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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Maurice Rocco born 26 June 1915


Maurice Rockhold was born in 1915 in Oxford, Ohio to a music teacher mother. His mother taught him classical piano starting at age 10, but did not interfere with his interest in rhythm playing as long as he finished his lessons. He entered Miami University as a music student (from where he was later to earn a Master of Music degree,) but soon quit to work for radio station WLW. In addition, he also taught piano harmony at Oberlin College.



His work at WLW impressed Noble Sissle so much that he hired him to work with the Rogers Sisters at the Kit Kat Club in New York, and the act was renamed The Three Roccos. He was to later legally change his last name from Rockhold to Rocco. In 1938 he left the club to participate in two films, Vogues of 1938 and 52nd Street. He returned to New York to form his own band, which included Alton Moore, Arville Harris, and Bobby Holmes among its members. By the early 1940s he was no longer fronting a band, but was working as a solo act.


Between 1940 and 1941 he cut 14 sides for Decca, most of which were released on their "Sepia" series. He did not join active military service because his poor eyesight classified him as 4-F, but during World War 2 he entertained American troops, both in person and as part of the American Forces Network Jubilee radio program. Rocco spent most of the 1940s headlining at nightclubs and theaters (where his engagements would extend into months) and participating in vaudeville revues. By 1944 he had a US $500,000 insurance policy on his hands. 1945 was a very busy year for Rocco. Alongside Mary Lou Williams, he represented the United States in the second African Dance Festival at Carnegie Hall in April. He was married to Iantha on July 3. Later that year he appeared in his most famous role in the film Incendiary Blond. His earnings in 1945 topped U.S. $250,000. Despite all the professional success, this marriage was short lived. Iantha filed for divorce before their first anniversary amid allegations physical and mental abuse. He signed to RCA Victor Records in 1949.




      Rocco's Boogie Woogie (recorded 27 September 1940)

Rocco was billed as "Maurice Rocco and His Rockin' Rhythm" in nightclubs and his recordings. Maurice was most famous for standing while playing, not using a piano bench. The origin of his playing posture has been credited to different sources. In 1944 Rocco claimed that he started standing in 1941, when a customer was sitting on his piano bench and Rocco, intimidated by the heft of this customer, decided that it would be best to play without the customary seat. He eschewed a piano bench from this point on because of the positive reaction from the crowd that night. While playing, he would alternately beat out the rhythm with his feet, or perform dance moves. 


Billboard described his playing as "Rocking and Riotous" but panned his singing ability. His nightclub performances were known to be uncommonly boistrous for the period, even moving the piano from one end of the stage to the other with "violent energy," but Duke
Ellington and Mabel Mercer praised his ability to perform in a sophisticated manner. His showmanship was as recognized as his piano playing, and he was known to favor wearing a pea-green dinner jacket.



In the early 1950s he made tours of Europe and South-East Asia. Alongside Slim Gaillard he was in 1953 solicited to play a lead role in a film to be entitled "Two Joes from Georgia". Maurice fell into legal difficulties in the late 1950s regarding bad checks: he was jailed over Christmas 1957 in Cleveland, and was accused of the same offense in July 1958. He moved to Europe before spening the last 15 years of his life performing in Thailand. Here he was a regular tourist attraction at the Bamboo Bar in the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. He was found slashed to death in his apartment, death having occurred on Wednesday, March 24, 1976. The murder weapon was his own Malaysian knife. At the time of his death he was married to Mary Arlene Rocco (1914–1994). He is buried at Woodside Cemetery in Oxford. 

(Info edited from Wikipedia)

Here's Maurice Rocco performing Boogie-woogie in action (1950)


2 comments:

boppinbob said...

Back from holiday and nothing but trouble with my old "pooter."
I have had nothing but difficulty with windows 8.1 and things are getting worse. Cannot use IE properly and cannot re-install as it is a part of windows 8.1
Since last updates I had to refresh my system loosing lots of added programmes etc. Microsoft keep demanding if I am who I say I am and now Google want's me to just use their account only. (E mail, browser, cloud etc)

Everytime IO log on I have a laod of demands from Google which I have to decline. Bring back Windows 7. less hassle.

Have decided to buy an imac.

Divshare is down for maintenance so will post mp3 of Maurice Rocco later (that's if it is possible).

new posts will be have to be sporadic until I get my new computer......Watch this space folks!!

boppinbob said...

Mp3 now uploaded and have managed to glean some more recordings by Maurice Rocco from web-pal Peter via Loadsamusic forum. Thanks Peter!

http://www39.zippyshare.com/v/99679541/file.html