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Before rock ‘n’ roll fully took over the musical landscape you tended to be able to define any given year by just a handful of songs.

Okay, that doesn’t seem TOO different from the rock era you may be saying, but notice I said “songs”, not “records”.

The difference is in the pre-rock days as well as the early rock era, the years were dominated by multiple versions of a few specific songs. In other words, not just one artist’s rendition, but numerous hit records featuring the exact same song by a number of big name acts.

Rock generally did away with this trend because it was a music that valued individuality and authentic artistic expression (such as it was) more than previous forms of music, but in 1951 there was one very notable exception to that rule.

This rather non-descript song, which today is seeing its fifth appearance in one form or another on these pages.


Talk For You
Since we’ve already covered this composition so many times there’s really not much more to say about it other than posing a rather obvious question…

Why THIS song?

In its original form by Paul Gayten way back in 1948 its unique structure stood out and was a good performance but hardly anything beyond that.

Virtually every single act who got in on it since then, with the exception of fellow New Orleans artist Professor Longhair, who was the next to cut it, but only had it released following the ensuing onslaught of versions cut this past summer, followed Gayten’s quirky arrangement – and improved upon it at that.

Everyone else however, from rockers Billy Wright and The Larks to pop-leaning acts like The John Godfrey Trio, overhauled it radically from those origins, keeping some of the lyrics and the basic melody but little of its off-the-wall rhythms that was its most distinctive attribute in the original.

But while Hey Little Girl was a decent enough song in any rendition, it was hardly anything special as written. A verbal come-on to a girl we never do get to meet using lines that were unambiguous but certainly not overtly crude, cute or clever.

In other words with all of the rock songs out there to cover, songs with better melodies for accomplished vocalists to want to take a crack at, or songs with far more detailed stories for singers who fancied themselves a virtuoso actor to have them eager to show off their wares, this is the one they chose?

It doesn’t compute.

Then again, in the pop world when a song immediately gets pounced on by countless artists that’s when every label jumps on board, not wanting to be left out of the sweepstakes for a hit which usually amounts to much ado about nothing when all is said and done.

That might wind up being the case with this song as well. A popular tune to cover, but one that was not popular enough with the audience to make it worth anyone’s while… something The Treniers were simply the latest to find out.

Wants To Settle Down
One thing has been all but certain in the career of The Treniers – when they took on a song they rarely approached it straight. Virtually everything they did they came at from odd angles to take advantage of their reputation for humor and vocal antics.

Every song that is but THIS one, which they handle about as plainly as possible.

Not that they weren’t good singers when adapting straightforward deliveries, but they were at their best when they were cutting up, singing as if their pants were on fire and acting as unhinged as possible. Even so their records, at least to this point, hadn’t contained enough of those attributes which had made them such big hits on stages for years and with the litany of versions of Hey Little Girl to compete with, if ever there was a time to take a bigger risk and go over the top, this was surely it.

Furthermore this already had the built-in apparatuses in place for verbal exaggeration and musical mayhem which would present a far different experience for audiences who must already be growing weary of hearing variations on a theme. If anything the sheer amount of covers on the market would make it ideal for sending up in outrageous fashion, making fun of the song’s ubiquity in addition to the content itself which was ripe for humor.

We already know Cliff Trenier had experience playing the female role on record and so you had the opportunity to let him respond to being hit on by Claude who could deliver his lines with far more comical lechery than the other versions had done without really needing to change a single line.

Instead they play it completely straight, singing well enough but treating it more like a glorified lounge performance… you know the one, that mid-second set number where they take a currently popular song to give the patrons something more familiar than material from their own catalog.

As a result this is more of a curious record than anything else. Yes, it proves they can sing with a slightly soulful bent, but it’s not something that really stands out. Even the arrangement is shockingly discreet, although fairly nice with some good intermittent sax work by Don Hill whose alto always provides a really glassy sound which is a good contrast to the more earthy tenor, but that approach doesn’t add a really distinctive element to the record either, just more of a slight wrinkle at best.

In the end we don’t get anything bad, but we also don’t get anything particularly interesting… only irrelevant.


I Hate To Walk Alone
For artists with long recording careers there’s always going to be singles that don’t make much of an impression. Not every song is a potential hit and you could do far worse than having something as tolerable as this as one of the misses.

While we can dismiss it out of hand for following the uninspired cover record course and bemoan the fact that not even rock ‘n’ roll was fully immune from this trend, what makes this version of Hey Little Girl a let down isn’t what’s IN the performance, but rather what’s left out.

It’s a missed opportunity by a group who still desperately needed to create a distinctive image – or at least transfer their on stage persona to record – and build a connection with the record buying public based on that.

This was their chance, not only because the song itself had possibilities they could play up, but also because they weren’t risking much by doing so… after all, with so many to choose from you have to get noticed somehow.

Instead The Treniers mailed it in with an unimaginative reading… a capable performance maybe, but utterly bland, which for a group who was usually anything BUT bland winds up being an even bigger sin than hopping on the cover record trend in the first place.


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

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Paul Gayten (January, 1948)
Billy Wright (July, 1951)
The Larks (August, 1951)
Professor Longhair (September, 1951)