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FEDERAL 12079; MAY 1952



There are some things that seem so obvious… so self-explanatory… that when someone goes against it and tries to buck convention it tends to draw a collective astonished reaction from those of us looking on with interest.

“HUH?!… What are they doing?”

Yet when it comes to stupid decisions by record companies, even fairly successful ones, we should never be surprised by anything they do, for even when it hasn’t worked in the past that won’t stop the very same people from thinking it’ll work this time around.

But when does it ever?

Not today, if that’s what you were thinking.


Come Back Tomorrow I’ll See What Else You Got
When King Records gave successful producer Ralph Bass control over their newly instituted Federal label to run in late 1950… he got it off to a great start with his initial signing, The Dominoes, who notched a national hit their first time out with Do Something For Me.

But Bass quickly tried to capitalize on that initial success by issuing a second Dominoes record the very next month, desperately hoping that two hits so quickly would make his reputation infallible.

Instead it just exposed his lack of judgment as that second release coming so soon on the heels of their breakthrough – BEFORE it even broke through fully – became the only single credited to The Dominoes alone that failed to chart in their first two years. Despite being a good effort in its own right, Weeping Willow Blues simply got lost

Now Ralph Bass shows he’s learned absolutely nothing in the year and a half since then because at the same time ()maybe the very same week in May), that Federal issued their first release by The Four Jacks with Goodbye Baby, they put out a second record by them.

But not JUST them mind you, but rather one where they take a secondary role to another singer, Shirley Haven, on Sure Cure For The Blues.

Unfortunately the only prescribed cure for stupidity when it comes to a record label deep sixing two different artists with one blundering move would land Ralph Bass in the graveyard and us in the hoosegow for actively encouraging it.


My Head’s About To Spin
Before we dive deep into this one, let’s remind you all about the other attempt by Ralph Bass to flood the release rolls with Dominoes records early on, as in February 1951 they released their third single in three months, albeit with a twist.

That twist was named Little Esther, who going into that winter was Federal’s biggest catch, 1950’s most luminous star whom Bass spirited away with him when he escaped Savoy’s clutches, taking along Esther who was not held to her contract with the prior label because she was underaged at the time.

Surely the decision to pair her with The Dominoes on The Deacon Moves In was done to promote the new group on the back of the reigning Queen Of Rock, but her hits dried up at her new home while theirs flowed like water and so despite its obvious quality it failed to chart. Since Esther was the headliner it falls more to her than The Dominoes, but regardless you could still make the claim that the group’s two commercial misfires came as a result of having too much product on the market in too brief a time.

Anyway, what Bass is trying to do here with Sure Cure For The Blues was clearly inspired by that record – aesthetically at least.

Unfortunately for him while this isn’t bad idea, it’s not nearly as good as the Esther/Dominoes pairing and since neither Shirley Haven nor The Four Jacks would be recognized – then or now – outside of their own families households, they weren’t getting any publicity for the pairing.

Nor were they going to get any notoriety for the content, for while slightly ribald in nature it’s nowhere near as risqué as the Esther and Dominoes track, nor is it even as racy as modern compilers would have you believe, but there’s a loose, casual feel to their singing that almost – but not quite – makes up for its lack of punch in the naughty department.


I Need Some Lovin’ And I Need It Right Away
The basic story is that The Four Jacks’ bass singer, Ellison White plays a doctor treating a sexually frustrated Haven who is upset because her man left.

It does get more than a little suggestive, as the doctor – clearly not worried about losing the medical license he bought in an alley for five bucks from some guy in a trench coat – recommends an injection with his needle and then claims other women suffering from the same condition had their problems clear up with his specialized treatment… failing to mention they then had to see a more legitimate doctor for a variety of STD’s they’d acquired in these examinations.

Rest assured we’re not opposed to this kind of medical treatment, even coming from a former gospel star in White, assuming the girls signed consent forms that hospitals shove in front you you before asking you to drop your pants, but in terms of musical satisfaction Sure Cure For The Blues doesn’t quite have the kick to it you’d expect.

For starters the lethargic delivery of White may be deemed more licentious sounding than if he was singing with a bounce in his step, but sex does have a tendency to be more arousing if both partners have a heartbeat and his is so slow here that you might think you got off the elevator three floors too low and have landed in the morgue.

Then there are the other Jacks who sound like inexperienced 12 year olds jacking off with their bouncy “doot-dee-doot-dee-doots” behind them. Their goal should be to sound excited, not giddy.

Haven comes across the best here, not because she’s doing anything special, but rather just because she’s handling it in more of a mature fashion. The rest seem like sexual amateurs whereas her we can at least believe when she informs us she’s used to having her needs met by the guy who departed. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s GOOD between the sheets, certainly there’s no wild antics she’s espousing in her delivery, but at least she’s not a complete novice in this field.

Unlike the band who show that they too are out of their league as even the hand claps are somewhat unenthusiastic and the guitar solo, while hitting the right notes, is the textbook definition of clinical, meaning this is one of those sex ed lessons where they point at diagrams of amorphous figures rather than show the kind of easily accessible porn to the poor junior high kids trapped in health class who have already learned far more about the subject on the streets.

What’s Ailing You
Maybe we expect too much out of these things…

Record companies and records about keeping company with the opposite sex after dark that is.

With the former we know by now they’ll always screw things up if given half a chance and with two singles featuring their names on it released simultaneously, one featuring a female singer not in the group, Federal Records might’ve been better off not signing The Four Jacks in the first place and let them try and become stars singing on street corners for spare change instead.

Shirley Haven fares no better, as even if you were hard up in your own sex life to really get something out of Sure Cure For The Blues you weren’t going to have a chance to hear her without these guys behind her and since she wasn’t a member of the group, what good this did her is anybody’s guess.

As for the subject of the song itself, though we’ve had some perverse enjoyment from certain sexualized ditties over the years, if you’re over the age of eight or nine and for some reason still in need of learning about the birds and the bees from music, chances are you’ve been too busy with your nose in comic books or watching The Lone Ranger on television to be salvageable and maybe you ought to look into becoming a monk or something.

After all, this is one life lesson that requires hands on experience.


(Visit the Artist page of The Four Jacks for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)