Jim Dandy To The Rescue

With a recognizable drum intro from David Albert ‘Panama’ Francis, and with guidance on the tenor sax by Sam ‘The Man’ Taylor, LaVern Baker hit the charts in 1956 with the song ‘Jim Dandy’. The song would later take number 325 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

LaVern Baker recorded many great rhythm-and-blues songs during the 1950s and 1960s. Her single debut for Atlantic Records was in 1953 with the song ‘Soul On Fire‘ and the following year, she would record the major rhythm-and-blues hits ‘Tweedle Dee‘ and ‘Bop-Ting-A-Ling‘. Baker, born Delores Williams, recorded already before signing with Atlantic Records. This was under different pseudonyms. In 1951, she recorded on RCA Records under the stage-name Little Miss Sharecropper, and in 1952, she signed with Okeh Records and started using the name Bea Baker. Her big breakthrough as a singer was with Atlantic Records so the name, LaVern Baker, was kept.

We can hear the soul, the spirit, and the sense of humor in her art.”

Chaka Khan
LaVern Baker

In the 1950s, it was usual for white musicians to copy or imitate the creative work of black artists. Those copies would sell often better with the white audience and many record companies used this as a sale strategy. Ahmet Ertegun, the co-founder of Atlantic Records, said: “when Radio stations had the choice between the black original and the white copy, they would always play the copy”. Baker’s hit ‘Tweedle Dee‘ was covered by Georgia Gibbs, the cover became more popular and sold much better. Apart from quality and musicality, it succeeded Baker’s original. LaVern Baker was not a big fan of this practice, it made her upset and she considered it stealing. As a sarcastic joke, Baker named Gibbs beneficiary on her flight life insurance. When she would go on a big tour, and not record any new songs, she mailed the insurance documents to Gibbs with the message: “Since I’ll be away and you won’t have anything new to copy, you might as well take this.”

Baker took satisfaction in knowing that when Gibbs covered her song ‘Tra, La, La“, she didn’t pay attention to the song on the record’s other side, ‘Jim Dandy‘. This song would become and major hit and remained untouched by Georgia Gibbs.

Songwriter Lincoln Chase, who wrote ‘The Nitty Gritty‘ for soul legend Shirley Ellis, was the creative figure behind the song ‘Jim Dandy (To The Rescue)‘. He wrote the lyrics to the song that was recorded by LaVern Baker in 1956.

I was sitting on a mountain top. 30,000 feet to drop. Tied me on a runaway horse Uh huh, that’s right, of course. Jim Dandy to the rescue! Go, Jim Dandy!” describes one of the multiple situations where Jim Dandy would save a woman in distress. In the song, Jim Dandy refers to a man who rescues women from difficult, unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous situations. A real hero you can say. The dictionary defines ‘Jim-Dandy‘ as something very pleasant or something of excellent quality (e.g. that new album you bought is a real Jim-Dandy). Now as in many great rhythm-and-blues songs, the lyrics contain a great deal of humor and sarcasm.

Thanks to its success a sequel came out in 1957. Again written by Lincoln Chase, recorded by LaVern Baker, and released by Atlantic Records. The song describes a humorous cliche of a hero falling in love with the girl he just saved; “Jim Dandy rescued May, Fell in love with her the very same day, Got engaged that afternoon. Left that night on his honeymoon“.

‘Jim Dandy’ by LaVern Baker (Atlantic reissue from my collection)

Work with Me, Annie

Don’t be ‘shamed“, “Call my name“, “Oh, our hot lips kissing, Girl, I’ll beg mercy, Oh, hugging and more teasing, Don’t want no freezing” are fragments of the original song lyrics. Although the title ‘Work With Me, Annie’ is a double entendre, the lyrics don’t lie.

Work With Me, Annie‘ came from the creative hand of Hank Ballard, and together with The Midnighters, he recorded the song for Federal Records in 1954. The content of the song was considered too sexual in its time and as a result, there was a ban on playing it at the radio stations. Because of its great rhythm, influenced by the mid-era doo-wop sound, the song became an instant rhythm-and-blues hit. Although it was banned from broadcasting, it spread like wildfire.

