Big Al Downing Biography

9 January 1940, Lenapah, Oklahoma, USA, d. 4 July 2005, Leicester, Massachusetts, USA. Downing was exposed to both R&B and country music as a boy, and taught himself piano on an instrument that he found on a rubbish dump. In 1958 he took the then unusual step of joining a white group, the Rhythm Rockers, led by Bobby Brant. Changing their name to the Poe-Kats, they recorded the regionally successful ‘Down On The Farm’ for Lelan Rogers’ White Rock label in Dallas: leased to the larger Challenge label, it narrowly missed the national charts but has become an acknowledged rock ‘n’ roll classic (as well as one of the shortest rock ‘n’ roll records, at one minute 31 seconds). Later sessions up to 1964 featured Downing’s thumping piano and his deep voice, with its Fats Domino overtones, on such excellent rockers as ‘Yes, I’m Loving You’ and ‘Georgia Slop’. During this period he recorded duets with Esther Phillips and played piano for Wanda Jackson, but he had to wait until 1970 for chart success when ‘I’ll Be Holding On’ was a soul hit. The versatile Downing later reverted to his early roots and enjoyed several big US country hits between 1978 and 1989, including the Top 20 singles ‘Mr. Jones’, ‘Touch Me (I’ll Be Your Fool Once More)’ and ‘Bring It On Home’. He was a frequent visitor to rock ‘n’ roll festivals in Europe, where his broad grin and matching waistline became familiar sights. Downing died in July 2005 after suffering complications from leukaemia.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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