July 28, 2005

Something From The Other Mayfield

"Painful Party" (Percy Mayfield)
Percy Mayfield, from Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield, RCA, 197

Party's over

I’m calling a change-up and slipping in a Swamp Side, which is what I call Louisiana related songs from outside of New Orleans featured on HOTG. They usually have nothing to do with actual proximity to a swamp, as is the case with this album cut by one of my favorites, Percy Mayfield. No relation to Curtis, he was born and grew up in Minden, LA, located in the northwestern part of the state. A prolific and gifted songwriter in the sophisticated, urban blues idiom, whose compositions have been covered by many artists over the years, he had a laid back, at times, lugubrious baritone voice that could convey both pain and playfulness. As a popular recording artist in the early 1950’s in Los Angeles, he introduced the world to some of his most enduring songs such as “Please Send Me Someone To Love”, “River’s Invitation”, and “Lost Mind”; but a serious auto accident left him facially disfigured, more or less ending his performing career. He continued writing and recording, though, and, in the 1960’s, worked with Ray Charles as a songwriter (“Hit The Road Jack”) and made outstanding sides for Charles’ Tangerine label with Ray’s band (and Ray) backing him. By the early 1970’s, Mayfield was recording for RCA in New York with fine session players, doing funk-tinged original blues captured on at least three albums: Weakness Is A Thing Called Man, The Blues And Then Some, and Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield, from which our featured cut comes.

I’ve always dug the groove on “Painful Party”. About all I know for sure of the players on this album is that Seldon Powell is soloing on sax and Eric Gale is on guitar. Some of his other RCA sessions had such greats as Bernard Purdie on drums, and Chuck Rainey on bass; so, I suspect they could be on this record, too. In his after-hours, worry-weary, somewhat stoned vocal tone, Mayfield lays out the sad tale of the birthday party he threw for his woman, who didn't show up for it. It’s the kind of conversational style story he does so well, augmented by the hip, loose, low-key funk arrangement.

I highly recommend Percy Mayfield’s early Specialty recordings, available on CD, and the recently released Rhino Handmade compilation of his Tangerine and Atlantic sides. Also vital is New Orleans singer extraordinaire Johnny Adams’ fine album of Percy Mayfield covers, Walking On A Tightrope. Mayfield’s own album by that name from the late 1960’s has been reissued on CD in the last few years, as well. I guess his stuff can seem a little too downbeat at times, as his subject matter poetically plumbs the darker shades of the blues. But attentive listening will reveal a soulful, consummate craftsman at work. And those somber tones serve to make his upbeat songs that much more fun to hear by contrast. He’s always impressed me as a class act who deserves much wider recognition and appreciation than he’s gotten. So, if the music of this Mayfield is new to you, I hope you’ll seek more.

July 27, 2005

Eddie Bo Info Update

You've probably already heard, if you are a Bo head; but Martin at soulgeneration has put up his Eddie Bo discography. It's very well done.

July 22, 2005

R & R

Mable John and one of her fans, my wife, Jeanne Plaisance

My wife and I went to my old hometown, Memphis, this weekend for a little respite (though NOT from the heat!) and got to see Mable John perform at the Stax Museum. Mable, of course, is not a New Orleans* artist; but I had to show off with a couple of photos for the blog anyway. The performance was part of a monthly series the museum has. Mable was supposed to do a tribute to Etta James; but she only did a few of Etta's tunes before stopping to talk about the value of the museum and drumming up some contributions. In the second set, she did some of her own tunes and was outstanding. I highly recommend a visit to the museum, built on the site of the original studio, which had been sadly torn down. The studio has been recreated as part of the complex, which includes a music academy for local children.

Mable and Jeanne, together at last

*But, as Jeanne notes, Mable was born in Bastrop, LA, up in the northeastern part of the state.

I'll have some more music posted soon; another Tuff City Side is in the works. Time to get back in da groove.