In rhythm-and-blues, it was common for artists to record so-called ‘answer songs’. What it means is that another artist, and most commonly from the opposite gender, would record a response to the song. This response could be a sarcastic comment to acclaim the original. This is what Etta James did a year after the song ‘Work With Me, Annie‘ hit the charts. She recorded ‘The Wallflower‘ and replaced “Work With Me Annie” with “Roll With Me, Henry“. The song was written by Etta James with the help of her friend Johnny Otis, and Hank Ballard. To avoid censorship upon its release, they titled the song ‘The Wallflower‘ instead of ‘Roll with Me, Henry‘. Do me a favor and listen to both songs while comparing the lyrics.

In the 1950s, it was usual for big record labels, such as Mercury, to copy the original rhythm-and-blues songs from black artists, with white musicians. This was done because of commercial politics. Those records would sell often better with the white audience. They would keep the original rhythm and music but clean-up the lyrics. In 1955 Georgia Gibbs recorded a cleaned-up version of the song called ‘Dance With Me, Henry‘. Her version became the most played one in jukeboxes and radio stations. This is not to be considered a response song but, a commercial adaptation.

Shortly after the release of the original song by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, an LA-based deejay joked about the aftermath of Annie’s unprotected adventures. Federal Records followed-up on this and a couple of months after the release of ‘Work With Me, Annie‘, Hank Ballard & the Midnighters recorded the sequel ‘Annie Had A Baby‘. The writing credits go to Henry Glover. The lyrics are short and simple but they contain a great amount of humor when placing them next to the lyrics of ‘Work With Me, Annie‘.

As in movies and a lot of other things, 3 is better. That same year, 1954, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters recorded ‘Annie’s Aunt Fannie‘. I didn’t come by upon much information regarding the history of the recording but, after analyzing the lyrics, I can conclude that also this song follows the same path. “I sent her to the store for candy. But she came right back so dandy. Before I could cuddle with my Annie.” are just a part of the full lyrics which are filled with humor and sexual content.

The ‘Annie’-recordings by Hank Ballard & The Midnighters (1954, Federal Records)

I’ve got all copies of the songs mentioned in my collection, with the exception of Georgia Gibbs, as I consider them masterpieces in its genre. Influenced by mid-era doo-wop and being rhythm-and-blues classics, they were a great deal of inspiration for the music that would erect in the following decades.

Shake, Rattle, & Roll

It was the co-founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, who approached Jesse Stone with the question to write an up-tempo 12-bar blues song for Big Joe Turner. Little did he know that the song to be produced would be listed at number 127 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

American rhythm-and-blues songwriter, Jesse Albert Stone, started his music career in 1926 when he formed The Blue Serenades. In the late 1930s, Stone would become a bandleader in the Apollo Theatre. There, he gained his credits as a songwriter while working with musicians such as Chick Webb, Louis Jordan, and Jimmie Lunceford. In 1947 he was officially employed by Atlantic Records as a producer and songwriter. Stone would push the direction of the new record label into a more ‘rhythmical’ rhythm-and-blues sound.

The most famous song from his hand is ‘Shake, Rattle, & Roll‘. The original recording of the song was by the American rhythm-and-blues legend, Big Joe Turner, on February 15, 1954. For work relating to Atlantic Records, Stone would use the pseudonym Charles E. Calhoun (as shown on the label below) to avoid copyright conflicts. The song recorded by Joe Turner is referred to as one of the earliest rock-and-roll recordings made. Although the original lyrics of the song would say one thing, their true meaning was different. Certain parts of the song were considered to be sexual, even too vulgar for jukeboxes in cafes. The song had to be cleaned up before recording and radio broadcasting. The original lyrics, as intended by Jesse Stone, were never published or recorded in the studio.

Original 45 rpm release of ‘Shake, Rattle, And Roll’ by Joe Turner And His Blues Kings

The song was covered by many artists, including Elvis Presley, during the 1950s and 1960s. In the same year of Turner’s recording (1954), Bill Haley And His Comets made their version of the song. Their adaptation was released on Decca Records and the lyrics were even cleaner. For example, the first line of the song “Get outta that bed, wash your face and hands” would be revised to “Get out from that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans“. Although Haley would use the more original lyrics during live performances to acknowledge Turner, Big Joe Turner would use Haley’s version for live TV broadcasts.

One of the versions from my collection is by soul singer Arthur Lee Conley. His version was recorded more than a decade later and the musical development of soul music is clearly present in his recording of the song. The background music and vocals are clearly indicating the late 1960s and the song has a less rock-and-roll feeling. Another great version is the one by Sam Cooke, who brought a more gospel feeling into the song.

Shake, Rattle, And Roll by Arthur Conley – 45 rpm from my personal collection