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DERBY 753; JUNE 1951



Another borderline case teetering between welcoming it in and sending it packing… hardly a promising start to a review, I know.

Obviously it made the cut, in large part because Freddie Mitchell, an unquestioned rocker, gets co-artist credit here and without his presence this probably would’ve been left out, for not only does he add musical authenticity to the record but also it’s needed to tell his story in full.

But the other reason is that a mostly obscure singer named Honey Brown – I’m guessing not her real name – would otherwise have her life’s work all but forgotten.


Rock This Joint This Morning
For a company that was centered in New York and hit the ground running in the summer of 1949 with some moderately good sellers from saxophonist and company A&R man Freddie Mitchell, they sure haven’t been able to build on their early successes.

Their roster is a hodgepodge of seasoned outcasts and inexperienced hopefuls, their one big signing in rock ‘n’ roll to date – by which I mean an artist with a string of hits to his name before joining the company – was Jimmy Preston who gave them a national hit right away and then promptly retired from music to pursue the ministry after having second thoughts about playing the Devil’s music.

They managed to score a near-hit with Rock Little Daddy, soon covered by Cecil Gant which moved some copies as well, but blew their chance at tying up Eunice Davis with ham-fisted contractual demands.

All of which is to say that the label’s owner Larry Newton was just as much of an idiot as every other independent record label owner, just maybe a little more so.

Despite the fact that Mitchell was a consistent seller, frequently appearing on the regional charts with his own singles and backing up virtually everyone on the label otherwise, they still couldn’t attract promising up and coming artists. Instead they settled for those like Honey Brown, a Detroit club singer who’d been on stage there for the better part of a decade, often backed by a group led by trumpeter Clarence Dorsey which briefly included future rock sax kingpin Paul Williams.

Though a decent enough singer it’s obvious on Rockin’ And Jumpin’ that Brown was beholdened to older styles, despite what the title would lead you to believe.

She may handle her parts with a fair amount of grace and know-how, but without Mitchell honking behind her this would be nothing more than a pre-rock song five or more years out of date.


Sure Knows What To Do?
Though Mitchell’s horn is the featured soloing instrument on this track, it’s not the dominant sound when the record kicks off.

Instead we get an old fashioned massed horn section, somewhat blaring and ostentatious, leading into Brown’s vocals, already establishing the stylistic schism that will define the record.

Once she arrives though things settle down to a degree as the band focuses on establishing a churning riff with the horns while the piano fills in the cracks. Brown’s voice is strong and clear, her pacing is fine, but her technique, especially during the verses, is out of date. This is the 1940’s approach… a perfectly fine delivery for that day and age, but not for early 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s not SO egregious that it ruins the song, the two styles are not completely alien to one another after all, but they’re getting further apart with each passing day and so you never quite feel comfortable with Brown in the driver’s seat… at least until the chorus, which is where they actually DO start Rockin’ And Jumpin’.

That becomes the record’s saving grace, the anthemic celebration of the music that followed Brown’s heyday, one which she is trying to acclimate herself to on the fly and – at least during this stretch – doing an admirable job with. She’s joined by others chanting the title line with hand-claps boosting the energy and when it reaches its climax and the horns respond in kind it almost approaches the freewheeling mayhem they clearly want to suggest.

Mitchell’s solo follows and if anything is going to deliver on that promise he’s the one to do it and after a sluggish opening he gradually ramps up his intensity to the point where it starts to boil. Instead of keeping he heat up though they have to take the pot off the stove to let Brown and company start chanting away again and because what preceded it this time was just about to break free of its constraints, unlike last time when the chorus was serving as the jailbreak, it’s almost a let down.

It’s just a question of arranging. They have only a loose concept of how to properly build to a climax and though some of the parts are in the right places, they pull up short when they need to go all-in. It works well enough because those parts are so tried and true, but it’s clear this isn’t a leader in the field, only a follower.

Jump With Me
This isn’t all the world would hear of this song OR Honey Brown.

The very next year for the fledgling Fortune Records label, Brown would cut this a second time with Choker Campbell’s band in a version (with the “g’s” added back on to the title) that sounds even more outdated than this one.

Not only is Campbell’s band employing much less powerful horns than Mitchell’s crew, but the intensity has been toned down and with it so too has Brown’s voice. She’s gliding over the song rather than emphasizing its rhythm and the sax solo is far from the kind of sweaty workout this requires.

Since she wrote Rockin’ And Jumpin’ herself clearly this was a tune she was used to singing on stage and depending on the band backing her she’d have to adjust her delivery. But to see her revert to the style that was more in line with her own background tells you that it was Mitchell who was responsible for the direction the Derby version took, not Brown herself.

That she was willing to deviate from her usual playbook is to her credit, but other than what might mean for posterity’s sake it still wasn’t taken far enough to result in any meaningful career in this field.

With the changing of the guard in music Honey Brown’s options after this would be increasingly limited and while we can hope she was able to keep earning a living playing local clubs at least, her time on our stage is over almost as soon as it began.


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