Jean Knight's San Francisco Connection

Jean Knight

"What One Man Won't Do Another Man Will" (James A. Canes)
Jean Knight, Open, 1976

And did

Just five years after her huge 1971 Stax hit (recorded at Malaco in Jackson, Ms), “Mr. Big Stuff”, Jean Knight had skyrocketed to obscurity. Stax’s interest in her evaporated after just a few records despite some other good songs that producer Wardell Quezegue had in the can on her, mainly, it seems, because he would not let Knight record any material the label sent to her. In 1973, she made a good, nicely produced single (one side of which, “Jessie Joe”, I featured on the blog March 8) for Dial in Nashville that was not successful. Then she signed with Chelsea Records, which saw fit to let out only two singles that attained near instant oblivion. That brings us pretty much to our feature, released in 1976 and recorded at producer Traci Borges’ coincidentally named Knight Studio in Metairie, LA. Borges’ sold the session masters to Walter Stone, who had grown up in the New Orleans area and owned the Loadstone label in San Francisco. Stone released “What One Man Won’t Do Another Man Will” b/w “Rudy Blue” on his subsidiary label, Open. I first learned of the single through the appearance of “Rudy Blue” on the fine Kent Soul CD, Stone Soul: San Francisco’s Loadstone Label; and I recently found the 45 among a large number of records I bought out of an old store around here.

Although Ms Knight and Quezergue had parted ways shortly after the Stax debacle, his influence is still felt in Eric Dunbar’s arrangement, which asserts some of the simple, funky, effective Malaco feel and even has the background girls sing “oh, yeah” at the start. It’s a bit more edgy; and the mix is not great, as the drums and bass are sort of buried; but the song still kicks and gives good groove. I think that’s mainly due to the punchy, rhythmic horns and the strong, up-front guitar riffing (wonder whose?), which reminds me in places of Joe Walsh’s more distorted chord chopping in “Funk 49”. As she sings about the merits of that Jody-man, Knight’s vocal advice has attitude to spare, also recalling her Stax work. The flip side, “Rudy Blue”, which may have been meant as a follow-up to “Jessie Joe”, is pretty good, too, but doesn’t quite have the moves, seeming more of a throwback to Sixties soul/pop. While the middle right of the label on both sides says, “HOT DISCO SOUND”, pay no attention to that mere sales ploy. Thankfully, neither side was something to do the Hustle to.

Working with Borges again, Jean Knight later cut “Humpin’ To Please” b/w “Love Me Slowy”, released to no avail on the local Ola label. Borges’ Knight Studio most likely was a lower cost alternative to New Orleans’ major studio and production house of the period, Sea-Saint. Eddie Bo did some work at Knight, as did other local bands and producers. But, because Borges and the others worked in the shadow of that more successful recording complex and its related Sansu Enterprises, their commercial chances were marginalized.

As I mentioned in my other piece on Jean, she found brief recording fame again in the 1980’s with her version of “My Toot Toot”, Rockin’ Sydney’s incredibly over-played, over-covered, zydeco-flavored hit. Today, she is still popular on the oldies casino circuit and at festivals, singing her most famous numbers. So she probably won’t do, “What One Man Won’t Do”; but I think she for sure should.

July 19, 2005

Ernie, Allen and Some Meters In the Moment

Being Ernie K-Doe

"Fly Away With Me" (Allen Toussaint)
Ernie K-Doe, from Ernie K-Doe, Janus, c. 1971

This bird has flown

In 1959, Ernie K-Doe teamed up with writer/producer Allen Toussaint for a four year run of recordings for the Minit label, many of which are classics, with the unforgettable “Mother-In-Law” being the monster hit of the batch. But the radio action cooled; and Toussaint got drafted. So, K-Doe signed with Houston-based Duke Records around 1964, cutting ten singles for the label over the next five or six years, several of which charted. I featured one of those sides here on March 31, 2005. After returning from the service, Toussaint started a production company and several labels with Marshall Sehorn and had success writing and producing for Lee Dorsey. He didn’t work with K-Doe again until he produced the 1970 sessions for Ernie K-Doe, released on Janus around 1971. The album was not well-received and would be their last session work together on new material.

At the time this album was made, Toussaint’s go-to studio band was still the Meters, who had started having hits of their own. By the sound of it, at least some of the band are on “Fly Away With Me”, as well as the entire album. There are no session details on the cover; but, more than any other cut, this song’s high funk quotient (HFQ) strongly suggests it’s drummer Zig Modeliste and bassist George Porter, Jr. having their way with the beat. Their intricate, nonchalant hang-time interplay is a vital part of what takes this simple, gospel-tinged tune to higher ground for me. That’s Toussaint as part of the vocal backup; and it must be his piano work on the quiet, filigreed intro that transforms into those sanctified, rhythmic changes. Along with the subtle horns, his deft keyboard touch dances around and through the song’s syncopations and hesitations. Over it all, K-Doe sings, well, K-Doe – relaxed , soulful, and melodic here; talking, grunting, and staccato there. I keep replaying to hear the end, when going to fade it breaks down to just Zig and George, who are perfectly loose and organic. Ernie free associates and shreds his vocal cords with some JB-like ecstatic, primal screams and his own unique maniacal laugh. Just a pure Home of the Groove moment I thought I’d share.

