Papoose On The Flip
"Why Did We Have To Part" (Hardesty - Nelson)
Herb Hardesty, vocal by Walther Neslon,
Federal, c. 1962
Cuz we've got dat 10 day limit, papoose
I found this record at Audiomania in Memphis a few months back in a box of stuff my friend, Paul, who runs the place, had just gotten in. Herb(ert) Hardesty needs no introduction to deep fans of New Orleans music. Having worked with many outstanding artists over his long career, his most enduring association has been with Fats Domino as featured saxophonist on most of his records and in his road band. So, I knew a single of his was promising; but I didn’t really focus on it until I got it back to Louisiana.
The A-side, “The Chicken Twist” turns out to be a rockin’ instrumental with a frenetic chord chopping guitar and some cluckin’ reed work. It’s some fun, but nothing to shout about. But, when I turned the record over to hear “Why Did We Have To Part”, I saw not only Hardesty’s name but Walter Nelson’s listed as vocalist. Wow. That’s Walter “Papoose” Nelson, one of the legendary HOTG six string session men, who also played on a lot of Fats’ stuff and toured extensively with him. I was not aware that Papoose had ever recorded a vocal. On this hip, blues shuffle arrangement written by the two, Hardesty stays in the background while Nelson fronts with a serviceable, hometown inflected voice and some smooth, clean string bending. I’m sure it’s him pumping up the other side, too; but this laid back B-side makes the record for me.
By the time of his untimely overdose death on tour in 1962, Nelson had done much other session work, playing with the likes of Professor Longhair, Bobby Mitchell, and Frogman Henry. He was an early guitar mentor to a teenaged Mac Rebennack and helped him get some his first studio work. Nelson’s bother, Lawrence, known as the somewhat mysterious singer Prince La La, cut several influential records in the early 1960’s before passing on under mysterious, perhaps drug-related circumstances in 1963.
Hardesty, it seems, had four singles released on Federal, with this one being the last. I don’t know if Papoose Nelson sings on any of the others; but I’d like to find out. Being an early 1960’s vintage, this record may be one of the guitarist’s last sessions. It certainly proves that flipping a record over can both surprise and delight. Some of my favorite finds are on the other side.