No tags :(

Share it

DOT 1019; DECEMBER 1950



Success right out of the gate in music can be a double edged sword.

On one hand an immediate hit single can act as a propellant for your entire career, ensuring you get ample promotion from your label and no shortage of exposure in jukeboxes for subsequent releases to give you the best shot at continuing your upward climb.

But should you fail to connect again right away you tend to be unjustly penalized for not living up to unrealistic expectations and can start to be viewed as a disappointment by the label who were counting on your sales to prop up their company.

Many times this results in typical overreaction based meddling, as after a few misses you’re asked to rip-off your own early smash rather than explore new ideas. Whereas an artist with modest sales each time out is allowed to grow artistically and given a longer leash with which to fail, someone who hit big is judged solely on matching that initial buzz and if they don’t they could be quickly dropped by the label and branded a one-hit wonder… irrespective of the fact that one hit is still more than most artists they employ ever give them.

The way to avoid this ignominious fate of course is to quickly have a second hit, something that were it so easy would hardly require any analysis at all.

Thus Margie Day makes our job easier by following up one Top Ten hit with another as if it were the simplest thing in the world to do.


Ain’t No Bluff
There are a lot of red herrings historically with this record, things which at the time would lead someone to jump to conclusions that would quickly prove to be untrue.

For example, when looked at in the context of late 1950, Margie Day’s continued success would probably cause many at the time to assume the relative gender disparity was on its way to being corrected.

Instead females would continue to face an uphill battle for both opportunity and widespread acceptance and recognition for much the rest of the 1950’s.

Similarly, though it might’ve been a little premature to speculate on immortality for any rock artist after the entire genre was barely three years old by this point, surely two big hits in two tries would lead you to believe that at the very least Day’s name would be long remembered.

But no, sadly she was long forgotten by the time she died at the age of 88 in 2014.

Lastly, her immediate success along with that of The Griffin Brothers who backed her on Street Walkin’ Daddy as well as this would usually be a pretty good indication that the record label in question, Dot, which was all of just a few months old itself at this juncture, would be one of the leading proponents of this music for years to come.

But as we all know it wouldn’t be too long before they were devoting most of their efforts to the deplorable white pop cover craze of rock ‘n’ roll while their authentic rock acts departed for other labels.

Yet in December 1950 we knew none of those outcomes and so with the arrival of Little Red Rooster, another sultry, racy wink and a nod rocker by Day, there was every reason to believe that this ride would go on indefinitely for all of them.


Sure Can Strut
Though they get secondary artist credit here, let’s start off by praising The Griffin Brothers – Jimmy, the trombonist, and Buddy, the pianist – for having the right stuff to fuel these records.

So often we’ve seen really good singers saddled with subpar bands who don’t understand the intricacies of rhythm and wind up submarining the record, but The Griffins had a firm grasp on what makes this music work… namely putting the “roll” in rock ‘n’ roll.

On Little Red Rooster they’re rolling from the opening bell, the horns riffing early on, climbing up and dropping down while Buddy on keyboards and drummer Nab Shields supply the steady rhythm.

It’s got a confident bounce to it, a swagger almost even though there’s not the heavy bottom we usually associate with that image which perfectly suits Margie Day’s chirpy voice as she comes in feeding off that cocky attitude as she’s alternately bragging about her fella, warning others how the guys who get all the attention are in such demand that they need to have their wings clipped, yet never once giving away the upper hand and losing her position as the one in control of things.

It’s a tough balancing act for her to pull off and the more you study what she’s telling you and contrasting it with HOW she’s telling you the more remarkable it seems. Normally females singing these lines would be either projecting an image of utter devotion and almost helpless servitude… OR they’d be domineering and come across as bitter, someone fiercely clutching what’s hers for fear of losing it.

But Day sounds nonchalant about it all, never once fearing she’ll lose him even as she continually acknowledges the risk involved with being with someone so sure of himself. When she closes it out with some of the most suggestive cries of ”Ooh-ooh-ooh-wee how he crows” imaginable… first sounding coy, then aggressive and finally orgasmic, you fully understand how the term “cock” went from describing a bird to being used as a euphemism for something else entirely.

It may never be a performance where Margie Day wows you with the sheer technical abilities of her voice, but she draws out the underlying meaning of every line with such unerring choices each step of the way that you take your hat off to her… before taking off everything else in the hopes that she’s up for another round behind the hen house.

Give Him Diamond Rings
Throughout all of this hanky panky taking place in the barn The Griffin Brothers are in lockstep with Day, providing an arrangement that both compliments her vocal style but also which raises the stakes in the two instrumental breaks.

The first interlude comes after Day delivers a stop-time declaration and then segues into a more passionate statement wherein the tenor sax of Virgil Wilson begins to cut loose for a raucous workout that manages to let him get right to the very edge of the barnyard without hopping the fence. By keeping it under control it allows Day to follow it up with a second stop-time section that leads into another solo, this one courtesy of Jimmy’s trombone which is almost sax-like in its textures leading you to think it might be the alto until he starts his slides.

The parts all fit seamlessly, the band giving and taking from one another with discretion, emphasizing one element while another drops back before they switch it up again, never letting that rhythm slip away from them in the process.

On a farm the Little Red Rooster is a solitary bird, keeping an eye on all that goes on without any challenge to his authority. Yet in a band the entire flock of musicians need to work in unison to create a track that can control the listening experience and provide the proper launching pad for a good vocalist to reach great heights.

These guys pull that off so effortlessly here that you almost don’t notice how they manage it which is the ultimate compliment to a bandleader… or two bandleaders in this case.

Oh So True
It took awhile for this record to catch on, first getting notice in Dallas after the New Year after which it began its assent, cracking the Top Five in the national listings giving Dot Records the consistent sales they needed to keep distributors paying promptly for their output and giving them room to grow.

With two hits by Day and one by Cecil Gant, plus good sellers from The Griffins themselves, they were arguably the most successful indie label out of the gate in the rock era to this point and in Margie Day they had a singer whose personality, vocal skills and material made her a contender for the top female artist in the field.

But after Little Red Rooster she fell off enough to allow Ruth Brown, admittedly a more talented and versatile singer, to surpass her and help push another company, Atlantic, well ahead of the upstart Dot in the pecking order among rock labels.

Maybe that’s what caused Margie Day’s star to dim in the years since, the records were good enough to keep her name known but the trappings that would’ve ensured that outcome – more hits, a more vaunted company – were lacking.

But what isn’t lacking is this record, one of the best of the year and a joy for us to crow about.


(Visit the Artist page of Margie Day as well as The Griffin Brothers for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)