"Ay-La-Ay" (M. Rebennack - L. Dorsey - M. Sehorn)
Lee Dorsey, 1963-64
No more nonsense for now
As “Ay-La-Ay” is the fourth Lee Dorsey vocal I’ve posted (well, one was his duet with Betty Harris), I think you can tell he is one of my all-time favorite New Orleans artists. Search this site for those other posts and read more. This track was recorded a couple of years after his 1961 hit, “Ya Ya”, but wasn’t released. In a familiar record biz pattern, after that big hit with a playful nonsense song, the Fury label, based in New York, tried to hit again with a succession of similar tunes, “Do-Re-Mi”, “Ixie Dixie Pixie Pie” (both penned by Earl King), and “Great Googa Mooga” to name a few, all recorded in New Orleans, with only “Do-Re-Mi” getting much action in 1962. With the hits not coming and Fury in decline, Marshall Sehorn, who had gotten Dorsey signed to Fury, put him back in the studio in 1963-64 for more sessions; and a few sides were released on several other labels to little avail. “Ay-La-Ay” comes from that time. The UK’s Charly label first released it as a single in England around 1980; and it appeared on their two CD Lee Dorsey compilation, Great Googa Mooga.
Primarily a Mac Rebennack (later know as Dr. John) composition, this song, while keeping to the childish nonsense strategy, is a funny, engaging triviality. I’m guessing Mac produced this one, but have discovered no session details. There’s a loose but great horn section and a Huey Smith-style piano; and check that funked up drumming, very likely by John Boudreaux, who played on most of Dorsey’s Fury sides and worked with Rebennack later on the West Coast. Add Boudreaux to our list of fine Crescent City drum masters.
“Ay-La-Ay” was recorded in a period of transition for Lee Dorsey and a number of those involved with the tune. Following this brief period of setback, he started working at Sehorn’s direction with Allen Toussaint and had a long string of outstanding sides, many of which where national hits. Also, Sehorn and Toussaint became successful business partners around this time. Meanwhile, soon after this session, Rebennack landed in jail; but, he was out in 1965 and off to Los Angeles to seek his (mis)fortune, paying heavy dues before his Night Tripper persona was concocted and he began his long climb toward HOTG music sainthood. When he gets there, Lee will be in that number waiting for him.