'Wow Wow Baby: Volume Number 3,' Ace Records, England, Various Artists (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt on Jul 22, 2015 01:19 AM EDT
'Wow Wow Baby!' England's Ace Label rocks your socks off with pure, pre-rock Cali wildness. (Photo : Courtesy Ace)

If you are of a certain age, you'll be smitten like a kitten on a warm lap by this British label's third volume of Wow Wow Baby: 1950s R&B, Blues & Gospel from Dolphin's of Hollywood. 24 solid gold bursts of excitement featuring such artists as Scatman Crothers, Memphis Slim, Jimmy Witherspoon, Chuck Higgins and the Mellotones, Little Margie with Big Boy Groves and His Orchestra, along with some mostly unknown artists who prove to be the highlights of a rockin' little record you'll want your DJ to play.

In fact, these were, indeed, played by a DJ at a record storefront in L.A. They were broadcast from behind a huge picture window overlooking the sidewalk during the bygone era of street corner harmony doo-wop just prior (and beyond) the dawn of early rock 'n' roll. John Grayton Dolphin was the mastermind behind the concept of recording and selling these records, many of which became local hits, with a few straggling upwards into the national charts. He was a star-maker, coming from Alabama not with banjo on knee, but with a ton of tall tales and a boatload of charm.

Of course, not everybody liked him or his music. These sides are down and dirty double-entendre blues and soul with frenetic backbeats and ragged vocals (except, of course, Brother Prince Dixon's "I Need the Lord to Guide Me Everyday"). One of the singers left out of this collection is Dolphin's murderer, Percy Ivy, who shot Dolphin dead in 1958 over unsavory business practices--stealing songs without giving credit--which was actually common in that era of music making. Still, no one can take away the fact that John Grayton Dolphin gave the world these irresistible nuggets that have stood the test of time, sounding as vital now as the day they were recorded.

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TagsJohn Grayton Dolphin, Ace Records England, Jimmy Witherspoon, REVIEW

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