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REGAL 3319; MAY 1951



This is more like it.

Not that this side of the final single to be released during the prime of Chubby Newsome’s career is a surefire hit or anything, but at least it’s something that fits more neatly into her portfolio than the unfortunate attempt at a novelty record that adorned the other side of this.

Though the single didn’t come with A and B side designations made clear, this is likely the song they were putting their stock in which makes our decision to cover it last somewhat unusual, but since we won’t be seeing the voluptuous Ms. Newsome again until 1957 we’d rather send her off with a review that focuses more on Chubby in her element than one where the main focus was about side issues regarding song content.

It may not be a grand gesture in the big scheme of things, but for someone who’s been more entertaining to cover than most artists it’s the least we could do.


You Fill Me Full Of Promises
Whether Velma “Chubby” Newsom (as it was actually spelled) had what it took to be an enduring full-fledged star in rock ‘n’ roll or if she was merely fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to notch rock’s first charted hit by a female artist, the fact of the matter is she was anything but irrelevant to the music’s growing popularity in the late 1940’s.

Any new style needs attention and if there was anything that Chubby Newsom thrived at it was getting attention.

That was surely her most significant contribution to rock’s history, at least in the moment rather than as the answer to a trivia question for seeing her debut Hip Shakin’ Mama scale the charts before any other female had done so. For it was her undeniable stage presence – scantily clad, shaking those hips and oozing sexuality – that drew people in at a time when rock ‘n’ roll was still largely ignored by the mainstream. While it may have been somewhat shallow and sensationalistic, those are charges that many people would make about the music itself over the years and it hasn’t hurt rock’s reputation in the least. If anything it only made it more alluring.

Besides, it’s not as if Newsom couldn’t sing. Her records for the most part have been consistently above average for their time and while she never matched the pull of that first one again, she’s shown that she was more than capable of delivering the goods if given half a chance.

Unfortunately by 1951 those chances were running out on her.

She was still a good draw on stage, a provocative act who’d raise the blood pressure of any guy in the audience, but record companies for some reason didn’t know how to best take advantage of that appeal without the visuals to go along with it and so we’re left with songs like Where’s The Money, Honey, trying to draw from some of her earliest musical cues without slavishly reproducing them.

With Regal Records now sputtering commercially after a strong start, their own days being numbered, there was little chance of this reviving Newsome’s stalled career.


Lay It On The Line
Once again as with the other side of this record the horns are both vibrant and just a little bit off when it comes to establishing the kind of sound that hits you square in the gut. Good musicians but on the wrong horns. Tenor and baritone saxes are needed, not trumpets, trombones and altos.

The arrangement itself though isn’t bad by any means as the horns riff over a chugging rhythm established by the piano giving Newsome a faster pace than she was generally used to which allows her to rocket out of the starting blocks and never look back.

Melodically it’s a little too similar to past glories but the increased tempo at least gives her the chance to use different vocal inflections, in turn highlighting the lyrics which are the strong suit of Where’s The Money, Honey, a sassy put-down of a boyfriend who is both cheap and broke, a bad combination if you want to be dating a bombshell like Chubby who is clearly used to hitting the town in style.

Though the perspective itself is nothing unusual it’s careful not to paint her as a frustrated gold-digger, but rather someone who’s been promised things the man is unable, or unwilling, to deliver. Some of the lines show real creativity, particularly the one which breaks down the guy’s real motivation for his wooing of Newsome without shelling out the bread to keep her satisfied, as she says “you take me out and spend nothing but the night”.

Her critiques never let up and yet because each one is cleverly laid out they manage not to get repetitive. Maybe more impressive is how Newsome constantly finds different ways to express disgust which is hardly the easiest thing to do while remaining within the musical confines of the song and a testament to her acting ability, something which clearly was honed on stage where the sly looks and playful asides in clubs were a major factor in creating a personal connection with an audience beyond just the obvious visual appeal.

All of which is to say that Newsome here is pretty darn good, as is the song, which leaves the one remaining factor – the music itself, or rather the horns being enlisted to play that music – as the weak link. The solo that needs to put the song over with crudity and raunchy suggestiveness of a rampaging bull instead can only bray and whinny like a restless horse in a stable.

Somehow, despite being three and a half years into rock ‘n’ roll with hits galore and countless stars to analyze to work out a reliable formula for connecting with audiences, there are still far too many producers who haven’t quite caught up with the times.


Always Beggin’ To Have A Little Fun
Almost from the start Chubby Newsom seemed to be penalized by an industry that were uncertain what to do with somebody like her.

With more instrumental firepower Where’s The Money, Honey would have more than enough to at least be a modest hit but is let down by those who still look backwards rather than forward and when it failed to connect and then Regal Records petered out by the fall, Newsom was cast adrift.

She remained a steady presence in live venues, eventually hooking up with the almost equally attractive Alberta Adams as The Bluezettes in the mid-1950’s for what was reportedly an eye-popping show, and she was particularly popular in the vibrant Detroit club scene for years, but Newsom’s only sessions during this time came for RCA – the wrong label to showcase her talents – and Chance Records, neither of whom issued anything from her brief turns with them.

Was it not up to snuff? Were her best days behind her? Was she done in by even more inappropriate musical support than shown here or poorly written songs not crafted for her skill set? Or were those decisions to hold back her material based merely on executives who didn’t understand the music she made or the audience who might’ve embraced it?

It’s always easy for artists who failed to sustain their initial popularity to find plenty of excuses for why their careers floundered after strong starts, most of which unfortunately are long on blame and short on credibility, but as far as we know Chubby Newsom didn’t spend her life complaining about missed chances or shortsighted record companies, yet if anyone had the right to grumble a little it was surely her.

Because of its nature as a recorded medium rock history tends to be mostly about the records themselves, but at the beginning that music still had to be promoted somehow in ways that made you want to seek out those mysterious records on obscure labels with scant airplay and even fewer headlines.

Few artists stoked the imagination these songs created better than Chubby Newsom strutting across a stage, hips swaying with a sly grin on her face inviting you to give yourself over to the music and the decedent lifestyle it championed. Those images have sadly been lost to time but the impact of what that image meant to a generation who turned rock ‘n’ roll into the cultural behemoth it became are still being felt today.


(Visit the Artist page of Chubby Newsom for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)