" (all), "Hush-A-Bye Love" (Austin Powell), "Swing The Scales" (all), "In The Midst Of A Dream" (Austin Powell), "Hep Cat's Holiday" (all), "That's All I Mean To You" (Austin Powell), and "Pig's Idea" (an instrumental).

The first record released from this session was "Hep Cat's Holiday"/"In The Midst Of A Dream," issued in September 1940. The next was "Nothing"/"That's All I Mean To You," issued in October.
Herbie Miles was only with the Cats for a few months, before leaving in the fall of 1940. His spot was filled by Lloyd "Tiny" Grimes (first tenor and guitar). While he would go on to become a famed and respected jazz guitarist in the 50s and 60s, Grimes had just started playing guitar at this point.

And Bluebird continued to churn them out: "You're So Fine"/"Pig's Idea" in November and "Hush-A-Bye"/"Swing The Scales" in December.

Nine of the thirteen Bluebird records mentioned so far were reissued on the Montgomery Ward label in 1940 and 1941 (see discography). This was a budget reissue label, which didn't have the same production quality standards as Bluebird, so it's difficult to see why Victor allowed it.

The first session with Tiny Grimes was held on January 20, 1941. This produced another eight sides: "I'll Always Love You Just The Same," "I'm Singing (So Help Me)," "One Is Never Too Old To Swing," "Until I Met You," "I'm Gonna Pull My Hair (Let My Wig Fall Down)," "My Darling," "If I Dream Of You," and "Crawlin' Blues." Four of the songs were led by Grimes: "I'll Always Love You Just The Same," "I'm Singing (So Help Me)," and "One Is Never Too Old To Swing." "One Is Never Too Old To Swing" has no separate lead, and Austin Powell led the rest. Some of the tunes (such as "Crawlin' Blues") feature a piano, but this was probably a studio musician.

Bluebird issued "I'll Always Love You Just The Same"/"One Is Never Too Old To Swing" in February 1941; "I'm Gonna Pull My Hair"/"If I Dream Of You" in April; "I'm Singing (So Help Me)"/"My Darling" in May; and "Crawlin' Blues"/"Until I Met You," also in May.

Then it was quiet for almost six months. Well, as far as recordings went. Chuck Barksdale became the second Cats And The Fiddle casualty, passing away in mid-1941; he was replaced by bassist George Steinback. Powell insisted that RCA files, which show Barksdale as being present on the next session, are incorrect.

The final eight songs recorded for Bluebird were laid down in two sessions held a week apart in October 1941. On the tenth, they waxed "I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire," "Blue Skies," "Another Day," and "Stomp Stomp." On the seventeenth, they recorded "Sighing And Crying," "Part Of Me," "Lawdy-Clawdy," and "Life's Too Short." Tiny Grimes is the lead on "Stomp Stomp" and "Sighing And Crying"; Austin Powell is out front on the rest of them.

Bluebird issued one record in each of the next four months: "I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire"/"Blue Skies" in November, "Sighing And Crying"/"Lawdy-Clawdy" in December, "Another Day"/"Stomp Stomp" in January 1942, and "Part Of Me"/"Life's Too Short" in February. By that time, the United States was fighting for its existence in World War 2; recording just wasn't being done in the same volume as previously.

Sometime in 1942, Tiny Grimes left the Cats. This is the way he recounted his days with the group, when interviewed by jazz researcher Stanley Dance: "After I'd been playing (guitar) about seven months, I got with the Cats And The Fiddle. They had tipples and guitars ... and they recorded a number called 'Oh, I Miss You So' on Bluebird that made some noise. I stayed with them a year or two, but I wasn't really getting much experience there. I knew more than anybody else, and they were just playing to accompany their singing. We ended up in Los Angeles. They wanted me to go back to New York with them, but they were paying me so cheap, and I said, 'My fare will cost just about what I'm going to make at the Apollo Theatre.' So I decided to stay out there."

