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In the singles era record companies occasionally showed they might actually know what they’re doing when it came to selecting material for their releases by choosing a song for the B-side that contrasted with the intended hit on the top half of the record.

As Peacock Records had featured a take no prisoners cut by their first female singer of note in a stab for immediate listener gratification on the A-side, it was time to decompress with something slower, more subdued and introspective on the flip side.

It may not be nearly as commercial a sound but if the goal was to help build Willie Mae Thornton’s artistic reputation by showcasing her diversity, then picking a song like this one was never a bad choice to make.


When The War Was Over
Record labels, like cities, often get known for a specific brand of music. Not just a broad categorization like the major labels with Pop Music or the independent labels with Rock, but rather unique stylistic hybrids that are in part due to the types of artists they seek out and the configuration of the personnel backing them in the studio, from producers to session musicians.

Peacock Records stood out among the early 1950’s indie market because their most prominent rock acts all had a healthy upbringing of the blues in their work unlike their more jazz rooted competitors at the time.

Part of this was due to where they were situated, as Texas had a vibrant blues scene that was bound to find its way to the Houston company, particularly as Don Robey also owned The Bronze Peacock, arguably the top nightclub in the region where he first encountered many of his future recording stars like Gatemouth Brown and Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton.

Both of them had a strong natural affinity for the blues even though it was not necessarily their dominant style, but even if it had been their most defining characteristic coming in to their association with Peacock, it probably would’ve been downplayed right away thanks to the bands used, in this case saxophonist Bill Harvey, who ran the early sessions for the company.

Under Harvey’s direction a song like No Jody For Me retains some clear blues attributes but winds up being filtered through a more uptown lens which means the record balances precariously between genre cues from start to finish.

That may mean it never quite lands firmly in either camp – and thus misses its mark with partisan audiences of both rock and blues – but it at least manages to get to the finish line without fully betraying either style, enabling Thornton to keep her hand in a secondary field should her rock aspirations never pan out.

Why, Oh Why Should I Try
Naturally for rock listeners, for whom this entire site is geared, the bluesier aspects of any record are going to be a potential detriment for enjoyment, despite the blues being a eminently rewarding brand of music in its own right.

But we have to acknowledge that just because one of us may be open to blues – or pop, or jazz, or whatever outside genre happens to be featured more prominently in a record – the main interest of most rock fans is naturally going to be focused mainly on rock sounds and in that regard this record is bound to suffer.

The piano that kicks this off sets that mood from the start, giving it a melancholy feel that is hard to escape. It’s not just the outlook it conveys, but also the setting, which sounds as if it’s a more upscale blues club catering to those who seek in music a reflection of their most pressing concerns, whereas rock audiences tend to use music as an escapist form of entertainment.

In other words No Jody For Me was something bound to be right at home at The Bronze Peacock.

To that end it’s a nice time capsule look at what you could expect to encounter if you were a patron, but as a record aiming for a much different audience it’s got a long ways to go before it meets with their approval.

Thornton’s singing is mostly downcast in its outlook, but her delivery frequently ramps things up to drive home her points, a good technical move but one that throws your senses off a little as you try and follow along. She’s bemoaning the war related absence of her man which led to her seeing a cat named Jody on the side to fulfill her needs only to have him spend her money and leave her high and dry.

It’s an interesting story for sure, but the sluggish pacing, lack of any musical fireworks and the despondency inherent in Thornton’s reading – understandable though those traits are for such a song – make it less compelling a listening experience than as purely a composition.

Thornton’s voice is impressive, her shifting temperament as the story unfolds shows she’s got a solid grasp on the psychological ramifications of things, and the band isn’t have any trouble with what they play, but even with everyone involved hitting all their marks the record has a lackluster quality as a rock tune that stems from its basic mindset… something inevitable maybe, but unfortunate for those who were hoping for something more attuned to their needs.


I’m Going Use My Head This Time
Sometimes your choices may be right and yet still come out seeming wrong because of forces outside your control.

We don’t KNOW this was a misfire, commercially or otherwise, and certainly those audiences more in tune with the blues in general were bound to think more highly of this than younger rock fans who probably were bored with it, but we’re not looking at No Jody For Me in a neutral context after all, but rather a rock context.

There we can admire the skills and bemoan the results, we can appreciate the effort and yet still wish for something more in line with our experiences and we can understand the attempt even while cursing them for wasting another chance to come up with something more vibrant which draws from the same blueprint as the top side.

So let’s say it’s competent but never comfortable… at least not for those who came ready for some more freewheeling rockin’ and rollin’.


(Visit the Artist page of Big Mama Thornton for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)