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The Late Great Johnny Ace and Transition from R&B to Rock 'n' Roll (Music in American Life) Paperback – January 24, 2001
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A scholarly work and a piece of genuine research, yet it reads easily. -- Pop Matters Book Review
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Salem has somehow managed it. It gives a good overview of Johnny Ace's life and unfortunate death at a very early age. The crux of the book is how the author weaves Ace's career and life into the broader narrative of black music and black life in the South.
Therefore, it's a good biography, but also a good history book on black entertainment in the early 1950's
Writing about Johnny Ace's 1953, hit recording "The Clock," Dr. Salem wrote, "...As it turned out, no one bothered to cover the song until Lee Andrews and The Hearts recorded it in 1957..." (page 90). In that one complete, 21 word sentence, Dr. Salem provided the reader with 5 unique pieces of factually wrong information. Let us forensically dissect the above sentence.
Factual Error #1. Someone did bother to cover Johnny Ace's "The Clock" before Lee Andrews and The Hearts.
Factual Error #2. "The Clock" by Billy Barlow Okeh 7011 was the cover version, released around October-November 1953.
Factual Error #3. Lee Andrews and The Hearts never recorded Johnny Ace's "The Clock."
Factual Error #4. What points of commonality do these two songs share, other than the 2 word song title "The Clock"? Answer: nothing.
Factual Error #5 The use of the term "cover record" regarding Lee Andrews and The Hearts was wrong.
Billy Barlow's version is a true example of a "1950s cover record." Why? Because it was released during the chart life of Johnny Ace's original, hit version. Barlow's version may not have been in direct competition with Johnny Ace's hit recording. Why not? Barlow was a white artist and his rendition sounds more country and/or pop than strictly rhythm 'n' blues. The irony was that Barlow's "The Clock" was released on Columbia's rhythm 'n' blues subsidiary label, Okeh. If the record buying public expected rhythm 'n' blues, they were in for a shock.
Once Johnny Ace's recording fell off the charts, all subsequent versions were technically speaking, re-makes. Hence, had Lee Andrews and the Hearts recorded Johnny Ace's "The Clock" in 1957, it would have been labeled, or categorized, a re-make.
Why was Dr. Salem's information about Lee Andrews and The Hearts so abysmally wrong? That's easy. Dr. Salem never listened to the original, 1957 Lee Andrews and The Hearts recording. Why would a scholar write about a specific recording he never heard? I don't know.