I’ve always loved boogie-woogie, so it’s not surprising that it has shown up from time to time on the ol’ GMC. In fact, a piece from 2007 titled From Boogie-Woogie To Early Rock And Roll – Ella Mae Morse is a favorite of mine (and of a lot of other folks too). It was also our first mention of a guy who should get a little more attention, because he not only accompanied Morse on her iconic “Cow-Cow Boogie” but was also involved in another boogie-woogie classic.
While Frederick Charles ‘Freddie’ Slack was growing up in small-town Wisconsin he first jumped into music as a drummer, later switching to xylophone. But by the time he’d reached his mid-teens and had moved with his family to Depression-era Chicago, he’d changed again — to piano.
Slack’s professional career started in the late 1920s when he began finding work in local bands, including those led by guys like Johnny Tobin. Within a few years he’d moved to LA and was showing up in some big name bands, like those of Ben Pollack and Jimmy Dorsey, but his first big boogie-woogie breakout occurred when he joined up with Will Bradley just before the start of World War II.
One of the biggest hits of the era was the band’s recording of “Beat Me Daddy, Eight To The Bar” — a song that had a lot to do with popularizing boogie-woogie. It also made a star out of Freddie Slack, who would make a lot of good records with Bradley before eventually leaving to form his own band. It was with that latter group that he would later showcase 17-year-old Ella Mae Morse on “Cow Cow Boogie” — a huge hit that would complete Slack’s boogie-woogie double play. (You can see a video of Ella Mae and Freddie doing the song if you follow the link above.)
Although Slack would continue to find some success for the rest of the decade, even making a few spot appearances in movies, by the 1950s things began to wind down for him although he did continue to be active on the West Coast jazz scene. He was just 55 when he died in 1965.