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After years of being a popular stage attraction with little success on record, things seemed to be looking up for The Treniers when they signed with the newly revived Columbia subsidiary OKeh Records in the spring of 1951.

The label had the full support of the powerful major company with high production standards and no shortage of advertising dollars or distribution, yet still would be run independently with little or no interference in what they were putting out, thereby eliminating the risk it’d have to conform to the outdated and musically conservative prejudices of Columbia’s brain trust.

It seemed to pay off immediately as The Treniers scored their first chart hit with their debut but beyond that there were already some troubling signs. Normally just two singles is hardly enough of a sample size to come to a definitive conclusion on their long term prospects, but it doesn’t look promising when three of the four released sides would’ve been better left on the shelf.


Don’t Waste Your Time
I know, I know, we just gave a respectable “average” score for the top side of this, their second single, Hey Little Girl and said it was well sung by Cliff and Claude Trenier with some nice sax work by Don Hill thrown in to boot.

But we also called it irrelevant and uninspired and since it was doing little more than hopping on the cover bandwagon for the song – and bringing no unique characteristics to their version in the process – it was kind of a wasted opportunity for the guys to establish their identity to the biggest audience they’d likely get.

After all, follow-up singles to hits were often the most important records of a rising act’s career, a chance to show the last time out wasn’t a fluke and that you could be assured of getting more great music if you stuck with them for the long haul.

Instead they released a laid back cover song that revealed absolutely nothing about their band’s crazed musical persona on one side, and on the other… they put out Old Women Blues, a lackluster song veering uncomfortably towards nightclub blues, an uptown style that was rapidly declining in popularity and was hardly an important facet of their act to begin with.

What OKeh Records was thinking with this material is a mystery. It was not what The Treniers did so well on stage, not what got them signed to the label, not what gave them their hit and certainly not the direction that music overall was headed commercially.

Other than that however it’s ideal.

Ain’t Got No Dough
Nothing about this record shows the Trenier twins in a particularly good light, starting with a painfully yodeled intro… it’s not really yodeling in the strictest sense of the word, more like the sound of having your appendix out while still conscious and as such this not a sound one is used to encountering on a commercially released non-comedy record. In case you were wondering, no it definitely wasn’t being “sung” for laughs either.

It gets better from there, though admittedly it’d be hard to get much worse, but the real question with Old Women Blues revolves around the writing credits… Cliff and Claude Trenier.


The fact they wrote it themselves means we can’t criticize the label for not understanding The Treniers basic raison d’etre… and truthfully it calls into question whether they even understood what made them such an intriguing group.

Yes they were good singers when they tackled things straight, but on this it’s sort of pitched halfway between smooth and cracked with the basic premise being that older women are better because they’ve got money. Not a bad set-up for some humor, which so much of their shtick revolved around, but the pace is SO slow that even the best joke wouldn’t go over well… not that they really try.

Instead it’s more of a dry advice column borne out of experience that is fairly tedious and the few attempts to lighten the somber mood are done via annoying vocal tics rather than good writing.

The sax accompaniment by Don Hill manages to keep it on track musically, as his sparse lines are lending the right atmospheric touch, but because there’s so little else going on it’s really a slog to get through.

Now that’s not to say that there’s not room in music for songs like this, but it’s not what The Treniers excel at. They’re at their best when bouncing off walls and surely this was written in response to that image… maybe they just didn’t want to get pigeon holed, for as we all know record companies tend to want you to repeat a winning formula until you’ve drained it dry and by offering up different stylistic approaches you give yourself more options going forward, not to mention making night after night of stage shows a lot more varied. So their reasons for this were surely genuine and artistically valid.

But as a record… it just doesn’t float. Competent at best, a chore at worst.

I Think You Oughta Know
So far The Treniers are shaping up to be rather disappointing for a group who’d actually leave a mark on rock history. Granted that mark was mostly made through their live act but you’d think they’d be able to make a decent showing on record by this point.

Yet here we are heading down the stretch in 1951 and they’ve got little to show for it, one minor hit, which was also their best record aesthetically, but they’ve shown no real direction in their work, something Old Women Blues does nothing to rectify.

Atypical B-sides are fine for ensuring a diverse musical catalog but when it comes on the back of an atypical A-side that’s hardly a recipe for success. While they’re probably safe from too much scrutiny on a new label after giving them their first hit, that free pass won’t last long if the surprisingly effective roster OKeh is building starts cashing in on their promise soon.

The sad part of their lackluster showing so far is that all of the pieces they need are firmly in place. The brothers could sing fine, they were consummate showmen and the band led by pianist Gene Gilbeaux and sax ace Don Hill was first rate. On top of that they had a genuine affinity for rock ‘n’ roll yet had enough experience in different styles to bring other elements to the table if the need arose.

This however was not the direction to be headed at this point, coming off a rousing hit and looking to fully establish their niche in rock.

Sometimes really good artists are the victim of bad luck, bad timing or bad deals… other times they victimize themselves with bad decisions.

The Treniers are falling into the latter category in ways that are all too easy to see and you merely hope that they, or someone around them, can see it too and point them in the right direction before it’s too late.


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