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SAVOY 671; AUGUST, 1948


With only a few more records to go before we get to the 1950’s we’re going to take some time to add in a few 1940’s songs we either overlooked or intentionally avoided for various reasons when first covering this ground. It won’t take long and hopefully will paint a more vivid picture of the first era of rock as we head into the second era in the next week or two.


There’s a common perception regarding Hal Singer’s career, one largely fueled by Singer’s own comments over the years regarding his having to give up the loftier pursuits of jazz to take advantage of his sudden ascension in rock circles, that he was an entirely unwilling participant in the revolution at hand.

Though far more successful commercially with his rock output than with his later jazz albums, Singer’s musical preferences remained firmly aligned with the older, more respected and dignified style.

Yet music is a business and in 1948 rock provided him with a platform to become a headliner earning top dollar rather than a fairly anonymous member of a larger jazz ensemble where he might only get a few chances to step into the spotlight while earning typical sideman fees for his services.

The story goes that Singer – who was about to start his dream job as part of Duke Ellington’s band – was talked into cutting a few sides for Savoy Records on the down-low during a prolonged recording ban just to give the label a few more options for releases if the strike went on indefinitely. He never expected them to hit and when the top side of his initial single became the most popular record in black America he was left to deal with the “consequences”, which meant leaving Ellington and forming his own band and cutting more of these crude rock instrumentals on demand.

But while that’s a good juicy story, and one we’ll frequently repeat here since its veracity hasn’t been called into question, the internal conflict at the heart of the story might be a little suspect because at that first session Hal Singer didn’t just happen to stumble onto a racy rock song amidst a three hour run of classier songs, but rather he clearly set out to deliver rock anarchy on almost everything he touched.
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