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TORCH 6911; FEBRUARY 1952

 
 

 

The question looming over us for the last few years was… “What are we gonna do with THIS one?” when it comes up.

The reason for our impending dread was that one of the most outlandish “characters” from late 1940’s rock ‘n’ roll, Crown Prince Waterford, had cut this back in ’49, only to see it go unreleased until purchased early in 1952 by Torch Records who couldn’t have had high commercial hopes for it.

The fact that it’s three years past its expiration date, as is its singer, and thus won’t show anything about the current rock scene means it’d be just as easy to skip over it… especially since the title and theme are overtly problematic.

But telling the history of anything, or anyone, even a loud-mouthed boor like the Crown Prince, means covering it all, and so here is the desert long after the main course of his career has been served.
 

 

Save The Rinds
So… the background first.

Charles “Crown Prince” Waterford, for those who somehow forgot, was a gregarious singer with a penchant for racy themes who’d started his career in the mid-40’s but had only to wait a little while for rock ‘n’ roll to be born so that he could have a genre that suited him perfectly.

Sadly he never topped his first effort in that realm, the deliriously obscene Move Your Hand, Baby, helped by the runaway freight train arrangement and delivery.

He wrote all of his own songs and while they were hardly works of great depth, they fit his outrageous persona and with generally good sidemen – including Maxwell Davis and his usual stable of session aces here – the records were enjoyable enough entries in rock’s early years.

But that’s where the story abruptly comes to an end. He cut the two sides that comprise this single in 1949 – for who, we’re not entirely sure – and they went unreleased, maybe because no company felt at ease with a song with so many unsettling connotations as Eatin’ Watermelon and thus they lay dormant for years.

Torch Records, out of Dallas, Texas, had just stated operations as 1952 dawned and thus looking to establish themselves with a minimum of overhead expenses they purchased the two unreleased Waterford sides in an effort to buy themselves some time and get their name out there while hopefully building up their own roster.

They actually DID get a regional hit with Zuzu Bollin’s Why Don’t You Eat Where You Slept Last Night, a pretty fair rocking blues number, which is also how we were able to more accurately date the Waterford release as coming out in winter rather than arbitrarily make a stab in the dark to find a place to slot it.

But when the extent of your output is done by a handful of boisterous journeymen who are increasingly ill-fitting in any field, one of whom was represented by leftovers from last decade, do I really have to tell you the label quickly went up in flames?
 


 

When I Die, Bury Me Deep
The greatest heavyweight boxing champion of all-time, Joe Louis, loved watermelon but he and his manager made sure he was never photographed eating it because they didn’t want to play into the racial stereotype that was so prevalent at that time.

The dehumanizing nature of racism has always been one of its most powerful weapons, especially since there’s so little that can be done to fight back against such an image, even if, like Louis, you could quite literally beat the shit out of any racist MF’er mocking you for your culinary choices.

Maybe that’s not the only reason I dislike eating them myself, for while it’s certainly the most attractive looking fruit with the two tone green skin contrasting beautifully with the dark pink insides and black seeds, the actual taste leaves something to be desired… bland and – like its name implies – mostly water.

Certainly in the middle of last century Crown Prince Waterford had to know the negative connotations for a black man to eagerly sing about Eatin’ Watermelon which makes this record equally hard to stomach.

Rather than make light of it somehow and mock those who would view this as a confirmation of their prejudices, Waterford plays it straight and is so enthusiastic about proclaiming his enjoyment of this food that listening to it, fully aware of the time and place it came out, makes it impossible to enjoy.

Which is too bad because there’s at least few things here that may be worthy of some mild praise starting with Waterford’s hard-charging vocals… at least when he sings rather than speaks, something that takes up far too much time setting up jokes that aren’t funny, though to his credit he plows ahead unaware of how flat they’re falling.

Musically it starts off with rather a subdued opening on piano but then Maxwell Davis gives the arrangement a rolling groove with horns, guitar and drums that sadly doesn’t get enough space to stretch out, but at least sounds good while Waterford is going full-tilt

Unfortunately when we get to the instrumental break that’s when it shows its age as Davis isn’t pushing hard enough and Jay McShann, a big name in his own right and the co-writer of the song, is treating this like he was performing in a two-reel western as the saloon pianist. The break in which multiple instruments trade off goes on far too long and since Waterford’s vocal revelry wears thin on such a shallow topic, the song predictably can’t hold your interest even if you could overlook the implications of the topic at hand.

But hey, that probably makes it even more fitting in the end, as it shows why Torch Records was the ideal landing place for this, as we won’t have to look far for something to light it on fire with so we can get rid of the evidence.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Crown Prince Waterford for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)