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FEDERAL 12093; AUGUST 1952



Yes or no?

The question itself is pretty straightforward when you have just two options to choose from, but the answer you need to come up with is anything but simple.

We have a non-rock singer as the featured artist on a single that was penned by a rock songwriting team and features a rock vocal group as the prominent backing singers. But they’re not credited on the main release which on the surface makes the inclusion of this record not assured, especially if this was merely the second part of Federal Records’ shallow calculated attempt to nudge an older act into the rock spotlight in the hopes of getting additional sales without her firmly committing to the genre full time.

But then when you listen to it you’ll find it was a genuine rock record that merely used somebody unexpected to deliver the goods and thus there’s no way to keep it on the sidelines even if we protest their cheap and exploitative game plan that brought it to us.


On The Ball
For the second time this summer we’ve had to be convinced to include records by Lil’ Greenwood in rock’s story and while ultimately we chose to do so, it still wasn’t the easiest of decisions.

It’d be one thing if this was where she got her start as a recording artist, then we’d have no reason to suspect she was an interloper even though the flip side of her first Federal release from June was more or less a gospel song, while the other half of this single was an indescribable style that I suppose is pop by nature, but a weird dramatic form of it that defies description.

It’s not for nothing they called that one Never Again, because any more like that and we’ll fold up shop here and take up a less stressful job, like being a dentist for crocodiles.

But the fact of the matter is we had ample warning that Greenwood was not a rock act because she’s already cut sides for both Modern and Specialty the last two years, labels with a strong history of understanding just what rock ‘n’ roll entails. Despite some of the titles like Boogie All Night Long and Young Blood, they were not even attempting to court a rock audience and it was clear by her natural singing style which leaned more towards theatrics than genuine emotion that Greenwood was not comfortable in our neck of the woods.

In other words she was easy to pass over with those sides because they just weren’t close enough to even the farthest reaches of rock’s territory to seriously consider.

But then she landed at Federal and Ralph Bass had paired her with their newest big name signee, Little Willie Littlefield, on the quite good, if laid back, Monday Morning Blues and we had no choice but to include her if only because of Littlefield’s participation since he’s an act with a long illustrious history in rock ‘n’ roll.

Now, to force our hand once again no doubt, they have her teaming up with The Four Jacks on Grandpa Can Boogie Too, a rock song through and through with an infectious rolling rhythm propelled by a good, tight, driving arrangement.

If she can’t handle something THIS tailor made for rock ‘n’ roll, then it goes without saying that we should rescind her invitation and place her on the permanently ineligible list no matter what rock act the label ropes into joining her next time out.


Rock Most Anywhere
Have no fear, for while there remains serious questions as to whether Lil’ Greenwood would choose such a song if the decision were left to her, the personnel they surround her with virtually ensures she has no choice but to play along.

The Four Jacks have thus far shown that they are perfectly suited for rock ‘n’ roll, even if their own chance at a long career dried up pretty quickly after this.

Their role here is rather limited in what they’re being asked to do, but prominent in terms of their presence on the record, including kicking the song off with their bouncy “We found out” chant which gives this a very inviting vibe.

The musicians behind them are stepping up nicely in support including old friend Joe Lutcher who gave up rock ‘n’ roll, and music in general, a few years back to become a religious fanatic. He apparently found out that groceries don’t get delivered just by praying for them and so he picked up his alto sax and honks away in good form here, including a nice enough solo, despite the fact he was never exactly the best sax player to begin with.

Another former acquaintance of our, guitarist Tiny Webb, shows up too, so this is like shaping up to be homecoming weekend. But while it’d be perfectly natural to think that relics from the late 1940’s rock scene might not be up to providing an appropriate platform for a 1952 rock song, they more than do their part to give this a solid foundation.

The real stars however are the song’s writers, the familiar partnership of Rick Darnell and Mario Delagarde, the bass player for Johnny Otis, who outdo themselves with Grandpa Can Boogie Too, a song that has a fair amount of humor in the lyrics but isn’t reliant on laughs to win you over.

It’s their structure of the song even more than the specific content though which works so well, as the sax, drums and harmonizing voices of The Four Jacks open this record with the right flavor making Greenwood’s job all that much easier. She’s still not entirely comfortable with this kind of material, one listen and you can tell there’s absolutely no way she’s cracking a smile while singing this which shows that she’s treating it as a job rather than a privilege, but she’s got the right rhythmic bounce to her voice which will have to suffice.

The lines themselves are just clever enough to bear the weight of closer inspection, giving us a somewhat tired premise – the old geezer who still gets his kicks – but does so with some appealing scenarios and decent word flow.

It’s far from perfect, they only hint at the real decedent behavior they’re too scared to explore, and considering this is a record label that basically set a sexual assault of a minor to music on The Deacon Moves In, you can’t claim that they were worried about being blackballed.

Still, while you might not learn quite enough about what grandfathers did in the days before Viagra to allow them to keep getting off, you’ll – presumably – be happy to know they still had the desire for hanky panky and with a musical track that keeps them invigorated, it probably doesn’t matter much that Lil’ Greenwood, the lady in question, is going to try and claim she’s got a headache when he drops his drawers upon entering the bedroom.

She should spread her legs and try it for once though… it’d sure give her something more interesting to sing about than the kind of stuff she’s been belting out elsewhere.


That Ain’t All
This isn’t the last we’ll hear of Lil’ Greenwood, though it will be the last time she’s reliant on the appearance of authentic rockers sharing label credit to be included.

But don’t let that tantalizing promise of future entries here change your opinion of her career direction, or her personal tastes for that matter. She got her start singing with Roy Milton and it seems clear she probably would’ve been happier sticking with that pre-rock style, as it gave her just enough leeway where she could hint at something more vibrant without forcing her to go all in on the idea.

Unsurprisingly her future sides for Federal, all of which she wrote, mostly straddle the line between rock and other genres, that is if you can pin down what genres she’s attempting to align herself with on some of them.

On Grandpa Can Boogie Too there’s thankfully no “other” musical form she’s trying desperately to cling to. This is a rock record from top to bottom which finds the band and the song’s writers doing the heavy lifting for her. But even if Greenwood’s got her doubts as to the record’s validity, she puts forth a solid enough effort to give her a passing grade for her contributions as well.

She’s a good singer with a strong voice who probably came along five years too late to really find her niche. Rock wasn’t it, but if you let yourself get swept up in the full production of this one, you might just be momentarily fooled into thinking otherwise before coming to your senses.


(Visit the Artist pages of Lil’ Greenwood and The Four Jacks for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)