Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mickey and His Mice - "Cracker Jack" (1970)

Mickey and His Mice - "Cracker Jack" (Billboard regional breakout hit: Washington D.C., entered 6/27/70). Written by Mickey Fields, Eddie Drennon, and Martin Cantine. Produced by Martin Cantine. 45: "Cracker Jack"/"Abraham, Martin and John" (Marti, 1970). No album appearance.

Question: Hey baby, what is this cracker jack thing? Answer: Ain't nothin' but the popcorn with some sweet jive on it.

The "popcorn" was a James Brown concoction - a dance he'd started doing onstage in 1968, according to some accounts, to the song "Bringing Up the Guitar." He then recorded a stack of popcorn-oriented records, including "Mother Popcorn" (1969), an unassailable highlight in the James Brown hall of finest funk. But "popcorn" might have had more to do with the Godfather of Soul's personal lexicon of booty synonyms than with any specific dance moves.

"Popcorn music" has also become a term adopted by soul music aficionados in Europe to describe a sweeter strain of the obscure vintage sixties dance cuts you see categorized as "Northern soul" (so named for their popularity in certain Manchester clubs). It's safe to assume, though, that Mickey Fields, the tenor sax man and bandleader answering the lady's question at the beginning of "Cracker Jack," is referring to the James Brown popcorn sound.

The single showed up on Billboard as a regional breakout hit in Washington D.C., having likely racked up some airplay on WPGC or WEAM. It might have gotten more traction if Fields wouldn't have refused to ever leave the Baltimore area.

Mickey and His Mice - "Cracker Jack"

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