Saturday, 27 March 2010

Hen Gates And His Gaters - Let's All Dance To Rock And Roll (Masterseal LP)

1. Rock Me Sugar
2. Rock Around My Baby
3. Love To Rock With You
4. Choo Choo Rock
5. Rock Clock Rock
6. Rockin' And Walkin'
7. Great Gates Rock
8. Shoe Shine Rock
9. Juke Box Rock
10. Rock Around Rosie
11. Fish Beat Rock
12. Rock'n Time
13. The New Rock
14. Lose

My thanks to an anonymous Stateside honk fan who very kindly sends occasional donations of LPs of a tenor saxual nature. You’ve come up trumps with this one!

Scene: a suburban home somewhere in the US of A. Mid afternoon in the long summer vac of 1957.

Mom: “Hi Junior, I’m home! I’ve picked up the groceries and I've got a little surprise for you, honey. A rock and roll record!”

Junior: “Gee whillickers, Mom! That’s so nice of you. What did you get? Buddy? Elvis? Chuck Berry?”

Mom: “You know I don’t know anything about those kind of people, dear. It’s by a new young singer called Hen Gates. It says here that he’s a top exponent of rock and roll, so he must be good. Look at the nice picture on the cover, Junior. Lots of happy young people going to a rock and roll party!”

Junior (crestfallen): “Holy friggin’ shit mom! Who the friggin’ frig is Hen friggin’ Gates? I want a Chuck Berry record, and I friggin’ want it now!”

Mom (angry): Junior! Go straight up to your room! When your dad gets back from the advertising agency he’s going to give you the waterboarding you deserve!”

Junior (in despair): “Holy Mackerel! It’s like living in Nazi friggin’ Germany!”

Mom (shaking head): “Kids these days!”

Voiceover: “And now a word from our sponsor, the Be Bop Wino Blog …”


Many such scenes of domestic dischord may well have been provoked by the impulse purchase of this LP on the ultra cheapo Masterseal label whose discs could be found on strategically placed racks in grocery stores everywhere. An article in the 16th February 1957 edition of Billboard announced the forthcoming launch of Masterseal LPs under the headline “Remington Records Bows Low-Price LP” followed by the sub-heading “New line, Masterseal, to go for $1.49; ambitious rack-jobbing used in Chicago.”

The article gives fascinating details of the huge promotion effort that was put into the label launch – ads, deejay spots, store displays, exclusive distribution deals signed with grocery chains in Chicago and Detroit, grocers wined and dined, and “incentives” for store managers. Thousands of dollars went into the promotion budget. Not much was spent on the actual music though. The label repertoire consisted largely of mediocre pop, a lot of classical music and a smattering of jazz. Buried deep in the article is a reference to the fact that some of the Masterseal material had been originally released on Don Gabor’s Continental Records. This is the only mention of the man who was behind Remington and Masterseal – Donald H. Gabor. His story and that of his labels can be found on the wonderfully researched Remington Records site.

Gabor’s first label, Continental, started up around 1942, issuing jazz and classical recordings on 78 rpm discs. As the 1940s became the 1950s, he was quick to realise the potential of the new LP format and in 1950 started up the cut price LP Remington label on which he reissued many of his Continental jazz recordings (including Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Slam Stewart, Leonard Feather and Hot Lips Page) as well as a vast repertoire of classical and pop music. Although technically and musically savvy, Gabor viewed music not as art but as product to be shifted as quickly and in as great a quantity as possible. He was not averse to cutting corners in order to turn a profit, including constantly recycling material under new titles and covers or even on new labels (Masterseal, Palace, Buckingham and Plymouth among others). He even saved money by pressing his records using a low grade vinyl substitute called vinylite which gave his discs a distinct hissing sound and a limited lifespan.

Such business methods may have resulted in healthy sales (“Music for the Millions!”) but they were beyond the pale as far as the major record labels were concerned and there were rumours that record stores were “warned off” stocking Gabor product, which may account for the use of locations such as department stores, grocery stores, supermarkets and gas stations as sales points for his labels. Remington did not see the end of the 1950s, folding when stereo LPs started making inroads into the music market. Gabor continued to release product on a variety of short lived labels into the 1960s but he never broke out of the low budget, low quality end of the market.

But what of Hen Gates and this foray by Don Gabor into the world of rock and roll? This is a magnificently tawdry piece of musical exploitation. First off, nobody knows what the LP is actually called. On the front of the cover the title is “Let’s Go Dancing To Rock and Roll” while on the reverse side the title is “Let’s All Dance To Rock And Roll." According to the cover there are 12 tracks on the LP, but in fact there are 14.

