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For those unfamiliar with the song, a quick scan of the title will either fool you into thinking you see something else that seems to make more sense – Agreeable Woman – or will cause you to think Imperial records must’ve misprinted the label.

But that is the actual title and it does have an actual point – and, though it’s hardly used in today’s language – it IS an actual word that James Wayne uses in the right way.

See, all those lies your mother and your English teacher told you about never learning anything of value if you listened to rock ‘n’ roll was wrong after all.


Prepare A Decent Stew
One thing all music, not just rock ‘n’ roll, does over time is reveal the common jargon of the day.

Whether it’s terms that quickly show their age like “groovy” in the 1960’s or “rad” in the 1980’s, or if it’s something more subversive like the jive nonsense introduced by black performers in the 1930’s which served to purposefully confuse white listeners while at the same time keeping them at arm’s length by insinuating theirs was a special club at which whitey could peak in at but never enter, the choice of words in songs can be very instructive when learning about different eras.

The term in question here on Ageable Woman would today be referred to as a “cougar”… an older woman seeking a younger man.

In this case though it’s the younger man, James Wayne, who already HAS an older woman and is telling the world how much better a proposition that is and at the same time is warning others to keep away from his lady.

I’m not really sure that “ageable” was in common usage in 1952, though probably more so than today when most encounter it here would have to look it up to discover that it means “advanced in years” and “likely to be improved with age”. But then they didn’t have today’s slang to identify a desirable older female at a glance like we’ve come up with in the years since.

Of course there’s a second era-related aspect that shapes this song’s contents which isn’t quite as apparent on first look and that’s how the lyrics are going to have dance around the OTHER reason why Wayne is so devoted to his mature partner and that reason is clearly S.E.X.

But in 1952 artists could hardly be upfront and tell you that older women had plenty of experience in pleasing a man in bed and that long sensuous lovemaking was in many ways better than the hasty wham-bam activities younger people were often forced to have for logistical reasons alone. So Wayne instead has to use even more era-specific tropes of the day to conform to the sexist view of a woman’s appeal in mid-century America – they’re better at doing housework!

Is it any wonder why women’s lib was inevitable and long overdue?

So you can read this however you want, but whichever way you choose you’re sure to learn a little something in the process.


She Sure Is Good To Me
Right away you get a sense of the exuberance James Wayne has for this woman before he even enters the picture thanks to the rousing horns that kick this off. It’s a full horn section – which often spells trouble if they revert back to 1940’s big-band mentality – but here, probably because they’re the cream of the New Orleans session musicians, they stick to a tight compact formation, riffing in unison and building anticipation for the vocals to come in.

As always Wayne has a voice that would be almost comic if he wasn’t so damn good at utilizing it. There’s a cartoonish tonal quality to it, slightly nasal but with a whine that makes it almost sound like an engine not turning over properly. In spite of this – or maybe even because of it – he sounds all the more endearing.

Surely it helps sell Ageable Woman by suggesting his own youthful innocence in a way that was probably not true to life. He’s not really trying to exaggerate it, but thanks to that pinched quality in his voice he comes across as eager and naïve rather than lustful and manipulative when he sings about how smitten he is with this older woman.

The way it’s written though she could be anything we want her to be, from a lonely middle-aged woman with unfulfilled desires needing an outlet (like Cloris Leachman in The Last Picture Show) or a femme fatale who is out to hook a younger man for her own deviant purposes. It really makes no difference because what matters here is Wayne’s giddy infatuation which sounds so genuine you have to almost assume he’d been seeing someone twice his age while hanging out on Decatur Street during his stay in the Crescent City.

The band sure doesn’t sound as if they need to be convinced of her talents – whatever they may be – as they’re content to keep things rolling along behind Wayne without drawing unnecessary attention to what they’re doing, but when needed – such as the stop-time bridge – they assert themselves more forcefully to raise the dramatic stakes.

The solo that follows is more like three or four solos in one, or at least three or four movements in just a 40 second span that starts with a tenor and baritone sax trading off while Wayne urges them on, before subtly shifting weight to the piano – and then drums – behind the horns as the tenor eases into the lead role.

Though it definitely hurts that we don’t get more information on the woman, especially since it’s clear the real reasons for his happiness with her had to be disguised (either because of the restrictive moral codes of the times or perhaps just to throw off other men lurking around and looking for a good ride in bed) but it doesn’t take much imagination to read between the lines when he eagerly delivers the heading for the next section right below the album pictured here…


Got What It Takes To Satisfy My Soul
It’s hard to tell what readers get out of these reviews sometimes. I’m sure there are many who just want to compare their own scores to what I hand out and mutter indignantly to themselves when their own purely subjective taste isn’t reflected in these marks.

Then there could be others who are far more interested in just reading about the big name records that they already know and like and would probably rather we skip over anything that wasn’t a big hit… as if those big hits need any more attention bestowed on them.

But hopefully there are at least a few who are here to learn of – or at least re-discover – some records and some artists who’ve been neglected by the usual narrow focus history books.

Someone like James Wayne may have one or two songs briefly mentioned in those histories, but unless you seek out a full career overview of his work, and then actually listen to it all intently rather just cherry pick a few sides, there’s still bound to be songs like Ageable Woman that slip past your guard.

We’ve covered so many artists and so many songs so far that I suppose it’s easy to not always pay close attention to every act we write about, but James Wayne has been someone who continues to delight almost every time out and that’s hard to find no matter how big a name somebody is.

He may be a little too quirky for some tastes, but on almost every song he brings something interesting to the table and with a first rate bunch of session musicians hitting on all cylinders like they do here it’s hard not to like what he’s putting down… no matter your age, or the age of the woman you find yourself with as you listen to him sing her praises.


(Visit the Artist page of James Wayne for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)