Grimes started working with outstanding bassist Slam Stewart, formerly of Slim & Slam. Pianist Art Tatum was soon added, and the "Art Tatum Trio" became very popular on the West Coast for nearly two years. Grimes then formed the Tiny Grimes Quartet, which relocated to New York to provide backup for Billie Holiday. It became the Tiny Grimes Quintet with the addition of Charlie "Bird" Parker later in 1944; this group made some recordings for Savoy. Many personnel changes ensued, and Grimes cut for Blue Note (the Tiny Grimes Swingtet) and Atlantic (the Tiny Grimes Quintet). After this, Grimes formed the Rockin' Highlanders, featuring vocals by Screaming Jay Hawkins (although it's unclear whether Hawkins was the band's vocalist or just employed for the session). Grimes then switched over to jazz guitar, playing with the likes of Duke Ellington, Milt Buckner, Jay McShann, and Earl "Fatha" Hines. Lloyd "Tiny" Grimes died in 1989.

Grimes' place was taken by Mifflin "Pee Wee" Brantford. Around this time, Lester Melrose, who had contracted them for Bluebird, "disappeared" (according to Austin) and the Bluebird label was discontinued. A lack of shellac (needed as a binder in the manufacture of 78 RPM records) and the musician's strike (which began in the summer of 1942) had a great effect on the recording industry.

The Cats And The Fiddle closed out 1942 with an appearance at Lou's Germantown, in Philadelphia. In January 1943, they played the Paradise Theater in Detroit along with Pearl Bailey, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, and the Cootie Williams Orchestra. A review of the show said that they really went over big with the audience, especially when they sang "Another Day."

And then the war took its toll: later in 1943, Austin Powell was drafted. The Cats And The Fiddle kept going, replacing him with Hank Haslett.

Of course, the effect of these personnel changes was strictly seen in live performances. The musicians' strike of 1942, wartime shortages of shellac, and the drafting of personnel used to run and repair the machinery at record pressing plants are among the reasons why the group cut no new discs for several years. In spite of the gasoline shortage, they toured the nation, from the standard Royal-Howard-Regal-Earle-Apollo Theater circuit to posh supper clubs such as the Beachcomber in Omaha, the J'ai Alai Club in Columbus, the Pioneer Lounge and the Three Deuces in Chicago, and the Cave in Vancouver.

There weren't many performance listings for the group, but July 13, 1943 found the Cats and the Fiddle appearing at the New 20th Century in Philadelphia. In July 1945, they played the Paradise Club in Atlantic City, which had just opened for its 31st summer season. On September 1, they were at the Bar O' Music in Chicago. November 9, 1945 found the Cats back at the Bar O' Music. They were still Pee Wee Brantford (tenor and guitar), Ernie Price (second tenor, lead guitar, and tipple), George Steinback (bass and bassist), and Hank Haslett (tenor and guitar). However, Hank Haslett left in late 1945, and former "Cat" Herbie Miles returned.

Also in late 1945, the Cats were approached by someone from the Manor label, and a contract ensued. In January or February 1946, they held their first session for the Manor/Regis/Arco complex. They recorded four tunes, starting with a somewhat lackluster remake of "I Miss You So." The other tunes were: "Romance Without Finance," "Life's Too Short" (another remake) and "My Sugar's Sweet To Me." All leads were by Ernie Price or Herbie Miles, except for "Romance Without Finance," which is the group in unison. I'm not sure how useful Manor master numbers are. "You're So Fine" (released in 1947), has a much lower master number than any of the other tunes they recorded; there are no other Cats masters in that series and it just may have been a clerical error.

The first release was on Manor's Regis subsidiary, in February 1946. It paired "I Miss You So" and "My Sugar's Sweet To Me." The same two tunes also came out on Manor (with the same record number as Regis), probably a year later, since it's mentioned in an ad for a record that was released in August 1947.

