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DELUXE 3304; MAY 1950



After the unrelenting despondency featured on the other side of this record, an outpouring of emotions powerful enough to evoke suicidal thoughts in the minds of listeners prone to getting carried away with the songs of their favorite artists, it was all but mandatory that this side feature something rousing enough in its presentation to lift people’s spirits again.

Luckily Roy Brown was the right man for the job, a boisterous showman with holy roller vocals backed by a new band looking to make a name for themselves and willing and able to shed their black armbands and forlorn expressions in favor of something a little more brightly optimistic.


Once Was Blind But Now I See
When in doubt I suppose it’s always best to return to male-female relations if you want to get a fresh start on things. The very essence of life is found in those exchanges of romance, love and devotion… not to mention the often equally compelling turmoil of lust, jealousy and betrayal.

In other words “boy meets girl” is just the beginning of a thousand and one possible outcomes and any of them you choose as a subject provides enough variety to fuel as many songs as you’re required to churn out.

Though the topics found in New Rebecca aren’t as sunny and carefree as maybe we were expecting, the manner in which its sung – and the seeming disregard for the deeper emotional impact of this broken-off dalliance – makes it the perfect anecdote to the end of life despair of Hard Luck Blues.

Yet because of the seeming confusion of the topic, the mixing and matching of so many primal urges being expressed by Brown about this girl, we’re still left with a record that is more cathartic than sensible… but then again with the manner in which he puts it across we’re not complaining.


Wants Nobody But Me
We know we’re in for something a lot more life affirming once the song opens with horns blaring in a tight catchy riff, climbing upwards and giving off the impression of boundless joy and vigor.

Roy’s swelling vocal that comes in immediately after would appear to reaffirm this position as he sounds completely unburdened again, eager and happy to see what life has to offer… until you actually focus on what he’s saying and find him bemoaning this hussy whom he apparently threw out for her transgressions.

This is the unavoidable flaw of New Rebecca, a song that really has no coherent narrative and instead throws together a lot of great lines and bold declarations that are often at odds with the very next words to come spewing from his lips.

If you want to try and make sense of the particulars of the story we’ll do our best to report the facts as we hear them. It seems that Roy and Rebecca were cohabiting and were quite happy – for reasons we’ll soon hear in racier detail. But as the story kicks off he tells us he had to let her go because she “started running wild”. To put it more bluntly, apparently Roy was not the only one enjoying her many charms.

Okay, that’s certainly reason enough to break up we’ll admit, but he then makes it perfectly clear that he dumped her only because that was the mandatory response to such an offense, not that he was in any way glad to be rid of her. Since Roy goes on to say he wants a more devoted partner in life we take him at his word and as such we’re all on board with his outlook going forward… until he doubles back on us again!

Maybe we should’ve seen this coming because there was no way that such a steadfast moral resolution was going to work musically for the type of fast-paced rocker this was already shaping up to be. So rather than cry about his bad fortune, which would require him to take on a much more downcast mood, he starts singing the praises of Rebecca in bed, telling us in no uncertain terms that she was the best lay he’s ever had.

Well that’s certainly good to know if I’m ever in Cincinnati and looking for a night of cheap fun, but it now creates something of a dilemma for a song that is trying to represent one consistent viewpoint. Is he glad to be rid of her before he gets VD from her sleeping around, or is he already working out a plan to have another round of bedroom olympics with her without completely sacrificing his self-respect in the process?

The truth is we never know because he never knows either.

He complains that she’s done it with their neighbors, random guys downtown, and god knows who else, but while he’s sticking largely to the sentiments of being upset – literally repeating the line about “crying all night long” for the last third of the record – he certainly doesn’t SOUND sad about the deceit and infidelity, he only sounds distraught over no longer having access to her shapely form himself.

Does any of this matter? Well… ahhh… No, not really because that unbridled lusty mood he’s putting across is so damn infectious that the song not making perfect narrative sense is no reason not to enjoy the ride.


Started Running Wild
If we DO want to try and stick with the story-line and attempt to read into it in a way that might allow it to not be nearly as conflicted, the best explanation we could give is to say that it’s fairly obvious the band members were those who were among the many notches on the bedpost of the notorious New Rebecca.

Hearing them play with such raunchy enthusiasm you can definitely picture them tearing off their clothes and jumping into the sack with her at the slightest provocation. Though the construction of the band is a little old school with their over-sized horn section – trumpet and trombone alongside the sax brigade – their mindset is decidedly modern within that model and they go to great lengths to prove they’re up for the task at hand.

All of their decisions are made with the intent of keeping the pace accelerated, the energy up and the noise at full volume. If anything this tightly arranged could be called raucous, even bordering on chaotic, then this is definitely it. The exuberant drive they’re playing with, the rhythmic thrust they’re emphasizing, the gleeful horniness they’re suggesting is contagious. Maybe Roy would’ve become more dispirited about his losing Rebecca had they not been so rambunctious in their accompaniment, but once they cut loose Brown has got little choice but to follow and radiate the same gleefully manic power as the rest of them.

You’ll notice that while they’re credited on the label as The Mighty, Mighty Men, this is an entirely new outfit of musicians anchored by The Griffin Brothers (Buddy on piano, Jimmy on trombone) who will go on in short order to be sort of a poor man’s Johnny Otis crew, using different vocalists and instrumental hot-shots to have a strong two or three year run as a prime rock outfit.

For Brown however this means it’s the first single in a long time that doesn’t include his primary aide de camp Leroy “Batman” Rankins on sax. Here it’s Johnny Fontenette handling the unruly solo that helps gives this its sense of demented joy and throughout the record all of them, especially guitarist Willie Gaddy’s slashing notes and quirky fills, contribute to the overall cacophony with sterling parts of their own.

Maybe you can’t reconcile the perspective the lyrics paint with the eager arousal of the music and vocal delivery, but since both Brown and the band are in cahoots with one another you don’t mind much at all because you’re having too much fun to really care about thematic cohesiveness.

Satisfies Or Give Your Money Back
This release marks the beginning of a second phase of Roy Brown’s career, one where he’s now essentially a touring act occasionally stopping off in Cincinnati for recording sessions rather than being a New Orleans based act who tours on the strength of locally made records.

But more interesting than the change in locations and backing unit is the realization that Brown might be reaching a new plateau in his artistic ambition now that his stardom is assured – a frightening thought for his competitors.

But while both sides of this single finds Roy Brown at the peak of his powers, it still has to be said that New Rebecca is a great performance more than it is a great record under the microscope, simply because the dynamic feeling contained within is at odds with the lyrical message. Ironically the flip side is a better record under the microscope than it is an easily embraced performance because of its dour content.

Yet in many ways that duality only reinforces the claim that Brown is one of the elite artists in rock, someone who can present different personas with equal skill and mesh with an unfamiliar band as if they were a single living, breathing organism.

Though it’s inevitable that no artist’s peak is going to last forever and thus you need to savor every moment, the way Roy Brown is handling the changes swirling around him gives you hope that he might prove the exception to that rule.


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