Bobby "Fats" Mizzell was born in Childersburg, Alabama, on May 4, 1937.   A few months later, the family moved just down the road to Sylacauga, Alabama.  At a very young age of 8, he became a member of the Johnny Robinson String Band, a local country group.  Bobby also became a member of a kiddie club affiliated with Sylacauga radio station WFEB where local kids had a chance to show off their musical skills.   In the early days, WAPI-TV would go from town to town in Alabama to feature local talents.  Bobby won a contest representing his home town of Sylacauga in this talent search by playing "The Tommy Dorsey Boogie" on the piano.  At the time, L. R. Ross, who worked at radio station WFEB in Sylacauga and WMLS in Talladega, and a friend of his handled the very first "recording session" with Bobby with a simple tape recorder.

Bobby Mizzell at far left and Jerry Woodard next to him. Bobby Mizzell is very often associated with Jerry Woodard.  They met at radio station WHTB in Talladega, Alabama where each had a 50-minute show.  The two worked together performing and recording with the same band off and on during the '50s.   Bobby and Jerry came from similar backgrounds and both liked rockabilly, rock 'n roll and boogie-woogie.   Bobby remembers cutting songs at WHTB on the Old Talladega Highway.  The first ones were 45 rpm demos entitled "You Are My Sunshine" and "You Don't Love Me."   

Bobby and Jerry soon left Talladega for the big city of Birmingham in early 1957.  They worked in television with Country Boy Eddie on his early morning shows on WBRC-TV and WAPI-TV.  

The duo formed a band and began performing at clubs in Birmingham like the Starlighter Club, Pappy's Club and the Escape Lounge.  Bobby was a vocalist and pianist, and Jerry played guitar and was also a vocalist.  Other band members included Newman Cohely on guitar, Billy Self on drums, Tommy Willingham on drums, Lee Hood Carzle on bass, Johnny Carter on drums, and Sam Newfill on guitar.   

In the meantime, Bobby got his Kim Records label (named after movie star Kim Novak) started while Jerry formed Fad Records.  Bobby released boogie rockers like "Rock and Bop Blues", "Birmingham Boogie", and "Knockout" (sometimes referred to by record collectors as the greatest piano instrumental ever recorded).  Bobby also worked as a session musician for many young artists in the Birmingham area.  As a session player in the '50's, he was paid scale and had no further hold on his work.  The studio used for many of these recording sessions was the legendary Reed Recording Studio at 1917 First Avenue North in Birmingham.  Bobby and Jerry also had several releases on the Reed label near the end of the decade.  Bobby's first contribution to the Reed catalog came on a 45 he shared with Jerry.  Jerry did "Don't Make Me Lonely" and Mizzell had the instrumental "Atomic Fallout" as the flip.  In that same year of 1959, a second single was released on the Reed label - "Heart and Soul"/"Same Thing" - the latter with vocal by Jerry's brother Lee Wayne Woodard.  Interest was shown in these two songs by 20th Century Fox and they leased them for nationwide distribution on their 20th Century Fox label in late 1959.  

The two pals used these same band members off and on during the first years in Birmingham.  They backed many of the big name singers from the 50's like Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, and Mark Dinning who came to small southern towns for shows.  Eventually, they parted company because each wanted to go in a different direction musically.   Jerry tended to like sweet type music with violins and voices, and Bobby still preferred rock 'n roll, boogie-woogie, and rockabilly.  Bobby played mostly in southeastern Texas from 1958 through 1960, and during that time he met Bill Hall and Jack Clement, who were destined to be his new managers.  Bobby moved to Beaumont in 1960, the same year he was signed up with Phillips records.  It was in Beaumont that Bobby was to be part of many recordings on labels like Century Ltd.(as Bobby and Glenn Layne), Diamond Jim (as Bobby Acorn and The Leaves), and Hall-Way (as Neal and the Newcomers.)

