Wednesday, November 22, 2017

SHREVEPORT SIZZLERS - Nervous Breakdown (Okeh, 1932)

SHREVEPORT SIZZLERS - Nervous Breakdown (Okeh, 1932)

Why do records by the Shreveport Sizzlers even exist? Good question.

In 1932, Okeh released two records by the Shreveport Sizzlers.  However, they featured recordings originally made in 1929 and already available on Okeh’s parent label, Columbia Records. For some reason -- perhaps the need to reissue out-of-print releases or stretch limited resources during the Great Depression -- Columbia reached into their back catalog to re-release recordings by Clarence Williams. “Nervous Breakdown” by the Shreveport Sizzlers (Okeh 41561) is the same recording as “Nervous Breakdown” by Clarence Williams & His Jazz Kings (Columbia 14468-D). In any event, the Shreveport Sizzlers earned a favorable review alongside nine other “current dance records” in the April 23, 1932, issue of The New Yorker --

"Popular Records," The New Yorker, April 23, 1932, page 39.

Why name the band the Shreveport Sizzlers? That’s the second mystery, though Clarence Williams did have a few connections to the city.

Williams was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana, then lived in New Orleans and Chicago before settling in New York in 1923.  In 1912 and 1914, Indianapolis Freeman newspaper articles indicate he toured with the Lockhart Stock Company vaudeville group, who performed at Shreveport’s Star Theater (1050 Texas Avenue). Both appearances are placed within the context of Williams’s formative years in Lynn Abbott’s article “‘Brown Skin, Who You For?’ Another Look at Clarence Williams’s Early Career” (The Jazz Archivist, December 1993).

Yet another Williams-Shreveport connection involves the song "Shreveport Blues" composed by Annie "Bootsy" Potter.  In 1923, Clarence Williams published sheet music for the song and also recorded it twice.  That September, he played piano as Virigina Liston sang "Shreveport Blues" (Okeh 8122).  Then, in November, the Clarence Williams’ Blue Five recorded an instrumental version of “Shreveport Blues” (Okeh 40006).  We hope to further untangle this song's history in the future.

While definitive answers about the Shreveport Sizzlers might be lost to history, we are pleased to report that their sounds remain available to this day.



Shreveport Sizzlers (Okeh 8918, 1932)
405106 Railroad Rhythm (Waller)
405107 Zonky (Razaf and Waller)

Shreveport Sizzlers (Okeh 41561, 1932)
405184 You’ve Got To Be Modernistic (Johnson)
405185 Nervous Breakdown (Williams)

Clarence Williams & His Jazz Kings (Columbia 14468, 1929)
149056 Nervous Breakdown (Williams)
149057 Railroad Rhythm (Waller)

Clarence Williams & His Jazz Kings (Columbia 14488, 1930)
149665 Zonky (Razaf and Waller)
149666 You’ve Got To Be Modernistic (Johnson)

Friday, May 26, 2017

SMITH BROTHERS - Pack Up / Back To God (test acetate disc, circa 1960)

In 2007, I noticed a Smith Brothers test acetate disc wedged behind a desk drawer at Shreveport’s gospel radio station KOKA.  The radio station staff was kind enough to let me borrow the disc to make a copy.

SMITH BROTHERS (test acetate disc, circa 1960)
side 1: "Pack Up"
side 2: "Back To God"

This unique disc appears to contain recordings that never made it onto an official release.  Underneath the surface noise scratchiness, we hear the early sounds of this Shreveport gospel group.  "Pack Up" is the gospel classic "Packin' Up" originally made popular in 1958 by the Ward Singers featuring Marion Williams.  "Back to God" was recorded as "Come, Let's Go Back To God" in 1951 by the Soul Stirrers featuring Sam Cooke.

As for the history of the Smith Brothers, a program from 1991 provides the following details:
While alive, [Deacon Palmo Smith, Sr.] was an active member of a gospel glee club. That club formed the background for the Smith Brothers Gospel Singers, who were born into gospel music. The young Smith Brothers grew up around gospel singing and praising the Lord.  By their early teens they had organized into a group and were singing all over the area.  The Brothers were pioneers in bringing gospel music to area television and radio audiences, and performed for many years over both medias.  They are famous all over the Southwest and known as brilliant composers and recording artists (N.I.R.A.L. and the Smith Brothers presents the First Annual Ark-La-Tex Gospel Awards Festival Honoring Legends of the Past & Present program, July 16, 1991).
The Smith Brothers went on to release at least three 45s in the 1960s and 1970s on the following record labels: New Way, Pioneer, and Custom Sound.

Thanks to Chico's Video Production for sharing online a video of the Smith Brothers performing in 2011.

("The Singing Smith Family," N.I.R.A.L. and the Smith Brothers presents the First Annual Ark-La-Tex Gospel Awards Festival Honoring Legends of the Past & Present program, July 16, 1991.)

Monday, January 16, 2017

January 17, 2017: Romp and Stomp’s annual all-Shreveport radio show

The eleventh annual all-Shreveport radio show on Romp and Stomp is scheduled for Tuesday, January 17, 2017, from 5:00 to 6:00 pm. Tune in to KSCL 91.3 FM or listen live online at

This year features sacred songs connected to our city spanning 1931 to 2000. You'll hear gospel songs by Shreveporters, gospel songs recorded in Shreveport, and gospel songs on Shreveport record labels. Selections by Leadbelly, the Bailes Brothers, the Ever Ready Gospel Singers, the Mighty Ambassadors, the Sensational Jones Singers, Artee L. Philyaw, and more.

KSCL 91.3 FM | Shreveport, Louisiana
Romp and Stomp | Tuesdays, 5:00 - 6:00 pm
listen live online: