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Friday, August 22, 2008

Episode 58 - Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone


1. [Jody Cadence - U.S. Army]
Episode 58 - Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone



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John Henry, Johnny Appleseed, Hiawatha, Bre'r Rabbit. Davy Crockett. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Stagger Lee. King Washington. Pecos Bill and Widder-maker. Even Uncle Sam. Most of their stories have faded away, the stuff of Disney movies now if remembered at all.

But there's one American legend that's still alive and well in 2000 and 8, his story still told in bars and barracks, pool-halls and whore-houses. His song sung every day by both white boys and black.



Jody. Even if you don't know who he is, you know he's trouble. While you somehow got your sorry ass into the Army, Jody was smart enough to stay home. And now he's sniffin' around your girl.

You can't call her, because Jody's always seems to be on your damn telephone. Your telephone, racking up phone bills to God knows where-all. You get a picture from home in the mail, and that's nice, but wait a second. Who the hell is that leaning up against your Cadillac, your Cadillac, the one that's supposed to be in your garage until you get back?

That would be Jody, and you read, "oh, honey, Jody says it isn't good for a car to be sittin' that long. He says he's keeping it nice and greased up for you."

Yeah, and what the hell else is he keeping nice and greased up?

Jody. Smart-lookin', fast-talkin'. Jody's got your girl.


Jody has had many names, and I suspect that if you traced him back far enough, some of those names would be Trickster, Coyote, and Anansi. But in black oral folklore and music we first hear of him as "Joe the Grinder," grinding being a euphemism for, ah, the sexual act. As time passed, "Joe the" turned into "Joe de" or "Joe D." until the two words eventually merged into "Jody." The "Grinder" part and Jody's last name were more or less dropped from the legend, although in at least one song he's known as "Jody Ryder."

The first known recording of a "Jody song" - more appropriately labeled as a "levee holler" by Alan Lomax - was sung in 19 and 39 by one Irvin "Gar Mouth" Lowry, a prisoner at the State Farm in Arkansas. Until he moved to preying on soldier's wives and girlfriends, Joe the Grinder seemed to have spent a good portion of his time chasing after the women of jailed men. It makes sense. Both soldiers and prisoners have a lot in common - a lack of women, your life dictated by powers outside of your control, and no way to get home... at least legally.

Jodie Man

Here's a Theme Time and Dreamtime favorite, Louis Armstrong, doing a song about "Jodie Man." Jodie Man sounds like it's going to be a straight instrumental, but hang in there, and I promise you'll hear some interesting lyrics about our friend Jody.

From 19 and 45, Louis Armstrong and Jodie Man.

During World War II, Jody's legend migrated off the work farm and into the Army, where he became the title character in cadence marching songs, such as the one we heard at the beginning of the show. Jody was almost certainly first introduced into the Army by African-American soldiers, and then had his story picked up by the general service population when the military desegregated.

Woody Guthrie in "Born to Win", says, "The best of marching I saw in my eight months in the army was to the folk words of a folky chant tune that went: "Ain't no use in writin' home/Some joker got your gal an' gone." Woody - probably not the best of soldiers - may have misheard "joker" for "Jody," or the lyrics may have evolved into this variant, but it's definitely another "Jody" call.

In fact, the Jody story became so ingrained in Army lore that by the time I was drafted in the early `70s, all Army cadences were known as "Jodies," as they still are to this very day. And just like Woody, one of the few good memories I have of my time in the Service is marching to a drill Sergeant's rhythmic imperative that I might as well settle down and enjoy Army life, because there was nothing left for me at home - girl, job, and car all taken by Jody.

"Ain't no use in feelin' blue. Jody's got your sister too."

"You're Right!" "You're Right!" we all sang back to the drill instructor.

Uncle Sam Blues




You remember King Records and its eccentric owner, Syd Nathan. Mr. D. likes to play Syd Nathan's recorded rants to his salespeople in-between cuts on Theme Time Radio Hour.

Well, after Syd Nathan, the main man at King was Alphonse Thompson, better known to one and all as Sonny. If you dealt with King as a musician, you were dealing with Sonny Thompson. He was the guy who set up your recording session, booked the musicians, arranged the tunes, even occasionally wrote one, and now and then sat in on a session himself at the piano.

Sonny's recordings aren't easy to find, but well worth the search. Recorded in 19 and 51 on the King label, here's a story about a worried soldier heading for Korea asking Uncle Sam to find something for Jody to do - like dodging bullets - to keep him away from his girl. Sonny Thompson is on the piano, Jesse Edwards is doing the vocals.

Uncle Sam Blues.

