No tags :(

Share it




In short order, Joe Lutcher, one of the visionaries of early rock ‘n’ roll who never quite connected with the music and lived up to his potential, will forsake music altogether in favor of religion, putting an end to his career when he was still in his early thirties.

Though oftentimes these conversions from singing the Devil’s music to singing the praises of some God are framed as a spiritual awakening and a repudiation of their decedent past, the cynic tends to view them more as a rather drastic response to career turbulence, such as Lutcher’s failure to break through commercially on a consistent basis and his struggle to keep landing record deals as Peacock Records was his fifth stop in the last three years.

The truth of why he’d give up music for supposedly loftier pursuits probably lays somewhere in between… a genuine conflict over the wicked ways of the world that his music espoused and the fact that his music celebrating those wicked ways hadn’t been met with the kind of eager response he felt it deserved.


When I Took Sick In ‘49
It’s hard to explain why we’ve taken such an interest in Joe Lutcher, the artist and the man, over the past few years.

For the most part his records have been rather mediocre on the whole, some good ideas thwarted by bad habits, some forward looking concepts done in by backwards looking mindsets, all of it carried out by someone whose talents weren’t always capable of living up to his own – or our – expectations.

In addition Joe Lutcher was kind of a prickly person, a guy most famous today for being the one to convince Little Richard to follow his lead and give up rock ‘n’ roll to pursue a life in the church. Beyond that headline Lutcher was someone who despite living until 2006, making him one of the important first-hand participants in rock’s birth to reach the Twenty-First Century steadfastly refused to discuss his secular music career, thereby robbing us of invaluable insight as to what it was like in rock’s early days when the music’s fate was far from certain.

But in spite of those drawbacks we need to give credit where it is due as Lutcher was someone who legitimately saw the promise in pursuing this musical path well before most artists were even aware something was in the water. It wasn’t his fault he didn’t quite have the focus to put it all together and as a result others quickly zoomed past him creatively and commercially.

Though it was an uphill struggle at times he tried his best to keep up and over the past year or so Lutcher’s shown definite improvement. While even at his best he still may be slightly behind the curve, or in some cases heading off in another direction altogether, he’s never been anything less than interesting at the very least.

Give Me My Hadacol continues this trend, a record showing further creative growth despite a topic that was a little past its prime and with an admirable quirkiness that places him just outside of the main thoroughfare rock was traveling down as 1950 drew to a close.

Good For One, Good For All
Considering his conversion to a Seventh Day Adventist lifestyle in the near future Hadacol might not have been something Joe Lutcher himself was using regularly to fix what ails him, but it was hardly unknown to anyone who was around back then. The patent remedy “cure” that was nothing but booze with a medicinal aftertaste had been extremely popular down south in the late 40’s and early 50’s where many counties were still covered by local prohibition laws that made drinking the real thing illegal and so for a music that celebrates flaunting authority this was a natural fit.

But timing is everything when it comes to topics like this and Little Willie Littlefield came out with Drinkin’ Hadacol way back in October 1949 and Professor Longhair’s Hadacol Bounce was issued at the tail end of the most recent summer season, so Lutcher once again is a late arrival to this particular party.

However he’s got a few things going for him on Give Me My Hadacol that the others didn’t, namely a more unique structure and a band that will help put this message across in an appropriate manner for a subject that usually wound up with lots of sloshed people shouting incoherently when they tried using this stuff in real life to help them forget about their rheumatism or other maladies.

With its multi-layered horns giving this record a suspenseful opening worthy of a radio mystery drama, there’s a very distinctive feel they create which heightens anticipation. Since we kind of know with a subject this shallow there’s not going to be any major plot twists their emphasis on creating an alluring atmosphere shows that Lutcher was learning his lessons well. He was never the best singer, nor the best sax player, and so by focusing on interesting arrangements he was increasingly able to overcome his weaknesses as does here.

The story, such as it is, builds slowly and is more or less just an advertisement under the guise of a record, and in fact its owner Dudley LeBlanc was counting on such surreptitious promotions to spread word about his product. But Lutcher for his part shapes this pitch in a way that makes it sound more dramatic than it actually is, starting with his own past miseries which led to him being tipped off about this junk and naturally it made him feel great – 12% alcohol will generally do that, no matter how bad it tastes going down.

He’s got some good lines in here though to give it some color, the best of which finds him so pleased that he states “Now I feel like a millionaire who just bought Hollywood”… apparently land there was still cheap in 1950 or else this swill is far more potent than its reputation attests!

It’s hardly very subtle in its praises, and we hope Joe got a cut of the action from LeBlanc, or at least some free samples, but it’s effective in conveying the type of mild naughtiness that went along with flouting society’s laws against such things.

Both Day And Night
Where the record really comes into its own isn’t the lyrical side of the equation, but rather is found in the structure which alternates these slinky verses backed by slowly prancing horns with the sudden explosion of group vocals shouting the title line as if they were selling it on the back of a flatbed truck rolling through the streets.

That yin/yang attitude in a back and forth format makes Give Me My Hadacol sound even more like it’s reveling in its lawlessness, contrasting the sneaking around aspects it entails before you procure it with the celebratory mood once you’ve “taken the cure”.

Even the alto sax solo, brief though it is (perhaps even played by Lutcher himself), is beguiling in its tones, making this entire affair come across as some sort of clandestine caper worthy of the big screen. Of course it’s nothing of the sort, you could actually buy this stuff over the counter which is why it was so popular, but Lutcher is playing up the stigma involved because everybody knew, from the druggist on down to the stock boy at the local pharmacy, that this stuff wasn’t fit for curing anything but sobriety.

The arrangement, with its droning trumpet behind the verses and the way it shifts to emphasize the beat during the chorus and even the fade where two band members verbally joust while the horns play an exotic Middle Eastern styled fade, brings it all together nicely.

The product they’re selling may be essentially worthless but the means with which they’re publicizing it is pretty inventive


Another Bottle…
It must’ve been hard to know just what to do with Joe Lutcher by this stage of the game. It was obvious that he was never going to break through on a consistent basis when it came to churning out hits, simply because his style was far more off-beat than what generally appealed to the masses, but it should’ve been equally obvious that he was capable of making records that were of high quality with some niche appeal.

If Lutcher had been content with that I’m sure he could’ve continued recording for a lot longer, as there’d always be record companies who had a spot on their release schedule to fill with somebody with lingering name recognition and interesting ideas to explore.

But at the same time those same companies probably knew they’d have to earn the money back on the margins with him because even when he was cutting songs that had topics which seemed made for widespread jukebox appeal like Give Me My Hadacol he was bound to come up with something completely different than what you – and the audience – expected.

Some would say that’s a good risk, but record companies tend to view that adventurism as a risk not worth taking because there’s no major upside, which come to think of it is sort of the story of Joe Lutcher’s career in a nutshell.

No wonder he found religion, it’s built on the same premise after all… the potential for getting something rewarding without any evidence that it will actually pay off in the end.


(Visit the Artist page of Joe Lutcher for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)