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DECCA 48214; MAY 1951




They’re something people tend not to give a lot of thought to. You’re in line for something, you need to attend to something else momentarily and ask someone to hold your place for you until you return.

You thank them for it but no money is exchanged, no great favor is owed them, it’s just a thoughtful thing people occasionally do for one another in the event that at some point in the future someone else might do the same for you.

Doles Dickens himself isn’t going to repay us for this consideration… he died in 1972 after all… but we’re going to test this theory by holding his place in the rock lineup for him just the same.

He may not quite have earned it yet, seeing as how he’s got every appearance of being an opportunist or an interloper in the narrative, but we’ll do it anyway in the hopes it may pay dividends later on.

Your indulgence therefore is requested.


The One For Me
Twice we’ve met former jazz bassist Doles Dickens and twice we’ve been more lenient with him than he may have deserved as he’s intruded upon rock ‘n’ roll with somewhat shallow, if fairly competent, records trying to reap the benefits of a style he was never going to fully belong to.

What does he have on us that makes him deserving of these breaks?

Mmm, not much really, but guys like Dickens DO serve a purpose, however tenuous it may be, in that he’s ones of the first outsiders who saw a way to capitalize on rock ‘n’ roll’s growing popularity and jump on board hoping either to be accepted by the rock audience and get some hits out of the deal, or in whom Decca Records saw some benefit in trying to pass off as a rocker to see if maybe they could get their foot in the door of a style they’d rather fade away silently into the night without actually having to sign an actual rock act and worry about them doing something to embarrass them.

Dickens’ first two efforts though, a year and a half apart, weren’t half bad, the first being a cover of Wild Bill Moore’s Rock ‘n’ Roll from the summer of 1949 that didn’t match the original but didn’t embarrass itself trying, and the latter being one released a few months back – his first session since that earlier date – when he tried something more original with a song called Blues In The Back Room which was just competent enough not to turn off with disdain… whatever that’s worth.

Now with Woogie he and Decca are testing the waters again, determined not to give up on this crazy idea to remain relevant, yet seemingly still not able to actually figure out what it is they’re supposed to do, how exactly they’re supposed to do it and who specifically they’re doing it to somehow reach with these efforts.

Solid Jack
Upon seeing the title of this you were surely hoping that it’d be an instrumental.

A boogie woogie record – regardless of style it’s associated with instrumentally – is a pretty basic, but solid, game plan. Make sure your pianist or guitarist is delivering their parts with conviction and you at least have something that will earn a nod of recognition from most in the audience.

Instead Woogie is not only a vocal record, but it’s one where those vocals, for the most part anyway, are sung with a sort of secretive hushed delivery… rock ‘n’ roll on the down low as it were.

That’s hardly very promising.

You can see why they did it though once you hear the inane lyrics about “the woogie”, the meaning of which they keep as vague and broad as possible since they clearly have no idea what they’re singing about either, all of which means this is shaping up to be a head-scratching, eye-rolling record any way you cut it.

That’s not to say the band members SOUND all that stupid doing it. Their voices aren’t very distinctive – singing isn’t their primary job after all – but they’re at least in key and have a decent rhythm and though the lyrics are stupid as can be you tend to get distracted by the backing music which works quite nicely… shockingly so if you want to be honest about it. The smokey saxophone bobbing and weaving behind them has a great tone to it, the piano is fairly discreet but effective in adding a different sound and the sneaky guitar adds faint subtle textures that you might be prone to miss altogether if you’re not paying close attention, yet its presence is somehow sensed in the arrangement all the same.

Still not great or anything, but interesting at least.

Where Woogie makes it’s play for being more than just interesting is in the second section when lead singer Joe Gregory jumps in at full volume, his voice bursting with energy and if he’s mostly just adding a refrain like he were another instrument, it does bring this to life a little bit and he sounds as if he’d been spending his down time studying rock singers to see how put across lines like this.

The sax solo that follows however can’t quite live up to the earlier more atmospheric lines that Louis Judge was blowing behind – or rather between – the others, letting much of the air out of the balloon even if it’s hardly terrible, just a little lethargic because it lacks a bigger punch.

For that we get another blast from Gregory coming out of the break, giving us a more forceful vocal prelude to that same old half-whispered group effort that defines this record. Again it’s too little to make much impact and when they eschew a second instrumental solo for another hushed refrain that gets worse the more you hear it, you give up any hope this has of being something to recommend.


Real Gone
If we knew their mindsets going into these records maybe we’d find it easier to criticize them for their appropriating this music – OUR music! – for their own nefarious purposes, but we can’t read these guys too well, even after multiple far-flung attempts on their parts.

You’d think with three separate releases over two years it’d prove that Doles Dickens was a firm believer in rock ‘n’ roll, yet each time out he’s given us something that barely aspires to be a milder version of the music which suggests either he doesn’t fully grasp its requirements or that Decca is pulling the strings in an attempt to get an unlikely hit in this field and promptly steer rock back towards safer, calmer waters.

We don’t have anything to fear obviously, Woogie has no chance of being a hit even if as a rock-lite record it’s modestly acceptable.

But when you’re trying to elbow in on something that already is far bigger than you’d like to admit, being modestly acceptable on the milder end of the spectrum is not going to cut it. You need to be bold, aggressive and experimental and we already know when it comes to guys like this from outside our realm those attributes are things they just don’t have in abundance, so no matter how long we hold their place for them they’re never going to reach the front of the line.


(Visit the Artist page of Doles Dickens for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)