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RPM 366; AUGUST 1952





If you go to a fairly regular sized school, can you really say you know all of your classmates?

You may recognize most of their faces when passing them in a hallway between classes, but can you put a name to each of those faces? Know what their voice sounds like? Have any idea what their personality is, what they like doing and how smart or dumb they are?

If you see them outside of school do you immediately recognize them or does it take a few minutes for it to sink in that you had a class together last semester? How about after you graduate… will you know them passing on the street in five or ten years?

In music it’s much the same, not all artists are familiar names and faces and only when looking back through a dusty yearbook do the pieces start to fall back into place and you realize why you have a nagging feeling you knew them from somewhere.


Looka There!
You might be wondering why with so many records by so many bigger artists over so many more years to come, we’d even bother with somebody who released only a few commercially stagnant singles and is all but unknown historically.

Or more pointedly in the case of Jimmy Huff, someone who when you bother looking him up – even adding the designation “singer” after his name – you’ll find multiple unrelated candidates to choose from over a wide span of years and styles.

With that being the case doesn’t that indicate that maybe THIS Jimmy Huff is someone we could skip over altogether so we might get out of 1952 a little quicker?

Sure, that would seem to make sense on the surface, but if we did erase him from rock’s story we’d have to go back and re-write the entry on the fantastic All That Wine Is Gone which he wrote for Jesse Belvin to sing while both were members of Three Dots And A Dash the vocal group who appeared on a few Big Jay McNeely singles cut in late 1951. He then sang lead on the flip side, another of his own compositions, Don’t Cry Baby, and while he couldn’t compare to Belvin’s dulcet tones, he wasn’t an albatross to the record either.

Because of that connection when Huff got his own chance to cut records as a vocalist starting with She’s My Baby the next year – released initially on the microscopically small label International (whose name was fooling no one) before being picked up by RPM – it was a forgone conclusion that we weren’t going to omit him thanks to his past contributions alone.

But even if he hadn’t been a Dot and had no connection to far bigger names in rock lore than he’d ever be, there’s no way after hearing this crazed blues-rocker that we would dare pass him over and miss telling you about something this intense.

Come On In!!
When asked about the talents of Jimmy Huff in later years, Big Jay McNeely stated that he was more of a hanger-on as opposed to an actual talent. He played some drums and sang, though not that well according to the sax star.

Well, I hate to disagree with someone as revered as Big Jay whose picture adorns our website’s heading, but while it’s true that Jimmy Huff wasn’t anywhere close to the class of Jesse Belvin, or even Phillips, it’s not as if he isn’t equipped to carry a tune like She’s My Baby, a song that is more suited for the barroom when half of the patrons are already sprawled on the floor and need something to revive them.

This record might just turn the trick.

One thing that jumps out at you as the record starts is the sharp electric guitar early on playing answering lines to the vocals, though it’s sort of buried in the mix it’s still readily apparent and whose tone and technique are definitely blues in nature. But just as you think this might start to be accentuated even more, bringing this into the hazy region between genres, it pulls back allowing for everything else in the arrangement which comes directly from the rock playbook to assert itself. From the steady backbeat to the constant presence of the horns along with Huff’s relentless vocal chants, this becomes a pretty determined rocker.

The sax solo is the kind of freewheeling display that a McNeely perfected and while this is far too sloppy to think that Big Jay was sitting in as a thank you for giving him a hit, the concept is at least the same as his best work as the tenor is spiraling out of control in front while the baritone boots it up behind him to keep it reasonably grounded.

The later guitar solo that closes the record is equally unhinged even though it’s actually just repeating a semi-distorted riff – which takes it far away from the smoother blues elements it seemed to possess early on – as the sax churns away on a riff of its own behind him. The raw energy being used by the guitarist though makes it seem as though it’s a car speeding downhill without breaks, swerving left and right to avoid small children, stray animals and little old ladies… and don’t look now but Grandma just might’ve ricocheted off the bumper.

Best of all however is that throughout it all Huff is just whooping it up, not caring about the collateral damage.


Yes I Do!!!
Though this has a decidedly loose-limbed feel to the record, the song is actually very well constructed and does show that Jimmy Huff should’ve had a longer and more celebrated career as a songwriter.

The instrumental parts are well thought out, just played rather aggressively to disguise that fact. The vocal parts, including call and response sections by the band members not currently undergoing delirium tremors who also echo the chorus, let you know there was a bit of forethought involved here too.

Finally there are the lyrics of She’s My Baby which lets you know that Huff wasn’t merely ad-libbing as the band ranted and raved behind him, as this has an actual plot – albeit one focused primarily on lust – as Huff at least manages to tweak the usual stock phrases in these types of songs with a few unique scenes, particularly winning is him describing her home, while his breathless delivery only adds to the charm.

All of this is made to sound rather crude pouring out of the speakers at high volume, but that’s a big part of creating a very calculated illusion of barely controlled mayhem and this one is pulled off about as well as it can be.

Records like this may not have the highest ceiling to them to ever be celebrated as classics, but in the midst of a party when you’ve just tapped the second keg at two o’clock in the morning they remain pretty hard to beat.


(Visit the Artist page of Jimmy Huff for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)