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RPM 358; JUNE 1952



For some reason people have an unusual affinity for hometowns in life, even as it was most likely out of your hands where you come from.

Rosco Gordon came from Memphis, a musical hotbed which for some reason wasn’t content being revered for its many legitimate accomplishments in the field and so over time they worked hard to re-write the truth every chance they got in order to pretend that their city gave birth to rock ‘n’ roll.

Gordon wasn’t fooled. He’d lived there his whole life and he knew full well that rock was actually born four hundred miles south in New Orleans in 1947. So despite his own lifelong allegiance to Memphis, he went on record long before the city fathers began spreading their malicious lies and sang a song to the fairer sex of rock’s hometown.

In fact he did so twice.


They’ll Take You In The Alley And Bust You In Your Head
Unfortunately the story of Rosco Gordon when he was at his creative and commercial peak is more about the litany of dishonest record label factions than it is about him.

We’ve covered it in extensive detail already but soon-to-be Memphis music legend Sam Phillips recorded him and went back on his deal with the Bihari Brothers of Modern/RPM Records and sold the sides to Leonard Chess instead. The Biharis, detestable creatures though they may have been, were righteously outraged by this act of contractual betrayal and brought Gordon back in under the auspices of Ike Turner to re-cut those sides, including his chart topping Booted.

But neither Phillips nor the Biharis actually paid Gordon… ya know, the guy who wrote, sang and played the songs they were all making money from and so as soon as he could he split for Duke Records, a new Memphis label run by David Mattis, just about the only honest figure in this story and he re-cut New Orleans Wimmen there.

But RPM, who had this in the vaults for months, beat them to it and issued it first and with greater distribution got it into more jukeboxes than Duke could. That’s when Duke entered into a partnership with Don Robey of Peacock Records, the one label owner who made no bones about being a criminal… I think he might’ve had it printed on his stationary in fact… and Gordon, who had thought he was out of the frying pan, was back in the fire getting burned.

So if nothing else you have to at least have a modicum of pity for poor Rosco Gordon who’s got another good song that was out on two different labels almost simultaneously while all of the record industry sharks circle in the water, ready to take another bite out of his career.


Make A Fool Of You
Twenty seconds of distinctive piano that leads this off before Rosco Gordon’s voice enters the frame lets you know precisely who is responsible for the record.

That’s a good thing when it comes to being so identifiable, but it’s also reflective of the fact that this is sort of a recycled riff taken from past glories.

Call it lazy if you want, but maybe you didn’t notice that Jules Bihari stole half the writing credit for the composition, as was his habit, so why give him something completely new and innovative in the process?

Besides, while this shares a melodic history with other efforts it doesn’t detract too much from the overall effect, as New Orleans Wimmen tells its own story, criticizing the girls for their behavior, but if you care to read between the lines you can see the self-loathing he has because he’s the one gullible and inexperienced enough to fall for their ploys.

It paints a pretty grim picture, though I have to believe that Gordon was using his experiences with Messrs. Bihari, Phillips and Chess as the inspiration for the vile actions he depicts here, but in spite of the trauma he’s been through the song still rolls along in an invigorating manner.

The horns in particular are creating a very positive vibe that Gordon’s voice rides throughout. The extended solo is pretty weak at first, as he can’t find an agreeable note to save his life, but once he gives up and just squalls it gives the song a sense of chaos and destruction that suits the subject well.

We may have heard similar sounds coming from him before, but Gordon’s such an engaging performer, his quirky voice is as inviting as ever, that we don’t mind hearing it again… and again if you happened to get the Duke version as well.


Take All Your Lovin’ And All Your Money Too
There are two ways to look at the outcome of this I suppose… though both ways mix the good and the bad.

RPM Records indeed got a regional hit out of this, not surprisingly it did well in the Crescent City, as apparently New Orleans Wimmen didn’t hold it against Gordon that he was maligining them in the song.

What that means is the Biharis benefited financially in multiple ways while Gordon got hosed again.

But the fact it WAS popular obviously had positive repercussions for Rosco Gordon too, keeping him in demand as a recording artist and as a live draw.

Granted once Don Robey took over Duke Records he’d probably have trouble being paid for the former, but most artists made their money on the road anyway and with the catalog of hits Gordon was building for himself he wasn’t going to have to pandhandle for jobs at run down saloons any time soon.

One last thing, though this does Rosco Gordon little good in any real tangible way, here we are seven decades later celebrating his music while reviling the memories of the crooks who constantly tried to rob him blind.

All of them are dead now and the money they got conniving him can’t buy them a a single kind word, while Rosco Gordon’s artistic legacy remains undiminished long after he’s left us.


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