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Like in almost every other walk of life, music is subject to trends. There are stylistic trends of course but also trends when it comes to what regions of the country – or later the world – exert the most influence on the direction of rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s hardly surprising that for much of rock’s first decade it was New Orleans which was at the forefront of so many trends since of course New Orleans was where rock ‘n’ roll itself was born in 1947. But while that first generation of stars from the city – Roy Brown, Paul Gayten, Annie Laurie – were all well established by the dawn of the Fifties, there was now an influx of newer, if not quite younger, artists from Louisiana who were making their mark and setting new trends going forward.

In the last three months, since December 1949, we’ve met a half dozen new artists from New Orleans including two future immortals. Narrowing it down even further, six of the last eight releases we’ve covered here (and eight of the last ten sides we’ve written about) have come from The Crescent City, including this one.

Though the most historically obscure of those names, Cha Cha Hogan, won’t earn a hit out of this particular record, it nevertheless helps to tie some of those figures together in a way and in the process give some sense of how these regional trends take off.


Walks All Over Town
Though Cha Cha Hogan would go on to be involved in the music industry for the rest of his life – touring intermittently throughout the 1950’s while still trying to break through as an artist, working as an emcee in Detroit for much of the 1960’s, cutting a popular off-color comedy record in the 1970’s and eventually even returning to “proper” music when he fronted an Ink Spots revival group in 1980’s Las Vegas – it’s safe to say that if not for two things he probably wouldn’t be remembered by anyone outside the Hogan family itself.

The first of course is his unique nickname, Cha Cha, which is far more catchy than his given name of Sumter. But the other reason why he’s not completely forgotten seventy years after his debut on record is because one of those sides he cut for tiny Star Talent Records was My Walking Baby, a title which may not be familiar but as a song it had a much longer shelf life when done by somebody else.

That the “somebody else” in question was Professor Longhair, another New Orleans character making his own debut for Star Talent at the same exact time, is what keeps Hogan’s name from ever fully fading away.

Longhair is one of those two aforementioned immortals who came out of New Orleans these last three months and while he too failed to have a national hit with his rendition of the song – its name changed to She Walks Right In – ‘Fess’s musical legacy is such that the tune itself is still widely heard.

But to hear how it was done first you need to go back to Cha Cha Hogan, the man who wrote it and sang it in a manner that showed – contrary to what he displayed yesterday – that he was indeed someone who had what it took to not be completely out of place amidst the other, far more prominent, New Orleans artists who’ve made the last few weeks around here a virtual advertisement for Mardi Gras, Jax beer and red beans and rice.


The Cats Gather All Around
Considering how much we bashed the musicians playing behind Hogan on the flip side of this release, excoriating the pianist and guitarist for their incompatibility, I didn’t want to raise unnecessary speculation about who they might be even though this side of the record was lurking which made it a question that would have to be asked at some point.

Well, we’ve already reached that point, though I’ll give it the most emphatic disclaimer I can by saying I am almost positive this is NOT Roy Byrd, a/k/a Professor Longhair, who of course was also recording at this time, perhaps this very same day in the very same makeshift studio at a bar in New Orleans, thanks to one of Star Talent’s many “field recording sessions” while scouting artists around the South.

For one thing ‘Fess has a very distinctive style that would be hard to conceal and certainly this doesn’t have many of the traits we associate with Longhair, either the quirky rhythmic left hand or the wild right hand flourishes. Furthermore if he had sat in for this it stands to reason he would’ve done so on My Baby Loves Me as well and that pianist sounds as if he encountered the instrument for the first time at 11 AM that same day!

But it’s still interesting to at least ponder the possibilities that he was enlisted to accompany Hogan here, or more likely was at least in the room when Hogan laid this one down, since ‘Fess will be tackling this same song right around the corner for Atlantic Records, so at least we know where he picked it up.

But whoever is on the keys here the work being done in support of Hogan on My Walking Baby is generally pretty good, if unambitious, kicking things off with a solid boogie that might not be noteworthy unto itself but carries the track along at a decent clip which is all you can ask.

His job is merely to pave the road for Hogan and hope that Cha Cha does a little livelier dance than his name would imply. Luckily he’s up to the task and in fact along the way he shows that he’s got the basic New Orleans musical approach down to a science.

The Traffic Goes All Haywire
All of the sounds that New Orleans was famous for from its days as the birthplace of jazz, and the permanent home of Dixieland, not to mention of course the birthplace of rock itself, can sometimes seem like a musical gumbo of ideas and instruments.

We tend to think of ubiquitous horns first, then maybe of atypical instruments being used for their percussive qualities like pianos and banjos, and of course there’s the underlying parade beat rhythms that fill the streets of the city. Yet it’s not only those specific elements which mark a New Orleans-centric track as much as it is the emphasis on rhythm itself in ALL of those instruments as well as many others.

