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4 Star 1526; SEPTEMBER 1950

 
 

 

One of the frustrations people are probably having with this website is the sheer number of totally obscure, forgotten or irrelevant titles we’re covering which makes this slow crawl through rock history downright lethargic for many.

Guilty as charged.

But as stated from the start, any creative enterprise is defined not just by the successes, but the failures as well, for how else can what worked be put into proper perspective without something to contrast it with that fell short of its aims?

This record however might be pushing the inclusionary spirit a bit too far, for while it does give us one rarer aspect of Cecil Gant to examine – the fact he actually had a fully formed song to sing rather than one of his notoriously ad-libbed performances – it’s here largely because it allows us to delve into the frequent rummage sale nature of putting together records in rock’s early days, where songs and artists and sidemen could come together from disparate backgrounds and somehow put aside their stylistic differences and keep things interesting.
 

 
Didn’t Belong To Me
We’re met with a crackling piano intro, simple but effective in giving this an initial jolt before it takes a back seat and things slow down when the vocals come along.

As stated Gant’s at least got himself a fairly solid composition to work with, one coming from country artist Porky Freeman who released the original under the title That Baby’s Changed back in 1946.

Truthfully that record suffers from the singer – Jesse Adock – whose stuffy and somewhat dour sounding vocals don’t do the song much credit, but at least it’s got a plot to follow that’s kind of intriguing as the narrator’s happy home is upset when his wife starts cheating on him and men are calling his house at all hours and hanging up when he answers and then knocking on the window in the middle of the night to see if his wife is in bed alone… the usual shady practices committed by adulterers that always makes for humorous viewing from a distance.

The problem on that original recording though is they don’t push the comic aspects of it enough – though I guess his wife’s infidelity would fail to elicit a grin out of him while he recounts it for our amusement – but thankfully Gant is a lot more spry with his reading of the situation… maybe because he moved in with Porky’s wife for all we know.

Anyway, Gant sells My Baby’s Changed with a lot more emotion all around, not just highlighting the incredulity he has when finding men clamoring for his wife’s affections. He starts off recalling how great she was when they met, even saying she didn’t care for wine (which naturally Cecil would be excited about because it leaves more for him), before his mood darkens when his wife’s sneaking around on him becomes more and more apparent.

With a firm grip on the lyrics Gant is able to act out the part rather than try and improvise and it shows he’s a pretty decent actor. This is hardly Broadway play material he’s working with, but if you buy a ticket at least you won’t fail to be reasonably entertained.
 

Always Treating Me Right
Maybe the most interesting aspect of this record beyond the cloak and dagger acts going on behind his back is how many musical genres converge on it, as we have Gant, a blues balladeer who made the transition to rock (more or less) who’s now adapting a country song with a prominent jazz musician riding shotgun.

Wingy Manone may not be a well-known name outside of old time jazz circles these days, but suffice it to say if you are familiar with him you’d never forget him. He got his name “Wingy” when he lost his right arm as a ten year old in a streetcar accident in New Orleans, his hometown, forcing him to use a prosthetic arm the rest of his life.

That didn’t stop him from taking up the trumpet and becoming a highly regarded composer and musician working with everyone from Benny Goodman to Bing Crosby along with plenty of sessions as the leader and singer of his own group. He even had a minor hit covering Buddy Knox’s 1957 smash Party Doll in 1957, showing he was hardly bound by traditional genre classifications which of course made him an ideal sideman for the equally footloose musical habits of Cecil Gant.

The fact he was white made this pairing somewhat notable at the time, not groundbreaking maybe but still a rarity, and it’s his trumpet which takes on the primary instrumental support for My Baby’s Changed, providing sort of ragged call and response trade-offs with Gant on the stop-time stanzas which would’ve benefited from a few run-throughs beforehand so Cecil could give Manone a little more room.

Better though is his more traditional backing behind Gant’s vocals on the choruses which finds him playing a groovier sounding part, something he continues when Cecil jumps out in front for the piano break.

Though it’s not the tightest recording thanks to that lack of rehearsal the instrumental pieces do work well together, primarily because Manone is keeping the trumpet reined in, content to provide shadings to the song rather than trying to define it.
 

Didn’t Mean A Thing
One more interesting note to close all of this out, the flip side of this record actually was a version of Manone’s own composition Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind which adhered more to the jazz attributes with which it was originally written.

Though you could certainly say that was hardly the best use of Gant’s rather cracked vocals but aided by Manone and a discreet vibes player he pulls it off with enough grace to make you glad he tried it, if only to give you another side of him to hear.

Whether or not THIS side with all of its diverse elements was suitable for the rock audience’s tastes is up for debate. Certainly they weren’t waiting breathlessly for each Cecil Gant release to begin with and when he offered up something as atypical for the current market as My Baby’s Changed it was unlikely they’d be all that enthused by it if they managed to catch it somehow.

That said though it’s a reasonably admirable effort anyway, one with a bit more attention to detail than he usually affords us and if nothing else provides an unusual look into the spider web-like connections between eras, genres and markets that exist and sometimes can be a little tough to sort out without records like this to bring it all into focus.

In the end it’s just a minor footnote for all of them, Gant, Manone and Porky Freeman, but if it falls a little short as a record the way in which it brings such unlikely characters together to tell its story hopefully makes up for it.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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