In the Bag
"Trick Bag"(Earl King)
Earl King, Imperial, 1962
It would be hard to find a better example of the New Orleans funk of the early 1960’s than is found on “Trick Bag”. – John Broven, Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans
Can’t argue with the esteemed Mr. Broven there. Earl King was on a hot streak of great songwriting in the early 1960’s, when he was signed to Imperial Records and cut 17 sides produced by Dave Bartholomew. Among the more notable were “Come On (Parts 1 & 2)”, “Mama & Papa”, “You Better Know“, “Always A First Time”, and “Trick Bag”. The later two were on the only single to be even moderately successful, charting in 1962.
The relaxed street-beat syncopated shuffle of Bob French’s snare sets “Trick Bag” off upon its push-pull rhythmic motion, enhanced by a shaker, the guitar’s repeated half-step chord slide-ups, and the horns’ funky reinforcement of the beats and stops. Earl’s on guitar, with James Booker laying down a basic piano bed; and George French places the bass notes in all the right places. Its sounds like Benny Spellman doing the bass vocal lines, as he did earlier on “Mother-In-Law” by Ernie K-Doe. And, as on his other sides of the period, King renders his own hip, clever lyrics with style.
In an interview with Offbeat, Smokey Johnson claims that he played drums on “Trick Bag”, because Bob French had been drafted; but I haven’t found any backup on that claim. So let’s leave the credit for now with French, whose name appears on the session list. I consider this track to be a shining example of Earl King’s innovative compositional skills and feel for his city's emerging culture of funk, shared, of course, by the talented HOTG players who brought the song to life.