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You can try and try, but you can’t force a hit.

In the near future you could certainly BUY a hit through payola, but in 1952 there weren’t enough radio stations playing rock ‘n’ roll to give you enough bang for your buck and stir interest in a record to the extent that it’d be spun by people on jukeboxes which is the outlet the charts at the time were focused on.

About the only thing you could do was entice jukebox operators into stocking your artist’s latest single and then, since there was only 20 or so selections to make, hoping that enough people with spare change in each locale gave your record a chance and liked what they heard to play it again… and again and again.

It wasn’t very efficient but when it was about your only option, certain record companies, especially those without much in the way of viable alternatives on their label, were known to heavily push a record that was going nowhere week after week in hopes of convincing others that it was worth pursuing.

The strange thing is, Atlantic had so many hit-making artists they certainly didn’t need to do this for one whose time had seemingly passed.


If You Come Back To Me
On one hand you almost admire the efforts by Atlantic Records to sort of coax this into a hit. After all, Joe Morris had given them their first big sellers when they were bordering on bankruptcy and later, with Laurie Tate in town, gave them their first chart topper in 1950.

But since that time they’ve had no shortage of stars or hits as Ruth Brown rocketed past Morris and Tate in the company’s hierarchy just a few months later and after Tate departed for maternity leave the company bolstered their roster with The Clovers, Big Joe Turner and The Cardinals, all of whom have scored big for them since. Now that Tate is back with Morris for the time being, you might think that Atlantic figured they were simply bringing back a returning star and could really clean up.

Okay, makes sense maybe, but neither one of these sides that adorned this single were new cuts, they were recorded back in 1950 and only now hauled out of mothballs because Tate was back on board. Furthermore they credited them TO Tate rather than Morris who’d gotten lead artist credit when they notched back to back Top Ten hits.

Then there’s the fact that they started off by promoting the other side, Rock Me Daddy, which if nothing else seemed to have a more enticing theme, but the next week abruptly switched their focus to this side instead. Over the next six weeks they kept plugging away in the trades with more – and more prominent – ads for it, insisting that Can’t Stop My Crying was climbing fast, coming on strong and hitting big.

Yet there’s no sign in the regional charts that it ever made an impact anywhere. The fact that Cash Box magazine was now adding to the regions that received the larger print Top Tens made its failure to connect actually MORE noticeable to jukebox ops who didn’t want to squint at the small print they used in the past for more remote outposts to see if Atlantic’s many ads for this were based on fact or fantasy.

This one seems to have fallen in the fantasy column.

Haven’t Smiled Since I Don’t Know When
Though the flip side has the benefit of a better title, this one has two small advantages of its own… the first is a more dramatic opening with a piano that is pounded with increasing insistence as a guitar glides in and doubles it part-way through, changing the timbre of the notes as well as their intensity and increasing anticipation for what follows in the process.

The second is Laurie Tate’s singing here is much more controlled, both in volume and tone, as she’s not screeching in her ill-suited upper register as she was prone to do. This certainly makes the storyline much more clear at least and since listeners tend to want to have some idea what a song is about, this can’t hurt its chance of at least answering that question without the need for a translator.

Is it worth it? Well, not unto itself maybe, the plot is just a typical down in the dumps about love confession, but Tate, who wrote this (as she did the other side too), does at least convincingly put across her sorrow over losing him, the conflict regarding her feelings of being dumped and her desires for him anyway, all of which swirls in her mind in a realistic way. It’s not a neat summation of love like Tin Pan Alley songs had a tendency to be, everything tied up in ribbons, but then again messy is far more life like, especially when it comes to the sometimes agonizing travails love.

But Tate’s believability still doesn’t negate the irritability she engenders in listeners who have to endure a few high-pitched shrieks that pop up intermittently to the detriment of the record.

Can’t Stop My Crying was cut at her second session, in November 1950, and although she’s toned that down somewhat from her first go-rounds from July of that year, that trait was too much a part of her natural approach to eliminate completely. With her first record rising on the charts at the time no one at Atlantic was likely inclined to rein her in if that was what the public wanted, or at least were willing to accept.

In spite of those momentary annoyances the song has got a nice deliberate groove to it, some familiar melodic cues that were frequently employed during the era on a wide array of rock songs by artists across the spectrum, some good playing – particularly some nice guitar licks and a sax solo that never becomes ostentatious but stays right in your face all the same. Down the stretch Tate’s voice even manages to hold its own with all of those things and wraps the story up in convincing fashion.

Yes, it’s a slightly past its prime, as you’d expect for a record held back for seventeen months, but while that makes it unlikely to receive a groundswell of support from those who are digging the current sounds, it’s not so out of fashion that it wouldn’t have some appeal if it got heard.

Which brings us back full circle to Atlantic Records’ decision to promote this one in the face of ongoing indifference…


So Long, So Long, So Long, Baby
Obviously we can’t know what they were basing their constant push of this on but we can make a few guesses at least starting with the fact that by 1952 they were flush with success and may have just been flexing their reputational muscles a little to see if they had the power to “will” a song into the charts.

After all, jukebox ops had made a lot of money on Atlantic’s line the last two or three years and throughout May the #1 song in Billboard belonged to Ruth Brown (with 5-10-15 Hours), so another female singer in Laurie Tate probably seemed like a good risk by the company to see if they could resuscitate her career with Can’t Stop My Crying while they were hot as a pistol.

If we want to be more cynical in our parlor guessing game there may have also been some calculated thought as to the cost benefit to turning Tate into a star while shortchanging Joe Morris, who recorded these with her and with whom she was now touring again.

Since Tate was a songwriter AND a singer, something that had increasingly more commercial potential nowadays than it did back when Morris was a viable headliner, the chance to break her under her own name, then sign her to a deal of her own and simply record her with session musicians rather than paying Morris as a contracted artist, would be more financially astute.

Then again maybe it was nothing more than their biggest acts were in between releases now, having issued their current singles in winter while the late spring sides were still not ready to go, so why not pick one of the secondary acts and try and guess which had a little potential on its own and spend the 35 bucks a week or so it cost to plug it in the trades and see if it might come up roses?

It didn’t quite work out this time, but stranger things have happened.


(Visit the Artist page of Laurie Tate as well as Joe Morris for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)