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KING 4585; DECEMBER 1952



Sometimes there’s a lot of you can discern about a record company’s mindset based on when they release certain records.

We’ve seen them overeager to capitalize on an unexpected hit by someone they hadn’t previously thought much of by issuing a follow-up to a hit that still hadn’t even peaked yet, as if they wanted to be sure to maximize the sales potential before their good fortune faded away altogether.

At other times we’ve watched them put out a hastily recorded cover version of someone else’s hit before that particular bandwagon is full up with other passengers, jumping the release over a number of other songs they already had in the pipeline… as King Records just did with their last Wynonie Harris single, which incidentally puts today’s record numerically out of sequence.

But here we have another mindset at play… one of utter disinterest, as they put out the last sides they have of Dave Bartholomew now that he’s back on Imperial Records, and they do so in the last month of the year, often seen as a graveyard for new material as with the holiday season in full swing people presumably have more on their minds than the latest records to hit the market.

What better way to dispose of something they no longer care about than as a last minute tax write-off?


When Your Glamour’s Gone Away
Most recording contracts for independent labels called for short terms… one or two years mostly, sometimes designated by total number of masters as opposed to length.

In what must be in retrospect one of the worst decisions King Records made during this, their peak era, they signed Dave Bartholomew to just a one year deal which spanned late/spring early summer 1951 through the same time in 1952.

The value of his own releases in terms of commercial measures probably warranted just the one year pact, as he hadn’t had a national hit since the late 1940’s under his own name, but with him you were also getting a great songwriter and producer… provided the company took advantage of that, which King did not.

In fact not until his final session in January 1952 did they let him play with his own band while he self-produced the date in New Orleans. Prior to that he cut the sides in Cincinnati under Henry Glover’s direction while using Todd Rhodes’s band, out of which came High Flying Woman, a recording already sixteen months old, though at least he wrote this himself.

Of course it’s not one of his best compositions and the backing by Rhodes veers towards a more nightclub setting, which means this is like being asked to wear somebody else’s clothes and still feel comfortable.

But their underwhelming time spent with Bartholomew shows that King Records didn’t know what they had, didn’t care to find out, and only after he left them did they come to realize what they missed. No wonder they waited to sneak this out when nobody was looking.


Don’t Mean One Man No Good
You wonder what this song would’ve become with Dave Bartholomew calling all the shots, not simply writing and singing it.

Those would appear to be the two most crucial roles to have in crafting a song, but we know from Bartholomew’s work as a producer and bandleader that’s not necessarily the case. His arrangements tend to highlight things most producers would never think to bring out.

That’s not to say Henry Glover was worse at his job than Bartholomew, but he wasn’t as well-equipped when it came to handling Dave’s songs – or his quirky vocal technique – and as a result we get a track that seems crafted for a more traditional singer, all of which seems rather silly when we get Dave Bartholomew variously croaking or crooning it instead.

Of course this being Todd Rhodes’ veteran crew the music is well played with a nice alto lead by Hallie Dismukes that gives it a fragile mood backed with Rhodes’ ghostly piano.

It’s not the worst idea to have this kind of setting for a song about lonely remorse falling just short of bitterness, as Bartholomew’s High Flying Woman is about his ex who has moved on with somebody she feels is better and he’s dealing with not only her loss but also trying to resist admitting his lifestyle isn’t exciting or appealing to somebody with more options at her disposal.

But as we know Bartholomew can’t sing anything perfectly straight, he just doesn’t have the technical voice – or confidence in that voice – to feel comfortable riding the melody like a raft down the rapids. Instead he’s constantly trying to put the oars in the water, change directions, change speeds, you name it, which he probably feels will throw off your instinctual reaction of saying “this guy can’t sing!”.

However by doing that when it’s not called for, such as when another producer is presenting this in a much more straightforward manner, that’s when it becomes all the more obvious that Bartholomew is fighting against it too much. To keep the rafting analogy, he’s now paddling upstream, whereas with his own productions he could be sure that the musicians were doing things to serve as a distraction in that regard.

So what we have is a fairly decent narrative that has the two means of expressing those feelings – music and vocals – pulling in opposite directions.

It’s not clashing as the worst of these cases do. Bartholomew, Rhodes and Glover were all too skilled to allow that to happen on High Flying Woman. But it’s definitely a matter of the two main principals (Dave on one side, and Glover, with Rhodes carrying out those orders, on the other) each sticking with what they see as the best means to accomplish this while not realizing their partners in this endeavor aren’t fully on board.

Now if you want to “blame” somebody it’s easy to say that this was Bartholomew’s song and therefore his choice supersedes the others. We, taking the decidedly rock-centric viewpoint, can also add that since the Rhodes/Glover faction is soft-peddling this instrumentally, taking it further away from our stylistic comfort zone, they’re more at fault for this missing its mark.

But when all of those elements are in alignment with one another and the singer is the one not following along, then maybe he deserves to shoulder some of the blame himself.


The Way You Used To Call My Name
In the end though, no matter who handled what aspects, or when it was released, this was probably bound to be ignored.

What made Dave Bartholomew so good as a songwriter was that he knew what kind of material was right for the artists he was pairing those songs with. His weak spot occasionally was choosing songs for himself that were not quite up his alley.

High Flying Woman was one of those songs. Not terrible, but not right for a guy whose voice never seems serious enough to express the haunting regret he’s displaying here.

There’s not enough hurt, not enough wistfulness, not enough pathos in his delivery to really connect with your emotions in the manner it’s written and when the track he’s singing to accentuates this rather than conceals it the record’s fate is sealed.

Of course when the flip side, Stormy Weather, was a record he DID cut with his own band that was an incredibly simplistic take on the jazz standard, anything would look good by comparison.

As a result Bartholomew’s tenure at King ends with a whimper and when the only real commercial bang while there was a novelty song about a boy playing with his penis, I’m guessing that the label – despite his long reign as rock’s top producer for others – felt they had good reason to slip this last single out in the dead of night during winter solstice and hoped nobody noticed.


(Visit the Artist page of Dave Bartholomew for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)