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RCA 20-4662; APRIL 1952



If you were a rock fan in 1952 would you even bother to waste a nickel on the jukebox to find out whether an artist on a major label was actually performing rock ‘n’ roll just based on a mere song title?

Wouldn’t it be smarter to wait until your not-so-smart friend got their change back from buying whatever kids in 1952 spent their money on – licorice whips, Moon Pies or Joe McCarthy dartboards – and let them waste five cents to see if RCA was trying to rip you off.

I mean, it’s not like the company has a very good track record when it comes to this stuff and with the term “rock ‘n’ roll” and all of its various slang abbreviations becoming more ubiquitous in all of music now that the real thing has long-since proven its value, isn’t this the time to be wary? Isn’t possible, even likely, that they were just trying to lure you in with false advertising?

After all, you know what they say… let the buyer beware.


The Way He Knows Is Best
Seeing as this is the third record by The Heartbreakers that we’ve covered in just seven months tells you that despite their association with RCA-Victor, the group was at least making a concerted effort to pass muster as rockers.

That their best attempt so far, the self-written Heartbreaker adorning one side of their debut back in October, gives some indication that rocking seemed to be their intent rather than the label trying to shoehorn a pop-leaning group into somebody else’s rock suit is a promising sign at least. But then you notice that every song since then were outside compositions of declining quality and your hopes promptly sink.

Maybe all RCA was doing now was sort of hedging their bets when it came to material, trying in vain to get the label a little more credibility in this field before discarding them altogether.

This view would seem to be confirmed when you listen to the dreadful flip side, Why Don’t I, another outside contribution which is pure pop, sickeningly sweet, devoid of any real emotion and clearly aimed at the audience that most acts unfortunate enough to be under contract to major labels tended to kowtow to.

So before you even cue this side up you remember that both sides of their winter release were skewing heavily towards pop music, impressing nobody but the board of directors at RCA who were hard of hearing and quite senile by this stage of life.

Yet in spite of these clear warning signs staring you in the face, you wonder just how likely it was that RCA would go so far as to allow a song called Rockin’ Daddy-O to possibly negate the hard work the company was undertaking to turn The Heartbreakers into the meek black equivalent of The Ames Brothers or The Four Lads.

Maybe, just maybe, The Heartbreakers would be able to salvage this if their hearts were in it and they forcibly tied up the producer and shoved him in a broom closet until the session was over. Surely the chance to find out if that was indeed the case was worth a measly nickel to find out, wasn’t it?

Like You’ve Never Been Rocked Before
As the record starts you realize you made a decent investment with your five hard earned cents. The shimmering guitar that kicks this off sets a solid foundation for what we hope will follow… in any event it certainly doesn’t jump out at you as a pop attribute for whatever that’s worth.

When the vocals kick in there’s a desperate quality in Bobby Evans’ delivery, sounding emotionally on edge which reassures us that he isn’t trying to court a pop audience and as a result your fear that this will merely use a promising title as a way to entice you into listening before pulling a bait and switch seem to be unfounded.

Rockin’ Daddy-O is a rock song after all… who’da guessed it?

Evans for his part is fully committed in his attempts to convince you of his intent, his slightly exaggerated vocals pouring on as much suggestiveness as he’s able while not earning the wrath of his employers who surely find this all a bit tawdry no matter how many more sales it may pull in for them with an audience that so far has mostly steered clear of the company.

The lyrics contributed by Doris Ross are reasonably effective, if fairly vague in their construction, as they have Evans announcing his availability to the ladies in the neighborhood. At least I THINK he’s talking about himself, though the way he keeps using the pronoun “he” as opposed to “I”, maybe he’s referring to someone else.

That someone else might just be the bass singer, George Davis Jr., who is the one adding more descriptive terminology that would suggest he’s coming on to the girl in question himself, though too he drops a “he” into the mix as well just to throw the morality police off his trail no doubt.

Truthfully what holds the song back from being even better are those rejoinders, not because the idea itself isn’t good, but because they’re awkwardly written, a series of staccato phrases that interrupt the flow that had been built up, making it slightly sound forced and artificial.

But the spirit of the song is authentic no matter who is singing and even the guitar solo answered by piano and drums with some ecstatic screams thrown in for good measure as they come out of the break confirms the blatant sexuality being displayed here.

In five years they’d try to tame Elvis Presley by having him sing about teddy bears but here, on the flip side of a shameless attempt to reach frigid middle-age housewives, they let… no, they actually encourage… The Heartbreakers to hold nothing back in their lewd and lascivious attempts to conquer rock ‘n’ roll.

They may not quite pull that feat off here, but they get closer than you’d have ever expected when staring at the record label and contemplating the odds this would even be tolerable much less less enjoyable.


It Doesn’t Matter If It’s Day Or Night
Sometimes the best bets, even those made with a small wager because of the long odds, have the most rewarding payoffs.

The chances that The Heartbreakers would give us a legitimate rock record, one not tainted by compromised ideals, poor production choices or a failure of the vocalists to maintain the right attitude throughout the song, were slim to none heading into this release, especially after the pop-slanted debacles that marred both sides of their last single.

But whether RCA decided it didn’t make much sense to acquire a group to compete in the rock field and then keep them under wraps, or if the group themselves, or someone connected to them, voiced their protest over being neutered on record, Rockin’ Daddy-O is the real deal and good enough to give them – if not their label – the benefit of the doubt in the future.

Of course we know we’re setting ourselves up for a fall by doing that. Even if The Heartbreakers themselves could be trusted to wholeheartedly pursue this approach from now on, there’s no way that a major label would allow them to keep recording pure unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll without some hits to show for it.

Frankly even if they did somehow manage to top the charts along the way they still probably wouldn’t get a free pass to keep rocking, so we’ll take this for what it is, a fleeting glimpse of the largely unfulfilled potential of a rock group with the bad fortune to reach what once was considered the pinnacle of success in signing with a major company before rock ‘n’ roll revealed it for the fool’s gold that achievement had become.


(Visit the Artist page of The Heartbreakers for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)