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As this review goes up it’s just a few short days before Christmas… a silly holiday that wormed its way onto the calendar through bribery as it promises those who celebrate it will get presents as their payoff in perpetuating this brazen scam.

Normally we’re immune to this sort of graft around here, as we’ve been regularly turning down vast quantities of money offered by wild-eyed vocal group record enthusiasts who swear to make it worth our while to give outrageously high scores to treacly ballads with borderline pop arrangements they love so dear.

But here we are falling victim to greed and avarice just the same by including in our reviews someone barely recognized and long forgotten, an artist so insignificant that he’d have to do yeoman’s work here just to be called a “minor act” in rock’s story.

He’s a figure most of you won’t remember even meeting, ever so briefly, way back in March 1948. But he’s still around, still singing – or something reasonably close to singing anyway – and so in the spirit of Christmas we’re being far too generous in giving him the gift of reviewing his first record in years, all in a last ditch attempt to get ourselves on Santa’s “Nice” list before it’s too late, just in case there is something to this so-called holiday after all.


Every Time I Come To See You
It’s ironic that we’re going to all this trouble for Dr. Jo Jo Adams of all people, somebody who when we first encountered him was not even the lead artist on the release we covered and so he didn’t get an Artist Biography of his own… not that there’d be much to tell.

But just to fill you in, his medical career didn’t pan out after mistakenly amputating the leg of a clergyman who had no health insurance and came in for an appendectomy after hearing about the good doctor from a prostitute… it’s a long story. Suffice it say, after going on the run from the Health Department, Adams turned to singing bawdy songs in gin joints to make ends meet.

No, actually Adams was just that, a club singer around Chicago who wore garishly colored tuxedos and sang racy tunes to the delight of the drunken patrons and surely had gotten the “Doctor” moniker along the way for some off-color joke lost to time.

When Chicago began seeing independent record companies spring up around town looking for singers, he got his chance on Aristocrat Records with saxophonist Tom Archia on If I Feel Like This Tomorrow, and the results were not too good. Adams cut a few more sides with Archia, none of which were any better and many of which weren’t even close to rock, so we were more than content to let him slip back into the obscurity he came from.

But there’s a new label in town, Chance Records, who – and this is TOO easy a joke to make – are taking a big chance on using his services on Didn’t I Tell You… a title which serves as an all-too prophetic warning about do business with this doctor who is perpetually at risk for a malpractice suit when it comes to music.

Stylistically speaking it’s only remotely connected to rock – though maybe it IS a little more connected to the rock he was trying his hand at back in 1947 and ’48 his first time around, for whatever that’s worth – but Cash Box for one felt otherwise and to be fair there’s no other genre of music that would have him, so I guess we’re stuck with him.


Didn’t Know What Was Happenin’
The blaring horns… trumpet prominent among them… the lightly plucked string bass… the almost semi-spoken vocals which are structured in an old-school fashion… this has got to be SO far from rock ‘n’ roll circa 1952 that we’re crazy for including it no matter how much people this time of year babble on about “good will towards men”.

But it’s too late to turn back now, so let’s at least carry this charade through to the end by examining the record and picking it apart in ruthless fashion.

Actually the song as written isn’t that bad. Jo Jo Adams almost comes across like a different kind of doctor on the lecture circuit, gently chiding a woman about her romantic deceptions. If it’s meant to be funny it fails, but if it’s only seeking to be mildly amusing it might pass muster as Adams does manage to tell a fairly coherent story, including implicating himself for his own inability to resist this girl.

As it goes along he starts bearing down on the lines a little more, adding the requisite urgency to his delivery which at least takes it further away from the stylistic no-man’s land it was residing in. By the time he lets loose with some emphatic cries of “You’ve got to GO!”, he’s clearly trying to make his case to justify its inclusion.

When the sax break comes along you can almost envision Adams defiantly proclaiming, Didn’t I Tell You this was a rock song?

Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it gets a little closer to the cut-off line with some gritty lines early on before easing up a little too much by the end. From there on in Adams is more or less taking it for granted he’s won us over and though he certainly hasn’t done that by any means, we’re also not insisting that the bouncers forcibly remove him from the premises as I’m sure he’s used to by this point in life.

Though in the end I wouldn’t insist on calling this rock ‘n’ roll, but asking around you’ll find that jazz wants no part of somebody this uncouth, the blues has far too much pride to let him in either, and though reportedly Adams once sang gospel there’s no way that holier than thou constituency would be seen cavorting with such a disreputable character as this.

Which means he’s left on a corner wearing a bright red coat and hat, ringing a bell and asking for handouts, as usual.

If you disagree with granting him entry I definitely can’t blame you on practical grounds, but that said, I’ll leave it to you to kick him out into the cold Chicago streets right before the holidays. After all, I’m still hoping to get presents for my good deeds.


(Visit the Artist page of Dr. Jo Jo Adams for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)