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DOT 1094; MARCH 1952



Since her arrival on the scene in 1950 Margie Day’s output at its best has rivaled any female act to date thanks to a spunky attitude, impressive technical skills, a solid backing band and a clutch of really good songs.

But after a handful of hits to launch her career this release marks the point where her success will no longer equal her talent which leads to the question of why that was.

Normally we’d address this incrimentally as time goes on, since of course we’re usually acting as if we’re unaware of what is to follow. But with Day we’re switching things up with this release since both sides allow us to highlight two very obvious reasons.

In case you were wondering – not that it should be any surprise – it’s the record company’s fault.


Seems I Always Play A Losing Hand
When Dot Records began they had two viable rock acts. Margie Day and The Griffin Brothers and both of them got the company hits right out of the gate.

But while those instantly impressive results were rare for a start-up company they quickly showed their ineptitude with how they proceeded to cultivate the careers of those acts by crediting The Griffin Brothers as the primary artist on all of their releases while in the process diminishing the name recognition of the vocalists most responsible for those hits.

On the surface you might argue that what they did made some sense. The Griffin Brothers were vital to the label’s credibility because it was their jobs to play behind all of the vocal talent, as well as arrange the songs and frequently write them as well. At their peak they were as good or better than any self-contained band in rock in the early 1950’s and Dot knew that keeping them happy would make them more likely to stick around.

The problem is that while they got their own releases – and a hit along the way – they were primarily instrumentalists and so their ongoing commercial prospects as a featured act were obviously going to be somewhat less than vocalists in the current market. So Dot figured by putting their marketing weight behind The Griffin Brothers on every release would give them more recognition, as well as larger performing royalties and drawing power as a live act, appeasing them in case they might otherwise be disgruntled over a lack of hits for their own self-contained singles.

The downside to that is it limited the exposure and name recognition of the vocal acts… the artists the general public would be more likely to associate with the songs. So Margie Day began to be given secondary credit on her own records, including songs she wrote herself like I’ll Get A Deal. Not only might this cause hurt feelings, but it’d also potentially lead to confusion for listeners who would be looking for a female name on a song like this rather than the names of two brothers.

With these kinds of decisions it’s hardly surprising that Dot Records’ fortunes as a rock label began its inexorable slide.


The Inside Track
So all of that explains the larger picture decline of Dot Records as a rock label – though obviously they’d do disgustingly well as the defining pop-cover record label in a few years time – but just to be fair we can safely say that their overall organizational ineptitude when it came to properly promoting their artists probably had little to do with the failure of this particular side we’re covering today which is a little too demure to stir the interests of the masses.

That’s not to say it’s a bad idea to tone things down in both tempo and intensity from what Margie Day usually delivers, but rather the margin for error on these types of songs is a little slimmer than the uptempo barnburners where her sheer enthusiasm and the rambunctious band can make up for any shortcomings elsewhere.

Actually the story that Day came up with for I’ll Get A Deal is probably its strongest attribute, as she skillfully balances being down on herself for a string of failures while at the same time not giving in to despair, but rather offering herself – and others – advice on how to see it through.

There are plenty of sharp-eyed observations in the well-crafted lyrics and as always Day’s emotional investment when delivering them is never in question. She holds back long enough to build suspense and when she does let her voice soar there’s always the sense that she’s got another gear in her should she choose to go all out and exhibit it.

But while this is a skillful reading of a solid song, it’s never a truly galvanizing record because of the downcast mood and the by-the-numbers arrangement of The Griffin Brothers that is so discreet that it adds nothing of note to the performance. Even the sax solo never aspires to be more than a vague sound floating through an open window on a damp and dreary night.

You can’t fault their execution perhaps, but you also can’t really credit them for doing much to lift this up and so Day is the only one who comes across well here. Even though it’s far from her best work it certainly doesn’t lower your opinion of her talents in any way.


It’s A Miserable Feeling To Have To Face These Facts
Though there’s little chance that a song of this nature this was going to be hit material, it does make for a good B-side… provided Dot Records didn’t drop the ball in other ways.

An emotional ballad like I’ll Get A Deal would contrast well with an uptempo rocker. Being a song that Day herself wrote it would not only give her some marginal added income, but would also encourage her to remain creative and therefore take more control over the direction of her career while granting her some measure of recognition for her efforts.

Whether any of that would be enough to rob her of majority credit for the record by having it appear as if she were merely “hired help” is less certain.

Unfortunately while that ongoing dispute over who’s deserving of primary credit was one issue that she had to overcome, we’ll soon see that it wasn’t the only stumbling block that she was facing when it came to making sure the most talented artist in the label’s history had the best chance of becoming a verifiable star.


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