July 06, 2005

Dancin' On Deesu

"Climb The Ladder" (W. Taylor)
Warren Lee, Deesu, 1966

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I first heard this tune via the 1982 Charly LP, Sehorn’s Soul Farm, a various artists collection of mid-1960’s vintage songs arranged and/or authored by Allen Toussaint and co-produced with his business partner Marshall Sehorn. I hadn’t thought about it much until I found a copy of the 45 among a large batch I recently bought and gave it another listen. Now it keeps coming around on my always running (streaming even in my dreams!) mental podcast. So, I thought I’d inflict this infectious dance tidbit on you.

Recorded in 1966, today's side is actually a follow up to Warren Lee (Taylor)’s first Deesu effort for Toussaint and Sehorn, “Star Revue” (also on that Charly LP), a driving dance groove with lyrics that name all the solid soul senders of the day (among whom Lee inserts himself!). I prefer “Climb The Ladder”, though. Just a bit less energetic, it grabs you with an insistent beat augmented by Toussaint’s rhythmic piano runs, as Lee summons you to the dance floor to do the newest moves; then he asks you, with innuendo to spare, to “tell the girl over there I’m coming up at her”. Much to the consternation of the producers and artist, neither of the singles got national attention, although “Star Revue” was played on local stations and was a surefire crowd pleaser at Lee’s gigs.

A guitarist and bandleader, Mr. Taylor paid his dues playing around the New Orleans area in the 1950’s along with peers such as Walter ‘ Papoose’ Nelson, Earl King, and Roy Montrell. In 1961, Eddie Bo produced Warren Lee’s first single on Ron, “Unemployed” b/w “The Uh-Huh”. Between that single and his Deesu sides, he did four others for Soundex, Nola, and Jin. On some of his records he was Warren Lee, on others Warren (Lee) Taylor. Probably his most well known single to funk collectors is “Funky Belly” on Wand from 1968, another Toussaint supervised session with the Meters as backup. Radio stations didn’t take to that deep groovin’ novelty dance single either, considering it’s lyrics too suggestive (if they only knew. . .). Just a handful of other singles from 1967 – 1974 constituted the remainder of Lee’s recorded output, although he kept performing with his band until he suffered a stroke in 1977.

You’ll find a nice overview of Warren Lee’s recordings at Funky 16 Corners.
A more complete bio can be found in Jeff Hannusch’s book, The Soul Of New Orleans.


Blogger Larry Grogan said...

The Mighty King Lee! Great song. On a related note, I think 'Star Revue' got airplay in Philly as well. I have a Jerry Blavat (Philly DJ) "dance party" Lp from the mid-60's that includes 'Star Revue'.

10:24 AM, July 06, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Yes, you did say that, Larry, in your 'zine piece I linked to. I just forgot. I was bloggin' late last night. Warren told Jeff Hannusch that his Deesu singles didn't get much airplay because the promotional money didn't flow.
And I understand that Dover, the distributor, had also made some enemies in the business, which led some DJs to toss anything having to do with them.

11:35 AM, July 06, 2005  

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