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RPM 321; APRIL 1951



A promising career can effectively be blunted before it even gets off the ground through a series of questionable decisions.

Mickey Champion was unfortunate enough to have to contend with virtually all of them.

She had releases both as a solo artist and an uncredited member of a makeshift group and her live gigs mostly had her filling in for the underaged Little Esther in clubs where alcohol was served, thereby not even singing her own songs.

Now she was switched from Modern Records to their subsidiary RPM and saddled with an arrangement that positioned her midway between yesterday and today. No wonder she’d never become a star… with friends like these who needs enemies.


Makes Me Feel Good For Nothin’ Too
It was pretty obvious from the start that everybody associated with Mickey Champion viewed her as merely someone to fit the bill for whatever they needed at the time.

She was never really allowed to establish her own persona, never invested in as an artist, promoted as a potential star or given the kind of material to set her apart from the pack.

Some might defend those choices, saying that you need to prove your chops to earn more opportunity and since she didn’t have a dynamic voice, wasn’t a bombshell and had no unique qualities to focus on musically, the best you could hope for is that one of her songs caught on in an organic way and then, with her name recognition established, that’s when you’d put more effort into keeping her at the top.

But while some of that may be true, Champion remained active in music for the rest of her life, never achieving stardom but keeping herself in view and that’s an achievement in of itself and proves that she must’ve had something going for her to last so long… something that should’ve been evident to those overseeing her recordings early on.

Instead her record company was staggering around trying lots of things for no other reason than to see if one of them might stick. Case in point, the flip side of this, If That’s The Way You Feel is a jazzy torch song that is far removed from the rock foundation she’d already begun to establish.

They paired however it with Good For Nothin’ Man, a song that clearly is aiming for the rock crowd, both thematically and with some of the musical elements this genre is known for, which shows they were pursuing two divergent paths at once, undercutting the viability of them both thanks to their indecision.


Only A Woman Understands
Apparently the same musicians who were so at ease with the jazz motif on the other side were given free reign to do as they pleased on this one as well and to no one’s surprise it’s the horns who try watering this down, playing a jaunty light jazz intro that is completely at odds with the subject of the tune which finds Champion badmouthing the guy she’s addicted to sexually.

Jazz, even the kind of bland spry version played here, is more for elegant romance and making love, while the grittier saxes and stomping rhythms this song requires are for the kind of purely physical relationship she and this guy are clearly enjoying and understanding that difference might make this work well if they chose right. Instead they chose wrong and as a result it has no real chance to be convincing.

Champion’s got an interesting perspective to try and sell with this at least, for she’s not so much conflicted over her predicament but rather is simply trying to explain it to someone who is questioning her decision to stick with a Good For Nothin’ Man.

To her credit she doesn’t try and sugar coat anything here, calling the guy she’s with “short, fat and ugly” and he’s broke to boot. Her honesty is a welcome change from the standard playbook that so many women in questionable relationships use wherein they try to claim “he’s not THAT bad”, while awkwardly hoping to change the subject before they get defensive over more pointed criticism that’s sure to follow.

Instead she’s admitting he’s got nothing going for him except whatever prowess he displays between the sheets and that alone makes him worth her time and trouble.

But listening to her describe this you never get the idea that the record is comfortable with such an excuse because the band is so hopelessly clueless about these kind of carnal matters and play as if he were spinning her around the dance floor at a society ball.

Or I should say SOME of the band are playing for just such an occasion, because when the soloing starts it’s clear that at least two of them have had plenty of experience getting down and dirty.

The saxophone is digging sounds from the deepest part of the instrument, shimmying his notes as if he were trying to untangle himself from his pants and suspenders to hop into bed with her. When he gets finished it’s the guitar’s turn and he’s taking over for the sax in the wham-bam department, his instrument delivering stabbing bursts of sounds, faintly erotic licks and buzzing sensations that are sure to satisfy.

That’s the kind of scene she was depicting with her singing and it’s good to see someone was paying attention to her. But as a result only the back half of the record winds up working and you have to convince people to wade through the first half just to get to it and since Champion is far from a household name that’s probably pretty unlikely.


No One Else Will Do
At times you wonder if people making records actually listened to playbacks in the studio between takes and discussed what it was they heard and how to improve upon it.

If they had this would be easy enough to fix. Jettison the full horn section, hand that role over to the tenor and have him play slinky to start with, gradually ramping it up while the supper club piano is replaced with a seductive boogie that would allow Champion, who at times follows the more restrained music far too closely, to instead be more suggestive in her initial stanzas, toning down the volume while adding a slyly sensuous tone to hint at what the payoff will be.

In that scenario Good For Nothin’ Man would definitely be worth recommending because we know from the second half they were all capable of that kind of thing.

But nobody seemed to care that this came across like a Jekyll & Hyde performance where the first part, the time where you have to really grab the listener, was the very thing that would drive them away.

If you make it through to the end you’ll understand just how they elevated this as much as they did, but if you turned it off halfway through you’ll wonder how something so bland and uninspiring could inch its way out of the red numbers at all. As usual though there’s plenty of blame to go around.


(Visit the Artist page of Mickey Champion for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)