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DELUXE 3215; APRIL, 1949

 
 

 

When last we encountered Paul Gayten back in February 1949 we said it was the end of his association with DeLuxe Records, though as evidenced by this record on the same imprint that’s not entirely accurate. The fact is that last release was his final issued while he was still a contracted artist with DeLuxe, the New Jersey based independent label which he’d helped put on the map, both with the records he made on his own and with vocalist Annie Laurie, but also in the sense that it was the signing and subsequent success the two of them had in mid-1947 which led the company to invest heavily in New Orleans based artists.

The result of that association between label and city of course was the birth of a little something called rock ‘n’ roll.

So for that reason alone Gayten’s role in the entire sequence of events that took shape across popular music in the past two years can hardly be understated.

Furthermore his contributions to the DeLuxe label as not just an artist but also a songwriter, arranger, producer, bandleader and pianist behind the aforementioned Laurie as well as Chubby Newsom, who scored the first national hit on the Billboard charts by a female rock artist, and Eddie Gorman, among others, meant that in many ways as Gayten went so too did DeLuxe.

But now that’s in the past. In one of the first but hardly the last moves of this sort a larger better funded label, in this case King Records from Cincinnati, bought into the financially struggling DeLuxe then forcibly took control of it, pushing out its founders David and Jules Braun by early 1949. The two brothers were now in the process of starting a new label, Regal, and they were taking Gayten, along with Laurie and Newsom, with them.

DeLuxe meanwhile would continue to be run by King Records as a subsidiary label for the next decade.

So now that the dust has settled and each party was heading their separate way what we have left to mark this split after the fact are a handful of remaining sides already cut for DeLuxe by their departing stars which act as a Fare Thee Well to the now defunct relationship.
 

 
Man In The Middle
It’s interesting that this record was issued between those of Chubby Newsom, who Gayten helped propel to fame by playing behind her and acting – officially or not – as the producer on her breakthrough hit, and a record of Dave Bartholomew, the man who recently took over for Gayten in that role on Newsom’s latest sides, and who would in short order supplant Gayten as New Orleans’s most accomplished multi-talented music figure.

With Bartholomew handling the reins Newsom would return to the regional charts in Atlanta with New Orleans Lover Man, while Bartholomew himself would see his first commercial returns as an artist when Girt Town made Cash Box listings in the Crescent City itself.

Ironically Bartholomew would be one of the few artists to remain on DeLuxe after King Records took it over – along with Roy Brown, the obvious big fish target of King’s Syd Nathan’s ham-handed power play for the label – and so he wouldn’t work with Chubby Newsom after this. When Bartholomew signed – in a different capacity altogether – with Imperial Records later in the year the entire dynamics of not just the New Orleans scene, but rock as a whole would change with it.

History has given Bartholomew his due for the impact of those changes over the next decade and a half while not affording Gayten anywhere near the same credit for instituting the original blueprint that set all of this into motion. The inference being that this must be the moment when Gayten’s own impact began to wane but nothing could be further from the truth. Gayten was riding high with Annie Laurie throughout 1949 and would soon be adding to his résumé with other new arrivals once he was ensconced at Regal Records.

But Bartholomew remained far more prolific well into rock’s crossover days and that had definite long term advantages when it came to remaining historically relevant. Gayten’s varied contributions in the 1950’s by contrast happened largely behind the scenes without ever ascending the same heights he’d reached in the late 1940’s and so as a result he’s missed out on a lot of the acclaim he rightly should have earned.

The Gayten-Bartholomew “rivalry”, for lack of a better term, has been explored on these pages before so we need not go into it again here, but in Creole Gal we have one more curious side-issue to examine, that of the similarities between the two men as performers, at least on this one record.
 

 

On Carnival Day
Before anyone starts leaping to conclusions about which of the two were “more” responsible for certain facets of their distinctive approach to singing, let it be said that because they grew up in the same environs at the same time it was almost certainly not a case of one being intentionally imitative of the other but rather merely an environmental influence that both absorbed in their upbringing.

But it’s there front and center on the way Gayten – a far more versatile vocalist than Dave, if not as charmingly unique – delivers Creole Gal, which sounds a lot like Bartholomew in terms of cadence and tone as well as the bending, stretching and twisting of notes in his singing. Since the songs by each of them which feature these similarities were recorded and released concurrently with one another it further removes any implications as to who might’ve been influenced by whom, but what Gayten shows here is that it works regardless of which name is delivering it.

The song’s content is distinctly New Orleans, which only drives this point home even more, from the title subject herself, the young Creole beauty who’s at center of this tale, to the various signposts popping up in the lyrics which refer to having met this girl on Carnival Day and the local culinary tastes that add local flavor to the dish.

But as much as the lyrics conjure up a steamy Louisiana atmosphere the song itself is kind of like a silent home movie taken by vacationers at the time, or worse yet, a picture postcard depicting only a still life frame of a familiar sight, one which is therefore devoid of the action that had once breathed life into the scene when it was taken in real time.

