August 30, 2005

How We Roll

Eddie having fun

"I Just Keep Rolling" (Edwin Bocage)
Eddie Bo [likely an unissued Rip session] 1962

(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)

Back in the 1980’s, I picked up a Charly LP called Vippin’ and Voppin’, a compilation of Eddie Bo’s sides for Seven-B, mainly, but including a few from the Rip label, several of which seem to have been unissued at the time. It was my introduction to this phase of his work and was quite a revelation. For the most part, I found many of these songs to be more musically satisfying than some of his earlier records for Ace, Apollo, Chess, and Ric. The dates of the sides on the comp range from 1962 to 1967, the period just prior to the beginnings of his definitive funk recordings.

The album notes listed “I Just Keep Rolling” as unissued and recorded on June 9, 1962, which corresponds to the period of other sides Bo did for Rip Records. In my recent reading of the
Eddie Bo Discography at soulgeneration, I see that Martin thinks this song was released on a Rip single. Eddie’s website shows that, too; though neither of them show a flip side or issue number. Meanwhile, The R&B Indies do not show any such release on Rip*; but the Rip catalog may not yet be completely known.

Released or not, this upbeat souler with a distinct, relaxed New Orleans feel is quite obscure. Listen to the casual, syncopated parade beat drumming. It shows up often in the city’s music, related as it is to the second line brass band breakdown at the final stage of a jazz funeral. I guess you could call it unpremeditated funk that just naturally bubbles up, given a good drummer and half a chance. Having it here makes for a great groove, combined with the hip swing and sway of the horns. Bo doesn’t sweat the light lyrics sounds like he's having fun with them. If this track was unissued, the likely reason would be that Eddie came in for the last verse too early after the instrumental break. He starts "I -", stops, then improvises a few more "I - I - I"'s for a bar before starting the at the right spot. It's not a major malfunction, but may have been enough to keep this great song in the can, maybe thinking he'd redo the vocal later - although that didn't seem to happen.

Eddie Bo’s transition from R&B/soul to funk is worthy of a dissertation that I won’t go into now. But, let me refer you once again to Larry Grogan’s excellent, enjoyable take on that important aspect of Bo’s career at his
Funky 16 Corners website, if you want to pursue it. Otherwise, just let Eddie keep us rolling.

* [Note 4/5/2009: The R&B Indies shows Rip 160 as "Mama Said" b/w "Tee-Na-Na", credited as by Eddie Bo; and I once thought "I Just Keep Rolling" might possibly the same tune as "Mama Said", since the lyrics in the first verse of this recording say 'mama said' several times, although 'I just keep rolling' is the repeated chorus throughout. Recently, a contributor here, Peter, sent me a scan and rip of that Rip revealing that it was actually a Reggie Hall single, produced and written by Bo; and "Mama Said" was a completely different song. Just goes to show, even our best sources can be wrong sometimes. The Indies also shows that Rip 157 was not issued - no titles are listed. Perhaps that is the missing single where "I Just Keep Rolling" was to have appeared, or that awaits discovery in some dusty box. I look forward to further enlightenment from anyone. Thanks, Peter, for your help in setting things at least a bit more straight.]

August 29, 2005


Well, the sun's out here. Although the wind kicked up a bit and dark clouds scudded around, it never really even rained very much; nor did we lose power. We're very fortunate. And New Orleans. . . . As bad as it may be there (which remains to be seen), it could have been much worse. Katrina's last minute wobble to the East kept the city from getting a direct hit; and that storm surge nightmare scenario did not materialize. It seems there is significant wind damage and flooding; but, for the most part, the city still stands and can come back. Many feared it might become an underwater theme park.

Of course, New Orleans' near miss meant very bad news for the Mississippi and Alabama coast. Katrina proved to be an incredibly powerful force of nature; and she is headed North, still packing; so, beware, if you live in the path of this storm or its remnants.

Thanks to well-wishers who have sent e-mails and left comments. I'll have some music posted later tonight, I hope. Let the healing begin.

Updating the update, Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Things are pretty bad in New Orleans and the surrounding area with large portions flooded, some severly so. Looks like more levees are reaching the saturation point and giving way. This is not good. The aerial video being shown now is very sobering. Obviously there was at least some storm surge. So, with the rain that came down and levee failures, the prognosis is getting more grim, sad to say.

