Tags

No tags :(

Share it

JUBILEE 5072; FEBRUARY 1952

 
 

 

You’d think now that we’re four years into rock ‘n’ roll we’d be running out of “firsts” when it comes to artists.

Usually, if numbers are to believed (and that’s no sure thing around here) the first of anything tends to come before the second, third and four hundred and ninety seventh and since we’ve chronologically covered… let’s see now… almost 1,800 songs (!!!!!) you wouldn’t think there’d be many firsts remaining.

Shows what you know!

Considering how patriarchal rock was from the get-go, maybe it’s not so surprising to learn that today’s record is the first by an all-female vocal group.

If that were all it had going for it then it’d be notable but hardly worth much beyond that, luckily though this one is worth a lot more beyond just being first.
 

 

You Won’t Pay Me No Mind
We’ve mentioned this before but we’ll bring it up again, not just to waste space but because it bears repeating.

For all of its cultural equitability over the years – racially, geographically, even age related to a degree for a genre built on youthful imagery – the one shortcoming rock has had is in female representation.

Not that it’s completely lacking by any means but they certainly lagged well behind from the start and it’s really only been over the past decade that we’ve seen rock ‘n’ roll creep closer to the 50% mark in terms of participation thanks to genre defining turns by Beyoncé, Rihanna, Cardi B, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion, et. all, which is something you logically might have thought would’ve happened a half century ago based on demographics alone.

In contrast to today the Nineteen Forties rock scene had only a handful of steady female acts – Albennie Jones, Annie Laurie, Erline Harris, Chubby Newsom – who scored the first female rock hit with Hip Shakin’ Mama – but otherwise the landscape was rather barren.

The early Nienteen-Fifties seemed to be making up ground as Little Esther and Ruth Brown both ascended to become among the biggest stars in all of rock regardless of gender, but whereas on the male side of ledger more and more big artists climb the ladder while others drop back down, providing a constantly evolving constellation of stars, the sky tends to have room for only one or two female luminaries at a time.

The Enchanters won’t change that.

Of course they weren’t around long enough to do get much of a chance, but if going by their debut, How Could You (Break My Heart), they should’ve been staples on the rock scene for years and helped inch us closer to the kind of sonic equality all rock fans should rightly crave.

Of course that compliment today and $3.95 will get them… almost two dollars more than they probably got from Jerry Blaine and Jubilee Records for breaking the glass ceiling way back when.
 

Infatuated With Your New Love Affair
Back in the fall we got to hear another short-lived rock vocal group which was fronted by a female, Goldie Boots, who led the otherwise all-male Falcons on the excellent How Blind Can You Be… a record which Jubilee’s star attraction The Orioles quickly covered and did almost as good of a job on.

Maybe that’s what prompted Blaine to sign The Enchanters that same month, thinking that if one female could turn in such a great performance in what had been strictly a boys club, then maybe FOUR females would be even better.

Not quite… at least not compared to that first effort by Boots and company, but How Could You (Break My Heart) doesn’t fall too short of that by any means. While The Falcons tackled a ballad their first time out, this one by The Enchanters has more of an uptempo groove which is a sound that fits seamlessly into the vibrant vocal group style of rock’s current scene.

All four voices get showcased here, sharing the vocals on the bulk of the song with Della Simpson stepping out briefly to handle the testifying on the bridge which raises the intensity after the steady rolling and slightly ragged but infectious harmonized chanting they’d using throughout the record.

Because of that approach it’s got less nuance than what you’d typically find on songs with just one lead and a more intricate arrangement for the backing vocals, but it’s also got more of an engaging do-it-yourself vibe to it, making the record the epitome of a bunch of friends hanging out and singing together which is how so many doo-wop groups got started.

Of course it helps if one of those friends brings along a saxophonist as they did here with Buddy Lucas whose own instrumental records have largely been lightweight fluff, despite their current popularity outside of rock, but with this performance he shows that he absolutely knows what to add to a vocal group record to make it sparkle.

Considering that it was less than a year ago when we first heard a sax mixed with a vocal group in rock on The Clovers’ Don’t You Know I Love You, it’s nice to see the concept didn’t take long to catch on and really gel, as Lucas is adding some diverse riffs in between the vocal lines in the midst of a first rate arrangement featuring a sly electric guitar swimming in echo and a distant churchy organ that appears like a faint mist at daybreak.

When Lucas gets a chance to stretch out a little his lines get more robust and he winds up adding so much color to the record along the way that you’re actually surprised to go back and discover he doesn’t get even a brief solo.

Of course while that might’ve added even more fuel to the record’s fire, The Enchanters are plenty heated on their own, riding that rhythmic vocal to the finish line, showing that while the lyrics might suggest they’re hurt by the end of a relationship, they – far more than whatever guy who dumped them – will be more than alright in the end… maybe because they’ve each other to lean on, confide in and sing with.
 


 

Come Back To Me Baby, ‘Cause I’m The One You Love
It’s hard in 2022 to fully appreciate the cultural differences of seventy years earlier. We see a myriad of female stars in pop at this time and think that it should stand to reason that if there was no obstacles in the way of Kay Starr, Doris Day, Georgia Gibbs, Rosemary Clooney and countless others back then, why should it be any different in rock ‘n’ roll?

Gospel and jazz were likewise filled with female acts, but blues, country and rock – three styles seemingly lower on the cultural food chain, at least in terms of societal acceptance – were lacking in women.

You’d think it’d be the other way around, wouldn’t you? That maybe the lower economic strata of those fields would help to pull in talented female singers as a means to try and escape the limited means for economic success they might face in everyday life, but that clearly wasn’t the case yet.

Who knows… maybe the cultural attitudes of those fields were less enlightened, maybe with so few acts to model themselves on young girls never gave much thought to trying their hand in it, or maybe it was a vast conspiracy of some kind.

Whatever the case, How Could You (Break My Heart) gives another clear sign of what we were missing out on by having the roster so one-sided. As evidenced here, these girls brought something more to the table than simply being the answer to a trivia question.

Yet because they had just one recording session, two singles and no hits, whatever credit they deserve for breaking new ground in rock ‘n’ roll as being the first all-female group is harder to come by when few people even know you exist.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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