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OKEH 6876; MAY 1952



Most people have multi-faceted personalities. Not split personalities, but just varied ones. They can be nice, they can be mean, they can be both patient and impetuous, funny and angry.

But in the public eye sometimes artists tend to present one face and seeing them step outside that image can be jarring.

Those who became accustomed to Andy Griffith’s good-natured humor in the 1960’s on his television show might be shocked to see him credibly playing an evil manipulative character in Elia Kazan’s A Face In The Crowd, maybe his best performance.

Likewise rock fans who’ve been used to The Treniers cracking wise at every turn don’t expect them to act as serious as they do here, but once you get over the surprise it’s not hard to tell they actually did have more going for them than just a way to make you laugh.


Since I Left Home
We probably should start off by saying that simply being good singers with a top notch band but no identifiable style isn’t always worth a heckuva lot.

The Trenier twins were both talented enough to launch their careers singing straight with Jimmie Lunceford back in the 1940’s but they were essentially replaceable with any one – or is with any two – singers of comparable skill, but they made themselves indispensable when they acted up and created a stir on stage with their antics.

But big band swing wasn’t swinging enough for them, at least when it came to providing the ideal platform for acting up, and so when rock ‘n’ roll came along they jumped into that with both feet because it provided the kind of energetic freewheeling music that went well with their manic personalities.

Yet before long that aspect of their personas overwhelmed everything else and as a result songs such as Long Distance Blues became the anomaly rather than the norm.

So the question I guess you’d have is if you eliminated the mayhem in their routines on record and on stage, would they still have been good enough to sustain a career for awhile by sticking just to music.

The answer it turns out is yes, but they wouldn’t have lasted sixty plus years as they did by acting like escapees from a nuthouse.

If you’re among those who wished they’d tone things down, then this is for you, though it turns out they can’t quite stifle those irrepressible grins from start to finish even when they are playing it straight.


Sorry, Still No Answer
The story here doesn’t provide much room for improvisational jokes, over-the-top impressions, wild back and forth routines or even energetic musical interludes during which Cliff and Claude would leap around the stage like their pants were on fire.

Instead it’s a fairly straightforward song about the strains of a relationship marked by physical separation. The lyrics are serious without being despondent, the music – at least to begin with – is jaunty and expectant without veering into farce and Claude’s vocals show a strong bluesy hipness that never seems on the verge of turning it all into one big joke.

As a result all of the parts fit together nicely, the band is restrained, Claude is embodying the character with understated soulfulness and the story is deep enough to make an impression. Though it’s hardly anything to write home about you aren’t going to find many flaws in the formula… other than the fact it isn’t hit material to begin with.

But then midway through Long Distance Blues their showmanship starts to rear its head in a theatrical way that still manages to keep it from simply become a laugh fest.

Following the worst section – a repetitive wordless chant of “day-doh-day-doh-day” signifying absolutely nothing other than its use as a rhythmic device – he gets the response of the operator (surprisingly not Cliff in a falsetto voice as he’d done in the past on other songs, but an actual female takes this role) telling Claude that his girl is not answering the phone.

Here Claude really starts to emote… slowing the pace and injecting even more soulful pathos into his performance, drawing out each line until it’s fraught with despair, not for laughs but merely to convey his genuine concern over her fate.

Has she found somebody new? Been run over by a train? Is she on her way to see HIM perhaps, or has she just stepped out of the house to go shopping? We don’t delve into the myriad of possibilities so there’s no way to tell if he’s just overreacting, but he’s so convincing in his worry that we buy into his fears.

Even so we still keep waiting for them to pull the rug out from under us, yet they never do. It’s an authentic dramatic turn by rock’s biggest madcaps and it’s a fairly good one at that.

Maybe that’s the joke in the end… toying with your expectations and watching from the stage as it sinks in that there’s no punchline waiting for you as it wraps up and they take their bows.


Won’t You Try Once Again?
Since this wasn’t a hit The Treniers weren’t faced with a career decision on whether to abandon their usual tactics in favor of something a little more traditional by nature.

Yet even without any commercial showing, we can see how a song like Long Distance Blues played a more important role in their career than most unheard B-sides would, as this was something that was ideal for catching their breath on stage and giving themselves, the band and the audience a chance to decompress after going balls to the wall during their typical frantic set.

It also may have been helpful for proving to those who came to their gigs only to see them act up that they could in fact sing without the need to break out all of their usual stunts. Because most people there would be expecting things to get out of hand at some point during this, they’d be more likely to remain focused on the song so as not to be caught off guard. As a result they’d have a better chance of really impressing you with their purely musical talents.

That probably wasn’t going to be enough to convert that older audience to take a chance on their records, nor would one song delivered with no frills be enough to win over the younger rock fan who found them too gimmicky, but for those willing to listen with an open mind, at least this shows once and for all that The Treniers were not always assured of playing the class clown.


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