This isn't a news blog; and I don't plan to turn it into one. But it is hard to ignore devastation like this, watching a city you know and love, depsite its faults, turning back into the uninhabitable swamp from whence it arose. I can only darkly imagine what it must be like for everybody who lives (lived?) there. Every life in the area has been distrupted, probably for a long time. Do what you can to help the relief effort. OK? Thanks.

This can only make us treasure New Orleans' musical and cultural legacy all the more. . . .

August 28, 2005

The Big One

Katrina approaches the mouth of the Mississippi River

No audio with this post, although the eye of this storm is so circular that I can't help being reminded of the hole of a spinning record. It's just playing a terrible song.

I live a little over 100 miles to the West of New Orleans; and it looks like our area is more or less out of harm's way for this pass. Time will tell. But there is no doubt that the city whose music is the continual subject of this blog is due for some serious, if not catastrophic, weather very soon.

New Olreans can be a hard place to live, but one that also offers some very enriching and enjoyable qulaities of life, in defiance of its often less than ideal climate and precarious location. In that spirit, no matter what happens, I plan to keep on investigating and celebrating the city's vibrant and undying groove music here. If my internet connection and power hold out, I'll be posting some again soon.

If you will, join with me in keeping the people of New Orleans and environs in your thoughts, send prayers if you have 'em, light candles, and hope for the best during its time of danger and ultimate restoration. Send money to the Red Cross or other applicable organizations that can help those in need there. And when you lock into a HOTG groove, consider how valuable, miraculous and healing music can be. I know that's what's going to help me get through this.

August 26, 2005

Kung Fu Man vs Shaft In Da Twilight Zone?

"Kung Fu Man Part II" (Charles Brimmer)
Charles Brimmer, JB'S Records. 1974

That's all, grasshopper

Here’s yet another 45 side recorded at Deep South Recording in Baton Rouge; but this time there is a distinct HOTG connection. From 1974, Charles Brimmer’s “Kung Fu Man Part I & Part I” on Senator Jones’ JB’S label out of New Orleans is obviously an attempt to capitalize on Carl Douglas’ smash of that year, “Kung Fu Fighting”. I am featuring the instrumental B side of this record because, on the A-side, Brimmer’s voice dominates the mix, making his insipid lyrics very hard to miss over the low volume, muddy sounding music bed. On the flip, the more prominent and a bit less muddy backing tracks reveal a strange, complex, and derivative composition of upbeat funk, arranged by none other than Wardell Quezergue.

In a futile attempt to add authenticity, both sides feature Kung Fu-like (?) phrases, sounding like a victim of Tourette’s syndrome hawking up phlegm, and a crude off-beat electronic clap effect dubbed in over the section that starts the tune with the “Twilight Zone Theme” inspired organ riff. Is this the place to ask what Rod Serling had to do with Kung Fu? Inspiring delusions of grandeur, Quezergue chooses to make “Theme From Shaft” the model for his arrangement. While these elements lift “Kung Fu Man” into the glorious realm of unintentional humor, that’s not to say that the playing isn’t quite good and the groove compelling on Part II with its rhythmic interplay of brass, strings, wah-wah guitar, organ, driving bass and percussive propulsion. And that’s why I bring it your way today, because booty shaking and laughing are both good for you.

New Orleans born
Charles Brimmer was a pretty good deep-soul singer in his day, the early to mid-1970’s. During high school he cut his first single, and joined David Battiste and the Gladiators for a time when he graduated. He went on to make numerous other singles, some well-received, plus a couple of albums. I think he must have cut “Kung Fu Man” during the Baton Rouge sessions for his single “God Blessed Our Love”, a cover of the Al Green song, that came out on Chelsea and did very well nationally. You can hear a couple of his sides at the Soul Club Jukebox . Certainly, “Kung Fu Man” is not how Mr. Brimmer would wish to be remembered. But at least I chose the instrumental side, pursuing the groove.

I could have made this a Tuff City feature, since they have it on their Funky Delicacies CD, Senator Jones’ Funky Funky New Orleans; but they combined both sides on one CD track, and I didn’t want waste the bandwidth and make you sit through the first three minutes. So, I used my own vinyl. Interestingly, this music track, renamed “Chiller”, also appears on FD's earlier CD, Funky Funky New Orleans, credited to Louisiana Homegrown, with the Kung Fu effects replaced by “spooky” laughter. At least Senator Jones got a lot of use, if not any commercial bang, for his musical buck.

