'Sapphire' is without a doubt one of the very best Little Richard-sounding rockers ever cut -
on a par with those created by Harold Burrage, Joe Tex, Big Al Downing
or Rockin' Bradley for instance.
'Sapphire, what in the world is wrong with you/you didn't come home until half past two !...'
by Jack Hammer (of 'Great Balls Of Fire' fame) and released on Trend (#
T 30.012), a subsidiary label for Kapp Records in New-York, it was sung
by Big Danny Oliver, one of the many great unknowns whose contribution
to Rock'n'Roll is fascinating. Big Danny's vocal can safely be described
as wild !! As for the backing, it is very tight and consists of
piano, guitar, electric bass and drums. No saxes. Of course, the swooping
piano part is as essential a feature of the song as Big Danny's voice.
There's always been much speculation over who played that piano but, according
to Rob Finnis's notes to the 'Rockin' From Coast To Coast-Vol. 1' CD (Ace
CHD 496, 1996), it's now almost certain that it was David Clowney - who
would later switch to organ and score big instrumental hits as 'Dave 'Baby'
Cortez with 'The Happy Organ' (Clock 1009, 1959) and the unforgettable
'Rinky Dink' (Chess 1829, 1962).
Apparently, this record was first put out on the parent Kapp label (# 721) and then switched to the Trend subsidiary. Big Danny Oliver had a second session at Trend on October 21, 1958 - amazingly the same day as Buddy Holly's last studio session, held at the Pythian Temple in New-York - and a second outing (# T 30.016) coupling '49th State Blues' with 'Handle With Care'. Apparently, another song, 'In The Bottom Of My Heart', was recorded but remained in the can until its appearance on a superb Charly LP from 1984, 'Rock Sock The Boogie' (CR 30237), which also featured 'Sapphire', '49th State Blues' and 'Handle With Care' - with all four titles in stereo !
The sleeve notes informed us that Big Danny had a final session for Trend on March 25th, 1959, at which he recorded three tracks : the bluesy 'Baby Don't Cry', 'People' and 'Me Without You', all unissued at the time. Of these, only 'Baby Don't Cry' surfaced on vinyl when Charly Records in England released their 'Ridin' The Riff' LP in 1986 (CRB 1128), another essential R&B compilation.
my conclusion is that 'Sapphire' belongs in every Rock'n'Roll record collection.
Apart from the aforementioned Ace CD and Charly LP, this colossal track
also kicked off MCA's 'Rare Rock'n'Roll-Volume 1' (CDL 8507), a 1980 UK
album ; this time, the compilers used the mono mix which, frankly, is the best way to fully appreciate all its power.
© Paul VIDAL * Privas, France * December 2002-June 2016
BIG DANNY OLIVER