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C&L's Late Nite Music Club With Doctor Ross

I may get better but I'll never get well...

Doctor Ross “the harmonica boss” wasn't a real doctor. He got made an honorary one though because he toted around his mouth organ and a bottle of booze in a doctors bag

Returning to his home state Mississippi in 1951 Ross was in need of a job to pay the bills. Using the skills his father taught him on harmonica as a child, and picking up some funky chops on the guitar (which he played upside down due to being left handed), he had no problem getting people up and doing the boogie.

While gigging around and playing on the southern radio stations that air blues programs he caught the attention of Sam Phillips, a young record producer who had just started his studio he was calling the Memphis Recording Service. Phillips, who hadn’t yet started the Sun record label yet, sent the recordings (which we credit to him and his backing band the Jump And Jive Boys) to the Chess brothers in Chicago, who released “Doctor Ross Boogie” and “Country Clown” on their label Chess in 1951. Ross would record sessions with different back up bands throughout 1952 and ’53 most of which didn’t see the light of day until the 1970’s.

By 1954, the good doctor was going it alone, forming a one man band and playing harmonica, guitar and drums simultaneously. Phillips called him up in the summer of that year to do another session (which just happened to be just a few weeks before a young truck driver named Elvis Presley would lay down some tracks for the first time in the same studio.) Augmented by a second guitar player (who you can’t really hear) and drummer, Doctor Ross laid down one of the funkiest songs about contracting VD ever, “Boogie Disease.”

1954 was also the same year Doctor Ross moved to Michigan to take a job working in a General Motors factory. Though that would be his main source of income for the next 40 years he still continued playing music and having records released on his own label, DIR and Detroit's Fortune Records amongst others. Retiring from GM in 1992, Doctor Ross passed away in 1993 and is buried in Flint, Michigan.

Special shout out to James Marshall's The Houndblog for filling in some of the blanks for this article.

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