Doing research is supposed to help you understand things. But, I swear, the more research I do, the less I understand. A case in point is Chubby Newsom.
For example, take her physique: she supposedly had remarkably big hips. Singer Tommy Ridgley said of her: "She was a big fine gal and real wide in the hips. That's how she came up with that song ["Hip Shakin' Mama"]. She used to really work the crowd with those hips on those vaudeville type revues." However, the only full-body photo of her shows a woman with a nice figure and normal-looking hips. No contemporary write-up that I've ever seen mentioned her figure at all, just the fact that she shook it a lot in her act.
"Chubby Newsom" was born Velma Celestine Williams on January 27, 1920. There seems to be some confusion on the Internet as to whether she was born in Detroit or in Alabama. Sorry, Internet; when she registered with Social Security (in Michigan, in October 1939), she gave her birthplace as Wilburton, Oklahoma, a small town about 80 miles from Oklahoma City.
Of course, problems arise immediately. On her Social Security registration form, she gave her name as "Velma Lathan Newsom". Names were entered as First Name, Maiden Last Name, and Husband's Last Name. Therefore, her maiden name was "Lathan" and her married name was "Newsom". "Lathan" should actually have been "Latham", since her father seems to have been Dan Latham (you'll see why later). (I don't know if she actually wrote "Lathan" or if it simply couldn't be easily read by whoever transcribed it.)
So what's the problem? Again, on that same registration, she wrote that her parents were Leona Williams and Lee Richardson. So, she's just said that her maiden name is "Latham" (let's use the correct spelling), but her father is Lee Richardson. I can easily find Dan Latham, but not Lee Richardson. (There was a Lee Richardson who recorded for DeLuxe around the same time as Chubby. He was a singer who started out with Luis Russell's Orchestra in early 1946, However, he was only 21 in that year, so the name is just a coincidence.)
Finishing up with her Social Security record, she told them, in January 1944, that her name was now Velma Celestine Hale, but try as I might, I couldn't uncover who Hale was. (Unfortunately, Velma had a habit of short marriages, four in all, and there's no record of this one.) She later settled on "Velma C. Newsom".
[Just to get it out of the way, her name is also seen as "Newsome" and "Newson", but "Newsom" is the correct spelling. I'll just give it as printed, without correction.]
In the 1920 census, mother Leona Williams (single and 17) is living in Hartshorne, Oklahoma with her father, Lloyd, and her sisters, Ruth and Louise. Since that census was taken as of January 1, 1920, Velma was still a few weeks away from being born. The family doesn't appear at all in the 1930 census (although, of course, there was another Velma Williams, also born around 1920, who lived in Muskogee, Oklahoma). So why did Velma say she was born in Wilburton when her mother was living in Hartshorne? Beats me. Possibly there was a hospital in the one and not the other.
Velma Williams next turns up on January 2, 1937, when she married Carl Allen Newsom, Jr. in Oklahoma City (both said they were from there). She said she was 18 (she lied; she was 17); he was 22. (Since she gave her mother's name as Leona Williams, we know we've got the right one.) In August 1937, when Carl signed up for Social Security, they were still living in Oklahoma, but they moved to Detroit soon after. (A 1950 blurb said she'd lived in Detroit since 1937.)
But the marriage, like all her marriages, didn't last. In the 1940 census, Velma Newsome is a lodger in the Lauraine Hotel in Detroit. The record says she's 20, born in Alabama (therefore, she didn't answer the questions herself; this is borne out by it saying that she was also in Detroit in 1935, although she didn't come there until a couple of years later), and a maid. (This is possibly the source of confusion as to where she was born; mother Leona was born in Alabama.) She's married, but no husband is there. (Naturally, there's another Velma Newsom living in Detroit, but this one was born in 1911 and is easily eliminated.) When Carl Newsom registered for the draft in October 1940, he was back living in Oklahoma City. He gave his mother as next of kin, so they were separated or divorced by then.
Since, in January 1944, she told Social Security that she was Velma Celestine Hale, sometime before that date, she'd married someone named Hale, whose identity I've been unable to determine. However, she always appeared professionally as "Newsom".
The first documented professional appearance by Velma Newsom (the "Chubby" would come later) was in June 1941, when she was the singer with King Allen And His Royal Sultans. The photo of the band (in the June 28, Detroit Tribune) identifies all the members but, sadly, says "Velma Newsom, songstress, is not in the picture". She couldn't have been with him too long, however; by April 1942 he had another vocalist. The only ads for the group don't mention a singer (but tell you that they "have a new outstanding type of music called The Bounce Rhythm").
In 1942, Velma became part of a trio. Velma, Zodie Mae and Curley (whoever they may have been) were billed as the "Three Kiddetts". They appeared at Detroit's Cozy Corner, but were only advertised for two weeks in June and July. There's no hint as to what their act was.
However, by late September, Velma Newsom is appearing at the Cozy Corner on her own. One ad (in the September 23, 1942 Detroit Tribune) calls her "Detroit's Finest Versatile Blues Singer". Her last week there began on February 13, 1943; by this time, she was being billed as "Popular Blues Singer".
Later that year, she appeared at Detroit's Club B & C. Her first week there was mentioned in the December 4, 1943 Detroit Tribune: "New songstress appearing at the B & C this week is winsome Velma Newsome, who seems to be going over great with the crowds. She has a peculiar style all her own that is quite inimitable." Also on the bill was singer Alberta Adams, whom we'll meet again later. Both were still there the week of February 19, 1944.
In mid-April 1944, Velma Newsome was part of the "Sensations Of 1944" show at the Club Sensation (Detroit). This time, she was described as the "Bombshell Of Rhythm".
And then, she reinvents herself. "Chubby Newsome" appeared as part of the "Follow The Crowd" revue at Ruby Shelton's 440 Club (Indianapolis) in late August 1944; she was still there in December. Along the way, she did some entertaining for the troops at nearby Camp Atterbury.
Since no photo shows her as being chubby (or even the slightest bit overweight), I don't know why she switched to that name. Possibly she gave up using "Velma" because of Velma Middleton, singer with Jimmie Lunceford and then Louis Armstrong, although Middleton had been around for at least 10 years before Chubby started. It could be that, once she left local singing in Detroit, she didn't want to be confused with the more famous Middleton.
[She wasn't the first person to be called "Chubby Newsom" either; a man by that name was a soccer (or "football" if you will) player for Barnsley (Yorkshire, England) in 1914.]
