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MERCURY 8221; MARCH 1951



Records can capture your attention for a variety of things.

There is of course the artist themselves who command the most attention. Big names putting out a subpar record will still get that record heard far more than a minor act issuing something truly great.

There’s also the song itself, which may be a mystery before you hit play the first time, but once you do has the ability to captivate you before the needle reaches the run-out groove.

Then there’s the title that adorns the label, where something interesting, quirky or memorable can prompt you to give it a listen whereas you may not have otherwise.

Though there are plenty of major figures playing on this record that might draw your interest, the featured artist’s name wasn’t known much in 1951 – and today is mistaken for a terrible actor of a few decades past. The song they play is decent and surely worth a few spins, but isn’t likely to be on anyone’s playlist of top cuts from the year in question.

But that title is one that piques your curiosity and shows a measure of creativity that demands we give it a closer listen.


Never Dreamed I’d Miss You So
After staying out of the spotlight for much of his early career, guitarist Chuck Norris finds himself getting a lot of attention in late winter 1951 with this the second of three singles released in a two month stretch on two different labels.

Another sign that record companies don’t really understand their own business, at least in Mercury Records’ case as they put out Hey Everybody in February and now a month later – and possibly not even that long – issue this one on its heels.

Both were taken from the same December session and both are notable not so much for Norris taking centerstage with his vocals, as much as they are for having a stellar supporting crew backing him on Kinda Sick, Mostly Worried, which to be fair is something Mercury may not have been able to capitalize on in a commercial sense, since many of them weren’t household names.

But certainly their pedigree – not to mention common sense of not flooding the market with multiple singles by the same act when even just one of those records would have trouble finding a spot on jukeboxes which is where rock ‘n’ roll still got most of its action – tells you that these sides deserved a little more respect than to throw them all on the market together which only ensured that nobody heard any of them.

Did audiences miss much?

Maybe not, but then again, any time you have one of rock’s best guitarists, paired with rock’s best arranger who was also one of its best saxophonists blowing alongside another name sax player with a future star sitting in on piano, I think it’s fair to say you wouldn’t want to miss it just to hear how they tried meshing together.


Don’t Ignore My Message
The way this song is structured, slow and drawn out with some stinging guitar licks, a despondent story line and a vocal delivery to match, it’d be easy to call this a blues song if you were so inclined.

Maybe that’s what Mercury was thinking too, though they didn’t market it properly for that field either even if years later they belatedly included it on a blues compilation to try and give some sense of musical diversity for a label still known primarily for Frankie Laine, Patti Page, Eddy Howard and Georgia Gibbs… to say nothing of Mr. Goon Bones!

But Kinda Sick, Mostly Worried fits just as well in rock thanks to the multi-faceted arrangement of Maxwell Davis whose saxophone parts give the record a cool vibe behind the harsher guitar of Norris, while Jesse Belvin’s work on piano shows that while he’d be best known for his writing and singing, he was always talented on the keys, using some nice hesitation moves, then tickling the treble keys before throwing in some brief interludes on the bass keys that give this an ever changing dynamic.

It’s Norris though who is at center stage, his modest vocal abilities being used to their greatest effect here as it seems he has to coax each line out which adds a sense of anticipation to the quality lyrics and allows him to stay in a tonal comfort zone that suits him well. He sounds a lot like Floyd Dixon and like Dixon his shortcomings are largely able to be minimized, if not completely obscured, by good material and that benefits Norris here as well.

The story itself might be fairly rote – he’s sad and lonely and prone to explaining why to those who probably would rather he kept his mouth shut – but once he bends your ear you find he’s put some genuine thought into it, telling his ex-girlfriend who left him why he misses her, not so much to get her back as to get it off his chest… though if she happened to reconsider I’m sure he wouldn’t complain.


Thought I’d Let You Know
It’s a well crafted record from start to finish with some sudden bursts of fury thanks to Norris’s guitar and if it’s hardly the kind of thing that will turn heads – by design as much anything else – it’s also not anything that will turn too many away.

You get what you expect with Kinda Sick, Mostly Worried… seasoned professionals, and one sterling newcomer, showing what made them so reliable and efficient in the studio, qualities that often are rarely celebrated with the same enthusiasm as more showy performances, but which will always be appreciated by those hiring them and those listening to them.

There may have been a limit to what a song of this nature, featuring someone whose singing was a secondary talent, could do, but they maximized that potential and came away with something worthwhile.


(Visit the Artist page of Chuck Norris for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)