B. Bumble and the Stingers
was an instrumental ensemble in the early 1960s, who specialized in making rock and roll
arrangements of classical melodies. Their biggest hits were "Bumble Boogie" and "Nut Rocker
", which reached number 1 in the UK Singles Chart
in 1962. The recordings were made by session musicians at Rendezvous Records
in Los Angeles
, but when they became successful a touring group was formed led by R. C. Gamble (3 November 1941–2 August 2008) as "Billy Bumble".
In 1959, Earl Palmer
, René Hall
and Plas Johnson
, all African American musicians from Louisiana
, were the house band at Rendezvous Records. According to Palmer, the three friends “always talked about how we could make some money and not leave the studio. One day I said, 'Let's do a rock version of "In The Mood"
. The single, credited to the Ernie Fields
Orchestra, became a hit, reaching # 4 on the US pop charts in early 1960.
Hall then came up with the idea for B. Bumble and the Stingers, taking the same approach to a piece of classical music. Prompted by record producer Kim Fowley
, he approached pianist Jack Fina
, whose 1946 swing arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov
's "Flight of the Bumble Bee
" for Freddy Martin
and his Orchestra, called "Bumble Boogie" (RCA Victor
20-1829), had reached # 7 on the charts and been used in the 1948 Walt Disney animated film Melody Time
. Using Fina's arrangement, Fowley recorded pianist Ernie Freeman
on two tracks, one using a grand piano for the rhythm part, whilst the other featured a doctored upright
with thumb tacks attached to the hammers. The other musicians on the session, at Gold Star Studios
, were Palmer on drums, Red Callender
on bass, and Tommy Tedesco
"Bumble Boogie" went to # 21 on the Billboard charts in June 1961. Because the session musicians all had other studio commitments, a teen band from Ada, Oklahoma, who had played no part in the recording itself, were recruited to handle promotion and public appearances. Their names were given as Fred Richards, Ron Brady, and "Billy Bumble", a pseudonym for guitarist R. C. Gamble.
Follow-up records, "Boogie Woogie", with Freeman's tack piano double tracked
, and "Caravan", were less successful, and Rendezvous seemed to lose interest in B. Bumble and the Stingers. Fowley then secured the copyright to an arrangement of Tchaikovsky
's "March of the Wooden Soldiers
" from the Nutcracker Suite
, and took this to local entrepreneur and pianist H. B. Barnum
, who recorded it under the name "Jack B. Nimble and the Quicks" on the small Del Rio label. When Rod Pierce of Rendezvous heard it, he convinced Fowley that his label could do a better version with their own band.
A new recording was quickly arranged, but on the day of the recording, Freeman didn't show, apparently due to heavy partying the night before. In his place, guitarist and arranger René Hall rushed pianist Al Hazan into the Rendezvous office, which was rigged up as an improvised studio. According to Hazan, "Rod decided to record the first take while I was still trying to practice the piece with the other musicians. Because I was so rushed to learn 'Nut Rocker', I was not happy at all with my performance on that first take. However, in spite of my asking Rod to let me do it over again, he said he liked it just fine the way it was." Released as "Nut Rocker" in February 1962, the record went to # 23 in the US and # 1 in the UK. Del Rio struck a deal with Randy Wood of Dot Records and re-released what they were now calling "(The Original) Nut Rocker" by Jack B. Nimble and the Quicks, but it was not a hit.
Later releases and legacy
Such was "Nut Rocker"'s popularity in Britain that a touring group, with Hazan and R. C. Gamble, was flown over in October 1962 to promote the follow-up, "Apple Knocker", based on Rossini
's William Tell Overture
. However, neither that record nor the next release, "Dawn Cracker", based on a piece by Grieg
, were successful, and no more B. Bumble and the Stingers records were issued after 1963, when Rendezvous went out of business. Hall went on to work with Sam Cooke
and many others, Palmer and Freeman became highly successful session musicians, Fowley moved on to new challenges as a producer and as Svengali
to The Runaways
, and Hazan later recorded solo as Ali Hassan (on instrumentals) and Al Anthony (as a singer).
R. C. Gamble retired from music in 1965 and later became economics professor at Fort Hayes State College in Hayes, Kansas. He died in 2008.
A version of "Nut Rocker" was recorded in 1972 by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The original version was reissued at the same time, and again made the UK charts. The recording has been used as background in several movies, including Butcher Boy (1998) and Big Momma's House (2000).