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DOT 1108; JULY 1952



Wait a minute… aren’t The Griffin Brothers from Virginia?

Why then are they trying to pretend they’re from New Orleans… and on top of that also trying to have us believe they might be from another era other than the one they find themselves recording in today?

We may not be able to answer these perplexing questions but we sure as hell can ask them why they seemed determined to deep six Margie Day’s career with their ill-fated decisions along the way.


There Are Better Fish Down In The Sea
When they first came on the scene The Griffin Brothers – pianist Buddy and trombonist Jimmy – immediately set themselves apart as rock ‘n’ roll bandleaders with tight, focused arrangements that suited the talents of their vocalists (Margie Day, Tommy Brown and – while moonlighting elsewhere – Roy Brown as well) and the rock genre in general.

We even went so far around here to dub them rock’s best self-contained backing band to date… which is high praise considering the résumés of some of their competitors at the time.

Yet as of late they’ve done nothing to justify our previously lofty opinion of them and in this calendar year their work has practically refuted the very idea they were a first rate rock band.

They still are good musicians, even here on Ace In The Hole what they play is played well… it’s just that what they play, at least to kick this record off, is out of touch with the rock marketplace and since Margie Day was a rock ‘n’ roll artist and since the New Orleans jazz style they seem to be adopting here was thirty years behind the times – and wouldn’t see a brief resurgence until Al Hirt and Pete Fountain in the 1960’s – it makes no sense to adopt that approach here.

Luckily though – despite this being credited to The Griffin Brothers – this is a Margie Day record featuring Margie Day singing a song that Margie Day wrote, which is more than enough for us to cast aside any reservations about the substandard accompaniment and focus on what’s good about this and show that once again it’s Day herself who should never be underestimated when it comes to delivering the good even when those around her drop the ball.


Get Number Two When Your Ace Is Through
Okay, let’s get those horns out of the way, swinging and swaying like a frog that got drunk at Mardi Gras. They don’t last long but the fact they kick the record off means this doesn’t get off to the best start which makes it a hole that Margie Day has to climb out of before we’re even fourteen seconds into the record.

That they keep bleating behind her even after that inauspicious intro means that Day’s prodigious talents are still fighting an uphill battle, but like all good gladiators she stays focused on her job and winds up beating them down with a very measured attack. She never lets the song outrun her, keeping it at a perfect pace… deliberate and precise which means the target of her barbs can’t escape them no matter how uneasy she makes him feel.

Essentially Ace In The Hole is a warning to ALL men that they are individually expendable, in that there are always more where they came from ready and willing to replace you if you don’t live up to a woman’s expectation.

Though the same can certainly be said for the fairer sex as well, it sounds a little more harsh coming from the female perspective, as guys have been conditioned to think of women as somehow giving men a free pass when it comes to being unworthy of their love.

Day is here to set you straight, first presenting herself as the one who is broken hearted when her ex cheated on her before quickly turning the table on her fella by finding someone new, in the process warning other men that she’ll do it again if the need arises while urging all women to maintain that high standard with their own relationships.

Her lines are sharp and direct, yet more than just an obvious roll call of put-downs and her delivery has bite without needless vitriol, ensuring that she stays in total control, not getting over-emotional about what is technically a failed business arrangement.

While The Griffin Brothers mostly stay out of her way once she gets rolling, they DO manage to contribute one key asset during the instrumental break, as Noble “Thin Man” Watts delivers a slow but forceful sax solo while the drums add enough muscle to let you know the band is firmly back on her side as this winds down… probably because they took her words to heart and knows she might kick them all to the curb if they keep letting her down.

In the end this is a song that definitely grows on you the more you hear it. Day of course is right on point throughout it, but you may need to take it for a few spins to get used to the more subdued and thematically questionable early backing by the band before they succumb to her direction.

Once you do it’s a cakewalk for one of rock’s most gifted vocalists.


Ain’t Got But One Hole
Are you a glass half full or half empty kind of music fan?

Both sides of this single are compromised by the underachieving Griffin Brothers band, yet the performances of Margie Day herself means that this is actually among her better releases all things considered with each song earning high marks for her efforts alone.

On Ace In The Hole that doesn’t just mean singing, but songwriting as well.

Because she was a dual threat Dot Records should’ve been riding high but with a series of bad decisions concerning her output they’ve all but stopped the early momentum she earned from her initial hits and not even two good performances for the price of one can overcome that.

Then again, maybe if they reminded The Griffin Brothers that New Orleans influences were fine for artists from the Crescent City who knew how to apply it well in a rock setting but were bound to be out of place for bands reared in the Mid-Atlantic states, then they’d have been able to reverse their recent trend here and wound up with a two-sided classic in every regard.

We can say that there’s always next time to get back on course, but eventually they’ll run out of chances and leave us wondering just how big Margie Day might’ve gotten had they had someone in charge who actually respected all that she brought to the table rather than those who seemed to take it for granted.


(Visit the Artist page of Margie Day as well as The Griffin Brothers for the complete archive of their respective records reviewed to date)