CRIPPLE CLARENCE LOFTON BIOGRAPHY
Cripple Clarence Lofton (March 28, 1887 – January 9, 1957), born Albert Clemens in Kingsport, Tennessee, was a noted boogie-woogie pianist and singer.
Though Lofton was born with a limp (from which he derived his stage name), he actually started his career as a tap-dancer. This was not his true calling, and he showed his talent in the blues idiom known as boogie-woogie and moved on to perform in Chicago, Illinois.
The trademark of Lofton’s performances was his energetic stage-presence, where he danced and whistled in addition to singing. Perhaps the most comprehensive description of Lofton is this excerpt from Boogie Woogie by William Russell: “No one can complain of Clarence’s lack of variety or versatility. When he really gets going he’s a three-ring circus. During one number, he plays, sings, whistles a chorus, and snaps his fingers with the technique of a Spanish dancer to give further percussive accompaniment to his blues. At times he turns sideways, almost with his back to the piano as he keeps pounding away at the keyboard and stomping his feet, meanwhile continuing to sing and shout at his audience or his drummer. Suddenly in the middle of a number he jumps up, his hands clasped in front of him, and walks around the piano stool, and then, unexpectedly, out booms a vocal break in a bass voice from somewhere. One second later, he has turned and is back at the keyboard, both hands flying at lightning- like pace. His actions and facial expressions are as intensely dramatic and exciting as his music.”
Most of his songs were twelve-bar blues to which Lofton brought a unique excitement by dropping bars and portions of bars to end up with nine-, ten-, or eleven-bar blues songs.
With such a unique style, it was not long until Lofton found himself a mainstay in his genre. His first recording was in April with Big Bill Broonzy for Vocalion Records. He later went on to own the Big Apple nightclub in Chicago and continued to record well into the late 1940s, when he retired.
Lofton was an integral part of the boogie-woogie genre in Chicago. Some of his most famous songs include: “Strut That Thing”, “Monkey Man Blues”, “I Don’t Know” and “Pitchin’ Boogie”. His talent was likened to that of Pinetop Smith and others that influenced heavily in his field including: Meade Lux Lewis, Cow Cow Davenport and Jimmy Yancey. Lofton was also said to have influenced Erwin Helfer
Lofton lived in Chicago until he died from a blood clot in his brain in 1957.