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Statistically speaking the chances any artist entering the studio for the first time will wind up having a long term career in music is probably pretty slim.

From the sheer breadth of the competition, with dozens – if not hundreds – of artists at any one time all vying for a spot on a jukebox or a spin on the radio, to the sometimes shaky distribution and promotional capabilities of many fly-by-night labels that made up so much of early rock, such as the optimistically named Star Talent Records, your road to success is going to be strewn with obstacles.

So when meeting artists for the first time we always have to wonder if it’ll also be the last time we get to critique their work.

Rest easy… this won’t quite be the only time we come across this otherwise obscure figure on these pages, but his catalog is not exactly overflowing with releases. Yet while he never came close to bucking those long odds he somehow managed to stick around on the outskirts of the industry for years to come without ever doing much recording after that initial opportunity came and went in the blink of an eye.

As we’ve found out before that’s precisely the kind of character whose story is often more interesting than some of the more well-known stars.


When You Look For Cha Cha, Baby, He Won’t Be Near
As an example of how rock ‘n’ roll drew hopefuls from disparate backgrounds we offer you Sumter “Cha Cha” Hogan, a thirty year old currently employed as a cab driver in New Orleans who managed to finagle a recording session with Star Talent Records out of Dallas, a company which seemed to be something of a magnet for these types of dreamers who had more traditional jobs but who had enough gumption, if not always enough talent, to make a go of it in music on the side.

Rufus Thomas, another newcomer also making his debut for Star Talent this winter, tended to boilers in a factory while cutting records and working as disc jockey for instance. But while Thomas would go on to have a long career and score plenty of hits down the road, Cha Cha Hogan’s side activities were remarkably similar to what Rufus Thomas was busy doing in Memphis – minus the hits to follow that is.

Both had begun making names for themselves with comedy routines that quickly morphed into jobs as emcees for live venues, an occupation which would become Hogan’s most prolific role in entertainment, as he eventually moved to Detroit just as Motown was starting its run, giving him plenty of opportunity to capitalize on their burgeoning success around town while becoming a figure of some local renown himself in the process.

He would put out a couple of records along the way, usually spaced years apart and none of which made much noise at the time, but while his chances for any lasting fame as a singer was probably doomed from the start thanks to his rather undisciplined voice and somewhat derivative style, Hogan was not without his charms and made the perfect long-shot gamble for a label like Star Talent to take a chance on.

Take Your Rags And Go
If Cha Cha Hogan learned one thing from his stints as a master of ceremonies it was surely how to get the audience’s undivided attention, something he brings to bear on My Baby Loves Me as he opens with a loud forceful bellow that is sure to stop you in your tracks if you weren’t paying strict attention when the needle struck the groove.

Though effective in its rather limited purpose it may actually have an adverse effect on what follows which can’t live up to the robust enthusiasm of the intro, not that it exactly tries to. Instead, Hogan dials it down to deliver a somewhat mournful lament that clashes with the upbeat title… marking the first of many conflicts to follow in this record.

Where you start your critique probably doesn’t matter, for each of the three main components – vocals, lyrics and musical accompaniment – are lacking in some way, even as all three contain aspects which in certain circumstances might be admired.


Ain’t Gonna Stand It
Since it’s Cha Cha’s name on the label let’s start with him and his vocal chords which at times seem to be working at cross purposes during most of the record. For a guy who late in life would lead a Las Vegas version of the famed Ink Spots, a group known for their tight harmonies, immaculate phrasing and smooth sound, Hogan is struggling to strike the proper tone here to match the emotional sentiments of the story.

Hogan’s bemoaning his girlfriend’s shortcomings and informing us he’s going to “put her down” and so he’s naturally downhearted about the situation and to sell that mindset he’s doing the best he can to sound aggrieved by this. Some of it is fairly well-judged, the way he eases back into a breathy anguished cry at times and switching to a lower register to emphasize his gloomy fate for instance, but at other times he sounds rather unsure of himself and more crucially he frequently is out of sync with the backing, throwing the entire balance of the song into disarray.

He’s overthinking things by concentrating on the technical aspects his delivery too much and consequently not focusing enough on the underlying mental state he needs to convey. We don’t ever get the impression that he’s completely lost in thought, singing to himself to purge his mind of his pain while oblivious to the world around him, something this type of song needs to do in order to get us to fully sympathize with his plight.

