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This is our second entry in our first annual – and hopefully last – holiday giveaway, as we grant the wish of little Jo Jo Adams who wants his record reviewed for Christmas.

Aside from the fact that Adams is far too old to be sitting on Santa’s lap in a department store asking for presents, there’s also the question of whether or not these songs even qualify as rock. But since he’s made an earlier appearance on these pages back in 1948 singing on a cut by sax star Tom Archia, we’ll humor the good Doctor and let him have his way.

I’m sure that for many reading these pages however, the sight of such a character wasting space here is the equivalent of getting a lump of coal in your stocking.

Sorry ’bout that.

But I assure you, we did save the best present he has to offer for last if that’s any consolation.


Suits Me To A “T”
If Jo Jo Adams was an unlikely figure when he first tried his hand in rock ‘n’ roll back in 1948, a time when nobody was quite sure what it entailed stylistically, then he must seem like an alien crash landing on the scene five years later in 1952.

Now in his mid-30’s (at least) and a long-time club performer where the audiences he performed for were hardly the kind of kids who bought rock ‘n’ roll, he was not the kind of guy a reputable record company would look to sign in order to make headway in this field.

But Chance Records had little choice. A floundering company who’ve managed to release only two dozen singles in their first two years on the scene they were the definition of irrelevant in the marketplace when they looked around their Chicago neighborhood and saw Dr. Adams shingle hanging outside a dilapidated hovel somewhere and figured, “Oh, hell… what do we have to lose?” and signed him up.

Maybe they were placated by the fact he once had cut records for Aladdin Records, one of the best labels in all of rock, and while their ensuing success had nothing to do with Adams pre-rock contributions, his presence on their roster didn’t send them into bankruptcy either.

Then there was the fate of Aristocrat Records, for whom he recorded his quasi-rock sides for back in 1948, a company that soon transformed itself into Chess Records and were now the most promising independent label operating in the Windy City. Maybe after a few drinks Chance Records talked themselves into those pieces of evidence meaning something.

Adams brought with him his own compositions, including I’ve Got A Crazy Baby, which might’ve been necessary because it’s unlikely Chance Records could afford to hire freelance writers to feed him good material.

But it while it might’ve been easier for all involved to let him sing his own songs, Adams was well outside the loop of the current music scene and so it was hardly qualified as a sound game plan.

Plays Crazy Just For Me
With a name like Melvin Moore’s Orchestra, it’s doubtful the band is going to contribute much to the cause and sure enough as this starts off with stuttering horns you fear the worst.

It’s a lively sound maybe, but not an invigorating one and when Jo Jo Adams comes in sounding somewhat out of breath you assume he got locked out of the studio and had run up the back stairs as if he were afraid Chance Records might’ve decided to just let this become an instrumental in his absence.

But once he starts to sing you’re glad that wasn’t the case, for the song itself proves that Dr. Adams could write more than just prescriptions. I’ve Got A Crazy Baby might not be very deep but it has a fairly coherent story at least, raving about his sweetheart. Of course when he compares this girl to his grandmother you wonder if he’s trying to hedge his bets and figures if the kids don’t go for his antiquated idea of rock, maybe the old folks will instead.

But along the route to the retirement community, Adams shows – briefly anyway – that he’s still got a little life in him, as he sings the bridge with notable vigor, almost shouting it in a way that’s not half bad. Of course this wears him out and so he needs to dial it back down pretty quickly, but it’s just enough to keep us from walking out on him and seeing if they’re still offering free electroshock treatments at the medical school he got his diploma from.

We’re glad we stuck around too because when he steps aside the “orchestra” shows they may have had their windows down while driving past a juke joint across the tracks, as the tenor sax lets himself cut loose and delivers a really solid solo… or at least it starts off great before running out of steam a bit.

Still, that’s two highlights to point to, which is two more than we expected out of this crew of vagabonds.

Unfortunately they don’t have a third wind in them, but to their credit they don’t let the energy drop too far down the stretch and so while we’re fully conceding this is well behind the curve, at least we might not have our sanity questioned for deciding to include this. Instead we can leave the vacancy in the nuthouse for the reviewer at Billboard magazine who must’ve been a very satisfied patient of Doctor Adams to risk their career by effusively hyping this record without even the slightest hint of sarcasm.


When Dusk Falls
Although this is hardly a current approach to rock ‘n’ roll, it does at least serve as a vehicle to check in on the changes that have taken place since the first time we entered this doctor’s office.

Wouldntcha know, most of the things we railed against even then – having brass sections just as prominent as the reeds, the intermittent enthusiasm of the singers, the rote lyrics that stir little passion – are the things that Dr. Jo Jo Adams still has in abundance here.

But while I’m Crazy Baby has the general appearance of an interloper in 1952, it does help to remember that in 1948 this would’ve been far more acceptable to rock audiences and at least he’s incorporated a few of the changes that have taken place since then in an effort to keep up.

With that in mind, and with an extra serving of holiday cheer, we’ll be a little more forgiving of its era-related shortcomings than this Ghost Of Christmas Past probably deserves. Besides, I did say it was better than the other half and while there ARE degrees of separation within a single grade, we’ll be merry and bright and bump it up a point so you won’t have to read between the lines and parse each word to find the difference yourself.

But lemme tell ya, if this is the kind of gift giving that’s expected during this season, no wonder people are so relieved that “Christmas comes but once a year!”.


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