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DECCA 48217; JUNE 1951

 
 

 

Frustration is something everybody has to deal with at some point in life over a variety of issues big and small, from not being able to locate your keys when you’re in a hurry, to having to spend a dozen years sitting in school day after day when you could be doing something important like playing outside with your friends.

But if you’re someone who is genuinely interested in rock ‘n’ roll history frustration seems to come with the territory because of how many people over the years got it completely wrong.

Once the basic facts were skewed, either through laziness or stupidity, those who did the requisite work to actually learn the truth were often met with stubborn resistance over things that were all but indisputable. And as we all know the more entrenched someone’s falsehoods are the more defiant they become about defending those lies.

So along with having to contend with endless frustration you also need to learn to patience, two things that do not generally go hand in hand, as you look to find pieces of clear evidence that rock ‘n’ roll music not only existed prior to their acceptance of it, but was being stated in clear unambiguous terms along the way.
 

 

Keep On Rockin’, I’ll Tell You When
When you’re facing down the ignorant masses who treat lies as truth and feel any challenges to their outlandish assertions are capital offenses you need to keep your wits about you and deal with them as you would a bratty child.

As if 1460 songs released between mid-1947 and mid-1951 that are clearly rock ‘n’ roll music in every way somehow weren’t enough to convince these misguided holdouts, you tend to rely on a few go-to pieces of evidence in hopes of breaking through their thick craniums.

You may start with the fact that the first rock song, Good Rocking Tonight, was frequently revived by legendary rock acts over the years such as Elvis Presley. You then may point out that the term “rock ‘n’ roll” was used to describe the music in the trade magazines devoted to reviewing records starting in 1947.

Assuming that when presented with such proof the position of your foe is sure to be crumbling, you’ll then show them that years before white disc jockey Alan Freed stole credit for coming up with the term for his radio show, black disc jockey Vernon “Dr. Daddy-O” Winslow was using it on the air AND in print ads for his program in New Orleans in 1948… playing the same artists, and in many cases the exact same records, that Freed would be playing in 1952 when the Cleveland dee-jay supposedly conceived of the entire genre in between slugs of Erin Brew.

Yet as we’ve seen over the past few years in this world, reality is no match for a far too common lethal combination of stupidity and stubbornness and so you have to keep hammering away at these deniers with even more corroboration in the hopes of wearing them down. For instance you may pose to them the question of how Fats Domino can be a rock act in 1955 but not one in 1949 when he’s playing the exact same music with the exact same band in the exact same studio with the exact same producer on the exact same record label?

Or you might point out that René Hall, the guitarist and arranger whose rock credentials are unimpeachable thanks to his extensive studio work with everyone from Sam Cooke to Ritchie Valens and Larry Williams, released a song in 1951 called My Kind Of Rocking which laid out the musical description and the exact use of the term “rock ‘n’ roll” itself as plain as day for everyone to hear.

That’s when you sit back with a smug satisfied look on your face, sure that your superior intellect has finally won the day.

And that’s when the witless wonders you’ve wasted your time trying to enlighten will respond with their patented comeback – “Nuh-uh”.

Your frustration at its apex, you throw up your hands in dismay and finally admit that it’s hard to argue with such sound reasoning as that.
 


 
 

Satisfy My Soul
Despite his prolific work behind the scenes, René Hall’s name recognition among the uneducated rabble remains far too low for even a clear cut exposition on the subject such as this record to make much of a dent in their ignorance. But that’s part of the frustration with these things.

Hall’s solo work to date has included a few decent records but no hits while his duties as a sideman and bandleader have resulted in no major breakthroughs either, yet his reputation in the industry is growing thanks to his being one of the few New York session musicians who genuinely understands rock ‘n’ roll, doesn’t feel it’s beneath him and has enough creativity to bring out its greater attributes even for a company like Decca who tends to give this whole genre the stink-eye most of the time.

My Kind Of Rocking might be a little too modest in some ways to take advantage of that opportunity, but not because of anything Hall is responsible for… other than hiring the singer to put this message across. Had he chosen someone with a little more grit, muscle and attitude embedded in his larynx than Courtland Carter to handle the vocals maybe the point would’ve been driven home with greater authority.

Still, let’s not overlook the words Carter is offering up, touting the virtues of both kinds of “rock ‘n’ roll”, the sexual and the musical, before each line is responded to with a guitar lick from Hall that’s sharp, clean and patently obvious in its meaning. You may think the girl he’s shimmying with is the stimulant in this relationship, but that’s not the case at all, it’s music that gets their motor running and Hall’s playing is tantalizing you with its possibilities.

“Rock all day and then you rock all night”, Carter exclaims and Hall does just that, squeezing notes out in quick bursts, easing off then striking again. Yet because he’s not overbearing in his musical assault – it’s more like musical molesting really – he’s allowing you a chance to take it all in – the melodic nuances, the subtle variations in tone and the different stylistic influences it draws from and will lead to in due time.

That’s why you wish Carter was more declarative in his vocal approach, more commanding a presence, because when someone like Hall is at work you need the carnival barker on the back of the flat bed truck to create a ruckus to attract the crowds to appreciate just what it is he’s laying down.
 


 

Gonna Keep On Rockin’ ‘Til I’m Old And Gray
Even if you’re not a dutiful student of rock history but rather a casual observer from afar, from time to time records like these will come across your radar and your curiosity will piqued by the title, or a mention of the lyrics or a vague familiarity of the name of the guitarist you recognize from somewhere and so you’ll give it a listen.

While you may be faintly impressed by his playing ability the overall impression of the record itself will be much more muted because of the lack of vocal aggression and so no matter how convincing the words on the page may be, you tend to dismiss something like My Kind Of Rocking as being a convincing statement of fact and pass it off more as an interesting curio.

But while the record itself is hardly worth getting excited about, it IS something that adds plenty of heft to your case that rock was alive and well long before most white folks knew of – or would acknowledge – its existence.

You can get frustrated all you want with their maddening self-important delusions regarding the music’s true birth, but the mere fact that this was nothing but an average rock song for 1951 shows just how deep and wide rock ‘n’ roll had become since its start back in 1947.

This kind of thing was now commonplace and despite how well it articulates the music’s position in the world, those who were fans of it didn’t need any reassurance of rock ‘n’ roll’s mere existence because, as we well know, they’d already lived with it for years.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of René Hall for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)