KING 4536; MAY 1952



Of all the established rock artists, nobody’s releases bring as much uncertainty as to what we’ll get than Earl Bostic.

Was he going to actually rock and/or roll on these sides, or was he going to revert back to jazz, explore pop, or decide to invent some new indescribable music with his next performance?

One never knew until they cued the record up and heading into this one, an instrumental take on a song dating back to 1923, we had absolutely no reasonable expectation that it’d qualify under the rock genre no matter how lenient we were in our admission policy.

So naturally he crosses us up by turning this stale piece of ancient jazzy pop into a fairly credible rocker, smirking at us the whole time for doubting him yet again.


The Dawn Of Time
Chances are this is the first time in any telling of rock history that the group Bailey’s Lucky Seven has been mentioned.

For good reason.

They were the ones who cut the first rendition of this song in the fall of 1923 but by no means were they recognized for this achievement much by history since both Paul Whiteman and Fletcher Henderson turned in their own versions soon after… not that it sounds significantly different to my ears, but big names tend to get the attention and Whiteman and Henderson are much bigger names.

But truthfully the song itself, no matter which of the more than two dozen versions that came out prior to Earl Bostic taking a crack at Linger Awhile, seems particularly inviting.

It’s a chintzy sounding song in every incarnation, peppy but not exciting, all seeming to use the instrumental switches for the different sections to disguise the fact there’s not much there. But for some reason it remained a durable title as so many big names ended up cutting it over the next quarter century – from Jimmie Lunceford to Dickie Wells – yet just as suddenly it seemed to die off at the mid-century point.

There it sat, collecting dust since 1949 until the winter of ’52 when The Art Van Damme Quintet released a version featuring prominent accordions on Capitol… naturally you can imagine the excitement THAT stirred in people!

(That was sarcasm, in case it wasn’t obvious).

Whether hearing that spurred Earl Bostic into deciding he could actually turn this piece of fluff into something meaty, or if he just was running out of songs and picked this out at random, he was able to reinvent it and – perhaps coincidentally – the floodgates opened after that and over the next few years everybody from The Andrews Sisters and Sarah Vaughan to Don Byas and Arnett Cobb pulled this out of mothballs themselves.

None however were able to turn it into something reasonably exciting besides Earl Bostic. But then again that’s hardly surprising since he was the only one who had the novel idea to turn it into a rock song and in the process make Bailey’s Lucky Seven spin in their seven unlucky graves.


A Modern View
The first thing that Earl Bostic did in order to remove the stench of decades worth of mildew from the song was to make sure his saxophone was not just front and center, as you’d expect, but to play it with a chip on his shoulder, investing his lines with a gritty edge in the opening to let you know this is definitely not going to be taking this lightly.

He eases off following that to let the melody become established, which quite naturally isn’t nearly as interesting to us, but then he ramps it up again and starts blowing with more fervor and shows that it is indeed possible to turn chicken shit into chicken salad after all.

The lines themselves are structured in a way that they can’t really become flamboyant or truly obscene, no matter how much attitude he tries to inject in them, but while it lasts Linger Awhile definitely doesn’t need to apologize for being in the rock starting lineup.

It can’t last however, not at that level of ruthless efficiency where everything else is stripped back to give him room to romp, and so when he steps aside things start to falter somewhat, even if they don’t completely hand the song back over to the squares.

Actually if Bostic DID draw inspiration from Art Van Damme’s version this is where we see it, as the next section is delivered by vibes, an instrument Bostic has in fact been using on record prior to this and which of course Johnny Otis introduced to the rock lexicon back in 1949, but Van Damme’s record also features a likeminded interlude, though not quite as spryly played as this.

That’s not enough to keep the record on track unfortunately and now it becomes a matter of how deep a hole it will dig that Bostic will have to climb out of.

When he returns he starts to make up for lost ground but while we appreciate his effort we’re no longer either surprised by the transformation of the song, nor as captivated by his playing which wanders a little before tightening things up down the stretch.

Despite hardly being the kind of source material we’d want to hear turned into a rock instrumental, the fact that Bostic was able to make it respectable in that guise is a testament to his never-ending commitment to defying expectations at every turn.

Considering the flip side, Velvet Sunset, is an original composition that sounds as wimpy as its title suggests, it’s fair to say that he wasn’t going to change this maddening dual personality routine any time soon. We’ll continue to be frustrated by his deviations into lightweight offerings, then when we’re about to give up on him he’ll pull something unexpected out of the woodwork like this to remind us why he can never be counted out entirely.


From Here To Eternity
In the years since, despite the decline in popularity of the types of styles this kind of music is appropriate for, the composition has never ceased to be revived with each ensuing generation.

Bing Crosby, Les Baxter, Vic Damone and Earl “Fatha” Hines all revisited it along the way, but maybe the song’s inevitable epitaph came when Lawrence Welk gave it a prominent place in his repertoire, showing a world that had largely moved on just where a song of this nature belonged… the old folks home.

The one – and only – rendition of Linger Awhile that stands out as something radically different is Earl Bostic’s rocking version. While it may not go far enough to fully win us over, it sure goes a lot further than the hundred and fifty and counting takes on the song managed to do.

In the end, though the record itself is largely irrelevant to rock’s evolution, Bostic’s reinvention does show what rock ‘n’ roll itself brought to the table that made the genre so interesting, exciting and enduring.

If rock acts could turn a song this middling into something that got you out of your seat as opposed to nodding off into a deep slumber, what magical feats could they achieve with even better material when they put their mind to it?


(Visit the Artist page of Earl Bostic for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)