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KING 4421; DECEMBER 1950



When you’re dealing with an artist with a long successful history in jazz as the saxophone playing sideman of a major band who only turned to rock ‘n’ roll in the late 1940’s out of a combination of necessity and demand by a record label owner who cared nothing of art, only commerce, you learn not to expect much when it came to his rock efforts.

When you see that his latest release contains a sax instrumental on one side and a vocal turn by him on the other, you’ve probably already made up your mind that the first side is going to be the one that attempts to reach our ears while the other is some meaningless indulgence intended to satisfy his own standards.

Scanning the titles only confirms this as it’s the instrumental that has the name that jumps out at you.

Yet when you listen to them both and are proven wrong, that’s when you’re reminded of the saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover or a record by its title.


I Stay By The Phone All Day
So yeah, this is the vocal side and the only one of the two songs that qualifies as rock… and it’s not really a stretch either to get it in the door.

Joe Thomas had after all sang with Jimmie Lunceford on occasion and while he wasn’t a great singer by any stretch, he was more than serviceable if you weren’t looking for much more than someone to carry a melody with a nice rhythmic sense and a fair degree of casual confidence.

But even so, you HAD to assume that when he cut a sax instrumental for a rock label and named it Big Foot of all things, that this was going to be the one that delivered the goods we were looking for. Then again that’s probably why they named it that in the first place – misleading consumers is hardly a novel idea in any business, especially one with the questionable ethics of the recording industry.

However it doesn’t take long after cuing up the offending title to realize that was far more suited the music Thomas had reportedly left behind, a pleasant enough trifle from another time and place with absolutely no connection to the music he was supposedly being paid to deliver for King Records.

Got To Have Her Lovin’ on the other hand is more in line with what they want, what we’ve come to expect and for all we know what Thomas himself cringed at having to deliver on a regular basis, though he does so with his usual class.

Was it enough to help make him a consistent star in rock? No, of course not, but it was just enough to keep him churning out rock songs for awhile longer rather than retreat to the music yesteryear full time.

Can’t Keep Nothin’ Else On My Mind
Even though this is clearly a rock song it takes a few seconds to get its feet under it as the opening horn riff is a little sluggish. But once Thomas starts singing in a mellow tone the horns behind him, particularly Orrington Hall’s baritone sax, lay down a simple but effective repetitive groove with a steady backbeat provided by Bazeley Perry’s drums.

The story of Got To Have Her Lovin’ is pretty much found in the title alone, as the rest of the lyrics are little more than expounding on the theme. Thomas is nervous and insecure about losing his girlfriend, both in terms of what he says and how he says it, but the lines themselves are economical and to the point, painting the simple picture without any wasted motion.

If that were all there was to it then this would be pretty inconsequential… mild and inoffensive, yet without anything gripping to pull you in.

But while Thomas certainly was capable of carrying a lead as a singer, he wouldn’t be paid well for that ability… where he earned his keep was with his horn and that’s where this is going to have to win us over.

Luckily he gets multiple opportunities to do so as the first solo comes before we’re a minute in and while it’s short and fairly modest, he gets the most out of his part thanks to a full-bodied tone with a sandpapery grit to it that makes it sound dirtier than the lyrics and the overall setting probably calls for.

The second solo is the one where he’s expected to for broke and here he starts out with more fervor, playing a little higher and with more force but this one too, while sounding just fine, doesn’t go on long enough for us to get really caught up in it.

Each solo lasts just twenty seconds and while that might seem like a lot in a song that runs just barely two and a half minutes it really isn’t, less than 30% of the run time and for a saxophonist to have his primary means of connecting with audiences shelved for nearly two-thirds of a record to let his secondary talent get the rest of the time in the spotlight, this isn’t going to cut it.

I’ve Tried So Hard
There’s nothing that Thomas does here – other than misjudge the appeal of his respective skill sets – that can be faulted. The song itself is somewhat catchy, his singing isn’t off-putting and the musical backing is suitable for the content. The solos, though far too short, both deliver just enough of what we came to hear to leave us reasonably content.

But content and enthused are not the same thing and that’s where this falls short, in the planning stage.

Had they merely extended the run time to about 2:50 and then let Thomas go wild with that added time, particularly in the second break, ramping things up to a fevered pitch before winding it back down so it’d transition well to his milder vocals, then Got To Have Her Lovin’ may have earned OUR lovin’.

Instead they soft peddle it making this a record that nobody could really object to hearing but nobody would ask to hear once the party is underway. There’s not enough lyrical insight to make it all that suitable for solitary introspection either, so it succeeds or fails with how much it moves you.

This gets you stirring, but not moving. At best it’s the prelude to something bigger, yet that something isn’t even found on the instrumental flip side, meaning that to get into the kind of hedonistic atmosphere you crave you’ll have to remove Joe Thomas from the record player and look for something else more suitable.

But that’s often the case with guys like this, the ones who were more than capable of whipping you into a frenzy but who simply didn’t understand that was what was called for each time out. He may have consented to become a rocker in his professional life, but you knew after he left the studio he went right back to being the guy who made his bones in another style altogether.


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