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CAPITOL 40132; JULY, 1948



Whoever said The third time’s a charm obviously wasn’t a rock ‘n’ roll fan in 1948 encountering the musical progression, or lack thereof as it were, of Crown Prince Waterford, one of the most interesting, colorful and charismatic performers we’ve met to date, but also among the most limited.

Stylistic limitations are not an altogether insurmountable obstacle in achieving a measure of success. While we typically reserve some of our highest praise for the most versatile of artists – Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Prince… fill in whomever you like – there are plenty of legendary acts who mastered one approach and rode that for all it was worth. Chuck Berry did some great work outside his usual riff-based tactics, yet when he died a few months back how many obituaries mentioned Havana Moon? Black Sabbath weren’t changing their sound every five minutes like Queen seemed to but in the end their legacies are pretty comparable. The Ramones and Run-D.M.C. defined their styles of rock better than anyone but when those ran their course so did their ability to score, yet it hasn’t harmed either group’s reputation, nor should it.

Crown Prince Waterford theoretically could’ve been one of those guys too and done just fine. Maybe he’d have never reached quite the same heights as those celebrated one-trick ponies, but his career could’ve been far more enduring than it wound up being.

A specialist in exuberant tales of rough and rowdy sex, played to the hilt by musicians with overactive adrenal glands as the Crown Prince himself eschews the brakes in favor of riding it out in fifth gear, Waterford gave early notice that rock had little use for restraint and discipline. He was a heart-attack inducing performer if ever there was one.

Since no artist is never truly alone in the ears of listeners – each music fan taking in hundreds of songs by dozens of different acts between releases by any ONE of those names – they can keep themselves in the mix by giving an audience something specialized that stands out in comparison to all of the other stylistic threads of the music swirling around them, provided they do it consistently well.

But there’s a big difference between consistent and repetitive, and that difference becomes all the more noticeable when the material recycles its surface attributes without bothering to maintain the specific aspect that made those attributes suitable in the first place.

Thus we begin to understand the rapid decline of the once promising career of a true rock original.

You Didn’t Make Yourself
On the surface few people perusing Crown Prince Waterford’s recording career would call into question the versatility of a singer who began his career recording with a pop-jazz act like Andy Kirk & His Clouds Of Joy, moving on to the jazz-blues of Jay McShann and – following his corruption in the racy rock ‘n’ roll we specialize in here – then moved into gospel of all things.

If that’s not a diverse résumé it’s hard to imagine what is. Maybe Luciano Pavarotti cutting a bluegrass album and a handful of speed metal tracks in between his opera performances might qualify I suppose, but Waterford singing so lustily about the joys of sex and the joys of heaven with some classy jazz thrown in along the way for good measure is pretty eclectic if nothing else.

Yet Waterford himself wasn’t so versatile, even if the styles he was associated with were pretty far apart.

He wasn’t the greatest of singers despite a vibrant voice and plenty of enthusiasm. His jazzier sides are the epitome of a radio tuned to two different stations, often sounding as though he weren’t even aware of the music being played behind him. In those instances he DOES ease back on his pacing somewhat to try and match the music’s tempo, but other than that he’s mostly lost in the abyss.

But when rock came along in 1947 emphasizing uptempo attacks dripping with excitement and with no limitations on content, Waterford took to it like a duck to water. Finally here was music designed with him in mind. Move Your Hand Baby was right up his alley – fast and loose and down and dirty.

The blueprint for success was thus laid down… and repeated ad nauseum, because Strange Woman’s Boogie is the third A-side in a row (and the third cut on the same day!) to feature what is essentially the same song under a different title.


I Never Felt This Way Before?
Well, that might be a bit unfair, so let’s be kind and say “cut from the same cloth”.

All three are rollicking uptempo romps about a female protagonist with extended solos for the band, notably pianist Pete Johnson. There’s not much deviation from the prototype in either melody or tempo, though in terms of full-throttle intensity this may be a bit toned down from Move Your Hand, Baby and Coal Black Baby, but its DNA is essentially the same. You could theoretically chop up the songs and freely insert sections from each into one another and the editing likely wouldn’t be noticed in terms of the overall feel.

Thankfully the one area that WOULD tip you off that they were different songs is the lyrics, which offer up Waterford in quite a different role than his two previous outings.

In those first two records the Crown Prince – as befitting his nickname – certainly didn’t lack for confidence. In both he convincingly played the role of a lothario whose prowess with women is well-established, at least in his own mind. He made no secret of what he was after and by the sounds of it fully expected to get from her. The raciness of the lyrics, or rather the horniness they implied, matched the hell-bent pace of the accompanying music, the frantic solos on piano, guitar and sax, and the sheer enthusiasm of the performances was enough to overcome whatever objections you might have with the content (though let it be said, if you HAVE objections to such content then you’re probably reading the wrong blog altogether!).