A few more things I forgot to add. . .Toussaint wrote all but two of the ten songs on this LP. A number of them tend toward a more upbeat pop sound; and, of those, I like "Back Street Lover", "A Place We Can Be Free", and "Here Come The Girls". Soul Jazz comped the latter song on their New Orleans Funk CD. "Fly Away With Me" and "Lawdy Mama" (which I think has Leo Nocentelli's guitar in a more prominent role) are the truly funky numbers. Also notable is the soul blues burner, "Whoever's Thrilling You", which Z. Z. Hill covered to good effect several years later on sides produced by Toussaint, who wrote that one, too. When I found this album at a now closed New Orleans shop many years ago, it cost me $20.00 and was a little worn. I consider myself lucky to have it. Over the years, I played numerous cuts on my old radio show. "Here Come The Girls" was always the most requested and remarked upon cut.

Anyway, I've see this on ebay for a lot less recently. So, I advise you to seek it out, not just because it's collectible, but because it is an enjoyable, historic intersection of the artist, the writer/producer, and backing musicians. Unfortunately for K-Doe, his career was headed for a long wander in the wilderness; but both Toussaint and the Meters were just at the threshold of bigger things to come.

July 15, 2005

More on Louisiana Purchase from Dwight

I have again moved Dwight's comments to the main page for more to see. For newcomers to HOTG, Dwight is the drummer for Chocolate Milk out of New Orleans and contributes his inside recollections and perceptions here from time to time. His band recorded numerous albums for RCA in the 1970's and early 1980's, the earlier ones produced by Allen Toussaint. They also backed Toussaint on live gigs and contributed to other sessions at his Sea-Saint Studios during that period. Now, here's Dwight:

Dan, Dwight Richards here! Sorry I haven't contributed in awhile, but some other committments have been keeping me busy. It is no accident that you compare the sound of this band to my own group, Chocolate Milk. They are in fact all very good friends of ours. They also share many of the same influences. Louisiana Purchase is one of those New Orleans bands who may not have sold a lot of records but definetly added to the musical legacy of New Orleans funk. Their sound on records was probably similar to ours because, like Chocolate Milk, they wanted to appeal to a wider audience than just New Orleans. Also like us, their funky New Orleans roots always shone through no matter what. This band features a pair of brothers, Brennan Williams on drums and Warner on sax and keyboards. Warner was also a longtime keyboardist for Irma Thomas. Ronald Ernest (Shamika, as I know him ) is the brother of drummer Hermans Ernest. The New Orleans music community of the seventies was very tight knit. I even had a band together with Warner for a couple of years called the Enforcers ( a long story!). These guys are a few years older than me, but as I remember, they were originally two groups. the singing group was called Swiss Movement, and the band was Lousiana Purchase. Eventually some of the singers left and the remaining members were absorbed into Louisiana Purchase. Many of the members are semi retired (musicians never fully retire). Back to their sound, they featured horns and full orchestration, simlilar to Chocolate Milk. I have to leave right now but, I will write more later.

Great to have you back, Dwight. Thanks for the info. Cameron at Tuff City mentioned that the tape box had the name Swiss Movement on it, too. Does that vocal group have anything to do with a group that recorded for RCA in the early 1970's by that name? Look forward to your next installment.

Funky Funky (Tuff City Side)

"Search The Purchase"
Louisiana Purchase, unreleased 1977, from
Funky Funky
New Orleans 5
, Funky Delicacies CD, 2005

Search and purchase

I really hadn’t listened closely to the last several Tuff City compilations I bought in New Orleans prior to JazzFest this year. So, these Tuff City Sides features give me the opportunity to start doing so. At first, I picked Funky Funky New Orleans 5 for today, because it has a nice, unreleased Sam & The Soul Machine cut. But, then I got into the three Louisiana Purchase tracks - all unreleased - on it, and quickly decided to share one with you. I admit that this a band I know really very little about. So, if anybody has anything else to add to the information I’ve gathered, feel free to e-mail me or make a comment.