August 22, 2005

Yeah, You Right, Baton Rouge! (Updated)

"Yeah, You Right" (Shaab-Carter-Zeigler-O'Rourke-Cowart)
The Sister And Brothers, Uni 55238, ca. 1969

[6/18/2008 - I've updated and revised this post several times, since some more information has come to light, thanks to several people who contacted me after reading it and got me doing more sleuthing. Your comments and/or emails are always welcome and will always be credited, unless you wish to remain anonymous.]

I discovered this single in a huge lot of 45s I bought right after I moved to Lafayette; and "Yeah, You Right", with its highly percussive groove and insinuating Afro-beat rhythmic flavor, sucked me in as soon as the needle dropped. As the label states, both sides were cut at Deep South Recording Studios in Baton Rogue. Some good funk-related music has been made in the city over the years; but quite frankly, I’ve never heard anything quite like our feature track come out of Baton Rouge before or since. It’s another song like “Get Up” by Willie Tee and the Gaturs, where the groove takes hold and makes the inconsequential lyrics unimportant, the vocals becoming just another part of the sonic ensemble. Not to denigrate the lead vocalist here, who I've determined with some certainty was Geraldine Richard, (a/k/a Sister Geri). She sang on all three of the group's singles, and had a soulful, high quality delivery, especially on the non-funk numbers, such as the flip side of this one, “Dear Ike (Remember I'm John's Girl)”, one of those slow burner monologue songs where the talking goes on longer than the actual singing; but when she finally does start in, it’s well worth hearing, too.

Through a comment from The Tyrone Gringos (dated 11/2/2008) to an an earlier version of this post, I've learned that The Sister And Brothers were a working band, at least for a short time, in the Baton Rouge area. I had thought before that they might have been only a studio creation. From the information in that comment, it seems the band members were not the core unti that played on this single, though, as I have learned that session band was a very busy separate entity. No information has yet come to light about who played on the other releases credited to the group, though.

Recorded in 1968 or early 1969, the earliest single for The Sisters And Brothers may have first appeared locally on Lucky Sounds #1010, but was re-issued on Uni 55199, “The Jed Clampett, Parts 1 & 2”, the a-side of which can be heard on
Mr. Finewine's 02/09/2001 WFMU show. Ron Shaab, who produced or co-produced all three of the records, wrote the raw, Southern funkifried tune, featuring some excellent broken up drumming, that has Richard mainly talking with attitude over the groove, rather than singing.

Following soon thereafter, likely later in 1969 or early 1970, was “Yeah, You Right". The label gives co-production credit to Shaab and Cold Gritz, perhaps better know as Cold Grits, a legendary session band that has been shrouded in mystery since the release of their chill, one-off funk single on Atco that same year, "It's Your Thing" b/w "Bring It On Home To Me". The unit was from the Baton Rouge area originally and had backed John Fred (as his Playboy Band) on tour and on his records for Uni in the late 1960s, which is probably how The Sister And Brothers came to the label. The drummer for Cold Grits, Ronald 'Tubby' Ziegler, has verified to me that his group were actually the ‘Brothers’ who played on the awesome "Yeah, You Right" and it's b-side, both of which which they are credited as co-writing with Shaab. Under the circumstances, it is likely they were on the first Uni single, too. The other members of Cold Grits were Harold Cowart on bass, Jimmy O'Rourke on guitar, and Billy Carter on keyboards.

In an anonymous comment to this post, someone has provided a kind of fuzzy history of Cold Grits after they left John Fred's employ, which you are free to read. I have not independently verified all the information offered there. What is clear is that they soon encountered Jerry Wexler, who, around 1969, invited them to come to Atlantic's new Criteria Studios in Miami to work on backing tracks for a number of artists, including Wilson Pickett and Jackie Moore; and, as noted, the group's lone 45 was also issued at the time. Cold Grits came to Criteria around the same time that Wexler brought in the Dixie Flyers rhythm section (mainly from Memphis) for various other projects. For sure, Criteria was a happening place for making records and the hits were flying.

I am still working on an even murkier connection The Sister And Brothers may have had to another group associated with Baton Rouge, Cold Gritz and The Blackeyed Peas, who had a short-lived deal with Ode Records around 1970 that resulted in only one single, “Bayou Country”, although at least a album’s worth of material was recorded. Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Duke Bardwell, another vocalist and area legend Luther Kent, plus three female singers were some of the members of that group. I am still trying to suss out whether Sister Geri might have been one of those other singers, and if any Cold Grits players were also in Cold Grtiz (still with me?), or if similarities stopped with the name. Plenty of questions remain., such as why Cold Grits was shown as Cold Grtiz on the "Yeah, You Right" single.

