Cripple Clarence Lofton
|Cripple Clarence Lofton|
|Birth name||Albert or Clarence Clemens|
March 28, 1887 or 1897|
Kingsport or Burns, Tennessee, United States
|Died||January 9, 1957
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Genres||Blues, boogie-woogie, twelve-bar blues|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, tap dancer|
|Labels||Vocalion Records, Document Records|
|Associated acts||Big Bill Broonzy|
Life and career
There is uncertainty over when and where he was born. Many sources state that he was born Albert Clemens in 1887, in Kingsport, Tennessee. However, the researchers Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc state that, based on information in official records, he was born Clarence Clemens in 1896 or 1897, in Burns, Tennessee, and may have been adopted as Clarence Ramsey. They also concluded that Albert (or Elbert) Clemens, born c.1903, who was also a singer and pianist who recorded for Bluebird Records, was his brother.
Lofton was born with a limp, from which he derived his stage name, but he started his career as a tap dancer. He then began performing in the blues idiom known as boogie-woogie and went on to perform in Chicago, Illinois. The distinctive feature of his performances was his energetic stage presence; he would dance and whistle as well as sing. A description of Lofton in performance is provided by William Russell, in his essay "Boogie Woogie":
No one can complain of Clarence's lack of variety or versatility. When he really gets going he's a three-ring circus. During one number, he plays, sings, whistles a chorus, and snaps his fingers with the technique of a Spanish dancer to give further percussive accompaniment to his blues. At times he turns sideways, almost with his back to the piano as he keeps pounding away at the keyboard and stomping his feet, meanwhile continuing to sing and shout at his audience or his drummer. Suddenly in the middle of a number he jumps up, his hands clasped in front of him, and walks around the piano stool, and then, unexpectedly, out booms a vocal break in a bass voice from somewhere. One second later, he has turned and is back at the keyboard, both hands flying at lightning-like pace. His actions and facial expressions are as intensely dramatic and exciting as his music."
With his distinctive performance style, Lofton became a mainstay in his genre. His first recording was made in April 1935 for Vocalion Records with guitar accompaniment by Big Bill Broonzy. Lofton also accompanied Red Nelson on several sides for Decca Records in 1935 and 1936. He later went on to own the Big Apple nightclub in Chicago and continued to record into the late 1940s, when he retired.
Lofton was an integral figure in the boogie-woogie genre in Chicago. Some of his more popular songs include "Strut That Thing", "Monkey Man Blues", "I Don't Know" and "Pitchin' Boogie". His talent was likened to that of Pinetop Smith and other prominent boogie-woogie artists, including Meade Lux Lewis, Cow Cow Davenport and Jimmy Yancey. Lofton was also said to have influenced Erwin Helfer.
- Clarence's Blues (1979), Oldie Blues OL 2817
- Koda, Cub. "Cripple Clarence Lofton: Biography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- "Cripple Clarence Lofton, Vol. 2 1939–1943". Document-records.com. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 150. ISBN 978-0313344237.
- Russell, William. "Boogie Woogie". Colindavey.com. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
- Olderen, Martin van (1979). Clarence's Blues. Liner notes. Oldie Blues OL 2817.
- "Red Nelson: Biography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2016-11-02.
-  Archived July 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.