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ARISTOCRAT 601; NOVEMBER, 1947

 
 

 
 

Rock ‘n’ roll, right from the very start – as those who’ve been following along since our first reviews are well aware – was a rather uncouth type of music presumably designed to appeal to shady characters with low morals and by this point, just two months into its life, we’ll start to cross even further into territory usually reserved for seedy degenerates and other social riff-raff.

Just so you’re all warned.

Why bring that up now? Well, because the content of this record is more than a little risqué – (alright, for 1947 it was borderline pornographic) – and so I’ll do my best to try and weed out those deviants who just scour the internet seeking racy smut for their own cheap thrills by distracting them with lengthy, but interesting, biographical backgrounds on some of the people involved in this whole affair*.

(*FYI – If, over the next few months when we encounter many of these figures quite frequently and you’re asking who the heck we’re talking about, oblivious to the information provided here, I’ll know you skipped the next two sections and headed straight for the dirty parts!)
 

Opening The Tackle Box
One of the more fascinating figures we’ll come across in early rock was saxophonist Tom Archia (the family pronouncing it and often even spelling it “Archie”, while others, like Wynonie Harris whom he worked with, pronounced it “Archer”), who we’ve met somewhat passingly on Jump Jackson’s Hey Pretty Mama just a few reviews back. Archia was born and raised in Texas where he played alongside a veritable who’s who of future notables, among them Arnett Cobb, Charles Brown, Calvin Boze and Illinois Jacquet, which let’s face it isn’t a bad jam session to imagine, even more shocking considering they were all in their teens at the time! A year after graduating Prairie View College where he’d met some of those names Archia joined Milt Larkin’s band which not only featured his former classmate Cobb but also future star Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and they were soon joined by old friend Jacquet along with pianist Wild Bill Moore. Suffice it to say anyone thinking that the word “supergroup” was a decidedly 1960’s term obviously hasn’t delved very deep into music history. This was a group for whom there wasn’t enough wattage in the world to spotlight their collective talents.

By the early 40’s the group made it to Chicago backing T-Bone Walker at the Rhumboogie Café. Walker was not quite the legend he was on his way to becoming but was already a well-known blues-guitar hotshot. The pairing made quite the impression on audiences and the lines of demarcation between the jazz rooted band and the blues artists began to crumble somewhat. Though they were extremely well-received at the time a series of outside events conspired to pull the group apart. First Cootie Williams grabbed Eddie Vinson for his band, propelling him to stardom as a vocalist which soon overshadowed his sax playing. Then Lionel Hampton swiped Illinois Jacquet who’d revolutionize the role of the saxophone in short order with Hamp’s crew (which we touched upon here). Not satisfied with that coup Hampton returned to the well once more to pluck Arnett Cobb for his band too, leaving Archia as the prime sax player in Larkin’s now somewhat depleted outfit. Eventually Archia split too but thanks to their warm reception in town the Windy City became the saxophonist’s home turf for the rest of his career.

As if working with that assemblage of horn virtuosos wasn’t impressive enough for Archia’s resume, in 1944 Charlie Parker briefly joined Archia in Carrol Dickerson’s band and the two headstrong sax players routinely went off the reservation in regards to their playing, ignoring the written charts in favor of using head arrangements and even turning their backs on the band while going off on their own. Not surprisingly they were fired for their mutinous actions when pianist and arranger Marl Young took over the band. After all sax players like that are EASY to find, right? Parker of course went on to reinvent jazz saxophone and is credited as one of the prime innovators in bop, as well as being universally renown more than a half century later as one of the greatest musicians the world has ever known.

Archia faced a more uncertain future as his conflict with the musicians union over the Young firing meant he was unable to get work in Chicago, eventually forcing him to move to California where he briefly joined former band mate Illinois Jacquet and backed Helen Humes for a time as well. But whereas Parker’s career took off once freed from musical bondage Archia’s seemed to stall. He cut some big band-styled sides with Roy Eldridge and was able to back Dinah Washington on stage before her breakthrough to the big time, but it wasn’t until 1947 that Archia got fully back on track.
 

Aristocratic Goals
Lejzor Czyz was born in Poland in 1917 and just over a decade later came to America and emigrated to Chicago, Americanizing his name to Leonard Chess. He became immersed in the black nightclub scene in the city and with his brother Phil opened the Macomba Lounge in Chicago in the winter of 1946. A year later Archia was leading the house band at the somewhat rundown nightspot which nevertheless was known for its scorching after hours jam sessions featuring all the big names who came through town and would stop to play with the highly regarded sax player. When Archia got a chance to record with Jump Jackson’s band in June 1947 for the recently formed Aristocrat Records it gave him and by extension – in a roundabout way – Leonard Chess a foot in the door of the recording industry.

