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DECCA 48183; NOVEMBER 1950



Missed opportunities.

There is nothing worse to have to deal with in life.

Unlike outright failure, where you tried your best and simply weren’t good enough, a missed opportunity was something that you could’ve – and probably should’ve – succeeded at had you tried. Yet for whatever reason the chance slipped through your fingers and before you knew it those chances dried up and you’re left to suffer the consequences internally.

The mere thought of it will bring you anguish as you play things back endlessly in your mind, looking for signs that you were on the brink of something magical when it all somehow fell apart. You’ll start off blaming yourself, then begin questioning the others involved for not doing more themselves. Before long you’re reduced to cursing fate and finally, when all is said and done, you return to cursing yourself again because you know that’s where the blame ultimately lies.

Whatever recording studio, school playground or love shack on the beach you find yourself in as that moment passes you by will surely haunt your dreams forever after… unless you can do something to try and change it before it’s too late.


The Future Looked So Bright
We’re getting our fill lately of Decca Records’ attempts at making tentative inroads into rock ‘n’ roll with a few pop-leaning vocal groups that have the skill to be full-fledged rockers yet not quite the conviction to throw caution to the wind and risk overstepping their bounds with the company in an attempt to grab that brass ring.

It won’t be until Bill Haley gets on board in 1954 that Decca will see the light and decide to pay more than lip service to this brand of music after realizing that whether new gold or old silver, the money they get from sales on rock ‘n’ roll is the same as anything classier. So for now we can either be happy with these meek offerings like What About Tonight, or we can start demanding more of an effort from their designated sacrificial lambs.

The Blenders, even more than The Ray-O-Vacs whom we just looked at facing similar issues of maintaining rock credibility while not running afoul of the more conservative label, should have had no such problems establishing themselves as genuine rock ‘n’ rollers.

We know they were formed to capitalize on The Ravens, the very first rock vocal group who had no problems convincing anybody of their intent with their more lecherous sounding material. While it’s true The Blenders were lacking the vocal prowess of that bunch, they at least had had the right template to follow in order to be convincing imitators since their leader Ollie Jones had once been a Raven before that group’s breakthrough.

Yet once The Blenders were formed and came away with Come Back Baby Blues, a decent hit in that style (on the same label as The Ravens no less) they allowed themselves to be snatched up by Decca who promptly wanted them to tone down their act to conform to the company’s pop sensibilities.

They agreed and their careers suffered almost immediately, which brings us back to missed opportunities.

Remember The Things We Promised There And Then
With one eye looking forward here while the other glanced backwards there was no way this record was going to satisfy either constituency.

The pop fan might not be alarmed at anything they hear on a ballad like What About Tonight, but they sure aren’t going to gravitate towards the sublime harmony singing that opens the record and points the way towards the future in rock vocal circles.

Meanwhile the rock fan who is intrigued at those early sounds pouring out of the speakers are going to pull back as soon as they ease off that approach and return to a more straitlaced block harmony sound that makes them almost interchangeable with the lame white pop vocal groups that were scoring big on the “good” side of town.

But seeing as how The Blenders did have it in them to deliver the goods in a rock setting, and considering how badly they missed their mark when they released more compromised pop-leaning tracks for Decca their first few times out, this was their opportunity to set their foot down and demand the right to try it their way and emphasize the very elements that their producers were probably urging them to get rid of altogether.

It’s not easy going against those paying your salary, but if those records fail to sell Decca won’t care if you listened to everything they told you to do along the way, they’ll just look at the bottom line and move on to someone else.

Therefore when its your career on the line, you can’t let that chance to follow your instincts pass you by without a fight. Your livelihood depends on it, as does your happiness frankly, and if you see what you want in front of you nobody is going to grab it for you and hand it over with a smile. You need to reach out and get it for yourself.

Of course that’s easy to say from the sidelines, especially seventy one years in the future when all of them are no longer around.

Please Don’t Tell Me
The intro here is a thing of beauty, as after a simple guitar figure Jones delivers a soulful lead with a gentle tone while the others harmonize with such grace that it almost takes your breath away.

But as they head into the transition after that first chorus things go drastically wrong in the way they approach the title line, singing What About Tonight with open-throated blandness, the bane of so many white pop vocal groups of the time. That The Blenders would resort to such mild deliveries despite having no shortage of melanin shows just how much they’d been conditioned to think of that approach as a viable one for their aims.

Everything flips on that line. For the next minute they’re lost backstage on Your Hit Parade, seeking approval from the old-line music taste-makers who, despite the fact they’re trying desperately to conform to their standards, still are likely to dismiss them out of hand. As for the rock brigade who held such high hopes for them, they’ve already walked out on the group for capitulating to this kind of gutless singing… and who can blame them?

Had they stuck around a bit longer though they’d have heard the group try and redeem themselves when bass singer James DeLoche takes the bridge as the others contribute solid harmonies behind him. When Jones returns for the final stanza he’s regained his footing somewhat, but he’s lost all of our trust in the process and when he and the others get a little too carried away with a fancy coda we shake our heads, not in surprise but in disgust for how such a talented act could just hand away all of their greatest strengths to pander to pop mediocrity.

How I Long To Hear Them Once Again
Would The Blenders have ever really had a chance to vault to the front of the small rock vocal group queue had they resisted the demands to polish their performances for an entirely different audience’s tastes?

Maybe not. They were still going to come up short against The Ravens, Orioles and Robins and with a few more major groups just ready to appear over the horizon in the coming months, most of whom would take this style even further away from what was established by those original acts, chances are The Blenders were always going to be second tier at best.

But by failing to capitalize on the opportunities they DID have on such songs as What About Tonight they never even got to find out how well they’d have fared on a level playing field against that competition.

We know that in the long run the group – or at least components of the group – would find consistent success behind the scenes as the go-to backing vocal group for countless solo artists in the mid-1950’s as The Cues, but while that certainly paid the bills and kept them working steadily, it had no chance to ever make them stars.

With that being the case you have to wonder if at some point in the future the guys didn’t think back despondently to the fading warmth of that day in the studio just after summer bid them farewell when they still had what they wanted within their grasp and just never squeezed it tight enough to hold onto.

With missed opportunities come regret and as such you know these aren’t the questions you want to ask yourself heading into a long dreary winter.


(Visit the Artist page of The Blenders for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)