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J-B 603; NOVEMBER 1952



We’re going to end the calendar year by finally coming to a decision on an artist who has long been looming over the horizon and causing us sleepless nights over whether or not to include him.

He’s one of a few noteworthy artists who fall into this category as someone who typically gets slotted in one genre even as arguably their best records exist in another genre… namely rock ‘n’ roll.

The general rule of thumb around here however is if an artist is recognized as a blues or country or pop act first and foremost, and their most prominent records in those fields, even if they occasionally make what might be considered a rock record, we’ll leave them out rather than confuse the issue, especially if those sides stirred little interest commercially.

But for those whose most notable releases are predominantly rock ‘n’ roll in both style and spirit, then we’re almost compelled to bring them on board and it really shouldn’t cause any consternation at all.

One listen to this record and you could never justify keeping this guy out.


The Time Has Come
You could make the argument that Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones was a failed bluesman but a successful rock ‘n’ roller.

His only hits, both regional and national, were squarely in the rock field stylistically and when he stuck closely to blues structure and arrangements the records failed to generated any action even if they were pretty decent attempts in their own right.

With sidemen over the years constituting a who’s who in rock ‘n’ roll, most notably with keyboardists Huey “Piano” Smith and Ray Charles playing huge roles in his best records which always featured prominent saxes as well, he always had a band behind him that out-rocked virtually anyone. Meanwhile Slim’s vocals on these sides prominently showcased his gospel background which of course was a cornerstone in rock from the start.

However he definitely began as more of a bluesman on Imperial Records but when those sides didn’t sell he wound up on the tiny J-B Records out of Nashville, Jim Bulleit’s latest label after shutting down Bullet Records. This is where Slim cut just two sides that leaned heavy into rock ‘n’ roll and made him a rising star with a bright future.

Though Certainly All was only the B-side, and not a hit like the top half, it doesn’t matter in the least. When making the case for Guitar Slim as a rocker it’s the one to introduce first because with its upbeat call and response vocals, rollicking rhythm and swaggering attitude there’s no other place it could possibly be situated.

It’s telling that when both blues and rock were at their commercial peaks – the former reaching its absolute high point, at least on the singles charts in 1952, while the latter of course would continue to climb higher in the years and decades to come – it was the rocking sides Slim laid down that scored best, confirming that when it came to which audience was going to embrace him, it would be the ones who treated midnight as if it were the middle of the day.


Put Them Together
With its high-pitched run on his guitar giving way to Huey Smith’s piano and Hugh Dickson’s bass doubling up on the bottom and topped with incessant handclaps, this is the foundation for a great record before Guitar Slim even opens his mouth.

Forget despondent blues… cast aside the memory of his past uncertainty when it came to his attempts to rock while still keeping one foot more firmly in blues territory… just let yourself be carried away by the sheer enthusiasm and joy found here as he and the band are having a great time strutting their stuff.

With the tag-team back and forth vocals wherein Slim is setting the others up to chant Certainly All in emphatic tones, it’s easy to see this would be a rousing tune to get people in a club dancing. But while that might be its primary draw, it actually has a sneaky story to it as he lays out the failing state of his love life, possibly brought on by his wandering eye, or maybe just an overbearing partner. But rather than be cause for concern, it’s actually a song of liberation.

That’s the key to its success, the smirking confidence he delivers this with, starting off by telling us what types he likes and while he doesn’t say if he lands them, you don’t for a minute doubt that he does. The plot turns however after his sizzling guitar solo which uses quick runs broken up by effective pauses that increase the anticipation as well as allowing him to change up the riffs each time to keep it varied.

When he returns to the microphone he announces he’s going out drinking and whether this prompts her to say she’s through with him, he turns it on its head and insists she doesn’t treat him right, never batting an eye at breaking up with her. Even as he professes to have a broken-heart over this predicament, we know better.

Guitar Slim is strutting out that door with a smile on his face and a glint in his eye, he’s dressed sharp, he’s got money to spend and his friends are keeping his spirits up with their unrelenting infectious replies to each of his statements.

Though the girl we never meet is the one who clearly felt she had the upper hand, maybe even was the one to offer him an ultimatum, he’s discovered that the one who has the upper hand in any relationship is the one who’s willing to walk away, knowing that someone else… someone better… is always right around the corner.

In a way that might make for a good analogy of his musical choices here too. He may have been content to be a bluesman but when the blues audience seemed indifferent to him, he didn’t take it as a rejection, but rather as an opportunity. The night is young and he’s on the prowl in a flashier part of town, ready to live it up and have some fun.


When I Do Business…
Though this side wasn’t the one that hit the charts, it clearly was a favorite… of Guitar Slim himself, who cut it again upon arriving at Specialty… and of audiences who clearly were aroused by the kind of party atmosphere this would create at shows.

With his brightly colored suits and hair to match and his extra-long power cord which enabled him to walk out into the crowds at clubs and keep playing while the audience swarmed him, he made sure he was always going to be noticed. But it was with songs like Certainly All where he backed up that showmanship with music that was every bit its equal.

We’ve encountered a few artists whose stylistic split on record gave them citizenship in two genres… Floyd Dixon, Lester Williams, Peppermint Harris, Gatemouth Brown, L.C. Williams… and in each case their most successful sides were more rock than blues, which should put to rest their qualifications to be called rock acts, even if it comes with an asterisk due to their entries in other fields.

But Guitar Slim takes that to the extreme, as his three most acclaimed records are not only pure rock ‘n’ roll, but some of the best rock records of their time starting with this one.

That’s all you need… and it’s certainly more than enough.


(Visit the Artist page of Guitar Slim for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)