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ATLANTA 6000; JUNE 1950



Yesterday we started off by claiming that we’d reached the midway point of 1950 with the final review of June of that year, which is technically still true even though as you can see by the date at the top this is also from June 1950.

The loophole is that this is not an entirely new record, just the B-side of the song we covered yesterday, and it originally wasn’t going to be covered here because we have a long ways to go and it seemed rather pointless to write about a song that few heard which was dashed off just to put on the flip of what was essentially a promotional record for a product that was available only in a small region in the South.

But then again, there’s some pretty interesting things to be gleaned from such an endeavor and since Billy Wright is a major name in early rock and since we’re already far behind schedule when it comes to getting through these initial year’s of rock’s evolution, what’s another day in the big scheme of things?


All You Wanted Was My Cash
Let’s start by focusing on the significance of the song itself, at least as it pertains to what they were trying to do with this rogue release on an opportunistic fly-by-night label started just to peddle a product that advertised on Zenas Sears’ radio show.

As stated yesterday the idea to have a big star like Billy Wright help a local dee-jay pitch a product was a shrewd move, but hardly very innovative in of itself… assuming he was appearing on the air in the studio and just ad-libbed something as a favor.

But what Sears’ did was much more savvy as he came up with an entire song that was essentially was a commercial dressed in a flimsy disguise and then brought in Wright and a full band to cut and release it as an actual record, thereby not only improving his standing with the sponsor, but also earning money with the record sales, publishing and writing credits.

In order for it to be an authentic record for sale and for jukebox play however it needed a B-side. Though oftentimes people barely paid attention to the flip side of their purchase, the absence of a second song just seemed like a rip-off and so you needed something there to give the appearance that everything was on the up and up.

For jukebox operators this was even more crucial because there were usually just room for twenty or twenty-five records on the boxes, meaning 40 or 50 songs available to draw people’s nickels. If one of those records had no B-side you’d potentially be cutting the available product too much to warrant stocking it.

So they needed another song. But rather than do the easy thing and have the band cut a quick instrumental and call it a day, they instead let Wright sing another song which was sure to draw a little more interest.

Beg A Dog is not a potential hit by any means, but it is a chance to hear one of rock’s best singers do what he does best and that’s more than enough to ensure he doesn’t have to beg us to take a listen.

Drivin’ Me Wild
With gently riffing horns and a slightly toned down vocal delivery by the usually intense Wright, if nothing else this stands as an interesting deviation from the norm.

Though the production isn’t quite as full as his normal sessions with Savoy, this is too well structured to be simply called a glorified demo. The musicians may be playing a stock arrangement and there’s been no attempts to make it sound more intricate by layering the parts, but Beg A Dog comes across as a pretty fair record, slightly stripped down though it may be.

We’ve mentioned countless times in the past how influential Wright was to Little Richard’s early work and his tone here is particularly revealing in that way. Though we think of Richard as the most high octane performer of the 1950’s his initial approach was much more subdued and you can easily see listening to this how Wright was the template, his flexible tenor whine piercing the speakers without finding it necessary to raise the volume.

His control, his phrasing and his command of the emotional stakes are first rate even if he purposefully never goes for broke. It’s a restrained performance – maybe because they felt it would be easier to get down in one or two takes without the histrionics – but it’s still fairly effective despite the lack of fireworks.

Maybe it’s the rather convoluted title that throws you off a little because the actual content is fairly well conceived, though hardly groundbreaking. Wright is portraying a guy in need of some romantic sympathy, tired of being used and abused by girls and seeking something better.

The rather standard catch phrase “Please throw this ol’ dog a bone” explains the title – more or less – but there remains at least SOME confusion in the particulars of the plot. After recounting his own disappointments in love he goes on to say that when things turn around for him he’s going to “treat everybody like they treated poor me” which sounds good, by which I mean he’s saying it in a way that suggests he’ll be far more compassionate with others than they were with him, but if taken literally it actually suggests he’ll be an asshole to those who fall for him just like those HE fell for were to him.

But that parsing of the meaning aside, there’s nothing about this that feels out of place, it’s a pretty basic theme told with endearing pathos by Wright and fits in nicely with the sparse arrangement. A perfectly acceptable B-side in other words.


Fell For Your Jive
Though we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how astute Zenas Sears was when it comes to his business sense and musical integrity, we probably shouldn’t be shocked that Billy Wright comes off as well as he does. After all, skill doesn’t fluctuate much based on the working conditions alone and so while this wound up being just a rather odd footnote in his career, it’s definitely a worthwhile one in the end, giving us a chance to hear him in a looser atmosphere than normal.

One really wonders what Savoy thought of this skulduggery. Herman Lubinsky wasn’t the most tolerant of label owners even when he was the one in the wrong, so when others were wronging him in some way, such as releasing records by his legally contracted artists on their own imprints, he must’ve been apocalyptic.

Still, if he was able to calm down enough to see straight even he must’ve been impressed with what they came away with here. Though the content of the top side would’ve seemed to have made it impractical for a more traditional release on a label like Savoy, Beg A Dog was certainly something that would’ve fit right in to his catalog for them.

Ultimately the story of this release overshadows the work found on both sides, but that each of the songs more than hold up is proof of just how effortless Billy Wright made music seem.

And NOW we can officially say we’re halfway through the year 1950.


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