In the lyrics to “Search The Purchase”, Louisiana Purchase gives us a glimpse of what seems to have been a less than successful sojourn to New York City for the band, which started inauspiciously by getting stopped and searched by the law up there. Like their other tracks on the CD, “Bad High” and “Accept What You Expect”, this one is well-recorded; and the arrangement and playing are first rate. It’s the one that’s been stuck on repeat in my head.

All I had come up with for background on Louisiana Purchase* was that they had a rare eponymous LP out on the Basin Street label that goes for fairly big bucks these days, at least one single on Basin Street, and another on Kelli-Arts. I also knew that Charles “Chucky C” Elam, III had been in the group. He’s an impressive vocalist and sax player, a member of Irma Thomas’ band, who has also played on many sessions in New Orleans over the past couple of decades, and now fronts his own band, Chucky C & Cleary Blue. So, not having much else to go on, I asked Cameron Maher, my Tuff City contact, if she had any information to share. She very helpfully found the ¼” tape box and told me the cuts (including another song on the tape not on the CD, “ Hey Savage”) were recorded at Sea-Saint Studio in New Orleans, September 13, 1977, and produced by Sansu. That means Allen Toussaint was probably involved in the project; and it’s why this band's sound reminds me somewhat of the sophisticated funk of Chocolate Milk, who were making records with him during this period. Not having any musicians listed for this session, Ms Maher graciously also gave me the band lineup as it was on the Basin Street LP, Louisiana Purchase, which I include at the end of this piece.

[Update - In the comments to this post, Dwight Richards of Chocolate Milk offered his insights on Louisiana Purchase, which I have moved topside (much appreciated, as always, Dwight):
It is no accident that you compare the sound if this band to my own group, Chocolate Milk. They are in fact all very good friends of ours. They also share many of the same influences. Louisiana Purchase is one of those New Orleans bands who may not have sold a lot of records but definetly added to the musical legacy of New Orleans funk. Their sound on records was probably similar to ours because, like Chocolate Milk, they wanted to appeal to a wider audience than just New Orleans. Also like us, their funky New Orleans roots always shone through no matter what. This band features a pair of brothers, Brennan williams on drums and Warner on sax and keyboards. Warner was also a longtime keyboardist for Irma Thomas. Ronald Ernest (Shamika as i know him ) is the brother of drummer Hermans Ernest. The New Orleans music community of the seventies was very tight knit. I even had a band together with Warner for a couple of years called the Enforcers (a long story!). These guys are a few years older than me, but as I remember, they were originally two groups. The singing group was called Swiss Movement and the band was Lousiana Purchase. Eventually some of the singers left and the remaining members were absorbed into Louisiana Purchase. Many of the members are semi retired (musicians never fully retire). Back to their sound, they featured horns and full orchestration, simlilar to Chocolate Milk.]

This CD compilation is the latest of the numbered Tuff City/Funky Delicacies Funky Funky New Orleans various artists series, featuring rare, mostly small label sides, along with some unreleased material. There have also been several FFNO offshoots focusing on output from specific producers/label owners such as Eddie Bo, Senator Jones and Wardell Quezergue. Because, over the years, the label has managed to get better sourced material such as multi-track or stereo masters, or less stressed vinyl, the sound quality on this CD is good. Of the released recordings featured, many had very limited pressings and ridiculously poor distribution. So such digitized collections are the only hope that many of us will ever have of hearing this music, especially the previously unissued tracks. Yet, my major gripe with these CDs is that only a few come with any informational background notes. Tuff City did begin at least listing the original labels (and sometimes the label numbers) under the song titles. But I really think they should try to offer more information on these artists, labels and songs, when possible, in the manner of the fine packaging and research done by UK compilers such as Jazzman and Ace, for example. I know doing so would make the production costs go up; but, I would pay a few dollars more to get more historical context. More casual listeners might not. Maybe they could do a little market research to find out. And one more thing. What are the chances of re-releasing that Basin Street LP? Just wondering.

