Christmas Lagniappe 2005
It’s not exactly a joyous time in these parts. Where I am is fine, full of holiday traffic, canned Xmas tunes in the stores, etc; but just down the road it’s still debris fields, displacement and/or homelessness despite a few flimsy FEMA trailers getting hooked up, loss of livelihoods, spotty utility service from bankrupt or disrupted suppliers, disservice from the insurance industry and federal agencies, and lip service from the politicians. There’s a guy in New Orleans I just read about who has decorated his flood-ruined house with festive skeletons dressed as Santas and elves.You get his drift. So, if you’re not in the midst of all this, count your blessings, enjoy and appreciate your loved ones, the roof over your head, your job, heat, food, more than ever. On that cheerful note, it’s time for a little something extra for the short-term Christmas break.
"All I Want For Christmas" (H. Smith)
Huey 'Piano' Smith And The Clowns, from 'Twas the Night Before Chrsitmas, Ace, 1962
Hope you got what you wanted
Our first offering is from the 1962 Ace album by Huey Smith and the Clowns, ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, featuring the group’s cool takes on some tradition holiday tunes, several original ones by Smith, plus one by Earl King, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Santa Claus”, that I featured last year. Who can argue with the sentiments of Huey’s “All I Want For Christmas”? Music is always high on my list. That’s Curley Moore singing out the names of the dances, joined by Gerri Hall and John “Scarface” Williams, among others. Of the players, all I can tell you is that Smith is on the piano, Mac Rebennack is on guitar, and Red Tyler is probably one of the sax men.
Huey and band were the premier purveyors of novelty tunes in the Crescent City from the later 1950’s through the mid-1960’s. By 1962, long-time lead vocalist (and female impersonator) Bobby Marchan had left the band, replaced by Moore; and the aggregation had rejoined Ace records after a brief, hitless stint with Imperial. On Ace again, they scored with “Popeye”, named for the local dance craze, before recording ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. The story has been passed around that this album was withdrawn from the market shortly after its release because people were offended by these innocent, fun-loving seasonal songs done R&B style. But, in fact, the LP just was not promoted or distributed properly by Vee-Jay Records, which had a marketing deal with Ace, and went nowhere fast. In any event, it became legendary in its rarity until it saw an Ace vinyl reissue (in the 1980’s I think); then WestSide put it out on CD in 1998. If you're a fan of Huey's doin's, you should already have some of his early work; but, if you don't, it's time to grab some.
"Christmas In New Orleans" (Sherman - Van Winkle)
Louis Armstrong with Benny Carter's Orchestra, 1955
Keep New Orleans in your thoughts and help bring it back from the brink
Goodie #2 is a classic from the iconic Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong, whose gifts did so much for jazz and popular music. Over his long career, his remarkable talent, soul and spirit spread worldwide and spoke eloquently of his hometown roots, although he had moved away as a young man and never lived there again. “Christmas In New Orleans” never fails to give me good cheer this time of the year. I hope it serves you well, too, whether you observe this or that holiday, or none at all. Merry Christmas, Cool Yule, or Happy Holidays and Funky Festivus to y’all. Don’t let New Orleans and the Gulf Coast be forgotten in the coming year. Oh yeah, and Peace.