3. [Uncle Sam Blues - Sonny Thompson, 1951]




Joe the Grinder

While Jody was torturing serviceman his counterpart, Joe the Grinder, was still alive and well back in the civilian world.

In 19 and 52, Dave Bartholomew was a talent scout for Imperial Records, a New Orleans label. Bartholomew was the person who had brought Fats Domino to Imperial, and he was looking for another discovery. He found Allen Matthews, who sounded like a clone of ClydeMcPhatter, and paired him up with a gospel group looking to move into R&B, The Humming Four.

After running through a variety of names for the new group, including "Fat Man" Matthews and the 4 Kittens, they settled on the much more manly name of The Hawks, which probably better suited the raunchy song they released on the Imperial label in 19 and 54, Joe the Grinder.

4. [Joe the Grinder - The Hawks, 1954]

The Hawks even have a TTRH connection. You may remember Mr. D. talking about "Morgus the Magnificent" way back in the 2006 Halloween episode. Morgus was a New Orleans TV personality who aired old horror movies, kind of a male version of Elvira. Morgus decided to do a cover of a popular novelty single called Flying Saucer and hired The Hawks to provide backing vocals. The group, which had never made much of a stir outside of New Orleans, signed on and that was their last single, as The Outer Spacemen, gamely providing back-up to a guy dressed in a monster costume.

Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks

The Old Man From the Mountain

Like their music, black and country legends are closely intertwined, and you'd be as likely to hear mention of Joe the Grinder in an Bakersfield bar as you would on a New Orleans street corner. The Old Man From the Mountain was another one of Merle Haggard's 38 #1 hits, charting in 19 and 74. In The Old Man From the Mountain Merle's warning that Joe the Grinder better be out of his bed by the time he gets back home.

5. [The Old Man From the Mountain - Merle Haggard, 1974]

Merle Haggard's story is so incredible nobody would believe it as a work of fiction. After three stints in jail, Haggard met Lefty Frizzell and decided to try his hand as a musician, eventually building a solid reputation as a local talent in Bakersfield, CA. But Haggard's devil was still riding on his shoulder, and he was arrested for robbing a Bakersfield tavern in 19 and 57 and eventually sentenced to San Quentin for 10 years.

It was in the Big Q that Merle Haggard first saw Johnny Cash and again vowed to turn his life around if he got out alive. In 19 and 60, Merle Haggard was paroled, and though he later said that there were days when he wished he was back in prison, he walked the line and had his first national hit in 19 and 64.

If you're around my age, you probably best remember Merle for the semi-tongue-in-cheek, semi-yahoo Okie from Muskogee, recorded in 1969, when all of us were choosing sides over Vietnam. Whatever your opinion of Merle's politics, it's worth noting that his music has been recorded by artists way on the other side of the political spectrum, including The Grateful Dead and Joan Baez. Good music always transcends politics.

The Jody Golden Age

We're going to be playing a lot of music from the `70s in this episode, and that's because there was something of a Jody Golden Age during that decade, including Johnnie Taylor's monster hit for Stax in 19 and 71, which takes the line from the military cadence as its title. We're going to play two songs back to back: Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone and then an answer song to the Taylor hit, the very funky Jody, Come Back and Get Your Shoes by Bobby Newsome.

6. [Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone Johnnie Taylor, 1971]

7. [Jody, Come Back and Get Your Shoes, Bobby Newsome, 1971]

Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone may hold the all-time record for spawning answer songs. Just to name a few: Jean Knight's Don't Talk About Jody, I Finally Caught Up With Jody by Big Joe Hamilton, Bobby Patterson's Right On, Jody, and Sam and Dave's Jody Ryder Got Killed, which is one of the few songs to name Jody's last name.

This next song is from 19 and 70, so it's too early to be a response to Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone, but You've Been Gone Too Long is still something of an answer song to the eternal question about how Jody got your girl.




8. [You've Been Gone Too Long, Ann Sexton, 1970]

Ann Sexton is a lady you probably haven't heard of unless you were caught up in the great Northern Soul Craze. Not to be confused with the poet, who spelled her first name with an "e," our Ann Sexton recorded a string of soul records for the Nashville-based Seventy-7 label during the `70s.

Like a lot of artists, Ann Sexton never really struck it big, and she retired from music in the late `70s. But after being encouraged by a co-worker, Ann took to the stage again in Europe after a 30-year absence, and now says she intends to keep performing as "long as she's alive." Right on, Ann.

Trackin' Down Jody

Now here's a group and a song and even a label I can't tell you much about. I couldn't even track down its release date. Obviously recorded sometime in the `70s - dig that crazy Theme from Shaft wah-wah guitar - for the tiny Austin, Texas A.C.R. soul label, Trackin' Down Jody sounds like it was meant for a blaxploitation movie that never got made.

