March 04, 2005

I'm Guessing Smokey Stole This Show


Nothin' but the devil. . .

"Why You Wanna Do It" (W. Harper - T. Royal)
Willie Harper, c. 1967


Back in December, I posted a funky little number by Willie Harper called “Look At The Clock”, which was written by Harper and guitarist Teddy Royal, produced/arranged by Wardell Quezergue in 1970 or 1971, but never released. Just the other day, I found this other way funky tack, “Why You Wanna Do It”, a devilish tale of woman trouble, featuring Harper on vocal and written by the same team, on an old Charly compilation LP called Sehorn’s Soul Farm. The vinyl is in storage; and my notes on my CD burn say only that this cut was unreleased. But from its sound, I’m going to venture that Quezergue produced it, too, around the same time as “Look At The Clock” with probably at least some of the same musicians [note: Teddy Royal had since backed this up].

As you listen to “Why You Wanna Do It”, note that the drums and bass are up in the mix, highlighting the irresistible groove going down. Again on speculation (that’s why I get paid the big bucks!), I’m going to say the drummer is most likely Smokey Johnson, another HOTG legend, who taught and inspired the likes of Idris Muhammad and Zigaboo Modeliste in his day. Quezergue understandably used Johnson often on sessions. The spunky bassist may either be Curtis Mitchell or Erving Charles, Jr., who both played regularly with Smokey. The guitarist might be Teddy Royal [since confimred]; and I haven’t a clue who’s on clavinet. The horns bear the stamp of Querzergue’s arranging skills and most probably were the section from his band, The Royal Dukes of Rhythm, who showed up on many of his productions.

Why this track was left behind is hard to fathom. Harper had previously recorded with a vocal group and made quite a few solo singles on Alon, Sansu and Tou-Sea, Toussaint used him often for background singing, as well. But the singer had never grabbed the public's attention; and the music business in New Orleans was in transition on many fronts at the time. To me, Smokey Johnson (if indeed it is him) and his able cohort on bass jacked this track. It should have been released for their efforts alone. Smokey was a funk drummer way back before that designation even existed. When other drummers talk about the best in New Orleans, he is near the top of all the lists. So, got to give him some.


[I am still trying to confirm at least the drummer a bassist for this track and the other Harper-Royal funk collaboration, "Look At The Clock".]

6 Comments:

Blogger Larry Grogan said...

Very cool track. I'd never heard anything this late by Harper (only familiar with his Alon & Sansu sides). I'll have to look for this one!

2:51 PM, March 07, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Larry, if you or anyone else is looking for Harper's Tou-Sea sides, here are the few titles I know of that were released: "Look At The Clock" (see my Dec '04 post), "I Don't Need You Anymore",
and "Walk You Out Of My Life". The unreleased sides are this current post and "That's What You Need". All songs were written by WH and Teddy Royal and produced by Quezergue, according to my sources.
There may be a few more; but that's all I've run across.

10:45 AM, March 08, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

PS - 'The R&B Indies' doesn't list most of these sides (it doesn't have complete discographies - yet); but it does show that "A Certain Girl" was the flip of "I Don't Need You Anymore".

11:00 AM, March 08, 2005  
Anonymous DOLCI said...

Greetings all,
Dan,communicating regarding the mystery of performers on the unreleased piece 'WHY YOU WANNA DO IT';written by W.HARPER and TEDDY ROYAL in 1967.
Discovery of the answers posed surrounding the individuals who united to do it is underway.
As the pieces of the puzzle come together,the results obtained,your readers shall obtain.
Keep the music alive..
Many blessings to all....

9:38 PM, December 02, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Backatcha, DOLCI. Cool. Can't wait.

1:14 AM, December 03, 2005  
Blogger leejay1 said...

I am looking for people who knew H. Lee Johnson. He played primarily in New Orleans in the 1965-1968 time slot.He was 39 in 1968. He had played with and was buddies with Jay Cave (where I got my middle name) and Pete Fountain, etc. He was a jazz drummer- from Alabama originally. He was my dad, and passed away in 1991. I cannot find any mention of him at all on the internet, though he was good, but never made it to fame. If anyone has any tracks with his name on them, or knew him/of him, please contact Lee Jay at leejay1168@verizon.net 12.20. 07

12:26 PM, December 22, 2007  

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