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The rock career of Eddie Chamblee was far more circumstantial at times than intentional.

As a young jazz veteran he’d been drafted into the rock movement while with Miracle Records, mostly playing behind Sonny Thompson, his saxophone contributing mightily to some huge hits which led to a minor hit of his own, but chances are he viewed it as rather incongruous to his primary interest.

But once you’re branded as something it becomes far more lucrative to pursue that and use your name recognition, industry expectations and the eagerly receptive audience to build on those earlier successes, and so – whether with stoic determination or lingering unease – Chamblee finally seemed poised to more fully embrace the monster he helped to create.


Every Dog Has Its Day
The honking sax instrumental craze is not quite over but it’s peak has certainly subsided as there’s only so many gnarly sounds audiences could take at a time. Furthermore, as successful as those records were over the past few years, there was never – in any form of music outside of jazz – quite as consistent sales in instrumentals as there was in vocal records.

Since it was harder to be distinctive without lyrics you had a lot of rock artists who once cut nothing but instrumentals already turning to vocal records to break up the monotony. Paul Williams had hired a few singers, as had Big Jay McNeely and now Eddie Chamblee was doing the same on Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep.

With a title drawing attention to how clever it thinks it is, you know there’d better be a story attached once you hit play and though Chamblee himself had sung a few lines from time to time if the need arose, he was wise enough to turn to somebody else to handle this one so he could concentrate on what he did best and add the requisite sounds needed to carry this off.

He turned to Danny Overbea, a vaguely familiar name to 1950’s rock fans, a singer and guitarist out of Chicago who had two hits for Chess/Checker in 1953 – and saw his compositions covered by bigger acts along the way – but with his talents he really should’ve been bigger than he was. By all accounts he was a dynamic stage performer, the bridge between T-Bone Walker and Jimi Hendrix on guitar, not so much for his ability on the instrument itself – though he was definitely very good – but rather how he used it as a stage prop in his show with a wide array of splits and playing behind his head thrown in to spice up the act.

But early 1950’s rock was confined to clubs, not huge venues and certainly not television, and so Overbea’s most distinctive attribute was largely unknown to the public at large at the time.

In 1950 he was twenty-four years old, a World War Two vet and a professional musician for four years around the Windy City when he was brought in to provide vocals for Eddie Chamblee. But far from being overwhelmed by the situation, or something of an afterthought on the record, Overbea stamps his personality all over this one from the start.


You Can Run Around, Just Paintin’ The Town
The dramatic stop-time vocal that opens this starts off a little stilted on the first line or two, but Overbea quickly gets his footing and his confidence soars as he settles into the proper groove – one that’s a little cocky perhaps, but engagingly so, as he sings with swinging nonchalance.

At times during the song he slips just a little, whether out of nervousness, inexperience or a lack of comfort during the slower passages, as he seems to be less sure of himself when he’s forced to ease back on the enthusiasm, but for the most part Overbea handles his job exceedingly well, his tone is strong, he grasps the underlying meaning and sly jokes of the lyrics enough to sell them and he confidently rides the modest rhythm the others are laying down.

As the title suggests, Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep is a parable of sorts, lecturing all the people who are cheating on their partners to keep their guard up when out on the town with somebody else, as there’s sure to be someone who will spot you messing around and report your infidelities to the one to whom you’ve already pledged your devotion.

Whether this advice is a public service or not is certainly open for debate. Frankly if you’re fooling around you deserve to get caught, dumped and thrown into the streets for your adulterous actions, so we can’t endorse the “heads up” warning to these selfish louts. That being said however you could argue that Overbea isn’t exactly taking their side and encouraging their behavior so much as he is merely pointing out that they’re not nearly as safe in this crude practice as they assume and maybe they should think twice before stepping out on their significant other for a cheap one night stand.

