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SAVOY 845; APRIL 1952



There are some… okay, me… who would (and already have) argue(d) that the term that eventually got attached to the Nineteen Fifties era rock vocal group sound was counterproductive when it came to giving this vital rock subgenre the historical respect it deserved.

Yet for better or (mostly) worse, “doo wop” it was called and “doo wop” it remains in the eyes of many.

The usual blame for this degrading term falls to New York area disc jockey Gus Gossert who coined it in the early 1970’s. It should come as no surprise he was found murdered a few years later, in 1976, in a car on the side of the road… no doubt by someone rightly offended by his besmirching the music in this fashion.

But as to why he came up with the term, the usual explanation was it stemmed from the non-sensical terms used as background vocals in these records, things chosen for their sound rather than meaning.

But which song did it directly come from?

This one. At least this is the first time it’s unmistakably used… which either gives The Four Buddies even more influence for which they’ve been denied by history… or perhaps justifies why they’ve been shunned by most of those histories all these years.

Your choice.


Take It From Me
The fallacy about A & B sides is that record labels actually care about what song appears on which side.

They don’t. They only care that the record sells.

Well, actually they care inasmuch as they want to make sure their choice for the more commercial side is properly showcased when it hits the market, but we know that’s rarely, if ever, based on the quality of the songs. Instead they choose an A-side based on their estimation of the potential appeal going by the artist’s past chart performances and maybe by comparing it to the records of their competitors that are hitting big.

Everybody who studies these things can tell you of singles where the B-side took off and the label quickly reversed course and began hyping the flip and made believe that was their pick to click all the time.

But sometimes the label seems to get second thoughts before that happens, which may be what happened with this single, as You’re Part Of Me got the A-side designation on the label itself, but the trade papers hyped this side instead from the start.

It wasn’t just Savoy’s own ads for it that did so either, but also the reviews themselves which presumably had no input from the company, as Cash Box singles out Story Blues as the one to watch, even claiming it IS the top side.

Well, neither of them became hits so it doesn’t really matter much I suppose, but their initial choice was indeed the correct one because it’s not quite up to the level of the other song, even though it’s far too good to be thrown away as a mere B-side.

Break Yours Too
Whichever side they chose to push, the mere fact they had a ballad and an uptempo cut paired together shows that somebody at Savoy Records was on the ball for a change.

It’s far better to give audiences two distinct stylistic choices on a single than to merely double down on the same kind of song… something The Orioles would be wise to consider.

Since The Four Buddies have leaned heavily towards ballads, it’s heartening to hear Story Blues take the opposite approach and even better to find out they do this kind of thing nearly as well.

Again Larry Harrison wrote the tune and sings lead, but as it kicks off he can’t help but be overshadowed by the rapid fire piano and horn trade-off with the drummer refusing to take sides but also refusing to stay out of the tussle between them. Compared to so many of their songs this lead-in qualifies as heart-attack inducing and while they don’t keep it up The Four Buddies themselves are clearly energized by it.

For his part Harrison takes on a easy-going rhythmic delivery that sounds remarkably familiar because this kind of rolling melody has been recycled endlessly over the years. He handles it well though and particularly impressive is how he’s changing his pace throughout the song for the different sections, going at one point from spitting a line in a rat-a-tat-tat delivery to riding the breaks in the very next one and holding the words as the seem to coast to a stop.

As the title suggests he’s telling a story, which means you’d expect – or at least hope – the narrative was pretty good to live up to the premise but in that regard it falls a little short because it’s more a general outline than a well developed plot. He’s basically just gossiping about a woman he used to date who is now going with a friend of his and he’s trying to talk his pal out of seeing her. But beyond that limited information it’s up to us to guess whether it’s because he’s genuinely concerned for his buddy getting hurt by this girl if she dumps him too, or if he’s merely jealous because he hasn’t gotten over her and is trying to clear the deck to have at her again himself.

Luckily the rest of The Four Buddies and the band are not at all confused about the real point of the story which is to live it up, presumably because this girl might be every bit as wild as Larry Harrison claims and they can’t wait to take their turn with her.

The guitarist seems particularly enthused as he’s laying down some solid licks during the break as the other guys are chanting enthusiastically behind him. You expect to hear them tell us the girl is walking by as this happens, hips swaying, chest thrust out provocatively, but they keep those details to themselves. Then again one listen to the saxophonist going crazy tells us more about her attributes than mere words ever could.

It may not quite be up to the ridiculously high standard of their best ballads, but it does show that if they’d wanted to focus on the more raucous side of the vocal group divide they’d have more than be able to hold their own.


That’s The Way It Goes
As time goes on around here we’ll naturally be bringing up the many ways in which nostalgia, revisionism and mass marketing blended together in a toxic brew that irrevocably distorted so much of rock history.

In the big picture a mostly obscure B-side like Story Blues by a group few truly remembered even twenty years later wouldn’t seem to factor into that – and it’s almost certain that Gossert lifted the “doo wop” moniker from a more widely known later hit such as The Turbans’ 1955 hit When You Dance – but wherever he lifted it from it does show that often times it’s the later fans trying to re-popularize something to a new audience, albeit in a shallow way to validate their own tastes, that are the ones to watch out for.

Context, as we always say, is everything and removed from that context headlines get distorted, stories get re-framed and a lot of good artists like The Four Buddies get left behind.

Okay, so in that regard this song may only deserve (if that’s the word) to be little more than a footnote in a bigger story that takes place decades down the line… fair enough. But as a record in 1952 it deserves to be seen as an overqualified B-side with hit potential of its own which ultimately is a much better legacy anyway.


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