When Austin Powell was discharged from the army in April 1946, he wasted no time in rejoining the group, which caused Pee Wee to leave. (Mifflin "Pee Wee" Brantford ended up with the Dozier Boys in the early 50s, and went on to the Sharps and A Flat by the end of that decade.) The Cats were now Austin Powell, Herbie Miles, Ernie Price and George Steinback. In June, Manor issued the other two sides from the first session: "Life's Too Short" and "Romance Without Finance." 

During this period, Napoleon "Snaggs" Allen (later with the Blenders) was used as a utility replacement for any member who was unable to make an engagement. Allen never recorded with the group, however. The opposite is true of Allen's pal, Baby Laurence, who recorded occasionally with the group, although he was never a member.

In June 1946, Manor issued their second record: "Life's Too Short"/"Romance Without Finance."

Once Manor had issued the remade version of "I Miss You So," RCA Victor dipped into its vaults and released it too. "I Miss You So," originally on Bluebird, was reissued four times on the parent RCA label: in late 1946 to compete with the Regis release; in 1950 on the RCA 50-0000 series of R&B 45s; in 1951, following the release of the Orioles' version; and finally, on the "Gold Standard Series" in 1955. On all but the 1951 offering, "I Miss You So" was paired with the Four Clefs' instrumental hit, "Dig These Blues."

At their second Manor session, held in July or August 1946, they did three titles, all led by Austin Powell: "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," "Please Don't Leave Me Now," and "Shorty's Got To Go." While they were at the studio, they were used as backup to June Davis on "Gin Misery Blues" (which had more than a passing acquaintance with "See See Rider") and "J.D. Blues." (There was probably a third title that remains unreleased, as there's a break in the master numbers.)

In August Manor issued "Please Don't Leave Me Now"/"Shorty's Got To Go" as well as the June Davis cuts. November found the Cats at Sportree's Music Bar in Detroit.

Their next session, held around March 1947, produced eight more masters: "That's My Desire" (one of the dozen or so covers of Frankie Laine's smash hit), "When Elephants Roost In Bamboo Trees," "They Don't Understand," "Where Are You," "I'm Stuck With You," "I'm Gonna Pull My Hair," ???? (a break in the numbering series, indicating an unreleased master), and "Darling Can't We Make A Date." They were all led by Austin Powell, except "That's My Desire," which might be Ernie Price.

"That's My Desire" and "When Elephants Roost In Bamboo Trees" were released in March 1947, as were "They Don't Understand"/"I'm Stuck With You." Then in July there was "Where Are You"/"I'm Gonna Pull My Hair," followed by "Darling Can't We Make A Date"/"You're So Fine" in August. It isn't known when "You're So Fine" was recorded, since it's the only Manor song that doesn't fit into the current master number series. The master number seems to be one going back to early 1945, but that was long before the group was recording for Manor. Just another of life's mysteries. [If I had to make a guess, I'd say that "You're So Fine," is the missing master in the March 1947 session. Somehow it ended up with the wrong number.] Note that there were five songs cut for Manor which were remakes of Bluebird tunes: "I Miss You So," "Life's Too Short," "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water," "I'm Gonna Pull My Hair," and "You're So Fine."

In mid-1947, Herbie Miles left again and was briefly replaced by Emitt Slay, who did no recording with them (but who did manage to make it to a photo that ran with the release of "Darling, Can't We Make A Date" in August). Slay was, in turn, replaced by Shirley Moore. 
Shirley Moore's arrival changed the group's overall sound, which was now much more sophisticated stylistically than it had been on the earlier Bluebird discs, with fuller instrumentation and more predominant harmony. Even in the late 40s, the Cats And The Fiddle were ahead of their contemporaries. In January 1948, it was reported that the Cats were now being booked by Joe Marsolais, who had gone out on his own after having been with the William Morris agency.

The last Manor session was held around February 1948, and there were probably six masters cut (there are two missing numbers). Those we know about were: "That's What I Thought You Said," "Honey Honey Honey," "I'm Afraid Of You," and "The New Look Blues." "That's What I Thought You Said" and "I'm Afraid Of You" were led by Austin Powell; the others by Shirley Moore.

