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KING 4427; FEBRUARY 1951



Over the course of seventy years it’s inevitable that certain things about rock ‘n’ roll, and music presentation in general, have changed.

For one thing back in 1951 records were actual physical things rather than just a term used to describe music releases.

These “records” were flat discs that spun around in circles on some sort of a primitive machine wherein a needle apparently extracted the sounds from said disc and transferred them to speakers… I dunno, it seems like black magic to me but old people swear this actually was no big deal back then.

Another thing that changed over time was in how live shows in the middle of last century took place mostly in small clubs rather than big venues with stadium seating. The shows – at least the top draws – featured a whole slate of performers under the leadership of the star. Johnny Otis had his stable of singers and instrumentalists who thanks to their appearance on records were just as well known as he was (if not more so) and now as of late Joe Morris was doing the same thing to great effect.

Tiny Bradshaw, who like them had come from a different musical background, also had a diverse act with other singers and plenty of heavyweights in his band on stage. The difference was on record few of them ever got a chance to sing… this is one of the exceptions.


I Used To Hold My Baby Tight
During the bulk of his career at King Records when Bradshaw was still an active participant in the recording sessions before health problems took him out of the equation, there was only one studio date in which other singers were featured – June 8, 1950.

Five masters were cut that day, two featuring Mary Lou Greene, both clear pop offerings with the treacly Butterfly featuring her simply adding an obbligato behind Bradshaw’s lead. The other, If You Don’t Love Me Tell Me So, had her singing along with Bradshaw as well as providing another soaring backing with her bright clear soprano.

Clearly those were songs to appease the patrons at the classier joints they played, assuming Greene accompanied them on tour.

But the rock fans who now were their primary constituency were not going to be swayed by that kind of thing and so for them Bradshaw had Dorena Deene take the lead on one song on her own that day, a song she co-wrote in fact, the rather awkwardly titled One, Two, Three Kick Blues which shallowly focuses on the rumba craze that was picking up steam in certain segments of society.

From that information alone you can probably come to the conclusion that it’s not a potential hit in this market, nor was it anything more than a somewhat engaging diversion if done as part of a larger show.

But it’s also not merely a trivial throwaway as Bradshaw and company craft a moderately solid song around the gimmicky idea and let Deene have a chance to shine if only for posterity’s sake.

My Daddy Bought Me Some Rumba Shoes
Just because it’s got a bit more musical integrity than you’d think when glancing at the title and theme, that doesn’t mean it’s not condescending at the same time, particularly in their use of stereotypical accents on the spoken patter that serves as the lead-in which is the only part in which Bradshaw the vocalist appears.

It’s not so much offensive as it is lazy… a shortcut designed to suggest something far more exotic than the simple percussive rhythm swipes could convey by themselves.

However that being said those rhythmic accents Calvin Shields provides on his drums along with Jimmy Robinson’s hyperactive piano are captivating enough to hold your interest and set up One, Two, Three Kick Blues in strong fashion even if we know that what is to come won’t quite live up to our expectations.

Deene gets us off to a pretty good start herself though as she’s got a nice voice and a confident delivery, selling this with plenty of character in addition to her firm handle on the rhythmic qualities that form the bedrock of the song itself.

If that song had done away with the whole rumba nonsense and stuck to the more sensible plot that surrounds it this might’ve really worked well. The gist of the story is a romantic break up caused by her boyfriend’s obsession with the dance. As long as that’s being just vaguely insinuated in the verses things go smoothly for the song, but when they try artificially tying it together during the chorus which plays up the rumba with the silly title line acting as the supposed hook it can’t help but sounding contrived.

Granted relationships fizzle over all sorts of inane reasons in real life and surely a guy who is like a drill instructor trying to get his girlfriend to practice dance steps day and night would be more than enough for any sensible girl to “head back to Newport News”. But as a song it never quite works because we can see the seams blatantly showing.

Where I Can Lose These Rumba Blues
You get the sense that this was one of those ideas where a song was made to order rather than evolving naturally.

Either Bradshaw was playing around with a funky rumba rhythm they all liked and he enlisted Deene to come up with a story to fit it and she took the assignment a bit too literally, or she had the outline of a decent song about a frustrating break-up and awkwardly used the rumba device as the reason behind the split which enabled Bradshaw to develop a fairly catchy track to suit it.

But break-up songs in general need to have some actual pathos to them, far more than One, Two, Three Kick Blues possesses anyway… some organic way for audiences to connect with the character’s plight, and being run ragged by a dance-happy partner is hardly a universal complaint among the recently single.

Maybe if the chorus itself was stronger, even if it insisted on using the rumba excuse to explain the rift, this had a chance to be pretty good. Not a hit or anything, but the melody is certainly solid enough and Deene’s performance (outside of the clunky chorus that does her no favors) has you wishing she was able to cut a lot more records to see how she might evolve.

Aside from a trumpet taking the part that would’ve been better served by a saxophone the band is decent in their roles too, but when you get right down to it the fact they conceived it as a novelty about a dance rather than as a song that merely had the dance rhythms as a musical undercurrent, or at the very most a minor plot device as opposed to the entire point of the tune, means that your patience will wear thin before the record ends.


That Man Of Mine
As a change of pace in Bradshaw’s releases, plus the introduction – but sadly the only appearance – of Dorena Deene on record, this is definitely welcome in his canon, but ultimately it falls a little short as a record due to conceptual issues.

The gimmicky nature of One, Two, Three Kick Blues is more of a pop music trait than one rock fans would embrace and while the music might satisfy the latter to a degree it’s not exactly pushing the envelope in any way that might serve to win them over completely.

But considering that Bradshaw’s recent output as a singer features him whooping it up as a wild party animal backed by pedal-to-the-floor rowdiness by the band and every so often tossing in a strained pop ballad to balance things out, we know that on stage he’d need something else to sort of transition from one extreme to the other while also giving his tonsils a chance to rest. So in that setting more than on record, this would probably fit the bill.

Of course knowing the irrepressible Bradshaw, instead of taking it easy for a few minutes backstage while Deene performed her song, Tiny would probably be doing the rumba on the dance floor with three women at a time, grinning from ear to ear and having the time of his life.

Oh well, everybody’s got to have a hobby.


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