Jody The Grinder (was "Soul Talkin'")

SoulfulDetroit.com FORUM: Archive - Beginning March 27, 2004: Jody The Grinder (was "Soul Talkin'")
Top of pageBottom of page   By Eva (81.226.54.68) on Saturday, March 13, 2004 - 04:53 pm:

Hi DyvaNaye,

Soul Talkin' is a great subject, and I hope to come back with a few examples later on. However, your comment about Jody made me think of a thread we had at another soul group that I'm a member of.

You asked:

>(Why every man that made off with someone else's >woman was always named JODY?! LOL)

There's a pretty fascinating story around Jody, that most people here (I think!) know from 70's hits by Johnnie Taylor and others. Actually, from what I understand, Jody (Joe) the Grinder is another one of those "toast" heroes, like Stagger Lee, that's been part of African-American folk culture for a long time.


It seems as though the stories about Joe or Jody the Grinder go at least as far back as the forties. In the late thirties/early forties Alan
Lomax collected Afro-American Blues and Game songs, which were issued in 1942 on a record with the very same name:

"Afro-American Blues And Game Songs" (available on Amazon.com)

This collection contains a tune with the title "Joe the Grinder", performed by Irwin Lowry. Since this type of material usually has
been around for a long time before it's commited to tape/vinyl, it does seem as though the Joe/Jody goes as far back as Stagger Lee and the other macho heroes!

I also found a reference to Joe/Jody on a web site devoted to black harmony groups. The group The Hawks / Humming Four had a release on
Imperial in 1953, as the Hawks, which featured "Joe The Grinder" as a B-side (dunno if it's Lowry's Joe, though!)

On Amazon.com I also found the following CD:

Get Your Ass In The Water And Swim Like Me: Narrative Poetry From Black Oral Tradition

This CD is based on a collection of toasts, assembled by Bruce Jackson:

Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me:
Narrative Poetry from the Black Oral Tradition, by Bruce Jackson. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1974.

I had a look at the list of titles, and lo and behold, there he was again, the mighty Joe! The sample was very short, so I couldn't
figure out if the rhyme has any connection to the military, but it does seem as though it has, judging by the title:

Joe The Grinder And G.I. Joe


Bruce Jackson has also written an article which gives a pretty good picture of the origins of the "Jody" songs. This is what he has to say in "What Happened To Jody" (Journal of American Folklore 80, 1967)

Life in an army during wartime and life in prison anytime have a number of aspects in common, so it's not surprising when we find items of folklore shared by both camps. One mutual concern is who is doing what, with, and to the woman one left at home. In Negro folklore, this concern is personified in the songs and toasts about one Jody the Grinder-"Jody", a contraction of "Joe the" and "Grinder", a metaphor in folk use for a certain kind of coital movement.

Jody's activities and life style are perhaps best described in the toast bearing his name. Roger Abrahams collected a version of "Jody the Grinder" in Philadelphia in the early 1960's. I collected a longer and more detailed version in Texas in 1965. The toast is pretty well dated by its content and slang: "solid news" and "solid sender" were out of circulation by the early 1950's; Japanese war brides didn't start receiving much attention until some time after the
American occupation of Japan was well under way, probably around 1947. The atom bomb and fall of Japan are so central that they supply an
absolute early cut off. One would be sagfe in assuming somewhere between 1947 and 1950.

But Jody was around earlier. He is named in the brief blues "Joe the Grinder", recorded by John Lomax from the singing of one Irvin Lowry
in Gould, Arkansas, in 1939. During the war years, Jody figured in the marching song "Sound Off", a version of which is printed in Alan
Lomax's "The Folk Songs of North America". Lomax says "In many variants this song was sung by all Negro outfits in World War II." Abrahams notes that "This song is often called 'Jody's song' and
other similar ones 'Jody Calls'. Woody Guthrie in an undated note included 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 tunem that went:

Ain't no use in writin' home/Some joker got your gal an' gone/Hey,
boy, ya' got left, right?/Ho boy, ya' got right."

(Eva's comment:note the similarity to Taylor's hit!)

