In 1959 Black joined a group of musicians which became Bill Black's Combo. The lineup was Black (bass), Joe Lewis Hall (piano), Reggie Young (guitar), Martin Wills (saxophone), and Jerry Arnold (drums). There were several personnel changes. While Young was in the army, his position was filled by Hank Hankins, Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill. Ace Cannon replaced Wills on sax. Carl McVoy replaced Hall in the studio, while Bobby Emmons replaced him on tour.
The band released blues instrumental Smokie for Hi Records in December 1959. Smokie, Part 2 became a #17 pop hit, and made number one on the "black" music charts. The song made the Top 20 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. A follow-up release, White Silver Sands (Hi 2021), was a Top 10 hit (#9) and, like its predecessor, topped the R&B charts for four weeks.
Eight of the recordings by Bill Black's Combo placed in the Top 40 between 1959 and 1962. These were "White Silver Sands" (U.S. #9), "Josephine" (U.S. #18), "Don't Be Cruel" (U.S. #11), "Blue Tango" (U.S. #16), and "Hearts of Stone" (U.S. #20). Advertised as "Terrific for Dancing" their Saxy Jazz spent a record whole year in the top 100.
The Combo appeared in the 1961 film The Teenage Millionaire and on The Ed Sullivan Show, where they performed a medley of "Don't Be Cruel," "Cherry Pink," and "Hearts of Stone", and were voted Billboard's number one instrumental group of 1961.
Albums with themes included Bill Black's Combo Plays Tunes by Chuck Berry, Bill Black's Combo Goes Big Band, Bill Black's Combo Goes West, and Bill Black's Combo Plays the Blues. The Combo's sound of danceable blues became a popular accompaniment for striptease dancers. Another unique characteristics of the Combo was Reggie Young thwacking on the guitar with a pencil.
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