Can anyone see where this is headed?

A month later Archia cut his first sides for the label as bandleader. The highlight of that July 1947 recording date was the decidedly X-Rated – and completely unashamed about it – Fishin’ Pole.
 

Let’s Go Fishin’
Though credited to Archia the real protagonist of the entire affair, as well as the vocalist on the record itself, is Buster Bennett, a fellow sax player with a long and winding history in his own right who originally wrote and recorded this song a year earlier for Columbia Records as “Let’s Go Fishing”, which never saw release, perhaps for good reason considering its content.

You see the fish here are not exactly the aquatic kind, while the pole being explicitly referred to throughout has no bait hanging on its line…

Before we proceed any further, I probably should ask for some verification of all readers age right about now, but I suppose if you’ve made it through all of the background information without falling asleep or leaving the website you’ve earned your pass to the adult section of the blog.

Just don’t let your Mom read this over your shoulder, kids.

Fishin’ Pole, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is a euphemism for the male reproductive organ and truthfully that’s about the least objectionable aspect of the lyrics. The hole they’re dropping their line in is indeed a wet one at times and when the fish are biting so to speak, it’s a safe bet that no one involved will go hungry and a good time will surely be had by all. 😉
 

 

Now it’s also worth noting here what the larger music audience of the day were listening to when this crawled out of the alley. For those who’ve already discovered our Month By Month Overviews which attempts to put the songs we cover into proper historical context, we see that the top tune for November 1947 was Francis Craig’s dainty “Near You” in which he croons such lovesick mush as “Times when we’re apart/I can’t face my heart” and “If my life could be spent near you/I’d be more than content”.

Somehow I think in Mr. Craig’s G-rated fantasy the girl of his dreams will be simply visiting him in the parlor with a chaperone in tow and we all know that he won’t be fishing with her unless it’s in a rowboat with a different kind of pole.

Luckily for us, rock ‘n’ roll in these early days knew no such moral limits.
 

Throw My Line In
Right off the bat here Archia sets the mood with a slinky sax intro before Bennett starts boasting of his… umm, endowments. Archia’s sax responses to Bennett declaring his intent to “throw his line in baby and sink it deep” are particularly whimsical, the musical equivalent of a girl’s cries of delight when she finds he can hit all the right spots with no problem whatsoever.

Before you get carried away and start thinking that this might still face objections should it come out today, keep in mind that while decidedly off-color and explicit in its lyrics, the music they frame it with doesn’t ramp up the mood as would happen in a few years within rock, when both the lyrics and music would be hauled in front of the judge as co-conspirators for crimes against public decency.

Alas, from here on in Archia mainly lets the lyrics do the offending while the music sort of smirks in the background. It’s very well played but not really contributing to the delinquency of the listener. As such your enjoyment of it, especially today, is more apt to be one of mild amusement than something that gives you a visceral thrill and requires you to be hosed down or something (see how I waited until the end to tell you that? It’s called stringing you along so you keep reading).
 

 
But then again this didn’t come out today, did it? We may be reviewing it today, in early 2017, but we’re doing so as if it were the fall of 1947 and at that time this sure wasn’t the type of thing frequently heard by respectable folk and therefore the response to it then might be a little more rousing… or arousing as the case may be.

So while the content can’t really be deemed shocking in this day and age you have to respect all involved for releasing this when “shocking” would’ve been the mildest epithet it received from some quarters and as such it’s well worth taking it out for a spin or two even now when far more explicit material is everywhere you look. Fishin’ Pole is not only enjoyable as an historical artifact from a more puritan era but it’s also just damn fun to listen to and visualize the responses of those who were expecting to hear something more along the lines of a welcoming address at a fly-fishing convention.

Remember, five is for “average” and since we at Spontaneous Lunacy feel that this type of fishing should be an average everyday pursuit of listeners everywhere we can’t let ourselves get TOO excited about it. So if you’re inclined to give it a seven or an eight yourself that’s fine, but just keep in mind that’s only letting others know that you probably aren’t getting any bites on your own line in real life and need songs like this to get your seafood delivered for you in other ways.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of Tom Archia for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)