In February 1945, she produced the floor show for the Valentine's Party at the Defense Club (Indianapolis), where she was appearing.
An October 30, 1945 appearance at the Cotton Club in Buffalo, New York, had her billed as "Chubby Newson" (close, so close). They'd get her name wrong through the last ad on November 16. On November 21, Chubby Newson ("Blues Singer, Direct From Latin Quarters [sic], Boston") was at The Pier, in Celoron, New York. (Don't forget the big Saturday night dance!)
In February and early March 1946, Chubby was at the Club Zombie, in Detroit. Then, she traveled to the Royal Palm in Indianapolis. By late March and April, it was the 440 Club in Indianapolis. These were the only appearances I could find for her that year.
May 1947 found her at the Club Swing Bar in Dayton, Ohio for two weeks. This time, she was described as a "Personality Singer".
According to an August 1947 ad from "Bill Donaldson, Promoters Syndicate" in Cincinnati, "Chubbie Newsome" ("The Personality Girl") was part of "The Cavalcade Of Blues And Swing" featuring Helen Humes, Gatemouth Moore, and Sax Kari. The ad claimed that the Cavalcade was now playing at theaters, clubs, ballrooms, and auditoriums, but doesn't name any. There was even a little blurb in the August 2 edition of the Pittsburgh Courier that pretty much parroted the ad, giving no specific information. Once again, an accompanying photo shows a decidedly non-chubby Chubby Newsom.
In October 1947, she became a part of Dusty Fletcher's "Open The Door Richard Revue", along with the King Kolax Orchestra. It started on October 16 at the Hippodrome Theater in Terre Haute; then it was on to the Palace Theater in Memphis and Lookout House in Cincinnati (where it would close on November 9). It was then supposed to become a series of one-nighters out through Denver.
On February 15, 1948, her mother, Leona Williams, married Thomas Fluker in Detroit. Sometime after he died in 1978, Leona would move to Kansas City.
Around this time, Chubby supposedly relocated to New Orleans for a while. However, it looks like she just spent a lot of time there, beginning in October 1948. [NOTE: most of Chubby's New Orleans activity was generously provided by Rick Coleman, who sent me clippings from the Louisiana Weekly.]
The Louisiana Weekly of October 2, 1948 loudly proclaimed: "Chubby Newsome Motor City Rage, In Dew Drop Show". After that big headline, all it had to say was: "Chubby Newsome, celebrated Detroit blues warbler and famed recording artist, arrives this week for her opening stint to headline the new show opening on Friday night." (I'm not sure how she could be considered a "famed recording artist" when she had yet to see the inside of a recording studio, but hey, I'm only a writer.) Since she "arrives this week" (and a Dew Drop ad claimed she was "Direct From Detroit"), she certainly wasn't living in New Orleans.
The next week, the October 9 edition of the Louisiana Weekly had more to say, under the heading of "Chubby Newsom; Bombshell of Blues Tops At Dew Drop":
Catching shows like the new one at Frank Painia’s Dew Drop Cafe makes the reviewer’s job easy. All he has to do is think up all the high-sounding adjectives for Chubby Newsom, the bombshell of blues, which was dropped on this LaSalle Street nitery and dynamited this jazz emporium for the entire week-end for a second holdover, if the word has not already gotten around.
From the start, Miss Newsom wins with her risque songs and her naughty dancing. Sings both blues and sweet stuff, but patrons favor her brand of blues. Gal has plenty on the ball, both talent-wise and from the standpoint of looks.
Surrounded with a fleshy bill, Miss Newsom is as easy on the eyes as on the ears. Top flesher is Tanya, voluptuous snake-dancer.
During her appearance at the famous Dew Drop, she was heard by pianist/bandleader Paul Gayten, who brokered the deal for her to record for DeLuxe Records (at Cosimo Matassa's local J&M Studio).
[The Dew Drop (2836 LaSalle Street) was started by Frank G. Painia, a barber on LaSalle Street. He branched out by selling refreshments to workers at the nearby Magnolia Housing Project. When that went well, he expanded his premises in 1939 to include a bar and hotel, called the Dew Drop Inn. Branching out again, he began booking bands for local concerts; the musicians could conveniently stay at his hotel. The hotel had a lounge (subsequently, in 1945, a dancehall), called the Dew Drop Cafe, which had entertainment. The resident bandleaders were Dave Bartholomew and Edgar Blanchard.
In the fall of 1948, Jules Braun, owner (with his brother, Dave) of DeLuxe Records in Linden, New Jersey, went to New Orleans seeking new talent. While there, bandleader Paul Gayten, a DeLuxe artist, introduced him to Chubby Newsom, whom he signed. (However, Syd Nathan, president of King Records, had purchased a majority interest in DeLuxe in 1947 and, although the Braun Brothers continued to run the company from Linden, in March 1949, Nathan moved it to Cincinnati and eventually bought them out.)
Cosimo Matassa owned the legendary J&M Recording Studios at Rampart and Dumaine. For years, he would record the best of New Orleans music.]
On October 18, at 3:00 A.M., there was a gala show at the Dew Drop for Brooklyn Dodgers star, Jackie Robinson. The Louisiana Weekly of October 16 said that "Miss Newsom, America's bombshell of song and rhythm, is being held over for the Jackie Robinson show.... Miss Newsom's bag contains many blues favorites, including some Nellie Lutcher stuff, but her house rocker is the very naughty 'Any More,' that hits the spot like a bulls eye." [Note to the Dew Drop: When you hold my gala show, could you please make it a bit earlier? I'll be fast asleep by 3:00 A.M.] Chubby was characterized as "America's 20th Century Red Hot Mamma".
Sometime in early November 1948, Chubby had her first recording session: "Hip Shakin' Mama", "Chubby's Confession", "Back Bitin' Woman", and "Bed Room Blues". On these, she was backed by Paul Gayten's band: Paul Gayten (piano), Lee Allen (tenor sax), Frank Campbell (baritone sax), Wallace Davenport (trumpet), Jack Scott (guitar), George Pryor (bass), and Robert Green (drums). All her DeLuxe releases were credited to Chubby "Hip Shakin'" Newsom & Her Hip Shakers.
