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RCA 20-5004; OCTOBER 1952



Here’s the make or break side when it comes to establishing the credibility of The Jackson Brothers on their debut.

Obviously the surprisingly strong performance on the top side is going to draw everyone’s attention, so for most listeners it won’t matter much what’s on the flip, but around here it matters a lot because that’s the best way we can tell if they’re legitimate or not.

We hardly expect it to equal what we’ve already heard – we’d be shocked if it did – but rather we want to make sure that no matter how much weaker it is (as a song and a performance), the approach they take is one that is squarely within the rock boundaries.

In 1952 that’s the state of affairs when it comes to this sort of thing, as any unknown artist on a major label trying to pass themselves off as rockers need to be treated skeptically until they can prove that their better efforts were not merely an elaborate slight of hand trick aimed to make big fools of all of us for buying into it wholeheartedly.


The Biggest Alibis
Let’s be sure not to get anyone’s hopes up and have you thinking that our saying they passed this test means this is a hidden gem of a record or anything.

It’s not.

But let’s also make sure for those scanning down the page and seeing a subpar final score that they don’t think that number means this can’t possibily justify giving The Jackson Brothers a free pass into the rock club.

It can.

The reason for this simple. While it’s true that I’m The Biggest Fool is not good enough to be even an average rock release for 1952, that doesn’t mean it’s not a credible attempt at crafting a more introspective rock song.

In other words, the failure here is not with the mindset of the performers, whether by trying to smooth over the vocals or if they’d gone with a completely outdated arrangement or instrumental lineup to pacify the record label, all of which would have you doubting their sincerity as rockers.

Instead, the things which make this fall a little short are found in the more traditional ways that all acts, even the most hallowed rock artists, face from time to time… in that it’s slightly derivative material with a somewhat generic lead vocal.

We dock everybody for those, but in this case, since The Jackson Brothers were in effect in a probationary stage before we’d give them membership to the party, their shortcomings in these areas are not held against them when it comes to determining their status as applicants for the rock ‘n’ roll genre.

Welcome to the club, boys. Now HERE’S where you get to face the criticism for the performance missteps.

Only Myself to Blame
Though this kind of song, arrangement, performance, et. all, is not cutting edge for 1952, it’s also not guilty of being so far out of date that it immediately disqualifies them for being taken seriously.

Instead it just shows how settling for something that strives to be no more than just acceptable is not going to win you a lot of fans. It’s better to try and reach up for something out of your grasp and miss than it is to bend low to pick something off the ground that’s within everybody’s reach.

That’s what The Jackson Brothers are guilty of on I’m The Biggest Fool, a song written by Wilfred Jackson which gives the rock fan of the day what they’ve heard elsewhere by dozens of artists and never much cared for, even if it wasn’t anything they’d reject out of hand either.

These types of mournful laments at a sluggish tempo are passé by now, even if they’re still good for one admission into the lonely hearts club of rock. The fact of the matter is, to grab our attention now with something expressing these thoughts you need to ramp up the emotionalism much more rather than trying to hold it in as Billy Henderson does here.

It also doesn’t help that the melodic path the song travels is one that’s already been trod upon by countless others. As a result it doesn’t quite feel altogether fresh to our ears, but rather a variation of something we’ve already experienced.

But that said, the positive signs are still apparent in the arrangement which thankfully manage to steer clear of the pop or light jazz touches that RCA Records were bound to think more appealing if they had their way. Though the horn riff, light piano and guitar accents are hardly asserting themselves as you’d hope, they’re also not adapting the specific touches of other more mainstream genres which would be reason for immediate disqualification on stylistic grounds.

Better still is the fact the song’s lyrics manage to slip in some racy scenes, including his girl ducking out on a church service to go to a place called “Sloppy Joe’s” where she got juiced and “gave all the cats a play”.

Had they included an erotic sax break right then, who knows, it may have climbed back to even par. But while it doesn’t go that far, if nothing else they at least finished the course and made it back to the clubhouse where they’ll get their card signed and can take what they’ve learned and try to do a little better in the next tournament.


Uncle Moses Dropped Dead
Though they’ve now passed the minimum requirement for getting their union membership in the rock ‘n’ roll club of 1952, I’m still not entirely sure what to make of The Jackson Brothers… something that a little more background information would certainly help to get a better read on them.

How old were they now? There seems to be four of them, one just writing the material, two playing and one who sang, but had yet to do so on record. That’s the potential for a pretty wide age range, especially if there were other siblings in between the oldest and youngest. If any were past thirty, we might be a little more cautious about their future prospects than if they were all in their early twenties where – at this time especially – rock ‘n’ roll was bound to come more naturally to them.

Secondly, what was their past musical experience like? When they were signed by RCA had they been playing dinner clubs that would require more a high class repertoire where a song like I’m The Biggest Fool would be just about the boldest type of material they could try, or had they been playing more hole in the wall dives and juke joints where this same song would be the temporary break from the antics on the other half of this record to calm the patrons down a bit before someone was killed?

We don’t know those things – and to be fair, most in 1952 wouldn’t know that either – so all we can do is go by just what we hear and constantly re-evaluate their standing each time a new release comes along.

But even though this side of the record can do little to stir our passion, it’s still doing just enough at least to be curious to hear where they’ll go after this.

Let’s hope it’s Sloppy Joe’s for a real wild night on the town!


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