L-R, Clinton Scott, June Gardner, Alvin "Red" Tyler
"Mustard Greens" (A. Gardner)
June Gardner, Hot Line, 1965
New Orleans drummer Albert “June” Gardner recorded “99 Plus One” b/w “Mustard Greens” soon after his gig in Sam Cooke’s band ended with the singer’s untimely, tragic death in 1964. Gardner was hired by Cooke around 1960, replacing another New Orleans drummer, Leo Morris (a/k/a Idris Muhammad), and played on some sessions but mostly on the road with the singer. He can be heard on Cooke’s At The Copa and Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963 albums. After this first single for Hot Line, Gardner did many more instrumental sessions as a leader over the next few years; but only one other single was issued, as far as I know, “Hot Seat” (with an unknown flip).
Gentleman June, as he was sometimes called, could play straight or make it funky, as the situation required. His groove versatility I am sure is why Cooke kept him in his band. I’ve chosen his composition, “Mustard Greens”, for the unusual, proto-funk stick and foot work Gardner demonstrates. On top, the song has a quasi-Latin big band arrangement by producer Wardell Quezergue. For this and most of his 60’s NOLA sessions with Quezergue, the players were George Davis on guitar, Walter Payton on bass, James Booker on piano or organ, and some or all of the producer’s impressive 10-piece Royal Dukes of Rhythm horn section
“99 Plus One”/”Mustard Greens” first came out on Hot Line, one of the NOLA family of labels, but was licensed to Blue Rock when distribution problems arose. When I first discovered this recording long ago, it was a beat up Blue Rock copy, with the artist name shown as J. Gardner. Unfamiliar with the record, I took a chance that it was June Gardner and bought it cheap (fortunately), not realizing until I got home that it was cracked through. It took me a few more years before I found a copy at Jim Russell’s Rare Records in New Orleans, this time the Hot Line version, and finally got to hear the tunes. Of course, I got immediately hooked on “Greens”. “99 Plus One” has a straighter, more languid groove, featuring Davis’ guitar throughout with horn accents.
The single sides as well as all of June Gardner’s NOLA instrumental sessions, plus two funky tunes done for Senator Jones in 1970, are available on the Tuff City/Night Train CD compilation, 99 Plus One. I highly recommend it. “Mustard Greens” is the funkiest thing of the 11 NOLA sides; but the tunes done for Jones have some real get down syncopation. I may try to do a Tuff City Side feature on one of those at a later date, if somebody doesn’t beat me to it. Also worth getting the CD for is Booker’s organ workout on “Last Night”. Short, but oh so sweet.
Before hooking up with Cooke, Gardner was an early member of guitarist Edgar Blanchard’s seminal 1950’s New Orleans band, the Gondoliers, and did some recording session work as well, notably on some of saxman Red Tyler’s singles. One of Gardner’s most recognizable sessions from the 1960’s was the Lee Dorsey hit, “Working In The Coal Mine”. He also played in Lou Rawls’ road band at some point. This gentleman is another great HOTG drummer deserving wider recognition. Hope you dig the track; and, now that your booty is loose, got out and get that weekend started.