fasstrack

Percy France

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Continuing my series of musicians that not only made a difference in my musical and personal life and generally must not be forgotten I'd like to talk about a guy named Percy France.

I think perhaps he is best known to the public for being the tenor man on Bill Doggett's Honky Tonk and some Jimmy Smith records. Percy was a great swinging tenor out of Gene Ammons, Don Byas and others. He put it together to become and remain Percy France.

Michael Howell, a guitarist who played guitar and elecric bass with Dizzy in the 70s and is still on the scene sounding very well, told me an illustrative story: He walked into a place and it was a dance. The dancers were dancing and it was swinging. He looked over to see who the band was, thinking this is happening, but it can't be too many cats up there. The 'band' was Percy France---swinging those happy feet by his lonesome.

When I first started coming out to the 'big tent' to hang, learn, and try to make my bones Percy was on the scene at the West End. We already had something in common: both of us were fired from Big Joe Turner's gig at Tramps in '81---Percy for (typically) defending one of the cats in the band, and me because Doc Pomus didn't like my blues playing (Turner did, but wasn't calling the shots).

After I ran into Percy in the flesh I starting sitting in a lot with him at the West End. Another guitar player, Joel Perry, was on the gig. (I haven't seen him in years). Sometimnes Percy had us both up there together. One night after playing Percy said "you sounded nice tonight, man' and gave me $5 for coming. He probably made maybe $50 himself and was hurting. The best compliment he gave was a recommendation to George Kelly, the only time I actually worked a week at the West End. George was a great guy too and played ands wrote his ass off. Tenor man from Floida.

I'll never forget one night when Percy MC'd a benefit there for WKCR. There was some estimablr talent there, and some damned fine tenor players. They all played and percy announced everyone. It was party time, and the only drag he alluded to was that someone stole his old lady's purse. I remember his exact words: "whoever would do a thing like this when we're all having such a good time, I don't think much of them". When it came his time to play after waiting in the wings all night he got up and called Sugar. He tore the roof off that fucking joint, I'm here to tell you. The other tenor players were afterthoughts.

r

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great post. I only have him on JOS' "Home Cookin" but he was a great player. Did he call Sugar, the Turrentine tune?

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There are some nice Percy France memories here from Allen Lowe.

Between the two of you he sounds like a helluva good guy.

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There are some nice Percy France memories here from Allen Lowe.

Dan, thanks for the link to the old Percy France thread - this was before I joined the board, and I enjoyed the reminiscences and the enthusiasm for an all-but-forgotten player. I bought the CD from Allen when it first came out, and it's a real winner!

Also enjoyed your additional comments, fasstrack. FYI, Percy did work and record with Bill Doggett, but the famous tenor solo on "Honky Tonk" is Clifford Scott.

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HE IS ALSO ON SIR CHARLES THOMPSON PRESENTS ON COLUMBIA RECORDS. I HAVE A COPY. IVE HEARD ITS RARE. ITS ON COLUMBIA AND ITS JAZZ SO ITS PROBABLY NOT ON CD....

yeah but i have to disagree w/ percy sometimes u just haveta steal the drunk slutty girls purse at the party

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great post. I only have him on JOS' "Home Cookin" but he was a great player. Did he call Sugar, the Turrentine tune?

Yep. It was his '15 minutes' and he kicked ass and took names.

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yeah but i have to disagree w/ percy sometimes u just haveta steal the drunk slutty girls purse at the party

Classy.

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yeah but i have to disagree w/ percy sometimes u just haveta steal the drunk slutty girls purse at the party

Not too funny. It was his girlfriend's. The place was crowded and whoever did it was a maggot.

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There are some nice Percy France memories here from Allen Lowe.

Dan, thanks for the link to the old Percy France thread - this was before I joined the board, and I enjoyed the reminiscences and the enthusiasm for an all-but-forgotten player. I bought the CD from Allen when it first came out, and it's a real winner!

Also enjoyed your additional comments, fasstrack. FYI, Percy did work and record with Bill Doggett, but the famous tenor solo on "Honky Tonk" is Clifford Scott.

Are you sure about that? He used to play that solo and even milk the fact that he was on it---unless senility is setting in here---a distinct possibility.

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It's Clifford Scott on the original.

Is Billy Butler still alive? You could ask him.

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There are some nice Percy France memories here from Allen Lowe.

Dan, thanks for the link to the old Percy France thread - this was before I joined the board, and I enjoyed the reminiscences and the enthusiasm for an all-but-forgotten player. I bought the CD from Allen when it first came out, and it's a real winner!

Also enjoyed your additional comments, fasstrack. FYI, Percy did work and record with Bill Doggett, but the famous tenor solo on "Honky Tonk" is Clifford Scott.

Are you sure about that? He used to play that solo and even milk the fact that he was on it---unless senility is setting in here---a distinct possibility.

I am sure - every discography confirms it, and Scott's name is even in the songwriting credits. I'm not surprised that Percy knew the solo. Every tenor player who ever worked with Doggett had to play that solo note for note every night! I once saw Doggett in the mid 1960's, and the tenor player (whoever he was) played the original solo verbatim. As for Percy's claim to have been on the original record, this wouldn't be the first time an older musician engaged in a little hyperbole. :w

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I think Percy played on a later Bill Doggett recording of Honky Tonk and I think I have the record. Doggett recorded it at least 5 or 6 times over the years.

