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FEDERAL 12092; AUGUST 1952



Usually this is the kind of single we go for… two songs with two totally different approaches, thereby showing off two distinct aspects of the artist’s persona.

The songs on each side of this release certainly qualify in that regard and are both sung well by Shirley Haven and The Four Jacks in support, so what can we find fault with?

Hmm… well it’s complicated.

Suffice it to say, that without Federal Records – and possibly Shirley Haven herself – knowing where her greatest strengths lie stylistically and building off that by trying to expand that image in new ways, these attempts give off the impression of a scattershot approach.

You know, try everything and just see what hits.


Leave Those Other Chicks Alone
Over the course of reviewing more than 2150 songs in rock history to date we’ve been uniformly harsh on the inherent misogyny that seemed to exist within rock circles at the time.

That charge seems counterintuitive to how the record industry operated, I know. Companies would record a cow mooing along to a washtub bass and kazoo if they thought it would sell, so it seems unlikely they’d resist having women perform rock ‘n’ roll, especially since female vocalists were running roughshod on the pop listings with Kay Starr, Georgia Gibbs, Jo Stafford, Vera Lynn, Rosemary Clooney and Doris Day all topping various charts during the calendar year to date, while Patti Page, who dominated last year, would join them with another major smash just on the horizon.

Yet the statistics don’t lie. Male vocalists vastly outnumber female singers by a huge margin, while even those ladies who scored hits in the past often had limited number of follow-up records to see if they could match it, whereas the men got one chance after another it seemed, even without the early success to justify the long leash.

Shirley Haven now becomes another female who will be shown the door after just three songs appearing on two singles, even though they showed she was a versatile singer with a good voice and a firm understanding of the qualities rock embodied. That she was also a beautiful young actress with a prominent movie role in her past should’ve made Federal Records more willing to ride out some early commercial duds just to see if they could get her established and in the process maybe give rock its first real sex symbol since Chubby Newsom’s unfortunate – and unwilling – departure.

But when the company itself were the ones seemingly to blame for not giving Haven a more consistent musical outlook and worse yet weren’t putting the time in to fine tune good efforts like Stop Fooling Around until they’d gotten the best record possible, maybe we should’ve seen the writing on the wall.

That’s where those who are in positions of privilege in this world – white males predominantly – always get it wrong. They look at the mere sliver of opportunity, in this case a single session and two singles that came from it, and say she got her chance and when nothing came of it, what did she expect for her failure to connect? They’re running a business, not a charity ward.

But then you look at The Royals who just got their first regional hit with Moonrise on their third release for the label and wouldn’t get a national hit until this time next year leading to a long run under the name Hank Ballard & The Midnighters which eventually landed them in The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame and you start to realize that in this field in that era the disparity in opportunities was just par for the course.

Sometimes you might even say the bigger surprise was that they even bothered signing women to contracts at all.

A Royal Time
Now just to be even-handed here, though they hadn’t scored any hits on their first two sides, The Royals best work was aesthetically better than anything Shirley Haven has shown to date, and that DOES have to count for something.

But honestly, if you had someone like her on your label, a girl who could not only sing really well but who had other attributes that were ripe for professional exploitation, wouldn’t you at least give her more times at bat?

She certainly isn’t the problem here, if that’s what you’re thinking. Haven embodies a completely different attitude than the one she showed on the other side, where her agony was front and center on Troubles Of My Own. But it’s not just her mindset that has changed this time out, it’s the entire nature of her performance.

Though the topic is more or less the same, in fact she most likely told her fella to Stop Fooling Around before their relationship began to crumble in that other song, the way in which she embodies this character is much different.

Here she’s got power still and isn’t afraid to use it, threatening her cheating boyfriend that she can do the same thing to him. Maybe she’s bluffing, in fact I’m sure she is since her clearly stated goal is to marry him, but Haven definitely sounds as if she’s already got guys lined up outside her door ready to take her out and that’s a big part of this record’s appeal (one look at her in a bathing suit would form the OTHER part of its appeal if they gave her a picture sleeve on the record).

The music and the roles of The Four Jacks double down on this image, both providing spry support, from the rapid fired stuttering “doot-do-do-doot” vocalese and choppy piano backing on the intro to the way they join her for the stop-time delivery of the title line that works really well.

It’s those parts which stand out, the vibrant shuffle of the melody and the warm harmonies behind her sassy vocals. It’s not a song brimming with great lines, but she treats them as if they were… at least until the bridge which is the first misstep. It’s not her fault entirely, the words don’t flow well even as they try and advance the plot some, but the momentum stalls just enough to cause you to back off a bit and wait their next move.

That comes via the guitar solo, a good idea in theory but one which isn’t smoothly executed. The tone is too light, the playing not impatiently harsh enough to match the song’s attitude, and the excitement not dialed up to launch it into the second half.

Had they used a more fierce sounding guitar kicking off the break followed by a raunchy tenor sax that would’ve provided a far better and more appropriate effect for the story as well as added another layer to the arrangement, but instead they used a tinkly piano which ventures into lounge act territory, coming awfully close to derailing the record altogether in the process.

Haven’s return picks up the enthusiasm just enough to prevent that from happening, but by recycling an earlier stanza instead of coming up with a wilder ending they ensured your final impressions of this were slightly worse than the ones you had when it began.

You Can’t Have Me And Ramble All The Time
It should go without saying that a good producer would’ve tried something else when it was obvious what the weak spot was and found a way to elevate what was already there. That’s their damn job after all and since Ralph Bass was not just the producer but also the figurehead of the label, you’d think his investment in the outcome would be high enough to make the effort to turn Stop Fooling Around into something that stood out.

He certainly had the personnel to draw from when it came to capable musicians around Los Angeles. He also had plenty of experience overseeing more explosive records by everyone from Johnny Otis and Little Esther to Big Jay McNeely and The Dominoes, and while his company may have been on the tab for added studio costs to come back another day with a sax in tow, the bills were being paid by Syd Nathan of the parent label King, so he’s got no excuse there either, especially since the financial returns of a more popular single would more than offset the added expense.

However it’s becoming clear that he was falling consistently short in this department as of late and so what might’ve been a very good record with just a few tweaks was now only pretty good.

Or to put it another way, the difference between maybe getting a regional hit out of this like The Royals had just managed and firing a commercial blank as this one did, putting an end to the career of Shirley Haven before it ever got a REAL chance to get off the ground properly.


(Visit the Artist pages of Shirley Haven and The Four Jacks for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)