Rhythm is movement and New Orleans rock ‘n’ roll moves at a steady determined clip. Those artists coming along now, be it Fats Domino or Professor Longhair on stage or Dave Bartholomew behind the mixing board, are the ones who will place that rhythm front and center in their work and make it known the world over and while the methods they all used might vary, the intent is always the same… to bring the musical cauldron to a rapid boil.

My Walking Baby doesn’t start off with a particularly heavy rhythm but as it goes along the rhythm begins with work its way into your mind as the piano and guitar, advisaries on the flip side of this, are each contributing something to keeping it alternately grinding and jumping. They still clash a little, but this time it’s more like two kids pestering each other in a classroom rather than duking it out on the playground.

Surprisingly there’s no horns to be found which might’ve brought an even stronger rhythmic accent to the record, but Hogan himself gradually ramps up his own vocals to compensate and add to the churning undercurrent the song is now riding.

Lyrically, although the subject at a glance would seem to be pretty incongruous – “walking” as a desirable attribute in a woman? – once he explains it… IE. it’s not that she walks rather than takes a bus or a taxi to get where she’s going, it’s HOW she walks that turns men’s heads, make their eyeballs pop and their tongues wag… then it makes more sense.

Not that it really has to make much sense at all as long as he throws in enough nods to horniness while keeping the pace quick and the rhythms strong and thankfully he does both of those with aplomb.

I’m Gone!
Though the peaks the band reaches in the instrumental break are not nearly high enough to really captivate us – they need more power, meaning either they should over-amp the guitar, let the pianist’s left hand batter the keys senseless or give the drummer some lead pipes to use as drumsticks if they’re not going to recruit a tenor sax to blow the lid off the song – the fact is, this part is only a prelude to the rather surprising payoff.

That payoff isn’t delivered by a band member as you might expect, but rather is delivered by Hogan, as he first comes out of that break with a slightly subdued tone to set up the wonderfully repetitive and explosive vocal refrain that becomes the identifying feature of My Baby’s Walking.

It’s a rat-a-tat delivery, shouted more than sung, as if his arousal over this girl’s figure has overloaded his circuits causing him to holler in sheer ecstasy at the top of his lungs, ”She walks right in, she walks right out” which is obviously where Professor Longhair got his title for the remake. But once he lets himself go like that Hogan becomes too revved up to stop and so he really starts to pour it on like a man possessed down the home stretch, in the process shedding all decorum, half of his clothes and almost losing control of his senses altogether.

Before long he’s practically speaking in tongues, ranting about how “She wobbles when she walks” and keeps repeating “she walks, she walks, she walks” until it’s easy to see how he’s loading that minimalist phrase with all sorts of unstated sexual meaning.

As the record fades, just about the time you think he’s about to be carried away by men with nets and tossed in a padded room with a file marked “DEMENTED” in big red letters, he starts wailing away, crying out “Byyyyyyyeeee, baby, bye”, almost to the point we can see him being carted off while the object of his affection stands on the corner, a sheepish look on her pretty face, knowing she caused an otherwise unassuming thirty year old cabdriver to crack up completely and begin singing her praises to the world at large, unable to control his excitement.

Well, let that be a warning to everyone, this is what rock ‘n’ roll will do to you every time!

That’s When Everything’s Alright
Of course even had this joyous record found some moderate success Cha Cha Hogan was never going to be anything more than a competent journeyman type of an artist. New Orleans rock ‘n’ roll was in the process of hitting yet another of its many peaks as we speak but it’d be left to more skilled artists to see that these sounds would start trending, for while his vocals on both sides of the single have some strong points to admire they’re rather limited in their potential, even in the best of circumstances.

His songwriting ability was good enough that it would allow him to keep having enough original material to never be forced to try adapting old standards just so he had something to release, but even My Walking Baby was less a well-crafted composition than it was a cathartic exercise in unquenchable desire, pulled off more with enthusiasm than technique.

But that’s still not a bad formula for most rock acts to follow and as evidenced by the quick cover version turned out by Professor Longhair the appeal of that formula was in how each artist would bend songs to highlight their own particular strengths.

Since we’ll get to ‘Fess again in due time here, the focus with this one should remain on the guy who’d slip into the shadows almost as soon as this was released… Cha Cha Hogan, an interesting name and an interesting figure whose presence in the vast rock universe at the dawn of the 1950’s may have been barely noticed in a sky that was becoming filled with ever more luminous stars, but who nonetheless managed to twinkle just enough to catch your eye if you happened to glance up at this very moment.


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

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed another version of this song you may be interested in:
Professor Longhair (February, 1950)