Monday, October 22, 2007

You've Got To Beat Me To Keep Me

Trixie Smith and Her Down Home Syncopators
Recorded mid-February, 1925
Track Time 3:02 (The version I have on C.D. is 3:13 but this is probably in the wrong key. Below is a link to the song that clocks in at 3:02 and is in the key of G. The recording I have is in F#, which cannot be right, so it’s more likely that the original record is 3:02)
Written by Porter Grainger
Recorded in New York City
Trixie Smith, vocal; Louis Armstrong, trumpet; Charlie Green, trombone; Buster Bailey, clarinet; Fletcher Henderson, piano; Charlie Dixon, banjo
Originally released on Paramount 12256
Currently available on CD: If you can find the old Affinity box, Louis Armstrong And The Blues Singers, start there. Otherwise, it’s currently on the volume two of Fremeaux & Associates’s complete Louis Armstrong series, Sugar Foot Stomp. I haven’t heard these, but rumor has it that they’re doing a nice job.
Available on Itunes? Yes, on Trixie Smith Volume 2

Masochists of the world unite! In the four months of writing this blog, I haven’t written about any of Armstrong’s 1920s sessions backing blues singers but that drought has come to an end today…and how! “You’ve Got To Beat Me To Keep Me” doesn’t feature an Armstrong solo so I’m probably not going to have too much to write about it but the lyrical content is something else. The song was recorded in mid-February 1925, when Armstrong was still in New York, living the life of a session musician by day and a member of Fletcher Henderson’s popular orchestra by night. In fact, the entire personnel of this session was made up of members of the Henderson band, including the leader himself on piano.

America was still experiencing something of a blues craze at the time of this session and Trixie Smith (no relation to any of the other famous blues singing Smiths, including Bessie, Mamie or Clara) was a popular figure on the TOBA vaudeville circuit. She was the first to record “My Daddy Rocks Me With One Steady Roll” and was a regular presence on Black Swan and Paramount records. “You’ve Got To Beat Me To Keep Me” was written by written by Porter Grainger, composer of the blues standard “T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.” However, it’s safe to say the “You’ve Got To Beat Me To Keep Me” never exactly became a standard…in fact, I don’t think anyone else ever recorded it! And one glance at some of the lyrics should be enough to know why:

You’ve got to beat me to keep me, cause mama loves a hard boiled man
So don’t you let no man cheat me, if he’s got a good right hand.
Beat me up for breakfast, knock me down for tea,
Black my eye for supper, then you’re pleasing me.
You’ve got to beat me to keep me, cause mama loves a hard boiled man.

Mama don’t want no diamond rings and she don’t want no swell clothes
Wail me daddy til it stings across my mouth and nose.
I don’t want no hug and kiss, I don’t want no love and smile,
Beat me with your hand or fist, Papa like I was your child.

There’s more lyrics but I don’t want to misquote Trixie because some of it is hard to understand. Anyway, thanks to the Red Hot Jazz Archive, you listen to the song yourself by clicking

As already mentioned, Armstrong doesn’t have much to do on this recording but it’s always nice to hear a prime Pops obbligato. There’s the double-timed arpeggio phrase about 37 seconds in and that gloriously funky trilled note going into the last reprise of the chorus, 2:21 in, quickly followed by a nice rip up from a low G to another G an octave higher. The rest of the horns sound like mush thanks to the terrible recording quality of the day though future All Star Buster Bailey has plays some fine lines. Thus, there’s really not much more to say about this track but if you haven’t heard it, you won’t soon forget it!

Also, in an effort to catch up after a week off, I’m going to try to make more frequent posts this week. Thus, scroll down because you might miss something good if you don’t check in every day. Til tomorrow!

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