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KING 4376; JUNE 1950

 
 

 

Dancing is a natural form of human expression that was immediately corrupted by those same humans who attempted to make it far less natural by laying down rules to follow in the form of specific dance steps.

This strange dynamic of formalizing an informal act was for years… centuries even… the dominant manifestation of the act of dancing itself. You danced waltzes to music designed specifically in waltz-time. Whenever a new rhythm came along it would invariably spawn a new dance created just for that music, like the cha-cha.

But no matter the kind of music we’re talking about, and whatever kinds of dancing accompanied it, there was always an awkward formal association between the two that betrayed the sense of utter abandon that natural uninhibited dancing truly celebrated.

For a long time rock ‘n’ roll – one of the more naturally uninhibited types of music to come into being – followed suit in this regard, trying to create dances to tie in with the music… or in many cases to try and compose music to sell a particular dance like it was a box of cereal on the grocer’s shelf.
 

 

Here’s A Dance That You Can Do
Years before twerking became a phenomenon there was the booty green, a style of dance that was immensely popular in the black community that involved gyrating around, specifically working those hips – and by extension the part of the body that held those two hips together as it were – called… well… let’s be up front about it… the booty.

As dances went it was certainly much less formal than the box step and was in many ways the original precursor (with apologies to the more famous Charleston from the 1920’s) to the style of dance that really rose to prominence in the rock era wherein individual expression was more important than working in tandem with your dance partner.

But seeing as how we’re still at the midway point of the Twentieth Century and dances had a firmly entrenched conventional image to uphold there were still efforts to get any type of free-form moves to conform to something more rigid.

Call it mass produced frivolity if you want and as with anything coming off an assembly line there needs to be a way to market it and when it came to dancing that meant music… records specifically… which sold the dance as a pre-packaged confection.

You can certainly argue that songs like Boodie Green (the spelling changed to distance itself somewhat from the anatomical reference that gave the dance itself its name) were in many ways a perversion of the original spirit of the dance, after all, the more structure there is to the dance the less the dance reflects the sexual freedom that gave birth to it in the first place. As a result this is far less accurate a depiction of the dance than it claims to be.

But maybe in the long run the creation of records like this, watered down though they were, served some marginal good… for how else would people in the Twenty-First Century know that they were not the first to shake their ass to music for fun?
 

All You Got To Do Is Follow Me
Though Tiny Bradshaw was nearing fifty years old he was in many ways the most youthful spirit of all rock acts in 1950, an ebullient bandleader who’d been seemingly waiting his entire life for something as freewheeling as rock ‘n’ roll to arrive so he could drop his pretensions and have a blast playing music without fear of offending those paying to see him or buy his records.

It was still a work in progress though, for just because you have the right attitude and outlook doesn’t necessarily mean you can instantly transform yourself into the paragon of musical anarchy… and so that meant he was still cutting pop-slanted treacle like After You’ve Gone on the flip-side of this single.

But more than most releases in his career to this point, this record was going to be key in establishing him to his desired audience, for two months earlier he’d scored his biggest hit with the frantic rocker Well, Oh Well, and in order to show it was not some fluke he had to follow it up with something aimed at the same audience in a way that left absolutely no doubt it was intended for their sensibilities.

Thus, as a subject anyway, Boodie Green fit the bill, as it was a dance that was hardly being done in upper class society circles.

However well-meaning his intent was though the contents of the record undercut his devotion to rock ‘n’ roll by making the crucial mistake of using a far too orderly musical concept with which to promote this lewd dance, thereby creating a rift that not even Bradshaw’s legendary enthusiasm can manage to overcome.
 


 
 

A Great Big Bump
For starters there’s a clear – and unbridgeable – musical disconnect between the record which is touting this dance and the sawdust strewn floors of the roadhouses people were doing it on.

The horns that open this, both their playing style and their harmonic structure, are decidedly out of date. This is a schooled musical approach that immediately betrays the subject matter and even the appearance of some cracking drum work in between the lines can’t convince you that this is going to be authentic.

When Bradshaw comes into view he’s sounding noticeably tamer than he has in the past when his hell-bent vocals were refreshingly wild and untutored and gave the impression that the entire production was out of control.

But on Boodie Green, a record where such an approach would be entirely fitting, he’s restrained and almost professorial as he sets out to instruct novices in the listening audience just how to perform an act which should need absolutely no step-by-step guide for those in the right frame of mind.

Part history lesson, part tutorial, none of this manages to ring true.

Whether or not it came from New Orleans as he claims is beside the point (if it did, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising, every other musical invention of note seems to have come from there after all) for the real misleading claims he’s making have nothing to do with WHAT he’s saying, but rather HOW he’s saying it.

Bradshaw is preternaturally calm instead of being worked up as this demands. He’s exceedingly well-mannered rather than salacious. In fact he’s the model of decorum, not the lecherous wild-eyed horn-dog lustily salivating over the shapely bodies jiggling around the floor that would make this record come to life… and possibly get it banned.

But while his restraint may have some sensible commercial motives, it also is commercial suicide because those people actually familiar with the booty green dance are going to be wildly disappointed when hearing him treat this like a lesson straight from the Arthur Murray Dance Studios.

Not only do the lyrics whitewash the carnal lust, but the music that accompanies it doesn’t seem remotely suitable to actually DANCING the booty green. If you tried to shake and shimmy to this modest tempo and lack of rhythm you wouldn’t even get your dress wrinkled. About the best you could come up to with this would be to sashay around the floor, not to make those floorboards creak with the constant movement the real dance would lead to.

Even the horn break, the one area you think that Bradshaw will be able to shake free of the self-imposed censorship without fear of reprisal winds up being more smoke than fire, the initial alto spotlight being so mild you can actually make out each note the bass player plucks behind him. When the tenor jumps in things get a little hotter, but aside from a few atonal squeals there’s nothing that conveys any sense of anarchy.

In other words, if you tried to dance to this your foot might fall asleep from lack of circulation because you’re not moving enough…. hardly the best advertisement for dancing, or Bradshaw’s rock career for that matter.
 

Going To Town
Despite his good intentions in celebrating something seen by mainstream outlets as disreputable Bradshaw’s long musical background in more traditional styles were subverting his better instincts as a promoter of this more uninhibited brand of mayhem.

It wasn’t just the poorly chosen – and wildly inappropriate – musical structure of the song itself that was at fault, it was the concept of trying to use a record to describe something that was visual by nature.

The information you’d glean from listening to Boodie Green would give you no greater insight to the dance, or the people who DID the dance, than you had before hearing it and if anything taking this at face value would completely distort the truth until it became all but unrecognizable.

In most cases we don’t ask that records be accurate chronicles of world events. We know that lyrics are crafted for maximum emotional impact, that situations are exaggerated to add color to stories and that being “singable” is far more important than being historically precise.

But when it comes to trying to promote – and preserve – a cultural movement from a culture that had very little recognition from those usually responsible for codifying such things for posterity, that’s when it becomes imperative that you do it right.

By failing to do so Tiny Bradshaw deservedly didn’t get a hit out of this record, but more disturbingly he did a disservice to those who he was attempting to shine a light on.

The lessons to be learned in all of this is that it’s better to show the truth about such things and let history be the ultimate judge as to its worth… just as it’s better to tell the overly conservative public to kiss your ass when they get on you for shaking that ass in public.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VEREDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Tiny Bradshaw for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)