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IMPERIAL 5087; JULY 1950



The end is now here…

Just eight months after making a spectacular debut the recording career of Jewel King is all but over, a victim of marital jealousy combined with the unexpected rise of other New Orleans artists on the label who were signed at the same time as she was, most of whom have equaled her success, if not slightly surpassed it, thereby rendering her expendable.

A sad fate for one of the best female stylists in rock, a genre would always struggle to attain gender equity. Once again though, before she departs, Jewel King shows why her absence on the scene in particular would be so hard to fill.


Waiting And Watching, Watching And Waiting
When confronted with such a depressing turn of events when it comes an artist’s mostly self-inflicted demise, it’s always tempting to ponder what small changes might’ve prevented their premature end.

In Jewel King’s case, as we’ve documented every time we’ve looked at her, the easy answer would’ve been to tell her talented but envious husband, Jack Scott, to take a flying leap into the Mississippi River and let her bask in her own budding stardom rather than be subservient to his whims. But if we can’t meddle in their relationship let’s instead consider the different reactions had her first release, 3 x 7 = 21, been held back until later and something else served as her debut.

The fact is anytime you start off with a huge hit then whatever follows, especially if the subsequent singles fail to chart altogether despite being consistently good, the perception is the artist has already peaked when in fact it was just the quirk of the release order that gives such an impression.

Had something a little more modest, like I Love A Fellow, came along first, it might’ve failed to make a big dent in the marketplace but it’s possible Imperial Records would’ve focused more on the aesthetic qualities of it and thought to themselves this was somebody with great potential and worked to build her up. THEN if she followed that up with her big hit a few months later they’d assume it was “progress” and might be more inclined to go the extra mile to keep her in the fold, even if it meant paying off Scott by promising him a a role in the studio or on the road backing his wife and leading the band.

Instead this record, as good as it is and as much skill as it reveals, was a commercial disappointment for Imperial compared to her earlier sides and with the concurrent rising fortunes of Fats Domino, Archibald and Dave Bartholomew it meant that Jewel King’s threat to depart wasn’t anything to worry about.

What a pity.

How Happy I’d Be
This is another song written by King who handles the lyrics while Bartholomew presumably shaped the melody and crafted the arrangement, and it shows once again that King was a really talented songwriter as well as a gifted singer.

I Love A Fellow, a rather ominous title considering the cause of her downfall, offers a very quirky reading of a somewhat standard perspective, that of a girl who thinks the world of a guy she doesn’t even know yet but rather than just gush about how great he is and how much she wants him in the usual terms, she expresses her feelings with some of the most idiosyncratic lines we’ve come across to date.

King takes some fairly rote – but perfectly acceptable – sentiments about unfulfilled longing and by virtue of her herky-jerky delivery and the slightly odd lyrical structure makes it less about the man in question and more an insight into her own personality, as she comes across like free spirit ten or fifteen years ahead of her time, sort of halfway between beatnik nonconformist and a flower child blissfully tripping out.

Her vocal tone during the best stretches is almost conversational, but not in a direct way as she’s basically commenting out loud to herself, which of course would be sure to draw stares in a crowded market or waiting for a bus, but which make the resulting song far more endearing. She doesn’t know his name, though she sees him pass by each morning, and she’s daydreaming about what it’d be like to be with him.

But whereas so many of these types of scenarios present the infatuated narrator as either desperate to draw the object of their desire’s attention, or agonizing over their inability to do so, King comes across as unconcerned about any of that, content just to fantasize with her head in the clouds.

It’s almost impossible not to be smitten with this carefree girl as she makes up silly rhymes, repeats phrases but switches the key words around for her own amusement and generally acts as if this magical bubble she’s floating in thanks to her unrequited crush will never burst.

Who are we to spoil her fun?

Get Him On My Line
Thankfully Dave Bartholomew isn’t about to shatter her reverie either, no matter how much of a cold-eyed realist he was in life.

Though the arrangement is a pretty standard New Orleans dish with interlocking horns and piano setting the rhythm and giving it a buoyant feel by virtue of their tonal qualities, there are a few neat touches that accentuate King’s ebullient state of mind starting with the light touch of Ernest McLean’s guitar that opens the song sounding like blown glass, delicate in construction but with a strong sense of character, smooth and dazzling in its beauty.

When it returns for a brief solo he’s downshifted its tone and the sound is a little murkier besides, robbing it of some of the magic it exhibited earlier, but because it’s still played well, with sharp biting lines, the loss isn’t too great.

The sax solo which follows has no such problems, rising out of the musical haze like a flame, hot and bright, ripping off some searing lines without them necessarily being distinctive… too well played to be called generic even though there’s no attempts at standing out here. But it’s the aggressive manner in which the solo is delivered that gives I Love A Fellow the muscle needed to bolster King’s intentionally flighty state of mind and reveal the passion underneath her dreamy observations.

Salvadore Doucette’s piano may not get a solo of its own but the more fervent pounding he contributes while the horns churn adds even more wallop to the overall sound, as this kind of combined assault is Bartholomew’s trademark, crafting simple parts that when mixed together ratchets up the power and causes the track to surge forward with confidence.

Days Go By So Slow
In spite of the song’s remarkable efficiency and the charming persona that King imparts, you can definitely see why Imperial Records weren’t distraught over losing her. Aside from the fact this wasn’t a hit, even locally, there was surely a sense that this was something that could be replicated from any number of singers.

With Bartholomew’s backing that might be the case from a sonic standpoint, but the inherent personality was all King’s and unfortunately that would be something that went with her out the door, not only depriving the company of perhaps its best vocal stylist in terms of the acting ability required to impart different moods in subtle ways, but also taking away the vital female perspective that allowed Bartholomew to tackle different types of songs than the otherwise all-male roster was capable of.

At the time of course nobody realized the consequences, as I Love A Fellow probably didn’t seem all that noteworthy to anyone as the label was on the upswing and had plenty of budding stars to keep them occupied even without her in the fold.

But while it’s true this final record of hers could be passed over without worrying that you were missing something truly special, it’s yet another piece of evidence that King was consistently better than average in her output and if quality factors into a record company’s goals it’d be hard to argue that they were better off letting Jewel King walk away just because she loved a fellow who was a little too headstrong to have her best interests in mind.


(Visit the Artist page of Jewel King for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)