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OKEH 6848; DECEMBER 1951



We just got done skewering veteran rock arranger Howard Biggs on the flip side of this record for taking what might’ve been an effective rock song and trying to turn it into a blaring showpiece for an overcrowded horn section better suited for the stages of Las Vegas and you might assume on this half of the single we’d go in for the kill and put him out of his misery once and for all.

After all, this side was cut at the same session and so not only is the same band present with Biggs sitting firmly in the director’s chair, but unlike the flip which came from an outside source, on this one Howard Biggs is the co-writer of the song itself.

Surely this has disaster written all over it… right?

Nope. Which only goes to show that more often than not “intent” takes precedent over personnel.


Oh Baby!
We’ll get to the much more restrained and appropriate arrangement by Howard Biggs in due time, but first we need to address Larry Darnell and his penchant for releasing songs that are barely discernable by their titles.

Way back in 1949 he released Lost My Baby which made the charts as the B-side to an even bigger hit and apparently caused those around him to realize it might not be smart to throw this baby out with the bathwater so to speak. A few months later he seemed to make oblique reference to the earlier hit with My Baby Don’t Love Me, which kind of stood to reason if he lost her, unless he thought we meant he simply misplaced her like his keys, his wallet or his left shoe.

Then he turned his attention to the girl herself by declaring I Love You So before feeling the need to elaborate these thoughts even further on Why Do I Love You on both sides of the same dreadful pop-slanted single, apparently trying to win her back despite her cruel desertion of him at a motel outside of Tucson, Arizona… probably for forsaking any rock touches in the arrangements.

Apparently though his efforts at winning her over were successful as he is back with “baby” soon after as he tells us in I Love My Baby backed by… what else?… My Kind Of Baby, in case anyone was prone to doubt him or question the reason why he’d return to this duplicitous lass.

But clearly all was not well in their rocky relationship and as time went on he remained unconvinced of this girl’s devotion to him and closed out his Regal tenure by asking her flat out – Do You Love Me Baby.

That’s seven songs in two years that tackle this ongoing soap-opera, often with virtually the same title, or variations of it anyway and while the records weren’t designed to be chapters in a book with the same characters picking up where we left off last time out, it’s still sort of redundant to keep addressing the same basic premise each time out. Talk about overkill!

Now here he is with his first effort on OKeh Records and maybe at last he’s seen fit to finally dump this troublesome girl named Baby once and for all and is making a clean break of things with the definitive assertion I Left My Baby.

(Try looking these things up sometime and see what a nightmare it is for making heads or tails out of his catalog).

Yet despite the lack of originality in the themes and wording, this time around the structure of the song works pretty well for getting Larry Darnell back on track… with his music that is, we’ll try and stay out of his sordid affairs.

When The Sun Came Up This Morning
What’s so astonishing about this production is how it effectively pares down the excesses of the horn section that marred the other side of the single.

The same seven horns are present – at least in the room, if not on mic – but they’ve correctly focused their attention on the two tenor saxes, the lynchpins of rock music for most of the first dozen years or so.

We still get the infernal trumpet on the intro which doesn’t help matters much, but it’s quickly usurped by the tenor sax, either Budd Johnson, who was so prominent on a lot of Atlantic Records work at this time, or Count Hastings, who has made a few appearances on rock songs as well.

The sax is the driving force of the track, grinding out lines that sound agitated and pained, as well as highly suggestive if not downright dirty at various times. The other tenor is backing him by laying down a prancing sounding progression which was fairly standard for the day but for good reason, as it’s got a seductive head-bobbing quality to it that’s easy to get into.

Behind this is Darnell, his anguished tenor and breathy delivery adding pathos to Left My Baby just by the way he seems to pull each line from the depths of his soul, as if it’s making things worse talking about it like this.

You might wonder why this would be the case when it’s Darnell who left this relationship, not the other way around, but apparently he’s not gone for good, he’s merely on a trip somewhere and is now wondering what’s going on in his absence even though she was crying when he left because she needs him around.

Like I said, soap opera stuff.

For once though the lyrics are secondary to the emotion being put forth – in fact they seem designed to be less important, as all they want is a way to place Darnell in a situation they can exploit by having him wring his heart out like only he can. In that sense they work just fine. We can’t poke holes in the story, though we question why he’s not sure of when he’ll return, but since the focus is clearly on examining his tortured soul, this gives him a chance to show what he can do vocally and he’s never less than 100% convincing in the role.

We DO have one qualm with Biggs however as he brings back the entire horn ensemble for the cluttered instrumental break which breaks the very tension the rest of the track had been building so effectively, and so even though there’s some great tenor sax work in this section, it tends to get buried in the maelstrom.

But at least they’re not ruining the rest of the song which, considering his tendency to throw far too much at the wall and expect it all to stick, has to be seen as a blessing.


All I Do Is Wonder How Are Things Back Home?
Though not a hit, this was further evidence that Larry Darnell was far from washed up… he was only 23 after all… should he get more sympathetic production that kept him consistently within the clearly marked rock ‘n’ roll borders.

The problem was he may have been a little too talented for those around him to be content with rock stardom, which he’d already achieved right out of the gate. With his silky smooth voice and that choked emotion plus his matinee idol looks he was an obvious candidate for more elegant club work where he’d be backed by jazz outfits or big-band orchestras, singing a succession of love ballads rather than diversifying his output.

But while that sounds like a good plan on paper – that is, if you go for that sort of thing aesthetically – it required actual hits to build an audience for these appearances and his best chance for getting those hits still came with rock fans, not the adult supper club patrons.

Left My Baby tries to split the difference and does so about as well as it can be done without betraying either side completely and because it leans more towards rock thanks to the gritty sax underpinning of the backing track this definitely has hit potential.

But when it failed to catch on Howard Biggs went back to the drawing board and continued to search for the right combination of influences to get Larry Darnell back on top when all along the answer was right under their noses – just keep it simple without getting in the way and let him be himself, which was always more than good enough.


(Visit the Artist page of Larry Darnell for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)