You can hear sound samples of the CD tracks at the link above. Again, thanks to Tuff City for letting me bring you this cut and the others in this ongoing feature. Now, here’s that list of the players (I recognize more of the additional musicians than band members) who made the Louisiana Purchase LP:

Arthur Booker (lead, background vocals)
Charles Elam III (Alto sax, lead, background vocals)
Ronald Ernest (Lead guitar)
Atwood Jones (Keyboards)
Terry Manuel (Keyboards, lead, background vocals)
Barry Sailor (Bass)
Donald Whitlow (Lead, Background vocals)
Brennan Williams (drums, keyboards)
Warner Williams (Alto-tenor sax, keyboards)

Additional musicians:
Ashantai (percussion)
Herman Ernest (percussion)
Norman Davis (background vocals)
Nick Daniels (Bass)
Sam Henry (Synergy, Moog-synthesizer)
Kevin Lewis (keyboards)
Russel White (trumpet)

* [Update 4/20/2007, the band is still going and has a new CD and website.]

July 12, 2005

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.

July 09, 2005

Tuff City Side

"Got To Find A Way" (G. Porter, Jr. - B. MacDonald)
George Porter's Joy Ride, Searching For A Joy Ride, Night Train, 2005

Find it at Tuff City

Our first selection in this series comes from George Porter, Jr. and his short-lived outfit, Joy Ride, that he put together with guitarist Bruce “Weasel” MacDonald about two years after the Meters broke up. As Michael Hurtt’s excellent liner notes for the TuffCity/Night Train CD, Searching For A Joy Ride, reveal, Porter joined David Lastie’s band, A Taste Of New Orleans, after the break up, playing a lot of French Quarter gigs with them for over a year. Porter had met MacDonald, who is originally from Lake Charles, LA, in Lafayette in the 1970’s; and they got together musically when MacDonald moved to New Orleans in 1979. Here in Southwest Louisiana, Bruce MacDonald has been a well-know musical figure for decades, having played in a legendary (and now semi-reunited) Lake Charles ‘60’s garage band, The Bad Roads, as well as other momentous groups such as the Cajun/rock hybrid bands, Coteau and Rufus Jagneaux, and in Zachary Richard’s band in the later ‘70’s. After meeting up again, Porter and MacDonald got to songwriting immediately and put together a group that originally had as its other members Lake Charles native Kenny Blevins(who went on to play with Sonny Landreth, John Hiatt, and Tiny Town, among others) on drums, Sam Henry (of the Soul Machine) on organ and electric piano, and Craig Wroten on synthesizer.

The band played mainly clubs in the Uptown area of New Orleans where Loyola and Tulane universities are located, and developed a following with the college crowd. By the time they decided to make this album at Studio In the Country in Bogalusa, Ricky Sebastian (originally from Opelousas, LA and now an esteemed jazz player in New York) was on drums, and Wroten was gone. On record, they display a tight, funk infused R&B with rock overtones that Porter describes as “syncopated rock”. They certainly don’t play like a band together for less than a year. “Got To Find A Way” typifies what they were up to with its decidedly upbeat, perhaps cocaine-enhanced, pacing. Sebastian’s complex but danceable romp with the beat underpins this mover and keeps it out of disco territory. Porter’s agile bottom end work is in da groove, while Henry’s organ riffing and MacDonald’s rhythmic quick picking spice up changes that really don’t break any new ground. It’s a riff-driven tune with inconsequential lyrics, sung by both the bassist and guitarist, that surely kept the party people happy at gigs.

While there are a couple of slower, plainly funky tracks on the album, most are high energy tunes the band’s principals developed out of live jams. Given time, I think George Porter’s Joy Ride could have become a formidable unit and written some great songs. But, the group came unglued soon after the recordings were made in 1980, having issued only one poorly distributed single on their own Chippewa label, “Mardi Gras In New Orleans” b/w “Money Money”, both of which are on the Night Train CD. Though it’s not anywhere near a masterwork or major find, this album fills in a sonic gap from a period in New Orleans music when exciting musical connections were being made and a number of new groups were forming such as the Neville Brothers, Little Queenie and the Percolators, and the Radiators. Porter and MacDonald would collaborate again on the bassist’s first solo CD for Rounder, Runnin’ Partner, in 1990.

Until I got this nicely packaged CD in New Orleans during Jazzfest this spring, I had only heard George Porter’s Joy Ride on a Deesu single (not on this CD) I found; and my wife had told me tales of going to their shows back in the day and even having one of their t-shirts. To me, a great thing about CD reissues is that they often contain previously unissued material that can be lost works or alternate takes. If not always revelatory, they are, at least, fascinating artifacts. Kudos to
Tuff City/Night Train for making Joy Ride’s album available for the first time.

