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Music, no matter the genre, is constructed of the same raw materials. Notes, chords, melodies, lyrics, vocals, instrumentation.

So it stands to reason that while each genre has its own distinct attributes in those departments, there still can be some blurring of the lines between them. An instrument played with a different stylistic feel… vocals smoothed over or roughed up to meet the expectations of another demographic audience… or lyrics that take the focus from one subject and replace them with one that is the polar opposite of the first.

This happens all the time and in many ways that malleability is part of what allows music to be a universal language.

But rarely will you see those changes be done as blatantly as happens here, when a gospel act doesn’t change their own approach in the least even as the words and instrumentation around them takes on a new look to ease them into another field.


I’ve Got Troubles On My Mind
When is a scam a scam?

When somebody is collecting money for children orphaned during an earthquake who pockets the money themselves because there was no earthquake and he couldn’t care less about kids whether or not they’re left to fend for themselves.

That would certainly qualify as a scam.

Political candidates who got their orange ass handed to them and claim the election was rigged in order to soothe their massive ego and reap donations from gullible supporters is a scam so pathetic that you wouldn’t think anyone with a single working brain cell would buy it, but then again maybe that’s the explanation staring us in the face… the alarming lack of brain cells in the heads of those falling for it.

The holiday we’re preparing to celebrate in the next few days might very well be termed a scam too, no matter which version of it you choose to believe. The birth of a child to a “virgin” mother whose husband thinks it a miracle while not being at all suspicious about not one… not two… but THREE different men visiting her with gifts upon hearing the news she had a baby? Yeah, that’s a scam.

Or the rendering of the secular side of the holiday that is centered around a fat old man with the single most labor intensive job imaginable which he crams into one night of the year that has him delivering presents to children all over the world with the help of eight flying non-unionized reindeer? Scam, scam, scam… and a partridge in a pear tree.

Then there’s the one about the unnamed gospel group who decided on a whim to cut some secular songs for a shady music entreprenuer in the back room of his record store for a few dollars and having that executive pass off songs like So Worried as rock ‘n’ roll.

Wait… IS that a scam, or is that just a creative marketing decision hoping to take advantage of the insatiable commercial lust for rock records compared to the more measured interest in gospel?

You Just Can’t Forget The One Love In Your Life
With the haunting vocal isolation that kicks this off before the skelatal backing comes in to fill out the sound – faint piano, minimal rhythm and Que Martyn’s ghostly saxophone – this definitely has the structure and delivery of unadorned gospel.

But the subject matter betrays its origins, as the lead is singing about a woman’s departure from his life.

Now to be fair, I think religious people may have relationships of some kind with the opposite sex, but I’m pretty sure they’re prevented from discussing it publicly out of modesty or embarrassment. They’re definitely not allowed to use gospel music to complain about their loss of sexual partners… not if they want that ultimate prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box that awaits them when they die.

No wonder they’re So Worried about defying the restrictive standards of both their musical heritage and the ancient creed that seems to go with it. Yet by simply changing their name from whatever it was (we still don’t know who they really were) to The Five Hollywood Blue Jays, they’ve found the protective covering they need to flaunt those rules openly.

The shocking thing though is how they change so little else beyond the particulars of the story. Their delivery is gospel solemnity personified, right down to the sturdy humming of the other birds on board who may have shed their robes, though clearly haven’t put on flashy suits in their stead.

All of which means if you like gospel of this era you might like this record more than if you’re a rock fan… that is unless you’re afraid you’ll be struck by lightning or risk burning in hell for eternity just for listening to it, which admittedly would be a pretty stiff price to pay for even a good record.

But is this a good rock ‘n’ roll record, or even just a decent facsimile of it? Actually, So Worried is probably neither. Though very well sung and nicely arranged in a minimalist sort of way (the sax is the perfect thing to offset the deathly seriousness of the vocals), it’s clearly a charade from the very beginning.

A gospel group singing about a verboten topic as if they were still singing gospel. Whether or not the risqué appropriation of the most hallowed music for the most decedent one is supposed to be the primary appeal or not, the fact is it doesn’t work as the latter because of the rigid adherence to the former.

It still sounds good, and as a fan of gospel of this era I’m obviously not dismissing it because of I don’t like the style of singing itself, but rather it doesn’t quite work in a rock context for the rather obvious reason that there’s so few rock aesthetics to be found.

Gotta Move On Down The Road
Whoever The Five Hollywood Blue Jays were in their everyday careers singing gospel, they too were entitled to sing to satisfy a more tangible god… who seeks money and even potentially fame for their efforts.

This got them neither. John Dolphin probably gave them no more than fifty bucks to split between them for singing this and considering the label had no idea how to number their releases, it might even be hard to find the record in stock to have people hear it and be able to spread the gospel of their sterling voices to the public.

They did manage to squeeze the notice for So Worried into a full page ad in Billboard the first week of December 1952 along with other recent releases spanning RIH 120 to RIH 246 (and I assure you they hadn’t just dumped a hundred and twenty six records onto the market at once, instead they lumped catalog numbers together by artist and filled in the gaps willy-nilly with whoever was left), though you may need a magnifying glass to see it.

But that’s the way it goes with companies like this, isn’t it? A shoestring and a prayer.

At least Recorded In Hollywood was now a full-time record label specializing in rock ‘n’ roll, which is more than we can say for The Five Hollywood Blue Jays. Like most things of value, rock ‘n’ roll isn’t something that can be done as a part time occupation. You have to put the work in, you have to write material that speaks to the audience, hone your deliveries to appeal to the audience, and you have to show your faces to that audience rather than hide behind an alias.

The group had cut four songs that fateful day when they decided to go behind the Lord’s back and while the other two were scheduled for release, they apparently never saw the light of day because they were even more stylistically conflicted than this one is.

But despite that they still showed they could sing very well, and on the other side showed that with the right material and arrangement they could convince you they might make a go of it in this field if they put their minds to it.

Like so many who let themselves go wild only on occasion though, these guys must’ve had second thoughts after the fifty bucks ran out, the booze wore off and at least two of them needed to get VD shots from their wild weekend. As a result they scurried back to the protective bosom of the church and never uttered a word of it in their confessional.

That’s okay. God already knew. He was a rock fan too.