Since the song doesn’t stoop to giving them advice beyond that general warning we can better appreciate the scope of the message, essentially pointing out that each and every person you come across – from the hat-check girl to the cab driver to the other patrons in the bar or restaurant – are potential witnesses against your crimes.

We wish he’d go into more detail, if only because it would provide ample opportunity to really introduce some colorful scenarios rather than simply repeat the same generic big picture overview, but we get the gist of it anyway, especially since you can hear women tittering in the background, either as the ones spying the wayward man, or as guilty parties in their own right if they’re the ones on some other guy’s arm.

Ethically speaking Overbea remains above it all, half-smirking at the frenzied dance of deception so many people engage in, but maybe that’s just because he himself hasn’t been caught yet and so he feels immune from the consequences.


You Can Slip And Slide And Play On The Side
If Danny Overbea runs the risk of being seen as guilty by association for providing unsolicited counsel for the double-dealing Romeos and immoral Juliets, then Eddie Chamblee is determined to remain above the fray and come across as merely a harsh-eyed critic of this duplicitous practice.

He and the band stay mostly in the background during the meat of this gossipy sermon, blowing a modest tune behind Overbea while hand-claps provide the main rhythmic thrust that keeps this record going.

When Overbea segues into the actual verses (the bulk of the lyrics being variations of the chorus making its structure rather unusual, but enjoyable since those are the strongest parts) that’s when Chamblee starts to provide a melodic counterpoint that seems a little unsure of how much to add. He’s clearly trying not to overwhelm the freshman singer but he’s too deferential in the process and Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep might’ve benefited if he’d been more forceful during these stretches.

But fear not because that’s what instrumental breaks are for and its here where Chamblee grabs the reins as Overbea verbally calls him out to “Blow, Eddie!”.

Though what follows isn’t a storming solo as you might expect, what he does instead is probably more impressive – if not quite as galvanizing – as he blows a sultry, melodic, soulful and suggestive interlude that finds Overbea interjecting cries for him to “Preach it, Eddie”, adding to the thematic undertones nicely in the process.

Now things are churning more and Overbea is clearly getting into the groove being laid down by Chamblee, showing his approval with a hearty “That’s right!” coming just before a nice cracking drum fill that reminds you there are different ways to exhibit power than just a lot of honking noise.

Not that honking noise wouldn’t also have been a suitable – and enjoyable – alternative to this, but we can’t complain because Chamblee is so cool and comfortable throughout his time in the spotlight, his measured response sounding far more critical of the wandering eye brigade that form the topic for this song than a series of accusatory blasts ever could.

The Mice Will Play While The Cat’s Away
Because Premium Records was formed after Miracle Records had shut down earlier in 1950 amidst a flurry of bad deals, bad credit and bad decisions by its owners, this subsequent label of theirs had decidedly limited potential, despite Miracle’s brief run of success in 1948-49 that showed they had a knack for hitting on something marketable.

Somehow, despite having sued them for unpaid session fees, Chamblee held no grudge against them and signed with them to cut these songs (let’s hope he got paid up front in cash) and Overbea would make his own debut as a credited artist on the label the following year before Premium bit the dust as well.

All of which means that Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep probably had no real chance to become a big hit and while it’s no huge loss that it didn’t, there’s enough shown here by both Overbea and Chamblee to see how with better promotion and distribution it might’ve turned enough heads to get noticed.

The real positive with this release though was in giving a very promising singer his first break while at the same time confirming Eddie Chamblee’s commitment to rock ‘n’ roll, something that was never fully ensured.

He may never have had the deep-seated love of the music or the aggressive temperament needed to be a star in the field and maybe he could even be one of those accused of stepping out on his first love, jazz, by taking this rock chick for a night on the town like the song attests. But unlike the philanderers in real life, Chamblee was a welcome sight when he rolled into our part of town and got down to business with those who were more comfortable doing these kinds of dirty deeds.


(Visit the Artist page of Eddie Chamblee as well as Danny Overbea for the complete archives of their respective records reviewed to date)