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DELUXE 3209; FEBRUARY, 1949

 
 

 

Welcome to Act Two of the strange short-lived career of Eddie Gorman. Just so you don’t have to peak ahead we’ll inform you that other than flip side to this record there’ll be no Act Three.

That would seem to indicate one of two things. Either his releases were awful records that drew absolutely no interest from anyone and he was immediately cut loose to save the company from having to waste the raw materials it took to press the records… or else he died before he could get back in the studio.

But Eddie Gorman the person did indeed live on and as for his records, well, his first time out he topped the local charts in Atlanta and with this record he did even better, as this hit the Top Ten on multiple Cash Box regional listings from Atlanta (#2) to Detroit to Jacksonville and his home town New Orleans.

All of which leads to a rather obvious question: If this guy was consistently selling records why on earth would he not get another release after this to make some struggling company some money?

Unfortunately the next two thousand or so words which make up the rest of this review won’t be able to answer that question to anyone’s satisfaction, including ours, but hopefully it’ll cover everything else of importance for a song that demands to be heard by an artist who’s otherwise long forgotten.
 

 
I Tried And Tried
As we covered last time around with Eddie Gorman his primary claim to fame was being the husband of Chubby Newsom, rock ‘n’ roll’s first female star and the prototype for all of the sultry bombshells who followed in her wake.

It’s likely that his connection to her is what got him his recording contract with DeLuxe soon after she released her big hit in November 1948. Nothing unusual there – companies seeking to secure a potential star like Newsom would gladly hand out a contract out of nepotism to ensure she signed and was happy. The cost of releasing one or two bad records to no sales is not very large to begin with and are probably just considered tax write-offs.

They even went so far as to issue his first release, Don’t Worry ‘Bout Nothin’, on one side of a record credited to their resident jack-of-all-trades (songwriter, pianist, singer and producer) Paul Gayten, showing perhaps how little faith they had in what Gorman had to offer. But when that song hit the top of the charts in a big market like Atlanta suddenly their possible tax write-off was bringing IN money.

So Gorman was brought back into the studio, this time for a full session not just one song like last time. He cut two sides on that date, both of which went unreleased including one of which was an answer record to his wife’s then current record Bedroom Blues, cleverly titled Answer To Chubby’s Bedroom Blues (HOW do they think of such things? They must brainstorm for days to find the perfect fit).

For whatever reason they didn’t release it even though it’s not a bad record at all (this in spite of the loud trumpet squawks that dominate the accompaniment at times). Maybe they didn’t want to overshadow Newsom as her career was taking off, or maybe because Bedroom Blues itself DIDN’T take off as they hoped and so an answer record to one that was underachieving wasn’t considered wise.

But frankly it still would’ve been a sensible thing to do just to help to advance their careers because it would’ve set Gorman up to be part of a back and forth drama with Chubby, something which might not have worked great on record – though certainly would’ve been more than acceptable for B-sides – but which WOULD’VE been very advantageous for them on stage. Package tours were commonplace then and it was a sure thing that Gorman would be accompanying his wife and thus giving them the chance to trade off on a few related songs would’ve given him a more natural role to play than if his stand-alone records turned out to be duds and he still demanded to be included in the show.

They didn’t do that however, perhaps simply because they didn’t want audiences who lusted for Newsom to even know she had a husband so her male fans could enjoy their fantasies about her without Gorman intruding in their dreams.

Of course the other reason – at least initially – might’ve been the second side they cut, Worrying About My Love was totally incompatible with rock ‘n’ roll. It was a stilted pop record with florid backing by Gayten that was intended for a much different audience, something along the lines of what Arthur Prysock was successful with at the time. The funny thing about it though is that once you get over the shock of hearing it following his more ribald initial offering you realize that Gorman actually delivers this mawkish style a bit better than he did that earlier rock side where he struggled at times to get his bearings.

Now it’s in no way something that we here in rock land can relate to, but if dreamy lovelorn pop was your thing (and in 1949 there were plenty who did flock to it) this would be more than acceptable to those tastes and could very well have picked up some listeners. But it too sat on the shelf as they went back to the drawing board and those two sides remained unheard until finally put out on 2015’s excellent Beef Ball Baby which collects all of Gorman’s sides (released and unreleased both) plus lots of other more accomplished New Orleans rock artists’ work from this era, including the first sides of Newsom, Dave Bartholomew and Smiley Lewis, all of whom we reviewed here.

