No tags :(

Share it

DELUXE 3312; MARCH 1951



Some songs define an artist, an era and an entire style.

Few people would think to say this was one of them.

When assessing Brown’s career this is a cut that barely gets mentioned. It wasn’t a hit, not often included on compilations and it’s even got a generic title and we know how history tends to prefer tracks whose titles make statements unto themselves when it comes to ground breakers like Brown. Heck, the lyrics even recycles a line from an earlier song of his which makes it seem on the surface that maybe he was just looking to come up with something in a hurry to round out a session and cribbed a bunch of past ideas.

But in many ways that’s what makes this so potent.

It’s a record that perfectly encapsulates not only Roy’s own legacy to this point but also serves as a startlingly good recap of virtually everything rock ‘n’ roll has entailed over its first three and a half years.


Live The Right Kind Of Life
Maybe the best place to start is to look at all of the musical components that rock has heavily featured over its lifetime which this song uses to good effect starting with the rolling piano boogie that was one of the genre’s cornerstone’s from the beginning.

It’s an indelible sound in rock’s DNA, pulling you in right away before you’re immediately hit with a second noteworthy instrumental piece of rock’s puzzle.

The guitar of course wasn’t nearly as common when rock began but it gradually began making its presence known and by 1951 was firmly entrenched in the top three (very loosely defined) for featured roles in an arrangement behind the aforementioned piano which may soon be in danger of losing its spot at #2 and the still dominant horns – in all of their many guises.

What’s surprising is that those horns are held back for a surprisingly long time on Good Man Blues but when they finally come into the picture after Roy’s arrival sets the scene for the song they quickly steer the mood into the rousing setting that rock was built on. Throw in the hand-claps that pop up next which played a vital part in establishing both the importance of the beat in rock as well as conveying the communal atmosphere of the music, and you pretty much have the entire musical blueprint of rock ‘n’ roll in one concise package here.

Then there’s Brown himself, the founder of the movement itself, one of its most enduring stars and a vocalist who was equally capable of starting a party or leading a funeral procession with his emotional wailing.

Here he chooses the former with an added caveat in that the uptempo pace is combined with a holy roller delivery which comprises yet another crucial ingredient in rock’s recipe, the brazen theft of gospel-esque passion to sell these secular songs as if they were a matter of life and death.

When the saxophones start to honk away during the instrumental break it’s the last major facet of rock’s ascent being thrown into the mix, all of which is being presented as if it were a play wherein every element of this genre’s history is put on stage for the approval of an audience that has already been converted.

If you’d been living in a cave since 1946 and had to just a few minutes to learn what you’d missed musically during that time this record somehow manages to not leave a single thing out.


I’m Gonna Be Her Kind Of Guy
Thanks to its virtual checklist of important attributes it’s not hard to see why this record makes for such a great case study on the rock phenomenon up to 1951. With all of that going for it you’d think this would be in some way the glorious culmination of everything that preceded it, sort of a victory lap and a manifesto rolled into one.

Yet it’s obvious by the fan base’s casual dismissal of the song, not rejection so much as disinterest, both at the time and in the years since, that it wasn’t received in that spirit.

Though the obvious question is why… in truth the answer isn’t hard to see.

Good Man Blues is unique among rock songs in that it says the wrong things in the right way.

What I mean is, when songs fail to click despite some really strong elements it’s usually because they write a good song but frame it in a way that sells the lyrical message short, but here the reverse is true. The music and vocal delivery are spot on, but what Roy is telling us runs counter to the collective attitude of rock fans as a whole.

Though some might view it as oversimplification to say that young people who have fewer responsibilities at that stage of life are the guiding voices of the rock movement, the truth is they DO control the narrative, which is why rock – far more than any other musical style ever – has such generational turnover among its audience.

Once you’re out of your teens and early twenties your day to day activities start to become diametrically opposed to what rock generally celebrates, which is freedom and boundless optimism.

On this song Roy still is singing as if he embodies those outlooks, but his words are telling us otherwise. If we were to take this as a personal statement reflecting his own evolving lifestyle, we’d predict his time as rock’s leading light would be over soon, as he’d probably start writing songs about 3 AM feedings, dinner parties and cutting the lawn on weekends.

It’s not of course, Brown was just creating a character for the purposes of a song, but while the energy and enthusiasm he and the band displays are absolutely ideal for rock, there’s not going to be many carefree young rock fans who want to confront their own futures of 9-5 jobs, quiet Saturday nights and mountains of responsibility that are looming in the distance while listening to a record that has the surface appearance of pretending those realities are never going to arrive.

The dichotomy may just have cut a little too close to the bone to feel entirely comfortable embracing it.


Yes, I’m Happy Now!
In spite of the slight disconnect between the sound of the record and the fictional plot he attaches to it, this still has most of the hallmarks of the freewheeling excitement that was rock ‘n’ roll’s calling card through the years and in the right frame of mind the mood overwhelms the details to such an extent you’ll be on the brink of losing your mind under its influence.

By the end of Good Man Blues it almost doesn’t matter what tripe about becoming an upright responsible citizen he’s pushing on us because he’s acting more out of control than ever, practically speaking in tongues as the band creates such a racket that the roof is liable to cave in on them… and even that might not stop their carrying on.

All of which confirms that his earlier claims where he’s renouncing his past antics, telling us “I’ve been reformed!”, were nothing but lies, thus giving us the final key to rock’s winning formula in the process – a total lack of moral rectitude.

Fear not kids, Roy Brown’s not about to quit having this much fun, no matter what changes life has in store for him.


(Visit the Artist page of Roy Brown for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)