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The Hawks

It Ain't That Way

Vocal group fever had hit the Big Easy. Trumpet-blowing bandleader Dave Bartholomew, A&R man for Imperial Records, took his band's vocalist Allen 'Fat Man' Matthews, paired him with a veteran gospel outfit, The New Orleans Humming Four, who had a 1952 spiritual release on Imperial, Twelve Gates To The City, and had himself an instant group.

The Humming Four had formed in 1932, so they weren't kids. Bartholomew brought Matthews and the Humming Four into Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studios in November of '52 and cut four sides, issuing When Boy Meets Girl and Later Baby on Imperial under the name of Fat Man Matthews & The Four Kittens near year's end. Then Matthews had two Bartholomew-helmed 1953 solo releases, Down The Line on Imperial and I'm Thankful on its Bayou subsidiary.

Dave didn't given up on his group concept. In December of '53, he brought the Fat Man and the Four (at that point, tenors Albert Veal and Joe Gaines, baritone John 'Buddy' Morris, and bass Willie Thrower) back to J&M. When Imperial issued the irreligious double-entendre Joe The Grinder and Candy Girl (showcasing Thrower and Gaines respectively) in February of 1954, the group had been renamed The Hawks. They encored on Imperial with a Gaines-led She's All Right and the intense Matthews-fronted Good News, cut at an April followup session.

Then Imperial reached back for the other two songs done in December of 1953 to comprise The Hawks' third Imperial offering, issued in June of '54. Fat Man Matthews (he doesn't look too enormous in The Hawks' only known promo photo) co-wrote the impassioned, blues-soaked It Ain't That Way, his lead tenor exhibiting a Clyde McPhatter influence. Gaines was spotlighted on the opposite side, I-Yi.

In addition to backing Imperial vocalists Dave Collins and Joan Scott, The Hawks had several more Bartholomew-helmed outings on the label. The rest of 1954 saw the issue of Give It Up b/w Nobody But You and an old-fashioned That's What You Are b/w a rocking All Women Are The Same, while '55 brought a jumping It's Too Late Now and Can't See For Looking on Imperial and Why Oh Why b/w These Blues on its short-lived Post logo. Matthews' introductory grinder He's The Fat Man was unfortunately shelved. Cosimo's vaunted house band, including tenor sax titan Lee Allen and drummer Earl Palmer, inevitably delivered the goods behind them.

Matthews still had his gig as Bartholomew's resident vocalist, so when The Hawks left Imperial, they hired Lee Cannon as their new lead tenor. He led both sides of their only Modern release in 1956, It's All Over b/w Ever Since You Been Gone.  

- Bill Dahl -

Various Vol.6, Street Corner Symphonies 1954

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