I hope to talk more with ‘Tubby’ Zeigler about this period, as we have only had a few brief phone calls and emails as yet. He is recuperating from a recent heart attack and needs time to mend. I wish him all the best. With such an interesting career as a stone grooving sideman, he needs his own feature. After he left Cold Grits and Miami in the early 1970s, he toured and recorded with Steven Stills for several years, and then went back to Criteria to work sessions for Atlantic. He also played on many recordings for Miami-based T.K. Productions, well-known for their soul and funk output on Alston, Cat, Drive, Glades, Kayvette and many more related labels. Harold Cowart also stayed in Miami for many years working on many of Criteria's big name sessions.

Cedited to The Sister & Brothers, the final single, “Ack-A-Fool” b/w “Chained”, appeared on the Calla imprint in 1970. See that linked post for more details. But, as with the two prior Uni releases, it quickly slipped into obscurity.

During the 1970s, Ron Shaab also worked on recordings with other Baton Rouge soul/funk artists such as Earnest Jackson and George Perkins, and was also a concert promoter for a while in the city. Unfortunately, he passed away in the late 1990s; and I haven't learned any more about him, so far.

Regardless of the remaining mysteries of its back story, this outstanding track has that highly sought after HFQ (High Funk Quotient) we covet and is certainly worthy of a shout-out to any and all those in Baton Rouge who made it happen.

August 19, 2005

Margie Makes An Impression

"Sweeter Tomorrow" (F. Briggs)
Margie Joseph, Volt, 1970
Hear it onHOTG Internet Radio

I can be a lazy HOTG researcher. Of course, since I only do it for my own amusement and to satisfy my curiosity, it’s not like I am actually slacking. Let’s just say that sometimes I don’t pursue leads; I let them pursue me. Take for example, Ms Margie Joseph.

I had known for years that she was a New Orleans-related vocalist of some note (actually, quite a few notes!); but she didn’t get my driect attention in the 1970’s; and I did not seek out any of her material until the mid-1980’s, when heard her on an Atlantic compilation. I started tracking down her Atlantic albums, plus her singles, and played her stuff when I started my radio show later. Subsequently, there have been two worthy CD compilations: The Atlantic Sessions/The Best of Margie Joseph on Ichiban Soul Classics, and a UK import reissue combining her two Volt albums, Margie Joseph Makes A New Impression and Phase II. [as of 2010 all of her Atlantic LPs have been re-issued on CD, and most of her back catalog is available for download.]

Back in November, 2004, early in the days of this blog, I posted a track from her initial Atlantic album, Margie Joseph, produced by Arif Mardin in 1973 with backing by some fine session players who my friend, Roy, calls the New York Funk Brothers. Just recently, I ran across a couple more of Margie’s Volt singles from 1971; and thought I’d share a side with you.

Produced by Freddy Briggs, a souful songwriter who composed our feature track, and recorded at Stax in Memphis with the Bar-Kays and “staff musicians”, as well as at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio with its great house rhythm section, Makes A New Impression has many complex and lushly orchestrated arrangements (such as her cover of “Stop In The Name of Love”, which was also a hit single). Just four tunes on the album are more straightforward soul with some touches of funk, including “Sweeter Tomorrow”. This driving track has heavy hitting drums (with some tricked out pedal work at the end), propulsive bass, several guitars picking, chopping and wailing, plus some horns for added heft. I am going to take a wild stab and guess that the more earthy tracks like this were done in Muscle Shoals, since the album notes don’t specify. Just a hunch. Be that as it may, I think the song is one of the best for her voice on the entire album.

As I've stated before, my probably too generalized criticism of the production work on Margie Joseph’s numerous LPs is that the arrangements on many of the songs were too big and often too smooth; but that was what sold, I guess, as a number of those tunes charted. I much prefer the simpler, more gritty (less commercial?) songs she tackled with her powerful, resonant voice, even if she did sing the deep stuff quite well. But, I never claimed to have my finger on the erratic pulse of the music bidniz. That should be obvious.

work is well worth discovering and exploring. You’ll be hearing more by her here, I’m sure.

