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Though in the future Joseph August would be prone to making more of his rather brief recording career than its accomplishments warranted, in some ways you can’t really blame him.

While his output was somewhat skimpy it was consistently good. Not only was he a strong singer with a great rhythmic sense and solid songwriter, especially for someone not yet out of his teens, but because of his age and the attitude that invariably goes with youth he was ideally suited to help brand rock ‘n’ roll as the music of the up and coming generation.

At every turn his good luck at gaining opportunities seemed to be offset by having those opportunities given to him by the wrong entities… labels that were either too small to get him noticed or too big, prim and proper to know what to do with him.

His best shot at breaking through therefore came in 1951 when OKeh Records, a subsidiary of Columbia, re-released a great two-sided record he cut for Coleman two years earlier.

Despite the time that had passed both performances still sounded current enough to suffice and chances are if he was capable of this kind of output at such a young age what might he have progressed to with two more years under his belt? But rather than track him down and sign him to a proper contract and promote him as an up and coming star, OKeh inexplicably let the just-turned-twenty years old Mr. Google Eyes remain adrift… just one more opportunity denied him… and denied us when it came to hearing more from him in his prime.


Somebody’s Got To Go
Looking back at the two sides of this record we get a good sense of Mr. Google Eyes’ natural affinity for rock ‘n’ roll which is hardly surprising considering he came of age as rock was being born in his hometown of New Orleans.

Columbia Records had wanted someone to cover a rising rock hit by Larry Darnell and rather than give it to someone already on their label who’d be ill-suited for the task they contracted with Coleman Records to buy Mr. Google Eyes’ contract for this job, then paid the Coleman brothers to oversee the session and send them the finished tapes.

It appears that the Colemans, disregarding the teachings they sang about in their successful gospel career, decided to lay down a few extra songs to release on their OWN label on Columbia’s dime, one of which was No Wine, No Women.

Unfortunately Coleman Records didn’t have the distribution power to get it heard much, especially when it was competing directly with the sides they’d given to Columbia. The moment passed, none of the records became hits and that would’ve been the end of it if not for rock ‘n’ roll’s subsequent climb up the commercial ladder that had begun in 1948, continued upwards in ’49 and then really became unstoppable in 1950.

Columbia made a few mostly futile efforts to jump into the field during that time but their staid reputation prevented most rock fans from even considering anything on the venerated red and gold label, so to counter this perception they revived their long dormant OKeh Records imprint as an outlet for their rock output, signed some good artists and… in a quirky twist of fate… found they actually owned two Mr. Google Eyes songs that they’d never released because they likely hadn’t even known they existed.

So with nothing to lose they put them out and… watched them sink without a trace.


I Can Drink All Day, Drink All Night
When Mr. Google Eyes wrote this it was just a good subject for a rock song – booze and chicks – even though he admittedly had little to no experience with either one at 18 years old.

The Colemans however were canny enough to sense the possibilities of the song and managed to get a sponsorship for the record, a first in rock, with a company who used it to promote their product, Monogram Wine. Now whether or not they actually listened to the song before making the deal is another question, because while this definitely advocates downing a bottle or two, it’s done in a way that seems like No Wine, No Women wouldn’t pass muster with too many ad councils today, let alone at the midway point of the Twentieth Century when society was even more uptight and moralistic about promoting debauchery.

Backed by a storming musical track by Billy Ford & His Musical V-8’s who are also chipping in with a hearty chant of “Wine, wine, wine!” as soon as the needle drops, Mr. Google Eyes is his usual rambunctious self on vocals, bragging about loving women and wine with equal fervor and demanding more of both before frustration sets in because he’s run out of them.

That poses some questions best left to his physician but the effect it has on the record is great since we’re not worried about his impending alcoholism or venereal diseases. Some of the lines are a little clunky, name dropping a waitress just so he can rhyme Caroline with wine, but he’s so enthusiastic he makes it work all the same. It’s not quite as fine-tuned a composition as Rough And Rocky Road on the flip side, but it’s nearly as enjoyable, even without getting drunk OR getting laid in the process.

As with the other side the horn section is vintage 1949 with trumpets taking a big role, which by 1951 was bound to make it sound just a little out of date, though they’re energetic enough to compensate for its tonal qualities. Besides there is a tenor sax solo in the first break, well played if a little light on the mayhem needed for this subject matter.

The arrangement as a whole runs hot and cold by design, calming the waters while Mr. Google Eyes sings with a piano providing the backdrop, then exploding in the breaks with all sorts of noisy horns (including a prominent trombone), drums and that piano stepping it up.

Like most drunken orgies you’ve been a part of… you DO have experience in this realm as a self-respecting rock fan, haven’t you? – these affairs (on record anyway) are more memorable for the cacophonous atmosphere they create than any specific acts being thrown about and since they’re hardly skimping on those qualities, how can anyone but a tee-totaling virgin complain?


Really Got To Have Some More
Though the commercial impact of this record, in both its iterations, was negligible the purely musical impact of both sides of this release in 1951 on Okeh was still pretty potent but in late 1949 that effect would be even greater as this type of thing was still a little more rare back then.

All of which makes No Wine, No Women the perfect record to study the ongoing changes in rock as a whole in those two years… the ever greater emphasis on heavy rhythms, more hedonistic lyrics and freewheeling vocals.

Granted things were headed in this direction anyway and it’s not as if Mr. Google Eyes pioneered any of it, but to have another stellar example of it coming from someone so young and then having the same record released two years later when this would seem like old hat, yet still pack a punch, does show that he was someone who was deserving of far more chances than he got.

Whichever side you prefer you can’t go wrong and when a kid releases one of the better two sided records of two different years – and it’s the same record – that sort of tells you all you need to know about it and Mr. Google Eyes himself.

Too bad the record companies of the day couldn’t figure out that all he really needed was more wine, more women and especially more records.


(Visit the Artist page of Mr. Google Eyes for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)