On the front cover the artist’s name is in tiny, barely visible lettering while the words “Rock and Roll” scream out luridly against a backdrop of happy teens crowding into an open top automobile in what appears to be somewhere vaguely in California. Gabor’s operation was based in New York and his Masterseal LPs weren’t particularly aimed at the normal record buying teen crowd, but rather his target market was the parents of the said teenagers, who would be happy to shell out a dollar and forty nine cents for a rock and roll record for the kids. To these parents the identity of the performer was irrelevant. The record had rock and roll on it, kids liked rock and roll, and it was much cheaper than the Elvis or Buddy discs in the window of the local record store. Who could resist such a bargain?

Of course the kids could resist “bargains” like this, and one wonders what Junior thought of Hen Friggin’ Gates if he ever got round to listening to the slab of vinylite. I like to picture in my mind’s eye Junior’s hip older brother (the one who’s due in court on a charge of possessing marijuana) casually putting the disc on the turntable and being rather pleased at the sounds which issued forth from the speaker (Mom and Dad being out at the church social or the PTA or some such). For despite the album’s unpromising background and appearance, this is one hot selection of glorious blasting rockin’ rhythm ‘n’ blues tenor sax.

Which begs the question – who is or was Hen Gates? For years the rumour was that Hen Gates and His Gaters were in fact the Dizzy Gillespie band. This seems to have been based on the supposition that Gillespie had used the pseudonym while playing incognito on some Charlie Parker discs in the 1940s. Bop pianist James Forman then “inherited” the pseudonym and used it when recording with James Moody for Blue Note in 1948 and with Dinah Washington for Mercury in 1949. A track called “Cravin’” on Masterseal MSLP 5013 “Hi-Fi Jazz Session” is credited to Hen Gates, but this may be James Forman. Dizzy Gillespie also appears on that LP, a fact which may have helped to perpetuate the “Dizzy Gillespie recorded a rock and roll LP” rumour.

In fact Hen Gates is Freddie Mitchell and the tracks on “Lets All Dance To Rock And Roll” are simply old Derby masters given new titles. When Derby filed for bankruptcy in 1954, Freddie Mitchell masters had been sold cheaply and had already been reissued on several labels before they turned up on Masterseal who thought they could pull a fast one and pass them off as tracks recorded by Hen Gates and His Gaters who, according to the LP sleevenotes, were “a group of talented young Rock ‘N Roll musicians …”

Unfortunately I don’t have an exhaustive collection of Freddie Mitchell recordings so I can’t list the original titles of the tracks on this album. Track 7 “Great Gates Rock” is a renamed “Cold Heat” (minus the original intro) which was recorded in 1952 and was the B side of “Moondog Boogie” released as Derby 793. Track 14 “Lose” is really Freddie Mitchell’s biggest hit “Doby’s Boogie” which was recorded in 1949 and released as Derby 713. Can anyone out there identify any more of the tracks?

It is ironic that this example of naked exploitation has stood the test of time and is now one of the best Freddie Mitchell compilations available. The LP lives on in the form of a bootleg CD with 15 additional tracks, all of them Freddie Mitchell Derby sides. The extra tracks have been given new names which barely disguise their original titles. At least Freddie gets some credit this time round as his name appears on the front cover of the CD (shown below).


Ripped from vinyl at 320 kbps. Hissing audible. Password = greaseyspoon

Download from here:

http://rapidshare.com/files/367295345/Hen_Gates_-_Let_s_All_Dance_To_Rock_And_Roll.rar

Or here:

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=IO193B0B

1. Rock Me Sugar
2. Rock Around My Baby
3. Love To Rock With You
4. Choo Choo Rock
5. Rock Clock Rock
6. Rockin' And Walkin'
7. Great Gates Rock
8. Shoe Shine Rock
9. Juke Box Rock
10. Rock Around Rosie
11. Fish Beat Rock
12. Rock'n Time
13. The New Rock
14. Lose

Thank you my anonymous good buddy!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH

Red Neckerson said...

Not only was that scene played out in the 50's but the 60' as well. I remember getting my first British Invasion Lp direct from Nashville TN from Bill Beasley and the Hit Records folks. I was not allowed to have those mopheads in the house! But like any good American kid who had a paper route the John Paul George and Ringo made it into the house. And btw I have this Record too!! I kinda Like It!

boogiewoody said...

I like this record too, Red! I guess I was luckier than you back in the 60s. I can't imagine my parents trying to ban records from the house. My dad bought me 2 of my first 45 rpm discs - The Last Time by The Stones and Here Comes The Night by Them. However I shall ruin my hipster credentials by revealing that the first LP I ever bought was the soundtrack from Mary Poppins.

pigshitpoet said...

marty woulda been proud of you!

cool clear water...
psp

boogiewoody said...

Dear Balladeer of the Porcine Defecations:

Your moniker is an all too accurate description of the inside of my skull just now. Reminds me of a line from Withnail and I ...