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There’s no “right way” to make a record… that is, no set formula in terms of songwriting, arranging and producing that has to be followed in order for it to work aesthetically, or even commercially for that matter.

There may always be dominant themes, stylistic trends and fads to take into consideration, but you can approach them all in as many different ways as you can conceive.

The increasingly complex instrumental arrangements that have been gaining prominence in rock over the past year or two, coupled with more intricate vocal arrangements in vocal group records that is only just now on the upswing and which will peak in a few years time, may be the preferred method for a lot of record labels in late 1952, but as this record shows you can strip all of that away, leaving nothing but the basic gears intact, and still come away with something worthwhile.

Maybe even something more mesmerizing while you’re at it.


By Your Side
The writing style of Jesse Belvin, constantly repeating broken stuttering phrases that sound like merely disconnected images clinging to a bare bones melody until before you know it they add up to a coherent train of thought, is – or will soon be – pretty familiar and was a result of his constantly working up songs without instrumental accompaniment wherever he and his friends happened to be.

Yet it wasn’t a method strictly unique to him, but rather one shared by many in his circle, not the least of all Marvin Phillips, his partner here as well when they were both in Three Dots and A Dash together singing for Big Jay McNeely.

So when you find out that Daddy Loves Baby was written by Marvin Phillips rather than Jesse Belvin, even though Phillips never cut a solo performance of the song, whereas Belvin later did, and they share the lead on this released single, maybe you shouldn’t be too surprised.

The style is very similar, as you’d expect for two kids growing up in the same community and performing together regularly for the last few years. Maybe it was Belvin’s influence seeping into Phillips’s songwriting, maybe they influenced each other, but regardless it stands as a distinctive trait of the rapidly growing Los Angeles vocal group scene which these two, more than anyone else, were responsible of bringing to fruition.


How Much I Care
Starting off singing in tandem, something they barely did on the other side, gives this a slightly different feel. Jesse Belvin’s tenor is bound to stand out more, as it’s the clearer tone allowing you to catch the nuance of the lyrics better, but Marvin Phillips’ nasal baritone is the perfect balance to it, keeping the melodic structure more condensed than when Belvin takes it alone later on and embellishes it as was his habit.

That works great too of course, but in varying the way it unfolds, tight and to the point while together, more idiosyncratic when apart, it allows their differing musical personalities to be revealed somewhat within the context of the song.

Though using the term “Daddy” to symbolize the male of a relationship with someone presumably the same age (it’d be hard to be much younger than the 19 and 21 year old duo in any case) might seem a little unsettling today, you never doubt their meaning was innocuous. My guess it was done as much to provide a related term to “baby” as any comment on the potential age difference.

The halting melody of Daddy Loves Baby is even more of a component to their performance as it was on the other side, where flow may have paused but never stopped altogether as it sometimes does here… including in the midst of lines. To some that might be a little hard to digest, creating a choppy listening experience, almost as if you have to continually get your bearings, but that’s where the two distinct voices help to ease the acceptance of it.

Belvin generally lets his lines go, maintaining more of a melodic thread even amidst a few hesitation moves, often thanks to exhibiting a greater range which he employs liberally throughout the song, sliding up and down the scale with ease.

By contrast Phillips stops and starts, stutters and repeats himself within a smaller melodic window. He’s working with a much more limited palette of available notes and yet he makes each one count while providing the counterweight to the airier voice of his partner.

Because of this approach it’s possible you don’t even pick up the plot thread which could serve as the prelude to Dream Girl in a way, as the girl in question “won’t be true” and is leaving, though they’re hoping that she’ll change her mind, if not change her ways, and yet it’s that resilient hope which manages to eke out a victory over the despondency of a potential breakup.

As written it’s a song built more on shifting emotions than on the outcome of the fizzling romance and the performance reflects that perfectly, ruminating on the shifting possibilities that lay ahead without needing to settle on a decision as to how to feel about a resolution that still technically is in doubt.

But we know better. They’ll have their hearts broken in the end, another agonizing life lesson to learn as they come of age, but also – for them at least – another fertile topic to sing about down the road.

But when they DO sing about that probable outcome, it won’t be together.


It Would Be Heaven If You Would Stay
Though this won’t be the last time Jesse Belvin and Marvin Phillips join forces on a record, it would be the last time they did so under their own names, as Belvin’s wanderlust personality meant he never remained in one spot, or on one label, let alone with one partner, very long.

Phillips would stick with Specialty Records for another year before switching to Modern, in both stops using different singing partners – Carl Green with Specialty, then primarily Emory Perry with Modern – as the other half of Marvin & Johnny, the latter being merely a name chosen because it was vaguely similar to Jesse in order to capitalize on the success of this single which hit #2 on the charts.

But at Modern there were times where Jesse Belvin would sometimes fill in as “Johnny”, the label ironically never making any attempt to capitalize on his growing name recognition to sell the records, though certainly anyone familiar with his vocal style would know it was him.

Daddy Loves Baby however would be the last time they were officially billed together and – despite it being written by Phillips – where Belvin had a clear hand in the construction of the song. As a stand-in Johnny he may have chimed in with ideas – it was hard for him not to – but they were songs being done in a pre-established mode as Marvin & Johnny and so he was more or less just a visitor, not a creator.

Considering both sides of this single are so good, and that Phillips had subsequent hits alongside lesser vocalists like Green and Perry, you wonder what he and Jesse would’ve come up with next if they had more time to work together.

As it stands just these two sides, plus their work together with others behind Big Jay McNeely, isn’t going to fully satiate that hunger for as much content from them as possible, but like a lot of great pairings you have to take what you can get and just be happy you got that.

Consider us happy.


(Visit the Artist pages of Jesse Belvin and Marvin Phillips for the complete archives of their respective records reviewed to date)

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Jesse Belvin (December, 1952)