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CHESS 1516; AUGUST 1952



What can you really say about a song whose title alone gives the impression of Hollywood’s idea of youth centered rock ‘n’ roll a half decade down the road?

Something to be exploited in stereotypical fashion and gently mocked in the process, yet which they still think fulfills the requirements for the genre.

Now when you realize this was an organic composition done in 1952 by an actual rock artist with a decent track record you begin to realize that sometimes in life itself it really is a thin line between legitimacy and farce.


Wobbles All Over The Street
The saga of Billy “Red” Love has been one encompassing deception and pity, celebration and frustration and now confusion and possible dismissal… all in the span of three releases, the first of which he received no credit for actually performing.

Regardless of our opinions on the circumstances surrounding him, the consensus was that Love himself was certainly not to blame for anything nefarious going on and was talented enough as a songwriter, a singer and a pianist to deserve something better than the crooks and conmen he was stuck with.

My Teddy Bear Baby – despite its juvenile title – won’t necessarily negate everything positive we said about Love, but suffice it to say it also won’t help his cause much in being held aloft as somebody who was ready to take on all comers in the rock field until his career met with foul play by Mssrs. Phillips and Chess.

In the end it shows what is actually the case for most rock artists, which is that on their good days they could turn out some really impressive sides, but on other days they were either going through the motions or simply ran out of worthwhile ideas.

Still, songwriting is just one third of what Love brings to the table and so there’s always a chance that the other two attributes might pull his fat from the fire in the end.

Built So Wrong
With a catchy, if not very complex, opening on piano Billy Love appears poised to check off one of the two boxes by showcasing his musical ability behind the keyboard, but once that fades and his vocals take over the track ceases to pull us in which in turn puts far too much focus on that which we already know we’re not going to like much… namely the story and lyrics.

Love’s voice is fine, his delivery is lively and he’s trying to sell this cut-rate merchandise the best he can… we can’t fault him there. But when the best compliment he can come up with to tout his girl is “She’s got pretty smooth skin, just like an elephant’s hide” maybe it’s time for him to consider celibacy.

Actually the more this goes on – with similar testimonials regarding other aspects of her body – the more we realize that, on paper anyway, My Teddy Bear Baby must be intended as a joke. A novelty record of some sort designed to get laughs.

Except there are no laughs to be had. Mocking a woman for her unattractiveness in blunt terms, even if the catch is he’s still with her, isn’t very nice. Of course if it was actually funny we might forgive him for his cruelty but it’s also not funny, not even a little.

Since he’s not singing it in a way that suggests he or the band is cognizant of the humor means there’s no way the listener is going to be prepped for such a thing and have at least a smirk at the ready.

If not for a decent, sort of lazy if not quite listless, sax solo, this wouldn’t even be varied enough to give it a begrudging passing mark for the musical backing, but about all that’s going to enable you to do is make it to the end of the record without shutting it off.

Of course whether your ears shut it out is another matter and one which you’d probably be wise to consider.


You’ll Know That I Ain’t Lying
Considering how much has changed over the past century it’s actually somewhat surprising that the teddy bear as a children’s toy hasn’t faced mass extinction. Yeah, it’s cute, doesn’t make a mess, or make noise, and is soft enough not to hurt any kid I suppose, but it’s hard to believe something still popular with each new generation functions exactly the way it did a hundred years ago.

In rock music on the other hand the teddy bear didn’t fare quite as well, though any time you have a #1 hit by a guy named Presley with it as the centerpiece it’s never going to be completely forgotten.

Billy “Red” Love may have beat him to it but should’ve kept his thoughts about teddy bears in the toy chest rather than put them to paper. Though My Teddy Bear Baby is hardly ABOUT teddy bears at all, it’s also not about anything else worth our time or respect. It’s not cute, not cuddly, not an affectionate reminder of anything wholesome and pure.

It’s a stupid song making fun of his girlfriend’s perceived flaws which reminds us to tell Mr. Love that maybe he’ll want to look into getting himself a teddy bear to take to bed for the next few years because after this no girl in her right mind would want to sleep with him.

And also presents some pretty strong evidence that not many rock fans will want to keep buying what he’s shelling out.


(Visit the Artist pages of Billy “Red” Love for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)