August 16, 2005

Gatur Grooves (Tuff City Side)

"Get Up" (Wilson Turbinton)
Willie Tee, Gatur, c. 1971, from
Wasted, Funky Delicacies/Tuff City, 1994
(tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)

Is this music somehow psychically date-stamped? When I listen to it, I am mentally transported to a summer night in the Deep South circa 1970, swaying in the hot, humid air, a little wasted, locked into a groove that I don’t want to end. I did not hear Willie Tee with the Gaturs either on record or live back then (wish I had); so, this is not some recovered memory from my wayward youth. No, the sense of place, atmosphere, and time must have oozed onto the master tape when these tracks were recorded in New Orleans. Anyway, that’s my aural hallucination; and I’m happy with it.

Not every track on Wasted, the Funky Delicacies compilation of very obscure tunes by Willie Tee (Wilson Turbinton) and his band, the Gaturs, does this to me; but quite a few do. Our feature, “Get Up”, really puts me into the zone. The push-pull of the drums and high-hat coupled with congas, that spring-loaded bass bounce, the syncopated alto sax and guitar riffs all contribute; and I don’t even mind the few generic lyrics sung by Tee and the female chorus or that his hip Wurlitzer piano playing, used throughout these sides, is low in the mix, overridden by the drone of his early string ensemble snyth, because it ain’t about that, now is it?

“Get Up” was one side of a Willie Tee single on Gatur. The flip, “Concentrate”, a slower but no less funked out number, has the keyboardist doing a full vocal. While the latter is a pretty good song and also takes me to that place, as a whole, I prefer the instrumentals (and near instrumentals) in this compilation. Tee can be an evocative singer; but the lyrics he’s given himself on these vocal sides are just uninspiring. It’s no surprise some of them were never issued.

Wasted contains most of the releases from the Gatur label, owned by Ulis Gaines and Mr. Turbinton (thus, Ga-Tur). As far as I can tell, they put out four instrumental singles attributed to the Gaturs, and six singles with Willie Tee as artist and vocalist. The compilation has all sides from three of the Gatur’s singles, all sides from three of the Willie Tee singles, and three unreleased vocal tracks. Tuff City included the remaining Gatur vocal and instrumental cuts in their compilation of other Willie Tee material on Night Train called
Teasin’ You.

His work has graced this blog before; so you can use the site search (above) to find out more in the archives about some of Tee's other projects. It’s hard to believe that this compilation came out ten years ago. A real revelation to me at the time, Wasted fills in part of the musical gap between the end of Tee’s association with the Nola and Atlantic labels and his funk band collaborations with the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians that began in 1970. During this time he also released a purely pop album on Capitol, I’m Only A Man.

Long time fans of deep New Orleans groves will have already heard at least some of what Willie and the Gaturs were doing; but, if you’re new to this group, listen up. Maybe the music will take you somewhere, too. If nothing else, it reveals another influential thread in the fabric of HOTG funk.

Here are my reconstructions and surmises about the players on the Gaturs cuts, as the CD notes seem to have misspellings and an omission.
Willie Tee, keyboards and vocals
Earl Turbinton, alto and soprano saxes (he is Willie's brother)
Larry Panna, drums
Alfred "Uganda" Roberts, congas (this is a guess - he played with them on the Wild Mags stuff)
Erving Charles, bass
June Ray or Louis "Guitar June" Clark, guitar

August 12, 2005

How La La Became A Prince

The Prince and his posse

"Gettin' Married Soon" (Charley Julien)
Prince La La, A.F.O., 1962

Gone back to La La Land

Yes, it’s another fractured music business fairytale. As promised in my prior post on Oliver Morgan’s “Who Shot The La La”, here’s one of the precious few sides from Prince La La a/k/a Lawrence Nelson. Released in 1962, “Gettin’ Married Soon” b/w “Come Back To Me” was his second and last single. As I told you, or you may already have known, he died under questionable circumstances the year after its release.

Nelson’s casual, rough and ready voice is similar to several other New Orleans singers of the era: Jessie Hill, Chris Kenner, Alvin Robinson, and Oliver Morgan. Their styles went well with the sauntering popeye tunes of the day. What set La La apart was the high- pitched squeal he would interject from time to time that definitely goosed up his performances, as you can hear. “Gettin’ Married Soon” was written by Charley Julien a/k/a Jimmy Jules a/k/a Pistol, who also recorded several good sides for A.F. O. and other local labels. While the session band is only noted on the single as the “AFO Studio Combo”, we know that they comprised mostly the co-owners of the label, such as Red Tyler on sax, Melvin Lastie on trumpet/cornet, Peter “Chuck” Badie on bass, John Boudreaux on drums, among others. Overseeing the sessions was the head of the label, legendary producer and music director Harold Batiste.