However, Shirley didn't stay with the group too long; by April 1948, she was appearing with Bill Johnson & the Musical Notes. To keep the sound they had just crafted, the Cats replaced her with Doris Knighton, who was with them when they played the Tia Juana, in Cleveland, on March 6.

Manor released "Honey Honey Honey"/"I'm Afraid Of You" in February 1948. It took until September for Manor to issue the last two sides: "That's What I Thought You Said"/"The New Look Blues." Johnny Davis, a tenor who also played conga drums, was added as a fifth member sometime in 1948.

On July 7, 1949, Austin Powell married Jean Johnson in Philadelphia. At the time, the group was playing Lou's Moravian.

The Cats And The Fiddle then went over to Ivin Ballen's Philadelphia-based Gotham label, where they cut four masters around September 1949: "I'll Never, Never Let You Go," "Do You Love Me," "Start Talking Baby," and "Movin' Out Today." "I'll Never, Never Let You Go" and "Start Talking Baby" were issued in September 1949, the other two in April 1950. The group at this time was Austin Powell, Ernie Price, Doris Knighton, George Steinback, and Johnny Davis. "I'll Never, Never Let You Go" was led by Doris Knighton; the others are probably by Johnny Davis, as the voice is different than any heard before.

The group then cut three masters for Decca on March 27, 1950: "Wine Drinker," "Out In The Cold Again," and "Lover Boy." The first and third of these were issued in May.

However, by June 1950, the entire ensemble had disintegrated. Austin Powell immediately reorganized the group. Only tenor/conga drummer Johnny Davis remained, although it's possible that Ernie Price stayed on for a while. New members were bass/bassist Stanley Gaines; pianist Beryl Booker, who had been with the Toppers (the early incarnation of the Red Caps), and more recently with the Slam Stewart Trio; and Dottie Smith, who had sung and played drums with the Harlemaires, who'd recorded for Atlantic Records in 1948 (her arrival in the group was trumpeted in a July 1950 Billboard article). By the end of June, they were playing Lou's Moravian in Philadelphia. (The very next act at Lou's seems to have been Doris Knighton, as a soloist.) It looks like Dottie Smith didn't stay all that long since an ad for an appearance in November 1950 shows Powell, Gaines, Davis, Booker, and someone who isn't Dottie Smith.

Stanley Gaines left in December 1950, but his replacement remains unknown. The Cats And The Fiddle held another session for Decca, on February 26, 1951. The four songs recorded were: "Wishing Well," "Some Other Spring," "All This Can't Be True," and "Please Consider Me." However, by the time "Some Other Spring" and "All This Can't Be True" were issued in April, the name of the group had been changed to the "Austin Powell Quintet" (possibly due to a disagreement between Austin Powell and Ernie Price). At that time, they were appearing at the Cafe Society in New York City. The other two sides were released in September. As the Austin Powell Quintet, they appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts show. For some reason, they were joined on that appearance by jazz violinist Claude Williams.

In September 1951, Decca released the other two masters by the Austin Powell Quintet: "Wishing Well" and "Please Consider Me."

In April 1951, Decca announced that it had signed Austin Powell ("remembered as a member of the Cats And The Fiddle"). It's unclear what that meant, since they'd presumably signed him before the February session. His (unidentified) group was booked into the Cafe Society in May. Presumably that group still contained Johnny Davis, Beryl Booker, and (possibly) Dottie Smith (as well as Stanley Gaines' replacement). Since he was to take up with the James Quintet in the following year, this incarnation of the Austin Powell Quintet couldn't have lasted much longer.

As long as the Cats And The Fiddle weren't around anymore, Phil Moore and Buster Collins felt free to use the name for a one-shot television show that they were co-producing, The Cats And A Fiddle aired on KTSL (Los Angeles; a CBS affiliate) on June 4, 1951 at 8:00 PM. This half-hour show featured Ginger [Smock] and Her Violin (the "fiddle"), a six-piece all-female combo (I guess these were the "cats"), and Vivian Dandridge.

