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COLUMBIA 30242; MAY 1951



One thing’s for sure… if you hang around here long enough you never know who’s gonna show up… or what they’re gonna ride in on.

For those who haven’t been keeping tabs on such things it’s been a year and a half since we last ran into The Five Scamps during which time rock ‘n’ roll went from being a strange phenomenon to the most dominant form of music in the black community… a time in which a new generation of artists came along to speed the progress of rock at a startling pace… and during which time older artists who came from more demure backgrounds would struggle to keep pace.

Because of all that you had to be pretty confident we wouldn’t be running into these guys ever again and yet here they are, ready to rock ‘n’ roll once more should anybody care to give them the time of day.


Down And Out Without A Friend
While a lot has happened to rock ‘n’ roll during that time, maybe even more has happened to The Five Scamps in that period, most notably the fact that these Five Scamps are four guys short of the original group.

After their tenure with Columbia Records had ended in 1949 they’d been keeping up appearances even without a record deal, singing and playing nightclubs throughout the Midwest, taking advantage of their jazzier backgrounds to go over well in the classier joints while still being able to whip up a storm if they found themselves in front of a younger more demanding crowd.

The original five were still together, still getting along apparently, when guitarist Wyatt Griffin was feeling a little burned out and took a weekend off from a long stretch of gigs with no end in sight. He did this with the other’s blessing and arranged for a local guitarist to take his place for those shows, but this guy brought his wife in to sing which pissed off the club owner who had contracted a five man group, not one with six members including one female and they got fired.

The others blamed Griffin for some reason rather than the club owner or the new guitarist for dragging his missus along to work with him. The other Scamps threatened to quit the group over this, which of course would put them ALL out of work – bright idea fellas. Griffin instead proposed he be the one to quit and graciously let the others carry on the group’s gigs… ironically with the replacement guitarist who was the cause of much of this.

The kicker to the story, and a sign that there is some perverse justice in this world at times, is that Wyatt Griffin put together a new group of Scamps and even though he had hardly been the most important member of the original group, never singing a lead on any record before nor having his guitar nearly as prominent as the tenor sax, their old label Columbia had them come in to cut another session in March 1951 which resulted in a surprisingly decent two-sider, all things considered.

Dance Boogie, the instrumental half, barely features Wyatt Griffin at all, as the song is primarily a feature for saxophonist Arthur Jackson and the pianist (either Louis Wright or Frank Martin). It’s a decent time-filler, a repetitive frantic intro before Jackson’s solo which is really solid, showing good melodic instincts and a comfort wallowing in the gutter, which is what sets apart sax solos from other instruments… like say that piano, which had been fine in support but not so good taking over the lead – too mannered, dropping the boogie in favor of some fractured rhythm that not even the sax’s return to close things out can fully salvage.

Better though is the vocal side, Gonna Buy Myself A Mule, which DOES feature Wyatt Griffin singing lead and shows that he was doing his best to keep the rock ‘n’ roll spirit they had fleetingly captured during their initial go-round with Columbia was still intact.

You Used To Tell Me How You Loved Me So
Like on the instrumental side, the real star of this is Arthur Jackson’s saxophone which gives us a nice lusty intro before Griffin and the band trade off vocals in a rapid back and forth, a simple vocal arrangement but an effective one in that it keeps the energy up without actually bothering to dispense with any relevant information.

WHY they’re Gonna Buy Myself A Mule we never do find out, maybe there are no car dealerships nearby, or it’s cheaper than a train ticket, because the only word we get is they’re upset with a girl who’s been untrue to them and thus they want to hightail it out of there… unless maybe the mule is a replacement for the girlfriend, in which case that’s not something you should put on record for the animal welfare people to hear.

It doesn’t matter what their true intent is I suppose – other than to the poor mule – mostly because this is about maintaining a frantic pace to showcase their churning instruments starting with a sax solo that is a little less engaging at first than the instrumental side. It picks up as it goes along though and thanks to some quirky percussion behind it and some crude honking it gets the job done well enough.

The piano drags it back down though again, and truthfully this is sort of a mirror image of the other side in terms of an arrangement, with the exception of the vocals of course which are delivered with enough infectious energy to more or less take on the role of an instrument. You could just as easily see Griffin’s guitar filling those parts in without much trouble and coming away with a decent record without any singing.

But the singing hardly is a detriment to the record, for while nobody would mistake Griffin or the others for a top flight vocal group, they seem to know their job is just to whip things into as much of a frenzy as they can.

Maybe they never quite reach that euphoric stage where everyone loses their mind – vocally and instrumentally – but it’s still enough to get you moving and that’s hardly insignificant when trying to remind those who have surely forgotten their past efforts, both good and bad, that The Five Scamps, whatever five we’re talking about, were worth taking a flyer on.

Ride On Away From Here
You have to wonder what the other departed Five… err four Scamps thought of all this by now.

They had been a group that had stuck together through thick and thin since the 1930’s, finally got a chance in the late 1940’s to make records and managed to adapt themselves to rock ‘n’ roll convincingly, coming away with one great record even with Red Hot, and yet nothing came of it. No more record deals, just back to the slog of the road.

Now, after a totally avoidable rift, the one they forced out winds up getting another chance with Columbia and while Gonna Buy Myself A Mule didn’t hit, it was still more than the rest had to show for the last two years.

Columbia may have been doing little more than some preemptive groundwork for their more concerted move into rock with the upcoming OKeh label and turned to familiar names to start with and when these guys didn’t make the grade they sent them packing as well, but it’s only fitting that since they provided the label with the first authentic rocker they also give us the last for the time being.

If you’re the kind who insists on a happier ending than that we can tell you that Griffin rejoined the original Five Scamps a few years down the road, taking Arthur Jackson with him for one last recording session for Peacock Records and that the group, in some form or fashion, kept at it into the Twenty First Century, unlikely survivors of a music that will outlive them all.


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