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Tue, 12.18.1917

Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson, Blues Musician born

Eddie"Cleanhead" Vinson

Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson was born on this date in 1917. He was a Black blues musician.

Vinson was born and raised in Houston, Texas. His parents, both pianists, introduced him to music early. He began playing the saxophone in high school and joined Chester Boone's band, which included T-Bone Walker on guitar, in 1935.  A year later, Vinson worked with Milt Larkin's band. He became part of one of the greatest saxophone sections in rhythm & blues. In addition to Vinson, the section included Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet.  Both went on to enjoy prestigious careers in R&B and jazz.

Vinson stayed with Larkin until 1941.  He then moved to New York and joined the Cootie Williams Orchestra, with which he remained through the mid-1940s, recording such classics as "Cherry Red" and touring with the big band. Vinson began his band in 1945 and cut some of his best pieces, including "Kidney Stew" and "Cleanhead Blues.” After returning to Houston in 1954, Vinson worked the Southwest R&B circuit and, for a brief period in 1957, played with the Count Basie Band.

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. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Vinson became a popular performer in Europe, where he also recorded regularly, specializing in an appealing jazz-blues hybrid style. Vinson also performed and made records in the U.S. Recording for the Muse label, he cut an album with Roomful Of Blues (And a Roomful of Blues) and made Live at Sandy's.  This live recording featured the accompaniment of old friend Cobb and drummer Alan Dawson.

A honking rhythm & blues alto saxophone player and a vocalist whose style was in the mold of the classic blues shouter, Eddie Vinson made his mark in the 1940s. Nicknamed "Cleanhead" after a lye-laced straightener destroyed his hair, Vinson recorded extensively during his 50-odd-year career and performed regularly in Europe and the U.S.

Eddie Vinson died on July 2, 1988.

To Become a Musician or Singer


All About Blues

Nothing But the Blues: The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York
ISBN 1-55859-271-7

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