Eddie Vinson

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Eddie Vinson
Eddie Vinson in May 1980.
Eddie Vinson in May 1980.
Background information
Birth nameEdward L. Vinson Jr.
Also known asEddie "Cleanhead" Vinson
Born(1917-12-18)December 18, 1917
Houston, Texas, United States
DiedJuly 2, 1988(1988-07-02) (aged 70)
Los Angeles, California, United States
GenresJump blues,[1] R&B,[1] jazz
Occupation(s)Saxophonist, singer, composer
Years active1930s–1988
LabelsKing Records, Mercury, Black & Blue, ABC-BluesWay, Muse

Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson (born Edward L. Vinson Jr.; December 18, 1917 – July 2, 1988) was an American jump blues, jazz, bebop and R&B alto saxophonist and blues shouter.[1] He was nicknamed Cleanhead after an incident in which his hair was accidentally destroyed by lye contained in a hair straightening product, necessitating shaving it off; enamoured of the look, Vinson maintained a shaved head thereafter.[2][3] Music critic Robert Christgau has called Vinson "one of the cleanest—and nastiest—blues voices you'll ever hear."[4]


Vinson was born in Houston, Texas.[5] He was a member of the horn section in Milton Larkin's orchestra, which he joined in the late 1930s.[5] At various times, he sat next to Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet, and Tom Archia, while other members of the band included Cedric Haywood and Wild Bill Davis. After exiting Larkin's employment in 1941, Vinson picked up a few vocal tricks while on tour with bluesman Big Bill Broonzy.[5] He then moved to New York and joined the Cootie Williams Orchestra from 1942 to 1945, recording such tunes as "Cherry Red". Vinson struck out on his own in 1945, forming his own large band, signing with Mercury Records, and enjoying a double-sided hit in 1947 with his R&B chart-topper "Old Maid Boogie", and the song that would prove to be his signature number, "Kidney Stew Blues".[6]

Vinson's jazz leanings were probably heightened during 1952–1953, when his band included a young John Coltrane. In the late 1960s, touring in a strict jazz capacity with Jay McShann, Vinson's career took an upswing. In the early 1960s Vinson moved to Los Angeles and began working with the Johnny Otis Revue. A 1970 appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival with Otis spurred a bit of a comeback for Vinson. Throughout the 1970s he worked high-profile blues and jazz sessions for Count Basie, Otis, Roomful of Blues, Arnett Cobb, and Buddy Tate. He also composed steadily, including "Tune Up" and "Four", both of which have been incorrectly attributed to Miles Davis.[7] There is some controversy over who composed "Four".[citation needed]

Vinson recorded extensively during his fifty-odd year career and performed regularly in Europe and the U.S. He died in 1988, from a heart attack while undergoing chemotherapy,[8] in Los Angeles, California.


Year Title Notes Genre Label
1957 Clean Head's Back in Town with Joe Newman, Henry Coker, Bill Graham, Frank Foster, Paul Quinichette, Charlie Rouse, Charles Fowlkes, Nat Pierce, Freddie Green, Turk Van Lake, Ed Jones, Gus Johnson, Ed Thigpen Blues, Jazz Bethlehem; Charly
1962 Back Door Blues with Cannonball Adderley Quintet; some tracks and alternate takes released as Cleanhead & Cannonball on Landmark Blues, Jazz Riverside; Fresh Sound
1967 Cherry Red with Mike Bloomfield Blues ABC/Bluesway; One Way
1969 Kidney Stew is Fine with T-Bone Walker and Jay McShann; also released as Wee Baby Blues on Black & Blue Jump Blues, Swing Jazz Delmark
1969 [1984] Live! in France with Jay McShann Jump Blues, Swing Jazz Black & Blue
1970 The Original Cleanhead with Artie Butler, David Cohen, Joe Pass, Arthur Wright, Earl Palmer, Plas Johnson Blues Bluestime/Flying Dutchman; Ace
1971 You Can't Make Love Alone Live at the 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival Blues Mega/Flying Dutchman
1974 [1975] Jamming the Blues Live in Montreux Blues Black Lion
1978 The "Clean" Machine with Lloyd Glenn Blues, Jazz Muse
1978 [1981] Live at Sandy's (Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and the Muse All Stars) with Arnett Cobb and Buddy Tate Jump Blues, Swing Jazz Muse 5208
1978 [1984] Hold It Right There! (Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and the Muse All Stars) with Arnett Cobb and Buddy Tate Jump Blues, Swing Jazz Muse 5243
1979 [2003] Redux: Live at the Keystone Korner with Larry Vuckovich Blues, Jazz Savant
1980 Kansas City Shout with Count Basie and Big Joe Turner Blues, Jazz Pablo
1980 Fun in London with John Burch, Lennie Bush, Bobby Orr Blues, Jazz JSP
1981 I Want a Little Girl with Art Hillery, Cal Green, John Heard, Roy McCurdy, Martin Banks, Rashid Jamal Ali Blues, Jazz Pablo
1982 Mr. Cleanhead's Back in Town with Stan Greig, Les Davidson, Paul Sealey, Martin Guy Blues, Jazz JSP
1982 Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson & Roomful of Blues with Roomful of Blues Blues, Jump Blues Muse; Rockbeat
1986 Blues in the Night Volume One: The Early Show Live in Los Angeles with Etta James Blues Fantasy
1986 [1987] The Late Show: Blues in the Night, Volume 2 Live in Los Angeles with Etta James Blues Fantasy
1987 Oscar Peterson + Harry Edison + Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson with Oscar Peterson and Harry "Sweets" Edison Jazz Pablo
1996 Kidney Stew (The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions) with T-Bone Walker and Jay McShann Jump Blues, Swing Jazz Black & Blue
2003 Bald Headed Blues (His Complete King Recordings 1949-1952) compilation Jump Blues Ace
2006 Honk for Texas (1942-1954) with Cootie Williams and Big Jim Wynn; 4-CD box set; compilation Jump Blues JSP
2007 Blues, Boogie & Bebop – Meat's Too High compilation of Fun in London and Mr. Cleanhead's Back in Town Blues, Jazz JSP
2008 Jumpin' the Blues (The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions) with Jay McShann Jump Blues, Swing Jazz Black & Blue
2019 Mr. Cleanhead Blows His Greatest Hits (Selected Singles 1944-1950) compilation Jump Blues Jasmine

With Oliver Nelson

With Arnett Cobb and the Muse All Stars

  • Live at Sandy's! (Muse 5191, 1978 [rel. 1980])
  • More Arnett Cobb and the Muse All Stars (Live at Sandy's!) (Muse 5236, 1978 [rel. 1983])

With Buddy Tate and the Muse All Stars

With Helen Humes and the Muse All Stars

  • Helen Humes and the Muse All Stars (Muse 5217, 1978 [rel. 1980]) - with Arnett Cobb and Buddy Tate


  1. ^ a b c Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
  2. ^ Otis, Johnny. Upside Your Head!: Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue, Wesleyan University Press, page 34, (1993) - ISBN 0-8195-6287-4
  3. ^ "Vinson Eddie "Cleanhead"". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  4. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: V". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 21, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  5. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 1219/20. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  6. ^ Vladimir, Bogdanov. All Music Guide to the Blues: The Definitive Guide to the Blues, Backbeat Books, pg. 571 (2002); ISBN 0-87930-736-6
  7. ^ Koster, Rick. Texas Music, St. Martin's Press, pg. 319 (2000); ISBN 0-312-25425-3
  8. ^ Doc Rock. "The 1980s". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2015-10-07.

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