Her first DeLuxe release, issued that same month, had the two shoutin' rockers, "Hip Shakin' Mama", backed with "Chubby's Confession". "Hip Shakin' Mama" would, of course, become her signature song. "Chubby's Confession" has some nice sax work by Lee Allen. Strangely, "Hip Shakin' Mama" appeared in Billboard's Advance Record Releases column on November 20, November 27, and December 4. They really wanted you to know it was coming!
In July 1948, the Braun Brothers had announced a plan whereby DeLuxe and some other companies, most notably Miltone Records in California, would exchange masters and release each other's recordings. This is why "Hip Shakin' Mama" / "Chubby's Confession" appeared, concurrently, on Miltone.
In late October, singer Eddie Gorman was added to the show at the Dew Drop. The October 30 Louisiana Weekly said: "Eddie Gorman, the celebrated Ravens' closest rival, has joined the ranks of top stars at Painia's Dew Drop Cafe to give the house the greatest show of all time! [No hype here.] Nattily attired in steel gray lounge coat and other appropriate theatrical attire [who writes this stuff?], the handsome and personable crooner became an immediate hit with the feminine and male patrons alike with his deep, he-man, throaty chirping, beaming personality and infectious grin." Chubby closed the show, the article went on, "Scantily attired in a leg-tight, side-splitting, abbreviated gown, she closed with a dance that's a wow!" (Yes, I know that's not what "side-splitting" means, but just go with it. After all, this is the greatest show of all time!)
Eddie Gorman, a baritone/bass who also recorded for DeLuxe, knew how to ride someone else's coattails. His repertoire at the Dew Drop mostly consisted of Ravens songs, although he threw in the Orioles' "It's Too Soon To Know", just to mix it up a bit. He wrote a biographical column for the December 18 Louisiana Weekly which gave us his history. (Some of it might be true.) He was born and raised in Detroit, he said, and, during a serious illness, he lay in bed and listened to the radio, learning how to imitate the singers he heard over the airwaves. He got a two-week engagement at the Chesterfield Lounge that was extended 37 times. (In spite of that, there's not a single mention of him in any Detroit paper.) Here comes the best part: "It was during my engagement at the Congo Country Club in Atlanta when the Ravens were making a southern tour, playing the best spots in the big cities. They offered me a lead role in their group ... and I guess that's how I became nationally known. [Funny, there's not a single mention of him associated with the Ravens.] I have nixed the Ravens because I much rather do solo numbers." Actually, the only mention I can find of Eddie Gorman prior to 1948 is as MC in a Miami strip club in February 1944, although I don't really know if this is him.
On November 6, 1948 the Dew Drop Cafe had the "Atomique Show", featuring Roy Brown, his band, and Chubby Newsom ("Neusom" in the November 6 Louisiana Weekly blurb). Chubby was in her fourth week at the Dew Drop. Eddie Gorman was there too and, it said, he and she did "an exact carbon copy of the Ravens". It was supposed to go on the road to New York, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and Lake Charles.
The November 20, 1948 Louisiana Weekly had a "Guest Column" written by Chubby and giving some biographical information. She said she was born and raised in Oklahoma City (close enough to Wilburton, which no one outside of Oklahoma would have heard of). "When I started living in Detroit, I would sing up and down the hall of the apartment house where I stayed. I sang while I worked ... sometimes I would catch myself subconsciously singing and often wonder if I was disturbing anybody. Well, I did disturb someone, but it was in a pleasing way. A neighbor who owned a night club heard me and offered me a job." By the time this article was printed, she'd already had her first DeLuxe session, and she named all four songs she'd recorded.
DeLuxe didn't wait long to issue Chubby's next disc: "Back Bitin' Woman", coupled with "Bed Room Blues" came out in December 1948. "Back Bitin' Woman" features another nice Lee Allen solo and "Bed Room Blues" has the same, plus some subtle trumpet playing by Wallace Davenport.
I don't know the exact dates, but Chubby played the Palace Theater in Birmingham along with Roy Brown and Earl Bostic in January 1949. The same show was at the Palace Theater in Memphis on January 7, for four days.
"Hip Shakin' Mama" was reviewed in the January 22, 1949 Billboard. Amazingly, they gave both sides an ultra-low 35. "Badly recorded, poorly worked over blues shout." Of the flip: "Three minutes more of nothin'." Contrast this with the January 8 review in Cash Box: "The vocal warbling of chirp Chubby Newsom and a pair that are definitely winners for the juke box trade. Top deck, 'Hip Shakin' Momma [sic]' is already kicking up a storm in a zillion locations and should come up to be a big one. It's slow stuff done up in top vocal treatment with the lyrics running rings around the title. Flip is a repeat, with Chubby's great pipes riding thru in fine style once again. Don't miss this hunk of wax - get with it." I know these things are subjective, but were they really listening to the same recordings?
Billboard was certainly wrong. "Hip Shakin' Mama" was a hit in New Orleans. It was #8 on December 18, 1948 and #2 for the six weeks after that. It was #4 in Washington, DC on April 30, 1949, #6 in Atlanta on May 4, and #9 in Oklahoma City on May 21. The February 26, 1949 Billboard had it as the #12 Best Selling Retail Race Record in the country (Amos Milburn's "Bewildered" kept everyone else out of the top spot).
Sometime in January 1949, Chubby had her second session for DeLuxe. This time, she only recorded two songs: "Close To Train Time" and "New Orleans Lover Man". The band on these was Dave Bartholomew's: Dave Bartholomew (trumpet), Herb Hardesty (tenor sax), Joe Harris (alto sax), Salvador Doucette (piano), Ernest McLean (guitar), Frank Fields (bass), Earl Palmer (drums). They, too, were referred to as Chubby "Hip Shakin'" Newsom & Her Hip Shakers.
An article in the January 30, 1949 Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) talked a bit about Chubby's history (presumably provided by DeLuxe's publicity department):
Chubby was born in Oklahoma City, schooled in Detroit, spent some time in New Orleans, and then went back to Detroit to work in a nightery. She applied first for a singing job, was turned down. She thanked the manager and walked out the front door. Seconds later she came in the back door and asked the manager if he could use a waitress. He said yes. One night he saw her dancing on an empty dance floor. "I didn't know you could dance" he said. "I didn't either," she said. "It was a mistake." "Make the same mistake every night," he said, "and one day you'll be a great dancer." "But," said Chubby, "I want to sing."
I suppose there are people who actually believe this stuff. (Please tell me you're not one of them.)
