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Kat On The Keys, CD (£11.50)
Little Willie Littlefield was Modern Records' new discovery in 1949 when his first side for the company, It's Midnight, whizzed to #3 on the R&B chart. The teenage piano-playing star and vocalist had been talent scouted by the Bihari brothers, Modern's owners, after seeing him at the Eldorado Ballroom in Houston. They took him into a local studio where they produced It's Midnight using his old schoolmate, Don Wilkerson, on tenor sax. After the session the brothers encouraged Littlefield to move to Los Angeles by sending him a train ticket. When he arrived on the West Coast he was on the charts and became an overnight sensation at the clubs in Los Angeles' Central Avenue.
Littlefield went on to cut many fine sides, including Happy Pay Day for Modern, but never attained the chart success of his first recording. However, Littlefield's unique triplet piano playing influenced the young Fats Domino in New Orleans. In late 1952, he was snatched up by Ralph Bass, A&R man for Federal. For that company he became famous for his recording of KC Lovin', later reprised by Wilbert Harrison as Kansas City For Fury, topping the charts in 1959.
Littlefield moved to the Bay Area in 1957 where he signed with Rhythm Records and had regional success with Ruby, Ruby. He married and made his home in the Netherlands in the 80s. He is a popular artist in Europe and has become a regular visitor to the UK, where he has toured with the Big Town Playboys. He recorded an album for Ace entitled Happy Pay Day in the early 80s, and has since cut many albums for various European labels.
This is the first CD in a series of Littlefield's fabulous Modern Recordings that have all been remastered from the original acetate lacquers, so the sound quality is the best you will have ever heard. Credit must be given to the wonderful accompaniments provided by the top studio musicians Maxwell Davis, Johnny Moore, Chuck Norris and Buddy Floyd who set the standards for the whole R&B recording industry in Los Angeles.
By Ray Topping