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Body positivity for those who don’t fit the widely perceived current ideals of physical beauty is seen as something relatively new.

Over the past few years the number of previously atypical body types have graced ads and magazine layouts in ever increasing numbers – usually with press-releases touting the “inclusionary” nature of their plus-sized model campaigns – and while it’s still not proportional to reflecting the actual populace, it’s a far cry from the old days when every model was rolled off the assembly line to fit the accepted image of attractiveness.

Music was one area in the public spotlight where you could be a star if you didn’t meet the usual physical standards of course, but it was rare for somebody who DID fall into the accepted range for appearance who worked so hard to craft an image on record that claimed otherwise.


I Know I Ain’t No Square
Guitarist, singer and songwriter Harry Crafton was, at least judging by his picture, a normal sized guy. Maybe taller, broader shouldered and more solidly built, but hardly carrying too much weight for his frame by the looks of it.

Yet his nickname was “Fats”, so either he had a stand-in for the publicity photos or the term was viewed different back then when people in general were a little bit smaller.

Whatever the reason though Crafton seemed obsessed with weight, releasing Roly Poly Mama in September 1949 in which he sung the praises of ladies who had plenty to choose from when it came to what to hold, and now one full year later he’s singing about the male equivalent of that – namely himself – and Let Me Tell You Baby, he’s pretty damn proud of his ample girth.

If the subject matter itself is a little unusual for rock circles, where generally speaking the dominant image of beauty was celebrated in far more graphic displays than most other forms of music where demure modesty prevailed in the lyrics, the attitude with which Crafton sings this self-promotional declaration of his prowess as a lover is what rock ‘n’ roll was all about from the very start.


More Love In Every Pound
Because the concept itself, or at the way in which he takes the usual proclamations of a egotistical braggart and turns them on their head by substituting the typical attributes with the details one normally would want to keep concealed when it comes to their size – the lines are going to be designed to get you to grin rather than tell a well-rounded story (no pun intended).

Crafton was a good songwriter of course, penning the immortal Rock The Joint, so he’s not merely dishing out laughs like they were ice cream at the expense of a tightly constructed song. But because the song is nothing BUT him peddling his wares in the Large & Tall section of the department store, then this record is going to make the grade based almost entirely on how clever his descriptions are.

In that sense Let Me Tell You Baby is pretty good. It’s not brilliant or anything, there’s only so many ways to put across the same overriding point after all, but he manages to come up with a few twists to the narrative, such as telling skeptical women that “my references can’t be beat”.

There’s also plenty of implied raciness to the song too which, let’s face it, never hurts in this field. When he tells the women who may be checking out his credentials before taking the plunge that “I can make you holler, scream and pull your hair” he says it with the easy confidence of somebody who’s not just throwing them a line, but who has plenty of experience in backing that boast up.

That authenticity is vital in preventing this song from simply being a joke at his own expense. It can hardly be deemed a novelty record when he fully expects that it’s going to get him laid and therein lies its appeal.

Takes His Time To Please
As good of a singer and a songwriter as Crafton was let’s not forget that the initial reason Gotham Records signed him was because he was a great guitarist who played a huge part in the studio band that gave the company its cache among rock fans of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

While Crafton’s guitar takes a back seat in the primary arrangement of Let Me Tell You Baby the rest of the band picks up the slack early on and delivers a tight performance, never diverting attention away from the main draw of the record – the lyrics – while still highlighting what he’s saying in subtler ways.

The piano kicks it off and carries the rhythm for the majority of the record, just playing simple riffs while the drummer keeps time. The saxophone though is the main counterpoint that gives the musical track its character… answering Crafton’s vocals with its own “voice”, mostly in mellow agreement with Harry’s comments but as it goes on he offers a few sarcastic replies and sometimes even seems surprised by something just said.

Where the record slips up unexpectedly is in the instrumental break, which is where you’d think they would take full advantage of both the racy undercurrents of the theme AND the proficiency of the band to heat things up.

Instead they tone it down, almost shutting it off completely in the process. Crafton himself is largely responsible for it too, for after some modest blowing in unison by the horn section Crafton gets a solo and sounds as if he forgot to turn on the amplifier. Its technical aspects are suitable enough maybe, but its sonic power falls woefully short and considering they also had the sax they could’ve really turned loose at this point you can’t help but wonder they were thinking.

Instead of raising the stakes down the stretch, this trips them up completely and they never fully regain their footing as the call and response closing with the vocally uninspired backing band helps to give away much of the early credit this had built, leaving you thinking as you pushed away from the table that maybe you should’ve left some on your plate.


You Won’t Be Runnin’ Around
Sometimes an idea seems so good… so novel for its time even… that you skimp on the areas that you otherwise would devote a lot of your attention to and that seems to be what Harry Crafton did here.

Let Me Tell You Baby was never going to be a great record, its theme may have been slightly unique but its structure was pretty basic, but had they carried their interest through to the very end it would’ve been something worth recommending with a little more urgency than we’re doing here.

It’s still a pretty decent record, certainly nothing that would sound out of place in a 1950 rock playlist, but ultimately it’s going to be drawing attention almost entirely based on shaking up the concept of what is physically appealing… the same one note concept it started with.

Maybe that’s to be expected and some might even say it’s not the worst result to put such a topic into focus in a lighthearted way. But I’m guessing that if you were to ask somebody who is overweight in real life what they wanted to be known for, it’d be their personality or abilities more than their waistline, even if they didn’t have any self-consciousness about their size.

Crafton had the chance to do both here, use a swaggering humor to focus on, but then deflect, attention for his ample girth, while at the same time showing that despite his heft he and the band were still capable of outplaying those half this size. Instead by focusing almost entirely on the former it weighed the record down rather than lighten its load.

The lesson being, if you’re going to cut calories on a record it’s best not to do so on the musical side of the plate.


(Visit the Artist page of Harry Crafton for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)