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CORAL 65075; DECEMBER 1951



Climbing the corporate ladder is the way of life in America.

Those with high ambitions want to work in a profession where there’s a pecking order they can use to mark their advancement as the years go by. A cubicle is not as desirable as a private office and among those with private offices the ones who have corner offices – thus with windows on TWO sides – are a few rungs higher than those with only one window to jump out of at the end of a bad week.

By the time you get to the top floor corner office you’ve most likely forgotten the names and faces of those you climbed over to get there, but you can sleep just fine at night because you get more money, more power and more ulcers to show for your ascension.

In music however – or at least in rock ‘n’ roll – climbing the corporate ladder is rarely a good thing, because the major corporations found at the top of that ladder often want you to simply provide a reasonable facsimile of rock ‘n’ roll to fool the public into thinking they care about that growing constituency.

The lesson here?… Sometimes it’s better to stay on the ground floor with the riff-raff.


I’ll Him Right From The Start if You Want My Heart…
Decca Records once was the top major label when it came to black artists in America. They had Louis Jordan, the undisputed ruler of the 1940’s pre-rock era. They also had Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Delta Rhythm Boys, Buddy Johnson, Lucky Millinder, Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald and The Ink Spots… it’d be hard for any label in any era to compete with that star power.

But remember, there were only four primary record companies then (Columbia, RCA and Capitol being the others with Mercury coming along mid-way through the decade) and Decca was the one smart enough to corner the market on the best acts in the field, the ones with crossover potential or who were at least consistent enough to dominate the smaller market of Black America.

The whole time however smaller independent companies were springing up and taking the leftovers… artists without mainstream appeal but who were allowed to break more new ground and take their music in ways Decca wouldn’t have dared. Once this spirit of innovation reached its apex with rock ‘n’ roll beginning in 1947, Decca was ten or twenty steps behind and hoping its existing acts could hold them off but quickly it proved to be a losing battle.

In the early 1950’s they turned to a subsidiary, Coral Records, to give them more options. Of course it wasn’t strictly a rock label by any means, The Ames Brothers were its biggest seller and their white-bread harmonies were as far from rock as you could get without crossing an ocean or leaving the galaxy, but they also tried to use it to push a more acceptable brand of rock, signing second (or third) tier acts… like Eunice Davis, formerly of Derby Records whose work there was very good at times, but not commercial enough.

Coral seemed to feel that the problem was that it wasn’t quite polished enough and so they saw fit to take the potentially high-powered engine she was supplied with on Work Daddy Work and slap a lot of chrome and paint on it in an effort to appeal to the middle-aged hipster who longed for the days of dancing to big band horn charts at the Savoy ballroom.

All eleven of them who were still buying records.

Needless to say, this was not the way to the top of the rock ‘n’ roll ladder for Eunice Davis.

I Will Supply The Enjoyment
You’ll be excused if those brassy horns that kick this off cause you to turn the song off… or push that corner office dwelling executive out of the way so you can dive out his window.

They don’t let up for the rest of the record either, though they DO give way to a saxophone for stretches, letting that provide the bulk of the muscle behind Davis’s lines which frankly deserves a lot better than the weak support she’s getting from the full band… err… full “orchestra” I guess they want to be called.

If we can tune them out – admittedly not the easiest thing to do since trumpets and other ill-suited horns tend to pierce the air with little trouble – what we find on Work Daddy Work is a song that has some potential… something that Larry Darnell’s version, under the title Work Baby Work, did far less with because the suggestiveness that Davis brings to the table was eliminated in his reading of it.

Though it’s the same song as that one, including the blaring arrangement, what this actually resembles in intent is Ride Daddy Ride, the Fats Noel song we just covered with a similar title.

This is more sexually ambiguous thanks to the lyrics, which actually DO mean the 9-5 type of work, but it’s easy to see that Davis is referring to something else entirely in which a word that means one thing in our minds has another definition they’ll conveniently point to in the dictionary when the censors come snooping around. Then they let our imaginations do the rest and fill in the blanks for them.

The problem is, while we have no doubt what she means by her scorched vocal cries for him to work her over in the bedroom, the terminology of “working” can much more easily be interpreted as something else entirely – unless of course his job is as a gigolo – meaning she wants him to break his back to provide for her… or maybe she wants HIM to climb the corporate ladder to the top floor and have a heart attack for his troubles.

As if those horns wouldn’t give him a heart attack first!

But Davis’s performance here is really strong, even if she’s not using any vocal subtleties in her delivery which makes it a rather one-dimensional performance. It IS however the kind of performance that would absolutely slay audiences at the end of a set out in the sticks somewhere, with everyone juiced and ready to start working themselves in whatever shadowy corner or back seat of a Plymouth they could find.

Unfortunately though it’s still a compromised track thanks to the overwrought horn section which is given too much responsibility during the short break even though it’s the tenor that handles the heavy lifting and sounds fine.

That sax may not be quite as effective in the subsequent back and forth exchanges with Davis, but it’s still not making you throw in the towel and sit down, which for a rock release on Coral Records might be seen as something of a victory.


Someday I’ll Discover Someone Who Will Be My True Lover
The one drawback about corporate America that even its most ardent supporters will candidly admit – sometimes proudly, sometimes ruefully – is that being stuck within that rigid structure eliminates the chance for employees to show any individuality.

There’s always someone else willing to conform, to wear the right tie and wingtips, to laugh at the boss’s lame jokes, to take the abuse heaped on them by superiors knowing that if they do, then one day they’ll be the one heaping it on others beneath them.

In music though that thought process backfires, because a style like rock is built on individuality and thinking outside the box which means conformity and toeing the line are things to be avoided at all cost.

Work Daddy Work tries its best to split the difference, but only two of the participants here, Davis and the sax player, are trying to start a party when upper management leave the building, whereas everyone else left behind are telling them to quiet down and get back to work.

And no, it’s not the same kind of work that Davis was talking about and that we would be eager to do ourselves… and for absolutely no pay if the partner was right!

In the end what this shows when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll is that climbing the corporate ladder only sounds good if we can jump from our high perch into the mosh pit down below where we truly belong.


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

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Larry Darnell (December, 1951)