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ABBEY 62; MAY, 1949



Did you ever look forward to something – be it a day off from school or work, a trip someplace, or maybe going to a outdoor concert to hear some music – and when the day finally arrives it rains… I mean absolutely downpours… and you wish you stayed in bed?

Though listening to a song with a roof over your head and not a cloud in the sky shouldn’t elicit that reaction, this is one of those days that you don’t just hit the snooze alarm, you rip the power cord from the wall and toss it out the window and fall back asleep.

But hey, since you’re awake now, it’s not like your day can get too much worse by reading about the record that brought on that analogy… can it?


Cloudy Days
One of the joys of doing this crazy website which is frantically attempting to detail every single record in rock history (give or take one or two) has been in trying to shed some much needed light on those who more or less got overlooked the first time around when all this music was new, and then had that indignity compounded by the first few generations of rock historians who preferred fawning over a small handful of big names while virtually shunning everybody else.

In most cases the focus of these renewed efforts around here has been the primary artists, but we’ve also gone to some length to find ways to highlight the often overlooked and even largely anonymous session musicians who spent a lifetime laying down the music that everybody bought, listened and danced to without being recognized for their prodigious contributions by the blissfully ignorant masses.

But this is a common trait among human beings, for who among you stays to the end of the credits at the movies (at least those outside the Marvel cannon) to carefully scrutinize the names of all of the set designers, makeup personnel and assistant editors of the film you just spent two hours watching with rapt attention?

Those who do their work behind the scenes in ANY field rarely get credit by those who benefit from that work being done and so in the big scheme of things overlooking the efforts of a studio drummer or a session pianist even while digging the sounds they laid down is hardly a shocking development. Yet it’s not as if we as a collective society overlook those roles in every instance, after all most bands have a very visible frontman who does the singing and gets the cameras in their faces but few of those more popular groups don’t also have a very recognizable sideman or two in their ranks who essentially do the same exact job as the sessionists for far more glory not to mention far greater riches.

It probably goes without saying that Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen and Slash would have no trouble being recognized on the street, even now, decades after their heydays, yet when Robert White, one of the guitarists for Motown’s Funk Brothers who played on more hits than all four of those other names combined, was in a restaurant in the 1980’s and The Temptations’ My Girl began playing over the speakers with its distinctive guitar intro, White waited for someone… anyone… to recognize and acknowledge that it was he who played that lick and nobody so much as turned their head. Proud that the song and his part on it was still so familiar and beloved White wanted to tell the people there it was him but couldn’t bring himself to do it and he left in anonymity, feeling deflated.

Sadly, that’s an all-too common feeling most session musicians have to deal with when their names draw little or no recognition from audiences and who, in spite of their sometimes prodigious output, find themselves often left out of the history books altogether.

But not here. Not on your life.

On Spontaneous Lunacy they’ll be celebrated whenever we come across them and so far we’ve done our best to single out those who’ve been most deserving of praise, be it Sammy Price and Billy Butler playing brilliantly behind Albennie Jones, Maxwell Davis directing traffic with his sax on Amos Milburn’s records or Reetham Mallett pounding the drums alongside the horns of both Paul Williams and Wild Bill Moore on their respective sides.

But there’s still only so much you can do in such a limited space since, after all, the featured artist is the centerpiece of not just the record itself but the reviews OF those records. It’s listed under their names and their pictures usually adorn the pages and if there’s a link to an album to buy on Amazon it’s invariably one focusing entirely on that lead artist. All we can do in those cases is drop a few extra mentions of the backing band and their individual members in the hopes that those reading these pages will come to appreciate their work and maybe in time even start seeking them out by name.

So that’s why it’s such a joy when one of those musicians toiling away in darkness suddenly steps out of the shadows and gets a moment in the spotlight leading the band as the primary artist for a record or two. While in most cases those records won’t be hits there’s still plenty of quality performances to be found in the releases of people like Devonia “Lady Dee” Williams the funky keyboardist on Johnny Otis’s wide assortment of projects, Freedom Records house pianist Lonnie Lyons who was a renowned Hep-Cat himself, and guitarist Harry Crafton who headed up sessions on Gotham Records. With full reviews of their own work we get to delve into their stories in much deeper fashion than can be done when they’re merely making brief cameos in the larger stories of bigger name stars and maybe as a result they’ll start to get a little more recognition than they’d have received when just remaining in the background.

Of course there’s always the remote chance that when one of those musicians punching a clock on session after session gets their own shot at glory they’ll succeed beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, both artistically and commercially, as happened with hired gun tenor sax ace Hal Singer on Cornbread. With that achievement Singer made sure that he’d have no shortage of attention bestowed on him as he’d get a long line of singles with which to show off his wares.

