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FEDERAL 12062; MARCH 1952



If you don’t succeed, try, try again is one of those things you hear from time to time growing up. It’s meant to ensure that kids don’t give up on something just because it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to at first.

There is always success to be found in failing, even if it’s simply to find out certain methods don’t work so you can discard those same methods in your subsequent attempts, thereby narrowing down your choices until – hopefully – you land on a more effective one.

But in music sometimes they flip that script on its head, such as when an artist recording for a small label succeeds with a record only to then re-record it upon arriving at another more well-to-do label.

You’d think this would mean they’d improve upon it, maybe thanks to a better band, stronger production values or simply the knowledge of what was appealing to listeners and what aspects fell a little short.

But this is the record industry we’re talking about, so trying again actually only increases their chance for self-inflicted failure.


That’s The Penalty That Comes With Being Left Behind
Here’s the pocket-sized recap to bring you up to speed: Jazz trumpeter Jake Porter started the Combo Record label in the fall of 1951 and its first release came out under his own name, as you might expect.

The top side of that single however featured sixteen year old Dorothy Ellis singing lead on the ballad Slowly Go Out Of Your Mind, an attempt to cash in on Little Esther’s (now fading) popularity. It was all rather professionally done, as you’d expect from a veteran of such bands as Lionel Hampton, but as you’d also expect it was sort of stylistically compromised… slightly jazzy and leaning towards cocktail blues with a little rock ‘n’ roll in her voice thrown in for good measure.

In spite of those flaws the record hit the Los Angeles regional charts at the end of December 1951 and Ellis – who was just a vocalist for hire – jumped to Federal Records on the strength of that showing where one of the songs they cut was a re-worked (and re-titled) version of that same number, Slowly Going Out Of Your Mind.

Yet the band, Johnny Otis’s veteran crew under the direction of Federal’s overseer and producer Ralph Bass, decided not to make the backing track more appropriate for rock ‘n’ roll, the kind of music that the band and label specialized in, but rather to make it even MORE jazzy instead.

For the flip side of this record we ended the review by calling them all idiots for other indefensible choices they’d made and what they show here only confirms that accusation. They WERE idiots and poor Dorothy Ellis is left to suffer for it.

A Detriment To All Mankind
The song itself hasn’t gotten any better obviously. Same story, same lyrics, same slow pace.

Dorothy Ellis does seem a little more comfortable behind the microphone, sticking to one vocal tone throughout the song, a lighter, breathier and more transparent one, but that’s hardly the kind of stuff to excite a rock fan.

You might argue they’re trying to hit an entirely different audience with this, but why? Haven’t they already found out this approach doesn’t work as they’ve hamstrung Little Esther’s career with similarly bad creative decisions since she arrived at Federal and now they’re intent on doing the same with another teenage girl, trying to add thirty years to her overnight? What for?

This mindset that adults have in all walks of life is what is so frustrating… the idea that something that was true when they came of age is somehow still applicable years later. That line about “try, try again” is obviously one they didn’t heed. This kind of light musical fare no longer has commercial clout, not with the market they’ve focused on, and while the adults in the room might miss it and want to show they can play it, nobody wants to hear it.

Slowly Going Out Of Your Mind isn’t even good jazz, despite Ben Webster’s presence on the session. It’s dismal stuff with the bleating alto of another future jazz legend, René Bloch, plus two tenors, trumpet and trombone all sounding as if they belong in the sick ward.

They had a top notch rhythm section here and gave them the day off, not even trying to shake the arrangement up with some nasty guitar licks, a quirkier rhythm, some funky piano and quicker horn blasts. Instead they have them replicate the final moans of a dying species that once ruled the land which is certainly the appropriate analogy.

Times have changed, the music has changed, but as always the old guard, even though they were beneficiaries OF that change, still insisted they could change things back.

They couldn’t and though it means that Dorothy Ellis’s budding reputation is going to be negatively impacted by the outcome of this record, the real blame – as usual – falls on the adults in the room.

In America the age of majority is 18 and at the time this was cut the voting age was 21, with the idea being that it’s not until you reach those ages that you’re smart enough, experienced enough and have enough good judgement to make important decisions.

Obviously that was wrong.

So I have another idea. From now on when you reach 21 your voting rights should be rescinded and frankly your right to make ANY decision should be forcibly taken from you, especially as it pertains to music. Just go back and sit on the sidelines and wait patiently for your imminent death. By the sounds of this, it won’t be long in coming.


(Visit the Artist page of Dorothy Ellis for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Jake Porter (ft. Dorothy Ellis) (October, 1951)