No tags :(

Share it




With so many artists releasing so many records over so many years it is inevitable that most are largely ignored at the time and never thought of in the decades since…

James Waynes, if he’s lucky, avoids that ignominious fate by virtue of the song on the top side of this release, not a national chart hit in its day but huge in a few locales and a somewhat enduring rock standard in the years since and a song that is certainly hard to forget once you’ve heard it.

Even that faint glimmer of awareness however probably has at least some of its notoriety due to Waynes’ own harrowing and tragic real life story which followed. But whatever the reason behind it that’s still more vague name recognition than the majority of artists we’ve covered through rock’s first four years can claim so how could he complain?

Well, here’s how… he hasn’t released a bad song yet, most of them have been very good with the majority of them being absolutely great. This might not quite be on par with his best sides, but it’s damn good in its own right and yet in spite of this impressive track record to date he remains unjustly overlooked.


Positively Would Not Do
If you needed further proof that music is never best served by conformity, James Waynes is your man.

On the surface he seems to be the unlikeliest of singers as he doesn’t possess a really good voice, in fact his pinched nasal voice sounds at times almost as if it’s being exaggerated for comical effect or if someone has been screwing around with tape speeds.

It’s not very resonant and his tone is alarmingly close to the saxophones he’s invariably sharing space with, causing them to blend into one another in ways that aren’t recommended.

Yet his understanding of how to use that voice to its fullest advantage, whether laying hard into the quirky rhythmic patterns of Junco Partner or riding a more streamlined rhythm as he does here, shows how fully in command he is whenever he opens his mouth. There’s no uncertainty of how to approach a song, no struggle to maintain his grip on different material and there’s always a sense he’s completely immersed in whatever character he’s embodying from one song to the next.

On Tryin’ To Find A Girl he’s playing an eager suitor, more genial than horny, his anxiousness coming across as endearing rather than desperate.

He’s somebody you find yourself rooting for within the confines of a two and a half minute snapshot of his travails and yet unlike a lot of guys who’ve laid their heart on the line in a song, with Waynes there’s the nagging belief that if he should fail it still wouldn’t be the end of the world.

It’s hard not to admire someone like that.

Sheep In The Meadow, Cows In The Barn
There’s a lot packed into this song, both in terms of story and music.

The music probably is more attention getting with its rousing horn intro and steady rhythm anchoring the track before Waynes himself hops on board, and in some ways he comes across as merely another instrument, his voice surging with the music and then stepping aside for a long stretch to allow for multiple solos, but it’s still his personality that defines this record.

Though he tells us flat out that he’s Tryin’ To Find A Girl, in truth he’s already found one and it’s her he’s directing the song at, describing his earlier failures in brief terms and announcing he’s in love with this one despite the fact they don’t really know each other.

That’s usually a red flag in these sorts of things but the way he’s so cheerfully upfront about it makes him seem almost harmless… which of course might be an even bigger warning sign, but I’m not a psychologist so I’ll leave that determination to others. What I DO know is that if you were a girl who was intrigued enough by his earnestness to consider his proposition, the deciding factor in your saying yes surely would be his friends… the musicians, who are absolutely cooking here.

The primary backing track is hot enough with its effortlessly rolling rhythm, but the solos are absolutely scalding from the squealing sax line that launches the first of them before he starts to grind away in a deeper register while piano and drums are chasing him down as if the saxman owes them money, to the sudden slow-down when the horn drops out and the piano plays a more deliberate, though still funky, interlude that allows you to catch your breath again.

You’ll need it because before long here comes that sax again – probably Ed Wiley – and he’s taking no prisoners this time around, riffing with fury as the drums are spurring him on yet again. By the time Waynes returns his heartfelt plea to this surely overwhelmed girl seems positively subdued by comparison.

We’re not sure if she said yes – it ends with Waynes making his final pitch to her – but if she did agree there’s every chance that they disappeared off the grid, living at a musical commune somewhere in the country, dancing, singing and carrying on until they both collapsed from exhaustion a few decades down the road, the smiles on their faces telling the story of a life lived well.


Can’t You Plainly See?
Maybe the story itself is a little too ambiguous for this to be hit material on its own, especially with so few spots on official charts at the time for something like this to crack them, but performance-wise this carries the day and is something nobody in their right mind would have any trouble grooving to whenever the needle dropped.

Because it’s so different, sonically and thematically, from the top half of the record, Tryin’ To Find A Girl also makes for a great B-side, showing off two distinct personas of Waynes to remind listeners he’s got more to offer than just one musical approach.

The independent record biz of the 1950’s is notorious for being a cesspool of ethics, often treating contracts as little more than unenforceable suggestions and thinking of artists as mere chattel who were easily discarded with no repercussions.

Most never got one/one hundredth of what they earned, yet a lot of talented artists still managed to subsist on the residue of that for years. James Waynes was one who didn’t have the coping mechanisms to handle it and his life eventually spiraled downward.

But songs like this showed that if he were treated fairly and got the acclaim, money and recognition he deserved his life and career might’ve turned out far better than it did.

Unfortunately we’re left to chalk it up to collateral damage before everybody moves on to the next forgotten name on the roster.


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