K-CITY RECORDS' History in Motion

 

Every few months, K-City Records will announce a choice featured name and/or spot in Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas to share a bit of K-City history with you. Ourshowcasestoptodayisthe Original Up-beat Tempo Rocker, Priscilla Bowman.

Priscilla Bowman (May 30, 1928 – July 24, 1988) was a soulful American Jazz and Rhythm and Blues singer and this is part of her illustrious story:

During the early fall of 1955, Vee-Jay Records president Jimmy Bracken was very enthusiastic about a new recording just out on his label. It was a jump blues style tune by a band from Kansas City headed by long time K.C. pianist Jay McShann. McShann was part of the rich musical heritage that adopted the city which included Count Basie, Lester Young, Mary Lou Williams, and many others. Jay McShann at one time featured a young K.C. sax player named Charlie Parker who would revolutionizeAmerican jazz in the nineteen forties. At that time in the mid-fifties, it wasn't a sax player however that was raising eyebrows but a tough sounding female R&B singer named Priscilla Bowman. The new recording that got Bracken so impressed was an up tempo rocker called "Hands Off."

"Hands Off" and "Another Night" on Vee-Jay moved up the best seller charts in a hurry during November of 1955. It was featured on broadcasts in New York by Alan Freedwhich gave the record impetus on the East Coast which gave it "push" throughout the rest of the country. By December as the record breaks out in the Midwest, the inevitable pop music covers emerge (including one by Donna Hightower). During 1956 as the record continued to rise Priscilla Bowman began receiving recognition more so for her remarkable vocal technique. Early in the year the record registers as the No. 1 Seller in the rhythm & blues field in many of the major markets in the country and then was soon recognized as a top seller in the United States and abroad.

During February the songs "I've Got News For You" and "My Darkest Night" were released. The band along with Priscilla Bowman on vocals became a big draw across the country and a satisfying rediscovery of Jay McShann and his piano styling. Late in the year "Really Don't Need Your Loving" is released on Vee-Jay, along with the flip side "Hootie Blues" which was written by Charlie Parker for McShann (whose nickname is 'Hootie') back in 1939 and recorded the next year with a vocal by Walter Brown (released on Decca Records). This new version features a great vocal by Priscilla Bowman. In March of 1957 Priscilla Bowman alongside McShann appeared for a week at the Regal Theater in Chicago with Screamin Jay Hawkins, Gene & Eunice, The Spaniels, El Dorados, Joe Turner, Tab Smith, and others. Huge box office for the show had the music industry people amazed.

In August 1957 Vee-Jay decided to issue records by Priscilla Bowman (without Jay McShann) on their new subsidiary Falcon Records. During September 1957 Falcon released "Yes I'm Glad" and "A Spare Man." Backing up Priscilla Bowman is the band of Al Smith featuring Lucious Washington and Marcus Johnson on tenors, McKinley Easton on baritone, Horace Palm on piano, Lefty bates on guitar, Quinn Wilson on bass, and Al Duncan on drums. In November Bowman appears in Chicago once again at the Regal Theater, this time with Al Benson. Big Maybelle, The Dells, Mello-Kings, Frankie Lee Sims, Titus Turner, and others. In February of 1958 "Sugar Daddy" and "Don't You Come In Here" is released on Falcon. Both Falcon releases were reportedly also issued on Abner Records with the same numbers. A final record for the year by Bowman is "A Rockin Good Way" and "I Ain't Giving Up Nothing" on Abner noteworthy for the backing vocals by The Spaniels.

In 1959 Priscilla Bowman performed another recording session for Abner Records, this time with the Riley Hampton Orchestra. The songs are "Like A Baby" and "Why Must I Cry." This record like many others is a competent R&B recording.

Priscilla Bowman loved to sing and loved people. She continued to record and make personal appearances (, some reuniting with Jay McShann) through the mid-seventies. Priscilla lost her battle with cancer in July of 1988 at the age of 60.

“Hands Off” and other songs sung by Priscilla Bowman have been used as background music for TV commercials, college radio broadcasts, on airplanes, as well as numerous other public broadcastings. Her music is widely played throughout the United Kingdom and other European countries, like Canada, Ireland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Japan, Belgium, Denmark and France.

A Special Collections commemorative will be open to visitors and tourists at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), in the Marr Sound Archives Miller Nichols Library by July 2012. There are currently no singles of Priscilla Bowman’s music readily available to the public however and since there’s been a wide request for her music, Priscilla’s family has decided to incorporate and release a Priscilla Bowman Memorabilia CD and DVD as a collector’s item to fans by the year 2013.

Priscilla’s music currently appears on many compilation albums mostly with the inclusive "Hands Off" song. This song alone remains as one of the biggest R&B records of the nineteen fifties and has made way for the name Priscilla Bowman. Her distinct vocal style and musicis a mainstay in American Jazz and R&B and equally plays a monumental part in Kansas City’s bejeweled music and entertainment history.  

The new Priscilla Bowman Collection at the University of Missouri-KC is archived and accessible at:  http://library.umkc.edu/spec-col-collections/bowman, This favorable Collection has also been used as student course curriculum by Dr. Sarah Tyrrell of the University of Missouri-KC’s Conservatory Research & Bibliography.

          

 

 

CLICK to hear

Priscilla Bowman singing, “Hands Off”

There’s still much to learn about Priscilla Bowman. For additional information interested parties may write to:

Ms. Marcia Bowman-Hunt | Email: mhunt5572@yahoo.com

Or

Chuck Haddix

Marr Sound Archives

Miller Nichols Library at the University of Missouri—Kansas City

5100 Rockhill Rd. - Kansas City, MO 64110

(816) 235-2798

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