Johnny “Shadrach” Horace’s career is covered in a previous post, “Lazy River” by the Shadrach Boys. After a screening of this Soundie, Teddy Edwards, a guest for an afternoon of films, told me, “Sure, I remember Johnny. He was around for a while, he’d sit in late at night in some of the Central Avenue clubs; nice voice, nice guy if I recall correctly. I think he had a day job and sang whenever he could get a gig. I don’t think that he was singing full time when these films were made.”
The 3 Blazers was led by Johnny Moore, brother of Nat “King” Cole’s guitarist, Oscar Moore. While both trios were composed of piano, electric guitar and string bass, musically they were not all that similar. Where Nat Cole’s group played jazz, jive and ballads, Johnny Moore’s had deeper roots in the blues.
The 3 Blazers was formed in 1942 or 1943 and included Charles Brown on piano and vocal, later a major voice in rhythm-and-blues. The group began recording in 1943, not signing with a major label but instead making records for a variety of independent producers. The group’s records sold moderately well and they had a number of hits in the burgeoning R&B market. The trio was based on the West Coast, playing the Million Dollar Theater and various small clubs in Hollywood and on Central Avenue. Still, they traveled nationwide, playing club engagements and performing in stage revues. In 1949 Lee Barnes replaced Brown at the piano and the trio signed with Victor. The Three Blazers remained a popular recording and nightclub act into the late 1950s.
The rhythm-and-blues foundation of the group notwithstanding, R.C.M. producer Ben Hersh was in the need of popular material, rather than the blues, so the group was called upon to perform two songs that would be familiar to both black and white audiences. “Along the Navajo Trail,” introduced in the 1945 Republic feature of the same name, was sung by Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and the Songs of the Pioneers. It had been hits for Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, and this version by Johnny Horace and the 3 Blazers does not suffer from comparison!