Of course it’d help if the song was more distinctive. As it is My Baby Loves Me is largely a roll call of simplistic “love gone bad” tropes, some swiped wholesale from other – equally nondescript – songs. We never do find out how this downbeat tale got attached to an upbeat title and even though we get plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons why Hogan is casting her aside, we have no idea why he’s distraught over it since her rap sheet of relationship violations makes her seem like Cupid was using poison tipped arrows when he shot Cha Cha through the heart in the first place!

But all of that, or at least a lot of it, could be forgiven if only the band that joined him on the record had been on the same page with him in the studio rather than sounding as if they were playing three different songs and vying to see which one of them could bend the others to their will.

Used To Be Fine And Mellow
One of the first rules of putting together an arrangement, whether one with written charts carefully worked out or just a loose head arrangement conceived almost as the tapes are rolling, is not to clash with one another.

It’s so simple as to be be almost insulting to any first year student of music theory. Whatever instruments you’re throwing into the mix should compliment each other, not throw each other off course, yet for some reason it’s a problem that a lot of noteworthy musicians and producers have had trouble adhering to at times.

In many cases the offending musicians are all eminently capable on their instruments but seem unable, or unwilling, to stay within their own lanes, give each other their space and find ways to blend together in a manner that will elevate the entire track.

Instead, as on My Baby Loves Me, they seemed bound and determined to get in each other’s way, almost spitefully shoving one another to the ground so each one of them can hog more of the spotlight to show how many harsh and grating sounds they can squeeze from their instruments.

The piano is the first offender, alternating some bare bones melody that is at least passable with choppy out of tune chording which is anything but. His timing is off as is his ear, although that could be the result of having to listen to the second offender in this charade, the (hopefully drunken) guitarist who sounds as if he’s intentionally screwing things up because he’s pissed he didn’t get a more prominent role.

When the two of them play at the same time your ears don’t know which is playing “right” and being subverted by the one who’s playing wrong… then you realize that it doesn’t matter because they’re both wrong… and painfully so. The piano may be sub par for much of this but the guitar is worse: out of step, out of tune and out of order.

The only time the backing track is acceptable is when they both essentially sit out altogether, or at least are contributing only the sparsest of accent notes to cap a vocal line. Then the guitar’s short steely twang or the piano’s jittery flourishes fit reasonably well, both structurally and sonically, but when called on to do more everything falls apart in a hurry.

Though their incompatibility seems all but insurmountable when listening to them bludgeon each other with their cringe-worthy playing it wouldn’t have been that difficult to solve the problem and at the very least make their presence tolerable… provided they just took advantage of the advent of electricity in one of two ways.

The first – and easiest – way would be to cut the power to the mic of whoever is not needed at the moment thereby giving the other instrument the floor to themselves. The playing might not improve but at least they wouldn’t be heard engaging in open warfare with one another.

The other – and far better – option however would be to attach electrical wires to each of their scrotums and send a thousand volts through whichever of them oversteps his bounds. Crude maybe, but no doubt it’d be far more effective than letting them try to work it out for themselves while the tapes are rolling.

Hogan’s just not a good enough singer to navigate their musical hostilities with finesse, though to be fair singers with far more talent would be hard-pressed to to completely salvage this mess either.

I’ve Got To Put You Down
We started off this review we laid out the long odds than all artists have to overcome to have a sustained career in music and certainly when going by this you could see why Hogan was probably destined to be someone with a very short résumé, at least as a main performer, thereby explaining his shift to other avenues of performing, such as the fairly successful comedy record he released in the 1970’s.

But while it might even be fair to label My Baby Loves Me an unintentional comedy record, there’s also the feeling that much of what goes wrong here wasn’t Cha Cha Hogan’s fault.

That doesn’t mean listening to this you’d ever expect him to still be in the music industry thirty years later but Hogan himself is not SO bad that you’d object to being stuck in his cab on your way to The French Quarter and hearing him sing if the radio cut out.

I know… that’s not much of a recommendation – “Better Than Your Run-Of-The-Mill Cabdriver Can Sing!” – but when faced with a mutinous band on top of the usual obstacles that a new singer faces when trying to establish himself, that’s about the best recommendation he has any right to expect.


(Visit the Artist page of Cha Cha Hogan for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)