George Perkins' Real Deal
"What The Deal Is" (G. Perkins, D. Hyde, D. Mondebello)
George Perkins And His New Revue, GP, 197?
What it is is over
We return to Baton Rouge for another funked-up side, this time by George Perkins and his New Revue on his own GP label from the late 1970’s. Perkins, whose background was in gospel music, has had an interesting music career. He is likely best known for his 1970 hit, “Cryin’ In the Streets”, that he recorded with his former gospel group, The Silver Stars, backing him. Produced by Ebb Tide (a/k/a Ed Harrison), that record was first released locally in Baton Rogue on the Ebb Tide label, got a lot of airplay, and was picked up by Silver Fox (one of Shelby Singleton’s Nashville labels). With that push, “Cryin’ In The Streets” went national, getting up into the lower part of the pop Hot 100 charts and into the top 20 R&B. Perkins and his group did a lot of touring off that record and made an album to be issued on Silver Fox; but they never received royalties for the single and refused to give Singleton the album. Soon thereafter, the label owner went into bankruptcy, leaving Perkins holding the (empty) bag.
Perkins and the Silver Stars next released a single on the Golden label that he started with Ebb Tide; and then he struck out on his own, setting up Sound City production company and leasing several singles to the Soul Power label based in Shreveport. But none of these releases made money. By 1975 or so, he was working as an agent for Royal Shield Insurance Company and doing his music on the side. Because he helped his boss’ daughter, singer Cynthia Sheeler (who produced that Brotherhood track I featured), with her music, her dad invested in a recording studio, started the Royal Shield label, and made Perkins a co-partner. Working in this partnership, Perkins and his band, Fir-Ya, released five or six singles through 1979. By 1982, he had the left the business to become a life insurance executive. Tuff City’s Night Train label has comped Perkins’ output on their Cryin’ In The Streets CD.*
My copy of “Keep On Trying” b/w “What The Deal Is” comes from this last segment of Perkins’ career in music. While the deep soul, somewhat jazzy “Keep On Trying” was supposed to be the plug side, DJs in New Orleans started playing the upbeat, funky “What The Deal Is” instead, inspiring Perkins to make succeeding records in the same mold, ballad on one side and funk on the other. Perkins band, Fir-Ya (here called his New Revue), basically created this tune. According to the Night Train CD notes, this exceptional rhythm section consisted of David Mondebello on keyboards, David Hyde on bass, Marsh Payne on guitar, and George Roselli (sic?) on drums. I believe that drummer is actually George Recile, like Hyde and Mondebello from Hammond, LA, who later played with John Mooney and Ivan Neville, among others, and has been a part of Bob Dylan’s touring band for the last few years. Mondebello and Hyde had an earlier soul/funk band, Coffee, which re-formed in the late 1990’s. I met them once when they did a gig in Memphis (before I knew anything about this part of their history) and was impressed with their playing and their band.
Just listen to Recile (Roselli)’s slicing and dicing funk chops on this song and you’ll know why I think it’s the real deal. The track bubbles and cooks throughout as Perkins free associates around the twice repeated verse, shouting out brilliant nonsense like “I ain’t yo’ mutha”, “I ain’t no cookie man” and multiple variations on the title. Like he says, this one truly does get down with the get down.
* I have based what I've written here on Kevin Goins’ informative notes to the Night Train CD. The label deserves special commendation for their overview of George Perkins' career.