sam frazier jrSam Frazier, Jr was born on August 12, 1944 in a mining town of Edgewater, Alabama, a small community near Birmingham, Al. His parents were Teretta and Sam Frazier, Sr. Sam had four sisters and one brother. Sam's father was a coal miner and many of the stories he brought home influenced Sam's career, as a song writer and performer. After observing the hard life his father endured, the one thing Sam knew that he didn't want to be was a coal miner. To help earn money for a growing family, Sam's mother would hold big back yard barbecues on Friday night...which most times lasted until early Saturday morning. Although it was illegal, She also sold liquor. Houses that sold liquor were called shot houses. As a result of the large crowds that the barbecue and liquor sales drew, entertainers started coming by and playing for the crowd for donations, free barbecue and liquor. Sonny Boy Williamson was a regular. Jimmy Reed also came by. Sam was fascinated with the harmonica. In fact, Sonny Boy Williamson gave Sam his first harmonica and gave him a lesson in blues harmonica technique. When there were no entertainers, a “Rock'Ola Juke box provided the music. Sam attended Edgewater Elementary school through 9th grade. At the tenth grade level, he attended Westfield High School. At the age of 17, Sam went to stay with his Uncle Willie Perry in Linden Alabama. His Uncle managed a large plantation. It was here that Sam got a real taste of country living, complete with picking cotton, bailing hay, and milking cows. While in Linden, Al, Sam attended and completed High School at Linden Academy. To earn extra money, Sam worked part time at a local restaurant.

One of his co-workers knew somebody who knew somebody who played in a blues band. Sam auditioned for the band and promptly was hired to play harmonica and sing. Some three months later, Sam moved back to Birmingham, Al. But, he was bitten by the music bug. He started playing as a one man band, playing guitar and blowing the harmonica. He added a bass drum and hi hat which he played with his feet. He taught his sister to play bass and she started performing with Sam at parties and local clubs. While playing at a club, he caught the ear of a popular local Birmingham DJ, “The Thin Man”, Maurice King. Maurice arranged an audition with a talent agent who took Sam and his sister to New York City and recorded his first record entitled “You Got Me Uptight”. The session took place at a studio on Broadway. The 45 rpm single was released and received moderate airplay and success. While in New York City, Sam and his sister played (performed)at the Sonia Ballroom.

Eventually Sam came back to Birmingham and joined a gospel group, The Golden Hummingbirds, where he played bass and sang. He also formed a three piece combo and played at the DAV (Disabled Veterans) and American Legion for a period of time. Although the music was a lot of fun, Sam needed a job to support himself with a regular income. He got a job at a local auto dealership where one of the salesmen introduced Sam to a local morning TV show host, “Country Boy” Eddie Burns. Eddie was a well known celebrity entertainer who eventually hired Sam as one of the regular members of his traveling entourage; making appearances at local shopping malls, new car dealership grand openings and other venues.

It was around that same time that country music had just discovered Charlie Pride, the first black singer to make it big in country music. Eddie Burns encouraged Sam to pursue country music in addition to the blues music he was known for. Sam also became a regular on The Country Boy Eddie TV Show on WBRC -TV, a Birmingham, Alabama station. Some of the members of the band entered Sam in a contest at one of the largest local country music night clubs in Birmingham., Al. (Sonny Duke's Night Club) Now you have to understand, at that time there were no black entertainers appearing at what was mostly a white only country music night club. Sam not only won the contest, but went on to perform at Sonny Duke's as a regular for five years.

Then Sam met Joe Mitchell. Joe owned Missile Records and recorded 12 songs with Sam in Nashville. One of the songs, “Cabbage Man” was released as a single and received a good amount of airplay. “Cabbage Man” can occasionally still be found on Ebay as a highly collectible item. In 1970, Sam recorded several songs that were released on Neal Hemphill's Goodie Train record label out of Birmingham, Alabama. Although Sam was not signed as an exclusive artist to that label, Goodie Train released “Take Me Back”, Set Me Free”, I've Been Hurt”, “Don't Spread Your Love Around”, “Momma Said She Ain't Here”, “Drippin' Honey”, and “I Don't Want Another Love” . These titles can also occasionally be found on Ebay as collectible items.

In 1974 Sam went to Nashville, Tn and auditioned to appear on the nationally syndicated TV show “You Can Be A Star”. He was selected to perform and Sam won the first round of competition singing the song “An Old Chunk of Coal”. The level of competition was rather stiff. Another contestant on the show was Alan Jackson. Sam appeared on two of the shows. The show was primarily a country music show. On the second show, Sam chose to perform a blues number entitled “Raining In My Heart”, and as a result, was eliminated from competition. While in Nashville, Sam also appeared at “Fan Fare”. Sam was spotted by a talent agent who booked him to appear at Gilley's Supper Club in Pasadena, Texas. Also on the venue at Gilley's was Gene Watson, a legendary country artist. Sam's first big foray in the blues arena came in 1987. Sam booked a session at Sound of Birmingham Recording Studios in Birmingham, Al and over a 6 month period, he and studio owner/producer Don Mosley finished an entire album which was released on the “Blue Rock” label out of Torrence, Ca. In support of that release, Sam moved to California and appeared in showcases around the state. While in California, Sam also performed with legendary blues artist Johnny Otis in “The Johnny Otis Revue”. On a return visit to Birmingham, Sam met record producer Fred Sollie, the owner of an independent record label, Sollie Sunshine Records. Fred signed Sam to a two year contract. Over that period of time, Fred and Sam co-wrote eight songs. Out of that collaboration came the song “Forty Acres of Hillside Mountain Land” which was released in 1991 and became a no. 1 hit on the independent record charts. The second release “Momma Kept The Lamp Light Burning” received international airplay and can be found on radio station play lists as far away as Australia. Also released was “A Road Walked By Fools”, “Crying Melody” and “Leaving You Would Be A Sin”.

Sam appeared for a number of years with tribute artist Gilbert Gauthier in Las Vegas, Nevada. Gilbert would perform tribute shows to Neil Diamond and Frank Sinatra. Sam, however, always appeared as himself.

In 2006, Sam moved back to Birmingham to attend to family matters. Shortly after his return, his older sister and younger brother died. Since that time, Sam has been working steadily on a new blues project with producers Don Mosley and Les Alexander at Sound of Birmingham Studios in Birmingham, Alabama. The cd is scheduled to be released internationally in the first quarter of 2012 on the Transmedia Music label; also in Birmingham, Al.

Source: Copyright 7/25/11 Don Mosley, Transmedia Music 3625 5th Ave. South Birmingham, Al 35222

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iTunes: Take Me Back - The Birmingham Sound; the Soul of Neal Hemphill Vol. 2
Set Me Free - The Birmingham Sound; the Soul of Neal Hemphill Vol. 2

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