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APOLLO 1159; APRIL 1950



Despite the fact that The Striders will soon be exiting the building before even taking their coats off, their presence in rock, temporary though it may be, is still crucial when trying to figure out how the perception of authenticity impacted artists when it came to scoring in this realm.

The more overt a vocal group’s pop influences were in the early days of the form the less accepting the music was of their presence, which often times was reciprocated by the group themselves who were probably glad not to be lumped in with such a mongrel style of music.

But when the specific type of pop they’d been more suited to not long before was seeing its popularity wane those same groups may have begun to wish that rock had more of an open door policy than it was showing in 1950.


Why Did My Baby Leave Me?
Though there hasn’t been a whole lot written over the years about The Striders – which is hardly surprising considering the scant amount of records released under their own name (plus a few more when backing female singers such as Savannah Churchill) – the general consensus seems to the that their best effort was Cool Saturday Night.

But I have to admit that was a decidedly difficult record to assess here. Normally the potential score I give these songs might swing one point in either direction while writing them before settling on the final number, but that record was as low as a (2) and as high as a (6) at various stages before finally settling on (4).

Why the wide span of potential scores? Well, because while it featured some excellent singing at times, plus a fairly progressive vocal arrangement when it came to featuring the bass voice, the manner in which it was sung just barely touched upon the most crucial attributes which makes a record qualify as rock ‘n’ roll.

Since rock ‘n’ roll is what we’re analyzing around here and all performances are judged in accordance with meeting those standards I ultimately determined that it couldn’t be accurately termed an “average” rock release even though I’d recommend it a little more strongly if genre classifications were removed entirely.

The point is the barometer simply changes depending on the style. The Mills Brothers, The Four Freshmen, The Kingston Trio and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir would all come up short in rock ‘n’ roll as well and nobody is suggesting they can’t sing.

But because The Striders made an attempt to connect in rock, probably at the behest of Apollo Records rather than their own impetus, and utilized some of the traits that had taken hold over the past few years in their backing vocals, they got included here even if they had virtually no chance at being viewed as anything but the temporary interlopers they were.

Nice guys, nice singers… nice try, thanks for stopping by.

But since records have two sides to them here they are again getting another chance to win us over with Five O’Clock Blues, hoping that it may actually have more raw materials to justify its inclusion in rock even if it’s facing the same uphill battle to be considered anything more than barely adequate.

Run Down To Kay-Cee
With the decidedly square and old-fashioned “Ooooh-Eeee, ooooh-eeee, ooooh-eeee, bottly-bott-aahhh” vocal intro you must think you’ve cued up the wrong record. There’s no way THIS nonsense is suitable for rock no matter how generous we’re being!

Sadly it’s merely another glaring example of their cultural remove from the proper mindset and proof that even if their hearts are in the right place, their souls clearly aren’t.

Yet once that unfortunate introduction fades from your ears Five O’Clock Blues steadies itself ever so much by discarding their attempts at antiquated quasi-hipness and settles into a simpler no-frills approach.

Charles Strider takes the lead vocal on this side according to the label (other sources say it’s Eugene using a lower register) and while not possessing as delicately pristine a voice as Eugene featured on Cool Saturday Night, it is much warmer and more natural sounding. He shows he’s got a nice tone and even a decent knack for rhythm here, something that helps us feel less like outsiders looking through a frosted window at the display and more like we’re expected to join him and take part in the action he’s describing.

That connection with an audience, however tenuous it may be, is one of rock’s defining characteristics and getting that established goes a long way in having you give this more of a chance.

It’s gonna need all the help it can get too, because the lyrics are almost schizophrenic in nature, veering wildly between insipidly bland – “They tell me that the five o’clock leaves ‘bout half past five” – which is good news for those of us who don’t have a train schedule handy, before delving into the casually brutal revelation that he’s searching pawn shops for a gun, not to KILL his estranged girlfriend mind you, but just to throw a scare into her by “sticking her once or twice”.

Umm… okay. He’s obviously dealing with some unresolved anger management issues here, but oddly enough that’s when he sounds most engaged in the song, his voice riding the melody like he was going downhill on a bicycle, just coasting along without a care in the world… which I assume is a sign of psychosis.

Of course reality catches up to him pretty fast, not with any legal retribution, but with the re-appearance of his brothers and friend, the other Striders, who chime in with an outdated wordless gobbledy-gook bridge.

And so it goes!

Tippin’ Down The Street
Obviously none of this is shaping up to be anything more than a mostly harmless attempt (hopefully if you’re the girl that is) at giving us something a little more briskly paced with a theme that might appeal to the immoral riff-raff that makes up the rock audience.

That they missed their mark in both ways, first by not understanding that backing singers in rock vocal groups had to avoid sounding like refugees from another style and era, and then by not understanding that while rock fans may indeed be more lax about proper decorum in interpersonal relationships they generally aren’t a collection of homicidal maniacs. Those unfortunate decisions however only obscure the fact that they weren’t going to be vying for a hit here no matter what choices they made.

Though Five O’Clock Blues can’t overcome its most egregious flaws, it doesn’t do all that badly otherwise. The story itself wraps up pretty well as in the song’s best line he admits that he’s acting tough mostly to mask how much she means to him, which I suppose means she doesn’t have to wear a bullet-proof vest or hire bodyguards when he pulls into town.

His vocals remain convincing enough down the stretch, maybe never quite rising to the point where they’ll stand out but also not sounding as if singing this kind of song was completely alien to him either. He sticks tight to the melody, letting it lead him rather than trying to steer it in some incompatible direction, and even the faux-train sounds the others make behind him work well enough to show their enthusiasm was genuine.

In the end, since no one dies in the attempt, it’s not a record you’ll be bothered much by hearing even if it’s hardly one you’ll gravitate towards either and because it’s more generic than the ballad on the other side it’s doubtful it will stir anyone’s passions regardless of their tolerance for pop-groups masquerading in rock.

My Heart Will Skip A Beat
Of the many groups who tried their hand in rock ‘n’ roll early on only to quickly find it was not to their liking, nor quite as easy to pull off convincingly as it probably appeared to outsiders, The Striders don’t embarrass themselves altogether with either side.

Their incompatibility with the genre itself might be plainly obvious to those who are devoted rock connoisseurs, but you can at least understand how Apollo Records felt that they were worth taking a chance on in an effort to jump on the rock bandwagon before it got too far ahead of them.

That Five O’Clock Blues was so nondescript simply means that Apollo Records will have to keep searching for a more appropriate act for their future attempts while The Striders demurely return to the field where they felt more at ease in.

Rather than be annoyed by their mere presence in the conversation, keep in mind that the fact they tried and failed is further evidence that this was a style of music that was going to reward legitimate rock artists who plied their trade with conviction and that for the most part those who succeeded would do so on merit.

That kind of periodic reassurance is worth the trade off of sifting through a couple of these out-of-their-element misfires along the way.


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