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IMPERIAL 5197; JULY 1952



Timing is everything, they say.

In this case the timing was imperative to the impending reunion of producer Dave Bartholomew and Imperial Records – and by extension Fats Domino who’d recently sat in with Dave’s band on Lloyd Price’s debut for Specialty Records which would hit #1 soon after being released.

This was the last session before they got back together and it was an impromptu one which Lew Chudd, Imperial’s owner, oversaw himself and found the results lacking.

When he heard the Price record that had been produced by his company’s former bandleader, he swallowed his pride and made amends with Bartholomew leading to a long and fruitful partnership between the three men and countless hits for Domino over the next decade.

Maybe though if he’d waited and saw how this cracked the national Top Ten in spite of its obvious drawbacks, he might not have been as willing to concede… which means for us, not to mention all of them, the timing turned out to be ideal.


I Need Someone
First the good news.

Gone is Al Young, the sleazebag white grifter who first convinced Lew Chudd that he was the one primarily responsible for Imperial’s meteoric success in New Orleans because of his prowess as a salesman in his record store… which is kind of like sending a thank you note to your mailman for delivering a birthday card from your grandmother with a hundred dollar bill in it while neglecting to thank grandma for sending the money in the first place!

The circumstances for Young’s absence though has nothing to do with Dave Bartholomew, for in April 1952 Domino and his band traveled to Nashville for a month of shows at Grady’s Supper Club, a high end gambling joint where Fats was paid handsomely and then used that bankroll to play cards and drink whiskey, the combination of which seemed to take its toll on his vocal chords as they cut a session with local disc jockey/songwriter Ted Jarrett of WSOK.

Despite his impeccable credentials as a writer and the praise of Domino’s band, Fats apparently wasn’t happy cutting Jarrett’s songs and subsequently didn’t put forth his best effort on those tunes, but that doesn’t apply to Poor Poor Me which came from Fats’s own pen with no outside help.

Unfortunately he could’ve used some help… something which Chudd, who ostensibly ran the session (producing it in a traditional sense would be a misnomer), clearly realized when he listened to the tapes upon getting home.

While the arrangement does manage to be more complex than most of Domino’s recent efforts overseen by the inexperienced and tin-eared Young, there’s a lot here that clashes and there’s no steadying hand in the makeshift studio to smooth it over, leaving it up to the individual talents of the band members themselves to try and leave you with something memorable.


I Feel So Sad And Blue
With the unexpected twang of Harrison Verrett’s guitar kicking it off this has a unique start if nothing else, but it quickly devolves into a stew with ingredients that don’t compliment each other very well.

For starters the song is just the wrong tempo for what it wants to do. As a lament you’d expect it to be taken a little slower, or if you wanted to think outside the box you could turn that on its head and come up with a quicker deeper groove that would allow the downcast lyrics to stand out more in contrast.

Instead it stakes a middle ground that appeases neither goal, and with what sounds like a head cold or twelve days of subsisting on two hours sleep a night, Fats Domino’s delivery is tentative and weak, something not helped by the engineering as the horns are dominating the mix too much, maybe to mask Domino’s vocal issues, or perhaps just because nobody there understood the mixing board.

As expected for a song called Poor Poor Me he’s down in the dumps, which I suppose could be to his advantage if they’d used his atypically nasal delivery to add to that image, but with the brighter horns swaying behind him that’s only going to clash.

Things pick up though during the break as Wendell Duconge comes up with a pretty decent alto solo with some good contributions by Verrett’s guitar and Fats’ own piano before segueing awkwardly into a few jazzier licks that shows what type of music the sax player born Emmett Fortner really preferred.

The other horns though are just as guilty for the instrumental break’s problems down the stretch, never getting on the same page with one another behind Duconge, giving this the sloppy ambiance of a live set without the accompanying excitement that would make such a presentation more tolerable.

When Domino returns his vocals are a little stronger as he and the horns lock in together fairly well before taking it to the fade which is highlighted by Tenoo Coleman’s cracking drums, but while that helps to send this off on a good note, it’s not nearly enough to change your overall impressions of it as fairly underwhelming for rather obvious reasons.

The song itself presents merely an overriding sentiment rather than a full story, and with a strained vocal and no musical cohesiveness to speak of the record itself is a one of the weaker hits in Domino’s vast roll call of chart entries, more notable for the unusual circumstances it was recorded under than for the end results.


So All Alone
Let’s get back to this timing aspect, something which affects every walk of life, altering history in ways that we too often take for granted.

Domino’s Goin’ Home had just made the charts for its first week when this session took place, but that record was still two months from topping those charts and so Chudd was sure to be feeling uncertain about their long term prospects after a year and a half of subpar commercial returns for his star performer. So, with no social awareness whatsoever, he had Young of all people call Bartholomew to try and patch things up between the producer and Chudd.

Bartholomew indignantly slammed down the phone in anger upon hearing the man who stole his credit and his job on the other end of the line.

But the fact of the matter is Dave wanted to go back to Imperial every bit as much as Chudd wanted him back because he had the artists that Bartholomew longed to work with again and prior to that he had no issues with the label owner who’d given him his biggest break by putting him in charge of the entire musical operation back in late 1949… (honestly, this is really like two hurt lovers broken up over a lack of communication trying to reunite without appearing too needy).

Whether it was a canny calculated move or just serendipity, Bartholomew then took an acetate of the soon-to-be-released Lawdy Miss Clawdy, the Price hit that would ironically knock Domino from the top spot in a short time, to play for local distributor Joe Banashak who was friendly with Chudd and he was promptly knocked out by what he heard.

Not surprisingly it was he who proceeded to take it upon himself to act as the intermediary, telling Lew that he needed to get Bartholomew back in the fold.

By the time that Poor Poor Me came out and became a minor hit – no doubt in large part due entirely to the curiosity factor as it was the follow up to Fats’ biggest smash yet – Bartholomew had already produced sessions for Smiley Lewis and Tommy Ridgley for Imperial and saw their first records come out.

We’ll have to wait until the fall before Fats and Dave are back together in the studio, but it makes you wonder just what might’ve happened had things broken just a little differently… if those other records had been released a week or two in either direction and maybe they never would’ve mended fences.

The lesson learned however is you need to have the smarts to see where your best interests lay, the emotional awareness to realize who you truly belong with and the internal strength to take matters into your own hands to see that you get back together with someone who makes you better.

Of course it helps a little if the timing is right to ensure it comes off without a hitch.


(Visit the Artist page of Fats Domino for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)