January 05, 2005

Shine On

"Down Home Girl" (Jerry Leiber - Artie Butler)
Alvin Robinson, Red Bird, 1964

Shine off

This is singer, guitarist Alvin “Shine” Robinson’s most well-known recording, simply because it was covered a year later by the Rolling Stones on their Now! album. With its laid back, popeye saunter and hip, humorous lyrics that seem tailor-made for Robinson’s greasy, gritty delivery, Jerry Leiber and Artie Butler crafted a New Orleans flavored gem. Besides the Stones, the song was covered by the Coasters in 1967 (with James Booker on keyboards!), followed by others over the years; but none could top this version that, if fate had been kind, should have been a hit.

After recording some decent sides as Al Robinson for Imperial in the early 1960’s with Dave Bartholomew in charge, Shine made his way to New York with Crescent City manager/bandleader/hustler Joe Jones, who got him a deal with Tiger Records, owned by the legendary writing/production team of Leiber and Mike Stoller, who also signed another of Jones’ acts, the Mel-Tones, a female vocal group from New Orleans who were soon re-christened the Dixie Cups. Robinson had one Tiger release, which charted, before Leiber and Stoller activated their Red Bird and Blue Cat labels which issued “Down Home Girl” and a few other singles on him with no financial returns. Funky 16 Corners has a nice overview of his output during this period.

By the end of the 1960’s, Robinson had relocated to Los Angeles to join other New Orleans expatriate musicians, including his running buddy, Mac Rebennack aka Dr John, with whom he wrote tunes and then toured for many years. Harold Battiste produced some quite funked out records on Shine there. Some of Robinson’s Imperial recordings were on the sadly deleted Capitol CD set, Crescent City Soul. Along with some of his other Tiger, Red Bird and Blue Cat sides, “Down Home Girl” can be found on the out of print Charly CD collection, The Red Bird Story. And it’s on Rhino’s More New Orleans Party Classics. The Rhino and Capitol CD comps are good general primers on the city’s r&b output, if you can find them. Finally, for examples of his Pulsar sides done in California, seek out the outstanding Ace (UK) Gumbo Stew series. He died in New Orleans in 1989. March on, Shine.


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