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DOT 1030; FEBRUARY 1951



It almost doesn’t seem fair to be exhuming the body, or at least the musical carcass, of Cecil Gant so soon after he passed away and left us with one of his better efforts under the rock banner – on another more prestigious label – a few weeks back which served as a fitting eulogy to his career.

But this is the record business where even an untimely demise is something to be capitalized on and so, wasting no time, Dot Records, who had a handful of his sides on their shelves waiting for the right moment to issue them, rushed to put out a release of their own to play upon the sympathies of his fans.

If they could’ve I’m sure they would have set up a booth at the cemetery to peddle his latest single to whatever mourners showed up to pay their last respects.

In this industry it’s not seen as disrespectful… just business as usual.


I’m Going Away
Because nobody was aware that he wouldn’t be long for this world when he was cutting tracks over the past few years they didn’t have an eye on making sure their final flurry of sides captured on disc were anything poignant or held a vague deeper meaning.

The difference was Decca Records, knowing Gant’s predilection for improvising on the studio floor, had come prepared with a handful of songs they wanted him to try and provided him with a competent band who had the charts for the material in front of them to ensure the records had a certain class to them. This paid off with Rock Little Baby, a polished record which wound up serving as his rightful epitaph.

These earlier sessions for other labels however were entirely different as he’d just sit at the piano with no band behind him and sing whatever came to mind, thereby ensuring it was less of a proper song and more of a spontaneous performance.

But while that hardly guaranteed good results, Gant preferred working this way and had a bag of tricks to draw from, such as his spoken ad-lib – to waste time, to think up a story and to add some drama and anticipation for what would follow – such as he did on the A-side, Waiting For My Train.

That slow meditative cut may have actually have been more representative of his overall career in many ways but it was the faster paced boogie Cindy Lou which was the more rousing performance and coincidentally the sadder song as well thanks to his ad-libbed lyrics which at times sound almost like an eerie premonition of his own death.

What’cha Gonna Do?
We know how these things work by now with Cecil Gant. Open the doors to the studio, turn on the microphone, adjust the dials in the control booth and wait…

It might be five minutes, it might be an hour, but after a few swigs from the bottle he always carried with him and maybe a brief confab on what types of songs the company was looking for – fast, slow, blues, jazzy, ballads or rockers – he’d wrack his brain for an idea and start playing.

In the case of Cindy Lou he had a few free-floating lyrics he could affix to it once he came up with her name and by letting his hands fly he’d have a nice catchy rhythm to try and win you over.

As for a story? Well, he could probably fool you into thinking there was one there but if he hadn’t have passed away at the beginning of February, chances are you’d never have given him the benefit of the doubt in that regard.

But knowing he was gone the make-shift lyrics suddenly seem as if they’re talking to you from beyond the grave for after that ringing piano boogie intro he tells us – or tells her – “Yes I’m going away, I might be back to see you some ol’ rainy day

Yeah, we know, it’s a standard line sung a million times in a thousand songs by hundreds of different artists, all of whom lived longer than a few weeks after uttering those words, so there’s nothing ominous about them. In fact Gant actually cut this record a few years ago and Dot only picked up the masters from Bullet Records in a side deal, but those hearing it in the winter of ’51 after he’d only been in the ground just a short while wouldn’t know that and you gotta admit hearing his voice utter those words leaves you a little rattled.

When he goes on to say, “Don’t you cry, I’ll be back some day” you’d be excused if you felt the need to check under the bed, behind the door and maybe sleep with the lights on that night.

Of course none of this has to do with dying in the song itself, he’s merely telling this girl he’s heading out on the road and when he reassures us “everything’s gonna be alright” you can take a deep breath and relax a little. But even so this seems like a drastic miscalculation on Dot’s plans to take advantage of the news of his recent death simply because of what it MIGHT mean to those hearing it.

Unless you have a thing for conversing with ghosts you’d probably want to spend your nickel on another song in the jukebox.


I Am Really Through
Irony always seems to strike when you least expect it and for Cecil Gant, someone for whom coming up with lyrics and stories for songs was a nuisance more than anything, to have these ad-libbed lines strike a nerve with an audience for a completely coincidental – though tragic – reason was almost like gallows humor.

Cindy Lou in all other respects is just what you’d expect out of Gant, an engaging, well played, enthusiastically sung but ultimately fleeting song of little importance. It’s enjoyable enough in the moment but largely forgettable mere moments after it ends.

But that’s the Cecil Gant who we’ve come to know… far more so than the more polished artist that Decca managed to transform him into. He was a harmless musical waif, talented enough to keep working right to the end of his days.

I’m sure if he knew his fate he’d get a smile out of seeing your reaction to his parting words to you as he cries out “Bye, bye, bye”, sounding far more eager about where he’s going next than remorseful about what he’s leaving behind.


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