So still needing something to issue on Gorman while he was reasonably hot they brought him back in the studio a month later and cut four more sides, his LAST four in his career, only two of which saw the light of day sharing both sides of this, his final single. But rather than a creative or commercial dead-end as one might expect from that foreboding news Telephone Blues actually extended his run of hits and deservedly so.
 


 

Give Me A Line
Unlike on the unissued pop ballad where he croons with reasonable effectiveness here we get another dose of Gorman the sly hepster, half singing, half speaking, sounding like he was raised in an alley and breastfed pure gin, where when growing up instead of playing checkers or jacks as a kid he instead learned to shoot craps and deal Coon Can.

As a result this is a similar approach to the one he took on Don’t Worry ‘Bout Nothin’ but while his delivery was only modestly tolerable in that case, this time out he’s got a much better song to work with and he really carries it off with the perfect mindset, nailing this character as if it were autobiographical.

Before we even get to him though Gayten gets a nice spotlight in the intro bashing the ivories after a stand-up bass sets the scene. Gorman, sounding sleepy-eyed and a bit lecherous (if not a bit drunk), enters the picture as he drawls that Gayten “sure is playing some fiiiiiine piano this mornin” before launching into the brief backstory that sets up the plot involving his woman who is suspiciously incommunicado with him as he tries repeatedly to get her on the phone which has him fearing the worst about the status of their union.

So far there’s nothing really surprising about this. A whole lot of songs from this era kick off in similar fashion, setting an all too familiar scene of dissatisfied women leaving their no-account men which indicates that there were plenty of available ladies on the rebound with none-too-high expectations from their previous failed relationships.

Oh well, we’re about seven decades too late to capitalize on this information I suppose, but we quickly forget about missing out on this buyer’s market for the gals because when the proper singing kicks in forty seconds into Telephone Blues Eddie Gorman sounds as much like The Ravens’ Jimmy Ricks as you could hope for, something that was surely intentional, and that’s when the song, which was already shaping up to be very solid, really takes off.
 

I Wonder Who’s On Her Line
Considering the popularity of those Ravens and the distinctiveness of Ricks’s deep as a mineshaft bass vocals DeLuxe Records had to be ecstatic that in Eddie Gorman they might have somebody who could compete with Ricks and, on this record at least, do so with an element of humor that was always tough to competently execute. But if this was any indication of his skills in that regard it may have been an element that could really set him apart as he delivers each inference with the right comedic touch. From suspicious to exasperated to incredulous he never fails to hit his mark.

Even more good news is that while Gorman doesn’t have the obvious advantage of the other Ravens harmonizing in the background with their magnificent vocal blend he also doesn’t have the DIS-advantage of having them inject far too many pop sensibilities into their deliveries, which as we know all too well was something that Ravens fans had to tolerate far more frequently than we’d like to hear. In other words, though probably intended as a Ravens pastiche they wisely jettisoned the one drawback their records always featured and focused instead on what worked best, distilling the formula down to its ever-reliable basic components.

Ahhh, but we’re still not done ticking off the advantages that Telephone Blues has over so many of The Ravens cuts which have set such a high benchmark in rock to date, because while Gorman’s lacking the aforementioned male vocal group behind him he does get a female group to carry out that task and they sound absolutely fantastic! Sadly there’s no indication of who they might’ve been, but there’s a chance – and I’m only surmising here, not making even a halfway educated guess so take it only for what it is which is nothing but a shot in the dark – that it could be Newsom herself along with perhaps Annie Laurie who worked extensively with Gayten.

I mean, it’s certainly possible, isn’t it?

Usually in the future uncredited female groups taking on this role were established studio groups like Motown’s great trio The Andantes, or on the West Coast in the early 1960’s you’d have Darlene Love and The Blossoms. But in 1949 studio session singers weren’t being used on these kind of record sand so there weren’t any to call upon because those types of self-contained independent groups just didn’t exist. Maybe these girls were some hopefuls given a chance to show their stuff on record, but since nothing else of this sort followed this release to maybe try and narrow down the possibilities chances are it was just an ad hoc collection of singers enlisted by Gayten for this particular job. But whatever the source of their origins what they deliver here sounds perfect – soulful, sassy and sharp as can be. Since Gorman alternates between spoken asides and sung lyrics their presence keeps this in a more melodic groove than it’d have been with just his own voice on the record and you can focus on them and be just as carried away by their performance as any lead vocals we’ve heard to date.

