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DOT 1010; AUGUST 1950

 
 

 

It’s (pick one) sad, funny, strange… how landmark songs can sometimes find themselves sort of cast aside despite their importance at the time.

In this case we have a female artist scoring a hit her first time out in what has been to date (unfortunately) largely a male driven genre which gives it some added cultural impact.

We also have a new record label who in short order will go on to pillory rock ‘n’ roll itself by releasing most of the hugely popular white pop cover versions of rock songs that will leave such a stain on the 1950’s music scene. Yet this record, the one that began their sizable empire, is not only a pure rock song but also a rather blatant ode to such sundry topics as sex, prostitution and other uninhibited affairs of the heart… or loins.

It’s also a damn good song in its own right, one that deserves more historical cache than it’s been afforded.
 

 

From Street To Street
Which of the newcomers here do we start with… artist or label?

Since it’s ultimately the bigger story we’ll go with the company, Dot Records started by Randy Wood of Gallatin, Tennessee, a remote outpost that would strangely wind up being one of the single most important musical hubs in America for much of the 1950’s thanks to a single radio station that wasn’t even located IN Gallatin, Tennessee!

To lead into this topic we wrote about that yesterday in one of our periodic We Interrupt This Broadcast entries entitled: WLAC, Randy’s Record Shop And The Birth Of The Mail Order Record Biz and that’s where you need to go for the full story, because it’s a really good one and sets everything that follows here up better than I can capsulize in a paragraph or two.

But the unexpected result of that station’s impact was Dot Records which started up when Wood, one of the primary advertisers on Gene Noble’s show, decided to go into business for himself by making his own records rather than only selling records by other labels via mail order as he’d been doing so successfully for the past couple of years.

He came up with Dot Records because it was short and to the point and had a built in tag-line for ads – Hot On Dot!

Needing artists he wound up with both a band, The Griffin Brothers, trombonist Jimmy and pianist Buddy, as well as a singer, Margie Day, all Virginia natives who gave the label their initial hits and while the company saw itself established by rock – just as Randy’s Record Shop had made its name on selling rock records – they switched primarily to pop and country after The Griffin Brothers departure a few years later, though Wood always talked fondly of these early sides that got the company off the ground.

Day had made an earlier record in 1947 on Savoy with the group Four Bars And A Melody but ended her brief career when she had a baby. Now almost three years later with Street Walkin’ Daddy she’s back, singing in a different style for a different sort of baby.
 

Why Walk When You’re Looking To Ride?
Just what you probably wanted… another instance where we have to set up a song by reminding you of the context of the era itself. But before you turn tail and run thinking this is going to be another boring history lesson, let me tell you that the topic that requires this context is how and where people sold sex and maybe that’ll cause you to stick around a little longer.

In 1950 the automobile was not quite as prevalent as it became later with the mass exodus to the suburbs, the interstate highway system and two car garages on every house. It wasn’t just cities where cars were somewhat expendable for everyday things, but small towns as well since things were more centralized.

Fascinating I know, but it factors into understanding the theme of Street Walkin’ Daddy, which is a song about a guy on the prowl for some action in exchange for cash.

Because female prostitutes are often called “street walkers”, as they tend to be the ones parading their wares on sidewalks for passing gentlemen to offer a contribution to their retirement funds in exchange for a certain kind fleeting attention, it needs to be said that before cruising in cars looking for action became “the cool way” to solicit sex, the men were the ones actually walking the streets in search of action more than the females.

Whether this meant the girls got to sit and wait around for a guy to get up the nerve (or raise the cash) and come looking for them, I don’t know, but knowing this was the case does make the song a little clearer… but only a little.

It seems that Day is not the woman of the night as you might expect, but rather she’s the spurned girlfriend/wife whose fella got fed up with her and looked for a temporary replacement and was willing to pay to… umm… “get what he wanted”.

But as interesting as that aspect of the song is and twenty years or so down the road it would surely form the bulk of the record, in 1950 that was impossible and self-destructive. The fact they were able to make even casual passing reference to it, crammed in the middle where any lurking censors would be more apt to miss it altogether, is something of a minor miracle.

The rest of the record can’t match that surprising lyrical revelation but it too isn’t without its charm, less crude perhaps, but not any less potent in its own way.
 

Flirtin’ With Every Gal You See
The song certainly come out of the gate suggesting that illicit sex and marital infidelity are going to be playing a role in the ensuing story as this has a soft – but alluring – piano lead-in that soon gives way to horns that… ahhh… shall we say “builds anticipation” for what follows.

When Day comes in you’re once again caught off guard as her voice is demure, coy and sounds almost underage, which would make the rest of the song even more suspect but she was already 24 so we’re on safe ground here, but the effect of hearing her like that is the same no matter her true age.

Her delivery is drawn out to the extreme, stretching words to their breaking point to imply all sorts of things that aren’t evident in the strict translation of the lyrics. As she goes on her voice sheds that veil of innocence and the picture becomes a little more clear.

This is a couple who do nothing but… well, the polite way so many lyrics put it over the years was “fuss and fight”, but that was merely so they could avoid radio bans by saying “fuck and fight”. However you want to put it though there’s no doubt that she gets her kicks from frustrating him just as much as he gets off hurting her with his two-timing, and this is all an elaborate, slightly kinky and very destructive game they’re playing. But since the only two being hurt by it is them, who are we to complain when we get to peep them in action like this.

Day teases us with her amusing take on her man’s infidelities. Though she pleads for him to “come home to me”, she’s clearly not hurt, sad or angry over his actions, nor is she exactly forgiving either, admitting blame or promising to be a better mate to him. Instead she just wants what he can give her in bed, something that comes to a head as she squeals and screams heading into the break where the drummer leaves absolutely no doubt as to what is going on behind closed doors.

The slow sultry vibe that had defined Street Walkin’ Daddy to this point suddenly becomes a whole lot more suggestive, the band attacking their parts with vigor while her voice rises up telling him to “leave your barroom gang behind”. I guess she’s not into orgies.

While that ending suggests she’s playing the victim in this romantic roller coaster ride, we know better. She’s just using whatever tactics will get him back in bed, where she, not he, clearly has the upper hand.
 

Stop Giving Me The Run Around
This is one of those records that allows each listener to buy in as much, or as little, as they want while still getting plenty to enjoy.

The naïve casual music fan can take her at her word and sympathize with her as they credit her with a plucky resiliency.

The more cynical veteran of these affairs will have no trouble reading between the lines and those who’ve studied songs like this – purely for research purposes I assure you – can clue the rest of you in on just what racy points you may be overlooking.

Dot Records wasn’t going to complain about how you interpreted all this, for Street Walkin’ Daddy gave them an immediate cachet. Not only was the record a legitimate hit – #7 nationally – but it filled the rather sizable void rock was having after the genre’s initial female hitmakers – Chubby Newsom, Jewel King – were finished.

The company would sustain their early promise in the rock field for as long as Day and the Griffin Brothers anchored their roster but upon achieving pop success down the road they switched their focus and reaped the benefits of the white pop cover craze like no other label, allowing Wood to become the first independent record label owner of the rock era to sell his company for a major profit in 1957.

Whether it’s the long term cloud of those later records that’s responsible for overshadowing these first sides, or if it’s the rather explicit content that caused songs like this to be purposefully passed by in the initial write-ups of rock’s early days, or most likely the fact that rock’s early days as a whole were roundly ignored by historians, this is one of those modernly obscure hits that is worth the effort to discover, if for no other reason than to see what dirty deeds were going on right from the start.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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

 
Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
 
Alma “The Lollipop Mama” Mondy (September, 1950)