Cotton Thompson and his band at the Forest Club in Beaumont, 1948. From left: J.L. Jenkins, Cotton, Darrell Jones, Richard Prine, Mutt Collins, Mancel Tierney. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Kevin Coffey Collection.
Cotton Thompson with Deacon (Rag-Mop) Anderson and the Village Boys - How Long / Hopeless Love (Gold Star 1381)
Waco's Guy "Cotton" Thompson is best remembered for turning an obscure blues record, "Milk Cow Blues," into a western swing standard via his 1941 Decca version with Johnnie Lee Wills. (Most people at the time, in fact, assumed that Cotton wrote it.) He certainly was a more convincing blues singer than most white people of his time -- his was not a particularly "swinging" phrasing style, but nevertheless, his deep tenor voice is more comfortable with blues than country songs. It's a shame he didn't have a postwar session as lengthy as he did in the prewar days in Tulsa with the Alabama Boys and Johnnie Lee Wills. He also was a Texas Playboy during the 1943-44 period, not appearing on any of their records but featured in four films, singing lead in one segment of Wyoming Hurricane (1944). A video clip of this can be seen here.
Thompson was also very popular in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area, working steadily there for a good three years, 1948-1950. It was during the latter part of that period that he and Deacon Anderson's band cut this hot version of Louis Jordan's "How Long Must I Wait" for Gold Star in Houston (the title deliberately altered as per Gold Star's standard practice). The band is very tight and includes Anderson (steel guitar), Clyde Brewer (lead guitar), Pee Wee Calhoun (piano), John Wallace (bass), and Olin Davison, Jr. (drums). Several of these men had previously worked with Cliff Bruner and Harry Choates, so it's no surprise to hear them turn in a top-notch western swing performance here. (Emphasis on the "swing" -- with the clothes to match.) The actual recording date was probably May 27, 1950, since a Gold Star contract signed by Anderson exists with that date. Thompson would cut a single for Freedom shortly afterward, and eventually wander back to Tulsa to work with Johnnie Lee Wills again in 1952. One last session with Wills would be it for Cotton, who succumbed to Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1953.