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Click & hear a bit of 'Sapphire' !!

'Sapphire' is without a doubt one of the very best Little Richard-sounding rockers ever cut -
on a par with those created by Harold Burrage, Joe Tex, Big Al Downing
or Rockin' Bradley for instance.

'Sapphire, what in the world is wrong with you/you didn't come home until half past two !...'

Written by Jack Hammer (of 'Great Balls Of Fire' fame) and released on Trend (# T 30.012), a subsidiary label for Kapp Records in New-York, it was sung by Big Danny Oliver, one of the many great unknowns whose contribution to Rock'n'Roll is fascinating. Big Danny's vocal can safely be described as wild !! As for the backing, it is very tight and consists of piano, guitar, electric bass and drums. No saxes. Of course, the swooping piano part is as essential a feature of the song as Big Danny's voice. There's always been much speculation over who played that piano but, according to Rob Finnis's notes to the 'Rockin' From Coast To Coast-Vol. 1' CD (Ace CHD 496, 1996), it's now almost certain that it was David Clowney - who would later switch to organ and score big instrumental hits as 'Dave 'Baby' Cortez with 'The Happy Organ' (Clock 1009, 1959) and the unforgettable 'Rinky Dink' (Chess 1829, 1962).

The flip side, 'I Wanna Go Steady', was recorded at the same March 7, 1958, session. Another Jack Hammer composition, it's a superb bluesy item with vocal group backing, much in the Hank Ballard & Midnighters vein. Again, the piano is excellent (the intro is lifted straight from Fats Domino's 'Blue Monday') and there's a strong electric bass sound but this time the guitar is prominent - fluid and atmospheric. Mickey Baker ??

Apparently, this record was first put out on the parent Kapp label (# 721) and then switched to the Trend subsidiary. Big Danny Oliver had a second session at Trend on October 21, 1958 - amazingly the same day as Buddy Holly's last studio session, held at the Pythian Temple in New-York - and a second outing (# T 30.016) coupling '49th State Blues' with 'Handle With Care'. Apparently, another song, 'In The Bottom Of My Heart', was recorded but remained in the can until its appearance on a superb Charly LP from 1984, 'Rock Sock The Boogie' (CR 30237), which also featured 'Sapphire', '49th State Blues' and 'Handle With Care' - with all four titles in stereo !

The sleeve notes informed us that Big Danny had a final session for Trend on March 25th, 1959, at which he recorded three tracks : the bluesy 'Baby Don't Cry', 'People' and 'Me Without You', all unissued at the time. Of these, only 'Baby Don't Cry' surfaced on vinyl when Charly Records in England released their 'Ridin' The Riff' LP in 1986 (CRB 1128), another essential R&B compilation.

Not surprisingly, my conclusion is that 'Sapphire' belongs in every Rock'n'Roll record collection. Apart from the aforementioned Ace CD and Charly LP, this colossal track also kicked off MCA's 'Rare Rock'n'Roll-Volume 1' (CDL 8507), a 1980 UK album ; this time, the compilers used the mono mix which, frankly, is the best way to fully appreciate all its power.
All this means that one should be able to hear the song one way or another. Easier yet, you can also click the original '45 pictured at top right to hear 20 seconds of it in mp3 !

© Paul VIDAL * Privas, France * December 2002-June 2016


Trend T 30.012
K-2591 X  Sapphire
K-2592 X  I Wanna Go Steady

Trend T 30.016
49th State Blues
Handle With Care

Charly CR 30237
'Rock Sock The Boogie'
Various artists compilation ; contains :
Sapphire/In The Bottom Of My Heart/
49th State Blues/Handle With Care

Charly CRB 1128
'Ridin' The Riff'
Various artists compilation ; contains :
I Wanna Go Steady/Baby Don't Cry

Dave Cortez.

A selected discography

Clock 1009
The Happy Organ/Love Me As I Love You

Clock 1012
The Whistling Organ/I'm Happy

Clock 1014
It's A Sin To Tell A Lie/Piano Shuffle

Clock 1031
Hurricane/The Shift

Chess 1829
Rinky Dink/Getting Right

Chess 1842
Tweedle Dee/Gift Of Love

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