The Four Blazes
Mary Jo
Delmark 704

The Chicago based quartet the Four Blazes had one of the hottest sounds of 1952, bursting onto the charts with "Mary Jo," a tight vocal/instrumental combo number that replaced Lloyd Priceís "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" at the top.

Mary Jo is the ninth trip into the United vaults for Delmark and features the complete United recordings of the Four Blazes, founded in 1940 by drummer Paul "Jelly" Holt, a regular in the Chicago after-hours jam sessions that would combine the best Chicago had to offer with the best of the national touring acts that were in town.

Holt gathered together Shorty Hill, Floyd McDaniel and Prentice Butler to form the Four Blazes. All crack players, the group rocked with the "hot jive" sound popular in the day. Guitarists Hill and McDaniel were multi-instrumentalists who added variety to the bandís sound, and all four members sang harmony. In 1945 they added Pittsburgh pianist Ernie Harper and in 1947 recorded for Aristocrat as the Five Blazes. After the death of bassist Prentice Butler in 1950, the band shuffled again, dropping the piano and bringing in bassist and lead vocalist Tommy Braden.

Bradenís sweet sailing vocals augmented the tight harmonies put down by the other band members, and the sound was set. The Four Blazes cut "Mary Jo" and "Mood Indigo" with Bill Putnam on January 4, 1952; Putnam sold the sides to Leonard Allenís fledgling United Record Company and scored the labelís first chart hit. "Mary Jo" rocked with a canít-miss swing that led the group into national touring and the United studios for a string of recordings over the next two years.

Although the band never had the chart success of "Mary Jo" again, their follow-up recordings were just as strong. Fabulous guitar work from McDaniel and Hill delivers the musicís drive while, the tenor sax of guest Eddie Chamblee gives it its hop. Highlights include "Perfect Woman" ("Sheís built like a Coca-Cola bottle from her head down to her toes"), "Not Any More Tears" and "Please Send Her Back to Me," while smooth harmony numbers like "Mood Indigo" and "My Great Love Affair" slide along like skates on ice.

Great music, great grooves and excellent production. If you have any interest in early í50s R&B, donít miss this one.

ó Brett J. Bonner

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Boulder, CO, USA.