The reason for this is the generic and slightly outdated horn arrangement Creole Gal is saddled with. Hardly surprising there, as so many rock songs of the first few years suffer from the concepts of what to do with the brass lagging behind the advances made with the rhythm sections. But what IS surprising is that it’s Gayten who falls prey to these pitfalls, particularly on a song that has an obvious solution for such a problem had he only chosen to give the horns a more locally authentic feel.

The main problem is that if you were to listen to the track for Creole Gal with the vocals stripped away you’d never guess it originated in the bayou. There’s nothing about the primary components of the arrangement that even suggests New Orleans, something made more glaringly apparent because of the song’s theme. Its horn refrains are largely lacking character, almost as if they were taken from the kind of charts that were passed from bandstand to bandstand of every mildly competent jazz-based band who’d ever played a residency in a halfway decent club. Those clubs stretched from New York to Los Angeles however and their horn charts weren’t amended based on local tastes at each new stop, so there’s a vanilla quality to them that can’t be ignored. A sense that any band featuring any musicians from anywhere could’ve played this.

That’s an unnecessary tact to take when Gayten had in his band some of New Orleans finest instrumentalists, men who were more than capable of showing off their skills upon request, but they simply don’t take any pains to prove this during the course of the song.

It’s not even that what they’re playing is somewhat mild for our rock tastes, something that usually is the death knell for connecting in any meaningful way with the modern audience who were expected to buy these records. Instead it’s the fact that it’s so nondescript that it doesn’t engender any rapport with who might be the target audience, be it rockers or simply Louisiana natives.

But even had they simply substituted the placid riffs these guys are playing with something more Dixieland flavored, though that style is in many ways the antithesis of harder driving rock horns, it would’ve at least matched the mood of the story that Gayten is very capably serving up and thus if nothing else the pieces of the song would’ve fit together and seemed as if they belonged. Instead there’s an inherent disconnect that will be hard to fully overcome.
 

As Soon As Things Get Better
Gayten for his part does his own job quite well. The song itself is fairly simple, he’s just recounting the backstory of the girl who captured his heart a year earlier, and by the sounds of it who still races his motor, but he does this with a genuine sense of excitement, as if he’s meeting up with an old friend or distant relative and can’t wait to brag about his 22 year old girlfriend.

At times he’s almost bursting at the seams when he talks about how great she is, telling whoever’s arm he’s got locked in his tight grip, “I haven’t found a thing that gal can’t do”.

You believe him because HE clearly believes everything he’s saying. Gayten wasn’t exactly an old man who found himself a virginal bride to be – or more cynically this wasn’t some girl in search of a sugar daddy – as Paul wasn’t yet thirty himself and a seven year age gap hardly qualifies as a May-December romance. But love has a way of making even the most serious well-adjusted men act a little loopy and that’s clearly what has happened in this case.

Yet because he’s so sincere in his admiration for her, from her looks to how she cooks gumbo, we can’t criticize him just for his enthusiasm, especially when he’s got Lee Allen on saxophone backing up his friend’s assertions as to how great a catch she is.

Here’s where all of the ill-conceived horn work that frames Creole Gal gets shed and where Allen forcibly tries dragging it all the way up Desire back to St. Claude Avenue or Rampart Street. He might not quite get there, as even his solo is a little too restrained at times despite the drummer kicking him in the ass, but once he gets up to speed you’re content to at least keep pace with him until they get wherever it is they’re going.

When Gayten announces his intentions on marrying this girl you might not be entirely convinced that you’ll ever be buying them a gift for even their tenth anniversary but you’ll be more than happy to attend the wedding itself and wish them well as they set sail on their honeymoon.
 

So Good When You Stir It Up
With Gayten’s departure the source for so much New Orleans flavor that the label made its own is taken out of the mix for DeLuxe. Roy Brown remains, yes, and he’ll always have that city’s spirit embedded in his musical DNA, but he’s gotten so big and his influence has been absorbed by so many artists from all across the country that you sometimes might tend to forget his origins.

Bartholomew also would continue to record for DeLuxe once it changed hands to King, but his own records weren’t going to be the centerpiece of his career once he also began working for Imperial as a producer, songwriter and all around visionary who would shape the careers of the next generation of New Orleans rock stars, just as Gayten had shaped the careers of many of its first generation.

That’s why it’s a little unsettling to encounter Creole Gal as one of Gayten’s final forays on this label that he was no longer a part of… a song that was at once both a reflection on the city DeLuxe had so expertly mined to date and one which seemed oddly removed from it as well.
 

 

It still works well enough thanks to Gayten’s vocals and vivid subject matter to serve as a wistful reminder of his time with the company he helped to lift to national prominence, but it also in a way shows why he himself was never quite able to make that company SO successful that it wouldn’t need Syd Nathan to ride in on the white horse carrying a bagful of cash to alleviate its economic shortfalls and then reveal himself as a turncoat and abscond with the label’s name and its biggest star.

Had Gayten just been able to more consistently build upon what worked while discarding what didn’t more often than he had then it’s possible the Brauns never would’ve resorted to seeking the help of outsiders and consequently DeLuxe might’ve been Gayten’s home for the rest of his career.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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