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Performer Notes
  • Personnel includes: Marion Abernathy (vocals); Oran "Hot Lips" Page, Chico Hamilton.
  • Includes liner notes by Dave Penny.
  • Marion Abernathy, once advertised in Los Angeles as "the Blues Woman," began making records in 1945, her music appearing on the Bel-Tone, Melodisc, and Juke Box labels. Her big hit on Juke Box, "Voo-It! Voo-It!" is said to have made enough money for Art Rupe, owner of Juke Box, to invest in jump-starting his famous Specialty label. Marion Abernathy was a beautiful woman with a striking, smoothly textured voice. This excellent compilation focuses exclusively upon the recordings she made for the King label. Four sides waxed in New York during August of 1947 have a backing band led by saxophonist Paul Bascomb. It is a pleasure to listen to Marion Abernathy, whether she's handling her usual blues-based material or crossing over ever so slightly into jazz territory as she does on her unique study in rhythmic blues scat singing, "Scroogli-Oli-Re-Bos." One might compare her with Dinah Washington or Helen Humes, with June Richmond or Donna Hightower. There's also something about her jazz-like undercurrents that seem to recall the records Alice Roberts made with Dizzy Gillespie in 1946, or presage Iona Wade's hot vocals with James Moody in 1954. Yet Marion Abernathy was a blues singer first and foremost. On December 23, 1947, she waxed 12 tunes at the King studios in Cincinnati, supported by trumpeter Oran "Hot Lips" Page and a first-rate band fortified with two tenor saxophonists -- the great Hal Singer and the mighty Tom Archia. Note that "Nobody Wants You When You're Down and Out" is a completely different song from Ida Cox's magnum opus, "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." This is a shame, as it would have been nice to be able to hear what Abernathy would have done with Cox's ever-pertinent archetypal blues. Her brisk two-minute version of Charlie Shavers' "Undecided" is delightful. It's as fast-paced as the original 1938 recording by John Kirby's Sextet, yet poignant as the slowly rendered 1939 version by Fats Waller & His Rhythm. Abernathy's last session for King Records took place in Los Angeles on March 26, 1949. The excellent band led by pianist Gerry Wiggins featured some of the top musicians in the area at that time, including trumpeter Joe Newman, trombonist Henry Coker, Marshall Royal on clarinet and alto sax, a sensuous sounding Bumps Myers on tenor sax, and even young Chico Hamilton behind the drums. According to the scant extant biographical information, Marion Abernathy only returned to the recording studio once -- in 1961 -- and is believed to have passed away in 1977. What you have on this one disc are some of the best recordings she ever made. ~ arwulf arwulf
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