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CHESS 1492; JANUARY 1952



Well at this point maybe he didn’t know how to spell it – though more likely it was the Chess brothers who were illiterate – but it’s good to see that Rufus Thomas was already singing about mutts considering how much his future success would be the result of Man’s Best Friend.

Granted this time around he’s using dogs as a negative reference point in a relationship rather than to illustrate a dance, but then again canine dancing schools were not yet on the scene in 1952 and so we’ll cut him some slack.


Throw You Outta My House
Any time you have two record company figures who cast such a long shadow working in unison, it inevitably will be them – rather than the artists involved – who will dominate the story.

And what a tangled, twisted and troubling story it was, as we’ve already detailed at length.

But while we can rightly skewer their utter lack of morals in their endeavor together, we also do need to at least give passing credit to some of the work they jointly made available for the world to hear, as Sam Phillips proved his worth as a producer by cutting some good records in his Memphis Recording Studio that found their way up to Chicago where Leonard Chess issued them on his over the course of one fateful year.

No More Dogging Around was among the last of them before Phillips set off on his own, running his own small label which we may be covering a little bit down the road. But it’s not Phillips – nor Chess – who is the most important figure in this entry.

Instead that honor goes to Rufus Thomas Jr., the full-time textile plant employee, part-time disc jockey at the powerful WDIA in Memphis, and moonlighting singer who’d made a handful of records over the past two years for a variety of labels, showing some good songwriting instincts and a serviceable voice but more often than not has been let down by subpar bands.

Thankfully that’s not the case here and after a slow start they wind up overshadowing Thomas to a degree, but all in all this still stands as a sign that far from being somebody simply testing the waters as a performer, Rufus Thomas had the kind of potential that someone was bound to take full advantage of down the line.

Who knows, it may even be the guy behind the console as we speak.


This Is What I’m Gonna Do
The song itself is little more than a nursery rhyme, written in simplistic fashion with a sing-songy melody that would be far more annoying if Thomas wasn’t such a natural showman who manages to bring a little added charm to the proceedings.

The horns that back him on the stanzas are a little grating too, as both they and Rufus seem a little higher in tone than you’d expect and you wonder if Sam Phillips sped up the tape just a little to try and give it a more vibrant sound. At least you can’t put it past him.

It still sounds okay because the arrangement is tight, but there’s not much more to recommend it in the first section. It’s a decent performance but hardly anything great.

Where things change is when they hit the instrumental break and the saxophone gets a chance to step out front and shows that someone knew how to bring out a lot of unstated emotions… frustration, eager anticipation and – thanks to the drums chipping in – some bristling energy too, all of which gives the song added life.

Even this however seems as if it’s played too high, like a tenor converted to an alto, which would be the case if the tapes were aped up, but it’s not so out of whack that they can’t make it work with sheer playing skill.

When Thomas returns we’ve settled into No More Dogging Around and accept it for what it is, rather than wishing it will transform into something it’s clearly not. The symbiotic relationship between singer and band is airtight, the rolling groove they’ve established has become more of an earworm the longer it goes on and the lyrics, though still just skimming the surface of his problems with the girl who has been taking advantage of him, are insistent enough to pass muster.

The second instrumental showcase that takes us to the finish line has all of the horns trading off, building to a natural climax that doesn’t go overboard and reduce Thomas to an afterthought on his own record, but also doesn’t pull any punches and leave us wanting more.

It’s a solid effort from everybody and while not a hit, or even the kind of rock record that had broader hit potential, it does have the kind of effortless swing to it that the best sides of the past few months had featured.


Ever Since I Hit The Floor
This was never going to be the calling card for any of the names involved… not Leonard Chess, not Sam Phillips, and not Rufus Thomas… but it’s the kind of record that would lead you to believe that they were competent enough to establish themselves as part of the ever-larger rock scene.

But of course since the first two names already HAD a chart topping hit in that field, No More Doggin’ Around hardly carries with it any significance beyond the curiosity factor considering the reputations of all three of them down the road.

At any given time however, the rock enthusiast with money to spend, whether to buy the records for themselves or just spin them for a nickel at whatever jukebox stocks them all, is going to hear a lot more misses than runaway hits and the hope is that the misses won’t miss so badly that they turn elsewhere for something with a better success rate.

Songs like this – perfectly acceptable, easy to dance to, catchy enough to stick in your mind long after it stops spinning – are what enabled rock ‘n’ roll to keep drawing you in while waiting for the next big smash to come along.

You might not fully expect that Rufus Thomas one of those who would be delivering smash records in each of the next three decades, but after hearing him work hard to win you over here, you wouldn’t begrudge him that later success by any means.


(Visit the Artist page of Rufus Thomas for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)