On April 19, 1952, Austin Powell recorded three songs for Atlantic Records, backed by the James Quintet: "What More Can I Ask," "Wrong Again," and "I Surrender Dear." None of these was ever issued. On May 28, they did three more: remakes of "Wrong Again" and "What More Can I Ask," along with "There I Go, There I Go." The remakes must have done the trick: those two masters were released as Atlantic 968 in June (as by Austin Powell and the James Quintet).

May 19 saw the "Austin Powell Quintet" playing the Ebony Club in Cleveland for a week. This was, presumably the James Quintet, but you never know. (There was also a mention of the "Austin Powell Quartet" in July.) May 29 found the Austin Powell Quintet at Grace's Little Club in Atlantic City. 

By June 1952, Powell had become a part of the James Quintet. (A late 1951 newspaper blurb identified them as: Charlie Hooser, Eddie Johnson, Danny Johnson, Tommy Harrod, and Buzz Cottman; I have no idea why they were called the "James Quintet." It's possible that Austin replaced Danny Johnson.) They backed up Ruth Brown on "Daddy Daddy" and "Have A Good Time," recorded for Atlantic on July 2. In July, this group played the Hofbrau (Wildwood, New Jersey). In mid-August, the Austin Powell Quintet played the Little Belmont Club in Atlantic City. In September Austin Powell and the James Quintet were off to Uncle Tom's Plantation (Detroit) and Wally's Paradise (Boston). November saw a blurb about Austin Powell and the "James Boys Quartet" appearing at the Ebony Club in Cleveland for two weeks. Do you get the idea that "Austin Powell and the James Quintet" and the "Austin Powell Quintet" were the same aggregation at this point?

Also in 1952, Ernie Price formed his own Cats And The Fiddle group. There are ads in August and September for appearances at the Pioneer Lounge in Manhattan: ("They're Back! The "I Miss You So' Boys"). Remember that Price and Powell had been together in the Cats And The Fiddle for around thirteen years. There had probably been some dissension between them which had led to the breakup of the "Cats And The Fiddle" and the adoption of the "Austin Powell Quintet" name back in 1951.

The June 4, 1953 issue of Jet Magazine reported that Austin Powell and his "four band members" (no names given, not even the name of the group) were caught up in a narcotics arrest in Annapolis, Maryland (the charges were subsequently dropped). (Note that blurbs in Jet are highly suspect.)

In October 1953, it was announced that "Austin Powell and the Cats And The Fiddle" had recorded some masters for Aladdin's 7-11 subsidiary. However, nothing was ever released from the session, and it isn't known who was in the group.

By 1954, Austin had teamed up with Dottie Smith again. They were part of a Timmie Rogers revue, which also included trumpeter Jonah Jones, Ford Buck (of "Buck & Bubbles"), Eddie Bonnemere, and tenor saxman George "Big Nick" Nicholas. The revue was active in May, and still going strong in September. As the "Timmie Rogers Orchestra," they released "Teedle Dee Teedle Dum" (vocal by Big Nick Nicholas), backed with "If I Give My Heart To You" (vocal by Austin Powell and Dottie Smith), on Mercury, in August of that year.

A newspaper article in September 1955 trumpets the "comeback" of the Cats And The Fiddle. Consisting of Big Nick Nicholas (sax), Freddie Jefferson (piano), Marvin "Sonny" Oliver (drums), Hector Ford (bass), and Austin Powell (guitar and vocals). They'd been appearing at the Bankers' Club (in West New York, New Jersey) since July, when they'd been held over indefinitely after wowing their audiences during their initial three-week engagement.

