HEY LOCO FANS – Happy B’Day to Chicago blues singer and songwriter “Doctor” Clayton. He was born Peter Joe Clayton in Georgia (though he claimed he had been born in Africa) and moved to St. Louis as a child with his family.
He had four children and worked in a factory in St. Louis, where he started his career as a singer (he could also play the piano and the ukulele but never did so on record). Clayton recorded six sides for Bluebird Records in 1935, but only two were issued. Clayton’s entire family died in a house fire in 1937; following this he became an alcoholic and began wearing outsized hats and glasses.
Clayton moved to Chicago with Robert Lockwood, and he received attention from Decca Records, thanks to a helpful recommendation from another musician, Charley Jordan. Ultimately Clayton returned to Bluebird, recording with Lockwood, the bassist Robert (Ransom) Knowling, the pianist Blind John Davis, and Lester Melrose, in 1941–42.
Among the songs he wrote were “Cheating and Lying Blues”, frequently covered by other blues artists and “Moonshine Woman Blues”, which became a chart hit for B. B. King under the name “The Woman I Love” in 1968. King also covered his 1946 tunes “Hold That Train, Conductor” and “I Need My Baby”.
He was a regional sales success and played regularly in Chicago nightclubs with Lockwood and Sunnyland Slim. Attesting to his companion’s popularity, Slim worked as “Dr. Clayton’s Buddy” in his debut recording session, in 1947. In the same year, Willie Long Time Smith recorded “My Buddy Doctor Clayton”.
Clayton died of tuberculosis on January 7, 1947, in Chicago, shortly after his second recording session. Big Bill Broonzy and Tampa Red attended his funeral.