REGAL 3255, FEBRUARY 1950

 
 

 

One of the benefits of a record company having in their employ somebody who could do it all – write, produce, arrange, play and sing – was being able to rely on them to do whatever was needed as much as possible.

But that was also one of the risks.

Though everybody wants to feel wanted, the more of a load you had them carry for the company the more you were in danger of using them up so to speak, of stretching their talents too thin on half-baked ideas and backing artists who otherwise couldn’t stay afloat without that prodigious help from a multi-talented artist like Paul Gayten.

Regal Records may have had a few fairly big names scattered throughout their roster but almost all of them had made their names with Gayten’s hands-on assistance. Though you could certainly say that Annie Laurie, Chubby Newsom and Larry Darnell had enough talent to make it without any help the same couldn’t be said for some others that Gayten found himself enlisted to prop up on record.

All of which makes you wonder how he had any time left over to concentrate on promoting his OWN career.
 

 

Now We’re Cooking
Okay, so right away those who are paying attention probably looked at the record label at the top of this review and saw only Paul Gayten’s name on it and wondered why we chose now to talk about him having to support other artists and specifically what those aforementioned side-jobs have to do with THIS release in particular.

The answer to that is this was one of those split-artist releases that occasionally popped up back in the day wherein Gayten gets sole credit for this side while the flip is credited to someone else entirely, albeit with Gayten getting co-label credit for his role in the record.

Back in December 1949 – on another Gayten release Cook’s Tour – we delved into Regal Records putting out a Christmas release by a local New Jersey disc jockey named Bill Cook which was done for charity.

Charity for whom was the bigger question… was it the hospital the actual proceeds were going to, or Regal Records themselves who were surely seeking to gain some charitable airplay from Cook for issuing his record?

Now we get some clarity on that rather cynical question with the other side of this record, Broadway’s On Fire, which throws a third person into the mix with his hand out seeking charity and that’s Bill Cook himself.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Cook didn’t just want to be spinning other people’s records on the air but instead wanted other disc jockeys spinning HIS records because this came out under the name Broadway Bill, a pseudonym to conceal his true identity, and this time out he had no charitable strings attached to it to justify its creation.

Of course Cook was not a musician, even if he did a fairly decent job singing, so he needed Gayten’s help to put the song together, lead the band and make it sound halfway credible. We don’t need to ask what Gayten was getting out of this since Cook was still a DJ and thus still in position to advance Paul’s career by playing his future releases.

But apparently they’d either only had time to cut one song with Cook, or Regal felt it would sell better if the flip-side didn’t have to support a disc jockey trying to warble a tune, so they stuck an instrumental by Gayten’s band called Bellboy Boogie on it as the more “authentic” half of the record and hoped Cook wouldn’t be too offended by the move.

Hey, nobody ever said these roundabout forms of payola record companies dealt in were easy.
 

Checking In
All of that brings us to the song itself which really astute rock historians may think sounds vaguely familiar.

If so we can’t take credit for it here because another song with the same name was put out by Todd Rhodes in the weeks just before the first rock record by Roy Brown hit the streets in September 1947.

Rhodes’ Bell-Boy Boogie is one of those songs that had it come out a few weeks later would’ve been included in the roll call of rock ‘n’ roll on these pages simply because it fit enough to be counted, yet had Brown and those who followed in his immediate wake not firmly established rock ‘n’ roll as something decidedly different than this song by Rhodes wasn’t going to be the one to do it.

In other words it was a malleable song, an instrumental that sort of took on the characteristics of whatever else you played it alongside of – small combo jazz fit for a particularly hip nightclub perhaps; or rock ‘n’ roll once Brown et. all came barreling into town. In spite of those shifting stylistic allegiances it’s a really good record though and one of those vital “pre-rock” sides we occasionally mention around here when trying to show where this music emerged from.

So I’m sure you’re asking, despite the writing credits which name Paul Gayten as the author of this Bellboy Boogie, is this the same song as Rhodes’s earlier tune of the same name?

Yeah, pretty much. Oh, it’s sufficiently re-arranged (by Gayten and Howard Biggs, who also copped a co-writing credit for it) to sort of mask any overt connection, but they’re using the same blueprint for sure.

The primary difference is whereas Rhodes’ combo let the horns and piano mingle to deliver the main melodic line, then had multiple horns – tenor, alto and trumpet mostly – carry the solos, Gayten puts the weight of his record on the guitar. That might’ve been done to better disguise its origins but also shows how in just two and a half years the electric guitar went from a modest member of the ensemble in groups like this to increasingly being seen as something which could carry an entire arrangement as rock ‘n’ roll evolved over time.
 

Take These Up To Room 3255
Though Gayten’s record, especially coming as the B-side of a single by a moonlighting dee-jay, wasn’t something that had much potential to be a hit, it does show off his skills as an arranger as he fills Bellboy Boogie with quirky little touches that helps to make it distinctive.

Take for instance the actual bells used to form a mental connection between the title itself and the sounds you hear. Bellboys of course are the seen-but-not-heard hotel employees in uniforms and silly little hats who are summoned to the front desk by a bell to help guests carry their luggage to their rooms, hence the generic slightly derogatory name they were universally given.

Gayten uses a similar sounding bell played with a light touch to frame the song, melodic yet subtle, something you hear without focusing on and because it’s so discreet it forces him to keep the other instruments in check so as not to overwhelm it and drown it out altogether.

The “other” instruments start with the guitar played with a biting aggressive attitude by Jack Scott whose prominence in the arrangement is what sets this apart, not just from the similarly titled 1947 prototype by Todd Rhodes, but from other rock instrumentals from 1950 as well.

Though it starts off playing just a simple repetitive riff with a sort of distant tone as it meshes seamlessly with the bells and a little shuffle rhythm by the bass and drums Scott quickly ramps up the intensity as he takes a fierce solo while everything else falls out. From there the guitar effortlessly shifts into the lead role as the song takes melodic shape with Gayten’s piano providing the most prominent, if modest, support for much of it.

The two trade off in the mid-section, with a few interjections by the bells to highlight the transitions, and it’s here you see a more obvious connection to the older sensibilities regarding the jazz band aesthetics of instruments each taking distinct parts, alternately playing off one another and working in unison. Oddly enough this part on Rhodes’ original is even more intense, despite not having a guitar present at all, as there the horns are locked in a battle for supremacy, but Gayten’s updating of it is still effective in boosting the energy with plenty of piano glissandos and jagged guitar riffs to capture your attention.

Even as it slows down again heading down the stretch the guitar is the centerpiece and though it sticks to the same repetitive riff for far too long there’s a few interesting moments, such as the brief banjo-like chord that Scott throws in and the increased dexterity of the those bells before it all winds up with just a touch of whimsical flair.
 

Tips And Gratuities Gladly Accepted
There’s little doubt that Regal Records was just viewing this as a throwaway due to the nature of the release with Bill Cook… err… “Broadway Bill” that is… getting the lead credit for the top-side, but rather than be something without any real merit of its own, this actually is a solid performance by the company’s most adroit jack-of-all-trades.

All things considered, especially when judged in the context of the era in which they were released, I’ll still say that the loosely connected Rhodes take on this song title has the definite edge, but Gayten’s Bellboy Boogie is a good snapshot of the changes being felt in rock as the Nineteen Fifties got underway even if few heard this at the time and fewer still were aware of what lay just over the horizon.

Though it remains one of the more obscure records in Gayten’s already far too-obscure larger musical oeuvre, let’s at least hope that Bill Cook was wise enough to give this a few spins on his radio show when he wasn’t busy plugging his own contribution to the other side of this release on the air.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Paul Gayten for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)