When becoming a professional musician there are many steps you need to follow if you hope to be successful.

We’ll take it for granted that you already know how to play and sing of course before embarking on this career, and that you’ve worked up a repertoire of original material in a style that’s unique enough so that you’ll stand out, yet at the same time has a familiar enough sound that you’ll be able to fit comfortably in an existing genre.

From there you’ll need to somehow get signed by a record company so you’re able to get your music heard by a wide enough audience to move beyond just the local club scene.

But just for the sake of argument let’s say you managed to clear all of those hurdles with relative ease. You found a new and interesting musical direction to explore in rock ‘n’ roll which drew from a strong regional traditions giving you a built-in niche market to appeal to and in doing so word of this innovative sound spread quickly and you got yourself a national hit on just your second release.

Chances are you’d think if you’d managed to somehow accomplish all of that the rest would be easy.

Easy perhaps everywhere but the independent record world of 1950 where sometimes the simplest decisions seem frustratingly difficult to actually make.


Jumping Off Point
Before we crucify Macy’s Recordings, a short-lived and somewhat prosperous label, at least in terms of hit-to-release ratio, let’s keep in mind that they were the record company who had provided Clarence Garlow with perhaps his best chance at breaking through to begin with, far more so than established and more prosperous labels in fact.

Garlow you’ll remember was from Louisiana and it was the fertile Gulf Coast region which gave him his distinct sound, one that drew heavily from the Cajun sonic palette around him. Macy’s was located in Houston, near enough to that area to have a relatively easy entry point to local distributors and jukebox operators in the towns that would be most receptive to Garlow’s music.

If you took advantage of that regional interest then it’s far easier for the rest of the country to open up for you. Other distributors catch wind of a record that’s drawing lots of interest in New Orleans, Houston and other hot-beds of rock, and they pick up on it, stocking that record in other locales and – if that record is good enough, catchy enough and interesting enough – it has a chance to catch on elsewhere.

Which is exactly what happened with Bon Ton Roula last winter. But that was last winter and this was the onset of the following fall and during that time Clarence Garlow had no further records released.

What on earth were they thinking?

Now oftentimes record companies rush out another single before the first hit even peaked which potentially hurts the sales of both, but while that can curb an artist’s momentum that’s still preferable to waiting too long and killing that momentum altogether. Now when they do get around to releasing a follow-up best side is not a vocal record that provides a familiar sound to the audience who dug the earlier hit, but rather an instrumental that features his guitar which just happens to be a sound that has yet to make a significant impact in rock circles as of yet.

If ever there was a title that was a misnomer for the situation an artist found themselves in, then surely it is this one because with his career teetering in the balance there’s no way in hell that Clarence Garlow could be Jumpin’ For Joy knowing his record company had all but killed his chance for long-term success.


Jump To It
Just because everything about this release was a bad decision – from the timing to the contents – doesn’t mean the record itself is bad. In fact it’s pretty good. Not hit material certainly and nothing that was going to advance Garlow’s career in any way, but as evidence of his skill set it shows that even without opening his mouth he definitely had a way with a song.

It starts out almost as if you missed an intro, the band already in full swing with his guitar lazily riffing while the piano adds the rhythmic backing. It’s built on solid textures and a pretty simple game plan, giving us a nice enough groove and plenty of space to let all of the instruments breathe.

From there we get a rhythm guitar taking over while horns make their presence known in the background, the pace accelerating just a little, or at least appearing to by how it’s framed, before the horns drop back out, the piano comes back in and Garlow’s guitar returns for the lead.

None of this is rambunctious enough to warrant being called Jumpin’ For Joy… it’s barely hopping for joy actually, it sounds more like ambling along with a bounce in their step at best… but it’s a catchy series of riffs and all of it is played with admirable focus and restraint, more concerned with establishing a mild boogie sound and holding onto it through various instrumental incarnations than it is in showing off.

When the guitar takes a back seat to the horns it loses its way ever so slightly. The sax is underpowered and slightly off-key, and so it comes across as a little drunken sounding, but then Garlow starts thrashing away on guitar and the horn raises its game enough to make amends. It’s still a little too high pitched and reedy sounding, but it has the appropriate energy to shift the song into another gear, the pace quickening and the excitement level rising in the process.

It’s got nowhere else to go after that but as it winds back down you at least got to see some fairly interesting scenery on the trail they led you down for three minutes.


Go Jump In A Lake
Though we’re not quite at the end of Macy’s Recordings short lifespan, we have reached the end of their association with Clarence Garlow, someone who gave them one of their genuine hits and who, seven decades down the road, provided them with the one record which will ensure they at least get a footnote in rock history.

That they faced the usual problems with accounts payable versus accounts receivable is nothing surprising. The latter was universally deemed something that could be held back by those owing smaller labels money whereas the pressing plants, musician’s union and landlords rightly demanded their money up front, so their fate is hardly surprising and this merely gives us one additional reason (as if one more was needed) as to why the record business was a cesspool of human jetsam.

But they weren’t faultless in their own downfall as evidenced with the fact that they’d never brought him back in for another session, giving themselves no better options going forward. Considering Garlow’s next landing spot was an even smaller label that he wound up at more than a year after his Macy’s session at the tail end of 1949, then it’s not as if he was snatched up by some bigger company with more bread to place on his table.

Jumpin’ For Joy may be a perfectly decent example of his playing skills, a fairly well-arranged and mildly stimulating instrumental, but it’s not a suitable follow-up to a much more vibrant hit.

You can argue that Clarence Garlow was stylistically limited to begin with and the novelty aspect of his breakthrough record was more responsible for his brief flirtation with stardom than anything else. If that’s your view then it probably wouldn’t have mattered if he had gotten a more appropriate release after scoring last winter.

But every artist deserves the chance to control their own destiny to a degree and have their ultimate fate based more on what choices they themselves made rather than leaving those choices up to record labels who were in over their head and repaid those who gave them a chance to succeed with nothing more than some fairly good-natured incompetence.


(Visit the Artist page of Clarence Garlow for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)