Rollee McGill

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Rollee McGill - Virtually nothing is known of the life and full career of this Philadelphia-based saxman and vocalist. What is known is that he cut some sizzling rhythm & blues between 1954 and 1965 (and maybe beyond, for all anyone can tell) and played one of the most famous and familiar breaks in the history of '50s rock & roll, the sax solo on the Silhouettes' 1958 smash "Get a Job" -- this puts Rollee McGill right up there with Jimmy Wright and his work at Gee Records, Gone Records, and the like, and with Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers et al., as a star sideman, except that McGill also sang and cut sides on his own. As a singer, he was similar to Johnny "Guitar" Watson, and he also wrote most of his own material. Yet this brilliant tenor sax player, commanding vocalist -- who was as impressive on the ballads as the jump numbers -- and prodigious composer only had one hit of his own, "There Goes That Train." Originally cut for Piney Records in Philadelphia, this record became a local hit and was picked up by Mercury Records for national distribution, who enjoyed a number ten R&B hit in the summer of 1955. And then nothing. McGill undoubtedly played lots of sessions, including the Silhouettes date that yielded "Get a Job," but he never charted another record nationally. He cut searing singles like "Rhythm Rockin' Blues" and slow blues numbers like "Come on In (both originals), featuring players like Mercury resident pianist Ernie Freeman, that went unbought during the heyday of the R&B explosion of the mid-'50s, and later recorded ballads and jump numbers for the Kaiser, Junior, Chelsea, and Riff labels, into the mid-'60s, and apparently was working well into the '80s, playing locally and on various sessions by other artists. In 1999, Bear Family Records of Germany finally gave long-delayed acknowledgment to this lost legend of the R&B by releasing a CD of his known recordings. A year later, on November 1, 2000, McGill died at the age of 68.

Bios by Bruce Elder

Rollee McGill

 
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