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MODERN 20-744; APRIL 1950



What’s this?

A guitar instrumental by a pianist?

What’s next, a swim meet in the desert sands, a mime performance in a darkened room, a musical review written in invisible ink?

Hmm, maybe we better stop there before I get any ideas!


Bait And Switch
To be fair, though this record is certainly an unlikely release on paper for a singer/piano player who you’d think would want to showcase those skills on a record bearing his name, it’s not as if Floyd Dixon is completely absent from the track… he’s there alright, contributing sufficient backing, but he’s definitely not the focal point of this single and that raises a few interesting questions when it comes to Modern Records’ intent.

The first thing to ponder is were they simply confident enough in Dixon’s name recognition to feel that a release under his name would draw enough interest to spur sales or jukebox spins? If so were they then hoping that hearing what was on Shuffle Boogie wouldn’t offend those who plunked down their money to hear Dixon, but instead those listeners would be satisfied with what was featured in his stead?

Or were the Bihari Brothers just the low-principled bullshit artists they’re always referred to as being in independent record business lore and didn’t care what you thought once they got your money?

The answer is probably all of the above.

Dixon’s name was indeed well known enough by now to be worth something on its own, regardless of the content of the record. Yet the content of the record was good enough on ITS own to be worth your modest investment to hear. And yes, the Bihari’s almost certainly viewed misleading people when passing this off as a Floyd Dixon single as the price of doing business with them.

There’s your trifecta when it comes to the singles era in rock – make money by any means necessary, but hopefully avoid ripping off the consumer too much in the process and cause them to refuse to be duped again.

Bluntly straightforward, if not entirely respectable… which come to think of it might make for a good alternate title to this blog… but then again, let’s not give someone any MORE ideas!

This Chuck Norris Is A Lot Tougher That That Other One
Since Floyd Dixon is more or less an afterthought on this record we should focus on the star of it, someone we’ve met before and will meet again, but somebody who has been afforded far too little time in the spotlight.

Chuck Norris was a fantastic guitarist whose two great misfortunes in life were to be born slightly too early to capitalize fully on his talents in a rock ‘n’ roll landscape still dominated mostly by saxes and pianos… and to share the same name as a bearded “actor” (I’m using that term in the loosest possible sense of the word) whose virile posturing in cheap action films and a decrepit television show favored by aging men looking to compensate for their impotence (moral, physical and intellectual) by championing a faux tough guy to stand up for perceived good old fashioned American virtues with a well-timed roundhouse kick to the jaw of unpatriotic evil doers.

Or to put it more simply – good luck finding anything of note when searching the vast resources of the internet for Chuck Norris, guitar player extraordinaire!

Maybe though the decision to release what essentially is a Chuck Norris record under Floyd Dixon’s name is a blessing in disguise, because at least that means it’s available here in the Twenty-First Century to actually hear, something which can’t be said about the concurrent release under Norris’s OWN name on Selective, Chicken Neck, which Cash Box effusively praised in their review calling it “a very well done rocker”… a record we’d love to review if it weren’t frustratingly out of print these days.

But I digress…

Norris’s work here may not quite contain the “rhythm building up a caged tension that breaks out in a two bar pounding for emphasis” that his own record did, but even so Shuffle Boogie has a lot going for it in a more understated fashion.

It’s a much slower song than its title would suggest… not so much a boogie as it is a taut mood piece that strings along the edge of your seat anticipation to the fullest without ever fully paying it off with an explosive display.

Provided you’re not let down by the lack of a suitable confrontational third act in the show, something that other fake Chuck Norris would never be able to do without, the atmosphere this authentic Chuck Norris gives you with his biting tone on guitar is worth the price of admission.

He changes up his tone admirably along the way, at one point going high up the neck and giving off an almost Hawaiian flavor before shifting back to a more traditional deeper fuller sound. There’s a half dozen isolated solos, each with their own vibes and textures, beginnings and endings, none of it necessarily sticking in your mind for long due to the absence of a repeated catchy hook, but impressive to hear in the moment nonetheless.


Time Killing
Throughout this extended workout the guy who is getting the artist credit is reduced to keeping time in the background but Dixon’s methodical piano rhythms and intermittent fills are effective in filling out the sound palette if nothing else.

Had they given him a brief solo of his own, maybe a back and forth exchange with Norris, it might’ve provided a little more distinct character for Shuffle Boogie but that hardly would’ve done much in the way of selling this as a single you’d want to repeatedly listen to.

Instead what this is most suited for is the kind of modern day playlist filler to have on in the background of a low-key gathering after dark… a shuffle play highlight if you will to use half of its title in a more appropriate manner.

Maybe that’s how it was even conceived originally – a 12:15 AM interlude at the club to give Dixon’s vocal chords some rest after a few hours. They’d take a break at 12:30 and come back on at 1AM and play until closing… or until some white guy masquerading as Chuck Norris came in wearing a cowboy hat and physically assaulted the bewildered drunken patrons leaving them all sprawled on the floor.

While he then left to oil his arthritic hip and everybody hopped to their feet again, no worse for the wear, the band could keep playing this knowing that it would go over well simply by not really being noticed much after that violent interlude.

Or if you prefer in more normal circumstances it’d keep the mood right, allow you to not fall out of the overall groove they’d established over the course of the first set, and yet would still enable you to make your clumsy pitch to the girl who was going to shoot you down in the end anyway so she could instead chase down the bearded stranger with the clenched jaw who walked out with her heart.

Maybe that’s not exactly the kind of night you expected when you went out, just as this surely wasn’t the kind of record you expected when punching the number to the latest Floyd Dixon record on the jukebox, but provided you didn’t lose any teeth in the process it’s pretty hard to complain then isn’t it?


(Visit the Artist page of Floyd Dixon for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)