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DOT 1094; MARCH 1952



Part Two of how Dot Records’ clueless behavior helped to curtail the early success of Margie Day, their most skilled vocalist and the possessor of the label’s first two hits.

In Part One we examined how their decision to credit the backing band, The Griffin Brothers, as the lead artist on all of their releases while designating Day’s role as “Vocals By” undercut the singer’s name recognition with the public, potentially misleading those who heard a female vocal and searched jukebox title strips and record bins for a female name, but with this side we’ll look at yet another reason her failure to stay competitive was the fault of the label.

Namely the song choice and the arrangement they saddled it with.


You Thought I’d Be So Lonesome
It’s important to remember that in the early 1950’s with limited radio exposure for rock ‘n’ roll and a scant number of jukebox slots available (twenty records give or take) an artist had to put forth a steady run of very good singles to fully establish themselves and ensure that their subsequent releases wouldn’t be ignored.

Margie Day seemed on her way to doing that, but she was continually thwarted by Dot Records who had her cut totally inappropriate pop cover songs as well as releasing them right on top of new – and much better – original material in order to hop on the bandwagon of those pop songs before the wheels fell off.

Here they’re at it again, forcing her to cover an uninspiring country song called It’d Surprise You by the immortal Gabe Tucker and His Musical Ramblers, a record which somehow finds a place for a trumpet alongside the steel guitar in the arrangement.

We clearly know why they chose this song for Margie Day to sing and that was because they’d also released the original country version in December and were looking to double down on the publishing.

King Records had done this successfully with their far better roster of country acts and their equally impressive rock stable, but the key in those competing renditions was how producer Henry Glover tailored the arrangements to suit the disparate markets, playing to the obvious strengths of a Wynonie Harris on a song that had emphasized far different elements when done by a country artist like Hank Penny.

But when the song itself wasn’t worth much in any rendition and each took a middle of the road approach in terms of presentation, what was the point of it? To bore the pants off two constituencies?

All of which goes to show you that despite what the title suggests it’s hardly surprising to find a record company anxious to prove to the world that they knew absolutely nothing about music or the business they were in.


The Old Girl Paints The Town
Let’s start with the arrangement and how even The Griffin Brothers, who got lead artist credit once again, viewed this as a waste of time.

Rather than come up with something to transform the song musically by adding muscle to the arrangement with some raunchy saxophones or snarling electric guitar, they instead merely accentuate that melody via a bank of light horns rather than the piano and soft string bass used by The Musical Ramblers.

If anything that decision makes the song sound even wimpier, as higher range horns played without bite are a vestige of the past and the very thing that rock ‘n’ roll defiantly did away with.

With the personnel they had their options may have been limited, but if anything they could’ve kept the same instrumental approach and simply had Buddy Griffin pound the keys with a ferocity while over-amping the bass and letting the drummer go wild.

The instrumental break is even worse, if that’s possible, with a treble-heavy piano interlude and no sax solo which means all they’re doing is taking up space without adding anything valuable to the recording. As a result the backing track is so weightless that all of the responsibility falls to Margie Day to bring some much needed attitude to It’d Surprise You.

Well, the good news is she sorta does. Not to say that she turns this piece of trash into a work of art, but she injects it with enough coy sexual innuendo to make it seem at least mildly titillating even if the lyrics would have absolutely no trouble satisfying the most stringent Catholic Board Of Decency assessment of acceptable content.

The song obviously is gender-flipped with a female singing it, but the essentials remain the same which is the singer was stuck in a loveless relationship controlled by their partner and when the relationship ended they took advantage of their newfound freedom. But while the basic idea is fine, the song only mildly suggests these differences rather than spell them out.

Naturally we want spicy details and even if you can’t explicitly delve into the sexual liberation she’s taking advantage of now, you can still mark the contrast better with a few well-placed hints. Instead it’s merely skimming the surface and if not for Day’s knowing winks and the way she holds onto a note until her point has been made before dropping it and moving on to the next one, you’d think this was little more than someone talking about the added closet space or more electrical outlets in their new home.

If it’s possible to commend a singer for a record that lets you down on every other level – from content to musicianship – we’d do so, as Day does all she can with this, but unfortunately that might only convince someone not reading closely that this was worth a few spins.


Take Your Old Jalopy And Get Right Out Of Town
One of the things that should be readily apparent around here for those who’ve stuck with this project over the past half decade is that we have no love for any record label owner.

The reasons for this are multitudinous. In most cases they were outright criminals taking advantage of the lack of business experience of their artists to rob them blind – of writing credit, publishing, and even the royalties they did agree to pay never seemed to find their way into the artist’s bank accounts.

But even were you to push that to the side and say that, while ethically wrong, it doesn’t effect the music that you hear, we could offer up just as much evidence as to their musical and marketing incompetence which unquestionably DID effect the music you heard.

It’d Surprise You was a blatant attempt by Randy Wood to line his own pockets through the publishing of a song he controlled even though it was completely wrong for Margie Day’s career, not only hurting her future prospects but also his future earnings on her records.

Wood has been pilloried by most music histories in ways that Ahmet Ertegun, Leonard Chess, Sam Phillips and even Syd Nathan never were because Wood soon turned his back on rock ‘n’ roll and chose to release the most noxious white pop cover versions of rock in the mid-1950’s with the likes of Pat Boone, The Fontane Sisters and Gale Storm – sins that even those who will shamefully slobber all over the con-artists of the more musically legitimate independent labels can’t abide.

So it’s not like we’re exactly slaughtering a sacred cow here (though we will again soon enough, rest assured), but as if you needed it this record is further proof that rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest achievement was in succeeding in spite of those who stood to profit it from it.

Margie, as always, you deserve better.


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