No tags :(

Share it

GOTHAM 240; JULY 1950



History of any kind is so large and unwieldy that it almost always gets reduced to a few broad generalizations to make for a more easily digestible serving.

A name, a date, a condensed headline will usually suffice, something to capsulize a much bigger story and serve as the answer to a quiz, be it in a high school class or meaningless bar-room trivia.

You’ll rarely actually learn anything of vital importance this way, sometimes the “facts” presented will even be completely wrong but the real loss in this downsizing of history is that it’s always the larger story with all its nuance, contradictions and details that makes history tolerable… even rewarding.

In music this is certainly the case and what’s particularly galling about the urge to reduce every artist to one or two hits is that the rest of their music doesn’t take very long to listen to… a single is two or three minutes, far less time required to read the longer history lesson contained within this review for instance.

If you want only what the history books have told you was worthwhile about Jimmy Preston’s music career, you’ve already passed that page… his one enduring hit was examined a year before this record came out.

If you want a little depth to his story though, keep reading, or better yet, keep listening, because this is something worth your time.


This Is Where The Fun Begins
Despite Jimmy Preston’s rather unlikely persona – mild mannered appearance, nasal vocals, etc. – he enjoyed a pretty solid first year in this racket, notching a couple of big hits with some great performances, capped by his one shot at immortality, Rock The Joint, which remains his calling card more than seventy years after it was released.

As long as the term “rock ‘n’ roll” is familiar to humanity, Preston is likely to never be completely forgotten or overlooked thanks to that one vital contribution to its early popularization, but in the process of recalling that tune, everything else he did usually gets pushed aside.

All of which is a shame because he rarely made a bad record and most of his sides were really good – their topics were sharp-eyed and accurate depictions of the vibrant black social scene that gave birth to and fueled rock’s rise, the lyrics were usually pretty colorful and while his own warbling on the alto sax was only modest, by this point he rarely was featured playing much on his records because his band, the self-reverential Prestonians, were more than capable of creating quite a racket on their own.

Case in point: Do The Bump, a great little record which had the misfortune of coming out when it did, as Preston’s star has dimmed since last summer and this was too far removed from his last hit to even reside in its shadow. Since he’d soon be leaving Gotham and be headed elsewhere this is one single that may have gotten lost in the shuffle even if history had been a little more thorough in their reporting.


Start Bumpin’ And Rockin’ All Over The Place
Saxophone and piano set the pace, the former giving off a slight snake charmer feel before it starts to squeal in a way that would probably disturb the cobra and cause him to strike, which means it’s a good thing for the group that there aren’t many deadly serpents residing in Philadelphia.

Rock fans however like this sort of noise and are going to be out of their seats and on the dance floor grinding away. Whether they actually will Do The Bump – the dance it’s rumored to be named after – while listening, or if they’re envisioning a different sort of bump, albeit with the same partner in a state of undress, can’t be determined with any statistical accuracy, but either way the participants are sure to have a good time.

It features a very solid – if somewhat simple – rhythm track with Billy Gaines’ piano and Skeets March’s drums working in cohesion to make sure the pace never slackens while the horn tosses in a few whimsical lines between vocals.

Though you still wish Preston would invest in some decongestant for his perpetually clogged nostrils, his enthusiasm doesn’t wane in spite of his unfortunate condition, his vocals adding to the rhythmic thrust of the song while giving us plenty of risque lyrics to get us smiling.

Though we just made light of what kind of bumping the audience for this record were likely to be engaging in, it’s clear that Preston has no doubt which activity they’ll choose if given the option, because for all of its dancing metaphors it’s pretty obvious this is about the kind of hedonistic pursuits that your parents warned you about when you started listening to this type of music in the first place.

From the frenzied shouts and screams from the band in the background to the repeated references to how juiced everyone there is expected to get, the main focus is on he’ing and she’ing in the dark. “Grab your gal and grab your guy… let’s all get high” he instructs, and then suggests everybody go to the bar and down a shot of whiskey before returning to the floor to “bump each other to see how it feels”.

I’ll give you a minute or two to follow his command if you’re so inclined… as will he, because that’s when the band starts replicating the kind of scenes that description conjures up.

Everybody’s Gonna Have A Ball Tonight
Still with us? Pants pulled back up? Good, so let’s circle back and check out what the fellas in the band, who unfortunately have only their ahh… own instruments to umm “get close with” during the long raunchy instrumental break.

Billy Golson’s tenor sax is naturally the ringleader of this debauchery, loose and juiced as they’d say, and what the horn section delivers is pretty evocative of what we’ve had spelled out for us already. While some of the horns set the pace with staccato blowing the tenor ramps it up with increasing fervor, tossing in some vestiges of a melody but hardly sticking to it very closely. Instead it’s a series of riffs with a sudden eruption of drums thrown in to add to the commotion.

Granted it never really leads anywhere, but then again is it really supposed to?

When Preston returns you assume Do The Bump will settle back into the earlier arrangement, essentially replicating the first half of the record until the coda shakes things up a little, but instead we get a really suggestive wrinkle as Preston cries out all the places they’re going to bump and the piano answers his declarative shouts with two fisted chords echoing his words and adding a very deliberate visual scene to let your imaginations run wild… as if you needed the help.

Is this very deep? No, it’s not. Complex? Hardly. Inventive or unusual in any way? Nope.

But is it effective at getting you to lose your inhibitions, perhaps your clothing and what’s left of your mind?

Yeah, it’s all of that which is why songs like this, rudimentary though they may be, remain so potent and never deserve to be overlooked completely.


What It’s All About
Though we chalked up the cause of the historical blind spot that’s afflicting this record to the narrow focus of subsequent generations looking to boil every story down to the bare essentials, the fact of the matter is the current generation – by which I mean those from 1950 – were at least partly to blame for this being forgotten.

After all, it’s a lot easier to forget something that wasn’t a hit and for some reason Do The Bump didn’t connect with a wide enough segment of the listeners at the time to make the charts.

Whether Gotham knew at this point that Preston was leaving them when his two year deal was up in the fall or not we don’t know, but there was no promotion for this despite its quality and instead of a well-deserved hit the record vanished without a trace.

All of which makes it even easier to ascribe his short-lived career success to one classic “can’t miss” release that remains recognizable to this day, but for those willing to dig deeper they might be surprised this one comes close to matching “that one”.


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