RED ROBIN 107; JUNE 1952



It’s 11:30 at night sometime in June, 1952. A radio station disc jockey has been rifling through the stack of new records that just came in, looking for something different to spin.

The plug side of this is fast and upbeat, normally the kind of thing this show specializes in, but tonight he came into the studio feeling down after he and his wife got in a big fight before he left for work, and so the mournful B-side fits his mood better and he cues it up to play next.

As the needle drops and the sound spills out of the speakers, it hits people listening in different ways.

For the guy just back in town feeling a little more worldly after his first year in college, the softly playing saxophone provides the perfect backdrop in the front seat of his car overlooking the canal as he gets none of the expected resistance while he rounds first and heads for second base with a local girl he’s taking out for the first time that night.

Meanwhile a boy who’d had a crush on that same girl all year in high school sits alone in his room listening to the radio, unaware of what she’s about to do across town while this same song consoles him after being turned down earlier today when he finally got the nerve to ask her out.

That’s music… the notes may be the same, but how you receive them will often be uniquely personal.


Love: Lost And Found
Music’s role in your life is largely passive. It plays, you listen.

But where and how you listen varies greatly… not just from person to person, but also the same person at different times.

Certain songs fit particular settings better than others and so if they catch on it’s usually because those listening IN those situations respond more fervently to them and from that point forward those songs are sort of a cheat sheet for tapping into those emotions even when you are far removed from the experience itself.

But there are some songs that can have dual interpretations, or maybe more accurately, that are equally suitable for wildly diverse moods such as Crying My Heart Out whose title suggests romantic despair.

The music backs that up… provided you are in the right frame of mind to appreciate that sentiment.

But if you’re in a happier frame of mind this same record is ideal for languidly swaying with your girl on a dance floor late one night. Or perhaps as a form of seduction when you and your sweetheart are by yourselves with the lights down low after that dance is long over. Or it could even be used – in direction opposition to the title in question – as a backdrop for romantic daydreams when you’re all alone.

It’s all in how you look at it.


Changing Perspectives
Though the dominant image of rock saxophone playing is wild honking and high-pitched squealing taken at a pace that would frighten jet pilots, maybe the more important attribute that sax players earning their living in rock ‘n’ roll have is their tone.

Thick, gritty, earthy, full-bodied and sensuous.

Though he never scored hits under his own name like Hal Singer and Big Jay McNeely when helping to establish the instrument’s importance in rock circles, nor did he become a particularly prolific sideman, like Sam “The Man” Taylor or King Curtis, affording him the chance to be heard on dozens of hits by other artists, the fact remains that Red Prysock, whether with Tiny Grimes or Tiny Bradshaw, or on his own, was truly one of the greats… particularly when it came to mastering that defining rock tone.

On Crying My Heart Out the slow drawn out melody he plays over a piano backdrop with the other horns moaning softly to provide atmosphere, is made special by how he maintains that full rich tone to give the song enormous depth, almost as if he’s contemplating every emotional nuance it calls to mind as the record unfolds.

So yes, you can take the crawling tempo which is exacerbated by the long pauses in and between each passage as a form of mental anguish and nothing more, as the title would indicate, with Prysock merely going over every aspect of the disintegrating romance step by painful step.

But you can also choose to use it as him reflecting on falling in love in the first place, cautious but hopeful and then finally content, sure that happiness will endure forever.

Along the way you can then watch it fall apart from a distance. You can picture a nightclub scene where they’re a little more reserved in their exchanges as their love begins to show the tarnish of time. Or maybe the aftermath of a cocktail party in their place… stylishly decorated at a glance, but with the ashtrays fill of butts… as the house is empty now and he wonders if their guests could tell the two of them were distant and cold in each other’s presence.

When down the stretch the prancing backing music seems to be warning us this is all an illusion about to collapse on itself, Prysock drops the detached contemplative attitude wherein his notes circled lazily above his head like smoke, and starts playing with more pointed assertiveness, finally coming to the inevitable conclusion that this relationship is doomed.

Whether he’s giving up or moving on makes little difference, the result is the same. The chapter ends, the book is closed, new characters will emerge tomorrow.

It can work in all of those settings, individually or collectively, and while it’s hardly the stuff hits are made of, it’s still a nice record that shows what a great musician can do with a few choice notes and a lot of imagination.


(Visit the Artist page of Red Prysock for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)