The January 22, 1949 Louisiana Weekly talked about Chubby Newsom and Roy Brown teaming up for a tour. It said "The combination will appear at the Apollo Theatre here [the blurb was written in New York] the week of February 4th, after which they begin their tour." The problem is that both the Apollo Theater ad for that week and the show's write-up mention Roy Brown, but not Chubby. But on January 29, she and Dave Bartholomew were at the Gallo Theater in New Orleans and the next night at the Laborers Union Hall.
The February 5, 1949 New York Age had this: "Chubby Newsom, DeLuxe recording star, will invade New York soon, and is threatened to really send the lovers of song with her inimitable hip shakin' style of rendition. She puts that New Orleans 'hot sauce' on every one of her numbers - which makes it sizzling syncopation on the torchy side." ["is threatened"?]
On February 21, Chubby and Roy Brown appeared at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. On March 4, they headed to the Howard Theater (Washington, DC) for a week, followed by a week at the Royal (Baltimore).
The April 2 Detroit Tribune printed a schedule for the Roy Brown/Chubby Newsom show: Portsmouth, Virginia on March 18, Pahokee, Florida on March 21, and Sarasota, Florida on March 24. I don't understand why they'd print an itinerary for shows that had already taken place.
On March 25, 1949, Roy and Chubby were at the Manhattan Casino in St. Petersburg, Florida. On March 26, King Records (now firmly in control of DeLuxe), put an ad in the Pittsburgh Courier congratulating the King/DeLuxe artists who had done well in the Courier's annual talent poll (which, I've pointed out on other occasions, was highly flawed). Chubby was listed as the #10 Female Blues Singer, but Annie Laurie was way ahead at #4.
The March 19 Cleveland Call And Post printed this itinerary for Roy and Chubby:
March 18: Portsmouth, Virginia
March 21: Pahokee, Florida
March 24: Sarasota, Florida
March 25: St. Petersburg, Florida
March 26: Key West, Florida
March 28: Jacksonville, Florida
March 29: Pensacola, Florida
DeLuxe issued "Close To Train Time" and "New Orleans Lover Man" in May 1949. "Close To Train Time" has some nice sax work by Herb Hardesty and "New Orleans Lover Man" starts off with Dave Bartholomew blowing some fine trumpet notes. Never a national hit, "New Orleans Lover Man" was #6 in Atlanta on May 21.
Chubby supposedly married Eddie Gorman for a few months sometime in 1949, although there doesn't seem to be anything in the press about it. This is one of those "facts" that everyone knows, but that no one can provide any proof of. If it happened at all, the marriage didn't last (again), but this time (as you'll soon see), it was a blessing in disguise.
On May 13, Roy and Chubby spent three days at the Skyline Club in Oklahoma City and, on the 22nd, a night at the Sunset Terrace in Indianapolis. Another itinerary, this time in the June 4 Pittsburgh Courier:
June 3: Phoenix, Arizona
June 5-6: Birmingham, Alabama
June 7: Ferriday, Louisiana
June 9: Lafayette, Louisiana
June 11: Scotlandville, Louisiana
June 12: New Orleans, Louisiana
June 13: Natchez, Mississippi
June 15: Gadsden, Alabama
Back in New Orleans, on June 18 she was a guest on Vernon Winslow's Dr. Daddy-O show on WWEZ (Roy had been there the day before).
On July 10, she appeared, along with Dave Bartholomew, at Lloyd's Esquire Lounge in Gretna, just across the Mississippi from New Orleans. On July 30, she and Bartholomew played a midnight ramble show at the Gallo Theater in New Orleans.
On August 5, Roy and Chubby started a week at Chicago's Regal Theater. Also on the bill were Earl Bostic, Wini Brown, and Herb Lance. On August 19, Chubby and Roy were at Service Club No. 6 in Lawton, Oklahoma; on the 21st, they were at the Midwest Athletic Club in Omaha.
October 30, 1949 found Chubby back in New Orleans. The October 29 Louisiana Weekly said: "Chubby Newsom, of 'Hip Shaking Mama' fame, is back in town. Chubby brought back with her a surprise. She now has her own orchestra. The musical aggregation will take over the Dew Drop's bandstand this Sunday night with Chubby directing and singing."
As I said, Syd Nathan moved the DeLuxe label to Cincinnati, Ohio. The Braun Brothers, seeing the writing on the wall, set up another label, Regal Records, and switched Chubby over to it. (In 1951, after a bitter legal battle, Nathan bought out the Braun brothers' share in DeLuxe.)
On December 19, 1949, Chubby recorded some tunes for Regal in New Orleans. She's backed up by Howard Biggs (musical director for the Brauns) and unknown musicians. The four songs were: "Hard Lovin' Mama (Anytime)", "I'm Still In Love With You", "Poor Dog", and "Better Find A Job".
On December 26, Chubby supposedly opened at Philadelphia's Showboat for two weeks. The January 14, 1950 Billboard said: "Chubby Newsom opened at the Show Boat [sic], Philadelphia, for a two-week engagement starting Monday (26)." December 26, 1949 was definitely a Monday, however, there's an ad for the Sunset Terrace in Indianapolis saying that both she and Roy Brown will be there on January 1, 1950. This would mean that, if she were actually at the Showboat, it would have been for less than a week. (And, since no contemporary paper recorded that engagement, I don't think it actually happened.)
A January 1950 blurb about Larry Darnell, mentioned that both he and Chubby (as well as Erroll Garner) were managed by Teddy Reig (owner, with Jack Hook, of Royal Roost Records).
In February 1950, Regal released "Hard Lovin' Mama (Anytime)", backed with "I'm Still In Love With You" (misprinted as "I'm Still In Love For You"). The credit went to "Chubby Newsome and her Hip Shakers". "Hard Lovin' Mama" is a female version of the braggadocio songs done by a lot of male singers. It's reminiscent of "Hip Shakin' Mama" and features a trombone solo. "I'm Still In Love With You", is her first ballad, and is nicely done. It's strange that, after all this time, the Brauns forgot how to spell "Newsom"; they consistently misspelled it on all the Regal releases.
