Lofton, Cripple Clarence [Clemens, Albert]
- Paul Oliver
(b Kingsport, TN, March 28, 1887; d Chicago, IL, Jan 9, 1957). American blues pianist and singer. He was born with a club foot and may have earned his living as a musician from an early age. In 1917 he moved to Chicago, where he became celebrated as a rent-party pianist; from 1938 he entertained audiences in his own saloon, the Big Apple, on State Street. He is remembered as a dynamic performer, dancing, whistling, singing, and tapping rhythms while he played piano. His earliest recordings included “Brown Skin Girls” (1935, Melotone) and “Strut that Thing” (1935, Voc.), which, with Lofton’s own characteristically gritty singing, is a vigorous example of boogie-woogie and barrelhouse style. Lofton also accompanied a few singers, notably Red Nelson, whose “Streamline Train” (1936, Decca) contains a rolling version of the “Cow Cow Blues” with strong walking-bass figures in the piano. He enjoyed brief attention during the boogie-woogie craze of the 1940s, when he made further notable recordings, including “House Rent Struggle” (...