If looked at a certain way, record labels are sort of like hapless single men in the dating world, desperately trying to get some attractive girl to give them the time of day.

Everything they do is wrong of course… cruising bars and bribing women with drinks so they’ll feel compelled to at least talk to them and then flattering them incessantly which is kind of like verbal bribery when you think about it.

Sometimes they go so far as to make the bribes even more unambiguous by bequeathing them with showy gifts like jewelry, clothes or… letting their friends make a record.

Wait a minute, I think we just crossed metaphors here. Oh well, they weren’t gonna sleep with you losers anyway, so get over it.


The Object Of Your Affection
Before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, the sought after girl here isn’t a girl at all, it’s Dave Bartholomew, rock’s top producer, one of its best songwriters and an unparalleled bandleader who happens to have been a free agent during much of 1952 after seemingly half of the big time independent labels had him in their grasp at one point or another over the past few years and somehow let him slip through their fingers.

He started off on DeLuxe where he scored a hit as an artist in 1949 before the label was seized by King Records and he was let go, a causality of that hostile takeover. That was what allowed Bartholomew to take on another, non-performing, role with Imperial Records as their talent scout and producer in New Orleans, in the process singlehandedly leading that company to become major players in rock ‘n’ roll overnight.

A year later their lack of appreciation for his yeoman’s work wound up driving him away and he focused on re-establishing his own performing career, first with Decca and then ironically with King Records, neither of whom seemed to realize that as good as some of his own output was, he was far more valuable in other ways which they largely ignored, not even using his own band behind him.

So in 1952 he was reduced to doing freelance production work, recently getting Aladdin a #2 smash with Shirley & Lee’s debut I’m Gone, while earlier in the year Specialty Records were rewarded when he oversaw Lloyd Price’s #1 hit Lawdy Miss Clawdy for them.

That alone should’ve been enough for Art Rupe to lock him up with an exclusive long-term contract – artist and producer both. Hell, just name him Vice President and give him stock in the company while you’re at it! No cost would’ve been too high for his services.

Instead after the Price disc shot up the charts, Imperial Records, finally realizing their mistake, rectified things by apologizing and giving him back his position and a pay raise as their primary producer. His recording contract with King was in the process of winding down so they couldn’t ink him to an artist deal quite yet, but that was just a matter of time… unless someone else came in and upped the ante, as we saw Mercury do with Johnny Otis last year, snatching him out of a verbal deal he had with Federal with a bigger offer at the last minute.

Specialty Records took a different approach, making their pitch for him with Bouncin’ The Boogie, a single by the newly minted Royal Kings, who were the unnamed sessionists who’d Bartholomew had used for years in the studio and who had great affection for.

It was a gift… a show of faith… a way to try an entice him into the fold in some way… okay, it was a bribe of sorts.

Ultimately it didn’t work, but it was still a good attempt and an even record to boot.

May I Have This Dance?
This is the New Orleans rock sound distilled to two minutes flat, sans vocals.

Considering that rock ‘n’ roll was born and bred in The Crescent City – where it was nurtured by many of the musicians heard here – that should be more than enough to pique your interest. If not, maybe this genre of music isn’t for you after all.

Though he didn’t get label credit, other than as a songwriter, it’s not hard to see how this is prime Dave Bartholomew when it comes to the total package, from the pulsating beat, the engaging riffs and the overlapping arrangement he came up with, probably in just a few minutes on the studio floor before the tapes rolled.

If his contributions weren’t enough of an enticement for listeners, to top it all off this was hands down the best rock band of the Nineteen Fifties and Bouncin’ The Boogie puts their talents on full display at every turn starting with the thunderous one-two punch of Earl Palmer’s drums that don’t even let you ease into the song before knocking you out of the ring altogether.

While you’re picking yourself up before the referee counts ten, the horn section – Dave on trumpet along with Joe Harris on alto and Clarence Ford and Herb Hardesty on tenors – are dancing around the ring waiting to lay some wood on you when you climb back between the ropes.

As the stars clear from your vision, the throbbing bassline of Frank Fields never relents for a second which helps to keep up the appearance that this is a relatively simple and straightforward attack you’ll be asked to weather. But don’t be fooled for a second, for when you start to pay closer attention to each of the horns, and try locating Ernest McLean’s guitar slithering underneath, that’s when you really see how many layers there are to the arrangement and you realize that at any moment you could get hit with a punch you never saw coming and not wake up until a week from Tuesday.

As a result maybe it’s not surprising that Salvadore Doucett on piano is warning you to take a knee but you think you can keep moving long enough to make it to the end of the round. It’s good dance music after all, beat-heavy, rhythmic as hell and with a groove a mile wide.

With a tenor as your dance partner it’s leading you around the floor confidently, riffing and swaying with equal measure as Palmer’s drums keep kicking you in the ass until you’re numb back there. Doucette’s piano solo puts some ice on your posterior as time is winding down, but the accumulated wear and tear on you have you ready to drop anyway and when the bell rings nobody will blame you as you collapse in a heap on the canvas.


Back On Your Feet
Sometimes you wonder if the curious absence of records like this on the charts – compact instrumentals without an obvious hook to get it stuck in your head, but with more than enough power to knock that head off your shoulders all the same – is the fault of the industry, who didn’t quite know how to promote them, or the music fan who didn’t seem to all gravitate towards them simultaneously to make them best sellers as they deserved.

Surely there weren’t many better party records on the market in 1952 than Bouncin’ The Boogie, the only complaint being that it’s too short for its own good, but that only means you’ll get a chance to spin it a second time before your heart rate slows.

Then again, if they kept this pulverizing sound up much longer who knows what destruction they’d wreak.

Still, despite not being a hit, and despite not luring Bartholomew to Specialty full time in some form or fashion, it stands as a testament to what this group of musicians were capable of if turned loose.

Though Bartholomew still gets his rightful due well into this century, the band behind him are not quite as lucky, something which might’ve changed if they’d had a few more releases under The Royal Kings name, or used that on their business cards when seeking session work elsewhere.

We saw what a similarly catchy name did for Motown’s legendary Funk Brothers as well as the West Coast’s best studio musicians in the 1960’s, The Wrecking Crew, both of whom have the lasting name recognition as a result of those monikers to ensure their historical footprint doesn’t go unnoticed.

These guys were just as good and just as prolific and while they don’t get the acclaim because it’s not easy to list them all one by one, the fact is this is probably a better record under their own brief name than either of those two more renowned bands issued under any name down the road.

The sad thing is, whichever label got them all, this record makes it clear that they’d still be vastly underpaid.


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