Born: October 27, 1919 | Died: 1980 Primary Instrument: Vocal
Jazz singers used the scat technique, that means using the voice to create notes that are not words so the voice works like a musical instrument - and they also used slang in their music. Vocalists such as Slim Gaillard, and Babs Gonzalez were larger than life characters who used strange, funny new words in rhythmically complex phrases.
Born Lee Brown, 27 Oct. 1919, in Newark NJ; he and his brothers were all called Babs. He studied piano at a young age and learned to play drums. He sang in clubs; wore turban in Hollywood late '40s, calling himself Ram Singh; worked as chauffeur for Errol Flynn; called himself Ricardo Gonzales (Mexican rather than 'Negro') so as to get a room in a good hotel.
Babs Gonzales was a singer who did what he could to popularize bop, and was a pioneer in the scat vocalese style. He had stints with Charlie Barnet and Lionel Hampton's big bands, and then led his own group Three Bips & a Bop during 1946-1949. They recorded for Blue Note during 1947- 1949, including the earliest version of Oop-Pop-A-Da, later covered by Dizzy, and such songs as Weird Lullaby, Real Crazy, Professor Bop, and Prelude to a Nightmare; among his sidemen on these dates were Tadd Dameron, Tony Scott, Roy Haynes, James Moody, J.J. Johnson, Julius Watkins, Sonny Rollins (making his recording debut), Art Pepper, Wynton Kelly, and even Don Redman.
Babs recorded for Capitol circa 1950 when that label was flirting with bop. He was a vocalist, and road manager with James Moody from '51; recorded with Jimmy Smith, Johnny Griffin, Bennie Green on the album “Soul Stirrin'” ('58) on Blue Note. Babs performed at Ronnie Scott's club in London as early as 1962, one of the first Americans to play the venue. He spent a lot of time in Europe as he was considered quite a colorful jazz personality there. A hard- working promoter of jazz, he also published three autobiographies; I Paid My Dues -- Good Times, No Bread '67, and Movin' On Down De Line '75.
Virtually all of singer Babs Gonzales' most important recordings are on the record “Weird Lullaby.” Babs is featured on eight numbers with his Three Bips and a Bop, including the original version of Gonzales' greatest hit, Oop- Pop-A-Da. The other sessions from 1956 and 1958 find Gonzales backed on two songs apiece by the Jimmy Smith Trio and the Bennie Green Quintet.
Gonzales later became more of a cult figure, but he did leave a recorded legacy, which are considered collectors items for the die hard bop aficionados. Though his place in jazz history is often blurred, he was present during the bop revolution and was ever the consummate hipster.
Source: James Nadal