Updated: May 11
By all accounts, organist Hank Marr and tenor saxman Rusty Bryant had a tight personal and professional relationship. But after a March 1957 gig in Chicago, Marr, frustrated with Bryant catering to the rock n’ roll crowd, not only mutinied Bryant’s band but took the rest of the musicians with him. Marr and Bryant would not begin regularly performing together again until the spring of 1962. By then, Marr had established a relationship with King Records, Bryant’s contract with Dot had ended and now Rusty was a sideman in the Hank Marr Trio. Now it was Marr feeling label pressure to tap into the the early '60s dance craze that was being inspired by rock and roll and, in turn, inspiring hit records like “The Twist.” Marr’s first King LP, given the supremely uncool title Teentime Latest Dance Steps, was not representative of what Marr wanted to do musically. The irony could not have been lost on Rusty Bryant. The experience soured Marr on recording for most of the rest of his career.
Teentime Latest Dance Steps
King Records (3) – 829
After leaving Bryant, guitarist Warren Stephens and drummer Mitch Robinson formed Marr’s Organ Three-O. Rusty was left with canceled gigs as he scrambled to put together a new band. Eventually, Bryant put together a short-lived All-Star Band with another Columbus legend, Stomp Gordon in the fall of 1957. The two had played together before, but sadly, by this point in his career, Gordon was battling heroin addiction and would pass away on January 18, 1958, at just 31 years old. By the winter of ‘61, eight years after riding the immense success of his “Night Train” single, Bryant had entered a low point in his career, relegated to performing for twist contests at the Gloria restaurant on Riverside Dr.
Meanwhile, Marr’s star was rising and he was entering the busiest period of his career. In the winter of 1960, Hank began recording for King Records, first as a session musician for some Clifford Scott singles and then under his own name. Marr’s first session as a leader came on December 10, 1960, at King’s Cincinnati studio, where he cut “Tonk Game” and “Hob Nobbin’.” Marr’s first single, released in 1961 on King’s Federal subsidiary, “Tonk Game” became one of Marr’s best-known songs and was popular enough to merit a UK release on the Blue Beat label. King had a habit of releasing recordings multiple times and “Tonk Game” was released no fewer than six times, including as the opening track on Teentime.
The bulk of Teentime was recorded at a December 13, 1962 session in Cincinnati with Rusty Bryant on tenor sax and Taylor Orr on drums. However, several of Marr’s earlier Federal sides were also included. Like many labels of the era, King never did a very good job of crediting musicians and even when liner notes were provided, they couldn’t be relied on. The recording of “Tonk Game,” coming as it did on the heels of a Clifford Scott session that Marr participated in the previous day, makes it a reasonable guess that the same lineup of Clifford Scott on tenor sax, Freddie Jordan on guitar, and Philip Paul on drums can be heard backing up Marr on “Tonk Game.”
Producer Gene Redd’s liner notes state, “To make these recordings stronger and even more danceable, three of the finest musicians in the mid-west, Bill Willis on bass, Cal Collins on guitar and Philip Paul on Drums (the "+ 3"), were added to the group for the purpose of making this album. Two drummers were used to ensure the best possible beat. The arrangements were especially prepared and scored by Hank Marr and Gene Redd and were designed to fit each dance step.”
Since these tracks were recorded over several sessions spanning roughly two years, it’s not clear what Redd's notes really mean. Maybe Willis, Collins and Paul, all of whom were King session musicians, recorded additional tracks as overdubs, or maybe Redd was crediting them for their work on the original singles without calling attention to the fact that some songs had already been released. On tracks like “Tonk Game,” that were previously released as singles, it’s not easy to discern much, if any, difference between the single and album versions. Incidentally, drummer Philip Paul was still playing regularly in Cincinnati until his passing on January 30, 2022, from COVID at the age of 96.
Marr’s composition “The Push” was recorded at a Cincinnati session on January 18, 1961, with the King house band. This included Paul on drums, Osborne Whitfield on tenor sax and Lawrence Frazier on bass. The legendary Freddie King (of “Three Kings” fame, along with B.B. and Albert) can be heard ripping a guitar solo at around the 41-second mark. This same lineup recorded the sides “Mexican Vodka” and “Travelin’ Heavy” at a March 22, 1961 session. These tracks would be renamed "Bossa Nova Sandman" and "Heavy Travelin’" respectively on the Teentime album.
The track Marr wrote in honor of Nancy Wilson, “Sweet Nancy,” opens the second side. It and “The Watusi Roll" had also been previously released as a single. All of the tracks recorded by the core trio of Marr, Bryant and Orr at the December 13, 1962 session made the cut for Teentime except “Day By Day” and “The Squash,” which Federal released as a single shortly after Teentime was released in April 1963.
Years later in a 1988 interview for WOSU TV, Marr had this to say about his time on King Records: “They wanted me to duplicate music that teenagers were dancing to. Thus, the title Teentime Dance Steps… Therefore, it was strictly from a commercial aspect, and not an artistic aspect. So, I thought I was probably being misrepresented, misused. It was not into the jazz thing. It wasn’t what I wanted to play. Consequently, it’s been many years since I have done any recording for that very reason.”
In fact, more than 25 years would pass between Marr's last King album and the appropriately titled It's 'bout Time! Nevertheless, Teentime works as an introduction to both Marr’s organ sound and his compositional style. He’d have better albums ahead on King and further down the line. He'd record his signature song, "The Greasy Spoon," just two months after Teentime's April 1963 release. But there are so few studio recordings for this legendary artist that each one is worth seeking out for fans.
A1 Tonk Game
Written-By – Marr
B1 Sweet Nancy
Written-By – Marr
Written-By – Marr
B6 The Push
Written-By – Marr
Published By – Lois
Published By – Avenue
Published By – Pandora
Published By – Dornix
Leader, Organ – Hank Marr
Tenor Saxophone – Rusty Bryant
Drums – Taylor Orr
Guest, Bass – Bill Willis
Guest, Guitar – Cal Collins
Guest, Drums – Phillip Paul
Tenor Sax - Clifford Scott (A1), Osborne Whitfield (A6, B4, B6)
Guitar - Freddie King (A6, B4, B6)
Bass - Lawrence Frazier (A6, B4, B6)