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In another seasonal introduction that will mean absolutely nothing to those reading this well after it was posted, this record by a mysterious group nevertheless fits right in with our daily theme in the week leading up to Christmas 2023.

There’s a rumor that this holiday has its origins as some sort of crazy religious celebration. There’s no way to confirm this of course, but then again as those people are loathe to admit, there’s also no way to confirm their ridiculous fairy tales they apparently base their lives on either, so I guess we’re even.

Anyway, the one good thing religion contributed to the world is gospel music and from the very beginning we saw how gospel influences helped to shape one approach to rock ‘n’ roll singing from the start.

Here though we see how gospel music itself could be distorted, perverted… or simply submit to a DNA test to show that it was the same sinful music as rock ‘n’ roll under all the fancy trappings.


Why Have You Treated Me This Way?
In Los Angeles in the Nineteen Fifties you could walk in off the street and enter John Dolphin’s music store, tell him you had some singing chops and he’d take you in the back room to prove it by singing into a can and you’d walk out having made a record – often without your knowing it, as he’d record you as you “practiced” and then put it on wax to sell in his store.

For all his chicanery though, Dolphin’s operations were vital in exposing the talents of a lot of kids in the area. Even though most of the time the would-be artists got little or no money from their excursions into his domain, the same would’ve been true at the bigger more “reputable” companies too, except with them you’d have a signed contract that went unfulfilled to paste in your scrapbook.

By the fall of 1952 Dolphin was attracting some major talent to his door as rock ‘n’ roll grew ever bigger and the generation of kids who’d grown up with it around town were anxious to show the world they too had what it took to be stars.

But maybe some others not quite in the same position in life felt the same… like say a veteran gospel group who were looking to pocket a few bucks, provided of course they could gang up on Dolphin and pry the crumpled bills from his clenched fist.

The thing is, nobody knows WHO The Five Hollywood Blue Jays were, but it wasn’t The Five Hollywood Blue Jays because there was no such group. Dolphin used that name again down the road for another act, The Flairs, but this wasn’t them, as the members themselves later confirmed.

But one listen to Cloudy And Raining and THIS group’s origins are pretty obvious even if their specific identities remain unknown.

These guys were a pure gospel act who simply cut two secular songs with rock backing by Que Martyn’s group, pocketed the money for their deception and then disappeared like a thief in the night.

Ahh, the virtues of religion in a nutshell!

All Around You
If you’re a fan of this era of rock and are looking for something analogous to it, try gospel of the early 1950’s. Obviously the subject matter was different, but the styles were becoming more aligned and we’ve already seen a handful of rock acts cross over from being gospel artists, as The Larks and The “5” Royales were both those who made the transition and never looked back, while The Dominoes vocalists were all drawn from amateur gospel quartets.

The Five Hollywood Blue Jays were not quite ready to completely alter their vocal approach for a lone rock release, so you’ll get to hear a more straight gospel approach out of them here, highlighted by the lead’s tremulous vocals while the other four sing very precise block harmonies behind him.

If you are conversant in gospel music of this era it sounds a little unnerving hearing them sing about seeking love from earthly women rather than some heavenly apparitions seeking your money and your soul, but that’s rock ‘n’ roll for ya.

The voices are what draw you in to Cloudy And Raining rather than the story which is pretty basic, using bad weather as an analogy for a broken heart. Yet even though there’s not much plot beyond the basic premise, the intensity of the feeling they put into it is so sincere that it almost startles you.

We’re so used to rock groups singing in ways to dramatically emphasize the emotional content in songs. The flamboyant wailing, the melodramatic crying, the mental anguish laid bare, we’ve heard it all and appreciated most of it. But these guys find another way to convey their sentiments without taking it to the extreme.

By simply imagining the thoughts behind someone who truly is suffering because of the loss of their partner, internalizing those feelings and then trying to convey them accurately while at the same time reining in their display of sorrow (almost as if they believe some higher power were … ya know… going to make everything okay with prayer or some such nonsense) the effect is somewhat chilling.

With the others offering solemn understated support, there’s a sturdiness to the group’s outlook that belies their predicament. From the gently soaring lines of the lead to the bass almost sensuously bemoaning his fate in the middle eight, the voices are so good, their performance so controlled, yet still so powerful, you almost forget what it is you’re listening to.

Is this a gospel song that took a left turn down a dark alley, or a rock song that wandered into a chapel for shelter in the rain? Either way, it’s not your typical record in either field, which makes it all the more fascinating for fans of both genres who want to see how the other half lives.

I’m Just Sitting Here Wondering…
There might be some who foolishly claim this record – and this group – don’t belong in a rock music overview, but if that’s the case where then would they go?

Sure, if they’d changed the topic slightly to have them singing in despair because their crops were wiped out by locusts, or maybe their wife was stoned to death by the other parishioners for some perceived transgression, or if God decided after making it Cloudy And Raining that he was going to flood the entire planet in a fit of pique… sure, then it’d fit in gospel circles.

But singing about a woman in a way that shows you’re still aching for her in your loins, no matter how much you’re trying to conceal your erection from the Lord’s sight, well… that means it’s a rock song, which no doubt is why they hid their identity from their fellow congregants who’d be forced to smite them for their willful disobedience to their omnipotent ruler’s arcane laws.

So remember kids, when somebody tells you this holiday season is for honoring a brutal tyrant who lives in the sky and demands you worship him unconditionally or else he won’t invite you to his everlasting party… do what The Five Hollywood Blue Jays did and tell him, “That’s okay dude, we’re partying down here just fine without’cha”.