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REX 28025; APRIL 1949



There are a few months over the last seven decades which stand out when it comes to – let’s call it “advancing the ball” – in rock history.

That is, a short burst of activity where the release rolls are studded with some monumental singles, all bunched together as if the entire genre decided to make a sudden leap forward all at once.

April 1949 is beginning to look like just such a month.


You’re About To Kill Me But Rockin’ Is On My Mind
Apologies are in order to start with because this record appears to have been the first release we’ll be covering of Edward G. White, a/k/a “The Great Gates” and yet it’s actually one of the last to be written simply because it fell through the cracks here.

The flimsy excuse for this is that it came out on a short-lived label that has no other records we’re covering and there were no ads placed in the typical sources to tip anyone off to this release and of course The Great Gates as an artist, though certainly not completely insignificant, was hardly being written about much in the future with detailed discographies.

So if you’re reading these reviews chronologically as intended you’ll be “officially” meeting him two months down the road on the first review we wrote about him.

Sorry about that.

We’ll leave the longer winded details of who he is to that review and just say that he was a singer on the late 1940’s Los Angeles rock scene who’d go on to score one national hit and provide the launching point for a few talented kids who’d work with him in his band before they’d go on to bigger and better things down the road.

They may be in fact be working with him here on Rocking Time, though it’s doubtful because of the different structure of the arrangement, so instead we can focus on what little we DO know which is simply the record itself.

That’s what stands out anyway, not just the vibrant aggressive sound but also with the title providing yet another clear sign for all those head-in-the-sand disbelievers pf the fact that rock music not only existed in full force in the late 1940’s but was widely referred to as such even if the way in which it was used wasn’t quite as obvious and possessive as it’d later become.

What’s important though – much like with Goree Carter’s sizzling Rock Awhile this same month – is how the word and the music comingling like this are already such a potent combination.


Let’s Rock Tonight
Since we just referenced Carter whose guitar pyrotechnics hurtled rock about six or more years into the future, we might have to credit somebody else for doing it first, depending on when this was cut and actually released.

Unfortunately we don’t know who it is. We could guess by thumbing through the list of frequent Los Angeles session musicians around this time but it’s probably best to not speculate and get it wrong, denying the true musician the historical credit in the process.

Whoever it is, the crackling sound of the electric guitar tearing up the speakers on the intro grabs your attention and if it’s kind of crude at first it quickly segues into a blistering boogie leading into Gates’ vocal at which point the guitar is still prominent but mostly tossing in accent notes and a few quick riffs.

As much fire as the guitar puts into the song what Rocking Time needs is the vocal side to be just as explosive. Since Gates has a rather nasal tone, not very resonant or commanding, you don’t have much hope but how he’s singing is only half of this side of the equation, the other half is of course WHAT he is singing and that’s where he makes up for any shortcomings with his voice.

The lyrics are a basic run-down of the rock ‘n’ roll state of mind… not just circa 1949 either, but really any year since. Here we have all of the basic tropes – the night time setting, the anxious anticipation for the action that follows, the cool laid-back confidence of the antagonist and of course the expected sexual conquest to tie it all together.

Gates’ enthusiasm is infectious and when he cries out heading into the instrumental break “Let’s rock, boys, let’s rock!”… and then for good measure returning after that extended diversion with the words “Now roll me, baby”… it’s not hard to see the entire rock ‘n’ roll blueprint laid out in the simplest of terms so that any curious party who might be listening can grasp it without further instruction.

Someone Else May Take Your Place
The one area it falls short however, comparatively speaking anyway, is in that instrumental break which starts off great with a saxophone honking away on a single note before it tries somewhat unsuccessfully to transition to something more melodic and sounds out of breath.

Meanwhile rather than pick up the slack, the guitar is playing ghosting chords, sort of a hollow twanging that sounds semi-acoustic and the combination of two such powerful instruments underperforming – albeit for only ten seconds (which would certainly be edited out in the post-production stage if it were done today) – has you worried that Rocking Time might not have enough juice to get to the end of the song.

But just as quickly as it dropped off it picks up again and now the guitar starts showing off with some nimble picking with the volume cranked back up, closing out the break in fine fashion after all.

The entire record may come across as slightly disheveled but then again isn’t that the case for a lot of rock ‘n’ roll over the years? This might not be first in that regard but it fits nicely into a long line of similarly intended party-crashers.

Rock Me A Long, Long Time
A lot of time in any field of popular entertainment there’s trends that develop which often come down to one innovator and a bunch of imitators reacting to those initial advances after the fact.

But there’s also a few cases where there’s simply an idea whose time has come and a lot of people pick up on it simultaneously without being fully aware that others are in the process of doing the same thing.

That’s what appears to be happening here in the spring of 1949 and when you think about it and examine the landscape it makes a lot of sense.

Rock ‘n’ roll is a year and a half years old by now, it’s already shown its diverse DNA which allows for variations on a basic approach centered on creating excitement. The honking saxophone that defined the music over that time is still here, but those who play other instruments are looking for a way to match that intensity and with Goree Carter in Texas – and now someone else in Los Angeles – they’ve found it.

What’s more, they KNOW they have. It’s not a coincidence that both songs brag about it openly, calling attention to the music in their titles and lyrics. As such Rocking Time is an attempt at forging their own musical identity and at the same time to ensure they’re seen as being connected to the Roy Browns and Wynonie Harrises of the world.

Of course those of us in that orbit are fully aware of the movement that is already well underway, but the broader public – especially those in the sheltered world of Caucasian communities – are still completely oblivious to the excitement being had with rock ‘n’ roll.

Play this for them and watch their eyes bulge. Right out of the… err… Gates, he earns the Great moniker with room to spare.


(Visit the Artist page of The Great Gates for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)