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You’d think after being coaxed… if not forced… into abandoning the pop bent he’d envisioned for his group in order to satisfy the demands of Ralph Bass, the rock oriented producer of Federal Records, that maybe Billy Ward would be somewhat conflicted over their initial output.

It’d be perfectly understandable that he’d want to get off on the right foot with their new label the first time out and so he’d give them one song that met their expectations, but you wouldn’t be too much of a cynic to assume that on the flip side they might hedge their bets a little and inch back towards more of a pop mindset.

After all that type of thing was hardly unheard of in rock vocal group circles as anyone listening to The Ravens and Orioles these past few years could attest and I’m sure if Ward felt he’d acquiesced to somebody else’s vision for his group on one half of their debut, surely he might’ve felt he was entitled to pursue his own muse on the other half.

But no, give him credit, for with this side Billy Ward silenced any doubters who felt The Dominoes were going to have one foot in and one foot out of rock ‘n’ roll… at least for the time being.


Leave That Hen Alone
In Bass’s recollection of meeting The Dominoes he stated that upon hearing the group all sing he singled out Clyde McPhatter – an obvious choice – as the lead singer, but that he also said that Bill Brown, their bass singer, should get some leads of his own.

Now this was hardly a revolutionary concept by this point, as The Ravens had established the bass lead as a cornerstone of early rock with Jimmy Ricks’ earth shaking vocals leading the way on their suggestive uptempo sides which made them stars.

Bass himself had already produced The Robins best sides while working with Johnny Otis and it’s no surprise that the group was formed with the intent on being credible Ravens imitators with Bobby Nunn’s not quite as deep but still effective bass out in front.

So since those were two of the three most important rock vocal groups out there as 1950 wound down it’s hardly surprising that a new group featuring a deep voiced singer with the chops to handle a lead would in fact be given one right out of the gate, even if that meant sidelining Clyde McPhatter and his soaring tenor for this song.

But Bass was no dummy, he knew how these things worked… give audiences two distinct choices and let them make up their own minds as to which they liked best. Furthermore by splitting the lead vocal chores on the single you weren’t risking wasting a good McPhatter cut on a side that might get obscured by an even better one on the same single right away.

Yet while we can compliment Ralph Bass on the decision making process, we still have to give credit to Billy Ward for actually giving Bill Brown something worthwhile to sing as Chicken Blues doesn’t just have a good rhythm for him to ride, but it also has the kind of lyrics that suggest there’s more on this plate than simply some fried game bird.


In The Morning, After Noon And Under The Harvest Moon
On the other side of this single the backing music was certainly effective but mostly kept to a minimum to allow the Dominoes themselves to dominate the arrangement, a wise choice considering how good they were.

Yet here the music equally prominent and equally important in selling Chicken Blues, giving it the kind of catchy familiarity on first listen that all songs crave.

When things kick off we’re already stepping onto a moving train as a bouncy piano and guitar are chugging along while drums are clicking behind them giving this a depth that you probably assume will be phased out pretty quickly once the voices come in.

Instead while the vocals may be pushed up in the mix, the instrumentation never becomes too distant, allowing this to roll effortlessly along, filling in the cracks when the voices pause and providing sturdy support when they step out in front.

As on Do Something For Me the guitar is surprisingly prominent, adding fills that ring with a clarity that is rare for this era and then being given a solo that keeps things perfectly locked in. It’s spry without being rushed, allowing the mid-tempo pace to feel as if it’s ready to bolt ahead, yet not disappointing you in the least when it never breaks stride to satisfy that urge for speed.

The backing vocals are just as crucial in establishing this foundation as they alternate a bouncy wordless refrain “Do-do-do-dit” in the breaks with quieter sustained open-throated humming as Brown sings the verses. The parts themselves aren’t big but they’re omnipresent and shows just how good of a writer and arranger Ward really was, making sure the sounds are layered to always have something different to focus your attention.

The give and take the others have with Brown leading into – and coming out of – the instrumental break is our chance to really appreciate their blend as well as get another example of McPhatter’s crystalline tenor which jumps out at you.

Of course The Dominoes may have added some tricks of their own here, such as the scream leading into the break which at least sounds spontaneous even if it was probably rehearsed and refined some before the final take. Whether mapped out in advance or not though, it gives the record a sense of freewheeling excitement that drives home the sexual undercurrent found in the lyrics… which is the other selling point of this song.

Can Not Do A Thing But Moan
Okay, so THIS part of the song was probably pretty easy to come up with… at least thematically.

Find a way to cram as much sexual innuendo into lyrics that are ostensibly about something else, then let a deep voiced lothario leave no doubt as to what he’s actually singing about, almost daring censors to prove it.

In the near future they’d be even more blatant about their intentions, but on Chicken Blues they aren’t exactly hiding it as Brown is warning a rooster about the sexual appetite of a particularly insatiable chicken.

I know… if you think about barnyard fowls messing around behind the hen house then this loses some of its charm, unless you’re into that sort of weird cross-species voyeurism, but luckily human beings, despite being frequently deficient in such essential tasks as reading comprehension, the ability to tell fact from fiction and how and when to properly use a turn single while operating a motor vehicle, have an abundance of imagination which allows us to substitute shapely females and horny men for the birds described in the song.

Once that’s established it’s an easy ride… the OTHER kind of ride, as in picking up all of the euphemisms as they come rolling out.

In case you miss any, Brown’s delivery, grinning all the while, will at least let you know that he hasn’t let up.

Maybe the best aspect of this is how the usual roles are reversed as it’s the female who is the aggressor here, and thus the one holding all the power, while the guys are eager to… ahh… pluck her feathers, but also a little cautious about it as she’s clearly got more experience and goes through men like chicken feed. It’s hardly an ode to feminism per say, but it’s better than letting the guys dictate the terms of these assignations as is usually the case in songs.

That Brown himself is an observer sort of absolves him from any charges, though by the sound of his perceptive tone he’s no stranger to her charms himself.

While the lyrics may be mostly vague impressions their effectiveness in the hands of The Dominoes can hardly be questioned. This is just a fun song full of moving parts that encourages you to sing along in whatever role you dare attempt, but if you keep quiet you’ll get a master class in how to perform.


‘Til You Lose Your Mind
Unlike the groundbreaking performance of McPhatter that dominated the record’s hit side, this doesn’t so much break new ground as much as it merely re-landscapes it, building upon the more sparse tracks of the Ricks and Nunn led sides for the Ravens and Robins respectively.

There’s a depth to this record that is deceptive until you start breaking it down and see just how industriously it was put together, each component carefully chosen and stacked on top of one another so the sound envelops you.

The musical choices are probably Bass’s, as he clearly has picked up some ideas from his past associations and is enjoying working out the ways in which they can be made to fit. Meanwhile Ward shows no signs of cultural unease in coming up with a suitable song for such an endeavor and emphasizes the sexual humor with a vocal arrangement that pulls no punches.

As for The Dominoes… well, considering they were four guys recently singing gospel, they either were really quick learners or they had some extracurricular activities under their belts… and below their belts for that matter.

Because the flip was a hit and a follow up a few months later in a similar vein far eclipsed this in notoriety, Chicken Blues runs the risk of being slightly overlooked, but it was vital in establishing the group right out of the gate as wholly committed rockers.

Everything here works to perfection… their intent is made clear from the start, their effort is wholehearted and the fun is contagious… so if you want to make a joke about dinner being served to cap this one off, go right ahead.


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