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FEDERAL 12064; MARCH 1952

 
 

 

In the Twenty-First Century it has almost become uncommon for hit singles to NOT feature a second unaffiliated vocalist singing, or more often rapping, a bridge.

While these guest spots may be relied on to lift a track a little too much at times, the idea itself is a good one from both an aesthetic and commercial point of view in that it brings a different feel to every song and it has the potential to pique the interest of someone who may not be familiar with one or the other of the featured performers, thereby possibly giving one of them some new fans.

Though it’s a relatively recent phenomenon to be as widespread as it’s become, this practice actually got it start in rock just a few years after the genre’s sprang into existence with this otherwise innocuous B-side of a vocal group’s debut single, thereby proving the adage “There’s nothing new under the sun”.
 

 

Please Don’t Break It
Okay, let’s be honest. This is more or less a throwaway track to begin with so the “experimental” nature of it – if that’s what we really want to call this – had a lot less riding on it than otherwise would’ve been the case had circumstances been different.

We touched upon this topic with the classic top side of the record, Every Beat Of My Heart, the song which Johnny Otis, who discovered the group and brought them to Federal, had written for them, as we recounted that they needed to push up their first session from February to early January because group member Lawson Smith was going into the service in a matter of days.

Because of this they may not have had the time to fully work out their repertoire and All Night Long sounds like something that’s almost off-the-cuff… not that it was necessarily. The group’s guitarist and primary arranger Alonzo Tucker wrote it, but WHEN he did, whether that same day or two months earlier, isn’t known.

He would go on to be more widely known for writing a bunch of hits for Jackie Wilson down the road so it’s not like he wasn’t capable of coming up with something really good, but this is more of a rough sketch than a full blown architectural plan.

So that may explain why when they were cutting it in the studio they were having trouble with the bridge and when Wynonie Harris, who was there to accost the secretaries or to ask Syd Nathan for an advance on his bail money for a future offense, heard their troubles he stepped in to lend a hand.

If you ever dreamed of hearing a bellowing solo singer try and fit into a close harmony group, here’s your chance.
 


 

Let’s Rock It!
Give them credit for this much… they sure weren’t trying to keep this as subdued as the other side, smartly avoiding doubling up on the same approach, especially since it was unlikely they’d find a ballad to hold its own against the top half anyway.

On paper there’s not a whole lot here, as it’s got simply a rough thematic outline – sex under the guise of musical euphemisms – but when you have someone eminently qualified to serve as a guest lecturer on that subject, what more do you really need?

The song starts off with a galloping piano rhythm played by Sarah McLawler while The Royals sing in unison… sometimes more of a chant really… while bass singer Sonny Woods adds replies. There’s no solo vocal anywhere to be found in All Night Long… within the group that is.

There was supposed to be one, but Charles Sutton, their lead singer, was having trouble getting the bridge down. The problem could be, as he himself suggested years later when looking back at it, that he couldn’t find his rhythm since he was much more comfortable at this point singing ballads. Okay, that’s understandable maybe.

It also could be the song had been hastily written and just got completed as the tapes began to roll and therefore the contents weren’t up to snuff, because when Harris elbowed Sutton out of the way and took his place, he seemed to ad-lib his lines. But since Harris was used to that sort of thing, and since the topic at hand was one he knew so well from personal experience, it works out just fine in the end.

Now granted, a lot of this is the joy of hearing something so unexpected. Even if if you did know it was coming however the juxtaposition of Harris’s whiskey soaked vocals blending with, yet standing out among, The Royals more refined technique makes for a perfect contrast.

Furthermore, these kinds of bawdy lines suggesting a woman come to his room for a kinky tryst are exactly the kind of thing we expect out of Harris, so why wouldn’t he be the ideal choice to deliver them? Though The Royals are barreling along admirably, Harris’s presence still manages to lifts the record’s energy because of his horny enthusiasm, not to mention elevating its star power and in the process gives the whole thing far more character than it would’ve had if Sutton been able to handle those lines instead.

It’s still not much of a song as written mind you, as it never really expands on its premise. In fact of the four primary participants The Royals themselves are comparatively the weakest aspect, taking a back seat to McLawler whose extended piano break at least puts some colorful ideas in your head.

But the defining image of the record remains that eleven second interlude by Wynonie Harris which is more than enough to make up for any other shortcomings and shows, even way back in 1952, how galvanizing a different artist’s sudden appearance in a song can be.
 


 

Gimme The Key, Let’s Lock The Door
Though this site’s age demographics are remarkably broad, at least based on the information volunteered by readers themselves, as well as the popularity of those coming to it through college search engines, there’s bound to be a lot of crotchety old timers here to relive the music of their youth who insist with a crazed look on their faces while foaming at the mouth that no new forms of rock ‘n’ roll (by which some of them surely mean anything from The British Invasion on), but especially hip-hop, is worthy of respect, let alone adoration.

Well, fortunately for them it’s doubtful they’ll still be here when we get to it, but it’s still interesting to ponder what those who scoff at such “gimmicks” as having Cardi B. or Lil’ Baby appear on a track are thinking when they’re forced to wrap their head around Wynonie Harris doing the same thing on All Night Long.

A good idea is a good idea, whether in 1952 or 2023 and while your milage may vary when it comes to which are carried out most effectively, the concept itself has been proven to work since the beginning.

Of course my guess is that if Charles Sutton came into Harris’s session and tried jumping in to sing the bridge for one of his songs as a thank you for helping The Royals out in their time of need, Wynonie would’ve coldcocked him and kept right on singing it himself.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of The Royals for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)