A year-and-a-half ago I began an association as a producer with a new Japanese label, SSJ Records. Since then I've worked with them in various capacities on more than a dozen releases. But of all of them, none has more meaning to me than my initial effort for SSJ, the release of an unissued recording by singer Bill Black.
From time to time, since then, I've continued to receive bits and pieces of info regarding Bill's beclouded personal history. The latest correspondence---just in---is of a geneological nature from a party who knew Bill while the latter still lived in his hometown of Granite City, Illinois before heading off to the big city and swift acceptance as a big band singer with Gene Krupa. To wit:
"I checked with some of my siblings and a brother went to high school with Neal Black and a sister with Bill-also my sister was working as a volunteer at the hospital when Bill"s mother died in 1949.Someone is checking the high school paper to see if it has anything on him. He is remembered as being a very happy guy and folks are dismayed about his tragic end and burial in Potters Field.
I checked the 1930 census and found Bill's family in Granite City at 904 25th St. His father was Archie Black, age 33, born in Kansas, Chief Engineer at Midland Cement. His mother was Volma, age 28, born in Illinois. They were married 11 years at that time and had 2 children, Maurice Neal,age 5 and William Gerald, age 2 and 8/12s (August 7). My guess is that Bill's father was soon laid off-Granite City was severely affected by the "Great Depression" and he probably opened the small grocery that I remember, to try to "keep his head above water"Volma died in 1949 at age 47 (possibly cancer). Archie was born in 1897 and died, per the Social Security death index, December 1972 at age 75. At this time I have nothing about Neal except that he died at a young age in an auto accident. Folks seem to believe that Neal was married and divorced and may have had a child (those who remember are in their 80's so things may not be too clear)."