The Cats & the Fiddle

We Cats Will Swing for You, Vol. 3: 1941-1948

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Among those who have ever heard of the Cats and the Fiddle or sought out their recordings, the material presented on the third volume of the Fabulous label's exhaustive history of the group may come as a surprise, for most of this group's legacy has been tied to RCA/Bluebird reissues since the 1970s. Having enjoyed moderate success as Bluebird recording artists beginning in 1939, the Cats underwent many changes beginning with the death of bassist Chuck Barksdale in 1941. He was replaced by one George Steinbeck. Tiny Grimes left the group in 1942, whereupon his place was taken by Pee Wee Branford. The decisive and dramatic changeup occurred when leader Austin Powell was drafted in 1943. This collection is mainly useful as a sequel to the two previous volumes. Note the remakes of "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water" and "I Miss You So"; a jivey treatment of "Shorty's Got to Go," a string of Powell originals including "When Elephants Roost in Bamboo Trees," and Grimes' famously irascible credo "Romance Without Finance," soon to be immortalized in the company of Charlie "Yardbird" Parker. The Cats and the Fiddle are known to have continued to change both styles and personnel through 1955, but that's an entirely different story and the recorded evidence promises to be even more obscure than what made it onto this collection. As far as this portion of the story goes, the band of the early and mid-'40s sounds more or less as it did during their first two years of recording activity, with maybe a bit less of an edge to it.

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