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DELUXE 3200; DECEMBER, 1948

 
 

 

The city of New Orleans isn’t lacking for identifiable rock stars. As the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and home to perhaps the greatest collection of session musicians rock has ever known – along with Motown’s Funk Brothers and Los Angeles’ Wrecking Crew – the sides that came out of the Crescent City for two full decades can stand with any city in rock’s long illustrious history.

So on one hand there’s been plenty of attention given to its artists over the years and with the sheer number of big name stars they produced so from that standpoint you could argue that it’s likely if they were worth knowing, you’d know them.

But on the other hand with so many who cut sides over the years there’s bound to be those who slipped through the cracks and are all but obscure today, especially those without that one transcendent hit to keep their memory alive. Eddie Gorman falls into that category as a New Orleans rock artist of the late 1940’s whose name wouldn’t likely draw so much as a glimmer of modern recognition.
 

 
Grab Those Hips And Hang On Tight!
Gordon’s main claim to fame – or at least mild notoriety among those who care about such things as long forgotten artists – isn’t his own output but rather the fact Gorman was linked with Chubby Newsom during this period (married to or merely getting cozy with is a matter of some dispute, but he said they were married and so we’ll go along with it). Newsom of course was the bombshell who became the very first female rock artist to score a national hit when her Hip Shakin’ Mama cracked the Billboard charts at the end of 1948.

That explains why Gorman got his contract at the same time, maybe something of a package deal in which DeLuxe was really interested in Chubby and had to take Eddie in the bargain.

It proved to be worth it when Newsom became something of a minor star, but also because Gorman, charity case though it may have intended to be, had some success as well. Though hardly an ideal vocalist with his tendency to wander off-key in a low bass rumble that was a long way off from the heights of Jimmy Ricks of The Ravens, he actually scored some verifiable regional hits around the south. Don’t Worry ‘Bout Nothin’ started things off right for him, topping the charts in Atlanta as 1949 commenced. That’s all of the information we have unfortunately since Cash Box varied which regional charts they showed each week, but rarely would a song hit Number One for a lone week without spending time in the Top Ten leading up to its ascent and then again on its way back down again, so chances are it was a consistently strong seller for awhile in the area.

When you study the credits for this record it starts to make sense why it connected as it did as Gorman isn’t required to carry the load all by himself. Joining him is Paul Gayten who wrote it, produced it and played piano on it and whose track record is already brimming with hits. Though Gayten himself is nowhere near the recognizable name today that his talents are deserving of, he at least as some modern familiarity among true rock historians and New Orleans aficionados in particular. But sadly Gayten’s catalog, both his own records and those he played on or produced during this period of his career, has been poorly served in the modern era with far too many of his songs unavailable in any form but the original 78 RPM releases that are seventy years old.

Though Gayten, along with his most frequent vocalist, Annie Laurie, are still waiting for a comprehensive collection of their work to be undertaken the chances for that happening at some point improved when Ace Records of Great Britain acquired DeLuxe’s catalog a few years back and gradually began to exhume the vaults to bring this period to light.

One of the first releases to cover this ground was with the magnificent Beef Ball Baby, a collection named after Gorman’s next single which gathers many of the stray sides from this period of not just Gorman but also his wife along with future stars Dave Bartholomew, Smiley Lewis, Jewel King and the ever reliable Cousin Joe. But while those artists have gotten at least some of their due over the years for their work at this time the same can’t be said for Eddie Gorman.
 


 

We’ll Pitch A Ball
Now it probably helps to state right off that within that collection of artists it’s obvious that Eddie Gorman has by far the weakest skill set with which to work. His voice is distinctive mostly for its deep tones but aside from that he’s got something of a generic approach to his vocals when singing, yet he compensates by being something of a thespian, throwing in half-spoken asides, be they dramatic or humorous, which gives him far more character.

On Don’t Worry ‘Bout Nothin’ his role is that of a persistent would be lothario who has a curious mix of confidence and relative inexperience, or at least an apparent lack of consistent success. He’s hitting on a girl who seems to be indifferent to his pleas, yet he never becomes desperate, frustrated or crude in his attempts. It’s almost as if he thinks she’s just playing hard-to-get and is treating this like a game which he’s more than happy to play along with.

Normally this is where I’d mock his clueless attitude and chide him for being so lacking in self-esteem to resort to following her around so that he can continue hitting on her, hoping her response will change. I’d advise him that if the potential relationship has any chance of working he can’t be groveling for her attention because she’ll never respect him. I’d tell him that the far better approach would be to show casual disinterest on the surface, almost as if he finds her just mildly intriguing which hopefully will spark HER competitive instincts and lead this woman to make a stronger play for him instead. With the balance of power thereby shifted he’d be the one in the driver’s seat rather than hanging onto the door frame as he runs alongside her car trying to hop on the running board before she pulls into traffic.

