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DELUXE 3308; SEPTEMBER 1950

 
 

 

In the singles era the timing of releases for major artists was of vital importance yet often seemed to be decided upon by executives after too many vodka martinis.

With rock ‘n’ roll’s popularity centered largely on the jukebox trade rather than the radio airwaves, or even record sales for home usage, companies were fighting over usually twenty spots on these communal means of dispersal.

So while frequently we’d criticize a company for holding back a new single on a hot artist for TOO long, derailing their momentum by not giving audiences who had lapped up their last big hit something new to enjoy, it sort of made sense when many jukeboxes were still stocking that earlier smash.

Yet as bad as the interminable delay for a new release was to suffer through at times, another sin may have been even worse and that was when a company was so full of themselves, so sure that they’d receive special consideration for their superstar, that they’d flood the market with more new tracks before the previous record had reached its peak… and in this case before the best selling single released before that one had yet to run its course.

Call this then the culmination of The Summer Of Roy Brown.
 

 

Turned On The Radio, Cruised Down The Avenue
In the big scheme of things this onslaught of records by rock’s number one act could probably be considered a blessing, for it’s always better to have an embarrassment of riches to sort through rather than a dearth of quality material when they were hitting on all cylinders creatively.

But as stated there’s also something to be said about giving audiences too much of a good thing at once when it runs the risk of harming that artist’s commercial returns, even just a little.

Back in June DeLuxe Records released Brown’s Hard Luck Blues and over the course of the summer watched it become Roy’s biggest hit in a year and a half, climbing to #1 on Billboard’s national charts the third week in August… just about the time they released the much differently styled follow-up Love Don’t Love Nobody.

Okay, you say to yourself, that’s not the WORST move to make because surely jukebox operators weren’t about to take the current top song in rock circles out of the machines altogether, nor were they about to forsake inserting a new record by the hottest artist in America into the playlist, especially one that gave listeners a much different sonic experience.

That may have indeed been the case, as both singles were fantastic, and yet even so it took a couple of weeks for that second single to start appearing on those same national charts.

But suddenly everything was thrown into disarray when Brown’s THIRD release of summer was put out to join them!

Cadillac Baby got issued the first week of September, two weeks, maybe three, after the previous one was shipped to distributors. Because that middle record would eventually hit Number 2 on the charts you could argue that there was no real harm done, even though it may have done even better if it had the field entirely to itself awhile longer.

But looking at today’s record, both sides of which stalled at #6 in Billboard, the flip making it for only one week while this got two weeks before disappearing, it’s pretty obvious they’d reached the tipping point and it cost Roy Brown another surefire best seller in the process.
 


 
 

How That Woman Loves To Ride
No matter how this fared commercially – and hitting the Top Ten, even if it was for so brief a run, is nothing to scoff at – the good news to report is that Roy Brown was clearly at his peak creatively.

Each record over the past few months had given us something new to consider, from utter despair over his lot in life back at the start of summer, then righteous indignation a month ago regarding the pitfalls of love before finally showing us with Cadillac Baby that the best way to overcome your despondency is… by getting laid of course!

Though the title sidesteps the content of the record it’s still meant to catch your eye in a different way, as this was Mid-Century America where the Cadillac was seen as the epitome of success and not a car meant for old men in toupees to ride back and forth to the golf course in as it’s been much of the time since then.

But once you open the door and slide behind the wheel you find out pretty quickly the song isn’t about owning a Caddy per say, but rather using it as a euphemism for a different kind of luxury ride.

The lyrics here are crude but clever, as Roy, not one for discretion it appears, crows about his woman’s bedroom skills by comparing her to the car’s handling on the road in anything but subtle fashion.

Unless you’re a hapless virgin who needs things translated for you, there’s no mistaking the meaning behind these lines and while it’s conceivable that this same scenario could actually involve a Sunday drive in the country the longer the song goes on the less ambiguity there is to debate his intentions with such juicy lines as when this girl tells Roy after wearing him out “riding” that “if you get tired stop and rest, park it in the spot your baby likes the best!”.

You also have to admire Roy for having the ego to compare his… ahh… “tool of the trade” as it were with a Cadillac and by the sounds of his exuberant delivery during all this it’s quite likely he was having his engine serviced by a shapely mechanic as the tapes were rolling!

As much as Brown’s motor is racing throughout the song, so too are the band, shifting this record into overdrive and eating up the road as it hurtles along.
 

Crazy ‘Bout Her Rollin’
Though the horn section is locked into the kind of tight formation that gives it something of an outmoded appearance at first glance, the vibrant energy with which they play puts aside any doubts you have regarding their commitment to rocking out as they take off from the starting line already in fourth gear, tires squealing and engine roaring, rampaging through the streets.

Despite that rapid pace they remain remarkably focused, riffing in unison while Willie Gaddy’s guitar adds so many subtle licks behind them, as well as in between and around them, that you’re sure to not even pick up on them all unless to zero in on him. But you’ll surely admire the overall effect it has in the arrangement which is densely packed by surprisingly uncluttered, another feather in the hat of producer Henry Glover who has a way about assigning parts that create separation while at the same time reinforcing the wall of sound they’re building.

The whole track features a yin and yang approach with things seeming on paper to be counterproductive in some ways but wind up complimenting each other nicely. Johnny Fontenette’s tenor solo is not nearly as recklessly flamboyant as most great rock solos have been over the past few years, keeping this tightly reined in by comparison, yet in spite of that it’s bristling with energy and being aided by the other horns – trumpet, trombone and baritone sax – adding quick bursts of notes, like anti-artillery fire on the battlefield which creates an explosive racket.

Then there’s Buddy Griffin’s piano which never steps out in front yet provides a constant surging pulse behind the rest of the instruments. Meanwhile the rhythm section isn’t asked to be overly emphatic in their playing either but they never let up in the slightest which helps to keep Cadillac Baby purring along.

The real star of the musical side though might just be the guy who isn’t even playing an instrument, as Roy Brown himself is fueling the entire rhythmic surge of the song, stepping on the gas and steering it through each turn with confidence bordering on cockiness. Taking their cues from him the band can’t help but look good.
 


 

Ride All Night Long
Seven decades later it’s doubtful that anyone much cares the rapid succession with which this latest run of Roy Brown’s records were released. Music history fans want their quality in quantity and know that it’s best to take advantage of peak creative inspiration while it lasted before you got complacent and repetition set in.

Considering how long we’ve been waiting for Rihanna to issue a follow-up to the staggeringly great ANTI album… five and a half years and counting!… it’d be foolish to complain too much about Roy Brown’s singles piling up on one another when he was absolutely rolling in great ideas.

Besides, Cadillac Baby made the charts, however short its stay might have been, which means that decades down the road the primary means novice listeners have for determining which of his songs are most worth seeking out wasn’t affected by this otherwise questionable decision.

Once you hear it you can forget about that behind the scenes drama and just be thrilled that Brown is back in the driver’s seat, his girl by his side (or straddling his console), the wind in their hair, the sun at their back and with miles of open road stretching out before them.

The ride won’t last forever – either kind of ride that is – so you better enjoy every second that you and your baby are cruising down the road.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Roy Brown for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)