Pigmeat Markham & The B.Y. - Who Got The Number
African-American comedian Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham's vaudeville sketches in "chitlin' circuit" venues were legendary among black people by the time Markham shot into the mainstream on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" with his "Here Come The Judge" routine. Chess Records had been putting out albums of his material since the early '60s, but the sudden surge in Markham's popularity pushed the label to take a new approach with him.
A cottage industry of "Judge"-themed soul 45s popped up after the routine became popular. Motown's Shorty Long was first out of the gate with "Here Comes The Judge" in 1968. Chess Records, not one to miss out on a chance for a hit, recorded Pigmeat on a funky 45 of the same name, scoring a hit in the process. Although Larry Grogan's article on the "Judge" 45s rightly describes Markham's delivery as sounding "like a dumptruck rolling down the side of a rock quarry," it worked, and Chess released several 45s featuring Pigmeat delivering lines in a proto-rap style over hot grooves from the Chess house band. All of them are worth hearing, and today's selection, a sketch about a numbers game, is my favorite of them all.