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IMPERIAL 5038; MARCH, 1949



Every so often little coincidences and notable quirks appear when burrowing so deep into rock’s core which allows otherwise unimportant and innocuous records to reveal some of the musical threads that binds all of rock ‘n’ roll together…

In this instance it’s courtesy of two singles of the same song released more than a year apart by two otherwise irrelevant artists and which is one of those things that makes this crazy project full of welcome surprises.


Been Hearin’ That Jive Too Long
When this website began back in 2017 I wasn’t sure how deep I was willing to go, not because of any lack of interest on my part, but rather the lack of interest on YOUR part.

Not you specifically, but those like you who wander into a website touting itself as the be-all and end-all of rock ‘n’ roll history and then after taking a quick look around they decide that the list of completely obscure records by anonymous figures is a bit too much to waste time on and so they head elsewhere, looking for something much less exhaustive by nature so they can comfortably stick to reading about the same handful of big names and big records that’s all been widely available over the years.

With so much music to cover, seventy years and counting (and yes, we’re covering it all… eventually), the thought of spending too much time on the unknown, unwanted and unloved sides that have long dwelled in the shrouded outskirts of the genre’s ancient past might seem to some like overkill. Yet one of the avowed reasons for doing this site in the first place was precisely because while there’s no shortage of books, articles, documentaries and web pages on the likes of The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, there’s comparatively little on lots of artists who were solid contributors to rock’s evolution… and virtually nothing on those who existed on the fringes.

No matter how you looked at it this wild disparity in coverage seemed patently unfair… after all if you’d devoted your life to making music and actually managed to get a record or two made only to see them disappear in a blink of an eye and then spent the rest of your life having to think back to that moment when all your dreams hung in the balance and wondering what you might’ve done to change that eventuality, I’m guessing that’d be enough to drive some people to tears or madness or untold bitterness. Surely they deserved SOME credit for the attempt alone and if they hadn’t gotten it yet in any retelling of rock’s history there didn’t seem much chance someone else was going to cover it as we get every further away from those fleeting moments of hope they once had.

So that’s why you see so many unfamiliar names dotting these pages knowing full well that most visitors to the site will just quickly skim their reviews if not skip over them altogether… and even though adding them to the roll call of records will only make this project take even longer than it was already shaping up to be. The artists deserved that much I figured and somebody had to step up to do it. If not us, who? If not now, when? Which is why they’re all here getting just as much focus for each record as even the biggest names in rock history.

But while that might indeed be a noble thought in the abstract, was it in fact a good idea in reality?

The answer of course is yes. It was. Absolutely.

Twice so far in the first two years of operations we’ve received messages from relatives of artists who otherwise have had little written about them over the years, both of whom were happy to see the work of those they knew and loved be given such serious attention. Tina Dixon isn’t totally forgotten but the majority of the focus on her has centered around her off-color comedy records from the 1970’s and not her earlier career as a singer and songwriter. Meanwhile Sheba Griffin hasn’t even had that small modicum of attention paid to her brief singing career until we shed light on her two releases from the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll.

For each of these ladies the reviews we wrote weren’t always glowing tributes to the records themselves but I don’t think it mattered to their families. What mattered was just seeing that they were getting their due somewhere, being recognized for climbing in the ring and giving it their best shot… a sign that the effort itself that they’d made when entering the studio was appreciated enough to be analyzed years later.

So yeah, it DOES mean something to someone and that’s why you’ll see names you personally don’t know and probably don’t care about… names like Jump Jackson and Charlie “Boogie Woogie” Davis who happen to have each cut the same song, Hey! Hey! Pretty Mama as rock ‘n’ roll was just seeing the light of day for the first time.

And that’s why long after that light became blinding when rock itself exploded into something bigger than anyone could’ve imagined we’ll go back to study those obscure records when the rock world was still mostly shrouded in darkness and try and shed some light of our own on both of them in the hopes that somebody somewhere will care.

Don’t Blow Your Wig!
Jump Jackson, for those who DID skim over or skip his review altogether, made just one appearance as a primary artist way back in November 1947 for the fledgling Aristocrat label out of Chicago with Hey Pretty Mama which featured another guy who we only saw that one time, Benny Kelly on vocals.

Unlike most figures with such limited output who fade into the abyss we at least know that Jump Jackson had a long and presumably somewhat rewarding career if he was able to stick to playing music until he died in 1985. Jackson never became a star of course but his versatility as a drummer and bandleader meant he was never at a loss for work, sometimes in the studio but more often on the bandstand where he could back whatever jazz, blues, pop or rock act who might be booked into a club for a night.

He also was astute enough to move into other avenues to bolster his income and along the way he became a fairly prominent booking agent and even started his own record label in the late 1950’s. None of this necessarily means you’ve heard of him but when it became obvious his own recording career wasn’t going to make him a star he had the initiative to branch out and stay in the business and keep doing what it was he enjoyed and that’s admirable unto itself.

But to be honest I hadn’t thought much of Jump Jackson since soon after that review went up. It was an okay record, nothing special and after he’d made a few appearances as a sideman behind other artists on those initial Aristocrat offerings he dropped out of sight and we moved on to an ever-growing list of artists who were filling out the 1940’s rock roster.

So when one of those artists (who was truthfully a late addition to the roster himself), Charlie “Boogie Woogie” Davis, a singer and pianist who cut a bunch of sides for Imperial Records in late 1947 before the recording ban hit – and before Imperial was even a really solvent company – I didn’t expect him to bring us back around to Jump Jackson.

