Cripple Clarence Lofton (March 28, 1887 - January 9, 1957), born Albert Clemens in Kingsport, Tennessee, was a noted boogie-woogie pianist and singer.
Life and career:
Though Lofton was born with a limp (from which he derived his stage name), he actually started his career as a tap-dancer. Lofton moved on from tap-dancing into 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. A conversant description of Lofton is provided in an 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."
With his distinctive performance style, Lofton found himself a mainstay in his genre: His first recording was in April 1935 for Vocalion Records with guitar accompaniment from Big Bill Broonzy. 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 lived in Chicago until he died from a blood clot in his brain in Cook County Hospital in 1957.
Lofton was an integral part of the boogie-woogie genre in Chicago. Some of his more popular 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 other prominent boogie-woogie artists including: Meade Lux Lewis, Cow Cow Davenport and Jimmy Yancey. Lofton was also said to have influenced Erwin Helfer.