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The image of the start-up record label operating out of the back of the owner’s car was a fairly common one in Mid-Century America, a sign that entrepreneurial spirit was colliding with artistic expression both seeking a potentially lucrative untapped market to sell their wares.

Most of course – artists and labels alike – wouldn’t quite connect with that market but the ones which did, although usually ones slightly better funded than the ones we’re talking about today, gave hope to another round of starry-eyed dreamers who didn’t feel like pushing pencils for somebody else in one of the countless interchangeable offices found in any bustling city.

When these efforts inevitably failed maybe the owners became resigned to their dreary anonymous fate in life but there was always the possibility that someone they had discovered might go on to ply their trade elsewhere and become a star and thus, in some small way, help to keep word about their failed label alive for a little while longer.


I Can’t Get Nowhere
It’s not Hubert Robinson that has kept the brief life of Eddie’s Records from fading into oblivion of course, but rather Little Willie Littlefield who was the primary reason the company was founded and who was its most prolific recording artist.

When owner Eddie Henry closed up shop just around the bend however Littlefield wasn’t the only discovery of his to go on to record for other labels, so too did singer Hubert Robinson who had to wait a little longer than Willie to find a company to show interest, but may have been no less deserving than Littlefield was all things considered.

Granted, Robinson wasn’t nearly as diverse as Little Willie who was just as good a pianist as he was a singer and would prove to be just as reliable with ballads as he was with uptempo songs, but if Robinson was lacking the stylistic versatility of his label mate, he definitely had the right attitude to carry off the hard-charging rave-ups that were quickly becoming more entrenched in the burgeoning rock community as 1949 took shape.

One sign that he doesn’t lack for confidence is the fact that he names his debut H.R. Jumps and the initials probably don’t stand for his high school homeroom or the human resources department of whatever future career he undertakes.

For the time being at least he’s a rocker, out of school but not yet chained to a desk and like all good rockers he’s itching to get things moving.

My Shoes Are Getting Thin
There’s an undeniably crudity to Robinson’s delivery, albeit endearing in its enthusiasm, which was hardly atypical for someone starting out who had probably been used to trying to bowl over patrons at whatever hole in the wall joint he may have gotten a gig at, unless of course he was merely singing around the house dreaming of becoming a star.

H. R. Jumps kicks off in that same crude fashion, the piano laying down a choppy simplistic pattern that’s merely giving Robinson something to… well, jump off from I guess you’d say.

What catches your ear most at first listen and are worth singling out are the lyrics which don’t contain any real big plot, more like a rough and decidedly vague sketch outline, but the lines themselves paint a vivid picture and the fact the litany of complaints he has regarding his future prospects are purposefully offset by the upbeat musical vigor by the band.

He runs down his problems like he’s calling roll, the most memorable of which his how he’s upset at losing his hair especially because that in turn leads to him fearing he “won’t have no place to stay”. I can only surmise that he assumes no woman wants a bald guy… or that he’d planned on camping out in a barbershop and now realizes he’d be too conspicuous.

Yet while his outlook may be pessimistic when assessing his lot in life from a strictly assets and debits perspective, his upbeat persona indicates he’s overcome hardship before and sees no reason why he won’t be able to come out ahead once more. That’s a good – if somewhat unusual – decision to make because not only does the delivery sell the humor better than crying about his ailments, but also because it makes you a lot fonder of him as a human being if he can laugh at his own misfortune

It’s unfortunate however that so little of the song’s run time is given to him – and that his second appearance after a long instrumental break finds him merely repeating his earlier lighthearted grievances rather than adding any new beefs to the ledger. But maybe the reason for that scarcity of vocals is to allow more space for the band to let rip as chances are there was just as much – if not more – expectation surrounding them than Robinson himself.

Because Eddie’s Records wasn’t going to be long for this world the supporting cast that was almost surely present here would have to wait until the next Houston label appeared on the scene in a few months to make their mark.

Once Freedom Records opened its doors they needed a versatile studio unit to be able to play behind whatever vocalist they had recording that day and – if possible – cut records of their own to fill out the release schedule. So at the risk of getting too far ahead of ourselves the likely musicians being used here consisted of, among others, the band’s leader Conrad Johnson on alto, Lonnie Lyons on piano and visionary guitarist Goree Carter as the sonic anchor.

At least that’s what it sounds like, although Lyons’s piano intro as stated was rather rudimentary and the alto sax sounding slightly off-key, or out of tune with the other horns at least, something that Johnson, a local music instructor of note, would be unlikely not to have seen and corrected… assuming they even got to hear a playback or record a second take.

But Carter’s work on guitar is pretty noteworthy even if he’s taking a secondary position to the sax, but his axe is the most vibrant sound on the record, cutting through the din of the primitive recording and slicing off notes like lunch meat at a deli.

The instrumental break goes on for far too long after Carter bows out, with trumpet and other horns squawking as they wander around in search of a hook to bring them back to the proper song.

Actually, though they’re never in the forefront of the arrangement, it might be the bass and drums – sounding almost as if they’re kettle drums for a moment or two, as far-fetched as that possibility was – which provide the most interesting sounds in this prolonged stretch where Robinson sits out.

If they aren’t as cohesive as they’d later prove to be, if nothing else the energy they all show is admirable and helps H. R. Jumps to jump… or at least hop around a little bit… and be something more than just an incidental throwaway track by someone who seemed sure to be lost in the shuffle as his record label sputtered and died around his feet.

No Place To Stay
It’s doubtful anyone listening to this in early 1949 would’ve predicted any of them would become a star… and to be fair none of them did, though one certainly deserved to be. Yet within the studio you had a very definite musical movement taking shape, should anyone care to notice.

Houston was a hot-bed of the blues, the regional Cash Box charts reflected this pretty consistently over the last few years and the tastes of the area would continue to lean hard in that direction over the next year or so, even as rock took over a greater share of the market elsewhere across the United States.

Therefore it’d stand to reason that aspiring musicians living in Houston would gravitate towards the blues, adapting their strengths to that music perhaps, but conforming to it more than breaking from it.

Yet with H. R. Jumps we have yet another example (following Littlefield and even Amos Milburn who got his start in Houston before moving to Los Angeles to record) who have forsaken the blues for rock, seemingly without any reluctance. Surely it wasn’t Eddie Henry who was pushing for a style that was far less commercial around town, so that makes it pretty clear that the desire to rock came from the artists themselves, an organic movement that would soon take hold even in Houston.

All of those involved, from Robinson on down, would go on to make far better work in the future for Freedom and Macy’s Records among other outlets, but this long overlooked entry on Eddie’s Records is where they got their start and that alone makes it worth a listen.


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