No tags :(

Share it

ALADDIN 3131; MAY 1952



In case you haven’t been among the thousands of adoring readers who are doing in-depth breakdowns of these reviews with your circle of likeminded friends, perhaps you haven’t noticed the general approach we take around here.

Usually the focus is on the record itself, specifically the artist’s rendering of the song and perhaps the record label’s decisions when it came what to record or promote.

The other components… the session musicians, the arrangement, the production and the songwriters… don’t exactly get ignored but tend to get brought up mostly when it has a major impact on the sounds we hear, for good or for ill. If they merely do their job competently enough, they often get mentioned only in passing.

But not today.

Today the songwriter is the major focus of the story even though the overwhelming majority of casual readers would probably be none the wiser if we didn’t bother mentioning it at all.


How Long Will I Need You?
You’ve obviously looked at the label after that introduction and saw a familiar last name – Mesner – as the sole writing credit here.

That’s not altogether surprising unfortunately, as record company owners frequently steal writing credits to bring in more money for themselves, although Leo and Eddie Mesner, the brothers who jointly owned Aladdin Records, were generally not known to do so, making them the rare exceptions to a rather odorous rule in independent record circles of the 1950’s.

But then you’ll note that it’s not either of them who snag the credit, but a Patsy Mesner and naturally you assume that one of them simply assigned it to their wife, sister or daughter who had nothing whatsoever to do with How Long.

Since this Patsy IS in fact the daughter of Eddie Mesner that would explain things enough for us to move right along… except this time around it’s hardly that simple.

You see within a year Patsy would have her own records on Aladdin as Patty Anne, singing in front of The Hollywood Flames on a few sides which we’ll get to when the time comes… and which explains why we need to get into the writing credits here first to set that story up properly.

It seems Eddie Mesner decided to move up in the world when he married a light-skinned African-American woman in 1945 and adopted her daughter Patti and now the 21 year old was getting her chance to make a go of it in the music business. To that end she got some writing credits for Aladdin artists Charles Brown and Illinois Jacquet, and later went on tour with Lionel Hampton as well as Louis Jordan once he left Decca for Aladdin.

Before you cry foul though it needs to be said that Patti was very attractive and had a nice strong voice, a little flat at times but certainly professional quality and was versatile enough to employ a wide variety of deliveries, some better than others but never fully settling on just one approach. She wasn’t star material, but no worse than a lot of moderately successful singers of the day.

So while this writing credit has all of the usual markings of fraud, it actually seems to be legitimate.

As to the quality of the composition itself and whether or not it’s appropriate for The Five Keys to sing… well, let’s just say it definitely is more sensible for them to be recording this tune than the roll call of ancient standards they cut at their two early April sessions alongside this one for whatever that’s worth.


How Long Will You Want Me?
We can absolve both Patty Anne and The Five Keys of the unfortunate use of supper club piano that opens the record, since that was clearly out of their hands. Aladdin had made the mistake of hiring someone who thought of “good music” as something to put you to sleep to and they played this way on the entire two day session, much to the detriment of the records that came out of it.

But here, perhaps because the composition wasn’t a couple decades old, the effect isn’t quite as prominent and while it definitely gets this off to a bad start, it doesn’t completely poison your reaction to what is to follow.

The story is sort of what you’d expect from a young girl just starting out, a song about love that contains equal parts hope and uncertainty. The lyrics are fairly simple, but aren’t without their charms because the message is so unpretentious and honest in expressing cautious optimism tinged with doubt brought on by inexperience.

It’s interesting of course that How Long was written by a female and sung by males and though certainly guys and girls are of the same species and thus have similar emotions about things such as the trials and tribulations of young love, the changed perspective – or at least the presumed differences in how boys and girls should react when confronted with doubt as to someone’s affections – gives this a slightly different vibe.

I’d have actually liked to have heard Patty Anne sing this herself to make the comparison, but oddly enough she never did even though she began recording in just a few months time and this record did nothing on the charts so it would’ve seemed natural to try her hand at it. The fragility of the sentiments here, cautiously hoping that the one they love will still want them down the road, might seem even more poignant coming from a female simply due to society’s widely held perceptions that males should avoid expressing that type of emotional vulnerability.

However Rudy West manages to do so in a way that is pretty captivating. Always at home with tender readings of songs he nails most of the emotional undercurrents through a combination of technical skill when it comes to how each line is emphasized or just by altering the inflection of words through subtle note changes, and by maintaining a firm grip on the internal message being conveyed.

Unlike the flip side where the rest of the group largely were reduced to observing, here, while never given actual words to sing, they provide a steady harmony bed that creates an ethereal presence which helps to sets the stage for Dickie Smith to come in to deliver the bridge that kicks off with a surprising spoken “Tell me”, giving it a sense of dramatic anticipation.

Unfortunately from there he simply repeats West’s proclamations, though thanks to a deeper and more intense delivery it at least shakes the mood up enough to keep things from growing stale since there’s no instrumental break to make a different impression on you.

None of this may be too complex but it is effective enough to marginally redeem The Five Keys sinking image… one ironically enough that they were unfairly burdened with thanks to the stepfather of the songwriter.


How Long Will You Stay?
Heading into this – provided you were aware of the familial connections to the label chief – you had to be fearing the worst… especially if you had checked out the other side first and realized that Aladdin Records seemed totally unaware that The Five Keys were not a pop act and this was not 1928.

Yet Patsy Mesner, as she was credited here, winds up showing that she knows more than her father and uncle do at this stage of the game by giving The Five Keys a song that is far more relatable to the younger rock audience than anything they’d saddled the group with over the past few months.

Though I won’t cast aspersions on his abilities as a parent, I’m inclined to say this particular feat was possible largely because she was not Eddie Mesner’s biological child, since he seemed to forget who his artists and their audiences represented.

But since How Long didn’t manage to become a hit, the positive direction this took them in stylistically would be short-lived as Aladdin doubled down on a failed game plan in the coming months.

Such is the often depressing legacy of one of the most talented rock vocal groups of their era… when they had good material they were hard to beat, but at every stop their record companies shoved the bad material down their throats for the same reasons and unfortunately not all of them had stepdaughters around to try and bail them out with a decent original to stem the tide.


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