Big Bear Records

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Big Bear Records
Founded1968 (1968)
FounderJim Simpson
GenreBlues, jazz, swing
Country of originUK
LocationBirmingham, England

Big Bear Records is the oldest independent British record label set up in 1968 by Jim Simpson in Birmingham, England. It specialises in blues and jazz recordings.[1]


Big Bear Records was founded by promoter and band manager Jim Simpson in 1968, taking its name from the nickname given to Simpson by Radio 1 DJ John Peel.[2] At the time, Simpson was managing The Locomotive, who had just scored a top 40 hit with "Rudi's In Love".[3] After Parlophone, the band's existing label, declined to release the planned follow-up recording "Rudi The Red Nosed Reindeer", Simpson decided to set up his own Big Bear Records label to release the single (with the band renamed Steam Shovel for contractual reasons), with initial distribution from Island Records.[4]

During 1968, Simpson established the weekly Henry's Blueshouse club night at The Crown Hotel on Station Street in Birmingham.[5] Early members of the club included Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi, who one week approached Simpson to request a support slot at a future gig for their band, then known as Earth.[6] Simpson would go on to manage Earth, who soon changed their name to Black Sabbath. Under Simpson's management, they reached number one on the album chart with Paranoid, before leaving him in 1970.[7]

Following this, Simpson began to focus his attention on recording and touring American bluesmen, under the billing American Blues Legends.[8] Featuring musicians including Tommy Tucker, Willie Mabon, Homesick James, Doctor Ross, Snooky Pryor, Cousin Joe, Eddie "Guitar" Burns, Champion Jack Dupree and Eddie Playboy Taylor, Big Bear released a total of 21 albums of American blues during the 1970s.[9][10]

The 1980s saw Big Bear Records returning to Simpson's first love, mainstream jazz and swing. Assembling a lineup of leading British jazz musicians including Humphrey Lyttelton, Dick Morrissey, Digby Fairweather, Dave Shepherd and Jim Douglas, Big Bear promoted a live jam session on 12 August 1984 at Birmingham's Cannon Hill Park,[11] recorded and released on LP as The M&B Jam Session. The success of the event provided the impetus for the first Birmingham International Jazz Festival the following summer, which continues to be organised annually by Big Bear Music every July.[12] In 1987, Big Bear launched The Jazz Rag magazine, which continues to publish bi-monthly,[13] as well as The British Jazz Awards.[14] The first edition of the awards was marked with a ceremony at Birmingham's Grand Hotel, where the jam session featuring the poll winners was recorded and released as the British Jazz Awards 1987 album.[15]

Big Bear Records continued to work with prominent names in British jazz into the 1990s, releasing albums by Lady Sings The Blues (fronted by Val Wiseman), Kenny Baker's Dozen, Bruce Adams and Alan Barnes.[16]


