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In pop music, “standards” refer to songs which were immediately popular, covered right away by a wide array of big names and then over the years to follow were tackled by the big names of each generation, all of whom were measured in part by their interpretative qualities when it came to such an enduring composition.

In rock ‘n’ roll, where original material was paramount to gaining respect, artists tended to shy away from all hopping board a handful of music chestnuts… at least in the way that pop acts had always done.

By contrast rock artists for years surreptitiously adapted a few loosely structured songs, adapting the basic rhythm or melody and slapping together free-floating lyrics as they saw fit, trying to ride the same musical wave as others before them without being accused of merely singing the same exact song.

The end result was no different though even if the methods used varied greatly between the two genres. The rock artists, like their pop brethren, were judged by how well they carried on the tradition laid out before them.


At My Beckon Call
Looking at writing credits on Billy Wright records is a futile endeavor.

Though he did actually compose quite a few really good songs, he was credited with penning a lot of tunes that he merely adapted from others, including the top side of this single which had been written and performed, under a different title, just a few months earlier by his de facto protégé Little Richard.

There was nothing insidious about this and chances are Wright had little or nothing to do with it and surely didn’t get a dime in royalties for any of them no matter if his name was on them or not. Misleading though they might be, at least it’s better than seeing the record label owner take credit under a psuedonym like most companies did for years without any inhibitions.

If everybody was being totally honest about the composing credits for Married Woman’s Boogie the space under the title in parentheses on the record label might just as well been kept blank, because this song, under a wide array of titles, had been around since the beginning of time.

An infectious rolling boogie with lyrics promoting fornication… I’m pretty sure that Lucius, the original thirteenth disciple who was unceremoniously kicked out of their stodgy club before the Last Supper and erased from the history books, was excommunicated for cavorting with hookers while singing a variation of this song at some cheap dive in the Holy Land way back when.

A few centuries later Billy Wright picked up the mantle and carried on with much the same devil-may-care spirit.


Kick His Stable Down
This record was cut way back in April 1950, almost two whole years ago, and as we’ve seen a lot has changed in rock over that time. Yet this record sounds as up to date as anything coming out in the early days of 1952 which only speaks to the timeless nature of its components.

With its opening piano boogie that seems tattooed on your consciousness from birth, the left hand gripping your lower spine and forcing you to shimmy while the right hand tickles your senses as a means of distraction, this would probably not have to do much more than just maintain that tried and true formula for the next two and a half minutes to keep you transfixed.

But they’re not content to let you off that easy, as instead a guitar tosses in stray lines to keep you on your toes while the bassline locks you in a groove the forces your knees and hips to shimmy involuntarily.

When Billy Wright enters the room all he needs to do is not cough up a lung or sing unintelligible gibberish to win the audience over. It may be an easy task in theory, but Wright easily surpasses expectations with laid-back grace, injecting the recycled lines from a thousand and one sources with glinting personality.

The “story” may be nothing but cliché by design, but he sells the hedonistic meaning effectively enough while riding the rhythm effortlessly, letting the band roll along without cease, his own parts merely garnishing the real show which is that relentless boogie.

Where Wright excels on Married Woman’s Boogie is his judgment. It’s a song that would be easily upended if the singer thought that they were the real show, pushing themselves to the forefront, creating a scene vocally to steal the spotlight and detract from the band, and yet Wright, who was far more capable than most singers in rock history of doing that very thing if he so chose, does none of that.

Instead he plays it cool, smirking rather than screaming, deflecting attention rather than drawing it to himself. The band for their part match him in this regard, as they too know the beauty of this song isn’t found in individual displays of virtuosity, but rather the collective performance by the group as a whole.

The horns never break stride when they’re in the spotlight, keeping that tight formation without the need to honk or squeal. Once they hand things over to the guitar to deliver a clean muted solo, he too is more than happy to share the stage with the pianist who adds to the overall effect with some treble fills without trying to knock the guitarist out of the way in the process.

Rock ‘n’ roll as an exercise in democracy… who’s not for that?


I Ain’t Ready To Die
As with the deep pool of standards in the pop world, songs like this were not going to define the artist, nor were they particularly helpful in selling a single.

In other words, as enjoyable as it was to hear, Married Woman’s Boogie was almost by definition an ideal B-side at best, simply because it was so familiar on the first spin you weren’t going to get anything new out of it as a listener.

But that’s also what helps to make it more timeless than a lot of songs that were designed to live in the moment but when that moment passes, they become a relic of yesterday.

The beauty of songs like this, where there were hundreds of verses you could pick and choose from, is that they could go on for an hour or more in bars and roadhouses without repeating a line and without letting the enthusiasm of the audience sag in the least. This record shows why that was not just possible, but likely.

After all, for a song that seems to have no beginning, it’s only appropriate that it have no end either.


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