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KING 4316; OCTOBER 1949



The title of this song – and the implication as to its impropriety – poses a reasonable question I suppose… except for one nagging pertinent fact: There are many gravy recipes that call for wine, thereby making the entire premise of this rare vocal turn on an Earl Bostic release something of a misnomer.

But then again by the sounds of this they were too sloshed after their meal to really give a damn.

So pull up a chair, dig in and hand your car keys over to someone who’s fasting and can act as your designated driver.


Pass That Jive Around
Any way you look at it this is a strange course being served up by Earl Bostic, who was not known for either vocal records or a sense of humor.

But then again he’s been veering from one lane to another artistically over the last year or so ever since his first few rock instrumental releases helped to set the entire concept of how it should be properly done into motion and so I guess you can’t say you’re truly surprised if he suddenly swerves in yet another direction while hurtling down the road. But singing? That’s not something we expect to see from him, or want to for that matter.

In Bostic’s case this move into singing most likely was a plan of producer Henry Glover, the former trumpeter with Lucky Millinder’s band, who wrote this song. Glover knew the value of diversification, something we’ve preached constantly since we started this endeavor, and with his vast experience I’m sure he understood that without a great vocalist to handle those sides it was probably smarter to use something of a novelty approach when it came to Bostic’s singing efforts. Okay, fair enough, you say, what does he have in mind?

Well, he’s actually got something that’s been on his mind for a long, long time and that’s part of the problem. Though Glover’s songwriting credentials are beyond question, with Who Snuck The Wine In The Gravy he’s a few years behind the curve, not to mention a few steps away from the fundamental rock attitude. This was honestly something more suited to Glover’s old cohort in Millinder’s crew, the affable Bull Moose Jackson who was now a big star himself on King, under Glover’s direction no less.

In Jackson’s hands this would’ve been more amusing, as his personality lent itself to this kind of mildly suggestive but by no means scandalous tale that was all the rage in the pre-rock era. Louis Jordan of course provided the prototype for this kind of song, though usually with more humor AND subversive insight than others who followed in his footsteps showed.

But then again considering Bostic’s fluctuating stylistic pursuits maybe this wasn’t such a bad attempt to make. No, it wouldn’t solidify his credentials with us in the rock world, but it fits in well enough where we’re not going to be blocking his entry to the party… especially if that wine he’s serving his half as potent as he makes it out to be.


Meal Time
Any lighthearted song runs the risk of not being funny enough to earn repeated listens, nor musical enough – if they’re relying mostly on the story for its appeal – to compensate for something that’s only mildly amusing at best.

That’s the case here with Who Snuck The Wine In The Gravy, a vignette that is good enough to listen to every so often but not enough to have you asking for seconds once you’re at the table.

It starts off strong with Bostic blowing a really catchy intro that gets answered, somewhat gratingly, by the other horns, but Earl’s line, as basic as it may be, is something you could easily build an entire song around with that as the primary refrain.

The vocals when they come in are a group effort with Bostic blowing behind them. They employ a semi-chanted rhythm which works well enough, I mean it’s doubtful these guys were great singers so this approach lessens their burden considerably, but it’s hardly invigorating, especially for something trying to qualify in the rock realm.

When Earl puts his sax down and starts to talk, not sing, providing the details of the story it definitely holds your interest and prods you into a few intermittent grins… not laughs, nor even full-fledged smiles, which sort of tells you the limitations the song is working with. His vocals are delivered in a sort of simpleton tone, not that he’s playing the character as an idiot by any means, but they’re clearly trying to extract some more humor out of the situation by having his voice waver as he recounts how dinner turned into something just short of a drunken orgy.

Needless to say it doesn’t work.


Who Mixed That Jive With The Meat?
It’s pretty obvious… okay, it’s as plain as day… that Who Snuck The Wine In The Gravy is basically a re-worked version of a now-four year old song that we’ve talked about at length on these pages before, one which Glover played a big part in since it was cut by Millinder’s outfit when they were fronted by a cat we know well named Wynonie Harris.

The song was a vital pre-rock effort called Who Threw The Whiskey In The Well and it doesn’t take a genius to see the connection to this song, right down to the cadence of the lead line and to be truthful most of the particulars of the story.

But the thing is it’s not as GOOD of a story due to the changed setting and circumstances. In “Whiskey” the perpetrator was a church deacon and those unwittingly imbibing in the spiked water were the parishioners who began acting in a devilish manner once the booze hit their system which was a far more risqué than a dinner party where alcohol would probably be served anyway.

Besides, but this point with two sequels to the Harris cut (both sung by the aforementioned Jackson) the act has worn thin and when you just have a family sitting around the dinner table getting a bit of a shock by the amount of Sneaky Pete in the gravy they poured over their meat and mashed potatoes, the effect isn’t nearly the same, especially with somebody who takes a back seat to both of those characters in the vocal department.

Sobered Up From The Spell
Maybe if the record let Bostic do what he does best this could be salvaged, at least a little, but his playing behind the chorus is not very gripping and when it’s time to solo it’s not Bostic alone who takes it, as you’d expect. Instead it’s all of the horns and while that has the recipe for disaster written all over it, especially with the trumpet taking a major role, this part actually winds up being by far the most enjoyable aspect of the entire record, though that’s hardly saying much.

What they’re playing though in the solo isn’t rock, but rather Dixieland, or something replicating a Dixieland feel. Maybe it’s just my affinity for the style itself – not in heavy doses, but it’s usually a gratifying sound when I come across it – that makes it more of a pleasant surprise than an unwelcome intrusion, yet even I have to admit it doesn’t quite fit.

Well, it fits the song’s arrangement I guess, but that tells you a lot about how the arrangement itself was hardly suited to rock. In the end that crucial misstep pretty much makes the entire question of Who Snuck The Wine In The Gravy moot because you’re not getting even a mild buzz off this wine-infused gravy no matter how much you consume.

That’s the unfortunate aspect of this when you get right down to it. If he was going to allow himself to be steered in a slightly different direction it’d be best if that direction led to more blistering forms of rock that he was so capable of delivering and in the process let everybody at the table get ripped from what he’s playing.


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