Though there is every indication this instrumental was the intended A-side of Archibald’s final, belated, single for Imperial Records, we’re placing it last in his line-up, not because it’s any great side deserving of hit status, but rather because unlike the other side which was an uninspired vocal of his legendary producer’s five year old song, this one at least gives Archie the chance to write his own musical coda.

Well… more or less… if we’re not being too particular about the source credit.


From Dawn To Dusk
The last recording session Archibald did in his all too brief career came in September 1952 where he was aided and abetted by Dave Bartholomew’s top notch band.

Since Archibald wasn’t exactly a prolific songwriter, nor did he have to be playing Poodle Patio Club in New Orleans where his repertoire of standards from all genres of music, even classical compositions, served him well over the years, he wasn’t expected to bring his own material with him.

He was a decent singer but a better pianist anyway, and so it’s hardly surprising he cut two instrumentals in his final pit stop in the recording studio, even if Imperial left the far better House Party Blues in the can altogether.

Whereas that provided him with a far more varied melodic pattern to explore, you might be prone to agree with Imperial’s decision if you knew the history of songs with the title Early Morning Blues, of which this is not a direct copy, but also isn’t completely unrelated.

Blind Blake had the original record under that name back in the twenties which became a blues standard and is surely what led Archibald to this likeminded cut. Others picked up on the theme, if not the actual progression of notes and chords, and you saw songs with that title coming out on everyone from Nat Cole to Muddy Waters.

Archibald’s song may not be a first cousin to any of them, but they share DNA all the same. It’s unrelentingly simple but effectively played, focusing almost exclusively on the slowed down boogie rhythm of his left hand that creates a deep groove that you’d need a ladder to get out of, while the rest of the band are merely embellishing the mood, giving just enough melodic interjections to keep you from going into a trance or losing your mind altogether.

All things considered though it’s still pretty tedious, but being a Dave Bartholomew production it eventually gets to some overlapping parts, none too complex but still pleasantly rendered. Along the way there’s just enough room for Archie to let his right hand go and bring some added color to the proceedings and remind you how he was able to stay employed in bars where oftentimes the ability to keep playing in spite of customer disinterest, constant talking, arguments and the occasional fight or shootout, was a musician’s greatest attribute.

Here it seems as if a bomb could go off behind the bar and Archibald wouldn’t break stride.

Maybe you can’t dance to this, but at least it’ll keep your leg twitching until last call… or last rites, whichever comes first.


Good Night
For Archibald, this was last call – last rites didn’t occur for him until 1973 – and with his departure from the scene, another foundation piece of rock ‘n’ roll was now a memory.

That’s not to say that Archibald was one of the genre’s founding members, but he’d been on the charts in early 1950 and his brand of rock dated back to its origins a few years earlier, even if the only ones hearing him play it at the time were under a table somewhere on Bourbon Street.

He should always be remembered for the best version ever cut of Stack-A-Lee, while a few other sides are well worth hearing in their own right, but when Imperial Records seemed to be less enthused about the mere prospects of another modest local hit and relegated some of his output to their Colony Records imprint, and then left the two best sides from this last session collecting dust in favor of something decent but uninspiring like Early Morning Blues, it wasn’t hard to read the writing on the wall.

Maybe that’s the biggest lesson we can take away from this final entry in Archibald’s decidedly skimpy catalog… whereas when he first hit the scene in 1950 rock ‘n’ roll was still an uncertainty for labels like Imperial, who’d realized it gave them their best shot at success but still were unsure about how to go about it, two years later they knew that long term solvency wasn’t based on casting a wide net and hoping for a random hit from journeymen artists, but rather in consolidating their resources and cultivating long-term careers.

For Leon Gross… Archibald to his friends… he just wasn’t a risk worth taking anymore and as a result he was left to fade into the night, long forgotten before the next morning dawned.


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