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Let’s be up front about this record so we aren’t accused of misleading anyone.

Despite its presence here it has virtually no business being reviewed in a history of rock ‘n’ roll because quite frankly it’s not really a rock ‘n’ roll song.

But here it is anyway for reasons that have a lot to do with rock ‘n’ roll and our attempts to try and accurately chart its evolution as thoroughly as possible.

Those two statements are seemingly at odds with one another and that’s precisely why it’s being reviewed, to show how way back in the fall of 1947 an artist had multiple options in front of him when rock was just getting off the ground and which option he chose would – by 1949 – help to change the future for everybody.


Dated Sounds
Those dates are the most important aspects of this record and is the primary reason why Antria’s Jump is here to begin with.

It is now December 1949 when this is being released but the song itself was recorded in October 1947, just one month after Roy Brown let loose with the first rock record and launched the music that would shape the rest of the century. Of course after just one month it wasn’t as if rock had made any sizable impact, at least outside a few pockets of interest, and so when Todd Rhodes entered the studio that style was probably not foremost on his mind when selecting tracks to record himself. That he DID manage to come up with sides that were in line with these latest events was a testament to his musical instincts or some greater seismic cultural upheaval that made rock all but inevitable… or he just got lucky.

But had rock not come along when it did it’s fairly evident that, at least when going by some of the milder things he tackled… like say, this song… Todd Rhodes’ luck would’ve been pretty bad.

So why then with him firmly established as a successful rock act would Sensation Records dig this – and its equally antiquated B-side, the even more unsuitable Lonely Echoes – out of the vault where they’d been sitting for the past two years, bothering no one, and put them out when they were completely inappropriate for the music scene he’d been scoring with consistently since that time?

Blame it all on a nearsighted asthmatic tyrant… the one and only Syd Nathan.

My apologies for once again revisiting something we’ve touched upon in our last few reviews for Todd Rhodes, but the fact is Rhodes’ career, not to mention Sensation’s stake in Rhodes’ career, had been irrevocably altered by their deal with Nathan’s King Records to distribute their releases on a wider scale than Sensation was able to do. When this resulted in national hits for Rhodes it was inevitable that Nathan would want to bring him into the fold for his own company and set about doing so by switching artist credit for Page Boy Shuffle, a Todd Rhodes original on Sensation that had sax player Joe Thomas’s name affixed to it when re-issued on King where it became a hit last spring.

This was undoubtedly an intentionally underhanded move on Syd Nathan’s part to force Sensation’s hand and get them to give up Rhodes’ contract. Ever since King had entered into deals with other smaller labels to distribute their output nationally they’d specialized in various types of manipulation to get what they wanted. They did it with sax star Earl Bostic who was originally on Gotham Records before King turned their distribution deal into a deal for Bostic, and they did so in a different manner when they acquired a share of DeLuxe Records so they could grab their star Roy Brown. Now they were aiming to do the same with Rhodes.

In fact they’d already tried more direct methods, signing Rhodes to a contract in August 1948 but Sensation fought back and Rhodes found himself caught in a tug-of-war between a small Detroit company in Sensation which had given him the means to make records again after a long, LONG layoff from the studio (fifteen years or more), and a rising power in the independent field in King Records who was much better positioned to advance his career even further.

The Musician’s Union got involved however and ruled for Sensation, one of the rare victories that David had over Goliath (not that King was that big in the overall music community, but in black oriented labels they were definitely a giant). So once it was settled in early 1950 Rhodes was “stuck” with Sensation for a little longer while King Records bided their time, eventually getting him in the spring of 1951.

Before that decision was made however Sensation had to assume they might be screwed out of their only viable artist and since King was prevented from issuing anything on him until the matter was settled they knew they had to take advantage of it while they could. Which is why Anitra’s Jump winds up getting released in the heart of the rock era as a desperate stopgap solution to a problem that deep down Sensation Records had to know they had no chance of ever winning.


Time Travelers
So let’s backtrack to see what was happening in the middle of October 1947 when Todd Rhodes entered the studio to cut a session which would end up giving him his first hit and his entry into the world of rock ‘n’ roll in the process.

Rhodes had put together a first rate band that was conversant in all types of styles in the mid-1940’s from jazz to cocktail blues to pop and, yes, to some primitive form of rock ‘n’ roll.

Signed to local Sensation Records, named after the Sensation Lounge one of the popular nightspots in the black community of Detroit where Rhodes had frequently played, they did quite well with their first efforts, Dance Of The Red Skins and Bell Boy Boogie, both vital pre-rock records that hinted something was on the horizon musically. When Roy Brown opened that door, or Pandora’s Box if you are one of those weirdos who think that rock ‘n’ roll is the Devil’s music, then others naturally followed suit, particularly the younger generation who viewed this music as reflective of their own restless urges.

But Rhodes was nearing fifty years old by now and while was perfectly capable of convincingly playing it, he still might not have been inclined to pursue it full-time. Indeed when he came into the studio to cut his follow ups to those local sellers he cast a wide net, laying down some rock songs, such as Blues For The Red Boy, but also jazzier big-band stuff which mostly got shelved once the rock sides hit and they all realized he’d have to head in that direction from now on for the best commercial returns.

It worked too… at least until King Records tried their latest takeover ploy and convinced Rhodes that he was better off with them. Because of this he wasn’t about to go into the studio for Sensation to record now which meant the label had to scour the vaults to find older unissued material to put out. Though it got them a minor regional hit in the fall with Moonlight Blues, that almost certainly owed a good deal of its sales to his name recognition alone because while decently played it was hardly approaching anything cutting edge.