Note: The Tuff City Records website (see links) has audio samples from most of their CDs.

July 08, 2005

A Few Things

Tuff City Sides Are Coming
I consider myself a New Orleans music (and some other varieties, as well) collector rather than a true, purist collector of vinyl only. Therefore I have a large, growing assemblage of CDs, as well as all the vinyl. As I have mentioned here before, I have been buying compilations (CD and LP) of obscure New Orleans and Louisiana music put out by
Tuff City under their Night Train and Funky Delicacies labels pretty much since they started. But, with the exception of my Sam & The Soul Machine piece (couldn’t help myself), I have not posted any songs from their catalog, because TC is an ongoing commercial concern that I thought might take offense at my making mp3s of their product available.

Imagine my surprise when I was contacted last week by a Tuff City representative who asked if I wanted to blog some of their material. You know I said yeah. Tuff City is a small domestic group that has been doing their New Orleans/Louisiana collections for a decade now and wants more people to be aware of its products, especially groove junkies who frequent blogs like this. I appreciate them offering me the opportunity to pick some tracks to present to you that are enjoyable and significant in the historical context and legacy of the music of the Home Of The Groove. While I have criticized the quality of their vinyl to digital transfers and poor documentation on earlier releases, I must say Tuff City seems to have gotten it together in the last few years, offering more background, label and session details in their packaging, and using better quality sources for the music they present.

I’ll be bringing a number of pieces to you in weeks to come, under the Tuff City Side heading. It should be fun. But please understand that I am doing this because I am interested in the music they are making available, and think you will be, too. I have no business relationship with this group of labels, at all.

breath of life
I want to add my recommendation to Oliver’s at soul sides for a new music blog with strong New Orleans roots,
breath of life. Kalamu and Mtume ya Salaam have created a site that is a pleasure to read, view, and listen to. They have a nice interview with Harold Battiste posted, which mostly deals with his work with Sam Cooke. Those HOTG connections go far and wide. Check it out.

Speaking of viewing....
If you are tired of looking at my standard order blog template and have a more or less unique one lying around you wouldn't mind being used here, please let this code-challenged geezer know. You could be the one that pimps my blog!

July 06, 2005

Dancin' On Deesu

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

tune in to HOTG Internet Radio

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.

July 01, 2005

Life, Liberty and Pursuit of The Groove

"Liberty Bell" (Wilson Turbinton)
Willie Tee, from Anticipation, United Artists, 1976

"It tolls for thee. . ."

“Liberty Bell” is the first part of a two-song suite on Willie Tee’s 1976 album, Anticipation. I featured the second song, the title track, in the early days of this blog on October 30, 2004. What better weekend than the 4th of July to lay on you this message song, Tee’s musings on liberty, love and leadership during that bicentennial year of the USA.

Most of the album was cut at Studio In The Country in Bogalusa, LA, using mainly Tee’s Gatur Rhythm Section: Louis ‘ Guitar June’ Clark, guitar; Erving Charles, bass; Larry Panna, drums; Alfred ‘Uganda’ Roberts, percussion. On this track, Julius Farmer laid down the bass. Also featured here are Tee's brother, Earl Turbinton, on soprano sax along with assorted other horn players, as well as David T. Walker on guitar, and Geraldine 'Sister Gerry' Richard, vocal backup. On all tracks, the versatile Mr. Tee sang and played keyboards; and wrote and arranged all of it to boot. To me, “Liberty Bell” has a real summertime groove, steamy funk not in a hurry to get anywhere, but with a lot of good instrumental interplay going on, especially Farmer's perpetual motion bad-ass bass workout. The rest of the album moves from funk into more upbeat soul with pop leanings, and, while not totally a classic, remains enjoyable.

If you want to read more on Willie Tee (Wilson Turbinton), there a link below*; and back on
May 16, I featured a side from one of his Atlantic singles. In the near future, I want to get to a cut by the Gaturs, too. But now it’s holiday time in these parts; so, I hope you have a good 4th of July, wherever and however you are spending it. Remember, nearly 30 years after this record came out, we still need to fix that bell.

* Willie Tee's web site