Tenorman Paul Bascomb was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1910, and he and his trumpeteer brother Warren "Dud" Bascomb were charter members of the 'Bama State Collegians, which later renamed themselves the Erskine Hawkins Band. While at college he did some touring with the C.S. Belton Band, then worked regularly with Hawkins, moving with them to New York in 1934. He remained with Erskine Hawkins regularly (not counting two years with the Count Basie Orchestra, where he replaced Herschel Evans during 1938 and 1939) until 1944, after which he co-led a band with Dud for several years. From the late 1950s his work was featured in Chicago and Detroit clubs. Besides his records with Hawkins, he recorded withCount Basie in 1940 and 1941, and with Dinah Washington, and recorded extensively in the early 1950's with his own band for the United label. He continued playing into the 1980's, including visits to European festivals.
The featured recording here was cut for the Manor label in 1947 and was released in 1948. His repeated use of the phrase "rock and roll" would make one think that Paul believed he'd stumbled upon something new.
A reader sent us this:
Dear Morgan Wright,
My name is Yves Francois Smierciak and I used to play with Paul Bascomb in the 1980s just before he died (in 1986 ). In fact his last recording was with my band in Feb 1982 with him on tenor sax and vocals. He did feel he was up to something with Rock and Roll in 1947 and thanks for showing people that great record. I live in Chicago Illinois, and played (and recorded) with Paul in 1982. A second session was planned in 1986, but by that time Paul's health was declining, and the second session never took place. Paul was a very underrated player. A lot of his ideas were stolen-his sax solo on "Big John's Special" w. Erskine Hawkins in 1936 has about the first example of a tenor honk repeated on record (Cecil Scott's "In A Corner" from 1929 is more hokum than true honking). He felt responsible for the "Christopher Columbus" riff (and felt ripped off by Chu Berry), but that is a common swing riff that probably blossomed throughout the black swing bands in the 1935 era. He also was very proud of "Rock and Roll." Paul was not a master of self-promotion, however (duly noted in the liner notes to Delmark LP 431 "Bad Bascomb" by Stanley Dance), and by about 1970 Paul was working as a garbage man (he was a proud man and did not like to be dependent on others) in the South side of Chicago. He still played for weekends and some trips to France (Nice in 1978- I have family there and when my mother told them I made a record with Paul they were very impressed that I worked with a famous jazz musician). Like many jazz musicians, Paul (like Lips Page) would have done better in Europe (look at Don Byas, Sidney Bechet, and Johnny Griffin for examples), but then we may never got records as good as "Rock And Roll," "Mumbles Blues" or "Ain't Nothin Shaking." I recorded with Paul on Feb 1982, on a Sunday night with my band at the time (without my pianist or guitarist) with Paul and 2 friends of his Jimmy Boyd on piano and Aaron Moore on organ and vocals. Some material was released on Pinnacle 112 (Yves Smierciak & The Delegates of Rhythm "A Saturday Night Fish Fry"), but I still have all the master tapes and Paul sings "Garbage Man Blues"very nicely. At some point I will reissue this and other older material I did with other south side musicians (Eddie Johnson, Franz Jackson on saxes and Odie Payne on drums), but before then, I'll try to make a tape dub for you. Incidentally, the trumpeter on "Rock and Roll" is not his brother, but Johnny Grimes, a fine player in his own right (great plunger man like Dud and Lips Page-my kind of trumpet !). Talk to you soon ... Yves Francois Smierciak.