After all, Davis was a Los Angeles club musician, Jackson was from Chicago. Those cities are two thousand miles apart and it’s not as if either of them ever got big enough to tour the country – at least I don’t think they did. But records have a way of making distances between two club musicians a lot closer than the mileage would indicate and since Jackson’s record came out in November 1947 and since Davis entered the studio in December and cut almost twenty songs over three sessions, it’s not quite as surprising as you’d think that he’d look around for a suitable song that wasn’t likely to become a hit and try and make it a hit himself.

He didn’t get that hit of course with Hey! Hey! Pretty Mama, but like Jackson and Kelly before him Charlie Davis gives it his best shot.


You Got To Move
In the spirit of full disclosure when cuing up this track by Davis for the first time I couldn’t quite place it. I was sure I’d heard it before but figured that its rolling boogie riff and fairly generic lyrics simply meant that it was built off a well-worn prototype and if I thought about it long enough I’d probably make some connection to a few dozen songs.

But it was nagging me all the same but since I didn’t have a label shot (the one leading off this review is a distant picture of the flip side in its sleeve) and the otherwise wonderful four disc collection that features all of Davis’s sides – Rare West Coast Jump ‘N’ Jive – didn’t have the writing credits for it, one of the few they don’t, I kinda thought I was stuck. But you can’t give up that easily and so starting with the obvious – the title – I kept looking and of course it was staring me right in the face all along.

I’ll blame the delay in figuring it out on the extra “Hey!” that Davis apparently threw in to match the way it’s sung on both versions.

Whether that excuse flies or not doesn’t matter because once I realized we’d covered Jackson’s version, which HE gets credit for writing BTW, it meant we had an interesting connection to delve into as well as to let us compare the two side by side to see if Davis made any notable changes or was more (or less) suited for the song that Kelly was as a vocalist.

It doesn’t get off to the best start however in a head to head match-up and it helps to remember that this version of Hey! Hey! Pretty Mama was being cut before any rock song had made the national charts and before the specific attributes that would define it were entirely sorted out. That means we have trumpets where we don’t want them, blaring away on the intro and making it sound out of step, especially now fifteen months later when those early missteps so common back in late ’47 had largely been done away with in the interim.

At least the trumpeter – Jake “King” Porter – is a good one and so while his horn’s tone might be out of place he isn’t adding to the problems with sub par playing, something we can be glad for since the intro is a really long one.

But once it ends and the horns step aside Davis comes in and rights the ship, or at least keeps it from sinking. His robust voice has more warmth to it than Kelly’s had on the Jump Jackson version, and since their deliveries are very similar it becomes easier to see that this was intended as a straight down-the-line interpretation which, let’s face it, isn’t all that surprising considering the amount of material they were being asked to perform. But because there’s no radical changes for Davis to navigate it means that he has a firm grip on its requirements from the start.

The main feature of both takes on the song comes with the call and response delivery of the title line. The band members are the ones enlisted with that and there’s not much either can do to change things up here even if they wanted, but it’s effective all the same because of its simplicity. It’s lively without being particularly rousing, more of a staged device than a genuine emotional release, but as long as it locks into the groove it’ll do its job.

The same can’t be said for those horns unfortunately once the band stops singing and starts blowing.

Giving Poor Me The Run Around
The saxophone that leads off the solo has you grateful at first that it’s not the trumpet but your hopes fall when you realize it’s an alto, not a tenor, and as Eddie Hale gets going on it we’re dismayed to find it’s being played far too mellow to provide any punch.

Ironically when the other horns join in to respond to it Hale picks things up a little but there’s not any real grinding churning riff the song desperately calls for and so this is little more than a pleasant interlude rather than an invitation for debauchery.

When Davis jumps back into the mix he’s a bit lost. For one thing he seems to get tripped up on a line, though he makes a decent recovery, but he also seems a little out of step melodically and as a result Hey! Hey! Pretty Mama is at risk of letting its best attribute – its inherent catchiness – slip away.

None of this should be surprising, after all, they were copying a record they’d probably heard only a few times and maybe even were hiding the fact they hadn’t written it and so there wasn’t going to be much chance to take a breather and put Jackson’s record on to check to see where they were failing to click.

The horns jump back in to try and keep this headed in the right direction and largely succeed, blasting away with more vigor than they’d shown earlier and with a tenor chipping in when needed in the closing, but it’s still not enough to make theirs any better than the original.

I suppose we could be a little more harsh on this one than we’ll end up being by reminding you of the context of the times in which they were released. Though they were both cut in 1947 Charlie Davis had to wait more than a year for his record to see the light of day and as stated a lot had changed during that time in rock and made much of what is shown here seem outdated.

That’s a natural progression of ideas and nothing to be ashamed of, but it usually results in a song taking a hit for being behind the times for when it was released, even though though Davis and company had no say in WHEN it was released.

So yes, this one – in the context of March 1949 – isn’t as good as Jackson’s was in the context of November 1947, so normally we’d dock it a point to differentiate between the two. But we aren’t doing that here. One reason is Jackson’s record was nearly given a (4) back then before we settled on a (3) and this record today is not sniffing that higher score, a difference in degrees only but an important one.

But the other reason we’re being a little more lenient with Davis’s Hey! Hey! Pretty Mama is because we’re thankful that it came along when it did for in doing so it enabled us to take a second look at someone who usually doesn’t even get a first look.

Neither record is great, but neither one is awful, just the kind of releases that so often get passed over even if done by bigger names. But since the presence of this record means that two guys on the verge of being ignored altogether see their chances at being studied a little closer go up, even incrementally, then that means they’ve earned the right to at least share the same score so neither one of them falls further behind.


(Visit the Artist page of Charlie “Boogie Woogie” Davis for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Jump Jackson (November, 1947)