No tags :(

Share it

DERBY 760; MARCH 1951



A welcome sight is Eunice Davis’s first two-sided single on Derby Records after she was forced to share a single with another vocalist late last year, but when her side of that record became a hit it affords you a little more respect I suppose.

Unfortunately because she wouldn’t kowtow to their strong-arm tactics to steal her publishing and royalties this wound up being her only full session for Derby Records after that earlier one-off side she cut at the tail end of Sarah Dean’s studio date. As a result she was soon on the move, costing the company a potential star while unfortunately blunting her own momentum as she had to re-establish herself elsewhere with new musicians and executives with different ideas as to how to best utilize her.

With all the scoundrels around her looking to tie her to a railroad track no wonder she came up with a wild west theme for this one.


Tell Me Have You Heard…
Age may be a matter of perspective in many ways. A 19 year old seems fully grown to someone who’s only eight, while an adult thinks somebody not yet out of their teens is but a child.

Similarly the perception of age changes depending on the era you’re talking about. When lifespans were much shorter than they are today you were an old maid if you were 25 without a husband and kids already, whereas now someone marrying at that age would raise eyebrows for rushing things before they got a chance to live life a little.

In music circles around the mid-Twentieth Century mark there was a premium put on experience when it came to vocalists. You had to work your way up the ladder, pay your dues and all that bullshit before you were deemed ready to be a star.

It was largely rock ‘n’ roll which reversed that trend as from the very start this form of music gave voice to those who hadn’t yet shed their youthful outlooks and in turn that perspective connected it with a younger audience who shared that mindset.

Eunice Davis therefore was something of an exception to that rule as she was already thirty years old before she was given her first chance to cut a record. But with Rock Little Daddy which was currently riding the charts she showed everybody that age was just a number as her debut was full of reckless enthusiasm and a very bold sense of sexual freedom that women her age in this era were not expected to promote.

Any thought that it was merely a case of not knowing the proper decorum for song content owing to her inexperience in the studio was put to rest with I’m A Wild West Woman where she manages to be just as explicit while at the same time subtly drawing in even younger audiences with the song’s allusions to westerns, which thanks to television – The Lone Ranger being a top rated show for kids, along with countless old B-movies that filled time during the hours kids were glued to their sets – was finding a whole new audience.

If there were any tykes out there barely entering puberty who’d yet to be told of the birds and the bees, rest assured Eunice Davis was perfectly capable of telling them all they needed to know and then some.


Two Six Shooters To Back Up Every Word
Luckily for Davis’s prospects here, Freddie Mitchell is backing her once again. He was the one who spotted her at The Apollo pitching her songs, he was the one who brought her to Derby Records and he was the one who argued for hours with obstinate company owner Larry Newton about letting her cut some songs and so if anyone is in her corner, it’s surely the sax playing anchor of the label.

He does get a fairly nice solo, a little slow and deliberate maybe, but at least hitting the right emotional cues as it sounds as if he’s practically twitching with anticipation for a sexual payoff of his own once this record ends.

Unfortunately for him – and for us – the structure of this song is a little less locked into a groove than their first time out. The horns are being emphasized more than the rhythm section from the very start which means it’s got a slightly shrill vibe to it for much of the song, making it sound almost nervous about getting away with this rather than confident that they were going to all get lucky later on.

This was true not just of the band but Davis herself, as her voice is pitched a little too high for its own good and as a result she’s straining to remain comfortably in the pocket here. You wonder if this was her fault or Mitchell’s, as surely they could’ve easily changed the key which would’’ve helped both her and the horn section while giving this more power to match the song she wrote, because when it comes to THAT department Eunice Davis needs absolutely no assistance.

I’m A Wild West Woman is one of the more audacious records lyrically in rock’s journey to this point because of how blatant she is about describing exactly what she’s referring to. You can tell by the ads for the record that Derby was thinking they had better play up the outward image the title presents, but no matter how much you might want to claim otherwise there’s absolutely no ambiguity in lines such as:

“I have a man who knows to ride
Knows how to mount from either side
Grab the reins in his hands
And ride with me to the promised land”

One thing’s for certain, Dale Evans sure never sang about that kind of riding after coming in from the range with Roy Rogers!

As wonderfully explicit as this ode to sex is however, as authentically as she sells it all and as much as you love imagining the staid music community choking on their breakfast when they heard it pouring out of their speakers, you still wish her vocal was less anxious sounding due to being at the top of her range and instead settled into a more laid back swaggering groove in a deeper register.

In spite of its technical shortcomings the audacity of it alone makes the record worth hearing and if you can convince yourself that her Buffalo Bill, as she calls him, was out on the trail, roping steers and sleeping alone on a cold ground for a week or two while she wiled away her time in an empty bunkhouse until he returned, it becomes a little easier to pass it off as merely excitement for what is to come.


It Takes A Lot To Hold Me Still
The funny thing about sex in songs is that pop music was doing the same thing, yet they were far more demure about it and wrapped their cloaked messages in the gauze of dreamy romance rather than sweaty action.

But that’s hypocrites for you, all after the same thing but unwilling to admit it, whether sex itself or merely record sales gotten by singing about sex in a way that was acceptable for their respective audiences.

What rock ‘n’ roll did was strip away the pretense and though Eunice Davis still had to find a way not to get arrested singing such things, I’m A Wild West Woman is still pretty daring for the era.

Years later Bruce Springsteen would claim he learned “more from a three minute record than he ever learned in school” and though he himself was just a year and a half old at this point, maybe he stumbled across Eunice Davis’s records at some yard sale or second hand store a few years down the road and it was through this song that he – and an entire generation coming of age at the time – discovered there was more than one way to ride a horse.


(Visit the Artist page of Eunice Davis for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)