July 4, 2012

Doctor Sausage and His Five Pork Chops

[Photo: Dr. Sausage and His Five Pork Chops]

Yes friends, there really was a musical group known as Doctor Sausage and His Five Pork Chops. Mind you, this was a fringe act, and today very little is known about them. They recorded 2 singles for Decca Records in 1940, four more in 1950 for Regal (including a Top 10 R&B single with Rag Mop) and then were never heard from again. Considered a Novelty Act throughout their career, they provide an interesting if brief peek into the late 30′s and 40′s East Coast “hep culture” and “Race Records” – an era of music I find both fascinating and one that directly laid the foundation for contemporary Rock music today.

[Newspaper ad: Perfect Race Records]

Race records were 78 rpm phonograph records marketed to African Americans during the early 20th century, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s. They primarily contained race music, comprising a variety of African American musical genres including blues, jazz, and gospel music, though comedy recordings were also produced. Most of the major recording companies issued special “race” series of records between the mid 1920s and the 1940s. Decca Records was one such label and throughout the 1930s and early-to-mid 1940s a leading label of jazz, blues and jump, with numerous best selling artists including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, The Mills Brothers, Louis Jordan (the #1 R&B artist of the 1940s), Bill Kenny & The Ink Spots, Lucky Millander and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the original ‘soul sister’ of recorded music.

Although in hindsight the term “race record” may seem to be a derogatory one, in the early 20th century the African American press routinely used the term “the Race” to refer to African Americans as a whole, and used the terms “race man” or “race woman” to refer to African American individuals who showed pride and support for their people and culture.

Lucius “Dr. Sausage” Tyson

Led by Lucius “Dr. Sausage” Tyson – Lead vocals, Drums (b. Mar. 7, 1911, Brunswick, GA / d. unknown), the first recorded appearance of Doctor Sausage and His Five Pork Chops that I can find is in 1939′s “Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1939” at the Hudson Theater, in NYC. Written by impresario Lew Leslie (famous for his stage shows at the Cotton Club and later for his Blackbirds revues) and featuring lyrics by none other than Johnny Mercer (and an appearance by then virtually unknown Lena Horne), this particular revue seems to have been poorly received however, running for but one week in the spring of 1939 (11 Feb 1939 to 18 Feb 1939 – 9 performances). Buried mid-pack in the review’s Playbill is the notation “Dr. Sausage and His Five Pork Chops – Specialty”. I can find no record of what they actually performed in the review.

The act drew heavily on the influences of many successful Harlem/Cotton Club luminaries of the time, such as Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan, Slim and Slam and contemporaries such as Cats and the Fiddle. With a healthy dose of comedy and the waning vaudeville sensibilities of the day, along with the stepped-up swing jazz and multi-part vocal harmonies that was popular in the African American communities of the time (the precursor to the 50′s R&B Jump style and Doo Wop), lyrical scatting, hepster expressions and broad sexually suggestive humor, they managed to catch the attention of (American) Decca Records, who were doing quite well marketing to the “Race Records” market and the growing jukebox trade.

[78 RPM Label - Wham]Their first recording for Decca was the Eddie Durham/Taps Miller penned “Wham (Re-bop-boom-bam)”. As was common at that time, more than one artist recorded the same song, and Wham was no exception, being recorded by Glenn Miller, Jimmie Lunceford, Jack Teagarden and many more. They cut 3 other tracks at the same session (Mar. 19, 1940), with Doctor Sausage Blues as the flip side to Wham (Re-bop-boom-bam), and Birthday Party b/w Cuckoo Cuckoo Chicken Rhythm released shortly after. It would appear however that Decca was not satisfied with the resulting record sales, and the act was not invited back to record further tracks.

[78 RPM Label - Rag Mop]It wasn’t until a decade later that Tyson (now performing as Doc Sausage and His Mad Lads) would re-enter the studio to cut new material for Regal Records, a label begun by David and Jules Braun in Linden, New Jersey in 1949. The Brauns decided to record R&B performers and started to enter the field in a big way, which resulted in Doc Sausage cutting a total of 8 tracks for the label in 1950. Despite their Top 5 R&B chart success with their version of Rag Mop (written by Johnnie Lee Wills – brother of Bob Wills, and another track recorded by numerous artists at the same time, including Lionel Hampton, Ralph Flanagan, The Ames Brothers [#1], and The Starlighters) they were unable to chart again, and when the short-lived label closed in 1951, the band was never to be heard of again on record. (Some have pointed to Sausage Rock as one of the first commercially released song titles to actually reference the word “Rock”, which was also 50′s era African American slang for sex, and the tracks lyrics are equally suggestive for the time.)

Some of Tyson’s band-mates would continue on recording with other artists, notably Jimmy Butts and Gerry “The Wig” Wiggins. Lucius “Dr. Sausage” Tyson however disappeared, and I can find no record of him after 1950.


Doctor Sausage and His Five Pork Chops:

Dr. Sausage – Lead vocals, Drums; Gerry “The Wig” Wiggins – Piano; others – unknown

  • Wham [Re-bop-boom-bam] / Doctor Sausage Blues (Decca 7736)
  • Birthday Party / Cuckoo Cuckoo Chicken Rhythm (Decca 7776)

(Both Five Pork Chops 78′s were released in 1940 on New York based Decca Records. You can still purchase these 4 Decca trackstoday at Amazon.com.)

Doc Sausage & His Mad Lads:

(Doc Sausage – vocals and drums; Earl Johnson – sax; Charles Harris – piano; Charlie Jackson – guitar; Jimmy Butts – bass)

  • She Don’t Want Me No More / Please Don’t Leave Me Now (Regal 3248)
  • Rag Mop / You Got Me Cryin’ (Regal 3251) – Peaked at #4 on the US R&B Charts / Feb. 1950
  • Sausage Rock / I’ve Been A Bad Boy (Regal 3256)
  • Door Mat Blues / I’m A Poor Man (Regal 3283)

(All 4 Mad Lads 78′s released in 1950 on the New Jersey based Regal Records.)

Posted by John

I am a 16 year veteran of Web Accessibility, living and working in Austin, Texas. Currently Principal Accessibility Strategist at Deque Systems Inc., I have previously held accessibility related positions at JPMorgan Chase and Stanford University. I am also actively involved with the W3C - the international internet standards body - where I attempt to stir the pot, fight hard for accessibility on the web, and am currently co-chairing a subcommittee on the accessibility of media elements in HTML5.

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