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ALADDIN 205; DECEMBER, 1947

 
 

 

It should come as no surprise that many of the records being issued during first few months of the rock ‘n’ roll era weren’t the result of any conscious attempt to be included in this newfound musical genre when being made months earlier.

How could they be? In some cases they were written and recorded before the first rock release even hit the streets.

So their ultimate classification as early examples of rock are more a matter of happenstance… a case of good timing mixed with some shared stylistic traits that made for a fairly lenient open door policy… at least until the club started really jumping and hired a beefy doorman to keep out the obvious intruders.

When that happened around the corner you’d start seeing many of those early interlopers either head back from whence they came or they’d reassess their musical direction and make the necessary changes to keep up with the new ground rules in the hopes of being allowed in this new cultural hot-spot.

But as with any buzzing nightclub worth its name and reputation the rules for entry for the ladies is always a bit more lax. In the real world this is because girls draw boys to the clubs like flowers to the bee. In music though it might be simply due to the fact that so many genres tend to be male dominated, as rock certainly has been to date and unfortunately would continue to be for years, and so the idea that a female artist might actually be agreeable to being classified among the men is usually reason enough to drop the cover charge, give only a cursory scan of her I.D. and let them in the door.
 

 

Any Old Day And Any Old Time
The recording career of Tina Dixon was fairly short-lived and contained no hits along the way and so into what category her career falls was never a hotly debated topic. Her rediscovery twenty-five years later as the purveyor of smutty comedy records made these early performances as a straight-forward singer in the 1940’s more interesting maybe, but the casual visitor to this site who is coming here because of her 1970’s output in a different realm probably aren’t too concerned with how these records are classified.

Jazz, blues, pop or rock, they’re merely an historical curiosity to them and nothing to get too heavily invested in.

But for us in the rock history business who view her later comedic turn as merely the third act of her life story, a well-earned minor victory lap for simply sticking with show business for such a long time in spite of having so little to show for the years of scraping by, these late 1940’s recordings are the main plot of her career and so their stylistic slot becomes far more important.

If anybody is deserving of having these handful of sides be given an appropriate showcase it’s surely Tina Dixon, someone for whom a cursed fate seemed somehow preordained.

She’d started off in jazz as a singer for Jimmie Lunceford, a major star, yet never appeared on record with him thanks to lengthy recording ban. She may have written one of the biggest hits of the 1940’s (E-Bob-A-Le-Bob) but even that was in dispute and she certainly didn’t reap much in the way of financial rewards or critical accolades for it at the time. She reportedly had a good stage show with her dancer husband Leon Collins but without any surviving footage or even in-depth testimonials to show for it that also merely becomes a footnote in her truncated biography.

Which leaves these, the handful of records she cut two prominent independent labels (Aladdin and King) in 1947 and 1948 respectively, to serve as her musical epitaph. Recorded at the dawn of the rock era they are at times an uneasy fit in the rapidly growing field but they’d be an equally uneasy fit in the fields that rock was in the process of leaving behind as “yesterday’s music” as well.

Since Dixon was never going to be anything more than an afterthought in jazz circles coming along as she did as big band era was winding down, and since blues were even more inhospitable to woman than rock was for her to get any love there, that leaves rock ‘n’ roll for her to carve out a place, however small and insignificant it might be, where she at least will be able to make the Index.

Of course leave it Aladdin to have her listened under a stupid alias even then.
 

I Got Troubles On My Mind
The (hardly defensible) explanation for this ridiculous moniker Dixon gets saddled with here is the likelihood that Aladdin was trying to suggest this might be Billie Holiday, who was known as Lady Day, though not on record. Then there was also Marion Abernathy, nowhere near as revered as Holiday, who had cut some sides as The Blues Woman, and you can see how those two names would be combined and… well, I never said it was a LOGICAL explanation!

In any event it was not only stupid and frankly sort of belittling to Dixon, but it was also shortsighted because even if these sides should meet with strong sales and widespread acclaim she’d be saddled with a name that wasn’t going to ever seem legitimate. This wasn’t some honorific title she’d been given by the press or fellow artists impressed with her abilities, it was simply a crass gimmick thought up as a marketing tool that almost assured she wouldn’t be taken as seriously as she would’ve had it come out under her given name.

This is made all the more disheartening because the flip side of this record, Don’t You Know I Want To Love You, is a startlingly good mood piece that – while atypical for almost any type of commercial hit – was something that might set her apart from the run-of-the-mill female vocalists who were few and far between in rock circles to this point.

