Category Archives: Dick Jacobs

“Love Train” lyrics

“Love Train” is a killer recording featuring Jackie Wilson’s powerful voice turned playful and a churning Dick Jacobs arrangement. It’s all built on the foundation of a terrific Blackwell/Scott collaboration. Throughout the song, Jackie mimics Elvis Presley.

You can hear the song being played as some fabulous dancers named Mark and Genevieve put it to the ultimate rock’n’roll test. As they used to say on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand: “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”

Lyrics. The only problem is that Jackie is imitating Mr. Presley’s mushmouth diction, and consequently, the words are indistinct in two lines that are repeated throughout the recording. Even after enlisting the services of my buddy Dennis West, the best I can offer here is a “mostly accurate” stab at the words.

The line “My heart is like a deserted terminal” may well be “My heart is like a deserted tavern” or a “deserted tank” or a “deserted tomb” or just about any other one-syllable or two-syllable noun beginning with the most commonly used consonant in the English language. I’m going with the word terminal (pronounced “term’na”) because it makes sense that a train would not stop in an abandoned train station, but it may be an abandoned town, because a train wouldn’t stop at a ghost town either.

And I am not totally certain about the following line, which I believe is “No locks in the windows and none on the door,” although it sounds more like “No love’s in the windows and none on the door,” and it just may be “No lights in the windows and none on the door.” Ah, make that “the dough.” (Sorry. I’m getting silly).

Love Train
Otis Blackwell, Winfield Scott

Aaaaaaaah, baby!
I want you to listen to me
In fact, everybody out there
Pay attention now
I got a story I want to tell . . . uh-huh

You know, that Love Train don’t stop here no more, uh-huh
My heart is like a deserted term’nal
No locks in the windows and none on the door
When that Engineer Cupid drives on by
You know, I can see it in Cupid’s eye
That that Love Train won’t stop here no more, uh-huh

I thought it was fun to tell little girls lies, uh-huh
I didn’t care which ones I made cry
Hah! That Love Train won’t stop here no more
My heart is like a deserted term’nal
No locks in the windows and none on the door
When that engineer Cupid comes on by
I can see it in Cupid’s eye
That that Love Train won’t stop here no more

Well, I’m gonna check in ta Heartbreak Hotel, uh-huh
Somewhere on a lonely avenue, yeah, yeah
No sense in hopin’ ’cause I know too well
That’s all that’s left for me to do, I tell you . . .
That Love Train won’t stop here no more
My heart is like a deserted term’nal
No locks in the windows and none on the door
Well, that Engineer Cupid show us all
He ain’t gonna let no little fine girls off
That Love Train won’t stop here no more

(instrumental break)

Well, I’m gonna check in ta Heartbreak Hotel, uh-huh
Somewhere on a lonely avenue, uh-huh
No sense in hopin’ ’cause I know too well
Yeah, that’s all that’s left for me to do, I tell you . . .
That Love Train won’t stop here no more
My heart is like a deserted term’nal
No locks in the windows and none on the door
Oh, Engineer Cupid, show us all
You ain’t gonna let no little fine girls off
I told ‘em that Love Train won’t stop here no more

Why not? I don’t know!
Why not? I need my baby.
Let her off!
Oh, Mr. Conductor . . .
Stop the train right now!

Otis Blackwell

Otis Blackwell

The songwriters. Otis Blackwell was a major force in shaping rock ‘n’ roll. He wrote “Fever” for Little Willie John, and he wrote both “Breathless” and “Great Balls of Fire” for Jerry Lee Lewis. For Elvis Presley, he wrote “Paralyzed,” “All Shook Up,” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” and he collaborated with Winfield Scott to write “Return to Sender.” Another major Otis Blackwell hit, “Handy Man,” was first recorded by Jimmy Jones. Winfield Scott himself made additional significant contributions to the popular music canon, writing “Many Tears Ago” for Connie Francis and writing or co-writing two of LaVern Baker’s best known songs, “Tweedlee Dee” and “Bop Ting A Ling.”

“Bop Ting a Ling” is a personal favorite of this writer. I have always imagined the feisty Baker, a longtime friend of Jackie Wilson, was singing to Our Hero:

Bop Ting a Ling
Winfield Scott

Bop ting a ling, you handsome thing
I’d like to get next to you
Doo wah diddy, you walk so pretty
You thrill me through and through
Rang dang doozy, you got me woozy
You look so heavenly
Great day in the morning, I’m giving you warning
You better watch out for me

Great day in the morning
Great day in the morning, man
Great day in the morning
Oh baby, take me by the hand
Great day in the morning
Great day in the morning
Great day in the morning
Bop ting-a ling, I feel so grand

Ting a ling, you handsome thing
I’d like to get next to you
Doo wah diddy, you walk so pretty
You thrill me through and through
Rang dang dilly, you got me silly
My heart won’t let me be
Great day in the morning
I’m giving you warning
You better watch out for me

Well, I’m afraid I have digressed a bit here.

My unanswered questions. Blackwell and Scott wrote “Return to Sender” for Elvis to use in the movie Girls! Girls! Girls! (released in November 1962). Jackie’s “Love Train” appeared on the LP Baby Workout, which was released the following spring (April 1963). I am trying to ascertain whether or not “Love Train” was actually written for Elvis Presley. It may even have been one of the songs offered for the film. I think Jackie and Elvis visited while Elvis was making that particular movie, and I wonder if Jackie heard about the song from Elvis.