If Abraham's version of the toast is at all representative of its current condition, it seems as though the toast is wearing down with
age-younger performers have dropped the allusions and slang they don't understand, and, concomitantly, some of the narrative elements.
The man who performed the longer printed version here was sixty-four and, fortunately, he is one of those uncreative folk performers
incapable of destroying anachronisms in a text.

But the song has fared better. It was sung during the Korean War and I've been told that it is still sometimes sung in military camps. And
it has gone to prison.

In 1965 I heard a group of inmates in a Texas prison sing a song they called "Jody's Got My Wife and Gone". The first regular stanza is
similar to the one Guthrie quotes. Most of the verses have to do with conditions of prison labor: the singer described his various tasks,
the weather, the field captain, parole, his loneliness, the Jody theme.

When I returned to the prison in March 1966, I asked whether anyone else around knew it. This time we were out in the woods and the men
were clearing timber. Benny Richardson, who told me he had put the song together, offered to sing lead for the song "Jody's Got Your
Girl and Gone", while a group of sixteen inmates chopped down trees. end of quote


I'll stop here, 'cause I don't want to tire you with too long quotes, but if anyone is interested I could send a PDF file with the whole article, which included a trancription of the song Jackson speaks about. Before I sign off, I'll include an interesting link about Stagger Lee:


http://arts.ucsc.edu/GDead/AGDL/stagger.html

And just to show how these tales have made their way into "high culture", let me add a book by the renowned Black literary scholar Henry Louis Gates:

The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism by Henry Louis Gates.
Oxford Press. 1988.

Oh, in view of the current discussions, if anyone feels offended by the terms used in the above articles, please remember that this was written way back in 1967....

All the best, Eva

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eva (81.226.54.68) on Saturday, March 13, 2004 - 05:16 pm:

Hi again,

Here's some more, lifted from the Internet, with a great discussion of Jody chants and soul music:

http://pub122.ezboard.com/fwordoriginsorgfrm4.showMessage?topicID=153.topic

Also, David M. Maurer writes the following in "Jody's Chinese Relations":

For several decades military personnel have chanted, joked, and worried about the mythical character "Joe the Grinder", "Jody Grinder", "Jody the Grinder", or often just "Jody". Although the character is probably older, the usual citations of the term carry it back only slightly farther than World War II; John Lomax recorded a blues piece "Joe The Grinder" in 1939. The "New Words and Meanings" section of "Brittanica Book of the Year" for 1953 said of Jodie: "Name applied by U.S. soldiers to an imaginary civilian who flirts with their girls during their absence", and dates it from 1945. ...Alan Lomax in "Folk Songs of North America" gave a version of a widely known marching cadence chant, collected "from Negro soldiers in Missouri, 1945. In many variants this was sung by all Negro outfits in World War II". The chant contains a stanza "Jody's got your girl and gone/Left me here a-singing this song". Other examples of these cadence chants, often referred to as "Jody songs" or "Jody calls", were given by George C. Carey in "Journal of American Folklore 78 (1965). Carey explained, "Jody is that mythical figure who stays at home and, after the soldier has been inducted, steals his girl, his liquor, and runs off with his clothes and his Cadillac". end of quote

Maybe it's no co-incidence that the Jody songs become so popular during the Vietnam war! It would be to get some input from people who served in the US military, or heard the Jody songs elsewhere.

All the best, Eva

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eva (81.226.54.68) on Saturday, March 13, 2004 - 05:19 pm:

Oops! That should be:

Maybe it's no co-incidence that the Jody songs become so popular during the Vietnam war! It would be great to get some input from people who've served in the US military, or heard the Jody songs/chants elsewhere.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Isaiah (64.12.96.238) on Sunday, March 14, 2004 - 08:01 am:

Hi Eva, thanks for the great information you've shared on your posts!(smile!) Are you a Folklorist/Cultural Historian??? I am, though not in the academic sense... I do it for my own personal enjoyment, and to do as you have done, and that is to share it with folk who desire to know... I was in the military, and sang those very Jody songs in boot camp... We sang them when marching to chow, or other exercises...

