Camille Howard / March 29, 1914 - March 10, 1993

Blues-boogie piano star Camille Howard was one of the better known female talents of the early R&B and jump-blues years. One of the finest blues piano players of the era, she rocked the Los Angeles scene with her own groups, as well as with her husband Roy Milton's band as pianist and occasional singer (and he drummed on many of her records).

Out of Galveston TX, she was performing in the local Texas nightclubs by the mid-'30s. She moved to California in the early '40s and joined Milton's band, making her recorded debut with them in '45 for Lionel Hampton's Hamp-Tone label. The first title under her own name appeared in '46 on a small local label. She recorded a bunch of tunes for Specialty from '46-52, as well as Federal and Vee-Jay, ranging from slammin' boogie to jazzy/mambo-ish numbers to ballads.

Tunes like "Excite Me Daddy" and "Ivory Pick Boogie" sound as proto-rock & roll as anything. "Within This Heart of Mine" has Latin conga added. "Thrill Me", featuring Camille's vocal, was a big hit for the Roy Milton Trio in '47 and she cut her first hit of her own, "X-Temporaneous Boogie" (improvised in the studio), the day before the recording ban began (on New Year's Day, '48). "Money Blues", credited to Camille Howard & her Boyfriends, was a big one in '51. She toured with Jimmy Witherspoon, Joe Tex and others. In the late '50s she retired from commercial music and went the religious way. That was all anyone heard from her.

There are two good volumes of her music worth checking out via Ace Records, Rock Me Daddy and X-Temperaneous Boogie. Both have great tunes, including a whole lot of previously unreleased, yet worthy, material. In recent years Jazzman has dropped a couple of 45 reissues and included her on their excellent Jukebox Mambo series.

Check out a selection of some favorites of mine:

Tagged: blues, Camille Howard, Celebrate Icons, jazz, Los Angeles, piano, women in jazz

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