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KING 4427; FEBRUARY 1951



For years high-minded critics of rock ‘n’ roll would accuse the artists and those who listened to and claimed to enjoy their music to be demented, or at least somewhat crazy.

They might not have said those exact words (then again they might’ve) but that was definitely the inference.

After all, how could anyone in their right mind listen to this noisy garbage when there was so much GOOD music out there to appreciate… the classical composers whose work had stood the test of time… sophisticated pop and jazz acts whose hallmarks were technical ability, good taste and moderation… and Tin Pan Alley songsmiths who constructed intricate songs using the finest melodic and lyrical materials known to man.

By comparison rock ‘n’ roll was a cesspool of primal urges set to music played by talentless hacks and sung by ear-splitting screamers and ostentatious show-offs.

Crazy people.

Of course we’d normally dismiss these obviously jealous critics with a scoff and claim they were just out of touch reactionary jerks if not for the presence of one particular rock artist whose ongoing antics confirmed that they might actually have a point after all.

Maybe not every rocker was deserving of such snide put-downs but they were right about one thing anyway… Tiny Bradshaw definitely was crazy as a march hare.


You Got To Get Straight Cause It’s Gettin’ Late
Now that his twenty year career as a bandleader, drummer and singer had been revived in the healing waters of rock ‘n’ roll over the last few years, it’s time to state beyond any point of contention that nobody in the business got as much sheer enjoyment out of playing this music as Tiny Bradshaw.

Few people get second chances in life that wind up providing them with even greater opportunities than they had the first time around and Bradshaw was taking advantage of it to the fullest. All of his hard-earned musical know-how, every bit of his showmanship gotten over years on the road, each stillborn idea and fizzled dream over that time were thrown back into the kettle and stirred until something new came out and provided him with a creative rebirth.

He was the most unlikely star in rock during the calendar year 1950 with two big hits that were celebratory in nature and exhibited the kind of freewheeling enthusiasm that was a key component of rock since its start.

Of course even though he was the songwriter and vocalist Bradshaw was really more of the master of ceremonies as these records were more like parties set to music than anything and designed in large part as a chance for his top notch band to strut their stuff.

But now as 1951 dawned the core of the band was gone, replaced by even bigger heavy hitters… yet rather than issue the sides from their first session cut just last month, King reached back to September for Walk That Mess which had the same personnel and the same hellbent attitude that had defined Bradshaw’s earlier successes.

In fact Cash Box nailed it when referring to this as ”a loud raucous jumpy thing”… or as the more astute pop music critics would call it – another demented record by one of those crazy yelping rock ‘n’ rollers.


Let’s Go! Let’s Go!!!
Hearing Tiny Bradshaw lose his mind as this record kicks off is so much fun that it almost doesn’t matter what follows… you’d keep listening just to find out if he was placed in a straitjacket before the instrumental break kicked in and got hauled away while foaming at the mouth as the record faded out.

“Diddley up, diddley up, diddly up do-dow!”

Or something like that.

He’s speaking in tongues, ranting and raving like a living breathing cartoon character… eyes popping out of his skull, euphoric and unhinged.

This was probably something he’d done on stage countless times in the sticks over the years when facing a disinterested audience, maybe a crowd that was paying more attention to their drinks or dinner companion than Bradshaw and his band. So he’d startle them into at least acknowledging his presence and hope that once their focus was on him they’d be swayed by the band’s talents if not his own cockeyed leadership.

It works too. Not only are you sure to not let your mind wander again, but you can’t help but be won over by his audacity alone. Of course he better have some semblance of an actual song to back up the heart-attack inducing lead-in and thankfully he almost does, as long as you’re not TOO strict on what qualifies as a “proper song”.

Walk That Mess is more or less a series of shouted vocal refrains to break up the instrumental showcases which run the gamut from rather tame to downright bizarre.

Thankfully the majority of the record is given over to the horns, specifically tenor sax ace Rufus “Nose” Gore, ironically the star of the show who was already gone by the time this came out. But he leaves us with something to remember him by, his first extended solo incorporating everything from a nice gritty tone that you can actually dance to before seguing into something that sounds like a duck call blown by a drunk hunter who’s been standing in the marsh too long and finally some non-musical squealing designed for little more than shock value.

His second interlude is slightly more melodic but no less interesting even without the extremes, as he is embodying the kind of down and dirty grooving that rock fans used as an excuse to have sex with their clothes on while out on the dance floor. That one doesn’t last long enough for them to have to be hosed down, but it’s still fun enough while it lasts.

But the real showpieces aren’t even the solos but rather the responses to Bradshaw’s off-the-wall tongue-twister shouts that kick off the record as well as launching us into the second half after that initial soloing spot. That’s when all of the horns join in for a rousing cavalry charge type of hook, the kind of thing that could get a cadaver’s heart pumping again after being buried in the ground for eight months.

Noisy? Yup. Raucous? Absolutely. Crazy? Of course it is, but that’s not only the point of all this but it’s also half the fun.


I’ll Bet You And I Can Really Get Straight
During this organized mayhem Bradshaw is up to his usual tricks, singing what essentially amounts to a series of lyrical set-ups that manage in a few lines to convey the general spirit of these rave ups, give brief but accurate descriptions of the scene and – rather surprisingly – contribute enough of a melody to give the song a solid structural base to build from.

None of it is very deep of course and I defy you to describe precisely what Walk That Mess refers to in plain English, but you get the general idea and even if you remain vague on some of the details you won’t have any trouble joining in once he extorts you on with more of his patented wild histrionics.

The basic premise is the same as it always was for rock – and always will be for that matter – the celebration of personal freedom and a lack of inhibitions in a social setting. Or in layman’s terms: Getting stupid at a drunken party.

In the midst of all of this he somehow manages to flirt with – and proposition – a girl, urge on his bandmates to cut loose and even offer up what might be construed as a philosophical outlook when he claims, “It’s a long way to go and you’re gettin’ slow”.

That’s Tiny for you, rock’s renaissance man, replete with a sloppy grin, a wild look in his eyes and an overactive thumb and forefinger to pinch the bottom of any girl naïve enough to get too close.

Hey, nobody said any of this was supposed to be classy.

You Ain’t Got Far To Slide
For all its inebriated good times this one didn’t manage to keep up Bradshaw’s hot streak, charting only briefly in Indiana of all places, not your typical hotbed for musical decadence and moral depravity.

Oh well, that’s everybody else’s loss I guess, for while this is definitely more of a time bomb set to music than a sensible record in the strictest sense, Walk That Mess epitomizes what Tiny Bradshaw, and indeed rock ‘n’ roll itself, was at their core.

Just what is that, you ask?

Uninhibited good times that will last only as long as nobody checks the clock, listens to their conscience or accepts any responsibilities in life beyond making sure the glasses are always full and there’s someone to turn off the lights after everybody passes out.

Call us crazy all you want, but you wish you were having this much fun every night.


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