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TWO FINE SAX PLAYERS DIED 20 YEARS AGO TODAY

By coincidence, two sax players who defined the rock'n'roll sax sound between them, died on April 19, 1993: Clifford Scott and the more famous Steve Douglas. They were 64 and 54 years old respectively.

Clifford Scott played with Jay McShann, Amos Milburn, and Lionel Hampton before joining Bill Doggett's memorable group and co-writing & recording, most famously, their 1956 hit Honky Tonk'. He is the prominent star of the B-side, Honky Tonk Part 2':



There's an interesting piece, taken from John Broven, about how Honky Tonk' came about, and more about Scott Clifford here.

In The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia I did Clifford Scott a disservice in giving all the credit for shaping how rock saxophone sounded to that other great player, Steve Douglas, who was blaring and honking away so splendidly for Duane Eddy while Scott was doing the same for Bill Doggett. Mea culpa.

Of course I knew more about Steve Douglas because two decades later he was playing with Bob Dylan. Here's the entry on him in my book:

Douglas, Steve [1938 - 1993]
Steven Douglas Kreisman was born in Hollywood on September 24, 1938, served in the US Navy Drum and Bugle Corps after leaving school and became one of rock’n’roll’s greatest sax players. He came to prominence playing on Duane Eddy’s instrumental records of the late 1950s. Eddy used three other tenor sax players in this period (JIM HORN, Gil Bernal and Plas Johnson) but on many of them, Eddy’s ‘million dollar twang’ guitar sound, shudderingly reverberative and deep, would concede half a verse or so to Douglas’ gorgeously beefy, crucially unjazzlike solos - and between the two of them, on ‘Cannonball’ (1958), ‘Yep!’ and ‘Forty Miles Of Bad Road’ (1959), ‘Peter Gunn’ (1960) and others, they created one of the defining sounds of 1950s teenage rebellion, epitomes of the strutting toughness of teddy boys and rock’n’roll. And it has to be said that now, hearing these old records anew, it is Duane who sounds overly simple and seemly, mild and polite to a fault; the sax holds up far better.

Douglas, pianist Larry Knetchel and Al Casey went out on the road as the Rebels on Dick Clark Bandstand package shows but Douglas also kept up session playing, and in this capacity worked on lots of PHIL SPECTOR wall-of-sound hit singles (those ‘little symphonies for the kids’, as Spector called them); his is growling baritone blasting into the middle of the Crystals’ ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’. He made a solo album, Twist, in 1962 (of course it was in 1962) but also augmented a whole slew of the surf records of the early 1960s, among them hits by Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys, including 1965’s masterwork Pet Sounds, as well as recording with everyone from the Lettermen to Lesley Gore.

In the 1970s Steve Douglas played with Mink DeVille, Ry Cooder, Mickey Hart and the Ramones, among others, and in 1978 he joined Bob Dylan’s uniquely large line-up for the 1978 World Tour. Dylan made a point of stressing Douglas’ rock’n’roll credentials, and used him not only for the 114 concerts that of that year, in Japan, Australia, Europe and the US, but also on the 1978 album Street Legal. He came back three years later for the Shot Of Love sessions in late April and early May 1981. On the released album he plays the alto sax on ‘Dead Man, Dead Man’ and ‘Every Grain of Sand’.

In the early 1980s Douglas also played with Duane Eddy again, along with the great Hal Blaine on drums and, at one point in 1983, Ry Cooder on second guitar. He reappeared in Dylan’s professional life on some Knocked Out Loaded sessions exactly five years after his Shot of Love contributions, playing on the overdubs of April 28-29, 1986 onto the original recording of ‘Driftin’ Too Far From Shore’ made on July 26, 1984, and on attempts at ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, ‘Unchain My Heart’ and ‘Without Love’ made between April 29 and May 5 1986, all in Topanga Park, California. More significantly, at the same sessions he plays on the Knocked Out Loaded tracks ‘They Killed Him’, ‘You Wanna Ramble’, ‘Precious Memories’, ‘Maybe Someday’ and ‘Brownsville Girl’. Their association fizzled out in an unused session in Hollywood some time in April 1987, at which Douglas played on still-uncirculated versions of ‘Look On Yonder Walls’, ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’, ‘Red Cadillac and a Black Mustache’ and two takes of BILLY LEE RILEY’s song ‘Rock With Me Baby’.

Steve Douglas died of heart failure (or possibly boredom) at the beginning of a session for Ry Cooder in LA on April 19, 1993.

2 comments:

  1. You mean Ry Cooder is boring??

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous30 May, 2013

    he certainly is !

    ReplyDelete