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KING 4447; APRIL 1951



Though they didn’t quite realize it when the genre got off the ground in 1947, rock ‘n’ roll needed someone like Tiny Bradshaw in in its ranks.

Not because he’d already seen all there was to see in a recording career that had begun thirteen years before he’d even cut his first rock record, but instead they needed him because he was such a inveterate showman… someone who over the years had learned one lesson above all else, people paying you to perform music want to be entertained first and foremost.

Though he was a successful songwriter even before rock came around and a top notch bandleader and even a somewhat engaging singer throughout his career, he was above all else a first rate entertainer and rock needed to be reminded of just how important that was in making this music connect with audiences who were now more than half his age.


Everybody There Had A Real Good Time
Nobody in rock’s first half dozen years was more enthusiastic about their job, at least on record, than Tiny Bradshaw, who sounded almost as if he were cartoon character the way he put across a song, yelping, bellowing and wailing away without a care in the world.

There was a joy in everything he sang and though it may have taken the rock industry a few years to realize that he was somebody who could sell songs… hell, somebody who could sell the entire style itself to skeptical non-believers… once he got a second chance with King Records in 1950 he never looked back.

True, his approach was rather limited, his best music was almost formulaic – uptempo horn-driven romps featuring solid rhythm sections allowing him to sing about the kind of freewheeling house parties the audience knew so well, usually with an element of humor in the song, often self-deprecating to let the listener feel as if they were just a bit socially superior to him, but because the settings changed and the lyrics were so vivid, they rarely seemed like unimaginative rehashes of past songs.

If anything they almost were chapters in a larger story of a society that was excluded from the mainstream and had built an insular but vibrant community in response to that and Bradshaw was there to both chronicle it and celebrate it.

Last fall he tipped you off to upcoming parties with I’m Gonna Have Myself A Ball while dispensing some advice on how to enjoy them and following that in Breaking Up The House he recounted the story of the party taking place and now months later comes the improbably titled Two Dry Bones On The Pantry Shelf which it turns out is generally all you find left when you’re a late arrival to such a party.

It may not be the stuff of great literature but as a snapshot of a communal event lost to the pages of time it’s remarkably vivid even seven decades after this specific party ended.


When I Got There, There Was Nothin’ Left
Starting off with a yell that would make Tarzan envious, Tiny is thrilled to roll up to this shindig that you can hear from a block away, but once he’s in the door he’s a little perturbed because he got there after the guests had already wiped out the spread of food and drank up all the booze.

Now that usually signals the end of festivities unless someone is on the way to pick up another keg before the stores close, but by the sounds of it the party goers are still running on the fuel they consumed before he got there because the music is pulsing with excitement from the time the doors open to the moment the last reveler passes out in a corner.

Even more than most rock songs worth of that designation it’s the rhythm that drives this, with the great Nab Shields on drums which are surprisingly out in front during the verses with piano contributing what little there is of a melody. But beyond all that it’s the way Bradshaw handles the lyrics in a syncopated delivery that makes this song absolutely infectious.

Half the time he’s more talking than singing, but he never drops the musicality of the lines. If you needed proof that Tiny got his start in music as a drummer he shows it in how effortlessly he replicates their playing style with his voice here, almost snapping certain words as if he was half-expecting the rattle of the snare to come echoing out of his throat.

Because he fully inhabits this character it allows you to picture the party going on as he’s singing, sensing his eagerness when he arrives and sharing in his exasperated disbelief when he scours the entire kitchen for a morsel of food and finds nothing left but Two Dry Bones On The Pantry Shelf.

That obviously lets you know there’s some humor in the song but it’s not reliant on getting laughs to work. In fact, it probably doesn’t want you to stop to laugh because that’d derail the momentum, so just a brief flashing smile in response will be plenty, thank you very much.

It’s a song built on atmosphere and he’s relying on your own experiences at such parties to fill in the details he leaves out, but there’s no doubt by the end of record that this is the place you’d want to spend your Friday or Saturday night… provided you got there in time to grab a bite to eat before it all disappeared.

I Rushed Right In
With the band in top form and a song structure that gives them plenty of space to stretch out, you could almost conceivably ignore the plot and the vocals and still have a good time listening to what’s left.

The rhythm section is tight as can be while Jimmy “Bee Bee” Robinson’s piano playing fills in every gap without demanding your attention until his solo – which is edited out of some versions (unfortunately including the only Spotify rendition available which we included above) that log in at just under two minutes, so make sure you hear the full performance that clocks in at more than two and a half minutes (available on the CD shown below) which also features Willie Gaddy’s tasteful guitar solo.

Since the musical vibe is what defines this, eliminating any of it is a crime against nature but luckily in both versions there’s still Red Prysock who is making his debut with Bradshaw on this session after a few years drawing raves as the main sparring partner of another rocker named Tiny.

Now with Tiny Grimes he’d delivered some of the honkinest solos in rock’s first few years and while that brand of exhibitionism has cooled down some, Prysock shows on Two Dry Bones On The Pantry Shelf that he’s more than capable of adapting and still capturing your interest.

His more languid responses during the choruses act as rejoinders between the vocal refrains, but as elemental as that is it’s the early soloing spot where he adds immeasurably to the mood this record has. Whereas Bradshaw is slightly disheveled as always, Prysock is the epitome of cool. His playing is laid back, yet forceful, his lines carry the most melody found here but his spacing between passages gives it a rhythmic presence that adds a different texture to the primary appeal of the song.

If you wanted to pick nits you could argue that this song borrows a little too much of the rhythmic qualities of another rock party song from a few years back, Todd Rhodes’ Pot Likker, but it qualifies as inspiration rather than theft, especially since in real life all these hedonistic parties start to blend together after awhile anyway.


Yes It Was!
A record like this, because it’s somewhat lighthearted and sung by a man who sounds half crazy most of the time, might be at risk for being overlooked or dismissed as nothing more than a frivolous party song.

But the reason why rock, in all its many ever changing forms and fashions, has continued to thrive as generations turn over is because it finds ways to speak to the specific outlooks, experiences and activities of those in its demographic, typically those without much responsibility yet in life which allows for more frivolous good times.

When that generation ages out of the position, settling down and taking on those dreaded responsibilities of job and family, eventually becoming one of those old fogies who complain about all this noise, it helps to remember the noise they’re yelling about is simply new music with the same perspectives they once embraced, only it’s been re-phrased and re-contextualized for another generation who need the same vibrant outlet. That Tiny Bradshaw himself was far older than his audience surprisingly doesn’t seem to matter much because unlike most people after a certain age he’s never lost his youthful zeal for that type of careless fun.

One day the party may in fact end for him and when that happens he might be looking at a career that has nothing left but Two Dry Bones On The Pantry Shelf, metaphorically speaking that is, yet he’s not concerned about it because he’s having too good a time while it lasts.

Rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be entertaining and Bradshaw and this record are both of those and then some.


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