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PEACOCK 1513; FEBRUARY, 1950

 
 

 

If there was a rough blueprint being established for independent record labels coming along as the 1940’s gave way to the 1950’s it would generally go as follows:

Find one or two halfway talented singers or musicians who haven’t caught a break yet and convince them that you’re their ticket to stardom and pour most of your time, money and energy into cultivating their career in the hopes of getting your company established with at least a regional hit or two.

Then while you’re doing this simply fill in the roster with whatever assortment of local wanna-be artists to ensure that there’s a steady stream of releases to entice distributors into building a working relationship with your label.

Chances are you’d still be out of business in a year or two but at least you’d be cannily hedging your bets and playing the percentages rather than merely waiting for lightning to strike and some budding superstar to come waltzing through your doors.
 

 

Just Got In Your Town
Peacock Records was only a few months old in the winter of 1950 and it already had in place the first of those requirements with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, a talented singer/guitarist who was managed by the label’s owner Don Robey.

Brown’s budding career had been the impetus for Robey starting Peacock Records in the first place after he’d been frustrated with the lack of interest in Brown shown by other companies. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that.

In this case it happened to pay off as Gatemouth’s first few records on this new label had sold well and gotten him some national recognition which meant Robey could expand his operations more, but to do that he needed artists and that takes us to the inevitable second step in building a record company – bringing in run-of-the-mill acts like R. B. Thibadeaux, reputedly a friend of (or musical disciple of) Gatemouth Brown himself.

The A-side of this release hints at that connection, as New Kind Of Loving is a somewhat traditional sounding bluesy offering, slow and deliberate with a hangdog, not to mention very nasal, vocal delivery with a prominent guitar backing. Not awful, but nothing special either.

But it’s the flip side, R. B. Boogie, that gets our attention for while admittedly it isn’t anything special either the record is at least interesting for the type of musical archaeology we specialize in around here as it sits perched halfway halfway between a swampy blues style and rock ‘n’ roll that makes it very emblematic of the musical melting pot of this specific time and place.

 

Tell You What I Can Do
Judging by his last name you’d assume that Thibadeux might’ve come from Louisiana and whether or not that’s the case the musical gumbo he’s serving up with this side seems to confirm that he was at least familiar with the building blocks of that style.

The horns that open R. B. Boogie are too mannered to provide the right launch for a record touting itself as a boogie and lacking any raw gutsy edge it’s left to the piano to establish enough of a rhythm for Thibadeaux to ride as this gets underway.

He’s given a roll call of cocky boasts to establish the much needed attitude if the song is to take its place in rock’s good graces but as with everything else about this record for each positive sign we come across there is something else that comes attached at the hip to negate those advantages, and in this case it’s the fact the lyrics are little more than by the numbers lines we’ve all heard countless times before in one form or another.

More damning than that however is they’re being delivered by a singer with his vocal chords mysteriously connected to his nostrils which means he’s still got his work cut out for him even if they had been Shakespearean in their wit and wisdom. But in keeping with the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away mentality of this effort, where it makes up for some of is faults is in how he effectively harnesses his enthusiasm with a genuine flair that is miles apart from the downtrodden outlook he exhibited on the flip side.

Here Thibadeaux is convinced he fits the profile he’s singing about. We all know he’s overestimating his own appeal but if he believes it to be true we’re at least willing to go along with it and allow him the chance to try and win us over. When he cries out the song’s most potent lines…

Well my name is R.B.
I’m a fresh 19
When I boogie with a woman
I make her scream!

…he might be totally self–delusional, but it’s hard not to at least admire his cockiness and that at least helps to make up some for his own shortcomings.
 


 

More And More
In a lot of this song you can see obvious debt that’s owed to Roy Brown, rock’s celebrated musical founder, and Roy’s one time partner, Clarence Samuels, who in his own career was forever the bridesmaid never the bride.

Of course if Thibadeaux was from around The Crescent City he might well have seen them working together at The Down Beat Club back in the summer of 1947 before Brown broke through with Good Rocking Tonight which launched rock ‘n’ roll nationally, but unfortunately Thibadeaux was apparently taking performing notes while watching Samuels on stage instead.

Not only does he posses the more strident voice and less flexible delivery that guaranteed Samuels would be an historical also-ran in rock’s story, Thibadeaux has no flair for the dramatic that Brown brought to the table with his gospel upbringing, which is precisely what R. B. Boogie really needs to connect.

He tries his best maybe, projecting himself with as much power as he can stir up with limited lung power, but the qualifications required for something like this are beyond his capacity to pull off.

Unfortunately the musical requirements needed to set this apart are beyond his band’s capabilities as well.

The way the horns are used is the primary problem. Lacking a gutsy tenor to give the song the aggressive attitude it needs and more of a sonic bottom, the horn brigade has too much responsibility thrust upon their narrow shoulders when considering the personnel he’s working with it would’ve been much smarter to spread the duties across the entire band.

The piano is setting the rhythm fairly well but soon gets lost amidst the repetitive circular horn riff. When the first break is given to the wheezing tenor the piano’s role understandably is diminished, but because what the horn is playing is nothing more than incidental side music, not the kind of grab you by the balls solo that he should be featuring, the energy drops too much.

But seconds later you’ll be looking back fondly at that weak tenor because now the trumpet takes over and shoots the song in the foot… the leg… the chest… and the head for good measure, delivering a woozy solo that has no place here. You’ll note the piano is STILL trying to keep this track on life support but with little help from the drummer and bassist he’s fighting a losing battle.

Thibadeaux drags this back out of the fire with the aforementioned best stanza of the song and wails away down the stretch trying to convince you of the song’s potency but each part of this that stands out only really does so in comparison to something weaker that preceded it. The end result is a song that had the basic framework to be reasonably effective but thanks to shoddy workmanship it gets assembled wrong and promptly falls apart.
 


 

Better Not Let Them Hang Around
By this point in rock’s story we’ve seen plenty of lauded independent companies – Imperial, Specialty, Atlantic – take years to get a handle on this style of music so when looking at the decidedly underwhelming early returns on Peacock Records we can grant them a bit of leeway as they tried to get their feet under them these first few months.

I’m sure even Don Robey would’ve been willing to admit at the time that R. B. Thibadeaux – and those like him – were little more than stopgap artists designed to give them experience in record production until a better crop of talent could be harvested. That they made sure that one of his first sides was aiming for rock audiences was a promising sign, even if R. B. Boogie fell short in most of its goals.

Still, the effort itself can’t be faulted and with most endeavors in life early failures can be instructive, provided you’re open to learning from your mistakes.

If Peacock was able to take one lesson from this we’d hope it’d be that while having the right idea is the necessary starting point for any worthwhile task, having the right personnel to back that idea up with conviction is equally – if not more – important in the end.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
(Visit the Artist page of R. B. Thibadeaux for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)