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In the ’50s: Hit, Git, and Split – Mickey Baker

Rev-Ola

It’s a good thing you decided to stop by Jambands.com because Mickey Baker is a guy you need to know. Just pretend I am Chuck Berry’s cousin, and you are Chuck Berry: “Chuck! Chuck! It’s Marvinyour cousin, Marvin BERRY. You know that new sound you’re looking for? Well, listen to this!” That new sound is not Alex P. Keaton playing “Johnny B. Goode,” but Mickey Baker tearing shit up on “Greasy Spoon” from In the 50s: Hit, Git & Split. Baker spent most of his career as a sideman and is best known for his hit with Sylvia Vanderpool, “Love Is Strange.” Written by Bo Diddley under the pen-name Ethel Smith, the song went on to sell eight million copies in 1957 and eventually appeared in the film Deep Throat as well as the movie Dirty Dancing.

While it may seem strange to release the greatest hits of a sideman, who is almost better known for his series of jazz instructional books, it was his role as a sideman in the '50s that is this album’s greatest strength. Mixed with Baker’s red, hot, and dirty guitar is an army of blues singers. Square Walton laments his “Pepper-Head Woman.” Titus Turner proves his love logically on “All Around the World” with this line, “If I don’t love you, baby, then grits ain’t groceries, eggs ain’t poultry, and Mona Lisa was a man.” Joe Clay poses the eternal question, “Did You Mean Jelly-Bean (What You Said Cabbage-Head)?” Each track is a pearl from the 50s and a blueprint for all the rock and roll that was to follow. All the rock and roll. Each track beats, moans, and bemoans its way through three minutes of pop genius. Each track howls and wails about the woman who done you wrong with Baker’s dazzling guitar acting as the constant in a tour of rock and roll’s formative decade.

Several songs feature Baker paired with Larry Dale’s groaning vocals. On “Please Tell Me,” Dale reminds us the '50s were an up time for lyricists as well: “I can read your letters, but I sure can’t read your mind.” On “Midnight Hours,” Baker sounds a searing note of feedback a healthy decade before Robert Ashley did so on his famous recording, The Wolfman. On “Down to the Bottom,” Champion Jack Dupree pounds the piano into. . .I’m going to stop here because I’m tempted to list all thirty-one tracks. There isn’t a dull or uninspiring moment on this album, which could be called Of the 50s: Thirty-one Tracks That Will Blow Your Mind and Shake Your Ass. It is not just an essential volume for archivists, but a devil-may-care good time for any music lover.

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