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I think Percy played on a later Bill Doggett recording of Honky Tonk and I think I have the record. Doggett recorded it at least 5 or 6 times over the years.

That's probably what it was.

Hey, we straightened that out without a food fight! Such nice boys. A kiss on the keppalah from grandma for each of you.

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Thanks for bringing Percy up Fasttrack. I love his playing.

Percy was, I think, in the earliest Bill Doggett band. I have a Doggett album with "Early bird" which was recorded in 1952 and "Percy speaks" from 1953. Later, Irving "Skinny" Brown took over on tenor, then Frank Heppinstall (another fabulous player!). Percy came back to the band in 1955 and was then replaced by Clifford Scott.

I have the Sir Charles Thompson on a home tape. It's very worn by now :) And of course the Freddie Roach.

Interesting to hear about the Town Crier material and Allan Lowe's recording. I haven't seen Allan on the board much lately. Does anyone know if he is still around for me to e-mail him about that CD?

MG

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still here, just busy these days - always glad to see a thread about Percy, who was a good friend, played at my wedding (along with Randy Sandke, Dick Katz, Leroy Williams and the above-mentioned Joel Perry, an old friend of mine, as well; as a matter of fact, I think I introduced him to Percy). Percy was one of the greatest saxophonists I ever heard, and taught me a lot about horns and mouthpieces. There's not a lot of him on records; I got the feeling that Percy, for all of his talents, avoided success, tended to avoid opportunities, but that was just the way he was. Sir Charles Thompson said he was the greatest saxophonist he ever worked with.

not sure if this is whose purse was stolen, but Percy, for a long time, hung out with Singsy Kyle, a very nice lady who was Billy Kyle's widow.

I have plenty of copies of the CD, $5 shipped is fine, my paypal address is alowe@maine.rr.com

Edited by AllenLowe

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It's Clifford Scott on the original.

Is Billy Butler still alive? You could ask him.

Billy Butler passed away in 1991.

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not sure if this is whose purse was stolen, but Percy, for a long time, hung out with Singsy Kyle, a very nice lady who was Billy Kyle's widow.

Ronnie was her name.

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still here, just busy these days - always glad to see a thread about Percy, who was a good friend, played at my wedding (along with Randy Sandke, Dick Katz, Leroy Williams and the above-mentioned Joel Perry, an old friend of mine, as well; as a matter of fact, I think I introduced him to Percy). Percy was one of the greatest saxophonists I ever heard, and taught me a lot about horns and mouthpieces. There's not a lot of him on records; I got the feeling that Percy, for all of his talents, avoided success, tended to avoid opportunities, but that was just the way he was. Sir Charles Thompson said he was the greatest saxophonist he ever worked with.

not sure if this is whose purse was stolen, but Percy, for a long time, hung out with Singsy Kyle, a very nice lady who was Billy Kyle's widow.

I have plenty of copies of the CD, $5 shipped is fine, my paypal address is alowe@maine.rr.com

Thanks Allen. Soon as I'm fixed up with Paypal, I'll be in touch.

MG

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....played at my wedding (along with Randy Sandke, Dick Katz, Leroy Williams and the above-mentioned Joel Perry, an old friend of mine, as well; as a matter of fact, I think I introduced him to Percy).

What ever became of Joel? Haven't seen him or even his name in years. Nice cat. If you see him say Joel Fass says hello. Leroy I saw 2 weeks ago. He's a Barry Harris person and we're all family.

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On July 29, 2006 at 10:48 AM, fasstrack said:

When I first started coming out to the 'big tent' to hang, learn, and try to make my bones Percy was on the scene at the West End. We already had something in common: both of us were fired from Big Joe Turner's gig at Tramps in '81---Percy for (typically) defending one of the cats in the band, and me because Doc Pomus didn't like my blues playing (Turner did, but wasn't calling the shots).

I saw Big Joe at Tramps - I wonder if it was one of your gigs!  Percy opened the show, as I recall.  I could see Doc Pomus in a booth along the far wall.

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6 hours ago, mjzee said:

I saw Big Joe at Tramps - I wonder if it was one of your gigs!  Percy opened the show, as I recall.  I could see Doc Pomus in a booth along the far wall.

I doubt it. I lasted a week. Joe liked me, but Pomus seemed to loathe me. When I came back to Tramps after being fired just out of curiosity to see who they got on guitar (the guy was jumping up and down on the stand, and ended up taking a lesson from me---go figure) Pomus glowered at me, a real hate stare seeming to say 'what the f. are you still doing here?'.

The story I heard was that Percy---whose band preceded the one I was in---also was fired after he defended someone in his band who was accused of smoking weed on the stand. I guess Pomus had a 'fire complex'... 

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did he save the last dance for you?

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I know. That's why "Save The Last Dance For Me" is such a heartbreakingly poignant song.

Big Joe, otoh, had that stroke or two. But even so, I'd rather hear him shout them blues dead than most live people today.

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