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OKEH 6876; MAY 1952



Maybe it’s only appropriate that a group that had its roots in the swing era, even though they were largely disruptive in that setting, would be singing about a brand of alcoholic elixir which enjoyed its peak in the previous decade and was just a year away from ruin as authorities cracked down on the so-called medicinal value of hooch with a few vitamins thrown in.

But that’s the story of The Treniers in a nutshell… enthusiastic visionaries who – like Dudley LeBlanc, the creator of Hadacol itself – was a master of self-promotion touting something that led to uninhibited frivolity but in the end was not nearly as potent as it appeared.

The story of mid-Twentieth Century America however wouldn’t be quite as interesting without either one of them.


The Fool Got High
We’ve already covered in depth the wild story of “Professor” LeBlanc and his questionable invention which was designed to sidestep the widespread ban on alcohol sales in many “dry counties” down South, as Hadacol was advertised as a catch-all curative elixir with Vitamin B, Iron and Niacin that just so happened to be laced with 12% alcohol for its “preservative” qualities.

For those seeking details on the profitable scam look no further than the first rock song to use this as a topic, Little Willie Littlefield’s 1949 regional hit Drinkin’ Hadacol.

Since then two other artists, Professor Longhair and Joe Lutcher, had delved into the subject as well, but we haven’t taken a nip of this nasty stuff since the end of 1950 and with its sales plummeting as LeBlanc faced lawsuits over its misleading claims, the concoction was quickly fading into memory by mid-1952.

It did however still have an immediately recognizable name and image that made it ripe for making fun of in song and nobody in rock was more intent on finding potentially fun topics as The Treniers who more or less deliver the final word on the short-lived phenomenon in Hadacole That’s All.

We’re not quite sure if the misspelled title was to avoid being dragged into any court case, be it as accomplices of LeBlanc for pitching this swill, or being charged by LeBlanc himself for copyright infringement, but however you spell it, the end result is going to be the same… a lot of noise and a lot of action for something that’ll get you buzzed but might not be enough to get you really drunk, which in rock ‘n’ roll is sort of the whole point.


Have A Real Gone Ball
The biggest strength of The Treniers historically is also their biggest problem when it comes to being fully embraced by the rock community.

They were what you’d call a “rock ‘n’ roll show band”, a group that was the only one of its kind. The forged the mold and then broke it, a club act that purposefully didn’t conform to the usual club rules.

Whereas a group like The Ray-O-Vacs could slip rock sensibilities into their material around the edges, they usually kept those attributes from overwhelming their performance so as not to upset, offend or frighten off the typical adult club-goers at the places they earned their living.

The Treniers on the other hand accentuated those attributes, then exaggerated them until they had ceased to have the same meaning. They certainly played more authentic rock ‘n’ roll than most groups that made their living in the nightclub scene, but in order to do so they distorted it, made fun of it in a way, even as they actually embraced its musical truths.

All of that is evident on Hadacole That’s All, a record which in many ways is pushing the limits on decorum by perverting nursery rhymes for their own sinister purposes while framing it in some of the most extreme musical attributes you can find… yet because it’s The Treniers you aren’t inclined to take it seriously which takes the onus off it.

The concept behind the song itself is as old as time and is merely a musical version of the dirty limerick tradition as The Treniers plunder Mother Goose and switch out the punchlines in nursery rhymes with testimonials about drinking Hadacol as a solution to the dire problems facing mothers with too many kids, and big fat talking eggs sitting on walls with nothing to do.

In that regard it’s not very inventive, but it’s still pretty enjoyable, especially with the sheer demented glee they sing it with. Claude Trenier manages to sound serious enough as he describes their plight, yet seamlessly transforms himself into the Devil incarnate midway through each stanza, goading the listener into finding these tales to be not just something to see the humor in from a detached perspective, but to actually want to jump in and join them in the debauchery.

Meanwhile Don Hill shows why the alto sax was still good for something in rock besides taking up space on the bandstand as he unleashes a torrid solo that after a fairly ordinary start manages to pierce the sound barrier with a squealing held note that might just cave in your eardrums.

It’s gaudy, non-musical and yet completely appropriate for these kind of drunken hijinks.

Which brings us back to the problem we started with… are we, the listener, being patronized and played for fools, or are The Treniers really who they claim to be here and drinking just as heavily as we are, sure to be sprawled on the floor next to us come morning, passed out and feeling no pain?

Your answer goes a long way into how much, or how little, you appreciate this record.

Those who buy into the routine as being legitimate will find this every bit as decedent as their own late night romps where the music provides a suitable backdrop to various crimes and misdemeanors in the name of rock ‘n’ roll.

But those who see them as instigators who are looking to get non-rock fans to feel a part of the fun without selling their souls to do so will instinctively pull back, afraid that their own genuine affection for such ribald activities is being gently mocked by a band who are smiling all the way to the bank.


Gonna Tell You Something, It’s For Your Good, You See
So which are we? What side of the line do we fall on with something like this?

Well, normally we’re in the first group, the drunken true believers in the music for whom life is an endless party and any excuse to get high on the effects of rock ‘n’ roll – and any accompanying liquid stimulants – is one to be celebrated.

Hadacole That’s All does just that if you’re in the frame of mind to take it at face value. It’s a defiant sneer at straitlaced society, urging on your most uncivilized instincts to take hold, throwing caution and inhibition to the wind in search of a good time.

But knowing who The Treniers are, seeing their success at giving those in the penthouses glimpses into the alley without soiling their shoes in the process, we’d think differently. In that case we wouldn’t fully trust them, no matter how effective they are at playing their parts.

Even the use of Hadacol – already outdated, but something the older gentry will understand – shows they’re playing to an image, successful minstrels using the stuck-up audience’s prejudices to their advantage in presenting something that will allow those listeners to feel superior to us, yet at the same time giving them permission to wallow in the mire with those of us who actually prefer it there because it doesn’t reek of pretention.

Whichever way we lean we’re going to have reservations… quite the dilemma since this might just be their best sounding record.

The thing is though, The Treniers do BOTH of these things exceptionally well within the same performance, allowing either side to take from it what they want. On one hand it shows why they could never be leaders in the rock field… they were just too self-aware and saw the benefits of exploitation… yet it also shows why they were never kicked out of rock ‘n’ roll despite their double-agent credentials, because when they wanted they could rock just as effectively as the best acts in the business.


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