Native Pine Bluff Blues Artists of Note
Please contact us if you know of other historical artists that should be displayed here.
George Washington Thomas Jr.
In 1922, he published "The Fives", co-written with brother Hersal, and inspired by a train traveling between Chicago and San Francisco. This was "the first published boogie-woogie with a boogie bass line throughout," and "helped to inspire a generation of boogie-woogie pianists" such as Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. The following year, he is widely credited with recording another of his compositions, "The Rocks", for Okeh Records, which contains the earliest recording of a walking bass. The recording was credited to Clay Custer, generally regarded as a pseudonym, but there is some disagreement over whether the performer was Thomas himself, or another pianist, possibly Hersal Thomas or Harry Jentes. (From WikipediA)
Born Emmett Ellis, Jr. in Homer, Louisiana, Rush was the son of Emmett and Mattie Ellis. His father was a pastor whose guitar and harmonica playing provided early musical influences. As a young child he began experimenting with music using a sugarcane syrup bucket and a broom-wire diddley bow. Around 1947, he and the family moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where his father took on the pastorate of a church. It was here that Rush would become friends with Elmore James, the slide player Boyd Gilmore (James's cousin), and the piano player Johnny "Big Moose" Walker; eventually forming a band to support his singing and harmonica and guitar playing.
Still a teen, Rush donned a fake moustache to play in local juke joints with the band, fascinated by enthusiasm of the crowds. His family relocated to Chicago in 1953, where he became part of the local blues scene in the following decade. In Chicago he met and befriended his neighbor, Muddy Waters, and began working for Jimmy Reed. Through these connections he began performing on a circuit with Etta James, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Jimmy Reed. (From WikipediA)
Calvin James Leavy
Photo by Cheryl Cohen (Arkansas Art Center Foundation Collection)
Calvin James Leavy was born in Scott, Pulaski County, Arkansas, United States. He was the youngest son of fifteen children, and started singing in his church choir. By his adolescence, Leavy sang with various gospel ensembles in Little Rock. He formed the Leavy Brothers Band in 1954, and they were popular locally, before relocating to Fresno, California. By the end of 1968, they moved back to Little Rock, and played at local clubs. Through this work, Leavy was offered recording time in E&M Studios in Little Rock.
Leavy recorded further singles for Aquarian, Soul Beat, Downtown and Messenger Records. These included "Nothing But Your Love", "Give Me a Love (That I Can Feel)" and "Goin’ to the Dogs Pt. 1". In addition, the band made some recordings for the Arkansas Bicentennial Blues Project, which were archived at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. They also appeared in 1977 at the Beale Street Music Festival. Forming Calvin Leavy and the Professionals, he and his new outfit remained popular locally. They recorded "Is It Worth All (That I'm Going Through)", "Big Four", "What Kind of Love", "Free From Cummins Prison Farm" and "If Life Last Luck Is Bound to Change". He maintained a strong fan base in the South, and his records often appeared on local jukeboxes.
You can certainly hear echos of Calvin Leavy through his son, Andre Leavy. Andre is one of the frequent musicians at the Port City Blues Society Blues Jam in Pine Bluff every Wednesday night beginning at 8 PM at Hot Rods located at Second and Main in downtown Pine Bluff. Come join us every Wednesday!
-(Text excerpts from last.fm and Encyclopedia of Arkansas History.)