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Because rock ‘n’ roll is forever associated with youth, both in terms of the audience that rallied around it and the artistic mindset of many of its practitioners, it’s only natural to assume the images associated with that connection were in place on the records from the very beginning.

But just because a younger audience gravitated to the music right away doesn’t mean a lot of the artists or record companies were sure of how to best capitalize on this interest.

Of course what they should’ve done is simply realize that the underage fans liked the music, the raciness and the passion of their earlier records and didn’t need to be catered to thematically in order to remain on board.

Sometimes though the only way you can learn what succeeds is to find out for yourself what fails miserably.


Really On Time
Though the age range falling between 13 and 19 always existed the concept of a “teenager” was fairly recent as of 1950. The booming post-war economy, a workplace that was undergoing a shift away from blue collar jobs towards white collar careers requiring more education, and the increasing use of technology to make everyday tasks easier meant that the younger generation got to delay the onset of adulthood for a few extra years.

With ever-increasing lifespans and even greater mobility which allowed kids to be able to find life partners outside their small circle of neighbors there was less of a need to settle down before your teen years were over so instead you could enjoy their natural urge for uninhibited hedonistic pursuits.

All of this and more made what had been a rather quick transition from child to adult a much more gradual progression at the mid-century point and with that added leisure time came the need for more cultural outlets, something rock ‘n’ roll tapped into from the start because it promised uninhibited excitement.

But as we’ll continually see the efforts to target that specific age group with songs that tried to speak their language were more often than not hackneyed and inept. Some, like Bill Haley, initially aimed too young by rocking up nursery rhymes. Others, including a litany of mid-50’s doo wop groups, treated the age group as something to be shallowly exploited.

Roy Brown however does something perhaps equally egregious on Teen Age Jamboree in that he hauls out some musical touchstones of his own teen years from nearly a decade earlier as a framework for an artificial scene that forms the content of the record which was not in any way reflective of the lives of those who actually had bought his records and made him a star.


On Ice
What’s odd about this record is of course the subject matter. We can only speculate on why he chose to write about this subject… the clubs he was playing certainly didn’t have kids in them, so maybe there was an influx of younger people going to his shows at theaters.

But the second and far more unusual aspect of Teen Age Jamboree is how once he decided on the topic he completely changed his entire musical persona to try and suit this new perspective and consequently removed all vestiges of what those kids liked about him in the first place!

Everything about this record is wrong… it’s wrong for the style of music, for the year it was made and for the artist who wrote and sang it.

Luckily you can tell all of this from the moment the needle drops and the horns start playing like it’s 1946. In fact, teenagers in 1946 probably would’ve felt this sounded too stale as they swing lightly rather than riff. The piano adds to the somewhat dainty feel of this but before you can get mad at it, here comes Roy Brown to draw your ire.

He’s using a very placid tone, one that sounds “nice” for sure, I mean Roy Brown had a fantastic voice and to hear him use it differently is theoretically a good thing, but not on this kind of song. This is a voice for seducing a girl in the moonlight, not for singing about 14 and 15 year olds having fun. It just sounds condescending here.

But then when you start paying attention to a lot of the lyrics you see that maybe it’s not out of place considering what he’s singing about. Maybe teenage parties were a lot different in 1950 than in the Twenty-First century, but this one sounds as if they’re being chaperoned by their mothers… hot dogs and soda? Everybody dressed up and “on time”? What kind of a party is that?

Thankfully that’s about all there is to the lyrics, other than the chorus which is celebrating the music itself and using at least SOME plausible adjectives, but doing so in ways which is hardly inspiring, doubling up on the words to imply excitement and still using that airy lightweight tone of voice.

This is the kind of scene in 1950’s television shows where the kids are having a party and everybody’s wearing ties and drinking punch, not the kind of parties that kids who were listening to Roy Brown records – the GOOD records I mean – were throwing where everyone was puking their guts out on the lawn after drinking too much booze they stole from their parent’s liquor cabinet.

In other words this is a whitewashed fictional account of something that may never have actually existed in the first place other than in layouts for Look magazine’s feature on teenage fun.

When The Band Starts Jumping
It’s hard to find anything that we want to compliment too effusively for fear of leading unsuspecting rock fans into a pit of musical quicksand where each time you struggle to get free you only wind up sinking deeper into the morass.

They all seem to be affected by this insipid mindset, the band playing neat orderly progressions, the engineers keeping the dials turned down to acceptable levels and Brown reining everybody in by his poor choices at every turn… but lucky for us there’s a bad apple in every barrel and here that is undoubtedly Johnny Fontenette who tears off his suit jacket midway through and starts honking up a storm, starting off like a house afire before easing back ever so slightly but still producing enough flames to singe your coat.

From there however Teen Age Jamboree reverts back to something alien to our experience with the usually infallible Edgar Blanchard delivering a technically impressive guitar solo that unfortunately contains about as much passion as a Venetian blind.

Wilbur Harden’s trumpet solo that follows is not qualified to reverse this slide back into irrelevancy and though the instrumental break closes with some flashy drumming by Emmett Shields, it’s a jazz solo on the bandstand, not a rock solo at a hole in the wall club.

Ironically when Brown comes back utilizing that same mild delivery Blanchard actually ponies up a few hotter licks behind him, but by now it’s far too late to change your opinion. This is one party you’d be glad if you were left off the invite list.


Beat, Beat… Beaten
There can be little doubt that rock’s debt to Roy Brown can never be repaid. He essentially invented the entire form, named it and defined its dominant vocal style right out of the box.

At his best his passionate voice, his eye for detail in songs and his tight as a drum band have delivered some of the greatest records of rock’s first few years.

But he’s also given us a few duds too, though usually they were uninspired retreads of much better work or simply poorly chosen material.

However Teen Age Jamboree was an idea that was definitely worth exploring. The concept is good and it’s even possible you could lift the composition itself (changing just a few of the identifying markers in the lyrics to something more suitable) and drop it into a tougher arrangement and then tell Roy to cut loose and you might wind up with something really great.

But this is not great. Not good. Not even mildly alright. It’s pretty bad, but more damning than that is the fact that it’s also counterproductive.

By focusing on the target audience so directly and getting everything about it wrong, from the type of setting to the manner in which it’s presented, you run the risk of driving them away. Not from rock itself, but from Brown if he thinks this is somehow an accurate reflection of who was listening to his records all this time.

For that’s one other thing that rock did from the start, make authenticity a required characteristic of the music and Roy Brown suddenly sounded as if he didn’t have a clue what the music he created was supposed to do.

That’s not a good sign.


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