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Though chances are most who read this in the months, years, decades and centuries after it goes up will do so on any one of 364 other days of the calendar, it’s worth noting this review was posted the last day of October, which as many of you perpetual children know is Halloween.

That’s entirely fitting too because this largely obscure artist may very well be dressing up as a rock ‘n’ roller for Halloween just to get a bag full of treats… or, as was the case in 1952, to try and get the biggest treat of all which was a legitimate hit.

It didn’t quite work out that way but one listen to his attempt and you’ll quickly realize this was no trick either and so the treat will be all yours for being smart enough to not slam the door in his face and turn the hose on him when he came around looking for candy.


Rock Whenever I Can
Just who was Herman Manzy and what is he doing suddenly – and only briefly – appearing on our radar?

Those are interesting and still somewhat unanswerable questions unfortunately, but the few hints we have tie in with each other starting with the fact this came out on Fidelity Records, a subsidiary of Speciality which is where Jimmy Liggins was arguably its biggest star.

In 1953 Herman Manzy will be officially listed as the drummer for Liggins on the Specialty session that resulted in his biggest hit, Drunk, and that same year Liggins, along with his older brother, bandleader Joe (still playing a different type of music than the rock favored by his more rambunctious younger sibling) will co-headline a dance in Indianapolis where the print ads also tout the presence of “The Celebrated Herman Manzy – Vocalist”.

So let’s put one and one together and see if we can’t come up with two reasonable assumptions based off that information.

The first of course is that Manzy may have already been the drummer for Jimmy Liggins in late 1951 when this was recorded. You’ll remember that The Drops Of Joy, his fantastic band, essentially broke up when Jimmy was nearly killed in a shooting back in the spring of 1949 and was convalescing for close to a year. Though he put together a new Drops Of Joy to hit the road with him after he healed, once he returned to the studio he was primarily backed by studio musicians led by producer Maxwell Davis… but the drummers listed on each and every source now available says “Unknown”.

So it’s reasonable to think that at some point over the past two years Manzy joined The Drops Of Joys and quite possibly played on some or all of Liggins’s recorded sides as early as 1950 which is what led Art Rupe, Specialty’s owner, to put out I’m Your Rockin’ Man on Fidelity as Manzy’s debut as a favor to his star.

Which of course means that it’s almost certainly Liggins and The Drops Of Joy, maybe supplemented by Davis, who are backing Manzy on this AND that it surely meant that Manzy was pulling double duty on the road, not just drumming behind his boss for the main set each night but also serving as an opening act with his own turn on the microphone.

After hearing this we have to say that Jimmy Liggins had better not slack off because he might be supplanted as the star of the show if he’s not careful.

I’m A Solid Sender
Whether or not it actually is Maxwell Davis on sax (his tone does sound similar) the record kicks into gear right from the jump with a greasy tenor providing the proper ambiance on the intro backed by crude drums… which might mean Manzy wasn’t playing on account of his vocals and someone else was keeping very simple time.

But the combination provides a nice roadhouse feel to this which provides the perfect launching pad for Manzy to try and sell us on the rather bold claim I’m Your Rockin’ Man.

Manzy is essentially a poor man’s Roy Brown, lacking the power and resonance of rock’s first ruler… although to be fair, who doesn’t come up short against Roy among the wailing tenors of the day?

But as for WHAT he’s doing as he sings, he’s may have more on the ball than Liggins who frequently seemed incapable of change his cadence from song to song. Manzy on the other hand rides the rhythm like a pro and hits all of the right emotional buttons, falling back on the patented technique of holding every last “Wellllllllll” in the lyrics to the point of breaking, but admirably transitioning out of them to make each subsequent line feel authentic.

Not surprisingly the lyrics are pretty cliched, but what else would you expect… or want… out of a song like this? They’re little more than one long boast, yet because Manzy doesn’t quite have the confidence behind those words, nor the commanding voice of Brown or Wynonie Harris or countless other stars, he’s almost trying to convince you of his legitimacy, which in some ways adds to the charm, especially if you were aware of the circumstances of the recording itself.

The sax solo probably confirms this isn’t Davis for while it’s got some nice moments and the overall sound is a perfect fit for the record, there’s not the effortless power behind the lines that Davis was known for. If that’s the case though it shows The Drops Of Joy were still able to cut things up on stage because it definitely gets the job done, climbing the ladder with a series of stuttering lines before sliding back down with some long drawn out notes that eases us back into Manzy’s vocals.

High art it’s not, but then again at the kind of places they played high art would quickly be shown the door.


I’m Rockin’ And I Ain’t Stoppin’
What a track like this tells us seven decades in the future is that we need even more of these things to set the proper scene for that era of rock ‘n’ roll.

We’ve got the big names catalogs to peruse all we want and granted we do have some very interesting one-offs scattered throughout rock’s discography, but how many MORE guys like Herman Manzy were there in the early 1950’s that we’ve never heard?

It stands to reason there were others like him playing with an established band and taking some vocals on stage to give the headliner a break, but there were also bound to be countless small time rock acts springing up who never saw the inside of a recording studio but did pretty well in local clubs for a few years by swiping the style of the big names without having any chance to reach the same heights, hoping to make up for it with sheer bravado and effort.

I’m Your Rockin’ Man is surely the kind of thing that was heard most Saturday nights in the sticks, maybe not quite as polished as Herman Manzy backed by an array of professional musicians, but more than good enough to get your blood pumping, your feet moving and your head spinning.

As time goes on it becomes increasingly likely that the history of rock ‘n’ roll will be defined strictly by the hits… then eventually only the biggest of hits… and that the grassroots movement, or something less organic but comparable in terms of style and approach like this, will be forgotten or lost altogether.

But while Herman Manzy was a step above the amateurs playing in his garage with the hopes of maybe moving up and getting some gigs at frat houses or house rent parties where they might actually be paid, the same basic spirit prevailed in all of them.

Unlike jazz or mainstream pop, rock ‘n’ roll was a style where anyone who loved the music could dress up as a rocker for Halloween and maybe just convince you they were for real if they started to play.

That was part of the allure in 1952 and it’s been part of the allure ever since.