KING 4570; OCTOBER 1952



There are some artists who’ve been with us from the very start of rock ‘n’ roll and their presence on these pages is all but assured with each new release.

Then there are those like Earl Bostic who has given us some great, popular, innovative and influential records along the way but who has always taken his talents to other genres and audiences, never fully abandoning us, but rather simply taking leaves of absences from time to time to scratch other musical itches he may have.

But when he does come back to our shores we’ll always be at the dock to meet him and welcome him home.


Someday You’ll Find
It’s somewhat maddening that King Records has now given up promoting any ONE new release in the trade magazines of the day, choosing instead to simply put the cream of the latest crop in a boring column ad that only swaps out a few titles, but never alters much of anything else.

Thus it becomes harder to get a sense of who the label is really banking on to help meet their sales quota each month, as well as to see which new artists they have high hopes for as everybody more or less gets treated equally, big stars and modest talents alike… arguably the one and only form of democracy that leaves something to be desired.

But even in that equitable promotion, there’s usually one name who is regularly releasing singles that doesn’t get mentioned at all… Earl Bostic.

Not because the company no longer has any hopes for hits, but because he sells so consistently no matter what he puts out, that there’s no need to waste the ink. He’s got a following that is steadfast, loyal and true, whether he is playing glorified lounge music, pure jazz, mainstream pop or over-the-top rock ‘n’ roll.

On the surface Smoke Gets In Your Eyes might not seem like a candidate for the latter, at least in 1952, as it was a venerable standard more suited to pop or jazz circles. It’s also true that Bostic never truly cuts loose on it, though he doesn’t tread lightly over it either.

But as we here in the Twenty-First century know, the song will become a rock slow dance classic in a few years when The Platters deliver an epic performance on it, taking it to the top of the charts and so, whether its authors liked it or not (they did not, for what it’s worth… at least until the royalty checks started pouring in), the song did in fact become a rock standard of sorts as well.

Never let that fact escape your notice, that so much of that era’s music (1930’s) would’ve died a slow death if not for rock ‘n’ roll breathing new life into it by altering it enough to make it acceptable to a new generation.

But The Platters were beaten to the punch in that regard by Bostic, a man who quite literally breathed new life into a lot of songs from far-flung sources whenever he blew into his saxophone.


I Can Not Hide
One of the drawbacks to Earl Bostic’s stylistic voyages has been the lack of quality original material, as when he does put pen to paper it’s often trying too hard to be all things to all listeners.

So maybe it’s NOT such a bad thing when he finds an already established song with a really good and familiar melody to work with, giving him the opportunity to focus entirely on what aspects he wants to emphasize and how he’d like to transform it to suit his needs.

Sometimes that might mean playing far too pretty for our tastes, which is fine if he wants to do it, to each their own, but at other times like on Smoke Gets In Your Eyes he shows he’s still got the power to “pop-pop” you in the gut at unexpected moments.

The fact that the melody of this is so-well known and so beautifully constructed makes it an ideal choice for Bostic who can ride it as long as he wants without much embellishment and still have it work, yet he can also add little touches, usually either holding notes longer or stuttering his horn, maybe doing a quick up and down shuffle of notes to make his playing stand out.

But at every turn, whatever route he choose for that passage, this is Earl freakin’ Bostic we’re talking about, someone who was as good on his instrument as any rock other artist ever was on their own weapon of choice.

Here after seeming to initially be sharing the stage with the vibes as was his habit the last two years which might’ve taken this more into the bachelor pad motif, he sort of crowds him out, even though the vibes never leave or never get lowered in the mix. Instead Bostic’s horn just gets more assertive, particularly the way in which he sort of adds another “syllable” when delivering the first “tears I can not Hi-I-ide” while simultaneously bearing down harder on that last word with his horn.

Though it never ceases to be a slow dance song in this rendition, let me assure you that unlike The Platters’ classic turn in 1958, on this one you can definitely do a little grinding with your baby out on the floor with the lights low.

They Asked Me How I Knew
How much credit goes to the songwriters for coming up with an indelible melody that should remain in the common universal language of humanity as long as our descendants have ears, and how much should go to Earl Bostic for giving it a sultry swaying quality that highlights the erotic undertones without overdoing it (not that we’d OBJECT to him overdoing that aspect!) is almost irrelevant.

It’s the record we’re concerned with and if rock haters get some ancillary credit for coming up with the tune, good for them.

But had Smoke Gets In Your Eyes been played completely straight by a more traditional sax player it would not have made the cut around here and would not be getting praised for being a great way to make the transition in your date night from the stage where you are immersed in the public sphere and interacting in some way with everybody around you – be it dinner, a show or even the more energetic dances – to the moments where you both are anticipating the private interactions when you get to be alone at last.

This song is what’s playing in that moment when you are still technically surrounded by others but the longer it plays the more they all fade from view. They may still be there, but they no longer matter because Earl Bostic’s saxophone is busy guiding you to the next, and even more fulfilling, stage of your evening.

If that sounds promising, then this is a record you should have ready to go around 11:30 tonight. Don’t worry… we’ll turn the lights off for you.


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