No tags :(

Share it

GOTHAM 228; APRIL 1950



One of the recurring themes around here is that while rock ‘n’ roll constantly evolved, sometimes racing forward so quickly that you barely caught each trend before it was replaced by something else, there were still those who doggedly clung to the past.

Though this was quite natural for many reasons, whether record labels preferring releasing material with a proven track record even if that was becoming passé, or artists feeling more comfortable with the sounds they first embraced when breaking through, the reality was sometimes it just served as a perverse form of public admission that your own days of being ahead of the curve creatively were already over.


You Know Pops, I’m Rough Enough
I’m not certain which pre-rock artist has been mentioned most on these pages to date, I don’t keep tabs on such things, but the handful of candidates for that position are pretty easy to guess. You have The Ink Spots whose more mannered, even florid, style was both a vital breakthrough for the black vocal group scene of the late 1930’s and 40’s before it became the very model the rock generation had to blow up to establish themselves as something different. There’s also Bing Crosby, who by virtue of the enormity of his fame alone would figure into the discussion when trying to put the birth of an entirely new and dramatically different style into perspective.

But chances are the winner in this sweepstakes is Louis Jordan, the figure who dominated the 1940’s like no other, not only reigning supreme over black music but also penetrating white sensibilities on a regular basis without pandering to them in the process, all while serving as the most important musical bridge between the jazz era and the rock era with his stylistic prototypes.

Because of that he’s made frequent cameo appearances here in the reviews of others and so there’s no need to recount the WAYS in which he changed the game other than to say if you simply ratcheted up the attitude of his records (musically and vocally) you’d have a pretty fair blueprint for rock ‘n’ roll.

By 1950 his days a top the market he once held in his hip pocket were just about over thanks to the recent arrival and subsequent boom in popularity of his own musical descendant, the rock styles we’re reviewing.

But even in the midst of rock’s takeover of culture there were still a few records which clung to the fading style of Louis Jordan… or in the case of Jimmy Preston’s Hay Ride there were times when a record was Louis Jordan in all but name.

Sittin’ Side By Side
We could try and put this in the best possible light by talking about the universal habit of benign cultural appropriation in art and give Preston every benefit of every doubt by claiming he was paying respect to someone whom he felt he owed a debt and all sorts of other wishy-washy nonsense, but the fact is there’s no other way to put this than to say – they ripped off someone else’s song and attempted to pass it off as their own.

Forget the new lyrics, new title and new songwriter credit, Hay Ride is nothing more but the same ol’ song that’s already been consumed and digested, a thinly disguised remake of Jordan’s massive hit from 1949 Saturday Night Fish Fry. But then again, as we diligently laid out on these pages, that wasn’t exactly an original Jordan song either.

It was originally conceived and recorded by Big Jay McNeely as Road House Boogie last spring and then re-appropriated in the summer by sometime rock drummer Ellis Walsh who gave the composition to Jordan before Walsh cut it himself with frequent visitors to this site, Eddie Williams And His Brown Buddies. So maybe in a weird sort of way Preston was just trying to bring it back home to rock ‘n’ roll.

Or then again after listening to Hay Ride, maybe not.

Okay, okay… definitely not!

All The Cats Were On The Move
Songs are re-made and re-worked all the time of course, sometimes giving credit to the originator, often times trying to slip one over on people as both Walsh and Jordan attempted by swiping their idea from McNeely’s record. Here Preston is even more blatant about and isn’t disguising his intent in the least, all he does is come up with new words that aren’t nearly as well-crafted, as culturally subversive or as entertaining as any of the previous “versions” and then claims credit for himself as if nobody with functioning ears would be any the wiser.

This is an imitation, not a reinvention, and while the band is in good form and Preston’s vocals are fairly lively and engaging, we get a sick feeling as it plays, not just because he’s using Jordan’s pre-rock sensibilities rather than McNeely’s rock blueprint, but also because we get the sense we’re being asked to become silent conspirators in this charade by listening.

Truthfully this record isn’t worth a short prison sentence or even a light fine and twenty hours of community service just to hear. Aside from the fact you already know the melody, the unique structure and the laid back commentary-laden vocals, Hay Ride is lacking the most important aspect any song can have, whether original or an admitted remake – it’s lacking personality… at least Jimmy Preston’s personality.

Music is not a stage play wherein you take on the attributes of another character, real or fictitious, and attempt to embody that person’s perspective, feelings and desires. Even when you are singing songs you didn’t write, didn’t arrange and didn’t produce the musical artist is still expected to bring some aspect of themselves to the table in their interpretation, to invest themselves in the song in a way that is unique and distinctive to THEM.

But Jimmy Preston doesn’t bother even trying to do any of that here and that, more than anything else, is what sinks it.


Nix Jim, Nay Nay
The horns that open it are a little too full of helium maybe, but the rhythm is emphasized nicely throughout the record with a hyper-kinetic drummer’s twitchy cymbal riding as the main feature.

Preston’s vocals are certainly enthusiastic, singing in a strong full-bodied voice with the right attitude for the lyrics, which eliminate the broader theme of a house rent party that is broken up by typically aggressive and callous cops, replacing it with a more benign story about a romantic Hay Ride in the sticks where Preston is interrupted (maybe not quite coitus interruptus but close) and has to fight for his girl.

He loses the tussle, loses his girl, and loses us in the process. It skews SO closely to the “Fish Fry” model that we’re not even interested in the outcome and that’s despite the fact that Preston’s gang is chiming in lustily on the choruses as well as the fact they have the benefit of a stinging electric guitar adding sharp accent notes and a quick solo that are exciting to hear and appropriate to try and convey a more aggressive rock style which fits into the song’s arrangement pretty nicely.

Maybe if you DIDN’T know the history of this and hadn’t immersed yourself in Jordan’s record at the very least, let alone the Brown Buddies rendition and the McNeely original that started all of this, then I’m sure you might even find this to your liking. Though it still wouldn’t quite be cutting edge enough to be a great rock song for this period, nor something to match Preston’s earlier standout sides, this would probably be good enough to be average for sure and maybe, if you were feeling particularly generous, even slightly better than average for 1950.

But as you know context is the ultimate equalizer and you can hardly give someone credit for appropriating another song, another performance altogether for that matter, and doing so in such a shallow and insincere manner.

Just How I Made My Getaway
If Jimmy Preston was indeed inspired by another song, or another artist from another era, there were better ways to show it than this.

If he was merely going through the motions to come up with another record before looking to depart the label for a new deal elsewhere this might make more sense as a career move but still doesn’t take him off the hook when trying to evaluate the results.

But more than anything if Preston still had visions of climbing further up the rock ladder, and if rock itself had dreams of taking over the world, then every song like Hay Ride – recycled, re-imagined or regurgitated, take your pick – had to be excised from the playbook.

The ONLY thing that’s a constant in all worthwhile artistic movements is the “movement” part… as in, when that art stops moving forward at a steady rate of speed then it stops being viable altogether and people move on to something else.

We’re beginning to see a few troubling signs of this happening in 1950 with the first generation of rock stars, maybe since they had moved forward so rapidly over the final two and a half years of the 1940’s they were feeling overwhelmed by the constant need for something new and more exciting and taking a step back to catch their breath.

But digging your heels in the dirt and trying to slow down progress, let alone stopping in your tracks and retracing your steps backwards, is only assuring that you won’t be around when the inevitable march of progress continues unabated with new artists and new ideas that don’t have any time – nor any desire – to look back over their shoulders at what they left behind.


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