In December 1956, Powell was part of Tic and Toc, releasing a single record on RCA's Vik subsidiary: "I'm A Big Boy Now" (vocal: Austin "Tic" Powell), backed with "Jibba Jab" (vocal: Big Nick "Toc" [Nicholas]). George Walker "Big Nick" Nicholas had been, over the years, in the bands of some people you might know: Earl Hines, Tiny Bradshaw, Sabby Lewis, Lucky Millinder, Dizzy Gillespie, and Hot Lips Page.

In 1957, Austin Powell and Dottie Smith joined up with Louis Jordan, as part of the Tympany Five, where they remained for about a year. Austin played the guitar and tenor sax, Dottie the conga drums, Jordan the alto sax, Jackie Davis the organ, and Sonny Oliver the drums. When Jordan did a session for Mercury on August 28, 1957 (resulting in one single and an LP), Austin was playing the tenor sax, and those five were augmented by Irving Ashby on guitar and Billy Hadnott on bass. By the time of Jordan's next Mercury session in April 1958, Powell is gone.

The last mention of Austin Powell was in March 1959, when he was fronting his own "hot combo," with Len Garner and the ursine crew: Jack "The Bear" Parker on drums and Teddy "Mr. Bear" McRae on sax..

Ernie Price put together another Cats and the Fiddle in 1961. The only other known member was bassist and vocalist Steve Trimble. They stayed together until Ernie's death two years later.

In the 70s, when I interviewed him, Austin Powell had a bar called, appropriately enough, "A.P.'s" in Queens. He passed away on August 30, 1983.

By the time the Orioles and the Ravens were reaching their peaks, the Cats And The Fiddle were no longer an influential group in the music scene. But in the early 40s it would be difficult to find better practitioners of jive music. Although mostly remembered now for "I Miss You So," many other sides done by them are equally outstanding and deserving of recognition by today's fans of vocal group recordings. 

And here's what I have.....Yikes! it took a little while to get a few things I wanted that I didn't, let's have a listen, shall we??  :)

Another day  
Blue skies  
Chant of the rain  
Crawlin' blues
Gang busters
Gin misery blues
Hep cat's holiday
Honey, honey, honey
Hush-a-bye love
I don't want to set the world on fire
I miss you so
I'd rather drink muddy water
I'll always love you just the same
I'ma happy cowboy
I'm afraid of you
I'm gonna pull my hair (and let my wig fall down)
I'm singing (so help me)
If I dream about you
In the midst of a dream
J.D. Blues
Just a roamer
Killer Diller man from the South
Killin' Jive
Left with the thought of you
Life's too short (to worry about that)
Life's too short
Mister rhythm man
My darling
My sugar's sweet to me
Nuts to you
One is never too old to swing
Part of me
Pig's idea
Please don't leave me now
Public jitterbug No. 1
Romance without finance
Shorty's got to go
Sighing and crying
Stomp, stomp
Swing the scales
That's all I mean to you
That's my desire
That's on Jack that's on
That's my desire
That's what I thought you said
The Harlem Yodel
Thursday Evening swing
'Til the day I die
Until I met you
We cats will swing for you
When elephants roost in bamboo
When I grow to old to dream
You're so fine

NEW LIST - NEW LINK******** 2/22/2012


  1. Hi! Thanks for pt 2 but the 1st part is a dead link - can you please re-up? Thanks again!

  2. This looks great! I hope you don't think this is too cheeky, but would you possibly consider Mediafire? When you share a computer with someone and don't have a Rapidshare account (or the means to get one), 1 hour and 56 minutes to download a file isn't possible. Plus, I think Rapidshare is manipulative anyways and is taking advantage of the recent situation to force people to join. The same-sized file would only take about 10-15 minutes with Mediafire. Just asking - I know you already do enough here. Thanks, Dave

  3. Hmmm....excellent point. I used to use Mediafire, and had a few accounts on there. When I download, I tend to always look for Mediafire files, so I suppose I should just follow my on lead on this one, eh? :)

  4. Greetings from Vermont,

    Hey there Ms 'Rella - thank you for not only posting a wonderful collection of tunes from Cats & the Fiddle, but the biographical addition brings it all around full circle. Take care...