Chubby finally made it to the Apollo Theater the week of February 10, 1950, sharing the stage with Wynonie Harris, Mercer Ellington, and the Rimmer Sisters. The Pittsburgh Courier of February 11 had a large article titled "Chubby Newsom Bids For Fame At Apollo". Most of it said nothing interesting, but it had this: "Chubby, who bounces around a stage as if powered with uranium, has got audience response down to a science and her specially articulated stylings will show newcomers the reason for her popularity." It mentioned that she'd been at the Showboat and said that she'd return there for two weeks immediately after the Apollo engagement. She didn't. I really don't understand what happened with Chubby and the Showboat.
The February 18, 1950 New York Age mentioned that Eddie Gorman was in big trouble (although he wasn't linked to Chubby in any way): "It looks like Eddie Gorman, the Bop singer, will have a hard time bopping his way out of the net that the PD's (cops) have wrapped around him in a stolen check racket in New Orleans." We'll see some more of this in a bit.
On February 24, Chubby was part of the show at the Paradise Theater in Detroit. Others were Larry Darnell, Paul Williams (and his Hucklebuck Orchestra), Teddy Hale, George Kirby, and Apus & Estrelita.
The Detroit Free Press of February 27, 1950 mentioned Chubby: "Since 1937 she has called Detroit home. She danced and sang here before beginning a theater career." It was actually a homecoming reunion: both Larry Darnell and Paul Williams also were (or had been) residents of Detroit.
On March 27, 1950, the same three were at the Ritz Theater in Akron, Ohio, along with Patterson & Jackson and the Rimmer Sisters.
Also in March, Eddie Gorman was formally indicted on the check theft and forgery charge. If you're interested, I've attached the full article, since it's far too long to retype and, not mentioning Chubby, has nothing to do with our story. The theft and forgeries took place between December 1949 and January 1950, by which time he and Chubby were divorced. The Louisiana Weekly of February 11 said that he was the "brains" of the outfit that committed the theft and forgeries. Once again, he claimed to have been a member of the Ravens.
On April 2 the Ritz Theater show moved to the Sunset Terrace in Indianapolis. On the 4th: the Armory in Jackson, Tennessee; the 7th: Dreamland in Omaha; the 15th: the Palace Theater in Dayton, Ohio (where Chubby was referred to as a "song and dance girl"); the 23rd: the Handy Theater in Memphis; the 25th: the Bijou in Nashville.
And then, the Big Time. In mid-May, Chubby left the tour to appear on Broadway, with Little Jimmy Scott and the Lester Young Combo, at Morris Levy's Birdland.
During the Birdland engagement, Chubby was supposed to have been on a Charlie "Yardbird" Parker Quintet side ("Embraceable You") recorded on Monday, May 15 during a radio broadcast from the club. (While Parker wasn't even advertised as performing there, he would show up occasionally; after all, "Birdland" was named for him. Also, Monday nights featured jam sessions, so many musicians would be present.) The subsequent release credited Chubby Newsom as the singer, but it was actually Jimmy Scott (sounding awful in my opinion). As far as I can tell, "Embraceable You", credited to Chubby, originally found its way onto a Meexa Discox LP (from Chicago, although the label on the record shows it was pressed in France). It seems to be from the 1970s, when Jimmy Scott was still contracted to Herman Lubinsky's Savoy Records. The story is that they were credited to a woman because, with his high voice, Scott sounded like one (and both Chubby and Jimmy were appearing at Birdland). However, the real story, according to Scott himself, was that he was under contract to another record company at the time and it was easier to just use someone else's name than to negotiate with that company. (Would you want to negotiate with Herman Lubinsky?)
In June, Regal released "Poor Dog", backed with "Better Find A Job" (by Chubby (Hip Shakin') Newsome). While "Poor Dog" is nothing special, "Better Find A Job" has the wonderful line: "You better find a job because your restin' days are through."
On June 30, still at Birdland, Chubby did a couple of songs with Miles Davis' aggregation: "Chubby's Blues" and "For You My Love". They appear on the "Miles Davis - Birdland 1950" CD on Mega Disc. (I have no idea what the date or number is.)
It was back to the Apollo the week of July 14, 1950. Larry Darnell and Paul Williams were there too, as was the Erroll Garner Trio. Her Birdland gig over, she'd rejoin Darnell and Williams on tour.
The headline in the July 29, 1950 Pittsburgh Courier said: "Darnell Takes Quickie Rest". It explained that the tour package had been going for eight months and he needed a week's vacation before opening at the Oddfellow's Hall in Wilmington, Delaware. The tour would continue throughout the South and Midwest, playing the Nu Elms Ballroom in Youngstown, Ohio in mid-August. The article called Chubby the "Uranium Powered Vocalist". (Just like with "Sh-Boom", current events influenced the entertainment industry.)
And now it was time for Chubby to get married again. As long as she was in Ohio (at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland on August 18, 1950), on August 22, she wed James Miller Sam in Lucas County, Ohio (presumably in Toledo). He gave his occupation as musician, so it's possible he was part of Paul Williams' band. (In 1950, he said he was a "saxophone player - dance band".) Both were residents of Detroit; he was 25, she 30. Her place of birth was Oklahoma; her mother was Leona Williams and her father was Dan Latham. (Former father, Lee Richardson, whoever he might have been, didn't appear on the form.) Somehow her first three husbands (Newsom, Hale, and Gorman) were forgotten in the mad rush and she said "That she was not previously married, and is not a widow or divorced woman." (I've italicized words that were handwritten into the application.) I don't even know if the marriage was legal because, although she signed the marriage license application as "Velma Newsom", the marriage certificate itself (as filled in by the Justice Of The Peace) said "Miss Velma Nelson". (I wouldn't worry too much about it; once again, it didn't last.)
Chubby, Larry Darnell, and Paul Williams were all at the Rock Island (Illinois) Armory on August 25 and the Public Auditorium in Cleveland on the 28th. They, plus Toni Harper, and Dusty Fletcher spent a week at Chicago's Regal Theater beginning on September 4.
Detroit's Paradise Theater reopened on October 27, 1950, and the trio of Chubby, Larry, and Paul were there, as well as Peg Leg Bates and the dance team of Tony & Margot Coning. (I don't know what "reopen" means in this case, since it had also reopened the prior January 13 and April 14, and would reopen again on February 9 and October 5, 1951. It looks like they actually went long stretches with no shows.)
August 11 found Chubby opening, with Milt Buckner, at Gleason's in Cleveland.
