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Ella Mae Morse
Cow Cow Boogie
Recorded 1942-53
Ella Mae Morse with the bands of Freddie Slack and his Orchestra, Dick Walter and his Orchestra, Billy May and his Orchestra, Buddy Cole and his Boogie Woogie Seven, Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra, Joe Lippman and his Orchestra and Dave Cavanaugh and his Music



Crotchet Budget price

1. Cow Cow Boogie
2. He’s my guy
3. Mister Five by Five
4. The thrill is gone
5. Get on board, little children
6. Shoo shoo, baby
7. No love, no nothing
8. Milkman, keep those bottles quiet
9. Tess’ Torch Song
10. The Patty Cake Man
11. Hello, Suzanne
12. Captain Kidd
13. Buzz Me
14. The House of Blue Lights
15. Your conscience tells you so
16. Big foot Pete
17. Get off it and go
18. Tennessee Saturday Night
19. Sensational
20. Love ya like mad
21. The Blacksmith Blues
22. Oakie Boogie
23. Greyhound
24. Jump back, honey
25. Good
26. Big Mamou
27. Forty cups of coffee


Texas born Ella Mae Morse (1924-99) covered a lot of ground in her relatively short singing career, much of it the same. There was a lot of derivative Boogie Woogie, some T-Bone Walker style R and B, novelty Blues and popular song. She worked with some stellar accompanists and starred in some good big bands, starting with Jimmy Dorsey at the absurd (and illegal) age of fourteen and moving on to Freddie Slack, purveyor of rather motoric, but exciting, Boogie Woogie. It was with Slack that Morse made her famed Cow Cow Boogie, a tribute to Cow Cow Davenport’s Boogie. It was a million seller and if a cow could ever become an albatross it did - and Morse, and her record companies, reprised it to the end of her recording days.

And yet. There was something undeniably sexy and versatile about Morse. If she’d not been sidetracked hers was a voice that could have gone in the direction of, say, Julie London’s. When she later cut the unpromisingly titled Love ya like mad! she had the backing of Nelson Riddle and the increased sophistication of the arrangement is palpable and gives one pause for thought, not least because of the excellence of Morse’s musicianship. But to speculate in this way is perhaps to ignore her sheer vitality and adaptability. She was given a lot of film songs to sing and many were fashioned into a marketable rhythm and given a killer diller band intro and boogie beat. The number Jimmy Rushing made famous, Mister Five by Five, is here and in Buzz Me we have some R and B lite. The Benny Carter song Your Conscience tells you so, with lyrics by Don Raye, sounds surprisingly banal and the fake Harlem lingo and Clambake Seven harpsichord of The House of Blue Lights just plain embarrassing.

So yes, there’s plenty of generic, shuffle and hokum Boogie, crude Rhythm and Blues and anonymous, stock orchestrations. But don’t write off Morse. Her vitality is frequently intoxicating and her jazzier credentials credible. There are fine, if brief solos – is that Manny Klein’s trumpet in Cow Cow Boogie? What are Barney Bigard and T-Bone Walker doing with Slack’s Band in 1942? And should Johnny Mercer be enjoying himself quite so much in Mister Five by Five where he has a few lines?

Splendid notes from Peter Dempsey and full bodied, natural sounding transfers from the Living Era team. Cherry pick Morse’s better numbers and you won’t go far wrong.

Jonathan Woolf


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