If only this record could make even that weak claim, as just before the New Year in a last ditch attempt to milk the cow dry while it was still in the barn, Sensation pulled out the last of the sides he’d made for them way back in the fall of 1947 and released Anitra’s Jump, hoping for the best even as they knew it had little chance in this musical landscape… precisely because it was Rhodes himself who helped to craft that new landscape with songs that were far, far away from the likes of this.


Jump? Not Quite, Maybe Just A Hop
To be fair there are SOME signs of the burgeoning rock style to be found in the crevices of this record which made it easier to include for that reason alone, though by the dawn of the 1950’s the flexibility of the genre borders is not what it was two years ago. Obviously the more rock progresses and firmly establishes what it is – and just as importantly what it is not – the less leeway records will get if they skirt the edge of those boundaries.

But when he cut Anitra’s Jump there was absolutely no thought to those undreamed of eventualities, as back then Rhodes was simply trying to showcase his skills as a bandleader with a wide variety of material in the hopes that something – ANYTHING – might draw some interest.

This however – ambitious though it may have been – was not destined to be one of them.

It’s origins were in a classical piece by Edvard Grieg, the famed Peer Gynt Suite, where Anitra’s Dance as it was originally called came right after In The Hall Of The Mountain King, perhaps its most iconic section.

Let that sink in a moment and ask yourself what rock artists were basing singles on classical pieces at this time?!?! In fact, over the next two decades you’d basically have only a few, most of which were done as larks, such as B. Bumble & The Stingers’ Nut Rocker, or perhaps most effectively 1958’s doo wop classic Little Star by The Elegants (Mozart if he’d grown up on a street corner in 1950’s Queens), or else you’d have things slipped discreetly into more traditional rock pieces by writer’s frustrated by rock’s limitations. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when rock artists had gotten secure enough – and egotistical enough – to be blatant about their classical fetishes that it became more commonplace, but in the late 1940’s Rhodes’ attempt to re-craft this in a more modern sense was a curiosity at best.

Furthermore, because when he recorded this he was only tangentially aware of the emerging rock scene his efforts here have as much to do with jazz, which definitely had such lofty aspirations to try incorporating classical music, as they do with rock. In fact if not for Hallie Dismuke’s on sax contributing a fairly gritty solo then this wouldn’t be able to be included no matter of our need to tell of what happened to Rhodes during this career “interlude” period.

As for the results of this experiment, let’s just say on the positive side of the ledger that it’s well played and creatively re-imagined. The ticky-tack cymbals on the intro, a group horn blast and then jazzy riffing saxes and trumpet, all interlocking nicely gives some indication of their abilities.

Of course the music itself is exquisitely written (too bad ol’ Edvard Grieg didn’t stick around awhile longer – he died in 1907 at the age of 64 – who knows what he might’ve come up with had he been exposed to rock music down the road!) and Rhodes is definitely flexing his arranging muscles and showing off the skill and versatility of his tight-knit band.

But as for what a rock fan two years later would think of this when it was released, as they hoped to get another moody instrumental or a crude celebration of booze or food… well, they’re bound to be severely disappointed. All that they’ll be able take from this is Dismuke’s part which comes exactly halfway through as he rides a nice melodic riff along a lazy river for the next 30 seconds with his best honks only coming after the others have joined back in and are taking over the main focus. Without that brief stretch to represent the rock perspective this whole record would fall flat.

Actually, it falls pretty flat even with that.

More Music You Can’t Dance To
So back to the more vital matter at hand, namely Rhodes’s career turmoil.

As stated, the Musician’s Union had sided with Sensation and so, when all of the furor died down and Rhodes, who presumably was not thrilled with the end result (would YOU be if you now were recording for a label that had up until recently no national distribution of its own?) Todd and company finally re-entered the studio in early 1950… to record music OTHER than rock.

At least mostly other than rock.

They quickly cut another high-minded record, a modern classical piece if you will, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue, which had been one of Rhodes’s show-stoppers in the club but was decidedly non-commercial in 1950. He also returned to jazzy-pop and other styles well outside of what he’d scored with over the past two years.

Was this payback against Sensation, almost trying to force them into giving him up earlier than they wanted because he knew these records wouldn’t sell in any great quantities and thus they’d have their already limited resources tapped out before long? It’s certainly possible but that’s being awfully vindictive towards the company that had given him a belated second chance at stardom. Would a man now enjoying the unlikeliest of career revivals at fifty years old really want to sabotage his chances at trying remaining popular with a young crowd by issuing stuff along the lines of Anitra’s Jump for a year or more while waiting for all of this to play out?

Somehow I doubt it.

So maybe the most likely reason of all was simply Rhodes really didn’t want to be confined to playing rock ‘n’ roll exclusively if he didn’t have to. Since he had to know that when he eventually got to King once his Sensation deal lapsed he’d have no choice but to be more commercial there and focus mainly on rock, so in the interim why not explore his more refined tastes and see if he might get some acclaim in certain corners for that? Who knows, if the jazz crowd or cocktail club scene picked up on any of this he might be more comfortable playing those venues as he headed into his golden years than he would the rough and tumble one-nighters on the chitlin’ circuit as he would no doubt have to if he kept scoring rock hits.

As for his rock output on Sensation, he WOULD we’re happy to be able to report that he did consent to revisit it, though mostly with female vocalist Kitty Stevenson getting the spotlight, and on those, which we’ll obviously cover when they come along, he at least shows he hadn’t forgotten how to play the kind of music we prefer.


(Visit the Artist page of Todd Rhodes for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)