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KING 4374; JUNE 1950



When it comes a notorious roustabout like Charles “Crown Prince” Waterford, sooner or later you know he’s got to face the music… to pay the price for his litany of transgressions.

But of course he’s nowhere near done committing crimes against common decency as this record proves, so it becomes a balancing act teetering between further offenses found in the lyrics and the apparent musical chastising of the band behind him, leaving an uneasy reckoning for the man who would be king.


How Hard Can Your Driving Be?
In some ways this is an unusual record for the affable and gregarious Crown Prince who finds himself in a musical dungeon of his own making and is left to moan about his dire circumstances rather than crassly celebrating his activities without a care in the world as has always been his preferred position in song.

This seems to be an apt sentence for Waterford thanks to a disturbing line early on in Hard Driving Woman wherein he kicks things off with a casual nod towards domestic violence and as a result the subsequent censure is entirely appropriate for a man who probably needed to face some form of punishment for so many other offenses through the years.

Of course it’s sad to say that the line itself is hardly anything new or unusual for the time. Big Joe Turner would make a similar threat about taking a board from a picket fence to “whup” some sense into his woman as Waterford does here and it’s no more excusable there even though Turner’s song – and performance – is infinitely better.

Unlike Big Joe however, who sang his tune with upbeat joy that ran counter to the implications of the words, Crown Prince sounds dejected from the very start and because of the larger theme you can certainly take his threat to “beat your head, baby” as the final futile stand against a woman who clearly has the upper hand over him and so, as in many cases of this kind, the man is reduced to making empty threats because he’s lost the ability to win this household battle of the sexes by other means.

The good news is his girl has finally had enough of him… be it his inability to get a job, his lack of virility in bed, or just his lazy demeanor in general… and has gone from giving him ultimatums to forcefully demonstrating her own resolve by tossing his clothes out the front door in prelude to tossing HIM out on the street.

But these actions don’t spur Waterford into either changing his ways to mollify her, nor does it get him to actually fight back – his vows of retribution notwithstanding – but instead has him complaining about her tough love actions with a forlorn tone of voice.

In other words, he’s not really making his case for eliciting sympathy from anyone who may be listening but rather he’s admitting that he’s thoroughly defeated and thus hardly someone to be taken seriously.

About To Lose My Mind
Once we come to understand this then we can relax and focus on the rest of the song which isn’t half bad, everything fitting into place nicely, a hallmark of a Henry Glover production.

The despondent point of view Waterford’s voice and the accompany details of the story present are matched perfectly by the arrangement which features a slow aching melody highlighted by what appears to be a few harsh musical comments being offered up by the guitar in response to the singer’s objections over his supposed “mistreatment”.

It’s very effective in that sense, the two components simultaneously working off one another while also supporting each other in their somewhat dreary outlook. The guitar picks its spots nicely, delivering sharp licks that never overstay their welcome while the horns moan in unison… whether mocking him or sympathizing with him probably depends on your perspective.

About the only independent instrumental voice on much of Hard Driving Woman is George Rhodes’ piano which is tasked with giving the otherwise ponderous melody some life with intermittent flourishes that lift the energy and keep listeners from falling into the same funk that besets Waterford.

Because the record is designed to be downcast and gloomy it’s going to be constrained in many ways but Glover manages to carves out a space for livening things up – in a limited way that is – by letting Joe Thomas take a little bit more emphatic sax solo during the break.

Played with a fiercer edge to it than the rest of the song, you can take Thomas’s contributions in any one of a couple of ways. The early notes are a little flighty by nature, as if he’s reflecting that the lead character is lost in conspiracies of his own fancy, a bit delusional even. But then he drops into a grittier tone that suggests an underlying resentment to his plight and perhaps even hints at a determination to do something about it that Waterford largely forsakes after being threatened with an assault charge for his initial pledge of corporal punishment against his better half.

But from there Thomas seems to pierce those bolder proclamations himself by taking his horn into – and past – the upper regions of its range, fracturing the notes when he goes too high which in effect represent how feeble the Crown Prince actually is in this situation, a broken man left to whimper ineffectively as his smug self-image crumbles around him.

Whether any of that was specifically laid out in advance or simply transpired that way accidentally once the tapes were rolling, hardly matters, the results are the same. The sax solo breaks up the more monotonous tone the rest of the record exists in and responds to Waterford’s state of mind with off-handed insolence.



Leave Me A Sock
In the end songs like this were the much needed counterbalance to much of the enthusiastic decorum shattering antics of a good-natured blowhard like the Crown Prince.

Just as not every relationship is chock full of hedonistic good times, wild sex and hangover free parties, every record can’t be odes to living it up without consequences. For Crown Prince Waterford who excelled at portraying life without boundaries it was important to show every now and then that he could indeed be humbled, if for no other reason than to throw listeners a stylistic change of pace.

In that regard Hard Driving Woman is a necessary off-speed pitch to add to his repertoire and one in which he manages to deliver with convincing authenticity. The song has a solid thematic foundation, an efficient arrangement and entirely suitable performances from all involved.

It also has somewhat limited appeal however, especially for fans of the more ebullient Crown Prince. This is no rousing anthem to debauchery, it contains no groove for dancers, nor does it have anything most listeners would admit to identifying with since the faults contained within the story unless they want to incriminate themselves in the process.

So while we commend the attempt and can take some solace in the fact that Crown Prince Waterford got what was coming to him, we can’t rejoice over it very much. Instead we’ll just nod our heads and say he deserves his fate before looking forward to the time when he gathers up his discarded wardrobe along with his dignity and comes to the next party being thrown where he’ll be free once again to climb on the tables with a lampshade on his head, fly unzipped and bottle half empty and lead the gathered throngs in the next chorus.


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