The Early in the Morning Session
Two weeks ago I told the story
of the "Splish Splash"
session on April 10.
The three songs that were recorded
then ("Splish Splash," "Judy Don't Be Moody" and "Queen of the Hop")
had not yet been released on April 24, and I doubt if Bobby knew
then if they would be released at all and if so, when.
His one-year contract with Atco
Records had become effective on May 1, 1957, so there was still
one week to go. Atco boss Herb Abramson had declined to produce
"Splish Splash" and intended to drop Bobby from the
label. Fearing that his contract would not be renewed, Bobby
wanted to have "something in the can for future release"
(as Ken Emerson puts it in his liner notes for the "Splish
Splash" Best Of CD) and went back to his old record company,
Decca, while he was still under contract to Atco.
"Something in the can."
How should we see this? Possibility 1: the Decca people
promised Bobby that they would take him back if Atco dropped
him and release his record legally. Not very likely, given the
fact that Decca had laid him off just a year ago and that Bobby
had not made much commercial progress since then. Possibility
2: Bobby wanted four finished masters that he could sell
to any record company that would be interested. This would mean
that he had to pay for the session himself. According to Al
DiOrio, Bobby's musical income after taxes in 1957 was just
a little over $1,700. Hiring the Pythian Temple for three hours
plus some of NYC's finest session men, not forgetting Dick Jacobs's
fee, would cost at least $800 in 1958. Virtually out of the
question. A third option - but one that seems hardly
attractive from Bobby's point of view - would be that Decca
saw this as a one-off and intended to release the record(s)
under a pseudonym, regardless of the contract renewal at Atco.
This is more or less what happened, but what were they thinking
at Decca? That a voice as distinctive as Bobby's would not be
recognized? And why was it impossible for Bobby to wait another
six days? It's clear that he was impatient and frustrated by
his slow start in the music business, but what difference could
one week make? The mysteries remain.
Meanwhile at Atco, Ahmet Ertegun,
unaware of the events of April 24, exerted his power as President
of Atlantic/Atco. Ertegun writes in his coffee table book What'd
I Say, "After Bobby's first releases for us weren't
successful, Herb [Abramson] came to me and said he was going
to release Bobby from his contract. But I was convinced he had
great potential, and I insisted that we keep him on the label"
(page 112). Ertegun's interference with Herb's Atco label must
have greatly contributed to Abramson's decision to leave the
company. Soon he asked Ertegun and Jerry Wexler to buy him out,
which they did, with the help of Ahmet's brother, Nesuhi Ertegun.
Undeterred by the fact that Bobby
was kept on at Atco, Decca issued "Early
in the Morning" anyway, on its Brunswick subsidiary, on
May 27, eight days after the release of "Splish Splash."
Credit went to "The Ding Dongs." It didn't take long
for the record to get airplay and to be heard by someone at
Atlantic. The lead singer of the non-existing Ding Dongs sounded
suspiciously like Bobby Darin, and Ertegun called Bobby in his
office at the first opportunity. Bobby
had no choice but to confess that he had gone behind Ertegun's
back and done a moonlighting session for Decca. Ahmet was very
upset, but forgave Bobby. Atlantic wasted no time in reclaiming
the master tapes from Decca. Apparently the mere threat of legal
action sufficed. In his Atlantic discography, Michel Ruppli
enters the four songs (marked as "purchased from Decca")
under the date June 17, 1958. This cannot possibly be the recording
date, as the same Ruppli gives April 24 as the date of recording
in his multi-volume Decca discography. June 17 is probably the
date that Atlantic received the masters from Decca and assigned
Atlantic master numbers (4006-4009) to them. The Brunswick single
was withdrawn and Decca would rush Buddy Holly into the studio
to cover both "Early in the Morning," and "Now
We're One" on June 19. Considering the fact that the same
studio, the same producer, the same arrangement and exactly
the same musicians were used, it's a
miracle that there's still quite a bit of difference between
the two versions. Though the Holly cover was rush-released and
hit the market even before Atco reissued Bobby's original, the
Darin version was the one that first entered the charts and
peaked at a higher position in Billboard (# 24, versus # 32
And what about the music? Ahmet
Ertegun chose to (re)release all four songs on two Atco singles,
so he must have been pleased with the results, even though he
had not produced them himself. The gospel styled "Early
in the Morning" is a direct clone of Ray Charles' "I
Got a Woman" (in its turn based on an old gospel song),
but works well. "Now We're One" is a pleasant lively
tune, with which I like to sing along. The exuberant "Mighty
Mighty Man" would have been a perfect rocker if it hadn't
been for the obtrusive female chorus. At least during Sam Taylor's
sax break the girls should have been given a moment of leisure.
In fact, Helen Way and her three female companions have a high
irritation factor on all four tracks, least so on "Early
in the Morning." "You're Mine" is easily the
weakest track of the foursome. Reminiscent of Sam Cooke's "You
Send Me," it is one of Darin's least inspired compositions.
The following chronology makes
it easy to refute allegations like "If 'Splish
Splash' hadn't been a hit, Atco would have dropped him,"
or "Decca issued 'Early in the Morning' after 'Splish Splash'
became a smash hit."
Chronology (all dates in 1958):
April 10 : Bobby
records "Splish Splash," "Judy Don't Be Moody"
"Queen of the Hop," produced by Ahmet Ertegun.
- April 24 : While still contracted
to Atco, Bobby records four tracks
- May 1 : Expiration date of Bobby's
one-year contract with Atco. Herb Abramson (head of Atco) wants
to drop him from the label, but is overruled by Ahmet Ertegun.
- May 19 : Release date of "Splish
Splash"/"Judy Don't Be Moody."
May 27 : Release
date of "Early in the Morning"/"Now We're One"
Brunswick 55073, credited to "The Ding Dongs."
June 17 : Atlantic
acquires the master tapes of the four songs from
the Decca session, after threatening legal action. The Brunswick
single is withdrawn.
June 19 : Decca
rushes Buddy Holly into its New York studio (Pythian
Temple) to cover both "Early in the Morning" and
"Now We're One" to meet its outstanding orders
for the songs.
June 23 : "Splish
Splash" enters the Billboard Top 100 (at # 51).
July 5 : Release
date of Buddy Holly's "Early in the Morning"/"Now
We're One" on Coral 62006.
- Mid-July: Atco rereleases Bobby's
version on Atco 6121, crediting it to Bobby Darin and the Rinky
Dinks. Again, the B-side is "Now We're One."
July 28 : Bobby's
version enters the Billboard Top 100 (at # 83).
- August 4 : Buddy's version enters
what is now the Billboard Hot 100
(first installment under that name), at # 41.
September : Atco issues "Mighty
Mighty Man"/"You're Mine" on Atco 6128. Credit
goes again to Bobby Darin and the Rinky Dinks.
My sincere thanks go out to Marilyn and
Brown, who (after much perseverence!) managed to locate
the recording date and studio personnel for this session in Michel
Ruppli's Decca discography. They also saved my earlier post of
March 2002 and forwarded it to me.
-- Dik de Heer
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