Sadly, though he was every bit the equal in talent of Hal Singer and far more crucial to rock’s overall sound for more than a decade of work behind countless other artists, Sam “The Man” Taylor will never reach those lofty heights as a solo artist. If anything, what we find waiting for us on his first effort, Rinkey Dinks, suggests he might just have been better off donning a disguise and staying in the background.

Where You Comin’ From?
Sam Taylor came out of jazz, which is kind of like telling you water tends to be wet, for if there’s one thing that’s all but certain in the late 1940’s it’s that the majority of saxophonists over the age of 25 who were attempting to ply their trade in rock ‘n’ roll were refugees from the jazz scene.

Those who’d excelled in jazz and made a name for themselves of course rarely ventured into this neck of the woods. Why would they? Jazz was still popular, they still sold records, headlined clubs and had the respect of the industry as a whole, none of that seemed to be in peril. But the market for jazz wasn’t what it once had been as the audience that embraced it and vaulted it to the top of the musical heap in the 1930’s and early 1940’s had gotten older and as such their interests in new music waned. But unlike in the past there suddenly wasn’t a huge enthusiastic younger audience waiting in the wings to pick up the banner.

The reason? Because the younger audience coming of age now was enthusiastic for rock ‘n’ roll.

Thus if you were a saxophonist still climbing the ladder you had a choice to make as to which style to pursue. It was an artistic choice, yes, but also an economic one. Music wasn’t a hobby for Sam Taylor, it was his career and to rely on a shrinking market which already was top heavy with established stars who were still commanding the lion’s share of the headlines was a risky proposition. By contrast rock ‘n’ roll was scoring big with tenor sax led instrumentals and so the opportunities to make a name for yourself here was too big for many to pass up.

So Taylor jumped in… just not quite with both feet yet though, as Rinkey Dinks uncomfortably shows.

Taylor starts this off with modest aspirations, blowing strong but not explosively, keeping it melodic without it being instantly memorable. Fifteen seconds in come the handclaps as he downshifts and though the structure of the song therefore remains pretty sensible the problem is what he’s now playing is so simple as to be practically insulting and so devoid of energy as to almost be comatose.

The band tries to inject some life into it by shouting the title in the turnaround (and for the record they say “Rinky Dink!”, not the plural “dinks”, although to be fair they don’t spell “rinky” so we don’t know if in their minds they eliminated the extra “e” as they should’ve to make it look right… but I digress), but even this is hardly very invigorating either.

Taylor’s got a nice tone with what he’s doing but his part is plodding. That changes when the rest of the band comes in for the next section and livens things up and in the process takes this back to the jazz world, or maybe the pop world, or the “What the hell are we doing reviewing this record?” world, as the horns swing with far too much orderly precision and class to get a second glance from committed rock fans.

When Taylor returns on tenor with the same tedious riff backed by more sluggish hand clapping to provide a beat you actually start longing to go back to the jazz club interlude because at least that might keep you from nodding off altogether. The next break features Taylor more but again he’s not doing too much to hold your interest. He wanders around sort of aimlessly. It’s not random by any means, there’s a definite musical destination he has in mind and he’s always technically sound in getting there, but you just aren’t captivated by any of it.

The problem is he’s not giving you a consistent groove to latch onto, nor a melody that will stick in your head, and failing to follow either of those two proven routes it means he needs to really cut loose, but while he does get a little steamier as he goes along he’s far from being wild enough to get you screaming for more. If anything it’s the trumpet’s replies that are the most invigorating and you know how we feel about having the trumpeter do anything more than serve as the driver on the road and carry the band’s baggage into hotels, neither of which require him to remove the instrument from the case.

When Taylor does finally get up to speed, or a reasonable facsimile of what’s needed, the record is almost over and even then he quickly reverts back to the basic prancing riff that put us to sleep in the first place.

Holding Pattern
Considering how vital a presence Sam “The Man” Taylor will be throughout the Nineteen Fifties as the go-to session sax man for rock records of all kinds, playing on hit upon hit upon hit, this uninspiring, underwhelming, unimportant musical “doodle” makes for a pretty sad and disappointing introduction to him.

If anything, Rinkey Dinks only calls into question his desire to carving out a place in rock ‘n’ roll – or at least casts serious doubts upon his ability to grasp the basic concept better than this – and based on his first offering in this field has you wondering if he’ll stick around for long or if he might not just be better served by heading back to jazz and trying to make a go of it there instead.

After all, eventually some of those larger than life jazz stars are going to get old and start passing on to blow their horn with Gabriel in the great beyond, so I hear there might be some jobs opening up.


(Visit the Artist page of Sam “The Man” Taylor for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)