DERBY 793; APRIL 1952



There is a long line of rock instrumentals named after popular disc jockeys as a way to garner airplay from one outlet – even if doing so probably ensures competing stations or other dee-jays on the SAME station won’t touch it – and on the surface this is just another record in that self-serving tradition.

But recent events put this particular effort in a slightly different light and while it doesn’t comment on those events specifically, the timing of its release gives some additional insight into the impact of that disc jockey and the growing rumble in the ground over rock ‘n’ roll.


In the third week of March 1952 there was a concert given in Cleveland you may have heard of… The Moondog Coronation Ball… which garnered rock ‘n’ roll its first headlines in white newspapers, even if only regionally.

That the stories were negative is to be expected, for that perpetually uptight part of society wanted nothing more than to demonize the people who made and listened to this music, but for those who DID make and listen to it, the fact that it was getting press at all was something to be… well, if not celebrated, at least something to be taken advantage of.

And so Freddie Mitchell quickly got to work on Moon Dog Boogie, a song referencing Alan Freed which because of its chanted title actually goes a little beyond those countless records that merely appropriated a disc jockey’s name for an instrumental title without ever uttering it amidst the music.

So does that make this more of an overt endorsement of a public figure aligned with Mitchell’s brand of music who now finds himself in the harsh glare of the spotlight for his support of rock ‘n’ roll, or is it merely a fortuitous coincidence blown out of proportion?

Actually it turns out to be something that Freed himself might not be all that enamored of being associated with because of how Mitchell approaches it.

What’s That Sound… What’s That Smell?
Like a lot of former jazz musicians who’s musical souls were corrupted by rock ‘n’ roll – either for financial reasons when they found they could make more with a hit rock instrumental and the ensuing live gigs as a bandleader that resulted from it, not to mention steady session work, or because they genuinely found the music itself to be liberating and invigorating compared to more mannered jazz – Freddie Mitchell’s musical education still came from that earlier brand of music.

Because of that, no matter how hard he tried, his instincts as a songwriter, arranger and musician still at times reverted back to jazz ideas. The thing is though, it’s not so much HIS playing that is adversely affected by that upbringing, but rather the music he has the rest of the band lay down all around him.

Their lead-in is the kind of cheery club jazz designed to send smart patrons to the bar where the owner makes the bulk of their profits. From there they play answering parts to Mitchell that are right out of the jazz textbook, not always in the notes found here, but certainly in their purpose as they’re ornamental flourishes rather than rhythmic pace setters.

The latter was what set rock apart, the way in which everyone was working to keep the groove and/or rhythm churning, which these guys don’t do. Some of it may be fairly innocuous space-filler, but other parts where the trumpets blow raspberries at us, are an affront to rock’s dirty name and reputation.

Mitchell on the other hand plays with a more appropriate musical outlook, but one which has two problems of its own. The first is that most of his riffs are indistinctive. The first one is catchy enough while he’s playing, but it’s very short so it won’t embed itself in your brain easily and once he has to deviate from it he doesn’t do anything to really build on that promising little hook and get us invested in the song.

Worse though is his decision to drop into the lower register to the extreme for the most memorable part of Moon Dog Boogie which sounds as if the dog gobbled up a bowl of refried beans because he’s letting loose with sounds that have you reaching for air freshener… or back then I guess you’d light matches.

In other words, the raunchy guttural sound he’s going for conjures up a much less appealing image and as a result this is definitely not something a disc jockey who is now commanding his largest audience ever thanks to his recent notoriety was going to play… not because he feared the backlash of the guardians of morality who might be eavesdropping to gather evidence to pin on him, but rather he wouldn’t want to turn off his own audience who came to listen to rock ‘n’ roll without feeling the need to flush the toilet after a record finishes.


Today’s Record Is Brought To You By…
Maybe that’s a little harsh, but it’s definitely the most identifiable part of the record and when the rest of the track doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself, what can you honestly expect when something so distasteful stands out like that?

Besides, what of the guy for whom this record is sort of dedicated? We started off mentioning how Mitchell name drops him which gives the record its identity, but does he really do more than that… or even do that at all in the first place?

In other words, was that even part of the original recording or was it simply dubbed in over an already completed track, because after those first two cries of his name the guy for whom Moon Dog Boogie was named never makes another appearance.

Mitchell’s contract with Derby is up and he’ll be heading elsewhere soon, so it’s even possible he was already out the door when the whole bruhaha up in Cleveland hit the papers and someone at the company might just have overdubbed the vocal refrain to kick it off, naming the record without his consent to get this out while the story was fresh.

But then again, I suppose that in of itself would be just another byproduct of rock ‘n’ roll as it began to enter the mainstream media consciousness where everything to follow had one more element thrown into the equation that already struggled at times to balance art and commerce… which is “promotional consideration”.

This might not be a great record but it’s notable feat was in finding a way to promote it by jumping on the headlines before they were tossed aside and forgotten.


(Visit the Artist page of Freddie Mitchell for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)