http://funkmasterj.tripod.com/toasts.html


Peace!
Isaiah

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eva (81.226.54.68) on Sunday, March 14, 2004 - 11:19 am:

Hi Isaiah,

I'm by no means a professional folklorist, just a happy "amateur" like yourself. Ever since I got into soul music some thirty years ago, I've been (albeit on and off) trying to read anything I could get my hands on concerning African-American music, culture, folklore etc. The difference between us is that I'm a Swedish woman, with little personal experience of the stuff we're discussing here. That's why I find reading the posts here so rewarding (threads like the 60's thread for example), because you get the input from real, live people rather than reading sociological accounts or novels, though novels may be very rewarding too (I read Claude Brown's "Manchild in the promised land" some 25 years ago, and it made an indelible impression on me).

The Funkmaster's site is a treasure trove (he used to run an e-mail list on toasts, but I think the whole thing died out from lack of contributions).

As for the relationship between toasts and blues/soul songs, it seems as though Stagger Lee and Jody are the most popular heroes. I think "Dangerous Dan" made it into some fifties' R&B songs, though I've never heard of any song about "Shine" -but there's a great Shine toast on the Dolemite site.

Of course, a lot of these "rhymes" aren't exactly P.C. (especially not from a feminist POV!;-))-but then again, this kind of popular underground culture is seldom very "neat and clean", no matter the ethnic origin.

I have a little archive of (academic) articles on toasts taken from the JSTOR web site. If you or anyone else is interested I could post the details here.

All the best, Eva

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eva (81.226.54.68) on Sunday, March 14, 2004 - 11:45 am:

Hi again,

Actually, "Dangerous Dan" is a Western hero "rhyme"! LOL! Must have gotten them mixed up!

Eva

Top of pageBottom of page   By CORNBREAD (66.185.84.74) on Sunday, March 14, 2004 - 11:53 am:

In reggae dancehall, the opportunistic loverman is called Joe Grind.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eva (81.226.54.68) on Sunday, March 14, 2004 - 02:38 pm:

Hi again,

Actually, I was thinking of "*Lovin'* Dan" from the Dominoes "Sixty Minute Man"!

Here's an article on the subject (I haven't read this one, but it looks pertinent):

The Saga of Lovin´┐Ż Dan: A Study in the Iconography of Rhythm and Blues Music of the 1950s", Zucker, Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 16, N02, Fall 1982.

Eva

Top of pageBottom of page   By Isaiah (152.163.253.70) on Sunday, March 14, 2004 - 10:05 pm:

Yes, Eva, I would definitely be interested in reading those articles... It seems you've been to that site I posted, and I am impressed(smile!) there are actually some folks at this site who understand the importance of these things in the making of Soul Music, Blues, and other African American music forms, and I am glad that you are one of the enlightened... Thank you for carrying the torch as you do... As an African American, I am grateful that others can appreciate and enjoy the beauty in the culture - particularly from as far away as Sweden... I wish your attitude was as prevalent here in the United States...

Peace!
Isaiah

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eva (130.237.187.15) on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 11:20 am:

Hi again Isaiah,

A little late, but better late than never!;-)

Here are a few articles on toasts that I've found. They are all from "The Journal of American Folklore" and written in the seventies, so I guess they might seem a bit dated. Anyway, here are the titles:

Circus and the Street: Psychosocial aspects of the Black Toast by Bruce Jackson.

The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 85, No. 336

Toasts: The Black Urban Folk Poetry by Wepman, Newman, Binderman

The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 87, No.345

A Response to "Toasts: The Black Urban Folk Poetry" by Bruce Jackson

The Journal of American Folklore, Vol.88, No. 348

The Toast in Context by David Evans

The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 90, No. 356

I have all these articles on PDF files that I can send to you if you're interested (though it's good to have a broadband connection since it might take a long time otherwise). However, since this is an open forum, I'm a bit hesistant to leave my e-mail addy. If there is any way to solve the problem of how to get in touch, I'd be glad to help, though.

All the best, Eva

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eva (81.226.54.68) on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 06:50 pm:

Hi again,

Just came across the following which might be of interest:

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/BROSTA.html

Eva


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