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KING 4578; NOVEMBER 1952



All units, we have a possible 905 in progress at 1540 Brewster Avenue. Suspect is a young woman, mid-20’s, not believed armed or dangerous, but proceed with caution.

Ma’am, you’re trespassing on somebody else’s property and in rock ‘n’ roll that is now a felony offense.

We’re going to ask you to please step away from the record. Keep your hands where we can see them and nobody will get hurt.


My Luck Is Changing
This was no longer necessary… no longer defensible really… and yet old habits in the record industry die hard.

We’re talking of course about covering a current hit, something which rock ‘n’ roll will increasingly leave to the disreputible and vaccuous pop record industry from now on.

Apparently King Records didn’t get the memo however because here we are, about to indict poor Lula Reed for just following orders.

Now to be fair, while we largely deride any attempt to cover somebody else’s song, there may be exceptions to the rule in certain circumstances.

For example when a song fails to make any headway in the market but sounds really good to somebody, especially if they can conceive of a way to improve upon it in the process with a new approach or arrangement, that’s something we can accept.

Of course that doesn’t qualify here, as Chuck Willis’s My Story was one of the biggest hits of the second half of 1952, so it’s hardly an obscure tune in need of attention. Maybe when they cut this back in August they could claim they weren’t sure it’d score big, but it cracked the national charts in October and King Records are releasing this a month later so that’s no longer a viable excuse.

Surely the record label will argue that it’d be a shame to waste a recording and the gender flip makes it different enough to justify issuing Lula Reed’s rendition of My Story, but obviously that’s not going to hold up in court.

Maybe we’d be a little more lenient if this was really well done, but the fact that this is her weakest performance to date means that we’re going to take perverse pleasure in seeing to it that she and her cohorts at King Records don’t try this kind of thing again.


Here I Stand With My Eyes Full Of Tears
Whenever an artist really connects with a song in rock ‘n’ roll, it becomes theirs in the mind of the audience.

Rock has always thrived on forging an emotional connection between artists and audience which tends to give the impression that a record is conveying their own feelings, their own perspective, their own personality to the world at large even if they weren’t the ones who wrote it.

Yet in this case Chuck Willis HAD written the song, and even made sure to claim it as such by emphasizing it was HIS story… not somebody else’s… in the title itself. So for Lula Reed to come along and claim the exact same scenario is suddenly her own… well, who in their right mind is going to believe that?

I know, I know, you’re not supposed to take these things literally. I’m sure nobody thought that Elton John ever flew on a rocket, or that Madonna could actually remember a time when she was a virgin. Fair enough. But a singer still has to embody the song’s persona and make you believe it was reflective of their own experiences and that’s a lot harder to do when we’ve already heard Willis convincingly relating these very same things.

Clearly Reed knows this and is looking for ways to put her own stamp on the material, but with the slow pace of My Story her options are limited.

Her first move is to try and put more space between the lines, but her pauses disrupt the flow of the melody which was so perfect that any adjustments seem to be mistakes rather than artistic choices. Then there’s the fact that Willis was always so precise with his lyrics and when she tosses in a grammatically incorrect “has” at one point you cringe, almost feeling sorry they put her through this ordeal.

On top of it all, her high-pitched voice – already a technical obstacle on any song she sings – makes her sound so grating while expressing these sentiments that we have no sympathy for her which is what the song relies on.

Maybe had King Records tried radically re-imagining this with a much different arrangement – say stripping it down and using a faint organ and some distant irregular percussion as the sole accompaniment – and let her more speak it than sing it, her voice drenched in echo or something, they’d have at least set it apart.

Of course they might’ve set fire to it too if that kind of thing was too weird for mainstream tastes… but instead all they do is tinker around the edges, giving it an ill-suited prancing beat, even if they keep it rather discreet, and then just hope that listeners have enough affinity for Reed herself to make it work.

We don’t. No offense to her, but this is one time she should’ve said to them… “Nah, YOU sing it instead, I’ll just sit back and watch!”


So Broken Hearted
From the outside looking in, we know full well that when Henry Glover or Sonny Thompson, or whoever was choosing her material, first heard Chuck Willis’s record, they thought it was ideally suited to Lula Reed’s peculiar talents.

Forget about its ensuing popularity, just the fact she’d connected with slow, deliberately paced songs where she could express her emotions by trying to rein them in meant that this similarly conceived song was right up her alley.

Maybe it was… provided she was the only one cutting the song and thus could deliver it without trying to make subtle adjustments to distance it from Willis’s own version.

Instead as soon as she says to herself “I’ll make it My Story rather than his story”, she mangles it in ways that only make you appreciate how great Chuck was on this even more.

King Records should’ve realized this and had her steer clear of it altogether, but they’re a record company in the early 1950’s when artistic integrity was nothing any of them took seriously yet. So for their sake, let’s reiterate that unless you’re dusting off a song that’s already a few years old you’re better off not messing with ANY other rock artist’s material, especially when it was already perfect and you’re bringing nothing new to the table yourself.

Somehow though, no matter how many times we tell them this, they never seem to learn.

Just lock ’em all up overnight and see if that’ll help them come to their senses.


(Visit the Artist page of Lula Reed for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Chuck Willis (August, 1952)