Interestingly, Lawrence Nelson came to record by accident. In 1961, Jessie Hill, to whom he was related, had discovered Barbara George and brought her in for her first session on the new A.F.O.(All For One) label. She was to record one of Nelson’s songs; and Hill was using him to demonstrate it to George. When Batiste and the crew heard Nelson sing, they decided to record him on the song. So, instead, George did one of her own, “I Know”.

The A.F. O. staff developed Nelson’s stage name (using his nickname, La La) and African prince/Mardi Gras costuming (see photo), based on the spirit of another song he recorded written by Hill, the percussive, hypnotic “Need You”, which was not released at the time. In short order, Prince La La’s first A. F. O. session became the label’s first release, “She Put The Hurt On Me” b/w “Don’t You Know Little Girl”, which charted nationally. George’s record did even better, going to #1. The label had burst onto the scene and great things might have been in the cards for La La and A.F. O. But, the singer died in 1963 at age 27; and, strangely, the label, and its At Last subsidiary, went under the same year. Although founded by musicians for musicians to give them a bigger slice of the music business pie, A.F. O. became the victim of a bad distribution deal with Juggy Murray at Sue Records. While he had helped them make “I Know” a big hit, Murray was not a keeper of the All For One faith. He convinced Barbara George to sign with him, did not give Batiste and his fellow musician/owners all their money, then cancelled the distribution agreement. Having lost its two hit makers, funding, and access to national markets, only several more singles were issued before the label folded.

There’s a lot of history wrapped up in just a few recordings by this obscure but influential singer, who for a time became a prince of sorts. Harold Batiste has stated that Prince La La’s costumes and performance of “Need You”, with its evocation of New Orleans’ musical and mystical roots, was carried through into the Dr. John persona that Mac Rebennack created, working with Jessie Hill and Batiste in Los Angeles in the later 1960’s. Rebennack had known La La and worked with A.F. O., as well. You can hear “Need You” and another unreleased Prince La La track, “Things Have Changed”, on the Ace (UK) three CD
Gumbo Stew series, which also has many of the sides left in the can after the demise of the label, plus some good stuff Batiste produced later in California. Prince La La’s two A. F. O. releases can be found, ironically, on EMI's The Sue Records Story CD box set, which seems to be out of print.

August 10, 2005

Hey, Fellas!

"Who Shot The LaLa" (E. Bocage, D. Burmak, T. Terry)
Oliver Morgan, GNP Crescendo, 1964

(On rotation at HOTG Web Radio)

Every now and then, I like to throw in a New Orleans classic R&B recording; and I’ve been intending to post “Who Shot The LaLa” since the beginning of this blog. A popular record for years around town and known to some extent in the world at large, it’s simply arranged, loose, rhythmic mid-tempo “popeye” feel and quirky lyrics peg it as an HOTG product, even if you don’t get the local names it drops.

As sung by raspy-voiced Oliver Morgan, who claims that he actually wrote the song but allowed producer/arranger Eddie Bo to take the credit, “Who Shot The LaLa” tells a tale based on the real-life death and possible murder of singer Lawrence “Prince La La” Nelson in 1963. Morgan grew up in the same Ninth Ward neighborhood in New Orleans and started out on the same record label, AFO, as “La La”, whose big brother was Walter “Papoose” Nelson, the legendary guitarist. The lyrics say that “La La” was shot. The singer is not sure who shot him; but, he says, “I know it was a .44”, referring to the weapon’s caliber. Actually, the younger Nelson died of an alleged drug overdose, which some say was injected in him by another. So, he was shot, but in a different way. Morgan makes sure you don’t think he did it, then names the possible suspects and advises what should be done to the guilty party, if caught. The strange thing is, despite the grim subject, the song has the tone of a party record. It’s kind of like those Mardi Gras Indian song/chant narratives you can dance to that deal with their sometimes deadly turf fights. Had Morgan grown up in these times, he could have easily been rapping this story.

