From the Land of Band Box Records

Cowan, Joel - Head ShotLittle is known of Jim Watson but musician Joel Cowan established a long and rich recording legacy before his brief stint on the Band Box Records subsidiary, Spicy Records – partnering up with comedian Jim Watson in an adult entertainment gig at Denver’s adult night club The Tropics.

Thanks to “Uncle” Marv Goldberg, here is what we do know about Cowan’s musical legacy:  Toward the end of World War II and R&B pianist Al Russell met and teamed up with guitarist Joel Cowan & William Joseph forming the Al “Stomp” Russell Trio.

From there Cowan’s musical journey would lead to the release of two 78 rpm discs on the Los Angeles “Coast” label.  Next, the trio released a series of singles on the Excelsior label and they began performing across the country.  Next it was onto Philadelphia recording on the local 20th Century label there.  This was followed by recordings on Apollo Records and De Luxe Records.

In about 1947, there were personnel changes and Cowan found himself in The Do Re Me Trio (with several different spellings used for this group).  There were further recordings on many different labels.  Cowan stuck it out until 1950 when he departed to join the Camille Howard Trio – a group which would perform together for a very short time before breaking up.

The Band Box Connection

It gets sketchy from here on out.  Cowan appears in 1958 playing guitar on a couple of sides again with the Do Re Me Trio, but apparently did not officially rejoin the group.  The “Do Ray Me Trio” would go on and on into the 1970’s.

Tropics 03It is sometime in the late 1960’s that Joel Cowan momentarily teams up with Jim Watson to appear at Denver’s adult night club The Tropics which was located on Morrison Road in the west part of Denver.  The duo found their way onto a comedy LP issued on Spicy Records label number 5001.  Two versions of this LP were issued, the first with a “promotional” version of the LP inside.  Interestingly this LP label does not carry the Band Box address in the rim print.

SPICY LP 5001 - WATSON & COWAN (1)Watson & Cowan - Spicy 5001 C - Party Time

Watson  Cowan Spicy 5001 DJ  - Party Time (1) Watson  Cowan Spicy 5001 DJ  - Party Time (2)

Watson  Cowan Spicy 5001 - Party Time (1) Watson  Cowan Spicy 5001 2 - Party Time (1)

But the record was reissued with a new cover and with a commercial stamping of the label – this time with the usual Band Box studio address on 41st Avenue.  Cowan is presented on the LP as a “guest star” indicating that he was not Watson’s usual partner.  Cowan also penned two of the releases – one on each side of the LP.

Joel Cowan is now long deceased and the mystery of Jim Watson for Band Box fans remains.  Here is the entire Marv Goldberg account of this fascinating story.  Check out his many intriguing articles on the R&B artists from the past.

Cowan, Joel - Dooto 285


  1. Pingback: Watson & Cowan on Spicy Records | PopBopRocktilUDrop

  2. I lived in Denver as a young man (1964-65) and took bass guitar lessons at a music store on South Broadway. Mr Cowan was my teacher. Saturday mornings, 9am! I knew NOTHING except I really wanted to learn the bass. He was very mellow, extremely patient. Told me he had played with the Ink Spots, which meant nothing to me at the time I am embarrassed to admit. He would show me a run on the bass, then pick up his guitar and play along. I was mesmerized. And each week he gently taught me a few more things. He made a huge impression that has stayed with me to this day. That I remember his name, can hear his voice and see his face 50 years later speaks volumes about him. A family tragedy meant I left Denver rather hurriedly and I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

    Finding this site and info about him all these years later is both amazing and strangely comforting. Thank you.

    • Thanks PMJ for making contact – I will add your comments to Joel’s listing – Do you happen to know Steve Drum? He was a member in the Denver group Umbra and knew and worked with Joel here in Denver

  3. That was my dad and everybody calls me Joe Jr I’m a saxophone player my daddy got me started on guitar when I was about four years old but I switch to the Reed instruments he got me a clarinet when I was six and I move going to the Reed instruments after that my favorite is the bari sax which I still play to this day when you talk about the tropics my dad on that club when I was little you used to take me on five points where he played who is responsible for me getting into the Navy Band and I played my first gig with him at Fitzsimons officer Club I played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on my clarinet when the spotlights hit me I knew what I was going to do with the rest of my life one more thing he was one of the first black musicians to play in Japan I miss my dad very much to this day.

  4. I forgot one last thing for you good people my dad also played with Nat King Cole when he had a trio.

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