Here’s a hard-rocking instrumental by a guitarist who must surely have been a major influence on Chuck Berry.
For the first 30 seconds it seems like a standard sax-driven song of that era when R&B was evolving into rock’n’roll. And then…. well, it explodes.
That crackling electric guitar sound is something else, even by today’s standards, and was shockingly ahead of its time in early 1951.
Little surprise that he went out under the name Pee Wee Crayton and His Guitar. And with his sharp suits, brilliantined hair and pencil moustache, he even looked a bit like Chuck.
Like all electric guitarists of the post-war era, Crayton was influenced by the pioneering T-Bone Walker but brought a far more aggressive style to his playing.
Crayton came from Texas, like Walker himself, and went west to Los Angeles in 1935 before moving further north to Oakland. His first hit was a trademark instrumental, Blues After Hours, backed with the blues ballad I’m Still In Love With You, which topped the R&B chart in 1948.
In the early 1950s Crayton moved to Imperial Records, making some of his best recordings with producer Dave Bartholomew, mixing his wild guitar runs with the cushion of saxes (You Know Yeah, Running Wild that characterised the New Orleans sound at the time.
Despite moving labels several times, including a spell with Vee-Jay in Chicago, Crayton never quite got the fame his innovative style deserved, though he carried on touring until he died in 1985.