Hello Baby! can’t compete with the class and brilliance of that side, but it too has some elements to it that are pretty good and in a field that needed all the women it could get in an attempt to establish the female side of the equation before rock became too closely identified with the male perspective, we’ll take what we can get at this point when it comes to those with an X and a Y chromosome submitting an application to join the club.
 

How Do You Feel Today?
Oh, did we mention her future niche as a sex-themed musical comedienne already? We did, huh? Well, maybe you should go back and re-read that because while none of Hello Baby! is exactly humorous, nor is it meant to be, it is definitely meant to be titillating and even downright racy.

The fact that the song seems so demure on the surface, starting off really slow, almost meandering in its pace before she steps it up ever so much along the way, makes her gradual revealing of her intent all the more rewarding. She comes in sounding sad, her first lines suggesting that all she wants from the guy she’s telling this to is a little understanding and faithfulness. It sounds as if she’s about to cry on his shoulder, hoping he’ll give her some words of encouragement and maybe a reassuring hug.

But Tina Dixon is asking for more than just a hug… or should we say she’s asking for a special KIND of hug.

Except it’s not THIS guy she’s saying she’ll get it from!

With that surprising revelation the plot of Hello Baby! becomes clearer and centers around this couple who are having relationship problems which, if we are to believe her, are the direct result of his fooling around on the side. That would indeed explain the hurt and sadness she initially expresses but rather than plead with him, crying and begging him not to stray, she’s taken a more direct and presumably effective approach by calmly informing him that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, or however that saying goes.

In other words, if you screw around, then I’M gonna screw around too and knowing the male ego it’s pretty clear that he’s not going to view this as a fair trade. The thing about it is once she’s made her intent clear she’s already “won”… that is, if you can call infidelity, a sharing of STD’s and whispers about your illicit conduct around town “winning”.

The reason is that he’s going to be upset by her getting it on with another man far more than she seems to be about his extracurricular activities. She tells him in no uncertain terms that she won’t even have much trouble finding a willing and eager partner because, as she so coyly puts it, ”I make good jelly rolls”.

Just an aside here, if you think that means she’s good in the kitchen you’re a few rooms off in the floor plan of the house.

But where they could’ve taken the raciness up a notch and really made this sizzle with a few more suggestive carnal propositions on her part, they instead try to show her desperation to keep him while at the same time taking some of the onus off the off-color lines that preceded this by turning to humor. Who knows, maybe this is where she got the idea for those later 1970’s albums, but it doesn’t quite work here. The lines themselves aren’t bad, as she informs us that this guy is pretty damn old, taking his teeth out and his wig off before going to bed with her, but while it works okay in isolation it completely upends what came before it.

Rather that suitably heat things up until it boils over, they turn the burners down and let it cool, deflating our enthusiasm rather than providing the… ahh… “proper climax”, lyrically that is.
 

I Want You To Hear What I Got To Say
Though Dixon’s performance is to be admired, the band is merely content to back her in a decidedly no-frills manner that might not make any serious missteps but their apparent nervousness over the theme also causes them to short-change themselves by not matching the lyrical content with the appropriate musical punch.

Not surprisingly the horns are most guilty in this regard, hardly setting the scene properly with their muted trumpet-led mild accompaniment, but as with the flip-side their role here is designed to be modest for the most part. They get a little more prominent as this goes along but they’re keeping out of harm’s way and merely establishing a faint melodic and rhythmic pattern for Dixon to be able to saunter in and strut her stuff.

In that regard it probably didn’t matter who they credited this to – and who knows, maybe their fear of reprisal for the middle section of the record in an era of prudish views on sex in general was why they gave her an alias to hide her identity – but this wasn’t going to become a hit in the mainstream because of the unseemly topic, yet it also wasn’t likely to be a jukebox hit because it didn’t go far enough in its lasciviousness or in its musical posturing.

Maybe they couldn’t be expected to know this would be the case just a few months into rock’s lifespan but this was one style of music where “going TOO far” was a theory just waiting to be broken. In Dixon they had someone who might be more than willing to see how far she could push things but she wouldn’t get many more opportunities.

Far from being merely a peddler of smut though, Hello Baby!, though flawed in some areas, furthered Dixon’s case as someone who was a legitimate vocalist with excellent judgment and touch to go along with a surprisingly light and effective voice. It’s a pity that the industry didn’t allow her to explore either avenue much down the road and by the time she finally did get back on the stage she had little choice but to present it as a joke rather than as something legitimately sexy and sassy.

Rock itself would have to wait almost a year for another female to come along to improve on this prototype and when Chubby Newsom succeeded and got the first national hit by a female rocker in the process Tina Dixon would’ve been entirely justified to feel as if it should’ve been her who had gotten that honor instead.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Tina Dixon for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)