No tags :(

Share it




Artists are usually the last to quantify their music with cut and dried terms such as rock, blues, pop, jazz and countless other monikers.

That’s usually left to record labels, audiences, trade publications and historians.

But while listeners were free to pick and choose which records they liked regardless of how it fit in with what other records they liked, at a certain point those which found favor with certain listeners meant that they’d be catered to with others like it at the expense of everything else.


What’s On Your Mind?
It’s strange to suggest that diversity actually leads to uniformity as those two things are the exact opposite, yet that’s often just what winds up happening in popular culture.

When this happens – and how – was never quite certain, which is why it’s so unpredictable.

For years Bing Crosby had cut records from every stylistic corner of the music world imaginable, yet because it was Bing Crosby doing it they were all housed under the broader pop banner and nobody batted an eye. His deviating from the Tin Pan Alley mindset meant pop would broaden its parameters to accommodate him, thereby making pop music itself more diverse.

Yet rock ‘n’ roll was proving to be much more provincial in its short lifespan, something completely understandable when you think of just who it was that originally embraced that genre.

Rock fans – young, black and of marginal financial means – were for years the last stop on the commercial train and thus were deemed a non-essential market by the entire industry. You could understand them getting an inferiority complex because of this, just as you could see why it’d led to a persecution complex as certain segments of them grew resentful over this second-class treatment.

But now that rock ‘n’ roll had rapidly become more commercially potent than anyone anticipated, that led to another problem that was becoming more and more evident with each passing month… how do you PROTECT those gains?

Well, for starters you become even more intolerant of those artists who didn’t repay your interest by sticking exclusively to the music you championed, which is why we’re starting to see those who straddled the fence between jazz and rock, pop and rock or in Hubert Robinson’s case, blues and rock, run the risk of not remaining viable.

In the case of Hard Lovin’ Daddy there’s a lot here that was right up the alley of rock fans… a boogie rhythm, riffing horns and loose celebratory lyrics. But if Robinson insisted on singing them by emphasizing the more down-home, backwoods blues-like vocal shadings in his voice then it might just be met with suspicion.

All Night Long
In the midst of rock’s cornering of the black music market in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s Texas was always something of a holdout in that they possessed a much deeper affintiy for pure blues.

Look at the regional Cash Box charts of the time and it’s a fair bet that most week the Houston or Dallas listings will have records that are nowhere to be found in other areas of the country.

This meant that while Texas had many rock acts emerge during this time they always carried with them a more overt connection to the blues than those coming from either coast or the midwest and certainly those from across the way in New Orleans where the blues had been filtered through jazz for so long that it was barely recognizable any more.

This makes Houston native Hubert Robinson’s performance on Hard Lovin’ Daddy in which he slurs his words and seems to add about 30 years to his odometer somewhat understandable. He wasn’t a bluesman at heart per say, but he was around them so much that it was inevitable he’d slip into that persona quite easily, maybe without even realizing it.

Here he does just that at times, as his vocals posses a beaten-down quality to them that runs counter to the vibrant track. He’s singing at a lively tempo and the lyrics are full of hedonistic activities that usually didn’t get aired in pure blues songs, but he seems as if his tongue is three sizes too large for his mouth and it comes across as embodying a truly deplorable blues stereotype, that of the uneducated field hand.

What makes this so hard to comprehend is that he sounded much different on other records and for that matter at times he even sounds different on THIS record, starting off with a Roy Brown-like moan and later sounding a lot more legible for a moment when he closes out one line with “I’m your lovin’ man”. The rest of the time though he sounds as if he just got done sharecropping and was looking to unwind with some rotgut whiskey.

Of course it’s not helping matters that the lyrics are either sloppily written or not really written down at all and mostly ad-libbed, as he continually switches up the lyrical rejoinders at the end of stanzas, messing with the rhyme scheme and the scansion, which unfortunately adds to the negative image much of his performance is suggesting.

Drive Away Your Blues
Okay, so that’s the BAD aspects of this record, now how about the good stuff?

Well, that would be most everything else starting with the fact that the band is kicking the song’s ass up and down the block, romping through the changes with a mad glint in their eye while practically forcing Robinson to keep pace.

The horns are playing a simple pattern but are locked in from the start while the piano is hauling the rhythm on its back which gives this a relentless drive, making the backing track a perfect vehicle for eliciting some rock ‘n’ roll mayhem.

When Robinson yells for them to “GO!” they do, giving us three horn solos back to back to back, the first a rough tenor that sets the stage for the alto which can’t compete with the thicker tones that preceded it and so it tries for complexity instead. But that’s just a prelude to the best solo, that tenor again, which now starts adding more muscle to its playing until it’s ready to explode.

In other words, Hard Lovin’ Daddy as evidenced by their playing is anything BUT the blues and no matter how compromised vocally Robinson may seem at times, he’s reduced to window dressing during the mid-section of the record which is when it’s at its best.

High As I Can
Here’s where context rears it’s head… not it’s ugly head, as the saying usually goes, because context is what defines almost everything in life whether you like it or not.

In a non-genre context, one where it doesn’t matter if Bing Crosby is singing or if John Lee Hooker is, then this would fare better simply because the blues/rock dichotomy wouldn’t be as big of a deal. If it sounds exciting and exciting is what you’re looking for then Hard Lovin’ Daddy gets the job done.

But rock ‘n’ roll was still looking to define its image, for in life you often become – or are afraid to become – what you’re viewed as by others and too many parts of this otherwise solid record contain an unflattering image to a young ambitious audience looking to move up in the world.

The musical side of this equation meets their demands, but the vocal side – Robinson’s reckless enthusiasm notwithstanding – lets them down and to fail to acknowledge this, especially seven decades removed from that era when such things were of vital everyday importance to the entire community, is intentionally dismissive, even condescending, of their needs at the time.

Ultimately the two sides get the same score here but they aren’t equal in the same ways. Whereas Gas Happy Blues was more modest in its attempts, it was also more focused and better executed even if it at its best it wasn’t nearly as thrilling.

This side contains the better musical concepts, a tougher attitude and a message that is spot-on for rock, but the guy tasked with delivering it can’t do so effectively enough to leave no doubt as to what – and who – he’s representing and that’s something not so easily brushed aside.


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