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At a certain point in your life’s journey, if you have any self-awareness at all, you sort of figure out that you’re not going to be the next Willie Mays, that you aren’t going to build a rocket ship in your back yard and fly to Saturn, won’t be dating a supermodel with an IQ of 189 and will never become a rock ‘n’ roll star.

If you’re in the rock ‘n’ roll business though… what do you do when that realization hits you?

If you’re Hubert Robinson you keep on singing, knowing that your dreams of stardom might be futile but your career can still be worthwhile on a smaller scale.


What’s Going On In Town
One logistical and musical link that’s popped up around here from time to time is the correlation between Houston and New Orleans.

On one hand a shared musical dialogue makes sense since they are the two biggest Gulf Coast cities and only a few hundred miles apart, but musically they generally are much further apart than that.

Houston, where Hubert Robinson was from, was more of a blues oriented town. Though it had adapted well to rock ‘n’ roll, first with piano players (many of whom quickly moved to Los Angeles to record) and then with guitarists, you can see in all of them their early exposure to the blues.

New Orleans on the other hand was more of a jazz oriented town, albeit one that had long since deviated from the mainstream big band jazz that was popular across the country during the 1930’s and 40’s.

By the time rock ‘n’ roll was born in New Orleans in 1947 they’d even mostly distanced themselves from even Dixieland but you could still tell by the prominent horn sections that there was a definite Crescent City vibe running through most of their tracks.

So in 1950, while Houston had some horns on their rock records and New Orleans had some more prominent guitar now and then, the records from each city were generally pretty distinctive… but Gas Happy Blues blurs those lines and has you thinking that maybe the gap between outposts was getting a little bit shorter.

You Can Get Around
The slow prancing horns and Robinson’s slightly nasal vocals makes this sound like a lost Fats Domino song at first before his delivery switches your impression and gets you thinking this may be Mr. Google Eyes, another New Orleans rocker.

Of course it’s neither of them but it’s also not a typical Houston rock track, for the hallmarks of that city are nowhere to be found, no bluesy guitars, no dust between the record’s grooves. Instead we have horns galore setting the pace with multiple saxes getting solos and what sounds like a clarinet, though it could just be an alto. The baritone caps it off and throughout it all the drummer is not letting up.

None of this is first rate by any means, not for New Orleans certainly, but not for Texas either. It’s a simplistic rhythm, some very basic riffs all of it enthusiastically played… a good idea for sure and not butchered by any means, but considering the quality of musicians who do this thing in New Orleans every day you can see this is a junior varsity squad at work.

But that being said Gas Happy Blues is comfortable in its skin and that goes a long way to making it modestly enjoyable. Those rolling grooves are addictive by nature and they toss you right in the deep end of the pool and let you come to the surface and float along with them for the entire run time, knowing that’s their best way to keep you hooked.

Ride You All Night Long
The man in the middle of all this, Hubert Robinson, is probably slightly over-matched even by a second tier band but he’s not flustered by his surroundings and brings the same sense of rhythmic assurance to the table as the musicians.

His voice is still a little weaker than you’d like, his projection isn’t strong enough and when it comes to his delivery he definitely is a passenger on this train, not the engineer which means this record is mostly steering itself. He seems perfectly okay with this however and never tries doing too much which keeps him from winding up in a ditch along the side of the road. But as a result he’s not imprinting his personality on the track at all which is precisely why you might be trying to figure out who he sounds like at various times during the song.

Of course had it been one of those more skilled singers who got Gas Happy Blues chances are they’d have failed to leave a more indelible impression too. Just like it’s backing track the sexual euphemism at the heart of the song is certainly not something we’d be shying away from, but while it’s fairly clear what they’re aiming for lyrically it somehow never attempts to make the suggestiveness all that memorable.

The bait and switch technique here merely flips the meaning of the word to “ride”, as he’s referencing cars, even mentioning a few by name from lowly Fords to flashy Cadillacs, but of course that’s not what he really means, as should be fairly obvious as most of this driving takes place at night with no apparent destination in mind – well, it’s surely got ONE destination in mind, but Robinson is too polite to show it to us on the map.

Rather than rev it up with more explicit references… maybe noting the size of the engines, or the speed they’re traveling, the route they’re taking or the twists and turns along the way, it mostly sticks to that first image and umm… rides it to the finish.

It’s a trip we’ve all taken before… on record I mean… and though the scenery hasn’t changed, the sights haven’t gotten any less interesting over time so it’s not as if you’ll lay down and take a nap in the back seat when you’re speeding along.

Tell All You Hip Cats Somethin’
What can you say about the kind of record that simply “fits in” with the scene? Throw it in a playlist of 50 songs from this year and it won’t stand out in the least, for good or for bad.

That might not be what Hubert Robinson or Macy’s Records – who issued this on their Jade subsidiary – had hoped for when the tapes rolled, but it’s also not quite an ignominious fate to have Gas Happy Blues be perfectly acceptable fare should anyone happen to punch its number on the jukebox.

Of course that means that Robinson wasn’t going to be seeing his name lights any time soon, wouldn’t be headed out on tours criss-country the country or even using the record itself as a way to get a few ladies to go riding with him… heck, he might not even be able to afford a car… but with the price of gas being so low in 1950 he can afford to keep taking these kinds of records out for a test drive for as long as somebody wants to hand him the keys.


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