Later on, Bobby played some shows in California and in 1966 he moved to Los Angeles with his wife and only child, Richard Davis.   His first job there was at Magoo's, where he played from 1967 to 1972.  He got into the motion picture business as a film editor, restoring old classic films and old offbeat B-movies from the 30's, 40's, and 50's.  For a time, he even had his own movie company, Mizzell Films, but the video work put a halt to that.   He worked the Los Angeles area as a solo performer and sometimes with James Intveld, who Bobby considered his producer both on records and in the movie business.

Bobby Mizzell was featured in two movies - "Deuce Coupe" where he did "Rocket in My Pocket" and "Now's the Time to Love Me", and "Red Hot" where he did "Whole Lotta Shakin'" with Bobby on the piano and James Intveld on vocals.  But he is probably best remembered as the pianist on the Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace".  He also added his expertise to Johnny Preston's "Running Bear" and Dickie Lee's "Patches".  

bobbymizzell1Around 1985, Bobby sought out a long-ago friend, boogie-woogie legend Hadda Brooks and convinced her to come out of retirement to occasionally join him as his guest at the piano bar in the Tam O-Shanter in Glendale, California.  Brooks' credits include the role of the piano player in Humphrey Bogart's movie "In a Lonely Place", and she had a bit hit with her recording of "Humoresque Boogie".  He cajoled Brooks back into the studio to record "Palm Springs Blues" and "House of Boogie-Woogie".  Bobby composed, produced and released both tracks on his Kim label for the Hadda Brooks Trio.

In between songs at the piano bar, Bobby tells story after story of his many musical experiences; for instance, how the Big Bopper never traveled with his own band.   This fact alone has allowed Mizzell to be a survivor, for he missed the fiery crash that claimed not only the Big Bopper's life, but those of Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly as well.  Bobby might also tell about December, 1985 when he was invited to tour with Rick Nelson.  He declined and a week later Nelson and his entire band were killed when their plane crashed in a fiery blaze.   Ricky and his band members had been with Bobby not more than a few days before the fatal event in a recording studio near San Diego where they were completing what would be Rick Nelson's final recording.  According to Bobby, who played piano on the track, the record was deemed "uncommercial" by the estates of those involved and hence was never released.

Bobby is very interested in UFO's - from his days living in Roswell, New Mexico (one of his companies is Roswell Music).   He is a devout record collector and is recovering and re-discovering bits and pieces of his own history little by little.  He still collects old boogie-woogie and R&B on 78 rpm records.   He admits to being an avid collector of Smiley Burnette (Gene Autry's sidekick) music memorabilia.  He also collects movie memorabilia like lobby cards and posters from the 30s, 40s and 50s.

The Birmingham Record Collectors are proud to welcome Bobby Mizzell into the 2010 induction class of the BRC Music Hall of Fame where we honor him for his many accomplished accolades in music after his humble beginnings here in Alabama.

Source: Birmingham Record Collectors

Buy Bobbby Mizzell CDs from Cargo Records, all proceeds go to Bobby to help pay medical bills.

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Born Robert Mizzell, 4 May 1937, Childersburg, Alabama

Singer / pianist. Bobby Mizzell is one of the great unknowns of rock n roll. Though he has been active on the music scene since 1956, I didn't discover him until 1987, during a visit to my friend Stan Govaard in Amsterdam, who has introduced me to a lot of good music since 1966. Stan had received a single from Cees Klop, which had only just been released according to Cees. The artist was Bobby Mizzell and the two titles featured were "Fat Man Boogie" and "Moron Rock" (Kim 314), both wild piano rockers that sounded as if it was still 1958 instead of 1987.

Born in Childersburg, Bobby grew up in nearby Sylacauga, Alabama. He got in touch with music through a piano playing aunt. The first records he bought were by Camille Howard, Hadda Brooks and Roy Milton. As a teenager, he won a talent contest in Birmingham (on WAPI-TV) playing "T.D.'s Boogie Woogie". By 1956 Bobby had his own 50 minute radio show on WHTB in Talladega, Alabama and that's where he met Jerry Woodard (1941-1980). The two boys liked the same kind of music, rock n roll, rockabilly and boogie woogie. Together they cut demos of "You Are My Sunshine" and "You Don't Love Me", which were eventually released by Cees Klop on White Label LP 8833 in 1981. The two friends arrived in Birmingham in early 1957 and formed a band with three others. Jerry and Bobby were the vocalists of the group, besides playing guitar and piano respectively. Both men started their own label : Jerry formed FAD Records and Bobby got his Kim label started. Only a handful of singles were issued on Kim in 1957-58, almost all by Bobby himself, a mix of instrumentals and vocal sides. The best was the instrumental "Knockout" (available on YouTube, albeit in mediocre sound quality), one of the buried treasures of piano rock n roll. Bobby and Jerry used the same band and played on each other's records.

