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REGAL 3302; OCTOBER 1950



For much of his first three years on the scene Paul Gayten was nothing if not a creator. Not only did he write countless songs, both for himself and others, but he produced, arranged and played on so many records it was hard to keep track of.

Yet over the past few months Regal Records has altered their approach with him in the same ill-fated way that so many other independent labels who made their bones on rock ‘n’ roll have done and will continue to do for many years, namely start acting like creatively barren major labels who pillaged any rising hit with hasty cover versions.

This is the fifth such occurrence since the start of the year for Gayten and the remarkable thing is how successful those attempts have been, not just resulting in some actual hits but also a shocking amount of really good records.

But then maybe that was the one thing the major labels were lacking which made their game plan so uninspired… they were simply in need of somebody as creative as Paul Gayten to improve upon the songs he was handed.

But with such unlikely source material as he has to work with today it would take every ounce of his creativity to duplicate that feat this time out.


All The Way Down The Line
Country music, as we’ve mentioned plenty of times to date, had absolutely nothing to do with rock ‘n’ roll’s birth or its original seismic creative evolution. It really wasn’t until more white acts like Bill Haley and the rockabillies from Sun Records came along in the mid-1950’s, and then culminating with The Everly Brothers ascendancy in 1957 that strong country elements began to be incorporated into the ever broadening description of rock music.

As a result there’s very few cases – outside of a string of Ivory Joe Hunter songs last year – where we’ve been tasked with examining the two genres distinct differences and why they still seemed so unlikely to ever cross-pollinate. But here’s our first real example of how difficult any artistic give and take between them would be, let alone a full-fledged merger between the two styles.

If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time is a record that’s not just country, but country country… going well beyond just being a prototypical song for the genre and into the stereotypical country music territory.

Lefty Frizzell wrote it, sang it and lived off its popularity for years. His first Number One hit released as he was just starting out it vaulted him to stardom and while he’d quickly go on to become one of the most popular and influential artists in the field with a succession of singles that enjoyed longer runs at the top of the charts over the next few years, none surpassed the overall impact and enduring popularity of this one.

As was the trend in popular music at the time record companies from all over the map would swoop in to cover any sizable hit, particularly those that were seen as unique by the mainstream, but in this case its honky tonk origins might’ve been TOO unique to make for easy adaption in other fields.

We’ll Spread Joy And We’ll Spread It Right
The first order of business Gayten has to focus on to make this his own is removing the distinctly country elements in Frizzell’s original and replacing them with something that is more at home in rock ‘n’ roll. That means the fiddles are definitely out as is the steel guitar and the twang in the vocals… all of which comprise approximately 85% of the appeal of the Frizzell record to country music fans.

What remains however are the lyrics and it’s here that Gayten’s hands are more or less tied because they too reveal a rural hillbilly mentality in their phrases that can hardly be swapped out for different language without completely re-writing the tune.

So Paul has to to dutifully recite lines such as “We’ll go honky tonkin” without sounding as if he needs it explained just what that might entail, yet at the same time he can’t sound as if he’s got a closet full of cowboy boots and plaid shirts without losing his primary audience.

Which is why you wonder they chose THIS song rather than something more malleable that was popular at the time such as the Jewish folk song Tzena, Tzeba, Tzena or Anton Karas’s zither instrumental The Third Man Theme.

That’s a joke, son, as Foghorn Leghorn would say, in case you missed the sarcasm.

But If You Got The Money, Honey is so tied to its origins that it’s like a house of cards, wherein you pull one card out and the whole thing tumbles over. Yet Gayten manages to do the job as effectively as could be by first swapping out those fiddles for horns which blast away in the intro backed by some emphatic drumming which takes this out of the barn and puts it in an urban setting across the tracks.

Gayten’s voice – and more accurately the attitude behind that voice – has a harder task but he solves this problem more or less by eschewing the earnestness that Frizzell sang it with and focusing on the undercurrent of mercenary humor Lefty revealed by the end when he tells the girl he’s wooing that if she doesn’t have money, not to bother him.

In this version however Gayten makes no bones about the fact he’s viewing this quasi-relationship in decidedly non-serious terms from the very start with his lighthearted delivery and various vocal quirks thrown in. Those changes turn a straightforward tale about a guy seeking a woman willing to support his lazy ass into an exaggerated farce on the subject.

Now do those adjustments make it a really good record for rock ‘n’ roll to tackle? No of course not, but that’s why he’s got a hot band in tow, for if they can distract you just enough from the topical issues then they’ve still got a shot to bring you fully on board.

Have Ourselves A Time
During the bulk of the vocals the instrumentation’s job is simply to carry the basic rhythm without getting in the way. There’s certainly a new sonic component designed to place it in the rock camp but they’re not accentuating it much with how they’re playing behind Gayten.

But once Gayten steps aside that’s when the musicians start adding elements of their own to If You Got The Money, Honey that make a notable difference in your perception of it.

No longer is this purely a wry joke, instead it becomes a statement of independence, a refusal to be tied down. While the message had been played down by Gayten’s humor it’s now being taken deadly serious by Hank Mobley who wails away with fierce intent on his tenor sax, spitting out notes in a mad rush then dropping down into a defensive crouch before rising again with resurgent force and hammering away with lefts and rights determined to beat down anyone or anything trying to domesticate him.

As Gayten starts to match that energy down the stretch the message he’s delivering, and indeed the casual fun of his performance early on, begins to dissolve and now this character is back to focusing on himself, his carefree lifestyle and his freedom at the expense of everything else.

In essence this was the same point being made that Lefty Frizzell had stated much more matter-of-factly, but whereas Frizzell’s song was pitched from the sidelines before the assignation with this women was carried out, Gayten was singing it as they hit the town and had a blast together before leaving her on the curb as he went looking for someone else to cap the evening with while the band played on.

Leave My Old Wreck Behind
Though Paul Gayten and company succeeded in transforming the song, at it’s heart it’s still not the right material for them and there’s nothing they can do to completely obscure that fact.

As a country song with a twist it’s very good and Frizzell’s version remains definitive but it also serves to show how in most cases once a song enters the public’s consciousness any stylistic changes to it come at a cost.

In this case the cost was Gayten’s musical independence, an ongoing problem as record companies refused to acknowledge the idea that rock ‘n’ roll was not like pop music where originality and authenticity didn’t matter nearly as much. As a result Gayten’s rendition of If You Got The Money, Honey, I Got The Time becomes simply an inventive take on a soon-to-be immortal song, not a soon-to-be classic Paul Gayten record.

It’d be another full decade or more before this kind of thinking was swept out of rock circles completely once the older generation mercifully retired, died off or fled to more hospitable ground of mainstream pop and left the decisions on rock acts to people who actually appreciated it for its own sake, but until then, while hardly welcome on the scene, this one proved that with enough creativity rock acts could even come away with something enjoyable under duress.


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