Tags

No tags :(

Share it

SWINGTIME 209; JANUARY 1950

 

POSSIBLY FIRST ISSUED AS: DOWN BEAT 209 IN 1949

 
 

 

Chalk this entry up to the simply wanting to keep track of one of the more colorful characters in rock rather than really wanting to chart his wandering musical course as he jumps from label to label while veering haphazardly into one style after another with little rhyme or reason.

Then again, since virtually none of Cecil Gant’s records thus far have been firmly within rock’s most easily defined parameters then including yet another that has uncertain credentials hardly requires an explanation.

Suffice it to say where Cecil Gant was concerned while he may never have had a permanent mailing address in rock’s neighborhood somehow or another he could usually be found hanging around the outskirts of town all the same.
 

 

I Want To Tell You A Whole Lot
Few artists, save for Big Joe Turner, have been making the rounds of as many record companies in rock’s first few years as Cecil Gant, as this is now the fourth label we’ve come acorss that has done business with Gant, most just for a single session.

But since we know full well his habit of showing up at someone’s door, hat in hand, and asking for a chance to cut some sides for a little drinking money – a proposition most small companies were willing to agree to since Gant’s records all sold well enough to justify that small financial outlay – maybe the more interesting question to ponder here is contemplating the business of Swingtime Records who we’re officially meeting for the first time today… yet who were a company we’re already well acquainted with under other guises.

Jack Lauderdale was a West Coast fixture who owned one label from 1947 through 1953 but that label had three distinct names – Down Beat from ’47 through mid-’49, then briefly in the fall of 1949 it was changed to Swing Beat and finally starting in 1950 Swingtime. The names changed but the label remained the same

Let’s start by saying there’s a very good chance this came out originally on Down Beat 209 earlier in 1949. A lot of publications refer to this as being the case but having never seen a label to confirm this that’s hard to definitively say. Besides if one comes to light it’s easy enough to excise this part of the review and just re-slot this in another month.

But the evidence we have before us shows it was issued as Swingtime 209 which would place it at the very end of 1949 or more likely early 1950.

The best bet perhaps is that it DID get issued as Down Beat 209 sometime in the early fall of 1949 and then, with very few copies on the market, Jack Lauderdale merely re-issued it under his new imprint a few months later after first being forced to change the label’s name because Downbeat magazine complained and after some uncertainty as to what name he preferred Lauderdale finally settled instead on Swingtime at the turn of the decade.

If that’s the case he could’ve just swapped the Down Beat 209 label for the new Swingtime 209 to give this another chance at some sales… although even that doesn’t explain why he didn’t do the same for other records such as Maxwell Davis’s Th’ Bop Hop Swing Beat 191 and The Maxin Trio’s Rockin’ Chair Blues on Swing Beat 212.

If you find any of that actually interesting… well, maybe you should get another hobby to tell you the truth, but since there ARE people who care deeply about such things, and since there are so few outlets that cover this stuff, we might as well address it the best we can and present a couple of distinct possibilities for others with more patience and perseverance to delve into if they want.

Besides, doing so here takes up a good chunk of the review for a record that is little more than a genial throwaway by an artist who was never known for taking his recording career all that seriously to begin with!

How’s THAT for an inducement to keep reading?!?!
 

A Game Called Bliss
Oh yes… the RECORD! I guess that’s what most of you are here for isn’t it?

Well, moving right along then… As with so many of Cecil Gant’s records this sounds like one of his patented exercises in “making records under the gun” in which he’d open a bottle of booze – purely for inspiration I assure you – and tell the engineer to roll the tapes while he picked out a stark melody on piano and ad-libbed a spoken intro to a song he was literally making up on the spot in the hopes that something worthwhile might come of it.

If he was successful in doing so – and he was far more than he had any right to be using that method – you’d better have gotten a clean recording of it because he’d be unable to reproduce it again.

In other words Gant was not a graduate of the Hoagy Charmichael school of dedicated methodical songwriting!

But while all of the telltale signs of Gant’s usual haphazard approach are indeed present here, starting with the halting piano and spoken intro as he pulls the story into shape, the fact is that Deal Yourself Another Hand is actually remake of a popular song/skit by the legendary Butterbeans and Susie, the comedy duo who reigned for decades at The Apollo Theater and cut a number of records, including this, in the late 1920’s for OKeh.

