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PEACOCK 1597; MAY 1952



Where do we start?

Maybe the better question is where – and when – did we leave off with Andrew Tibbs, one of rock’s most talented vocalists of the 1940’s who scored an early hit for an upstart label. Despite a string of good performances he couldn’t get another as the label changed hands – and its name – and increasingly began focusing more on the blues, and while they’d swing back and give rock equal stature soon enough, by then Tibbs was long gone.

After a year spent drying out from heroin addiction, he’s back, far away from his Chicago home and ready to recapture his early promise.

But times have changed and unless the record companies have changed with them, using more modern arrangements rather than what they were used to hearing behind him from a half decade earlier, it means Tibbs will be fighting an uphill battle yet again.


If You’re Out For A Ball
Ever since Andrew Tibbs helped to get this brand of music off the ground in the winter of 1947/48 his career has been one of great promise and limited success.

A very good songwriter and a master at expressing emotion on ballads with his gospel upbringing, he was the first rock act to prominently display melisma in his vocals, yet he was often saddled with backing musicians for whom rock was sometimes a mystery which further hampered his ability to switch things up and try uptempo tracks.

You could even add that historically Tibbs’ place as the first hitmaker in the Chess records lineage helped to ensure he wasn’t completely forgotten, but the negative is that his master tapes were lost in the tragic 2008 Universal warehouse fire and unlike those of Muddy Waters and company, who’d had them mined for years and re-mastered multiple times along the way to have digital copies remain available in the best condition possible, Tibbs was not so fortunate, meaning any re-issues have to be taken from 78 RPM records with terrible fidelity which can be tough to make out in this day and age, hampering the impact of his work if it does get heard.

Anyway, on to the present record… after being the mainstay on the Aristocrat label, once Leonard Chess took over and re-named the label Tibbs got just one single, not even credited to him but rather Sax Mallard who was not so coincidentally got to look at again yesterday. Thanks to Tibbs’ drug habit this might not have been completely without justification, but he successfully completed rehab in 1951 and the label responded by dropping him though was just in his early twenties and had plenty left in him to offer someone.

He was signed to Savoy Records where he cut a session in 1951 that never got released and now a year later he’s with Peacock out of Texas on Rock Savoy Rock. While the title clearly refers to the famous ballroom, it’s possible he’d come up with the idea while on the label that also took its name from that grand palace, maybe thinking it’d help him get promoted heavily because of the obvious tie-in.

Unfortunately while his voice has lost none of its technical ability, for much of this he and the band are far too laid back to convince you this is rocking anything other than the sinking boat which holds his chances for a comeback.


Yes, We’re Gonna Rock
There is definitely a good song here… not necessarily a perfect one due to referencing a theater which was known for jazz rather than rock ‘n’ roll, thus giving it a slightly outdated theme for those interested in such things… but the composition itself is pretty solid.

The band however is not.

They aren’t bad musicians, just the wrong musicians for this type of thing as evidenced by their moldy horn charts that pollute the record from the start, forcing you to endure it long enough so that Andrew Tibbs – who initially seems shaken by their approach and sings in a mild fashion in response – can finally get his feet under him and try to forcibly alter their tactics by shaming them.

The bouncy stuttering parts that introduce the song are ten years out of date and come close to ruining what might be an otherwise good arrangement. The horn and drum interplay is really nice except neither is emphatic enough to make a deeper impression. Give the horn parts to two raunchy tenors and tell the drummer that if he doesn’t cause them to fear for their lives with his responses he’s out of a job and the same structure would work incredibly well.

The lyrics are somewhat slight but aren’t helped by Tibbs’ tentative vocals in the first stanza. He gets a little more into it on the next go-round but still is struggling to find his footing. The guitar solo which follows is well played but far too muted to energize you.

At this point you fear this will be another missed opportunity but when the tenor comes in things improve, though even this takes awhile. When it starts to ramp things up you still need to ignore the horns behind it which seem to be aghast that he’s acting up in this manner… “my god, what if our GRANDPARENTS are listening?” they seem to be saying.

But luckily the tenor ignores the naysayers, as good tenors always do, and when Tibbs comes back in now things start to gel. He’s wailing away with admirable intent, his voice has coarsened just enough to suggest the streets he’s come from rather than the elegant nightclub he’s referencing and by the close he can honestly say that he’s convinced us that Rock Savoy, Rock is indeed possible if the patrons there just let go of their inhibitions.

From here on in the song takes off and shows what Tibbs was capable of in the right situation. The lyrics are still holding it back, but you can’t find fault with the delivery and that voice, while not deep and commanding, has the same great tone and flexibility that marked him as special from the start… too bad this was just about the end of the line for him.


Get Out Of That Seat And Move
We’re not done with Andrew Tibbs yet… we have the flip side of this plus a few more records down the line, but for all intent and purposes this was his final shot at a career revival.

He had a decent enough song, or at least one with many of the right components and in Rock Savoy, Rock a title that was sure to at least alert the rock fan as to his intent, and Peacock even took out ads for it – though the Cash Box ad misspelled his name as Tiggs, while Billboard at least got it right, but once again he was done in by forces just out of his control.

It’s become cliché for those who failed to become huge stars to find fault in later years with the people overseeing their careers and in most cases those complaints, while maybe rooted in truth, are not the reason for their inability to connect.

As far as we know Tibbs never cursed those he’d worked with and for, at least nobody bothered to ask him about it to find out his opinions, and while he certainly had himself to blame for his addiction which hampered his progress, he was also definitely tripped up by musical choices that he himself did not make and had no power to stop.

So Andrew Tibbs got lost to history, a great voice, a talented songwriter who barely even gets credit for writing rock’s first protest song, and ultimately a footnote in a genre that grew beyond his own, or anyone else’s, expectations.


(Visit the Artist page of Andrew Tibbs for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)