The tour finished up at the Apollo Theater the week of November 23, 1950, after around eight months. Aside from Chubby, Larry, and Paul, the Apollo show had the 4 Buddies and Pigmeat Markham. It must have been an interesting show; this was the headline in the December 9 Oklahoma City Black Dispatch: "Rain And Glass Fall But Show Goes On":
NEW YORK - Although the wind and the rain shattered the roof of the Apollo Theater sending glass and torrents of water down on the stage, singer Larry Darnell and other headliners carried on in the best traditions of show business.
In one of the worst storms that has ever hit this area, several hundreds were seated in the audience of the popular Harlem vaudeville house when the glass roof located right over the stage fell victim to the elements. Even though it was dangerous to be on stage, Darnell, Paul Williams band, and singer Chubby Newsom decided to continue their performance, feeling that if the people in the auditorium were brave enough to come see them, then they could at least put the show on.
During one of Miss Newsom's songs, a piece of glass fell and just missed her by inches. But being the real trouper that she is, Chubby just continued her hip-shaking routine that has brought her fame. However, the next day she suffered from a terrible cold that necessitated a doctor giving her penicillin shots.
One of Paul Williams orchestra members was playing his tenor saxophone when a torrent of water came down from the roof drenching him and causing his instrument to become water-soaked. But in spite of everything, the show went on.
Paul, Larry, & Chubby were at a New Year's Eve dance at the Armory in Durham, North Carolina; presumably it was quieter.
1951 started off with this dire warning in the Pittsburgh Courier of February 3: "Singer Chubby Newsome is contemplating seeing her lawyer about divorcing Sam Miller who was caught in one of those things over at the Braddock last week." Other than getting his name backwards and not bothering to explain what "one of those things" meant, for a change, they were right; on November 8, 1951, in Detroit, she divorced James Miller Sam. Actually, 1951 wasn't a good year for James Miller Sam. The April 1951 edition of International Musician (The Official Journal Of The American Federation Of Musicians Of The United States And Canada) had his name on a list of musicians expelled from the Detroit union Local 5. No reason was given. (He must have been reinstated, since his name was on the expulsion list again in December 1954.)
Putting her marital troubles aside, she had a second Regal recording session on February 23, 1951, this time in Linden, New Jersey. The two known tunes were "Where's The Money, Honey" and "Little Fat Woman With The Coconut Head". She was again backed up by whatever band Howard Biggs put together.
March 31 found Chubby, Paul Gayten, and Little Jimmy Scott at Planter's Warehouse No. 2 in Roxboro, North Carolina. Also on the bill was the comedy duo of Patterson & Jackson. On April 6, they were at the Playhouse in New Orleans for three days. There was also a concert at the Booker T. Washington Auditorium on April 8.
On April 15, 1951, Chubby recorded a half-dozen sides at the Belle Vista Lounge in New Orleans as part of a radio broadcast from the club. On them, she was backed up by Paul Gayten's Orchestra (which also featured sax player Sam Butera, who would later team up with Louis Prima). Finally released on a 1982 P-Vine LP, they were: "Hip Shakin' Mama", "He May Be Your Man", "Perdido", "The Big Date", "Belle Vista Jam" and "Don't Cry Little Girl". (The LP also included her Regal side, "I'm Still In Love With You".)
On April 20, Chubby, Gayten, and Scott opened at Foster's Hotel in the Garden District of New Orleans.
The April 21, 1951 Billboard had a little blurb that Regal Records had put together a tour called the "Regal Hit Paraders". It featured the Paul Gayten Orchestra, Sammy Cotton, Little Jimmy Scott, and Chubby Newsom. (Jimmy Scott was recording for Roost at the time, but that was distributed through Regal, so they felt justified in including him.) They were currently, the blurb said, at the Swing Club in New Orleans, before heading out on a series of one-nighters.
It couldn't have been a very long tour, since Chubby was booked into Detroit's Flame Show Bar starting May 18. Also on the bill were Ida James and Rose Hardaway. Chubby was advertised as the "Hip Shaking Blues Singing Sensation / Star of Records, Stage, Screen, Radio."
Also in May, Regal released "Where's The Money, Honey" and "Little Fat Woman With The Coconut Head". "Where's The Money, Honey" has the wonderful line: "You fill me full of promises; say everything's all right. Then you take me out and spend nothing but the night"; it's also got a great sax break. "Little Fat Woman" is a cute venture into the Calypso field.
Billboard reviewed the record on June 2, 1951, giving "Little Fat Woman" a 72 ("Thrush pipes an indifferent calypso number, the ork gives it a good try with effective rhythm shifts"). A good score, backed up by a bad review. I wish I understood these things. Of the flip, they said: "Up novelty blues of so-so interest gets an unexciting go" and gave it a 64.
On June 5, 1951, Chubby and Ida James were still at the Flame Show Bar, but later that month, Ida was replaced by Joya Sherrill, who'd been with Duke Ellington in the mid-40s.
Then, she joined up with Paul Gayten and Larry Darnell to play the Four Star Club in Albuquerque, New Mexico on August 24. The three followed that with the Up-To-Daters Club in Oklahoma City on August 31. Then, it was Sunset Terrace (Indianapolis) on September 16 and the Club Harlem (Philadelphia) the week beginning September 24.
On November 2, she started a week at the Paradise Theater in Detroit, sharing the stage with the (Eddie Gorman sound-alike) Ravens and Tiny Bradshaw. As long as she was in Detroit, she opened at the Flame Show Bar on November 9, along with Teal Joy ("Chinese nightingale"). By the end of the month, Teal Joy had been replaced by Moms Mabley and Bette McLaurin (and Chubby had been moved down to third billing). They were still there the first week in December.
For the two weeks ending February 2, 1952, Chubby was at the Ebony Lounge, in Cleveland, along with the orchestras of Paul Gayten and Foots Robinson. On the 3rd, they were featured in a "gala dawn dance program" at that city's Paradise Theater. March 9 found her at the Handy Theater in Memphis, along with John Lee Hooker and Vi Burnside's all-girl orchestra.
On June 13, 1952, Chubby began another week at the Apollo Theater, along with Erroll Garner, the Austin Powell Quintet, the Jimmy Tyler Band, and Tip Tap & Toe.
