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JUBILEE 5087; JUNE 1952



Apparently Jubilee Records, not to content to deep six Edna McGriff’s promising career with inappropriate arrangements, felt it best to not only double down on that poisonous accompaniment here but to also decide to promote the side containing an outside composition rather than one of her own songs.

Gee, I always thought that record companies wanted their artists to succeed because that meant they’d sell more records which would benefit said company.

All these years I had it backwards… thank you Jerry Blaine for setting me straight!


So Let’s Begin
Time for yet another round Let’s Light Jerry Blaine’s Exhumed Corpse On Fire. If the flames get a little hot for those of you standing too close, feel free to unzip your flies and put it out as you see fit.

In case you were a latecomer to this game, the whole point of it is to show what a colossal idiot record label owners were and how nobody over the age of… oh let’s say 30 to 35… should ever be allowed to make a single decision regarding music aimed at those who are younger than them.

We’ll have more to say on this subject in 1953… and 1954… and ’55.. and probably when covering 1956-2023 as well, so we don’t want to unleash our full arsenal on the irredeemable Jerry Blaine, as it’s not likely to do much good since he died in 1973 before any of us were around to hunt him down, beat him up and make him formally apologize for the wanton destruction of yet another viable career for a rock act.

Fifteen years ago Jerry Blaine was a professional singer himself, but failing to become a star he turned to ruining the careers of other singers, in large part because he retained the musical mindset of someone from 1937. It’s bitterly ironic that the tagline to his name as a performer which touted his “Stream Line Rhythm” was nothing but a cruel joke whose punchline would only become evident when Edna McGriff politely asked him when SHE was going to get a backing track with some of that promised rhythm and he replied indignantly… Not Now!

Too bad for her, and too bad for him as well, because McGriff can flat out sing. She’s got a great voice, excellent technique and the ability to draw out the emotional qualities of the songs… HER songs that is, because she’s also a good songwriter even though she’s only in her mid-teens. But this was not her song, this was not an arrangement suited to rock ‘n’ roll and this was increasingly a label, despite some legitimately good hits along the way, who could be trusted to deliver the goods we expect from them.

Instead their outdated ideas and constant attempts to court older whiter listeners in pop-land was bound for abject failure

Fate Has Sent You To (Torment) Me
We have the same problems on this side that we did on the other side, namely the oppressive presence of steel guitar – here definitely skewing more towards the Hawaiian vibe – and the Hammond organ at the expense of everything else.

We’ve blamed Jubilee – and by extension Jerry Blaine – but there are those who will surely say that bandleader Buddy Lucas is at fault, since Blaine might not be down on the studio floor dictating the arrangement, despite his own musical background.

Fair enough… except for one thing. If YOU were the owner of a record label and your designated bandleader decided to constantly undermine every record’s appeal to the primary rock audience, wouldn’t you step in to set him right… or fire his ass and bring somebody else in more suited to rock?

Of course. Which means that Blaine was probably pushing Lucas to give these songs more of a pop sheen.

As Not Now starts you expect to hear Rosemary Clooney start singing. The organ, that stupid guitar, the lack of any discernable beat, rhythm or pulse… this is where music goes to die. It’s that stuffy wing of the nursing home where nobody speaks in a normal tone of voice because they don’t want to offend the soon-to-be-grieving families gathered there to say goodbye to grandma.

Even when Edna McGriff comes in her vocal tone is impressive as always but because of the awkward song and dreadful music her delivery is stilted and cautious and full of contradictions. She’s overly theatrical, yet still unwilling to stretch out emotionally, letting her voice swell but putting no real feeling into it. As for what she’s singing, who really knows or cares… when you don’t invest yourself in the song, then the words don’t matter. You might as well be singing in a foreign language.

Ironically the best part of this – conditional though that term is here – winds up being Buddy Lucas’s all-too brief sax solo. It’s hardly designed to get you moving, but there’s at least a semblance of soul in him as he blows. Of course when that infernal steel guitar keeps butting in you quickly lose patience and give up on the record, lifting it calmly from the turntable, casually opening the window to your twelfth floor apartment upon which you hurl it like a frisbee halfway across the city.

Just in case you were curious – and I know you were if you had the misfortune to sit through this song – frisbees were conceived in the late 1930’s and so unfortunately we can’t attribute this dismal record to the creation of that magnificent toy… one more strike against Jubilee Records, as if they needed to give us another reason to criticize them after this debacle.

So Don’t Pretend
In an alternate universe there’s a world untouched by intractable systematic racism which would not have essentially made singers like Edna McGriff ineligible for pop stardom in 1952.

In that world McGriff may have chosen this route herself, having had plenty of opportunity growing up to see countless singers with her looks, talent and background heralded as stars with no societal doors slammed in their faces before even opening their mouths.

But the United States in 1952 in our universe wasn’t such a place and because of that Not Now had absolutely no chance to find a receptive audience, something Jubilee Records should have known going in.

Of course, in that make-believe alternate universe where McGriff’s impressive vocal talents would’ve been welcome on any stage, a song like this… STILL wouldn’t be good enough for hit status in any field. It’s a bad composition with a conflicted arrangement and not all of McGriff’s skills can change that in the least.

When an artist isn’t at fault for a record’s glaring weaknesses we try and be as lenient as possible with the grades but as nice as her voice sounds here, everything else is so bad – and so uninspired – that we can’t go overboard and pretend this is even approaching tolerable.

Thus, in this case, the extra point we grant it to keep it out of the basement is as lenient as we can be.


(Visit the Artist page of Edna McGriff for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)