“I Hurt So Bad” is another recording on which Jackie Wilson sings in his “Elvis mode.” This song appears on Jackie’s “The Lost Tapes” CD, and I suspect it was also written by Blackwell.

If anyone reading this has further information or a photo of songwriter Winfield Scott, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Quotes and common sense

Before I return to commenting on books written about Jackie Wilson, I want to say something more about the way America consumes information from and about entertainers.

The more I look at material on the Fifties and Sixties, the more I cringe. On the one hand, we have rich harvest of memoirs, biographies, appreciations, and criticism on, by, or about the recording artists of that period. However, the unspoken-but-guiding principle in composing these books seems to be “it’s only info-tainment,” that ugly term coined a decade or so ago to cover the “information + entertainment” fluff pieces about anything from the revelation of a talent show contestant’s arrest record to printing Mel Gibson’s mug shot to analyzing Kanye West’s drunken behavior at an awards banquet.

The Info-tainment Principle goes something like this: “Truth is of no consequence because entertainers are not really important people; in fact, even if they were, so what? Even the President of the United States can be misrepresented and ridiculed unfairly, as long as it’s about his private life—and particularly if it’s about his sex life.”

Curiously, in the Fifties and Sixties, movie stars and other celebrities engaged in what were called “publicity stunts,” which were activities meant to help shape their images for the public, and their press agents concocted stories for gossip columnists as a way to further influence public opinion about their clients. Sometimes the objective was merely keeping the clients’ names in the public’s working memory. (Check this link for a sample of a press agent’s work, a story planted about Sam Cooke and Harlean Harris, the woman who would later become Jackie Wilson’s second wife.)

Yet, while all this fakery went on, “hard news” reporters worked to keep the facts straight, and biographers and critics went out of their way to prove or disprove certain events and widely-held beliefs about the big names of the entertainment industry.

Today we have a curious partnership of falsehoods vying for our attention: The Info-tainment Principle entwines itself around old lies, the ones composed and distributed by press agents and the stars who recited lines written by press agents, creating even more complex works of fiction.

For example, both Doug Saint Carter in The Black Elvis: Jackie Wilson and Tony Douglas in Lonely Teardrops: The Jackie Wilson Story make use of an article printed in Musician magazine decades ago, an article that included extensive quotations from the late Dick Jacobs about his first interactions with Jackie Wilson. Both Carter and Douglas recycle the story as though it is an accurate account by Jacobs, although Jacobs is clearly offering a mere story, the work of press agents.

In the Musician article, Jacobs relates meeting with Jackie in order to determine how to write the arrangements for their first recording session together, which will include “Reet Petite” and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon.” He spills forth an elaborate yarn based on Jackie not being able to sing that day due to a severe cold and sore throat. Supposedly, each time Jacobs strikes some chords on the piano, Jackie signals that he wants the arrangement in a higher key. After Jacobs goes through what he describes as all the usual “male” keys and a number of the usual “female” keys, he excuses himself to go to another room to confer with the boss, Bob Thiele, about whether or not they’ve signed a “real singer.” The boss says it will probably be the only recording session they do with the kid, so let him have his way.

Excuse me for groaning here, but these guys worked for Decca.

At the moment these two were supposedly having their despairing conversation over Jackie Wilson, Decca artists included Billy Ward and His Dominoes. Only the year before, just after coming to Decca from King/Federal, Billy Ward and His Dominoes scored a Top Twenty hit with “St. Therese of the Roses.” The lead singer on the recording was Jackie Wilson.

But this gets worse. Jacobs then describes how he hires the top session men in New York City to play on “Reet Petite.” (Sure, you pay for the best when you think you are going to scrap what you record.) And then Jacobs tells us that when they first heard Jackie sing, all the session men went slack-jawed in awe.

Oh, sure, they did. None of New York’s top session men had ever heard of Billy Ward and His Dominoes, a group that had become popular with its first lead tenor, Clyde McPhatter, and maintained its success when McPhatter gave way to Jackie Wilson, who sang the tenor leads for almost four years. It is simply amazing how ignorant of popular music those who manufacture it can be, isn’t it?

Like compound interest reported on your bank statement, the balance in a “falsehoods account” increases when someone recycles a piece of fiction as though it were fact. Yet this process works comfortably alongside The Info-tainment Principle.

At least both Carter and Douglas realized that the famous Norm N Nite interview with Jackie Wilson was full of fiction. Jackie was never a Golden Gloves contestant, much less a champion, and of course the story of Jackie being shot while intervening in a fan’s attempted suicide was also a flawlessly recited fib. The lie, of course, had been devised to make a hero of Jackie in the midst of whatever the specific embarrassing reality was—probably that Jackie, a married man, was trying to keep one of his girlfriends, Juanita Jones, from shooting another of his girlfriends, Harlean Harris. (See Jackie Wilson Biography.)

The value of the Norm N Nite interview rests in hearing Jackie’s speaking voice and detecting his genuine enthusiasm for Elvis Presley and his late friend Sam Cooke. There is precious little truth in the whole audiotape. Maybe that’s why there were so few interviews with Jackie Wilson. The man obviously loved to laugh and smile. He probably couldn’t keep a straight face for interviewers.