And, as long as she appeared with Erroll Garner, the gossip mill (which had been pretty much silent about Chubby up to this point) ratcheted up into full gear. The July 31 Jet had this: "Chubby Newsome, the hip-shaking Mama, and pianist Erroll Garner are summer lovers. He gifted her with gold earrings made in the shape of a piano." This was echoed by the Muncie Evening Press of August 6: "Jazz pianist Erroll Garner has flipped over showgirl Chubby Newsome. That's why she's wearing those gold earrings shaped like Steinways." But all that was too tame, so the September 18 Jet took it to a higher level: "Melvin 'Slappy' White of the Foxx and White dance team is very mad at pianist Erroll Garner since the latter stole his gal, Chubby Newsome." Fortunately, nothing further was reported on this. (And, as an indication of how accurate all this was, Redd Foxx & Slappy White were a comedy team, not a dance team.)
On October 18, 1952, Cash Box reported that "Chubby Newsome, gal blues vocalist, is the latest to ink with RCA. Label is picking up R & Bers to the right and left". The way the recording industry works is that a company doesn't announce an artist being signed until that artist has already had a recording session. Therefore, presumably, there are some unreleased Chubby Newsom masters in the RCA vaults.
But something went sour very quickly with RCA since, in December 1952, Chubby recorded four sides for Chance Records in Chicago (as Chubby "Hip-Shakin'" Newsome): "Great Day in the Morning", "Chubby's Story", "Shades Of Midnight", and "Always Come Home". As with the RCA sides, all remain unreleased (but at least we have their titles). On these, she's backed by Al Smith's band, which may have consisted of Paul King (trumpet), Red Holloway (alto sax), Sax Mallard (tenor sax), Mac Easton (baritone sax), Leon Hooper (drums), and either Billy Wallace or Clarence "Sleepy" Anderson (piano). (This information comes from the Red Saunders Research Foundation.)
On January 3, 1953, Shaw Artists Corporation took out a full-page ad in Billboard picturing many of the artists they represented. Along with the Clovers, the 5 Keys, the Orioles, the 5 Crowns, Charles Brown, Fats Domino, Amos Milburn, Joe Turner, and the 3 Flames, there was "Chubby Newsome (Regent)". It's sad that your own management company misspells your name and has no idea what label you record for.
The January 10 Cash Box let us know that "Chubby Newsome, formerly with RCA Victor, and now out on Chance record [sic], working this week at The Orchid Room in Kansas City." Oh, well, they can only print what press agents send them.
The Chance debacle rolled on with an article in the March 7, 1953 Billboard. Titled "Chance Records Signs Bumper Talent Crop", it chronicled the signing of Chubby, the Flamingos, Bobby Prince, Anita Brown, the Al Smith Orchestra, and Big Boy Spires. That February 28 announcement by Chance's president, Art Sheridan, probably shows that they had every intention at that point of releasing some of Chubby's tunes.
But they never did and, by late June 1953, Chubby went in a different direction. Teaming up with Alberta Adams (with whom she'd shared a Detroit stage on many occasions), Chubby was now part of the easy-to-misspell Bluzettes (also seen as "Bluezettes" and "Bluesettes"). Strangely, there were times over the next two years that they would also appear, together, under their own names, rather than as the Bluzettes. The July 4 Pittsburgh Courier said that "Chubby Newsom and Alberta Adams are teamed as the Bluesettes, a singing-dancing duo at the Crystal Bar [Detroit; should be Crystal Lounge]". They did so well there, said the July 18, 1953 Indianapolis Recorder, that "the owner of the Crystal Lounge proclaimed Bluezetts Night and awarded expensive gifts [unspecified, of course] to the two blues singing queens, Alberta Adams and Chubby Newsome."
From the Red Saunders Research Foundation site we learn that Alberta Adams was born Roberta Osborne, in Indianapolis, on July 26, 1917, although her family moved to Detroit while she was still a child. Beginning in the 1930s, her resume included turns as a shake dancer, tap dancer, comedian, and MC, as well as a singer. She performed on two different occasions with Duke Ellington, and toured with Louis Jordan, Roy Eldridge, and Cleanhead Vinson.
Alberta later said of the duo: "We was the baddest thing out there. We did blues and blues ballads. We was shaped alike, like bricks, with small waistlines. We dressed alike, same hair, and we sounded like one voice." She said it: "shaped alike". A full-body photo of Alberta doesn't show a woman with huge hips, just as Chubby's doesn't.
On June 19, Chubby opened at the Ebony Lounge in Cleveland for three days. The ad said: "Featured For The First Time With Alberta Adams". Another ad said "Chubby Newsome And Her Partner, Alberta Adams".
The July 18, 1953 Detroit Tribune had an article titled "Bluezettes Rock Crystal Rafters".
The Crystal Lounge is jumping these days since the Bluezettes opened there last weekend, consisting of two of the top-rated femme vocalists in the nation, who just made a SRO appearance in Cleveland's Club Ebony.
The Bluezettes are Chubby Newsom who leaped to fame a few years ago with a tune called "Hip Shaking Mama" and Alberta (Every Day) Adams, the most underrated blues singer in the country.
Alberta recorded a session for Chess Records this week including some of her original tunes now featured by the new team.
The act is hailed as one of the most exciting ones in show business since both sing the blues, [indistinct], jump and prance in unison.
[Note: I've come to realize, over the years, that "hailed" is a word having absolutely no meaning when used by press agents.]
On December 18, they opened at the Flame Show Bar for a week. They were billed as "Harmony Recording Stars". (This one's open to interpretation. It could mean that the duo was recording for a label called Harmony [which could only have been a small local company] or, it could mean that they sang in harmony and the "recording stars" was just something made up by publicists. No recordings by the duo are known.) The second choice is the more probable, since the December 22 Detroit Free Press said "Chubby Newsom and Alberta Adams, known as the Bluzettes, headline in harmony at the Flame Show Bar." They were followed at the Flame by Hadda Brooks, just in time for New Year's Eve.
In early January 1954, the Bluzettes played the Crown Propeller Lounge in Chicago. They were followed by Wynonie Harris on the 15th.
When they appeared at the Palace Theater (Dayton, Ohio) on April 2, 1954, the March 30 Journal Herald (Dayton) did the best they could: "A stage show booked for a one-day appearance at the Palace Theater Friday will headline Tiny Grimes and his Rocking Highlanders band and introduce Danny Cobb, characterized as the 'new king of blues.' Also on the bill will be the Wanderers, recording artists; Chubby Newsome, dancer; and others." Alberta was unceremoniously thrown in with "and others". (We know that Alberta was there because most of those acts had just come from Cleveland, where they'd played the Circle Theater on March 28 and Akron, where they'd appeared at the Ritz Theatre on March 30.)