On this song though, while the music takes on the same boisterous tone as the earlier releases, the story-line has been considerably altered. In fact it’s been turned on its head. Strange Woman’s Boogie finds Waterford cast in the unlikely part of a novice when it comes to romance and sex, a man somewhat befuddled by a more experienced female he finds himself with.

All of that seems promising on the surface. Not that it’s a better situation for Waterford to delve into, especially knowing his reputation garnered from the last two sides, but it’s at least got a chance to show a different perspective, thus allowing for new and potentially interesting euphemisms, situations and delivery. He was at risk of becoming a pitcher who threw nothing but fastballs and sooner or later hitters catch up to that, no matter how hard you throw, so you need to change speeds just to keep them off balance. In music it’s no different, mix things up, vary your approach, don’t become too predictable.

But Waterford doesn’t quite seem to trust his other pitches. So instead of committing to the agreed upon story-line he merely recites the script while essentially playing the same role as before and as a result the two facets of this – the song and the delivery – clash mightily. His vocal approach remains stuck in high gear while the lyrics speak to something else entirely.

He’s claiming to be inexperienced with the fairer sex, yet he sounds suspiciously like the guy who let everybody know in no uncertain terms last winter that he’d been put out to stud more often than Man O’ War. His voice betrays his intent throughout, shouting exuberantly when the lyrics call for more restrained introspection. In this regard we can clearly see the inherent different between singers deserving of their current (or imminent) stardom, such as Roy Brown, whose forlorn vocals adorned a number of sides that stood in stark contrast to his revival-styled shouting on other tracks, and guys like the Crown Prince who were destined to be merely interesting one-note journeymen.

I Can’t Quit You
If Waterford wasn’t about to adjust his approach then it should’ve been up to the band to rein him in, giving him no choice but to follow their lead. Instead they merely fuel his need for speed and send the entire song reeling in the process.

The pace from the start is too upbeat, Johnson’s showy right hand on the intro leading right into the pounding beat laid down by his left hand gives Waterford the excuse to simply jump onboard and ride the rhythm along with them. When Maxwell Davis’s saxophone enters in the first break he at least plays a more appropriate mellow tone, but realizing that no one else is following along he too begins to get caught up in the excitement and ramps it up as he goes, egged on by Waterford himself who heartily implores him to “BLOW!”.

As a result the music is all over the place, at times decidedly unmelodic even, and we know all too well that Waterford doesn’t have the judgment or requisite discipline to get them under control by altering his own approach.

Instead they all gravitated towards what Waterford did best, simply fitting the lyrics to an established prototype. After all, who’d likely care about the lack of variance of records released a few months apart? More to the point, who among them thought lunatics like me (and by extension lunatics like YOU, reading this stuff written by lunatics like me!) would be analyzing all of this seven decades down the road?!!!

But here we are doing just that and for the first time in our encounters with Waterford it’s not enough to simply cast aside your reservations about his shortcomings and hang on and enjoy the ride. If someone is going to use lyrics in a song those lyrics have to be taken into account and we have to try and make some sense of them. I’ll put up with totally nonsensical gibberish that means nothing but I have a harder time when asked to accept a story that is completely out of sync with the music and the delivery which accompanies it.

Either change the words to fit the music, or change the music to fit the lyrics, or discard the lyrics altogether and just rant and rave using monosyllabic grunts and snorts, but as long as there are two distinct features to a record then both of them will have to work in tandem to connect.

Strange Woman’s Boogie doesn’t do that and thus it largely falls apart before our eyes.

Please Don’t Do That To Me
I suppose this was inevitable considering who we’re dealing with. Waterford’s strengths needed to be more judiciously handled lest he self-implode. What worked so well when the individual pieces were appropriately matched doesn’t work when they’re mismatched, even if one of those pieces (or two if you count the music AND Waterford’s rambunctious delivery) is still moderately effective on its own. The fact they started off with their best record back in December raised expectations for what was to follow and thus far each successive step has been a step down from the one immediately proceeding it. The law of diminishing returns.

Yes, they were all cut on the same day, in the same studio, with the same musicians, but you don’t have to look at the session sheet numbers or release dates to know which were the fresh ideas and which simply regurgitated those ideas to fill out the session. Capitol was asking for eight sides, you’ll give them eight, even if you really only have half that which are original.

With his competitors ramping up their game over this time to show more versatility in what they’re delivering the standard he has to meet goes up with it and so by this point it’s not hard to predict where Waterford’s career is headed.


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