But while in the story he’d better served by taking on a less subservient attitude, in real life he seemed to do just fine whatever his approach was, as he managed to snag Chubby Newsom and the rest of the men lusting after her fine frame did NOT, so while I’d stand by the general assertion that it’s always better to exude nonchalant confidence when dealing with the opposite sex, Eddie Gorman might beg to differ if this was indeed how he captured her heart.

But then again he’s likely just playing a role because his efforts within the context of Don’t Worry ‘Bout Nothin’ seem not to be having much effect. He then tries to bribe her, offering both a Cadillac and a diamond ring if she’ll just “be nice” to him. But as he then reveals she hasn’t even consented to give him her phone number yet and so his chances at even getting to first base with this girl are pretty low, expensive automobiles and fancy rocks or not.
 

Be Nice To Me
If he’s looking to the usually stellar Gayten to aid his cause he’s not going have much luck. Though the primary backing is modestly suitable, just a gently swaying riff that doesn’t draw much attention to itself, with throbbing horns and a steady acoustic bass thrumming demurely behind it with a few piano and guitar accents, the break is where they need to stand out and yet that’s precisely where they lose their way.

That it starts out well with a saxophone gently curling around the melody like smoke from a neglected cigarette back in the days when such things were deemed exotic rather than sickly (both the noxious tobacco and the underpowered sax lines), adding a decent ambiance to the proceedings. But that mood dissipates the moment the trumpet comes barging into the room… too loud, too shrill, too drunkenly exuberant… wandering around aimlessly and driving away the girl Gorman is hitting on, along with the rest of the patrons sitting nearby and half the listening audience as well.

Of course our disdain for the trumpet in rock is well established but we keep trying to insist that it’s not the instrument itself that we take issue with, but rather the overbearing style of playing that carried over from other musical forms.

This was always a risk in New Orleans where the trumpet ruled – it’s where Louis Armstrong was from for goodness sakes! – and as such it always took a more prominent role there than in say Memphis, Los Angeles or Detroit. But nobody in these early days of rock had managed to find a suitable balance between its harsher tones and the requirements of the songs which called for a lighter touch with it when contrasted with the deeper romping tones of the sax players.

Gayten clearly hasn’t found a solution for that yet and so he allows the trumpeter to run wild over the long instrumental break, killing its already compromised momentum and setting up an uneasy disconnect between its grating higher tones and Gorman’s deep voice when he reappears in a doomed effort to further push his case for romantic fulfillment.

As a result Don’t Worry ‘Bout Nothin’ sounds almost like two different songs, or at least one song trying to appeal to two different audience mindsets. The instrumental interlude is for those in a dim café late at night drinking wine and pretending to be conversant in French, while Gorman’s more earthy perspective is for those at the corner bar drinking draft beer and maybe doing a shot or two of whiskey while barely understanding the limited nuances of the English language.

Because of this it doesn’t connect fully with either crowd even if its shortcomings never really get under your skin and leave you exasperated. It’s hard to see how this found such a receptive audience in one pocket of the South to make it the most popular song in a major metropolitan city, but Gorman is affable enough with his never-say-die irrational hope in landing this girl that you’ll happily listen to him keep trying his luck until something else steals your attention from his futile pursuit.
 

Give Me Your Number
There’s been few artists through rock’s first year and a half that are as tough to peg as Eddie Gorman right out of the box. He’s not just a lost figure historically but seemed to be one of the first cases of somebody whose success at the time (which, spoiler alert, continues next time out as well) was almost met with indifference. It’s not just that he failed to keep his career rolling after some good early commercial returns, but that he wasn’t even afforded an opportunity to do so. Once he and Newsom split Eddie Gorman fell off the face of the earth apparently – though of course seeing what he lost in Chubby’s companionship would make most guys want to jump off a cliff, or at least join a monastery in Tibet or something.

I suppose the easiest corollary would be with Joe Swift, another marginally talented but obviously flawed singer with some notable success who all of a sudden disappeared from the recording scene at a time when rock’s presence as a whole was rapidly expanding with more record labels appearing on the scene all the time and presumably in need of artists to fill out their roster. How two artists with proven track records, modest though they may be, failed to find steady employment so soon after their breakthroughs is one of the mysteries of an industry that often doesn’t make sense even in the best of circumstances.

But that eventuality is still around the corner. For now the bigger mystery is how something that can best be described as “halfway decent” managed to transcend those limited aspirations and find an audience.

Maybe he was giving away free pictures of Chubby Newsom with every record bought. If so I’ll take ten copies myself and give Gorman the benefit of the doubt heading into his next offering, even if most of that time is spent admiring Newsom’s more apparent charms, not only visually but vocally as well.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Eddie Gorman for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)