On April 16, Chubby and Alberta journeyed to New York to appear at the Apollo Theater along with Louis Jordan, James Moody, and comedian Spo-Dee-O-Dee. However, they were billed under their own names, not as the Bluzettes.
The July 10, 1954 Cash Box had an article about Willie Bryant, who was being feted at the Club Baby Grand to celebrate his return to the airwaves over New York's WHOM. Those who appeared for the occasion were Arthur Prysock, Lee Richardson (presumably not the one Chubby had once named as her father), Ida James, Wynonie Harris, Nipsey Russell, Ben Smith, and Sonny Til. Chubby was there too, but Alberta wasn't mentioned. However, both were at the Cleveland's Ebony Lounge in late August.
In January 1955, the Bluzettes were back at the Ebony Lounge in Cleveland and then Lee's Sensation in Detroit. Starting March 11, they were at the Flame Show Bar, along with Bull Moose Jackson. The March 12 Indianapolis Recorder said "Word from Detroit tells us that the Bluesettes" were "doing a terrific job at the Alvite Lounge". The problem here is that there doesn't seem to have been an Alvite Lounge in Detroit. Since it was a weekly newspaper, they couldn't have been talking about the Flame Show Bar. There had to be somewhere else they'd been appearing after Lee's Sensation. Without mentioning Alberta, the March 19 Pittsburgh Courier said "Shake Dancer Chubby Newsome socko at the Flame in Detroit." However, the March 18 Detroit Free Press told us that "The Flame Show Bar is holding over 'Bull Moose' Jackson and the Bluzettes...."
But it looks like, soon after that, the Bluzettes were history. Neither singer was mentioned again until the September 3, 1955 Indianapolis Recorder talked about Chubby Newsom and her "All Star Revue" opening at the local P. P. Club on September 1. (Again, I've come to realize, over the years, that "all star" has absolutely no meaning whatsoever.) The article went on to say:
The glamorous De Luxe recording artist lustily sings the blues and bounces around on stage as if powered by uranium. [There's a phrase they haven't used in a while.] She's a real show stopper and her revue is real good. [Seriously?]
Chubby Newsom who warbles in the best tradition of the blues and has an original repertoire that runs the gamut from the "deep cellar" variety to the soul-searing woes of the true blues, is entirely unpredictable both as woman and as a singer. On stage, Chubby will come out in a sarong when she feels that it is important to sustain the mood of a new song she is introducing. The gal dances to a mean hip-shaking motion that makes all the guys want to reach out and "touch".
Notice that she's a "De Luxe recording artist", although her last Deluxe record was six years in the past.
I can only find a single mention in 1956: in mid-July she was at Cleveland's Ebony Lounge.
Around February 1957, she recorded "Toodle Luddle Baby" and "When Are You Comin' Home" (with an updated Rock & Roll sound) for Paul Winley's Winley label. On them, she was backed by the David Clowney Orchestra. (Clowney, a former member of the Pearls, was the future Dave "Baby" Cortez.) These were released in March, but don't seem to have been sent out for review. The group on "Toodle Luddle Baby" could conceivably be the Paragons, who had the release before Chubby's; however there are no master numbers on the discs, so it's impossible to tell.
On May 10, 1957, she was back at the Apollo Theater as part of a Hal Jackson show that also featured Clarence "Frogman" Henry, the Cleftones, the Teenchords, Little Jimmy Scott, the Pearls, and the Cellos. This was her sixth, and last, appearance there.
Then, things got quiet for several years. We don't hear of Chubby again until March 1962, when she appeared at King Arthur's Lounge in Kansas City. In September of that year, she was at the Combo Club, also in KC. This time, she was the singer with the Claude Williams Combo and was advertised as "Direct From Detroit". "Come Do The Twist With Chubby - It's Different", said the ad. (Notice how they used her name to kind of conflate with Chubby Checker's.) Claude "Fiddler" Williams (violin and guitar) and "Chubby Newson" were still there in late November. There are no further mentions of Chubby; what she did with the rest of her life remains a mystery.
By 1983, she'd left Detroit and moved to Kansas City, where her mother lived (it's possible that they both moved there around 1980). That's where Velma C. Newsom died, on September 13, 2003, at age 83. There was an obituary in the September 17 Kansas City Star, but it only mentions that she died at Shawnee Mission Medical Center and where services would be held. There wasn't a word about her singing career, and, in truth, they may not have even known; it had been 40 years since her last documented appearance.
I like Chubby Newsom's music. I wish there were more I could say about her.
Special thanks to Victor Pearlin, Rick Coleman, Jim Gallert, and John Broven.
DELUXE (Chubby "Hip Shakin'" Newsom & Her Hip Shakers)
3199 Hip Shakin' Mama / Chubby's Confession - 11/48
MILTONE (Chubby "Hip Shakin'" Newsom & Her Hip Shakers)
3199 Hip Shakin' Mama / Chubby's Confession - 11/48
DELUXE (Chubby "Hip Shakin'" Newsom & Her Hip Shakers)
3204 Back Bitin' Woman / Bed Room Blues - 12/48
3213 Close To Train Time / New Orleans Lover Man - 5/49
REGAL (with the Howard Biggs Orchestra)
3250 Hard Lovin' Mama (Anytime) / I'm Still In Love For You - 2/50
(as Chubby Newsome and her Hip Shakers)
3268 Poor Dog / Better Find A Job - 6/50
(as Chubby (Hip Shakin') Newsome)
3319 Where's The Money, Honey / Little Fat Woman With The Coconut Head - 5/51
(as Chubby Newsome)
CHANCE - ALL UNRELEASED (Chubby "Hip-Shakin'" Newsome; recorded December 1952)
Great Day in the Morning
Shades Of Midnight
Always Come Home
WINLEY (Chubby Newsom, with the David Clowney Orchestra)
216 Toodle Luddle Baby / When Are You Comin' Home - 3/57
MEGA DISC Miles Davis - Birdland 1950
Recorded live at Birdland, with Miles Davis, on June 30, 1950
For You My Love
P-VINE PLP-9043 New Orleans Blues - Volume II - New Orleans Radio Live 1951 - 82
I'm Still In Love With You (her Regal side, not live)
Hip Shakin' Mama
He May Be Your Man
The Big Date
Belle Vista Jam
Don't Cry Little Girl