Rabon Tarrant

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A "y" in this drummer and bandleader's first name seems to be optional as far as credits are concerned, not something that could be said for the magical backbeat Rabon Tarrant glued onto the rhythmic…
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A "y" in this drummer and bandleader's first name seems to be optional as far as credits are concerned, not something that could be said for the magical backbeat Rabon Tarrant glued onto the rhythmic pages of many a Jack McVea side. Tarrant also wrote songs, staying so solidly in the jump blues genre that the song titles themselves even seem to have the blues, be it the "Lonesome Blues," the "Naggin' Woman Blues," or even just the plain old "Slowly Going Crazy Blues."

Tarrant began playing drums for an uncle who ran a brass band in Wichita Falls, KS. His professional drumming career began with a bandleader who played the banjo, Otis Stafford. That was in the mid-'20s, and by 1927 he had shifted his rhythm section allegiance to the sometimes stormy, sometimes breezy Roy McCloud. Lafayette Thompson's Golden Dragon Orchestra may sound like a group that would stay put inside a Chinese restaurant, but actually provided Tarrant with work in both Colorado and Texas in the late '20s and early '30s.

During the latter decade this drummer continued popping up in various parts of the country. In 1936 he worked with Edith Turnham's Orchestra, based out of San Diego, following a period roaming on the other side of the Rockies with Bert Johnson's Sharps and Flats -- an ensemble that can certainly be said to have been named accidentally. The California presence continued in 1940 as the drummer ascended onto the throne of a Hollywood big-band attraction, Cee Pee Johnson's Orchestra.

A long tenure with the hipster McVea was next, ending only when Tarrant cooked up his own combo in the early '50s, a group that remained active performing for nearly two decades. Tarrant's discography largely documents his relationship with McVea, the importance extending well beyond the accepted supremacy of a drummer in a blues group. Tarrant not only brought in his original songs but was allowed to sing them as well, a distinct and powerful feature of the McVea presentation. There are about 100 songs recorded by McVea; Tarrant is the singer on about a third of these.