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When looking back at rock history the prevailing mindset is to always whittle away at an artist’s body of work until only one or two recognizable records remain which in time become the only thing they’re known for.

Call it a cruel form of inventory taking wherein anything deemed non-essential is cleared out to make room for the countless other souvenirs from a laundry list of artists over the years.

With Jimmy Preston we know full well that he’ll likely never be completely tossed out of the rock scrapbook thanks to one enduring hit, but virtually everything else he did has been sort of swept aside, put out on the curb and hauled away to the junkyard – not because it’s bad, but because there’s no time for most people to listen to them.

Yet as his days as a professional recording artist wind down what’s becoming abundantly clear the more of his releases we cover is just how consistently solid he was over the course of his career. Though it didn’t last long – by his own choice – he had the kind of success rate in terms of quality output that even the most acclaimed artists would envy.

Here’s another long forgotten song that can hold its own with many of the more familiar hits of the year.


Your Old Used To Be
You understood why Jimmy Preston teamed up with female vocalist Burnetta Evans on the top side of his first release for Derby Records – Oh Babe! – as it replicated the male-female trade off that was the featured component on Louis Prima’s original where he and Keely Smith shared lead vocal duties.

It may have been somewhat counterproductive had it failed since Preston was the company’s one big signing of the year and sharing the spotlight with a relative stranger on the scene might not have been the safest move, yet they nailed the song and audiences responded enthusiastically, giving Preston a Top Five hit in the process.

But that’s where you’d figure such experiments would end. No need in trying to re-position Preston as part of a duet after so much success as a solo artist, it might even confuse listeners or alienate his sizable fan base who don’t want him sharing the stage with someone else. Yet they pressed on with this idea at the same session, giving Evans even more responsibility on other songs such as Stop That Baby and expected her to hold her own with the veteran hit-maker.

That she was able to do so fairly easily leaves you to wonder why she never accomplished anything on her own, for while her rapport with Preston is strong throughout this record, it’s not as if she’s reliant on him to prop her up here, as the two of them go toe to toe, and it’s Evans who may in fact make the stronger impression – at least in terms of the character she’s playing if not the performance itself.

Preston naturally kicks this off after a light boogie on the piano, complaining about his woman in a tone of voice that just sounds defeated. It’s a good acting job on his part, resigned to having a wife or girlfriend who drives him crazy, not prepared to leave her – maybe because he knows he couldn’t get someone else with whatever attributes in her that he finds attractive – but he’s not above pleading for her to try and shape up.

Evans follows with complaints of her own centered on Preston staying out late and presumably either drinking with his buddies or chasing other women, but she sounds almost dismissive of him in the process. Yes, she’s asking him to stop, but no, she’s not nearly as upset about it as you’d expect, letting you know that she’s far more secure about her position in the relationship than Preston is.

That differing perspective helps sell this, preventing it from being a one note record. As it goes on Preston makes hollow threats and Evans responds with a little more concern in the last stanza but as she lets her voice soar a little at the end you get the idea that something else – if not someone else – caught her eye and she’s on her way out the door before the needle lifts from the groove.


You Acted Like You Done Lost Your Mind
The song has such a simple melody that rises and falls with the vocals that you realize you’ve heard it countless times in the years since, sometimes slightly altered, but always fairly recognizable. The band, now called an Orchestra by Derby, are the same Prestonians that he’d featured at Gotham Records and they haven’t let the loftier appellation go to their heads at all, laying back during the verses and adding a modestly churning horn riff behind the choruses.

Nothing special you’ll say, but entirely appropriate all the same.

Where they make their mark on Stop That Baby is in the instrumental break where Benny Golson rips off a tenor sax solo that takes all of the underlying frustration Preston is expressing during his diatribe and bundles it with the more derisive sniping of Evans, letting the mixture come to a rapid boil.

There’s no gaudy honking here, no paint-peeling squeals either, but in every other way it’s a picture perfect sax solo, accelerating the tempo enough to make it stand out, digging deeper to impart the growing pressure between the two combatants and yet never getting out of control itself, maintaining the melody while providing a new texture with that slightly rougher tone.

The contrast between this and the main sections of the song – musically and vocally – make it seem a lot bolder than it’d be in isolation which is a subtle arranging slight of hand that works well and shows that these guys were at the top of their game now. Rather than repeat old formulas, they were always searching for new wrinkles that kept their work interesting.

Treating Your Baby Wrong
There’s a tendency to define artists by their pinnacles in their careers and obviously those with multiple peaks are going to be best remembered.

But those kind of acts are few and far between and so the better measure for the mere mortals should be how consistently good they were over time. That’s the point of these stupid scores we’re handing out.

In that regard Jimmy Preston, much to our surprise actually, is shaping up to be somebody whose lasting legacy should be much higher because you’re almost always assured of getting one above average song per release, often two.

That may not seem like something to brag about but if you’re a rock fan in 1950 with a dollar in your pocket and you see a Jimmy Preston release you could buy it without wasting a dime to hear both sides first on the jukebox and have every expectation you’ll get your money’s worth.

Stop That Baby might not jump out at you like the A-side does, but you could easily envision this as a minor hit on its own, or at the very least something that you wouldn’t tire of hearing over time.

That Preston has done this kind of thing since he arrived, cycling through two backing bands and now partnering up with another singer on a new label no less, all while never tripping up or falling back, is something to admire.

He might not have ever been considered a first tier star of his era of rock but the way he’s going he damn sure is making a compelling case to be named captain of the second team.


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