9. [Trackin' Down Jody - Darker Shades Ltd., 197?]



As far as I can tell, it's the only cut that Darker Shades Ltd. ever recorded, and may be the only record that the A.C.R. label ever released.

You may have thought that the music cut off a little bit abruptly, and you'd be right to think so. Trackin' Down Jody was too long to fit on one side of a 45, and was released as Parts 1 and 2 on the A and B sides. Unfortunately, Part 2, which I'll betcha was one long funk groove, seems to be lost in the mists of history. But we still have Part 1 of Trackin' Down Jody, and you just heard it.

Texas Soul Recordings

Run, Jody, Run

10. [Run, Jody, Run - Jimmy Coe, 1953]

We went all the way back to 19 and 53 for Run, Jody Run, cut by Jimmy Coe and His Gay Cats of Rhythm for the States label. Jimmy wasn't quite sure who Jody was, telling an interviewer, "Jody's like an Army guy who's hanging out at the girl's house and he has to run," but he still played a mean saxophone.



Jimmy Coe liked to tell the story that the first time he ever soloed on the alto sax, Charlie Parker was in the audience. After the set, Jimmy introduced himself to Parker and asked him what he thought about his number. "Sorry," Parker said. "I fell asleep and missed it."

The Jimmy Coe Discography

Joe Grind and Jody Man

While Jody was busy dodging the draft in the good ol' U.S. of A., Joe the Grinder's itchy feet had him taken him down Jamaica way, where he shortened his name to "Joe Grind" and became a well-known figure in the shanty towns and dance halls. Here's a band called The Aggrolites, who have been a backing band for both reggae superstar Derrick Morgan, and for Prince Buster, and who released their debut album in 2003. From that album, Dirty Reggae, here's Joe Grind.

11. [Joe Grind - The Aggrolites]

Jody Man and Finis

If you can remember that far back, we started our Jody episode with Louis Armstrong's Jodie Man, and we're closing out tonight's show with another Jody Man that Slim Harpo recorded for the Excello label.



Slim's not all that well-remembered these days, but if you're a fan of The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, Pink Floyd, The Doors, or Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, the chances are you've heard of Slim Harpo. Slim passed in 1970, a few days after his 46th birthday. Jody Man was released by Excello a year after his death in 19 and 71.

12. [Jody Man - Slim Harpo]


Given the state of the world today, the chances are good - or bad, I guess, that Jody songs will still be sung far into our future.

As far as I can tell, it hasn't happened yet, but given the increasing role of women in the military, it's probably only matter of time until we'll hear the lament on some foot-track, or on some off-base juke-box...


Jodie's Got Your Guy and Gone

It kinda makes you wonder whether Jody picked that name on purpose.

Sources: Outside of the links noted above, I commend your attention to WFMU's Beware of the Blog, where you can find much of the music I played in this episode. Soul Trivia and the Soul Detroit Forum also provided valuable information.

Thanks for listening to the Dreamtime podcast. Show notes, sources, and tonight's script can be found on the Dreamtime blog, dreamtimepodcast.com.

Some house-keeping to take care of before we wind up. We wanted to pass on our congratulations to Kevin R., the Dreamtime winner of the tickets to the New American Music Festival. Kevin wrote up a great trip report for us, and you can find that on the Dreamtime blog, too.

If you haven't heard the news, Dreamtime is now airing on Wednesdays on Tangled Up in Bob, at dylanradio.com. It's a great way to catch up on our old shows. Go check out the site at dylanradio.com, all Bob Dylan, all the time. I think you'll like what you hear.

Thanks to everyone for your emails and comments on the past few shows. Much appreciated. Jailbait, Curly, Bear and I all want to pass on our thanks to everyone who's used Dreamtime as their starting point for their Amazon purchases. It's much appreciated by all of us. If you're heading back to school, or know someone who is, and are planning on buying your school books or supplies through Amazon, please start your shopping through Dreamtime.

And finally, the Dreamtime team is on its semi-annual late Summer vacay for the next couple of weeks, and I suspect when we get back Mr. D. will have announced the return of Theme Time Radio Hour too. Hope you're looking forward to Season 3 as much as we are, and we'll be back with another Dreamtime real soon.

***

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The Dreamtime top cats are Curly Lasagna and Shaggy Bear. Our announcers are the notorious honky-tonkin' sisters, Jailbait and Joyride.

Until next time, dream well.

1 comment:

Martha Barnette said...

Fred, this is terrific! What a treat to learn all about this in more depth. Thank you!

Martha
Cohost, "A Way with Words"