TODD RHODES (By Dave Penny)

Born Todd Washington Rhodes, 31 August 1899, Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Died 4 June 1965, Inkster, Michigan

Pianist / arranger / bandleader / composer.

A talented and consummate musician, Todd Rhodes was a professional jazz veteran of some 26 years standing before he began recording with his own septet in the summer of 1947. Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, young Todd was raised by his widowed mother in Springfield, Ohio, and studied at the Springfield School Of Music and Pennsylvania's Erie Conservatory Of Music. Upon graduating in 1921 he returned to Springfield to hook up with drummer William McKinney, and he remained with McKinney's bands - notably McKinney's Cotton Pickers - for the next thirteen years.

Leaving McKinney in late 1934, Rhodes played with various local bands in the Detroit area until he formed his own small unit in late 1943. By late 1946 the Todd Rhodes Orchestra was doing lucrative business at Lee's Sensation Lounge, and it was after seeing them there that Bernard Besman and John Kaplan decided to record the band for their new Sensation label in July 1947. By the end of that year the band had become known as "Todd Rhodes & His Toddlers" and their first four Sensation 78s had been picked up for the local Chicago market and re-released on Bill Putnam's Vitacoustic Records.

Understandably, the Rhodes band's music was on the jazzy side of jump and R&B, nevertheless they hit the Billboard R&B charts twice during their heyday; "Blues For The Red Boy", originally released on Sensation in 1947, climbed to #4 in late 1948 when it was reissued on King, and "Pot Likker" went to #3 the following year with another King reissue of a Sensation cut. The former release reached even greater renown in the early 1950s when a then obscure Cleveland DJ called Alan Freed began using the record as his theme tune, rechristened "Blues For Moondog" to encompass his DJ pseudonym.

>From 1951 Todd Rhodes & His Orchestra recorded for Syd Nathan's King Records in Cincinnati - Nathan having purchased the Sensation recordings by this stage - and the band stayed for three years, making their own recordings as well as providing the backing for artists such as Wynonie Harris and Dave Bartholomew. The band, itself, paraded a remarkable sequence of staff vocalists; from the tragic Kitty Stevenson, through Connie Allen and Pinocchio James, to the famous LaVern Baker. Like many musicians of their generation, however, the rock 'n' roll years were not kind to Todd and his band, and they made their last known recordings at Fortune Records with Andre Williams in the late 1950s. Todd found that he had diabetes, but due to his mistrust of the medical profession it was left untreated and he lost a leg as a result of his neglect in early 1965. Sadly, he never recovered enough to leave Wayne County Hospital, where he died in 1965.

Recommended listening:

The Chronological Todd Rhodes 1947-1949 - Classics 5019 (2001)

The Chronological Todd Rhodes 1950-1951 - Classics 5040 (2002)

Blues For The Red Boy (The Early Sensation Recordings) - Ace CDCHD 856 (2002)

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

-- Return to "This Is My Story" Index --