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MODERN 870; JUNE 1952



Well… that lasted long didn’t it?

The partnership, the marriage for all we know… endured for just one side of one record for Jimmie Lee and Artis. Now it’s just Jimmie Lee, as maybe Artis cheated on her and she threw him out and took up with a sax player down the road.

Nah, Artis is here after all – but he’s not singing – and they’ll be back together on record down the road, but for now we’ll focus on the only one present and accounted for on this effort, who also happens to be the one who carried most of the load on the other side too for whatever that’s worth.


I’ve Been A Lonely Girl Ever Since That Man’s Been Gone
In 1952 the expectation was for women to stay home and be housewives, working twice as hard as their husbands oftentimes, yet receiving no pay and no credit.

So imagine our surprise that the repugnant Bihari brothers of Modern Records are the ones taking steps to ensure that the woman, Jimmie Lee, is the only one credited on this side, even though that’s sure to cause some confusion since the flip side, My Heart’s Desire, a legitimate hit across the country, was credited to Jimmie Lee and Artis, her husband Artis Brewster, a trumpeter in Jay Franks’ band, The Rockets Of Rhythm.

Of course before we go heaping praise on the Biharis, you’ll notice that Jules Bihari stole half the writing credit for this under his notorious “Taub” alias, which is par for the course with him.

So much for chivalry.

Anyway, Brewster deservedly doesn’t get any credit for this one, as he didn’t write or sing on Blue And Lonesome, a fairly generic song all things considered, and his trumpet playing is never brought to the forefront.

Luckily though, while the song is no great shakes, Jimmie Lee livens things up as soon as she opens her mouth, starting rather modestly but slowly ramping up her delivery until she’s really cutting loose by the second half.

Her voice is strong, hardly distinctive, a little nasally even, but you never doubt she means what she says which presents her as anxious – even desperate – for her man to return.

Hmm, I wonder if this was biographical and the real reason Artis wasn’t featured on the record as a singer is because he wandered off someplace… maybe some side-dish caught his eye somewhere.

Apparently whatever it was he brought to the table in their marriage was worth enough for Cheatum to wail about in anguish. We care fairly little about what she’s telling us per say, mainly because it’s a theme that we’ve heard countless times before with well-worn cliched lyrics about absence making the heart – and loins – grow stronger, but we always care about how that message is delivered and she does put forth the kind of effort we can appreciate.

Most importantly her singing works for what she’s trying to do which is to convince us that she really is broken up over this split, all while the music it’s paired with is the equivilant of that distinctive rush of hormones, longing and anxiousness that accompanies the idea that your significant other might be gone forever.

Maybe the final destination matters little in a song like this, but the road you take in getting there means a lot and that’s where this mounts its strongest case for some respect.

It’s Hard To Be Alone
So often at the time the backing musicians never got credit if they were mere sessionists, but since Jay Franks had already released a good instrumental a few months back for Modern, he was an exception to the rule.

Franks was a tenor sax player from Dallas where this was recorded, about a three hour drive from the home of Jimmie Lee and Artis who were from Texarkana, and my guess is putting his name on the label was hardly altruistic, but rather an effort by the Bihari brothers to promote two new acts rather than just one.

Then again this was cut at the same time as an Ike Turner session and Turner was sitting in on piano here without credit and he was far more important to the Modern Records organization, so who really knows what went into their thinking on credit.

Back to the music though where the intro is rather uninteresting. Blaring horns in a compact arrangement that we’ve all heard too many times before to react strongly to it. Actually it’s Cheatum herself who seems to be trying to spur them on to little avail, as the first solo by Franks starts off grinding the notes out in a very deliberate manner.

Though it’s fairly well played and builds some tension, it goes largely unresolved as he only manages to get things to the point of boiling without letting the water spill over. When Jimmie Lee comes back in singing with a frantic demeanor we’re surely thinking that she’ll be the only one breaking out the fireworks on Blue And Lonesome.

But the next time around Franks puts that theory to rest as well as ensuring the title of this song is made irrelevant because nothing about either of them, singer or sax, sounds very blue here.

As soon as Franks starts stuttering and squealing while the other horns are riffing behind him, this is sent into overdrive. With the drummer putting some callouses on his hands thanks to some fervent work of his own the scene borders on celebratory, which might lead you to believe that we’ve figured out the fate of Artis after all… namely the rest of the band sized up Miss. Cheatum and decided they wanted her for themselves and hogtied their trumpeter and tossed him in the Modern Records’ store room with leftover tapes from sessions of Bubber Cyphers and the Al Whichard Sextet.

The solo may not lead to a suitable resolution to our story, as these things have a tendency to not go anywhere but in circles, but while it lasts you’re certainly not complaining.


Try Me One More Time
Though nobody involved with this, other than the uncredited Turner of course, will go on to make any sort of lasting dent on the scene (though this oddly connected in Jamaica as a pre-cursor to ska), we can safely say that we modestly approve what they’re doing, even if it’s done in a rather unoriginal manner.

Blue And Lonesome may be Jimmie Lee’s show all the way – at least when we talk about her and her old man – but Franks earns his keep for sure, almost stealing this record from his bandmate’s wife.

As for Jimmie Lee herself, it may not seem that impressive to say she’s release two fairly average songs in two tries, but it should go without saying that this precisely the kind of thing that keeps the genre healthy. After all, if the overall quality dropped across the board, the interest in rock ‘n’ roll would quickly wane and there’d be fewer and fewer songs that bolstered the music’s image getting released.

We know that’s not going to happen any time soon, and so maybe we can find it in ourselves to credit Jimmie Lee Cheatum for seeing to it that we’re not stuck reviewing The Song From Moulin Rouge by Percy Faith next year because rock died a withering death and forced its fans to turn to pop music or give up listening to anything but the sounds of silence in the future.


(Visit the Artist page of Jimmie Lee for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)