The year 1959 saw Mizzell recording for Homer Milan's Reed label out of Birmingham, for which he did rocking instrumentals like "Atomic Fallout" (c/w "Don't Make Me Lonely" by Jerry Woodard) and a B. Bumble styled piano version of "Heart And Soul", the old Hoagy Carmichael favourite. The latter was coupled with "Same Thing", sung by Lee Wayne (Woodard), Jerry's brother, with Bobby on piano. The film company 20th Century Fox showed interest in this single (Reed 1028) and leased it for nationwide distribution on the 20th Fox label in late 1959.

In 1960 Bobby released three more Kim singles (in a new 100 series), one by himself and two by Chris Tyler, who is not the same person as Big T. Tyler of "King Kong" fame. That same year Mizzell relocated to Beaumont, Texas, where he became a part of the local recording scene as a session pianist. His new managers were Bill Hall and Jack Clement, who ran the Hall-Way label from 1962 till 1965. Bobby plays on many Hall-Way recordings (Johnny Preston, Rod Bernard, Jivin' Gene, Benny Barnes, Dickey Lee and others). He still made the occasional record himself, for labels like Century Ltd, Philips and Diamond Jim, but not for Hall-Way.

By 1966 he had moved to California, where he would work in the motion picture business as a film editor for many years, restoring old classic films. He resumed his recording career in 1986, reviving his old Kim label in the process. Kim 307 ("Knockout") had been released in 1958 and Bobby simply continued with Kim 308 in 1986 ("Rambo Rock"/"Rocket In My Pocket"). The result was a string of strong (vocal) boogie rockers, with the excellent James Intveld on guitar. Production credits alternated between Intveld, Mizzell and Hadda Brooks. The latter was one of Bobby's early influences. She had not recorded for three decades, but Mizzell enticed her out of retirement and wrote a song for her, "House Of Boogie Woogie" (Kim 313), which he also recorded himself in 1991.

bobbymizzell2Bobby was the last person to record with Rick Nelson, just before Nelson's untimely death on December 31, 1985. Together they cut two songs, "You Got Me Gone" and "Singing the Blues". The former had to wait until 2008 for a release by Cees Klop on the CD "41 Years Collector Records"; "Singing the Blues" is included on the CD "For Ricky Nelson Fans Only" (1999). Mizzell's music is featured in two movies : "Deuce Coupe" (1992) and "Red Hot" (1993).

Bobby's new recordings (1986-1993) were assembled on a Kim CD called "Beverly Hills Boogie" (26 tracks), which was distributed in Europe by Teddy Records in Sweden. It also includes an overdubbed version of "Birmingham Boogie" from 1957. In February 2010 Mizzell released an album of mp3s This 31-track collection (also available on Spotify) offers many enjoyable tracks, but as a whole it is not as strong as the 1993 CD. But it shows that, at the age of 73, Bobby Mizzell is still going strong.

The CD "Beverly Hills Boogie" (Kim CD 501, 1993) is highly recommended, but no longer in print. Liner notes by Bo Berglind (acknowledged).

More info :

This is clearly based on Berglind's notes, without acknowledgement. The anonymous author adds a few details of his own, of which the claim that Mizzell plays on "Chantilly Lace" and "Running Bear" is definitely false.


 Video: YouTube - Bobby Mizzell & His Rockin' Piano - Knockout ~ Rockabilly

Video: YouTube - Bobby Mizzel - Cocaine Boogie

Podcast: BRC Radio - Download free podcast episodes by Unknown on iTunes.


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