King Pleasure

One of the most important of the vocalese singers, and arguably the one with the finest singing voice, King Pleasure (1922-1981) had a mysterious life. He was born Clarence Beeks, grew up in Cincinnati, and became interested in vocalese, the art of writing words to the recorded solos of jazz musicians. He began his career by writing words to Lester Young’s "DB Blues.”

King Pleasure had two major hits. He was the first to record Eddie Jefferson’s lyrics to "Moody’s Mood for Love” (James Moody’s solo on "I’m in the Mood for Love”), and his own lyrics for "Parker’s Mood” predicted Charlie Parker’s death a year ahead of time. But despite the acclaim, he only recorded enough material in his career to fill three CDs, he made few personal appearances, and nothing much was heard of King Pleasure after his final 1962 recordings. He died 19 years later.

Two of the three King Pleasure CDs are available in the Concord/Fantasy catalog. King Pleasure Sings/Annie Ross Sings not only has "Moody’s Mood for Love” and "Parker’s Mood” but memorable renditions of "Red Top,” "Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid,” and "Don’t Be Scared” (with Jon Hendricks). In addition, there are four numbers from Annie Ross, including her famous "Twisted” and "Farmer’s Market.”

Golden Days has King Pleasure in 1960 mostly doing spirited remakes, interacting with tenors Teddy Edwards and Harold Land and pianist Gerald Wiggins.

Although one regrets that King Pleasure did not have a longer career, he made the most of every opportunity and has an important place in the history of vocalese.