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Song titles – unlike song lyrics and melodies – are not copyrightable and as such there are frequently multiple records using the same identifying feature that are in actuality completely different tunes.

This is one of them.

But searching for song titles is also one of the prime ways in which people discover a site like this and while most who type in those two words in a search engine will be disappointed when they find out this lengthy essay has nothing whatsoever to do with The Leaves, Jimi Hendrix, Wilson Pickett, The Byrds, The Surfaris, The Standells, Music Machine, Love, Cher or Patti Smith, there’s still something worthwhile about hearing a story about any record in rock’s long tangled history, no matter how obscure.

So if you’re one of those who came here looking for information on any of those versions of a more acclaimed song… you’re out of luck.

But you’re also IN luck, because now if you choose to stay you get to learn about a singer who predated them all, was present almost at the very beginning of rock ‘n’ roll and who, after struggling mightily to make records that equaled his brethren in rock’s early stages, had finally figured out how to rein in his worst instincts while capitalizing on his best to come up with some pretty good rock songs after all… albeit none of which are one one thousandth as well known as the song sharing this title that you all came here to read about.


What Do You Know?
Just in case anyone still clinging to the hope that this record has some more tangible connection to the more famous cut that followed, knowing that the Billy Roberts penned hit was based loosely on some other older songs… well, don’t get your hopes up, it’s not related to those either, which are all centered around ominous threats of death.

This Hey Joe isn’t about gun violence, but about sex, which truthfully is a far more enjoyable subject, both to partake in and sing about.

Why he’s focusing on Joe however, rather than the waitress he’s trying to boink after work, never does get adequately explained to us though. He’s obviously telling this to his buddy, hyping her up with each line telling him how ”she wanna go” – and by go he doesn’t just mean to the picture show he talks about, but rather GO, as in… you know what “as in” I’m talking about. But since he’s yet to hook up with her this is a little risky on Samuels part, as he’s doing nothing but breeding competition for her affections.

If ol’ Joe is smart he’ll head to the Café before Clarence does, order up a slice of rhubarb pie a’la mode and make some small talk, flirt with her while leaving a big tip behind and if he’s lucky snatch her out from under Samuels’ nose before the latter even enters the building.

Then we might see Clarence pick up the pistol that other song talked about to even up the score.

Truthfully that’d be a nice twist on this song, because not much happens otherwise. She sounds like a hot prospect for sure, both her eagerness for male companionship and her shapely form which includes a pair of legs that has Clarence drooling, but he doesn’t offer more than just basic compliments. His eager voice tells you that she’s certainly deserving of that praise, but we can’t even form a clear picture of her in our minds because he’s skimping on the details… not just of her, but also of what exactly he plans to DO with her after this show he’s taking her to.

Without more information it’s like watching a movie with the picture darkened. We still can get a decent enough grasp of what’s going on by the sound alone, but we’re left to fill in all of the details ourselves and with its hook sounding demonstrably square to rock ears of 1950 it’s probably not going to start a stampede to the restaurant after all.

Real Gone Deal
Since decamping to Freedom Records earlier in 1950 Samuels has been bolstered by the best backing unit in all of rock to this point, skilled versatile musicians with the right aggressive attitude to put across almost any song with some flair using a wide variety of instruments to suit whatever needs each record’s specific requirements.

Unfortunately though, while they play uniformly well on Hey Joe they don’t attempt to craft an arrangement to single out any one instrument, save for one brief flurry on drums after a mid-song count-off courtesy of Samuels. That lack of anything to spice up an otherwise directionless song because we could tolerate the aimless lyrics, or even total gibberish delivered by a guy with a loud but undisciplined voice if only they turned loose either Goree Carter on guitar or Sam Williams and/or Conrad Johnson on tenor and alto sax respectively and let them add fire to the proceedings.

Instead we get a track that may indeed have the right frame of mind to keep the song churning along efficiently, but no real moments to make you stop and take notice. From its prancing horn riff that opens the song to the mild sax solo and the prominent but simplistic bass-line that’s mic’d front and center, this is an example of “Do No Wrong” rather than seeing what they can do right.

That’s not to say it’s subpar or anything, it’s a decent enough rhythm they set behind him, but rather that it doesn’t go any place exciting, leaving the excitement up to Samuels who is certainly game but without a more colorful story to sink his teeth into it winds up being more meaningless boasting than anything.


Waitin’ There For Me
This is one of those songs wedged between two scores, one slightly too low for its overall competence, the other slightly too high for its lack of imagination and of course we have to pick one.

The fact that such scores are essentially meaningless and not meant to infer what somebody ELSE should think goes without saying, but there’s still a desire to do justice to the artist and the record even if neither of the scores would make Samuels all that thrilled.

Nor will this record, or this review for that matter, make any one coming her to read about a different Hey Joe very pleased, but those are the breaks.

What we’re really annoyed about is that with some really good Clarence Samuels records as of late to look at, we might be drawing people in for one that’s definitely the weakest of his output on this label which is about to shutter its doors forever.

So with that in mind, and not wanting to make those recent artistic successes look more like flukes than progress, we’ll be a little more generous with our final tally here.

But just in case the subpar result has you thinking you’d be better off waiting for another Joe down the road before you come back here, there’s plenty of other records we’ve already covered – and will cover soon – that Joe, as well as every Tom, Dick and Harry, would probably be happy to learn more about.


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