Cripple Clarence Lofton - Boogie woogie Pianist (1887 - 1957)
Although he figured in the boogie woogie craze of the ‘20’s and ‘30’s and was much celebrated by the early jazz collectors of the 78 rpm era, Cripple Clarence Lofton has suffered from historical obscurity, known but to the die hard audiophiles who delve deep into the origins of this piano genre.
Cripple Clarence Lofton’s name is synonymous with energetic boogie-woogie and deep blues piano. Though his style was not highly sophisticated, actually unusually eclectic, his playing was lyrical and infectious. In addition, he more than compensated with his voice, his songs and his stage presence. Clarence would jump up, dance, whistle, joke and kick up a storm as he performed making him a favorite with his audiences. Tennessee born Clarence Lofton whose real name was Albert Clemens, was lame from birth but his disability was not going to hold him back when on the stage.
Though having been an entertainer for many years, Cripple Clarence Lofton first recorded for Vocalion in April 1935 with Big Bill Broonzy on guitar, a partnership that would record again later that year for ARC. Lofton became a fixture in the Chicago blues scene, and went on to record for a variety of companies as Gennett, Vocalion, Solo Art, Riverside, Session and Pax. He remained active recording throughout the 1940’s and then dedicated himself to running his Big Apple tavern in Chicago until his death in 1957. His club was a favorite hangout of blues pianist as Jimmy Yancey and Meade Lux Lewis. We can only imagine the barrelhousing that went on in that place!!
Cripple Clarence Lofton, an unsung phenomenon in the annals of boogie woogie and blues piano, was a vital figure in the development of this music.