The primary difference between the Butterbeans and Susie routine and the Cecil Gant record isn’t musical, as you might expect (theirs also featured a piano backing) but rather the fact that in their skit they each got to speak lines making it a tempestuous exchange between warring lovers whereas Gant is forced to carry this out solo and thus excise her parts altogether.

Because of this he’s unable to do anything more than merely suggest her presence – and her objections to his account of the story – by frequently telling her to “Shut up, shut up!” in a manner that doesn’t imply cruelty just exasperation.

Was this a good idea to tackle such a song without having someone to handle the female role? Ahh, maybe not, but then again it’s hard to see it working as a rock song in 1950 no matter what he did with it.
 

I Got To Wear The Crown
The story however, regardless of the trappings, is fairly entertaining and if nothing else allows us to at least get a glimpse of an otherwise largely forgotten aspect of the black community in the days before video – though again, you’d be better off checking out Butterbeans and Susie’s record than Gant’s for that too.

But since this review is about Gant we can at least tell you that he’s not the worst actor in the world as he engagingly takes on the male role in the story and begins by chastising his girlfriend Loretta for saying she loves no one but him and then sneaking around in the dark with the Damon Runyon-esque character Three Card Charlie.

All of this is done in spoken voice although Gant does have some musical support starting with his own piano fills, as well as a pretty good guitar chipping in early on with some nice accent notes and a few stellar runs. Unfortunately though the guitarist fades into the mist far too quickly and if he’s heard at all from there on in it’s only faintly in the background. At least Gant’s piano doesn’t let up however and while he’s hardly playing anything too complex it gives Deal Yourself Another Hand a musical framework that allows this to sound like a song rather than simply a monologue.

Given that requirement for passing muster as a musical performance though you’d think Gant might try and add a little more to the mix but the time he spends actually singing on this record is all of eighteen seconds! Eight early on and ten seconds to close it out.

Furthermore on the original Butterbeans actually does MORE singing than the professional singer Gant does here – and frankly Butter sings in a more soulful manner than the mellow croon that Cecil uses, which sort of tells you all you need to know about the potency of this remake I guess.

Gant does the best he can with what is forced by circumstance to become a rather one-sided skit, as there’s really not much he can add to the set-in-stone routine. The lines aren’t bad, as playing cards are used to describe the action going from ace to the king with a descriptive account of each card to move the story along, but without Susie’s retorts early on there’s no humor found (and truthfully it was far from their most humorous routine to begin with).

We can certainly guess why Cecil Gant decided to record something as unusual as this after having probably played many a gig with the comedy team as part of the bill over the years. Always in search of quick material for these impromptu sessions he likely figured it would work reasonably well for his purposes, which was mostly to get paid for delivering a handful of sides they could slap on a record.

With such low aims however you can hardly be surprised that it has such a low pay off.
 


 

You Can Deal Bottom Or Top
So much of any type of popular culture, musical or otherwise, is made up of recycled parts to begin with that we shouldn’t be offended to encounter a 20 year old comedy routine masquerading as a borderline rock record.

Though it’s hardly a given than a wandering musical derelict like Cecil Gant will have much interest shown in his career now that we’re well into the Twenty-First Century there’s still probably a slightly greater chance at his output being studied than the even more shoddily compiled skits of Butterbeans and Susie and so if nothing else maybe they can manage to get a modicum of added attention for their half century of laughs as a result of this otherwise insignificant record.

But for the purposes of Cecil Gant’s staggering career Deal Yourself Another Hand wasn’t likely to do him any good, nor did it give Jack Lauderdale any tangible returns either, regardless of which labels of his it may have appeared on.

As with so many of Gant’s records about the only thing this was good for was keeping tabs on where he might be found at any given time. Chances are though that by the time you tracked this record down he’d be off someplace else, probably lurking in the shadows with Three Card Charlie himself, both of them sharing a bottle of hooch and grumbling about Loretta who if she was smart would be glad to get rid of both of them.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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