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KING 4361; APRIL 1950



It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a menu around here offering up the type of Southern Black Cuisine that so much of rock’s initial audience knew so well, filled with down home dishes that were frequently plundered for song titles when someone was in need of some quick nourishment.

But you knew it was only a matter of time before you came across another tenor saxman turned hash-slinger who was going to try and lure you into his roadside diner in the hopes you might sample his dinner special along with his latest instrumental release as a side dish.

So pull up your chairs and unfold your napkin because it’s eatin’ time once again.


Best Dish You’ve Ever Seen
In rock’s first five years, 1947-1951, the shrewdest, most aggressive and successful independent record label owner by far was Syd Nathan. He jumped into rock without any hesitation from the minute it began to make ripples in far-off locales in the fall of 1947 and he went all-in from that moment forward, never wavering in his commitment to it until the day he died in 1968.

He certainly wasn’t the most honest – but then again were ANY of them honest? – nor was he the easiest to deal with, in fact he collected only one thing more than lawsuits and that was viable artists who’d already made their names elsewhere which is largely how he built his musical empire, but he was undeniably good at every facet of the record business.

In many ways Nathan was rock’s ultimate scavenger. He rarely developed an artist from scratch, at least at this point in time, someone who sensed potential in an unknown and stuck with them as they worked through their growing pains one record at a time until finally everything clicked and they were all rewarded for that patience.

Instead he let OTHERS endure that arduous task of cultivating artists before swooping in to take away those who beat the odds and reached a level of stardom… Roy Brown, Earl Bostic, Todd Rhodes, Sonny Thompson, the list goes on… and then he’d be the one to reap the long term rewards.

Today’s new arrival may have wound up being his least profitable of those names for his company but was still a notable acquisition all the same based on his past success in helping to elevate rock to its current stature at stops over the past few years with Savoy, Modern, Sensation and Regal.

Now Wild Bill Moore, one of the first tenor sax stars of rock, made for another gaudy feather in Nathan’s already overflowing cap.

Make It Real Nice
You were always rolling the dice when you saw Wild Bill Moore’s name on the label. Though he was certainly capable of delivering storming performances, and had done so often enough to keep you coming back in hopes of getting another example of rock anarchy, he also was inclined to tone things down more than is advisable.

Though he never seemed to be looking down on the idea of blowing up a storm as other refugees from more demure jazz backgrounds often were prone to doing, but the flamboyant style that rock thrived on also didn’t seem to come naturally to Moore, like it was some internal unquenchable fire that required a constant draft to keep burning hot.

In other words as much as his early performances helped to corrupt the public’s image of what a saxophone was capable of doing, rock ‘n’ roll corrupted him the bargain, getting him to discard his decorum a lot of the time in search of another rambunctious hit. Yet when he eased off that approach the further away he tended to get from leaving a good – or bad as it were – impression on us, so each time out we regard a Wild Bill Moore release with equal parts anticipation and trepidation until we hear for ourselves which route he was taking now.

With Neck Bones And Collard Greens he takes the rock approach, though it’s noteworthy that this was the side of the release he had no hand in writing. King’s eminent producer Henry Glover, under his middle name Bernard, is the one most responsible for pursuing this tact, making sure not to incur Syd Nathan’s wrath by letting Moore noodle his way through a pop-jazz number for his first release on the label.

But any thought they were getting off to a rousing new start with King Records, trying to raise the bar even higher than its already been set at following three years of honking, squealing and wailing from every leather-lunged showman under the sun, is eliminated as soon as you hear this kick off in a rather restrained fashion.

It’s not mild by any means, there’s enough grit in their lines and a gleam in the band’s eye as they chant the title line to leave you satisfied, but it’s also more calculated than these types of things should be if the musicians were seeking to leave a crater in the studio floor with their playing.


Add A Little Rice
The first sounds you hearing coming out of Moore’s sax show great tone, deeper and sultrier than his past misses. Then the other horns arrive as reinforcements and change the mood by serving up enthusiasm that’s far too organized … in other words the authenticity starts to fade as they all fall in together trying to give the impression of excitement without actually being excited.

But that’s immediately followed by the chanting of Neck Bones And Collard Greens, an admittedly shallow attempt to connect it to a prime constituency but which at least is delivered with genuine gusto and gets things right back on track in terms of attitude. Yet it’s the up and down nature of their commitment which tells you all you really need to know… they’re carrying out their assignments with a sense of duty as professionals rather than seeking to use the record to define who they are as musicians and as human beings of a particular time, place and cultural mindset.

Although that all but ensures it will never fully captivate us, it doesn’t mean it still can’t be reasonably effective, as long as we lower our expectations accordingly.

Its biggest problem is that the arrangement wanders a little too much at times, as with the start of what you think is going to be a prolonged solo about 48 seconds in which has that nice fat tone you’re after, but which quickly shifts into a range that substitutes “pretty” for “good” and that doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination equate to “pretty good” as this comes perilously close to descending to meandering supper club riff before the vocal chant slaps some sense back into him.

The trade off between Moore’s tenor and the other horns that anchors the song is fine, but it’s also not the type of thing that can carry a record for two and a half minutes. It’s a riff, not a groove after all, so what’s needed is at least one scorching solo.

We don’t QUITE get it, though we get something that serves as a reasonable substitute, for after another section that vacillates between “nice” and “gritty” – again, without ever sounding nice AND gritty – Moore cuts loose with a rapid fire stuttering riff that manages to raise the energy and keep the horn in the most suitable tonal pocket for our requirements.

It’s hardly anything to get overly enthused about, by this point any saxophonist in rock who can’t at least give us something like this probably shouldn’t even take his horn out of the case, but it’s still providing suitable fire for an instrumental. Even the postmortem to that section keeps enough gristle on the neck bones to make it worth ordering up this dish.

Yeah, we’ll grant you that had they thrown something else on that plate other than some rice and greens it’d have helped – like say a more menacing maître d… err… drummer that is… but on the whole you won’t go hungry wolfing this down and if you have something potent to drink with it you probably aren’t going to skimp on the tip.


Just 79 Cents, Plus Gratuity
We can admire Syd Nathan’s single-mindedness when it comes to recruiting, absconding with or out and out kidnapping of the biggest names in rock over the past few years to bolster his own label, but there’s going to be a point where he starts getting diminishing returns on his investments.

Getting Moore at this stage certainly wasn’t a bad risk to take, even calling it a “risk” is probably unfair. He was pretty reliable and had shown fairly consistent motivation to keep rocking no matter which label he was recording for, so he definitely was an asset to have.

But Nathan had no way of knowing that the tenor sax revolution had already peaked and while it’d remain a viable outlet for the next few years, the days of being assured at least a strong jukebox hit each time you put out something like Neck Bones And Collard Greens was effectively over.

This sound was still enough to draw in some hungry customers, but with so many more restaurants opening up every day offering so many more varied plates on their menus, travelers along rock’s highways and back roads no longer had to be content to pull over every time you passed one of these greasy spoons just to tide you over.

By now this kind of instrumental was back to being more of an acquired taste and it’d be up to the chefs involved to spice up their dishes if they wanted to keep the joint packed at dinner time.


(Visit the Artist page of Wild Bill Moore for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)