If you hear Presley, then you actually hear "Big Boy".
(Big Bill Broonzy)

Rock before Elvis: Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup That's All Right Mama

MB 901 MONO 1989

Side 1

Side 2
    1. My Baby Left Me
    2. If I Get Lucky
    3. Mean Old 'Frisco Blues
    4. Who's Been Fooling You?
    5. Shout, Sister, Shout
    6. Cool Disposition
    7. I Don't Know It
    1. She' Just Like Caledonia
    2. Rock Me Mama
    3. Hand Me Down My Walking Cane
    4. I love You
    5. I'm Gonna Dig Myself A Hole
    6. She's Got No Hair
    7. Never No More

go to recording details

The "Big Boy" and the "King"
Memphis Bluesbrothers: Junior Parker, Elvis Presley, Bobby Blue BlandThe 16 August 2002 is the anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, the "King of Rock and Roll" for 25th time. This is reason enough to dedicate the current "Spot on..." - article to the man, who, only through Elvis, became world-famous as the "Father Of Rock And Roll", but it was to this man, that Elvis owed his first big breakthroughs to: Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup. Whose country blues - along with the music of other black artists - were clearly among the most significant influences of the young Presley. Presley, the white Southerner, grew up in a milieu defined by poverty and religiousness. The only difference between situation he was in and that of his "black" neighbors was the color of his skin. The future "King Of Rock And Roll", seemed to have developed an affinity for the culture of the "other" America, already early on.

That's it Allright (Sun 209/B-Side: Blue Moon Of Kentucky), recorded on Jul 19, 1954 in Sam Phillip's Sun Studio, marked the start of Elvis' career, which without the adaptation of the southern blues tradition and his imitation of "black" style and body language, would never have been possible. Elvis Presley and other young white musicians were able to transform the Afro-American Rhythm and Blues into the music of the rebellious youths of the 50's.

Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup - "Father of Rock and Roll"When Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup recorded his title That's Allright Sep 06,1946 for the RCA Label "Bluebird", it was hardly imaginable that this raw Country Blues was to become one of the anthems of Rock and Roll music. The 1905 in Forrest Mississippi born Crudup, first began, (although he had already sung as a 10-more year-old in church and Gospel choirs) 1937 with guitar playing, which he taught himself. Being influenced by Delta-Musicians like Big Bill Broonzy,, Tampa Red and Lonnie Johnson, Crudup tried his luck in the Mississippi Delta, as a street and party musician. He did this while working as a cotton picker and railroad laborer. His career began in Chicago in 1939, where the well-known Blues producer Lester Melrose discovered him. The hard years of the depression having been surmounted, the bosses of the recording companies began to increasingly concentrate themselves, on the lucrative "race market". In 1941 Melrose brought Crudup to the RCA studios. There Crudup made recordings for the "Bluebird" - Label into the 50's and became relatively well known. In November 1946, Crudup's song Ethel Mae shared fourth place in the "Race Music Charts" with Louis Jordan's hit - That Chick's it Too Young To Fry. Although Arthur Crudup was already a "Blues star" by this time, collaborating with musicians like Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James, he wasn't earning very well. In 1947 Crudup split with Lester Melrose after Melrose withheld royalties from him.

Evidence that Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup was so popular in the 40's and 50's was that the young Elvis Presley knew his music so well. In addition to That's Allright, Elvis recorded two other songs from his black idol: My baby Left Me and So Glad You' re Mine (both 1956), after switching from Sun to RCA in 1955. In addition to Elvis, other Blues artists, like John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Bobby Blue Bland or B. B. King were influenced by the "Father Of Rock and Roll" and/or recorded his songs.

In the mid 50's Crudup retreated from the music business until he was rediscovered in the 60's when he began recording again. In 1973, a year before his death, A documentary film "Arthur Crudup - Born in The Blues" was made about him, making a testament to his life and music. Crudup died in 1974, like many other blues artists having never reaped the fruits of financial success.

Recording details:
If I Get Lucky

Chicago, Sep 11, 1949
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (g + vo) with Joe McCoy (imit. b)

Mean Old 'Frisco Blues
Chicago, Apr 14, 1942
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (g + vo) with Ransom Knowling (b)
Who's Been Fooling You?
Cool Disposition
Rock Me Mama
Chicago, Dec 15, 1944
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (g + vo) with Melvin Draper (d)
Chicago, Feb 22, 1946
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (g + vo) with Armand "Jump" Jackson (d)
Chicago, Nov 08, 1950
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (g + vo) with Ransom Knowling (b) and Lawrence "Jude" Riley (d)
Shout, Sister, Shout
Hand Me Down My Walking Cane
Chicago, Mar 10, 1949
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (g + vo) with Ransom Knowling (b) and Lawrence "Jude" Riley (d)
I Don't know It
That's Allright
Chicago, Sep 06, 1946
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (g + vo) with Ransom Knowling (b) and Lawrence "Jude" Riley (d)
She's Just Like Caledonia
Chicago, Mar 11, 1949
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (g + vo) with Ransom Knowling (b) and Lawrence "Jude" Riley (d)
I'm gonna Dig Myself A Hole
Never No More
Chicago, Apr 24, 1951
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (g + vo) with Ransom Knowling (b) and Lawrence "Jude" Riley (d)
I Love You
She's Got No Hair
Atlanta, Apr 08, 1954
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (g + vo) with Robert Fulton (g), Thomas Patton (p), Joe Thomas (b), Willie Willis (d) and unknown (h)

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