No tags :(

Share it

MACY’S 5005; MARCH 1950



Though it hardly ranks with a few of the more improbable comeback stories of recent memory, like say the Russians against Nazi Germany at Stalingrad in World War Two or Harry Truman getting off the mat to knock out Thomas Dewey in the 1948 Presidential election, it’s still nice to see Hubert Robinson alive and well a year after he released his only single for Eddie’s Records of Houston.

Though no musical thoroughbred destined for the winner’s circle in rock ‘n’ roll, Robinson nevertheless had the required enthusiasm, attitude and songwriting instincts to carve out a respectable place for himself in the now booming field… provided he could get another chance to cut some records.

Though he had to wait a full year for the opportunity here he is back in the ring, ready for round two.


What A Diff’ence A Year Makes
In the year since Houston’s tiny independent label Eddie’s Records folded shop not long after issuing Robinson’s debut last winter there have been some notable changes in the musical landscape on the Texas side of the Gulf Coast.

Most promising was the appearance of a few new local labels. The first of them, Freedom Records, despite having very limited commercial returns to date was unquestionably the most forward thinking indie label when it came to the musical side of rock thanks to their incomparable house band, The Hep Cats, or Conney’s Combo, depending on which release you were referring to, led by Conrad Johnson and featuring solo artist Goree Carter amidst their ranks.

They may have, and probably did, provide backup for Robinson’s first record a year ago, H.R. Jumps, a fairly credible side all things considered, highlighted by Robinson’s boisterous singing and Carter’s scintillating guitar.

A more successful label, at least in the long term, was founded by local club owner Don Robey called Peacock Records, which was now starting to carve out their place in the national scene thanks to Robey’s indomitable will and the steadying hand of his partner Evelyn Johnson.

But it was neither of those outlets where Robinson finally landed, rather it was Macy’s Recordings who picked up some of the leftovers local talent not already taken by Freedom or Peacock. Though Macy’s was not too much more successful than Eddie Henry’s defunct label had been it did give guys like Hubert Robinson a chance he might not otherwise have gotten and one listen to the energetic Boogie The Joint shows us what a shame it would’ve been to lose out on someone so hellbent on rocking and rolling.


We’re Gonna Rock This Joint Tonight
The hammering piano that launches this sounds crude and somewhat dirty and when Robinson’s vocals come into the picture they only reinforce this rough and rowdy image.

Boogie The Joint is the sound of rock ‘n’ roll had it never been put on record, smoothed out in the studio and polished for mass appeal. It’s raw and untutored, not quite as “good” in one sense because like it or not as appealing as drunken degenerates playing in a dusty roadhouse may be when immersed in that setting half in the bag yourself the ability to artificially, but authentically, replicate that sound in more sterile confines requires a skill that Robinson just doesn’t possess.

But in another, more visceral sense, this type of display is the basis for rock’s core appeal. A band playing lusty grinding music behind a vocalist who’s far more animated than skilled but is too caught up in the excitement they’re stirring up to care much about his own shortcomings.

Where Robinson makes up for his deficiencies however is in his songwriting, which proves he has a really good grasp on not only the atmosphere this type of song came from, but more importantly how to convey that mood with effective lyrics.

Well the bobby-sox jump til the break of day
Well I stopped the band and said jump anyway
Well I feel like rockin’, feel like boogying tonight
Well the bobby sox are jumpin, I know everything will be alright!

Yeah, they’re definitely crude too, but that’s the point. This is no cotillion dance they’re at, there’s no cut-glass punch bowl on the refreshment table, no chaperones by the door and the girls aren’t wearing corsages and the guys don’t have ties or dinner jackets on. By the sounds of it not long after the song ends the guys and gals might not have much on at all and to get that across without violating any laws of decency requires a deft touch.

Too suggestive lyrically and you get the same scorn you’d have gotten if you hadn’t pulled any punches, except you don’t even get the X-rated payoff to make up for the undue scrutiny it’d bring, yet if you tread too lightly then the meaning itself gets lost in the haze.

Robinson manages to drop in all of the required elements in unambiguous fashion starting with the concept of young girls at this rave up who are seeking action. He then offers his enthusiastic reply, confirming his own willingness to shed all inhibitions, and closes it out by strongly suggesting the inevitable outcome when all of these girls meet up with like-minded fellas.

Maybe the words themselves can’t be held accountable for corrupting any morals but it’s not hard to read between the lines and any remaining doubt would be quickly done away with by the manner in which they’re delivered.

So yes, crudity can be as much a tactic as it is a lack of professional polish when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll… as if you needed to be told.

All Night Long
In order for Robinson’s coarse vocal technique not to be a detriment the backing music must also adhere to the same unrefined approach. But such things are easier said than done if the musicians are the kind who take pride in their skill, especially if it’s being put on record and sold to the general public.

Boogie The Joint however manages to succeed in its rather low aims by convincing the band to sound like someone merely hooked the mics up to a mobile recording unit outside the type of hole in the wall nightclub this kind of performance was likely to be emanating from on a Saturday night.

Take the sax solo which is slightly atonal in nature at times, giving it a natural gutbucket sound that is endearing rather than off-putting in the right circumstances. Likewise the cement fingered piano pounding is nothing to be proud of in a more refined setting, yet on this track you want someone to be able to get by with brute force even if you have to sacrifice a stronger rhythmic sense that would be the standard line of attack for hard-charging rock songs.

The goal in other words is to convey a sense of reckless endangerment rather than always maintaining total control over the instruments, something which by and large is accomplished here.

In spite of this woozy feel the musicians contribute, or maybe because of it, the record has a pretty good freewheeling nature about it, nothing so wild that it’ll make you lose your mind but if your mind was already half gone from other illegal activities then this could help push you over the edge which is what’s called for in this type of song.

Everything Will Be Alright
Even with rock’s full-fledged hostile takeover of the R&B Charts over the past year it’s safe to say that Hubert Robinson was not likely to be among those scoring hits… at least not with such ramshackle records as this.

But all great musical movements have varying degrees of success. Not every oboe player finds themselves seated with the top symphony orchestra, not every gospel singer gets money thrown at them by women speaking in tongues who felt the spirit when listening to their show and not every rock ‘n’ roller was destined to headline package tours in the big cities in front of screaming throngs.

Guys like Hubert Robinson were going to have to be content to play smaller clubs for low pay, or no pay but all the free drinks you could swallow, where the reward was little more than the euphoric high created by the overall vibe you helped contribute to.

If you were lucky you’d get to make some records along the way and if those records were any good, like Boogie The Joint is, then maybe someone somewhere – someday – would hear them, talk them up a little and turn others onto them. Most likely though even that was a pipe dream.

But rock ‘n’ roll was the stuff of pipe dreams and so all we can hope is that while he got to ply his trade on stage and in a few studios around town, Hubert Robinson got a little more out of these nights of debauchery than a paternity suit and countless hangovers. If a couple bucks were slipped his way, if he got to put off getting a job in the “real world” for a few years, and if he got some kicks sending a crowd into a delirious state of mind, then for him it was probably well worth it.


(Visit the Artist page of Hubert Robinson for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)