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We rail against the corrupt music industry around here for good reason, as it was filled with cheap hucksters with little regard for music, no respect for artists and often no consideration of fans. They lied, cheated and stole without compunction and justified their actions at every turn when confronted over their despicable behavior.

Yet we also know that without them we wouldn’t have had nearly as much music to enjoy over the years and so that Catch-22 means that whatever our personal distaste for the people who ran these labels, we have no choice but to hold our collective noses and tolerate them most of the time.

In this case though we may actually have to thank them, because one of the more enjoyable rock records of the midway point of the Twentieth Century was sure to be overlooked at the time and forgotten in the years since if not for a company hauling a neglected two year old release out of the discard bin and giving it a much deserved second life.

No, they weren’t able to get a hit this time around either, but OKeh Records did manage to give it just enough of an historical stature that it wasn’t completely forgotten as it seemed destined to be originally.


Before You Get That Feeling
Trying to pin down original release dates for Mr. Google Eyes’ records is like trying to catch fish with your bare hands… it’s not impossible, but it’s easier said than done.

Much of this was his own fault, as he was an inveterate liar in later years, eager to talk about the past but prone to exaggerate to make that past a lot more interesting than it actually was.

Anyway, what we DO know is this… Mr. Google Eyes had signed to tiny Coleman Records run by the gospel singing Coleman Brothers of New Jersey who released his debut single – Young Boy – in late summer 1949… not 1946 as he and too many writers have long claimed.

Usually artists cut four songs at a session to give them two singles and Joe August, his real name, was adamant he did record four sides for Coleman, but this, the second of the two releases on Coleman, is on the books as being cut at a second session in late November 1949 in New Jersey with Billy Ford & His Musical V-8’s.

But something is fishy here because there were four other songs cut then including a cover of the rising hit by Larry Darnell, For You My Love, which got an immediate release in December 1949… on Columbia Records, who had bought out Mr. Google Eye’s contract from the Colemans specifically to get a version of that song on the market as fast as possible once Darnell’s original on Regal was climbing the charts.

It went nowhere – and neither did the follow up released on Columbia that winter in early 1950 – and he was set free from the major label who surely cursed themselves for delving into this rock ‘n’ roll garbage again and washed their hands of the entire thing. Mr. Google Eyes then promptly cut a few records for some tiny labels in the spring before disappearing for awhile… until, that is, Columbia’s recently revived subsidiary OKeh released Rough And Rocky Road from that November 1949 session in September 1951.

Or is that “re-released”?

You Got To Moan Sometime
So what happened here? Where does this record belong? 1949 or 1951?

It has to be 1949, for despite Rough And Rocky Road being far better known as 1951 release it almost surely saw the light of day on Coleman at the same time that fateful Columbia session in November 1949.

Though it wouldn’t be unprecedented, major labels like Columbia were sticklers for the standard practices of the day, which means sessions resulting in four songs over three hours and we know they released four songs… but not this.

But it wasn’t Columbia overseeing the session, as reportedly the Colemans were the ones in charge of it at Columbia’s bequest and if the session costs were covered by a major label why wouldn’t they go over time and cut two more songs for their own benefit, keeping the best sides for themselves, claiming (if anyone should ask) that this was simply their second release stemming from their summer session? After all, Columbia wanted For You My Love, the rest of his output was all but irrelevant to them and they got their four songs out of the bargain anyway.

If that were the case it’d only be later that Columbia may have discovered they had been duped and since they hadn’t lost anything with this deception (as this wasn’t a hit for Coleman) they’d simply take possession of the master tapes and forget about it… at least until they started up the OKeh label two years later for their rock excursions and found they were sitting on a pretty damn good record that virtually nobody had ever heard.

I Feel Like Rockin’ All The Time
So enough about the back story which only a few lunatics like us care about, what about the actual record that all of this intrigue centers around?

Right away the band comes storming out of the gate with guitar, piano and a bunch of horns which give away its vintage yet don’t quite cause it to be dated even for late 1951. Granted the prominent trumpet would be something that would’ve – hopefully – been excised had this been a current production for OKeh instead of a recycled Coleman track, but if that had been case you would’ve also surely had the saxophone part cut down on considerably as well which is one of the selling points for Rough And Rocky Road.

The music gods giveth and taketh away in equal measure I suppose.

Mr. Google Eyes sounds great here, his voice is strong and full of confidence, he’s riding the rhythm without a hint of uncertainty and the lyrics are first rate giving us a “before and after” perspective on happiness… basic advice that boils down to stick with it, things will get better, yet put across with accurate and even somewhat poignant lines that incorporate the healing power of rock ‘n’ roll itself into the mix.

The textures of his voice, shifting from ever-so-slightly downcast in the negative examples he uses in each line to set the scene before bursting with joy as the mood shifts midway through to deliver the culmination where everything turns out alright, is subtle yet unmistakable. The horns, even those infernal trumpets, add to the effect with their unrestrained flourishes and the churning rhythm carried out by the piano is holding down the fort nicely.

The sax solo is a little up and down, not quite uninhibited enough to really provide an explosive break but at times it does come close, while the piano gets a little flighty here behind it, but the arrangement throws in enough swirling parts during this section to always keep it interesting.

Besides, what we want is more of Mr. Google Eyes, fully in control with his eyes on the prize, knowing he’s got a winner here and determined to enjoy every second of it as long as it lasts.


Roll, Roll, Roll
Of course it didn’t last long in its first iteration as Coleman 123 came and went without a trace in the fall of 1949 even though this was one of the better records for the time and place.

With OKeh Records still unsure of their ultimate course, or at least uncertain about how hard to push genuine rock ‘n’ roll versus something more refined and watered down which was far more suited to Columbia’s outlook on all this, Rough And Rocky Road became the ideal bellwether release for them when they re-issued and took credit for it.

The (by now) slightly outdated horn charts probably gave the label a sense of comfort while the boisterous energy was exactly what they needed to steer their entire enterprise in the right direction.

True by 1951 this wasn’t going to have quite the same impact than if you’d been one of the lucky few who managed to hear it blasting out of a jukebox after Thanksgiving in ’49, and thus we’d be forced to go with a still very respectable (7) when judging it as a current 1951 release, but that’s context for you.

Everything of its time in other words.

IN that time (late 1949) however, Mr. Google Eyes suddenly looked like one of the more promising up and comers in all of rock with this – a vibrant performance of a streamlined yet still muscular song whose only misfortune was its obscurity.

So while it couldn’t have the same explosive impact during its resurrection by OKeh two years later, their actions at least ensured that more people would get to it hear it, not only then but in the years since when things like recording and release dates are mere trivial details in the big scheme of things.


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