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With all of the attention paid to the top half of this record, the most valuable in rock history for an officially released single we can never forget, why is it that the other side rarely gets mentioned?

After all, it’s not just the one song that is valuable, it’s the 78 RPM disc itself, as there are so few remaining and all of them have the same two songs on them, of which this is one.

Therefore by definition THIS has equal right to be termed the most valuable record, if you’re using just a song title rather than Jubilee 5104 to identify it.

What’s more, while the other half was a reworked version of a popular standard that had been done countless times before and would be done countless times since, this song is the one and only time that The Five Sharps themselves wrote and performed their own song on record, making it far more rare… thus far more valuable in a way… when it comes to determining how much (or little) talent they actually had.

That’s what we take perverse pleasure in doing around here, throwing monkey wrenches into the scores of ineptly written history books on the subject.


Time For You To Hit The Hay
Never once will you come across this song title as the lead in the story.

Even here, where we’re poking that slumbering bear with a stick for this review, we still started our look at The Five Sharps by covering Stormy Weather, the song which always has and probably always will be the one referred to as “the most valuable record…” blah, blah, blah.

But why that song and not this one?

Because it’s the more familiar title thanks to other renditions?

Because it happened to be the one personally preferred by Irving “Slim” Rose, proprietor of Time Square Records which first brought attention to the scarcity of this single and started a frenzied search for more copies of it after he inadvertently broke the one in his temporary possession?

Or is it because most people are simple-minded sheep who follow the crowd and once the first person talking about this record’s value used that song when referring to it, every other person fell in line and did so as well?

Whichever the reason… it’s stupid. It doesn’t make any sense. The single itself is what has value – and not because of EITHER song, just the rarity of the remaining physical copies of the original 78 RPM pressing – and all copies obviously have both of these songs on them.

For those who invariably fall back on the argument… well, it was the better side… keep in mind that’s not only subjective, but also disputed, or at least for a long time the consensus was the more familiar song was kinda garbage. It’s not necessarily, but then again it’s not a masterpiece either.

Nor is Sleepy Cowboy for that matter, but it does have the distinction of being an original composition by The Five Sharps, which therefore provides a better reflection of their musical tastes, outlook, style, ambitions and artistic creativity.

But then again it was never about the group, or even the music on the record, was it? No, it was always about dorky collectors who liked the thrill of the hunt and the $$$ they saw in front of their eyes should they find one. A treasure hunt where the prize just happened to contain music instead of diamonds or gold.

Yet when you come right down to it, just from an editiorial standpoint, if you were writing about the rarest rock single ever, wouldn’t it be somehow more fitting to focus on a song that had a weird title that nobody heard of before just to stoke the curiosity of those you’re telling it to?

Yeah, you would. Or should.

Dream Your Cares Away
Structurally this exactly the kind of original composition a group of high schoolers who sang together in an early Fifties vocal group would come up with. Sincere, a little stilted, thematically quirky and quite obviously inspired by somebody else’s record, even though they basically just took the overall idea from a single by The Deep River Boys earlier this same year called Sleepy Little Cowboy, even though they did not the swipe melody, lyrics or the group’s harmonic structure in any way, shape or form.

The other thing you could expect from this situation was the writing credits would be stole by the very guy – Oscar Porter – who was managing them and got them their session with Jubilee Records.

In other words, THIS, not the other side, was the epitome of Nineteen Fifties rock vocal groups in every single way… including the arrangement, which makes it the more interesting cut on top of all that.

The song itself though is not on par with the more famous side, hardly surprising there. As with the aforementioned Deep River Boys similarly titled tune, Sleepy Cowboy finds The Five Sharps singing to a little kid who dreams of being a cowboy, which is… to be kind, more sappy than sweet. I mean, these guys were still kids themselves, most of them in high school, so while it is put together fairly well, it’s not quite as endearing as the subject might be in other hands, something which is not helped by the rather trite lyrics they came up with.

However, a lot of that is obscured by what is actually a really nice vocal arrangement with a slightly weak falsetto lead-in but from there it takes on the characteristics of a prototype doo wop song… though that prototype was still not firmly established, showing these guys were part of the generation (by which I mean probably a six to sixteen month span of time) where it coalesced around the sounds emanating on the street corners of New York city neighborhoods like theirs in Queens.

The standout here is Mickey Owens whose prominent bass not only established the rhythmic meter, but also shapes the melodic flow by acting sort of as a rudder to lead Ronald Cuffey’s tenor. They don’t trade off per say, as each one never pauses in their delivery to let the other take over fully, but your ears still focus on one then the other rising and falling with precision throughout the record.

The others are not given much to do individually, but their wordless harmonies are what help to establish the dreamy atmosphere of the song and when they do get to add some melodic variations during the early verses it comes off rather well – though less so behind Owens solo on the middle eight and during the fade where they all clearly lose their way. But on the whole The Five Sharps’ vocal approach itself was something that would definitely be familiar over the next few years in rock.

It doesn’t make this any more impressive than the “celebrated” A-side, but in its own way it’s just as good of a performance and the one that actually has more far reaching influence on top of it all.

You Better Saddle Up And Be On Your Way
Just to show how pervasive “group think” can be, when writing that last sentence in the preceding section I was going to put an addendum to it saying that the influence was musical as opposed to anthropological… until I realized I’d already debunked that myth in the first section as both sides, not just the one always mentioned, by right shave to receive equal status – or else no status at all – as the beneficiary of the outrageous prices for the original record.

That’s the problem though with public statements that get blindly accepted without undergoing rigorous analysis and vetting first. Inconsistencies, unsupported arguments and outright falsehoods can’t be allowed to pass into common usage… yet they frequently do.

Granted, the lack of acknowledgement for Sleepy Cowboy being credited as the most valuable rock record of all-time is probably not high on people’s list of grievous offenses in life. But the means for which these untruths, or half-truths in this case, take root is the same as happens with more serious issues which have far-reaching consequences when they’re allowed to go unchallenged.

It all starts with a disingenuous statement presented as fact. In this case it wasn’t so much an outright lie – as Stormy Weather WAS half of the most valuable single ever – but rather a lie by omission. When others began to simply repeat the scant information they received without taking steps to correct it and credit both sides equally, it picked up steam and became misleading propaganda.

There didn’t have to be a nefarious reason for it, just widespread laziness, but the result is that The Five Sharps slip further into the shadows because the side for which they were deserving of slightly more artistic credit remains an afterthought at best… completely forgotten at worst.

I can’t say either side is worth more than the 89 cents it sold for once upon a time, but let the record show beyond any doubt that it is in fact THIS song on that format which has an equally rightful claim to being the most valuable single in rock history.


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