The first vinyl records, released around 1900, were 10-inch, 78 RPM records. This song is specifically about the Blues recordings found on those records, and yes, wink, wink, it is a double entendre. “Big Ten-Inch (Record Of The Blues)” was composed by Fred Weismantel and became a big hit on the R&B charts during 1952 for tenor-sax player and singer Bull Moose Jackson.
Benjamin Clarence Jackson, aka Bull Moose Jackson, was born in 1919 in Cleveland. A violin-playing child prodigy who favored the saxophone, Jackson joined the sax section of Lucky Millinders big band as a teenager. A bandmate famously said Jackson looked like a damn bull moose, and the nickname stuck. Shortly thereafter, Jackson stepped up to the microphone one night in Texas to sing after Wynonie Harris was a no-show. Jackson brought down the house.
Bull Moose Jackson was most successful in the late 1940s. He is sometimes considered a performer of dirty blues, because of the suggestive nature of some of his songs, such as “I Want a Bowlegged Woman”, “Nosey Joe,” “Get Off The Table Mable (The Two Dollars Is For The Beer)”, and of course this song. Soon, Bull Moose had a reputation for risque material. It drove crowds crazy, but not record buyers. Look at the top-selling singles of 1952 and you won’t find “Big Ten-Inch (Record Of The Blues)” anywhere. That’s because radio stations wouldn’t touch it.
In the early 1980’s the Flashcats, a blues band that performed in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, regularly included “Big Ten Inch Record” in their performances. A local DJ reputedly told the Flashcats that he knew Bull Moose Jackson, and the band’s frontman, Carl Grefensette, found him catering at Howard University. Grefensette convinced Jackson to perform with them, and they quickly became a sensation in western Pennsylvania. Jackson then made the Flashcats his backing band and began a revival of his career. He also recorded a comeback album, Moosemania! (1985).
But Jackson cheerfully performed “Big Ten-Inch” every night on tour with his band, The Buffalo Bearcats, which he had been fronting from the late 1940s well into the 1950s.
During the 1980s, Jackson, then in his 60s, had an extremely successful run performing in the United States and internationally. But despite his growing fame and notoriety, Jackson grew tired of the travel grind and he retired. He fell ill with lung cancer in 1987 and retired from the touring circuit in the spring of 1988. An old girlfriend of his came back to care for him during his final illness. He died in Cleveland on July 31, 1989.
Most of us probably heard “Big Ten-Inch Record” (renamed slightly due to copyright concerns) performed for the first time by Aerosmith on the band’s third album, 1975’s “Toys In The Attic.”
It was Aerosmith‘s drug dealer Zunk Buker who introduced them to this song. He heard the Bull Moose Jackson version on the Dr. Demento radio show and sent the band a copy of the song. Steven Tyler was struggling to come up with lyrics for the album “Toys In The Attic” tracks, so adding a cover to the set took some pressure off of him.
Aerosmith used a horn section on this song, which included a bass saxophone played by Stan Bronstein. They also brought in Scott Cushnie to play the piano. Cushnie got the gig because he used to play in a band with Aerosmith‘s producer Jack Douglas. The band planned a more contemporary version of this song when they set out to record it, but that plan changed when they got in the studio. Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford:
We were basically just doing it as a two-guitar, rock and roll approach. We were up in the studio recording it, and we were listening very heavily to the original version of the song, which was very similar to what we ended up with when we ended up bringing the horn section in. We decided, ‘Let’s actually make it sound a little more period. Let’s have the horns on it and make it sound more like the original version that we heard.’ So that was quite a transformation, going from this straight-ahead guitar thing to almost a big band sound. And it really worked.
In 2001, they were the musical guest on Saturday Night Live and performed this song. A great rendition, with Tyler ‘honkin’ on bobo’, throwing in a little scat singing at the end, and Brad Whitford taking over most of the lead guitar duties.
One thought on “4 min readBull Moose Jackson – Big Ten-Inch (Record Of The Blues) (1952)”
This article is very informative. The one correction I would make is that 78rpms we’re not made of vinyl but shellac. Vinyl was not perfected until post World War II and the first ones were released around 1948.