When Lee Met Allen
"Lottie-Mo" (L. Dorsey - R. Richard)
Lee Dorsey, Valiant, c. 1958
“Lottie-Mo” b/w “Lover of Love” was one of a few released singles on the New Orleans-based Valiant label before its owners, Joe Banashak and Irving Smith, had to rename it in 1961, due to a dispute with another label of the same name. They re-christened it Instant to go along with Banashak’s Minit label, and kept the saxophone inside the first letter as part of the logo. As Instant, the label lasted over ten more years and issued some of the city’s best sides.
But that’s only part of the back story of this release, which is significant for several reasons besides being a fairly rare record and a good New Orleans tune. It was only Lee Dorsey's second recording session, the first being 1957’s “Rock Pretty Baby” b/w “Lonely Evening” for the Rex label just a short while prior. Also, the Valiant single was his first opportunity to work with Allen Toussaint, who arranged, played piano on the sessions, and wrote the flip side. Because Toussaint liked Dorsey and his delivery, they would team up later to make numerous hits and great recordings from the mid-1960’s to the late 1970’s.
Dorsey’s co-writer on “Lottie-Mo” was Reynauld Richard, who was a local record producer and had discovered Lee at an auto body shop singing while he worked. Together, they wrote a few tunes; and Richard got the singer into the studio for his first couple of records. “Lottie-Mo” featured Dorsey’s simple, relaxed vocal style over an upbeat, syncopated New Orleans shuffle. Throughout, Toussaint ran funky, Professor Longhair-inspired piano riffs, including an impressive solo. When the record did well locally, ABC- Paramount picked it up; but it didn’t make much noise nationally. It did catch the attention of Marshall Sehorn, who was working for the Fire and Fury labels out of New York; and he alerted owner Bobby Robinson, who convinced Dorsey to sign with him. The resulting first release on Fury, “Ya Ya”, was also the first national hit for the unassuming former boxer and singing body and fender man.
For more detailed information on Lee Dorsey, Allen Toussaint, and Joe Banashak, I suggest you read I Hear You Knockin’ by Jeff Hannusch , and Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans by John Broven. These have long been my main sources for much of the background information I relate. I link to online bios only to offer you a quick overview.