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JUBILEE 5090; JULY 1952



Every so often around here somebody we cover, either directly or indirectly, gets lambasted for stupid decisions they make which aside from lacking any attempts at creativity wind up being counterproductive to boosting their own commercial prospects or furthering the cause of rock ‘n’ roll as a whole.

Usually we try and keep these to a minimum, confining it to one section of a review, or even just mentioning something in passing with only enough context to have it make sense, because frankly who wants to read long diatribes when you could – and should – be outside enjoying the fresh air and sunshine… or dank air and moonlight if you prefer.

Today is different though. Partly it’s because we know that there are probably very few who are really interested in seeing a song like this covered in a deep analytical manner to begin with.

Mostly however, it’s because the offending party is a repeat offender and since he’s dead and thus we can’t horsewhip him for his crimes, we need to find another way to bring him to task for being completely unfit for his job.


Will You TRY And Give One Little Thought To Me?
The inescapable object lesson in so many of Jubilee’s releases is that Jerry Blaine was not just an idiot – a common malady for record label bosses – but a delusional idiot.

Again, that’s probably redundant when it comes to this field.

So far the label has lucked into two hitmakers… The Orioles, who they’ve managed to make increasingly irrelevant by trying to push them towards bland pop far too often… and more recently Edna McGriff, a 16 year old singer/songwriter whose smash out of the gate, Heavenly Father, gave Blaine another hard-on for the pop listings even though that single didn’t quite manage to crack those charts despite his claims to the contrary.

That song, hoping her boyfriend remains safe while shipped off to fight and die in Korea for no good reason at all, was what’s referred to as a secular plea and since it made waves Blaine has had McGriff repeatedly try and repeat that “formula”. Along those lines this very month he released two more of these things on Jubilee 5089 wherein the religious aspect has been placed front and center… as if THAT was what made the first record so popular.

In case you were wondering, they’re not close to rock ‘n’ roll and are sickeningly bad no matter what genre has the misfortune to house them as penance for some unnamed crime. One of them, Pray For A Better World, has you ready to pray that an atom bomb would be accidently dropped on the Jubilee offices to prevent the suffering of the rest of humanity should they have the misfortune of hearing it.

At the same time as that came out, he issued her duet with Sonny Til, Once In Awhile, making it her third release in a matter of weeks, trying to sop up every last bit of gravy on the commercial plate while it was still hot.

But once again Blaine isn’t happy ruining her prospects for a thriving career simply by flooding the market… no, he wanted to make sure he dug her a hole so deep that she couldn’t climb out of no matter how well she sang by giving her and Sonny a dreadful pop song which features an arrangement taken directly from the Aloha Lounge in the Halekulani Hotel.

Yeah, you read that right and no, I don’t claim to understand it either. Just consider yourself warned.

Love’s Smoldering Embers
It’d be one thing if Blaine decided to keep throwing away Edna McGriff’s primary releases on worthless garbage if he then used these duets with Sonny Til to sort of rectify the situation with something a lot less feeble. Not that it’d be RIGHT to do, but at least it’d offer a sign that he was aware of the need for different approaches to maximize her chances for success.

Instead he doubles down on his futile stabs for pop acceptance here by having them cover Patti Page’s current hit Once In Awhile, a record notable – as was usually the case with Page – for her multi-tracked vocals allowing her to sing alongside herself.

Rather than clone McGriff to duplicate that gimmick he gets Sonny to join the fun instead, though they don’t actually harmonize but rather sing to one another on alternating stanzas. McGriff sounds better than Til does here – we’ve never doubted her vocal abilities – but together they sound a little too disparate style-wise for this to work.

He’s more anguished while she’s totally under control and since it was written for just one singer (or four Patti Pages) the lyrics don’t play that division up which might’ve gotten it to connect a little better. They’re both expressing the same feelings but are like night and day in their deliveries, which tends to alter the meaning behind what they’re saying. With him seeming desperate and her acting unconcerned there’s an obvious disconnect here which might make you want to get McGriff’s phone number since it’s obvious she’ll soon be single… even if the song is written as if they’ll be together forever.

But we could overlook that to a degree if not for the ridiculous arranging choices made by bandleader Buddy Lucas who takes Jubilee’s unhealthy recent fetish for Hawaiian guitar to ridiculous lengths here. Every record they’ve put out the last few months sounds as if they’re at a luau and here it becomes so distracting that even if you were far more forgiving of the source material than I am you wouldn’t be able to excuse this atrocity.

Lucas’s own saxophone sounds fine but when it’s buried in the mix to give more room for that guitar and organ – two instruments which apparently caught Blaine’s eye at a pawnshop when trading in his soul for $14.67, so now he’s determined to get his money’s worth out of them – it becomes inexcusable.

What thematic reason do they have for being here? How do they add to the atmosphere the song is trying to create? And most importantly Mr. Blaine, why aren’t you at least giving away free mai tais in coconut shells with every listen so we can get drunk enough to possibly forget our plan to throw you into an active volcano?

Unanswered questions all.


Before We Two Drifted Apart
The one question that we always ask is why record companies felt it was in their best interest to dictate the material and arrangements to their artists when they clearly don’t understand the demographic those artists are connected to.

The answer of course is that Jerry Blaine didn’t give a fuck about black kids buying the records of his artists because to him they were not as significant a market as the white adult market and so he took the fleeting crossover interest in an early Orioles record and more recently McGriff’s hit, and decided that he could count on – and build upon – those listeners as long as he catered to their tastes.

While ignoring ours… or our great-grandparents when they were kids as it were.

There’s no way that Edna McGriff should be forced to be singing songs about fairytale figures in the sky and no reason on earth for her to sing pop songs like Once In Awhile with or without Sonny in tow.

Blaine’s already got mountains of evidence that this doesn’t work, as Til’s group once owned the hearts of the young rock audience until Jubilee’s quest to make them appeal to old white ladies with their material resulted in a rapid decline in their popularity. Now he’s determined to do the same to McGriff and not unexpectedly is seeing the same dire results.

There’s absolutely no sentiment here that will connect with rock fans, certainly not being phrased in the way this does, especially while backed by a cheap band that sounds as if they’re playing to to sunburned tourists at a Tiki bar. It’s not only insulting to rock fans, but frankly to pop fans as well.

The only thing that allows this to escape the absolute basement of ratings is Edna McGriff herself, the victim in all of this, whose vocal class remains undiminished despite her label’s worst intentions.

For everybody in 1952 who just wanted to hear what direction her career would take without any undue interference, they would just have to wait until Jerry Blaine kicked the bucket, or somebody kicked him into it preferably. But since that will happen long after McGriff’s career is over it means we won’t even get to dance on his grave in celebration of his demise.


(Visit the Artist page of Edna McGriff as well as Sonny Til for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)