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RPM 344; DECEMBER 1951



Didja ever tread new ground but have the feeling you’ve been there before?

If not, congratulations, here’s your opportunity to see what all the fuss is about and enjoy a sense of déjà vu of your very own, courtesy of Roscoe Gordon… well, not so much Gordon but rather thanks to a bunch of no-goodniks in the record industry who were tugging on him from all directions.

Though in this case it seemed to have no ill effects on the artist himself, as this became his biggest hit, it’s still indicative of the industry that nobody seemed to care of Gordon himself, the song in question or the audience who were expected to support both of them… the only thing they cared about was their own wallets.

As usual.


Yeah Man
Since we’ve studiously covered the twisted saga around this record last month when the first cut on Booted was issued by Chess Records, we won’t go into too much depth this time other than to say that after being cut in Memphis by Sam Phillips who, in addition to coaxing a more theatrical faux-drunken performance out of Gordon, proceeded to violate the handshake agreement he had with the Bihari Brothers to give them the right of first refusal for what he recorded and instead shipped this off to the Chess Brothers in Chicago who promised a better rate.

Aside from the disturbing lack of ethics from Phillips – and the Chess brothers for that matter – there was another problem looming for them all, namely that the Bihari’s already had a valid contract with Gordon and so he had no choice but re-cut the same song with a different band to be issued on RPM to compete with the Chess single.

Whether it was a case of the trade papers keeping abreast of the legal entanglements and respecting the party in the right here, or if it was just one of those random quirks, it was the RPM version of Booted in front of you that was the officially credited hit in Billboard even though today you almost exclusively will hear the Chess version thanks to the bigger names behind the scenes who were involved with that.

In truth that works out well for Gordon since it’s also a slightly better rendition.

(We should stop to mention that all of the online sources have the release date for RPM either in January or even February 1952, but Cash Box had RPM as the only listed version in their December 29 1951 issue for the charts denoting the Hot Records in New Orleans and the next week, January 5 1952, which was on newsstands a week earlier right before the New Year, has both Chess and RPM listed there… by February only RPM is listed).

Just so you hear the right one when trying to figure out which is which, the RPM version’s intro features the band giving a slightly different reply to Gordon’s opening question, specifically their use of the word “Man”.

“Jack, man, have you ever been Booted?”

“Booted, man?”

“Yes, Booted.”

“Yeah, man”.

Take My Knife And Operate
The differences beyond that overuse of a single word are more subtle but add up to a slightly lesser record… if only by degrees.

Ike Turner’s band have been enlisted to back Gordon this time around, a telling footnote in the story seeing as how Turner was the first who felt he’d been ripped off by Sam Phillips when he didn’t receive any label credit for Rocket 88, as his sax player and vocalist Jackie Brenston was said to be backed by His Delta Cats, a made-up name to make it seem to Chess that Phillips had more than one group he was recording.

Turner’s sides were credited to him and The Kings Of Rhythm, but those weren’t as good as the Brenston led cut and so Ike thought he got screwed out of a hit. Since that was also the first time that Phillips had crossed the Biharis by sending songs north to Chicago rather than west to Los Angeles, it was probably inevitable that the Biharis and Turner joined together, bonded by a sense of righteous indignation and fueled by a desire for retribution.

We know full well that Turner’s strengths lay in leading a band – not in writing or singing songs – and so re-cutting Booted with the creator of the tune seemed to be right up his alley, but since his instructions were to copy the original as closely as possible, there’s really not much he can do to put his own stamp on it. Heck, Ike can’t even play piano on it since that was Gordon’s instrument.

However if you listen closely there’s a few changes to be heard, as here there’s a more precise cymbal in the intro and the initial drumming is taken at a faster clip which both give this the edge, but once the vocals start the responsibility falls to Gordon to either match or improve his performance from the first time around and he’s just a fraction off in his delivery.

Phillips’s contribution, as mentioned, was to convince Gordon to play up his fractured state of mind in the song by implying he was half in the bag and with those words ringing in his ear he took that role seriously and delivered a slurred interpretation that sounded great, giving it a realistic edge that was still rather unique for non-comedy records at the time.

Here he’s definitely aware of that need but it’s downplayed a little bit, making this a more straightforward reading that robs it ever so slightly of its color.

Yet it does manage to improve a little too, particularly the tone of the sax solo, which is stronger in isolation than the Chess version, although the Chess version might fit the drunken mood better.

The one line reading that falls short comes after that break when Gordon eases off on the inebriated state of mind far too much and closes that out sounding disgusted rather than disjointed. It’s a small change but a telling one… the difference between someone who took solace in the bottle the first time around but who now has sobered up and is faced with a reality that he doesn’t quite want to confront.


Kicked Me Out For Another Man
Truthfully you can’t go wrong with either the Chess or the RPM versions of this song (and you can get both of them on the CD shown above, click the link and give us some added income to keep this rollicking ride through dusty old records thriving).

Gordon’s vocal performance is better on the Chess single thanks to Sam Phillips’s stage directions, while Ike Turner’s band is slightly better on RPM’s Booted.

I suppose we shouldn’t complain that we get two renditions to choose from. After all, in the modern age artists releasing boxed sets of historic recordings interspersed with unpolished alternate takes is collector’s manna, so in a sense this is a precursor to that with the added benefit of having a different – and truly great – band in support on this one.

But we also tend to like our history books to not to have a lot of footnotes and unfortunately the duplicity and greed of Sam Phillips means that Roscoe Gordon’s only chart topper comes with an asterisk attached.

This – the RPM single – gets the official credit, but surely the record stores and jukebox distributors weren’t meticulously differentiating which label they had when reporting their sales or spins, and so the question of which of these was the one most people heard as 1951 bled into 1952 remains an unsolvable mystery.

But hey, at least you got two reviews of the same song for the price of one.


(Visit the Artist page of Rosco Gordon for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Rosco Gordon (Chess version) (November, 1951)