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DOT 1041; MARCH 1951

 
 

 

Five years ago today this website was officially launched, no doubt a day that you celebrate like New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras and The Fourth of July rolled into one.

Truthfully while that event is probably utterly meaningless to everybody with even half a brain, it does bring to mind the main purpose of all this… namely to re-expose the records and artists who cumulatively took part in a musical revolution.

That so many records were released by so many names over so many years it’s inevitable that some of them… most in fact… would be forgotten eventually. While you can argue that’s hardly a crime, especially if whatever it was they contributed to the mix didn’t get carried on by others, it does speak to the transient nature of all of this.

Today’s star is forgotten tomorrow in almost every single case.

So while this site is akin to simply plugging a crack in the dam with chewing gum, a futile task at stopping the floodwaters of history from drowning us all, maybe it can occasionally do a bit of good for somebody’s reputation in some small way.

In this case that somebody is Margie Day, who has been one of the revelations of rock’s first five years, a vivacious singer who has been nothing short of spectacular since appearing on the rock scene in late summer 1950. Here she is once again, stating her case for being due a far greater share of historical acclaim than she was ever given in her lifetime.
 

 

Tell Me What You Mean
The obvious explanation for Margie Day’s modern obscurity, aside from simply the passage of time, is the fact that by the time rock crossed over in the mid-1950’s her heyday was sadly over.

Since we all know those who most often wrote the history of this music over the years had no awareness of its actual origins, nor any first hand knowledge of its first seven whole years of existence, they had no idea who she was.

Then there’s the little matter of female representation being sorely lacking… for many of the same reasons, namely writers and their readers being mostly men who always seem uncomfortable discussing female artistry in admiring terms, even going so far as to exclude most females from the discussion altogether so they don’t intrude upon the testosterone seeping from the pores of those who mindlessly argue that stuff.

Lastly, even among those who are not prone to such egregious missteps, there’s the fact that Margie Day initially recorded for Dot Records, a label that would soon become synonymous with pushing the most poisonous material imaginable with the white pop cover versions of rock songs that proliferated the charts by mid-decade.

Though she herself of course was uninvolved with that trend, it’s hardly surprising that fewer people have looked into the early days of the label itself to unearth the true gems found there… like Sadie Green, a storming unbridled rocker that further bolsters her case as the greatest pre-crossover female act this side of Ruth Brown.

And after this one Ruth had better step her game up if she doesn’t want to be left in the dust.
 


 
 

Make You Happy
This is a record the explodes out of the gate and then somehow gets more incendiary as it goes on, making it almost the textbook definition of what made rock ‘n’ roll so unnerving to the establishment at the time and what countless generations have gravitated towards in one form or another ever since.

The story contained here finds a sassy Margie trying her best to fend off romantic rival Sadie Green who we never do get to know much about other than she flaunts whatever she’s got physically at any man in sight, including Day’s boyfriend, which led to them having a tryst behind Margie’s back.

Day’s not going down without a fight however and she comes across as an absolute spitfire throughout the song, attacking Green using every verbal weapon she has at her disposal, talking trash and dispensing rumors while also touting her own qualities in comparison.

She manages to strike a rare balance of being emotionally distraught but still feeling as though she has some measure of control over the outcome. What she’s really upset about is that she has to play catch up to erase the head start that Sadie has gotten after a few rolls in the hay with her man, so her own powers of persuasion, which normally might be deployed with more subtlety, have to be abandoned in favor of a more direct approach.

Bad news for her maybe but good news for us because to do so she has to unleash the fury in her vocal delivery as she deftly addresses the very specific rumors about this fling to her guy, laying into him while being careful not to strike too hard and lose him as a result. At the same time she’s looking for whatever cracks she can exploit in Green’s image that don’t in turn make Day look jealous for bringing them up, all while promising this guy to make it worth his while without giving up her self respect in the process.

That’s a tightrope walk over a pit of alligators in a hurricane and yet Day doesn’t navigate the expanse cautiously, she practically does cartwheels going across that wire, never wavering once in her conviction that she’ll make it safely to the other side.

The few times she dials it down – only by comparison to what preceded it, I assure you – and you think the record is going to take a wrong turn, she comes roaring back more defiant than ever, venom spewing from her lips, her eyes focused on the target and her voice unrelenting in its power.

Even at the very end when she’s screaming, “No, no, no, I can’t let you go” and it looks as if she’s going to throw herself at her man’s feet, she abruptly turns the whole thing on its head by telling him self-assuredly in the closing refrain, “So you might as well let old Sadie know!” that she’s finished, as if the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Damn, she’s good!
 


 

What Is This I Hear?
So too are The Griffin Brothers, who actually (somewhat shockingly and undeservedly) get lead artist credit for this one. But though it’s mere record company semantics as to who it made sense to promote, it’s not worth getting too up in arms about despite Day’s commanding presence, because with this record The Griffin Brothers may just have vaulted above every other self-contained group on the scene when it comes who was most capable of providing the best backing on rock songs.

More consistent than Johnny Otis, more explosive than Maxwell Davis’s sessionists and with a greater percentage of gems in their output thus far than the New Orleans crew under Dave Bartholomew… these guys are absolutely on fire here. As great as Margie Day is they match her intensity and explosiveness every step of the way.

The horns opening this are like heat seeking missiles, riffing in quick, compact formation while Buddy Griffin batters the piano keys. As Day comes along they naturally have to give way but they make great use of their limited opportunity by letting the silence work to their advantage then punctuating each line with sudden bursts of horns, piano and drums before Buddy picks up the rhythm just before the stanza ends as a lead-in to the horns return for the turnarounds.

But as effective as all of that is, where they really turn up the heat on Sadie Green is during the instrumental breaks where they get to cut loose and show that they are most definitely on Day’s side in this pitched battle.

The first solo is a series of stuttering notes on tenor sax with a scorched earth tone that suggests a nuclear holocaust. There’s only a little melody to be found and what’s there is more suggested than explored in depth, but it brings this to a boil before we even reach the halfway point leaving you anxious for more.

You’ll get it too with the second interlude which finds Jimmy Griffin’s trombone riffing away like a deeper trumpet and holding its own against the earlier display on saxophone, something which is hardly the easiest thing in the world to pull off. The pace is so frantic though and the gritty passion he’s playing with is so all-consuming that you’re just hanging on for dear life now.

There’s no restraint shown here, no moderation or easing into – or out of – anything. It’s like catching a meteor with your bare hands and tossing it back to Margie to carry home as if it were the easiest thing in the world.
 


 

Just To Satisfy Your Soul
Though the record didn’t chart in Billboard, surely another factor in Day’s lack of recognition today, make no mistake about it this was a definite hit, appearing across the South on various Cash Box regional charts (Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana) throughout the spring.

More than any official merit that would earn it however, the content of the record speaks for itself. Sadie Green is a blistering song delivered with the force of a sledgehammer by singer and band alike.

That they manage to take what could’ve been just a wild uptempo rave-up, for which it would still have no shortage of appeal, and infuse it with actual deep emotional resonance and complexity which Day carries out with a deft hand while still never letting up on the fireworks, is nothing short of amazing. All of them define the rock ‘n’ roll attitude from start to finish here, leaving a vapor trail in their wake.

All of which begs the question how so many people could’ve underestimated Margie Day – not only the stupid fella who let his eye wander to some sharped-dressed hussy in this song, but also the countless people in the years since who always seem ready to tout some niche artist with far less on the ball than her.

One thing’s for certain though, none of them should ever be forgiven for the oversight.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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