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Changes in content were made by Curtis Obeda at the direction of Rosco Gordon's granddaughter, Sonia Frederick, to the following information.

The sad news just keeps getting sadder. Still mourning the passing of Jimmie Lee Robinson, we heard from Rosco's bandleader, Larry Simon this morning (July 11) that Rosco Gordon passed away from a massive heart attack. He was preparing to leave his New York residence for a performance in Wisconsin when he was stricken. Gordon was scheduled to perform at this year's Boston Blues Festival and receive a Blues Trust Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday, September 28. His accomplishments cannot be denied, now unfortunately, the award will be presented posthumously.

We at Blues Trust Productions extend our condolences to his family, friends and fans across the world. For those that witnessed his talents this is a sad day. We are sorrier still for those that never had the chance to see him perform.
Rosco Gordon's biography follows:
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Rosco Gordon was born on April 10, 1928, in Memphis, Tennessee. He recorded his first single at the legendary Sun Studios while still a teenager. Sam Phillips sold Rosco's first single, "Booted" to Chess Records and it was released in 1951. His second song, "No More Doggin'", reached number 3 on the charts, released on the Bihari Brother's RPM label. Gordon was among the many, such as B.B. King and Rufus Thomas to appear and perform on Memphis radio station WDIA. Dave Mattis of WDIA took some of the product, from recording sessions at the station, to a DJ convention in Chicago. Although unauthorized, he sold it to Houston's Don Robey, who owned the Peacock and Duke labels. Before he was 18 Rosco Gordon had hit records on three different labels!

In his early 20's he lived in Shreveport, LA and continued to tour behind the Duke/Peacock and Sun releases. He was touring with Jimmy McCracklin and finished writing a song that Jimmy had been working on. "Just a Little Bit" turned out to be his biggest hit and biggest trouble all at once. He recorded the demo for Cincinnati's King Records, but owner Ralph Bass said that he was uninterested in releasing it. Chicago's Vee-Jay label did release "Just a Little Bit' and it became a hit for Gordon and many others who covered it. Unfortunately, Bass had used the demo to copyright the song under his name! In 1990 Gordon finally received the rights to the song that he had written more than three decades earlier.

Gordon's downbeat boogie was mixed with calypso music in Jamaica and became the basis for a new Island music called ska. Laurel Aitken, referred to as Jamaica's "First Pop Star and the Godfather of Ska" admitted as much in a February 1999 interview. His music's popularity in Jamaica is yet another cultural achievement that Rosco Gordon is credited with, but didn't directly profit from.

Gordon married Barbara Kerr on February 9, 1961. Although he continued playing music, he stopped touring and was part owner of a New York dry cleaner to support his family. His wife died of cancer in 1984 and Rosco dedicated himself to his children. With his children grown, Gordon once again started performing and recording towards the century's end.

"Memphis Tennessee"
Rosco Gordon
(Stony Plain)

Rosco Gordon's "Memphis Tennessee" is a minor gem that pays homage to the R&B sides that legendary indie labels such as Chess and Sun recorded in the 1950s. The CD also represents Gordon's first-ever full-length "album." The singer and piano player devoted more than two decades to his family after recording three hit singles as a teenager in the early 1950s. "Booted," his debut, soared to the top of the R&B charts in 1952. Gordon also pioneered a distinctive shuffle rhythm that influenced the development of ska and reggae in Jamaica before he quit the business in the 1960s. Guitarist/producer Duke Robillard and his band back Gordon, who wrote 11 of the 12 tunes. Robillard, the founder of Roomful of Blues, has been at the forefront of this country's roots-music revival for more than three decades. His expertise runs the gamut from swing, jump and bebop to blues and early rock 'n' roll. The arrangement on the loungy "Sit Right Here" offers testimony. The minor-key shuffle sounds as though it would fit in perfectly on the soundtrack to the next Quentin Tarantino film. Robillard's guitar has that old-time crackle. It also stands out on the bluesy "It Takes A Lot of Lovin' " and "Let's Get High" as well as on "Jelly Jelly," the CD's lone cover written by jazz legends Earl Hines and Billy Eckstein. Gordon takes the edge off his pipes on somber-sounding ballads such as "Now You're Gone" and "You Don't Care About Nothing," which feature the singer accompanying himself on piano. The latter is a solo piece; the former includes strong contributions from Robillard and sax player Gordon "Sax Gordon" Beadle, another retro-minded New England musician. All and all, this is a great collection.
("Memphis Tennessee" is in stores now.)
- Eric Fine



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