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One of the more interesting creatures in nature are pilot fish, striped warm water carnivores that are most known for their close association with sharks.

Their peculiar “job”, such as it is, and what allows them to not ever have to fear being eaten by one of their hosts, is to clean out parasites from the shark’s mouth, swimming right inside the powerful jaws and acting like an aquatic dental hygienist, getting the tiny bits of food from between their razor sharp teeth.

The benefit to both of these underwater residents is obvious: The shark gets a gleaming smile to impress their potential mates and the pilot fish get a free meal without having to go shopping and spend all their time in the kitchen cooking.

Sittin’ In With Records was sort of the pilot fish of the Texas rock ‘n’ roll scene for a brief time in 1950, cleaning out the artists left behind when Freedom Records finished their feast.


That Used To Shine Above
Though none of these associations with the jettisoned artists of Freedom Records would last very long – Goree Carter being the other, far more high profile, pick-up, the fact is their presence on Sittin’ In With once Freedom began the process of shutting its doors, was that it served as something of an advertisement for their services should any up and coming local artists around Houston want to try and secure a record deal.

Rather than let all of the aspiring acts springing up head somewhere else, especially now that Peacock Records was off the ground and attracting much of the talent in the area, this served notice that Sittin’ In With was viable enough to keep pace, even if it was largely just a stop gap measure with Carter headed to the Army and Freedom’s house band’s former pianist Lonnie Lyons an unreliable drinker.

When he was sober though Lyons was good at his job, both playing behind others but also cutting his own records, although I Need Romance doesn’t sound as if it were worked out much in advance.

But rather than be a detriment, this is the kind of song that a handful of artists over the years would seem to specialize in, a lot of the pianists in fact, wherein they’d wander in, sit at the keyboard and start playing the chords of a popular song, switch up the melody a little and “compose” a new tune in a matter of minutes.

I Need Romance wasn’t anything special, nor was it designed to be, and in fact a lot of the time these sort of “compositions” were just a way to pass time. But occasionally they’d catch the ear of somebody in the control room who’d ask them to make a formal attempt at getting it down on tape to see if they might get a record out of it.

In this case that’s just what they did.

Copyright Our Love
Though it’s obscured fairly well by how Lyons constructed this, the record which this drew its “inspiration” from was Amos Milburn’s year and a half old chart topper Bewildered.

Both feature a halting melody with lyrics that express uncertainty and are topped with similar vocal cadences and tone, the latter of which shouldn’t be surprising considering both Lyons and Milburn were Houston natives with slightly nasal voices. You can hear it most clearly in the line “Where is the start that you once said…” which is almost a direct lift from Milburn’s “Without a spark, I’m in the dark”.

But while I Need Romance has a much less focused story, weaker lyrics and a less capable singer behind the wheel, where the song differs – as opposed to just falling short – is in the arrangement, as this doesn’t have the languid sax accompaniment that established the ambiance the Milburn record thrived on.

Instead this uses a much more stark musical backing that uses a haunting guitar as the only other prominent instrument (drums are keeping time but it seems as if the bass line is carried solely by the piano).

It’s entirely possible the guitar is played by Carter himself, but while it’s well played for the most part in its single-string fills, it’s also not being given much more to do other than provide a faint melodic thread to layer on top of the piano.

Unfortunately it’s Lyons’ piano which comes up short, the solo in particular missing notes, missing keys in fact, as in not hitting the keys cleanly and striking the one next to it as well, and though it still provides a decent late night atmosphere where the lights are low and someone is just sitting there by candlelight awkwardly picking out a tune, as a record it doesn’t quite come off as well.

There’s nothing altogether wrong with this… you won’t object to its being played, especially in the right setting where it’s late, you’re tired or distracted and the sound is more to keep the silence at bay than to bring you any musical enlightenment, but at the same time it’s got no chance at ever being more than filler in somebody’s playlist.

Everything There Is Just The Same
All artists of course welcome a chance to release a record of their own, but in the case of Lonnie Lyons you got the idea that it was never foremost on his mind, despite some really good singles to kick off his “solo” career.

In essence he was a musical pilot fish, somebody who made himself useful in the studio, playing piano behind whatever artist was on the docket for that day and, if the need arose or if there was some leftover time on the session, he would be more than capable of cutting a track or two on his own to give the label another potential release.

I Need Romance fulfills that rather limited goal, giving Sittin’ In With another halfway decent single without necessarily providing them with a potential long term artist.

Just as most people wouldn’t want to subsist on the scraps of food left behind that pilot fish consume, most record labels seeking a bigger share of the market – not to mention most artists in search of a significant career – only issue these kinds of records to tide them over until a bigger meal comes their way.

You won’t go hungry on this, but you won’t be very full after sampling it either.


(Visit the Artist page of Lonnie Lyons for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)