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Footnotes are a vastly underrated component of written history.

These small additions to the main story – sometimes informative, sometimes extraneous, sometimes even irreverent – allow you to understand a subject a little deeper without it breaking up the longer primary narrative of the text.

Around here we probably don’t use footnotes nearly enough, largely because the way people view a web-page means you’d be forced to scroll down, then back up, interrupting your train of thought too much, so we tend to put such side topics in parentheses in the main text which also forces us to keep these detours brief.

But sometimes those ancillary stories are large enough – and important enough – to be given their own page… either the occasional We Interrupt This Broadcast entries, or in the case of this record, its own review.

No need to thank us for being so thorough. In case you haven’t noticed after 1650 reviews spanning just four years of rock history, “thorough” is kinda our main objective here.


My Baby’s Nowhere Around
It’s no coincidence that this record is being slotted on these pages where it is, one spot after The Ravens latest release on OKeh Records.

The reason is you’ll find one singer appearing on both of the songs, Maithe Marshall, the oft-revered high tenor of rock’s first vocal group who had an unfortunate bent towards poppier sounding material.

You’ll notice this record on a different label altogether was put out by The Marshall Brothers. Obviously Maithe Marshall is one of them, but rather than the rest of the group being comprised of his siblings, he’s joined by Phil Shaw, Willis Sanders and ex-Beaver bassist Ray Johnson, none of whom were related to our Maithe in any way shape or form… other than contractually. The Marshall Brothers simply looked better on the label than trying to come up with an original name that would somehow convey to more astute record buyers that one of the most well known voices in rock over the past few years was now fronting a new group.

Yeah, that’s right, THIS was his group now, as Marshall had left The Ravens over the summer of 1951 along with Leonard Puzey and Louis Heyward. The three formed a group called The Hi-Hatters who quickly broke up without recording and the trio returned to the nest in August, cutting another Ravens session.

But that’s as far as Marshall went with them, for while the others stayed put for the time being, Marshall exited again, first as a solo singer for live appearances and then with this group for recording purposes.

They didn’t last long and didn’t do too much to differentiate themselves from The Ravens (surely by design) and so even with the name recognition of Marshall, they’d have warranted nothing more than an historical footnote… if not for the one thing that has a tendency to ensure more long term recognition in music circles.

Christmas songs.

Mr. Santa’s Boogie may never have entered into the popular lexicon of holiday classics, but there aren’t an abundance of early rock Christmas tunes and so just having this to throw into the mix means that The Marshall Brothers aren’t resigned to being a mere footnote on The Ravens chapter in the rock history book after all.


No Fancy Presents
For anyone who’s ignored most of our Ravens critiques over the years here where we praised most of the Jimmy Ricks led rhythm tracks while either panning or flat out skipping over the Maithe Marshall led pop-slanted sides, it probably will be a surprise to encounter this record because we finally get a chance to hear Marshall act like an unmitigated rocker.

For starters he’s shed his delicate high tenor which stayed situated at the far reaches of his range and has dropped down to a more natural sounding tone – not nearly as technically “beautiful” maybe, but earthier and more vibrant.

Equally surprising is the fact that whereas with The Ravens his specialty was ballads, on Mr. Standa’s Boogie he’s got a song where the tempo is brisk, the rhythm is pronounced and the content itself is a lot more lively than his usual paeans to unrequited platonic love.

In fact this is exactly the kind of song that his old pal Jimmy Ricks would’ve done wonders with, but while his voice doesn’t have anywhere near the gravity of Ricky’s bass, nor does he possess the sly undercurrents that came so natural to his former partner, Marshall does show he’s got at least a firm understanding of the requirements to put this across.

Though he’s asking Santa to bring his baby back to him, there’s a spry suggestiveness in his delivery that removes it from the realm of begging and pleading and saying how awful his life will be if she’s with him, and instead acts as if he knows she’ll be there under his Christmas tree waiting to be unwrapped when morning comes.

The other “brothers” are providing the usual bouncy support, their vocals adding to the beat and largely avoiding the pop-contrivances you feared. The musical backing is pretty straightforward with crisp drumming and a decent tenor solo quoting Jingle Bells, but mostly this is Marshall’s show and though he doesn’t turn it into an instant classic, he certainly is getting the job done well enough to feel good about adding this to your Christmas playlist.

When You Come Around
Despite our clear preferences for The Ravens at their most uncaged, and despite the commercial response which mirrors those views in that their Ricky-led rockers scored on the charts while the Marshall led pop ballads fell flat, the fact of the matter is the group were on music’s highest perch when both men were the recognizable frontmen.

Maybe Marshall went over better in live venues, certainly the classier places The Ravens were able to play, and that made him more valuable than the record returns would indicate. Or perhaps his mere presence allowed the group to avoid repetition enough to seem fresher when we did get one of those barreling songs with Jimmy Ricks out in front.

But whatever your opinion on the nature of Marshall’s role within the outfit, what can’t be disputed much is that he served a vital role because his stint with them coincided with their most impactful, influential and successful period. Now that he’s gone The Ravens will struggle to fly to the same heights.

Of course on his own Marshall was nowhere near as alluring to either jukebox denizens, live audiences or record companies – Savoy dropped The Marshall Brothers after two sessions, most which went unissued – which is hardly surprising considering the stale pop stylings on the flip side, Who’ll Be The Fool From Now On.

What becomes clear though listening to Mr. Santa’s Boogie is that it didn’t have to be that way in either role. The Ravens might have felt his ballad work was their best opportunity to offset the racier rock sides, and Marshall himself might have favored the shallower, but classier, material, but it never should have been the only hand he was dealt.

Had he been encouraged to – or allowed to – move into deeper musical waters where the currents are swifter and the ride is rougher, but the connection with the younger audience is greater, then everyone would’ve benefited… The Ravens, Maithe Marshall and us, all of whom want more of this kind of music in our Christmas stockings.


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