Year Released Artist Title Catalogue Number
1968 Steam Shovel Rudi the Red-Nosed Reindeer
1972 Eddie "Guitar" Burns Bottle Up and Go BEAR 16, Action ACMP 100
Johnny Mars Blues from Mars BEAR 17, Polydor 2460 168
Doctor Ross Live at Montreux BEAR 18, Polydor 2460 169
Gene Conners with Mickey Baker Let the Good Times Roll BEAR 19, Polydor 2460 185
1973 Various Artists American Blues Legends '73 BEAR 20, Polydor 2460 186
Homesick James & Snooky Pryor Homesick James & Snooky Pryor BEAR 21, Caroline C 1502, INT 146.404, BRP 2002
1974 Doctor Ross The Harmonica Boss BEAR 2, Munich 150 201, INT 146.403, BRP 2013
Various Artists American Blues Legends '74 BEAR 1, Munich 150 202
Eddie Taylor Ready for Eddie BEAR 6, Munich 150 203,INT 146.407
Cousin Joe Gospel-Wailing...Blues Man from New Orleans BEAR 3
Big John Wrencher Big John's Boogie BEAR 4, INT 146.402
1975 Mickey Baker Take a Look Inside BEAR 5, INT 146.408
Eddie "Guitar" Burns Detroit Blackbottom BEAR 7
Various Artists American Blues Legends '75 BEAR 8
Willie Mabon The Comeback BEAR 9
Homesick James Home Sweet Homesick James BEAR 10
1976 Erwin Helfer Boogie Piano Chicago Style BEAR 11, INT 146.401, BRP 2003
Johnny Mars Oakland Boogie BEAR 12, INT 146.405
Clark Terry's Big Bad Band Live on 57th Street BEAR 13
Snooky Pryor Shake Your Boogie BEAR 14, INT 146.406, BRP 2033
Doctor Ross Jivin' the Blues BEAR 15, INT 146.409
Muscles Muscles BEAR 24, BB 1001, INT 161.400
1979 Various Artists American Blues Legends '79 BEAR 23, INT 146.410
1980 Claude Williams Kansas City Giants BEAR 25
Various Artists Brum Beat – Live at the Barrel Organ! BRUM 1
1985 Various Artists M&B Jam Session Volume 1 BEAR 26
1988 Various Artists Mitchells and Butler's British Jazz Awards 1987 BEAR 27
Duncan Swift Out Looking For The Lion BEAR 28
Groove Juice Special Groove Juice Comin' To Town BEAR 29
King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys BEAR 30
1990 Bill Allred's Goodtime Jazz Band Swing That Music! BEAR 31
King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys This Is It! BEAR 32
Lady Sings The Blues Lady Sings The Blues BEAR 33
1991 Duncan Swift The Broadwood Concert BEAR 34
King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys Better Beware! BEAR 35
1992 Bruce Adams Quartet One Foot In The Gutter BEARCD36
1993 King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys Live At Ronnie Scotts Birmingham BEARCD37
Bruce Adams/Alan Barnes Quintet Side-Steppin' BEARCD38
1994 Kenny Baker's Dozen The Boss Is Home BEARCD39
1995 King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys Blues & Rhythm Revue, Vol 1 BEARCD40
Bruce Adams/Alan Barnes Quintet Let's Face The Music BEARCD41
1998 King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys Smack Dab In The Middle BEARCD42
2002 King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys Let 'Em Roll BEARCD43
2004 Alan Barnes' All Stars The Marbella Jazz Suite BEARCD44
2006 The Doctor Teeth Big Band Rhythm Is Our Business BEARCD45
King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys Hey Puerto Rico! BEARCD46
2007 Tipitina I Wish I Was In New Orleans BEARCD47
2009 Django's Castle with Bruce Adams Swing Hotel du Vin BEARCD48
Nomy Rosenberg Trio Nomy Rosenberg Trio BEARCD49
2010 King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys Live At Last BEARCD50
2012 Tipitina Taking Care of Business BEARCD51
The Will Johns Band Hooks & Lines BEARCD52
2013 Remi Harris Ninick BEARCD53
2015 The Whiskey Brothers Bottle Up And Go BEARCD54
2016 Lady Sings The Blues Laughing At Life BEARCD55
2017 Various Artists Jazz City UK: Volume 1 BEARCD56
2018 Various Artists Jazz City UK: Volume 2 BEARCD57
Howard McCrary Moments Like This BEARCD58

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bob Brunning: The American Blues Legends. in: Bob Brunning: Blues — The British connection. Dorset. Blandford Press, 1986, p. 181–198. ISBN 0-7137-1836-6.
  2. ^ Young, Graham (29 November 2013). "Jim Simpson tells the story behind the success of Big Bear Music". Birminghampost. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  3. ^ Betts, Graham (2004). Collins complete UK hit singles 1952-2004. London: Collins. ISBN 0007179316. OCLC 56662962.
  4. ^ "Jim Simpson Life Stories with Des Tong". YouTube. 8 October 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Legendary Birmingham music night Henry's Blueshouse to return after 50 years". Counteract – News | Music | Events | Food | Film. 7 February 2019. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  6. ^ Rockwell (29 July 2011). "I Gave Sabbath Their First Gig". Vice (in Danish). Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  7. ^ Large, Heather. "Legendary blues club is back: Inside Henry's Blueshouse in Birmingham". Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Ep083: Black Sabbath Manager & Birmingham Legend Jim 'Big Bear' Simpson". Vinyl | Vinyl record podcast | The Vinyl Guide | For Record Collectors. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  9. ^ Franz, Steve (27 January 2016). "Blues Unlimited #294". Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  10. ^ "Big Bear Records". Discogs. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  11. ^ "bebop spoken here: CD Review: Jazz City UK Volume 2: The Jam Sessions". bebop spoken here. 8 November 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  12. ^ Young, Graham (18 July 2014). "Diversity is the priceless key to the marvellous Jazz Festival". Birminghampost. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  13. ^ "The Jazz Rag". The Jazz Directory. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  14. ^ International who's who in music. Bootman, Cara., Parrott, Tamsin. (3rd ed.). 2000. ISBN 0948875585. OCLC 43633779.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  15. ^ Rainey, Hugh. "Various: Jazz City UK Volume 2 – The Jam Sessions | Jazz Journal". Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  16. ^ "Big Bear Music Agency". Europe Jazz Network. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2019.

External links[edit]