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MERCURY 8184; JULY 1950



Certain artists are really classifiable only unto themselves, so quirky and unusual in their material and deliveries that there’s not only no comparable artist but often times they don’t even fall into the normal song niches we’ve all gotten used to over time.

Professor Longhair of course was just such an artist and though he recorded songs of many differing tempos he never could be accused of cutting typical ballads… and with his cracked vocals that was probably a good thing for it’s doubtful he’d be taken very seriously if he ever decided to delve into the love-struck fare that was par for the course in that realm of rock ‘n’ roll.

This record might be as close as he got to sticking to that kind of structure, but even here don’t expect anything touching and heartfelt out of him… cockeyed and humorously bizarre is more like it.


Talking To The Man In The Moon
Though perhaps a little too moderately paced to be classified as a ballad in strict musical terms, there’s a delightfully languid ease to how it sounds that conjures up a relaxed state of mind that will suffice in most definitions of the term. The saxophone is particularly engaging, almost offering up a peak seven or eight years into the future with this more laid back approach.

As for the vocals, they too are delivered in a fairly measured tone that suggests nothing is amiss and if you disregarded the lyrics you might even say that this was a nice innocuous song perfectly suited for a high school dance or a late night stroll with your sweetie through the neighborhood.

But then you glance at the title and start focusing on just what is being said within and that’s when you know Her Mind Is Gone could only have come from the off-beat mind of Professor Longhair.


Let’s start with that intoxicating saxophone which forms the linchpin of the entire track. Played by either Lee Allen or Batman Rankins – both are on it, though who is handling the lead lines isn’t specified – the crawling pace and lazy feel fools you into thinking the rest of this is going to be fairly traditional.

It’s not of course, but that isn’t due to anything they’re contributing which remains one of the more beguiling sax performances on record to date. In many ways this is the antithesis of most of what we’ve come to expect… from the instrument itself in rock circles, but also from Messrs. Allen and Rankins, both of whom have blown up a storm on their most acclaimed sides in the past.

Not so here where the mellow vibe being offered is so tranquil and soothing for much of the song that you immediately drop your guard… which as we know is never the wisest move when Professor Longhair is lurking about the musical laboratory.

His presence though is hardly alarming when he remains focused on the keyboards, his heavy left hand setting a drowsy pace that pulls you in even further and lulls you into a complacent state of mind… something which his vocals promptly upend as soon as they come in and turn this song on its head.

Let Me Tell You What It’s All About
Though his first line is delivered with slightly more power than would normally be recommended on such a calm musical track it’s something that would probably be overlooked, especially for those familiar with ‘Fess’s usual vocal approach.

Never the most measured of singers to begin with and possessing a tone that was the aural equivalent of cracked glass on top of that, Professor Longhair was always somebody that you needed to be properly acclimated to before immersing yourself in his music and so for those who’d done so over the past six months or so – Bald Head, his previous Mercury release, was a Top Ten hit so chances are the majority of those checking this out at the time were well-aware of his style – you probably wouldn’t be caught too off guard by his rather abrupt entrance.

But then there’s still the topic at hand to ease into and that’s where you take a sudden step back because – as might be expected for a song entitled Her Mind Is Gone – the subject matter is a little crude and improper at best. Though I’m not sure he actually intends to be offensive it’s still somewhat alarming to hear him so casually (and even somewhat cruelly) dismiss a girl whose affections are waning.

Though a little harshly worded perhaps the basic message is not TOO bad a directive, essentially saying that you’re better off ridding yourself of someone not into you, but where it begins to raise alarm is in his subsequent assertion that this girl’s wandering affection, disinterest or cheating and lying is on account of her mental deficiencies!

Damn! Well I guess Mr. Byrd has no time to be diplomatic when it comes to these things!

Allow me to perhaps suggest an alternative explanation that puts the onus back on the no-good husband or boyfriend’s actions, but if you want to chalk up a lack of reciprocal love as a sign of insanity, be my guest as long as you don’t try and have this poor girl committed.


Wait A Minute, Daddy!
Now from that rather inauspicious beginning the record sort of chills out and ‘Fess lightheartedly brings up further examples of her shaky grasp on reality, some of which are fairly humorous, but at least there’s no more flirting with troubling or potentially criminal reactions to her lack of devoted feelings towards this fella.

Besides, can you really be upset with Longhair for laying out an excuse that is clearly meant to be an exaggeration for comedic purposes?

No, I don’t think you can, but I also would serve this up as evidence that when it comes to delivering a traditional ballad, even one describing a broken love affair, this shows that the good Professor was not always playing with a full deck himself… not that there’s anything wrong with that when it sounds so appealing in spite of the off-the-wall approach.

The track itself is hardly showy, in fact Her Mind Is Gone might be Longhair’s most modest effort musically in many ways. By letting the sax set the entire mood ‘Fess is free to merely fill in the blanks behind the horns. He contributes no crazy runs, no quirky turnarounds, nothing designed to even draw attention to itself, but his playing may be all the more appealing because of it, allowing you to better appreciate his unique sense of time and melodic sensibilities while he’s safely out of the spotlight.

The sax solo is the one point where the musicians stretch out even a little, though it has to be said this is the weakest aspect of the record, breaking that mesmerizing vibe without adding much of value to make up for it. On one hand you’re glad they held back a little and didn’t go for broke but the lack of sharper focus does it in more than the lack of fire.

Luckily all involved slip back into a more comfortable groove when the vocals return and the closing riff on the sax is perfectly executed, bringing things to a satisfying conclusion… provided of course you don’t see men in white coats with a straitjacket looking for this poor girl to haul her away for simply choosing to remain single.

Ain’t No Doubts About It
The overall sound of this record is slightly disarming but as is always the case with Professor Longhair the content below the surface is bound to be full of surprises.

Her Mind Is Gone is hardly the place you’d start to discover the inimitable pleasures of his music but it serves as a nice change of pace from the more assertive tracks in his repertoire as well as providing further insight to his off-beat sense of humor and how endearing he can be vocally even when he’s suggesting clinical madness is the source of a guy’s relationship troubles.

That oddly charismatic appeal he possesses is hard to beat and for all of his musical genius it’s still his personality that remains his most reliable selling point giving his work the benefit of whatever doubts you may have. This record epitomizes that theory… though a notch or two below his best work it’s hypnotically appealing just the same.

One of the things you learn listening to Professor Longhair is how you have to be ready for anything with his records. Not only is his musical formula so unusual but so are his perspectives, so much so that when he tried to create an original ballad it turned out so radically different that once again he winds up in a category all to himself.


(Visit the Artist page of Professor Longhair for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)