They’re truly one of the most unexpected finds of any record thus far in rock’s journey and I can’t say enough about them, but sadly can’t say more without knowing just who they are for certain. If you want a sneak peak into the future though, here’s your chance to see where that long-lived model originated.
 

The Phone Is Busy
As for the song itself it’s deliciously juicy with implications without ever doing more than showcasing Gorman’s frazzled state of mind over not being able to contact his girl. Though we get little in the way of details about what led to this you can see how he’s desperately trying to maintain his confident demeanor as he goes along, maybe just to impress the operator should his current relationship fall apart and he wants to… umm… call on her perhaps? But of course he has to know full well that his current girl is on the verge of dumping his sorry ass for unnamed transgressions which we can all probably guess without the need of cliff notes.

Let’s see… drinking? Gambling? Staying out all night? Bringing home a fresh case of herpes to give to her as a surprise?

Any or all of these are not just possible but likely from the sound of his flippant attitude. Even the spoken sections that always threaten any song that deploys them as extensively as Telephone Blues does manages to retain a musical underpinning that keeps it on track. He makes the transition from singing to talking sound entirely natural throughout this, using it as a dramatic device to trigger the next revelation while adding vivid shadings to his character.

As he nears the inevitable resolution to the saga which not surprisingly finds him getting thrown out of the house after his repeated phone calls to her go unanswered, the confident front he’s putting up slowly unravels, almost as if he can’t believe it’s come to this. Though we in the listening audience could see this coming a mile away it’s still a first rate acting job to pull off the sudden realization of his fate without either underselling it or overdoing it.

Meanwhile Gayten is in top form here, playing high on the keyboard’s register at times, hammering out notes that emphasize the tightrope walk Gorman is undergoing as he tries to balance his bravado with his deeper realistic concerns over who she might be talking to on the constantly busy phone line about his no good ways. When Gayten’s not embellishing things with his right hand his left is anchoring the song’s rhythm without drawing undue attention to it, never relenting, keeping you moving forward at a steady clip and maintaining the storyline’s cliffhanging tension as it goes along.

There’s not a horn to be found anywhere on this which is rather surprising considering their usual featured role in all of rock at the time and their prevalence in New Orleans arrangements in particular. Yet the song isn’t lacking any because of their absence, in fact the track itself sounds full and vibrant with just the basic rhythm section on board and even some of those, like Jack Scott’s guitar (who also wrote this, for what it’s worth), only get a few noticeable licks in to make their presence felt.

But again, less seems to be more here and you can’t pick out a single misstep anywhere on this record, it’s as well constructed from front to back as anything you could find at the time.
 

Ring, Operator, Ring
Over the course of seven decades in a style of music that has long since spread globally with more and more distinct subgenres popping up over time offering tens of thousands of artists and total singles numbering well into the hundreds of thousands if not millions by now there’s bound to be guys who get lost to the pages of history and Gorman is obviously one of those who have been completely forgotten.

We were almost guilty of that ourselves here on Spontaneous Lunacy, only going back slightly after the fact to add his scant three sides to the ever growing list of records in rock’s early days for completeness sake if nothing else. But while some of those who were similarly given last minute reprieves so as to have more of their sides appear here might not have really been necessary in order to tell rock’s full story in the depth it deserves, in Gorman’s case it turns out to be completely – and unexpectedly – necessary.

Eddie Gorman was somebody who may have gotten a break in being signed to begin with but once he got that break he earned his keep. His first record wasn’t great but it was a legitimate hit and with Telephone Blues he delivers a hit that is truly a great record, one not only worth remembering but worth celebrating. In fact all things considered from production, arranging and songwriting to Gorman’s own delivery and that of the anonymous female backing vocal group, this is a shining example of how rock ‘n’ roll gelled so effortlessly at times right from the start.

So yes, it may have indeed taken awhile for someone to pick up the phone that Gorman was calling on but we’re thankful he didn’t hang up before we got a chance to hear and to appreciate what he was laying down, because – rather shockingly having gone into covering his output with such modest expectations – this one stands as pretty terrific.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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