Bobby Leecan • Suitcase Breakdown

Bobby Leecan (1897-1946) was a fine banjoist and guitarist who straddled the boundaries between jazz, blues and hokum during his relatively brief recording career. What is known about him is included in the liner notes of Guitar Maestro, a CD from the Frog label that includes many of the recorded highpoints of his career. Leecan, who recorded mostly during 1926-27 and nothing after 1932, often teamed up with harmonica player Robert Cooksey including in the South Street Trio (which also had guitarist Alfred Martin), the Dixie Jazzers Washboard Band (which includes cornetist Thomas Morris) and Leecan’s Need-More Band but he also had brief associations with a few notable greats.

The 26 selections on Suitcase Breakdown, which unfortunately are not in chronological order, give one a good idea as to Leecan’s musical talents. While he is often heard in an accompanying role to Cooksey’s harmonica (including on “Mean Old Bed Bug Blues”), he consistently shows that he had strong technique and could take a colorful solo when given the chance.

Red Wood Coast

Bobby Leecan is heard on two numbers as a solo singer-guitarist including the earliest recording of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.” It was cut in 1927 and includes some little-known lyrics not used by Bessie Smith in her hit 1929 version. Leecan also accompanies vaudeville singers Elizabeth Smith & Sidney Easton and blues vocalist Margaret Johnson, is heard in his only recordings of 1928-30 (two songs with a youthful Alberta Hunter on which Leecan’s guitar work is worthy of Eddie Lang), is part of a Fats Waller group on “Red Hot Dan” (with Waller on pipe organ), and is on two numbers with washboard player Eddie Edinborough’s New Orleans Wild Cats in 1931. Leecan also doubles on kazoo during a few performances including on “Ain’t She Sweet.”

While it is not the “complete” Bobby Leecan, Suitcase Breakdown is filled with plenty of good-time jazz and blues, most of it rarely ever reissued.

Bobby Leecan • Suitcase Breakdown
Frog DGF 86

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Scott Yanow

Since 1975 Scott Yanow has been a regular reviewer of albums in many jazz styles. He has written for many jazz and arts magazines, including JazzTimes, Jazziz, Down Beat, Cadence, CODA, and the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, and was the jazz editor for Record Review. He has written an in-depth biography on Dizzy Gillespie for He has authored 11 books on jazz, over 900 liner notes for CDs and over 20,000 reviews of jazz recordings.

Yanow was a contributor to and co-editor of the third edition of the All Music Guide to Jazz. He continues to write for Downbeat, Jazziz, the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, the Jazz Rag, the New York City Jazz Record and other publications.

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