The flip side, "Hold Your Dog", moves into Memphis soul territroy with a tune that mines the musical formula laid down by Rufus Thomas in his various dog songs of the early 1960s. Morgan seems to have had a certain affinity for the mid-southern soul sounds; and the singing of Otis Redding, whom he met and got to see perform on the road, would greatly influence his style.

To me, his vocal style on this cut resembles Prince La La's. I’ve got to post a Prince La La single soon for reference. Close followers of Crescent City music will also hear similarities to Jessie Hill, who was related to the Nelsons and from the same part of town, Chris Kenner, and Alvin Robinson in Morgan’s singing. As for the players on this track, I’ve seen references to Eddie Bo (surely piano), Roy Montrell and/or Mac Rebennack. Since there seems to be only one guitar, I think it is probably Montrell, as Rebennack had a serious finger injury in this period and didn’t play guitar for quite a while. I’ve no clue who’s on bass and drums.

Oliver Morgan began recording for the AFO label in the early 1960’s as “Nookie Boy” (a memorable moniker). Both sides of his only single for the label can be found on the Ace UK Gumbo Stew CD series. After this 1964 single on GNP Crescendo, Morgan worked with Bo, another boyhood friend, again on sides for Seven B that you can find discussed at
Funky 16 Corners. He has always been a good performer, known for bringing the festive elements of second line parading into his stage shows. In 1997, his first and only album was released on Allen Toussaint’s NYNO label. But, “Who Shot The LaLa” remains his best remembered work

PS - This track has been comped on Rhino's New Orleans Party Classics for those who want a CD version. It's a good, basic collection of "standards". And, by the way, I think I have cleared up all the typos in this post. You know, I really ought to try to put these up when I can see straight. . . .

August 04, 2005

One Funky, Over-Qualified Monkey (Tuff City Side)

The embodiment of funk

"The Monkey That Became President, Part 1" (Tom T. Hall)
Brotherhood, JB's Records, 1975

from Funky Funky New Orleans, Volume 4, Funky Delicacies/Tuff City, 2005

He's on a looooong vacation at his jungle retreat

OK. Let’s dispense with what little I know about this side first. It’s from a hard to find single on JB’s Records, a label owned by Senator Jones, who also operated Hot Line, Superdome, Hep’ Me and a few others in New Orleans. Cynthia Sheeler, credited with the arrangement, was also a JB’s artist. As a matter of fact, the next release on the label was hers, “I’ll Cry Over You, Part 1”. I’ve also got a couple of other singles by her on Superdome and Phil-L.A. of Soul (we’ll have to get into that later). I’ve found little on Brotherhood, the group, though. The Funky Delicacies CD from whence this comes has scant notes, only listing some of the 45 label information for each track; but there is another Brotherhood single on the CD, “Sooky Feeling (Part 1 & Part 2)” that appeared on the Mother label. Although I asked Cameron at Tuff City for more information, the only things she could add were that the release is dated 1975 and was recorded at Deep South Studio in Baton Rouge. I don’t know if Brotherhood was from Baton Rouge or New Orleans; but I do know they could throw down some funk.

And I know one more thing, they funked up a country song. “The Monkey That Became President” was written by Tom T. Hall, a big time country artist and songwriter back in the day, who recorded it in 1972. I just vaguely recall hearing it on the radio back then; but I am sure the music sounded nothing like this! As far as I can tell, the lyrics are fairly faithful to the original, as I looked them up

On Funky Funky New Orleans Volume 4, all the tracks are from obscure singles except for one unreleased track by Trick Bag, Luther Kent’s backing band for many years, who do a fine 13 minute instrumental “Ode To Billy Joe” that does not seem nearly that long. Most of these songs are fairly funk infested. Among those, I think the standouts are our Brotherhood feature, Lonnie Jones’ “Action Speaks Louder Than Words”, Warren Lee’s “Direct From The Ghetto”, and Jerry Byrne’s “I’m From The South". Two other great cuts, the Lonnie Jones flip side “You Got To Do Better” and “How To Make Love” by Brothers Two, are more soul than funk. All in all, this is a good collection, containing many records and artists I’d never heard or heard of. The cover, which is one of a series of photos throughout the packaging of Linda, a dancer and singer at Dorothy’s Medallion, almost totally in and certainly of the flesh, is most bizarrely appropriate. Only in New Orleans. . . .

Dwight Richards, occasional contributor to HOTG, told me that he would see what he could find out about Brotherhood; so I’m hoping for an update. And, by the way, I’d vote for that monkey

Meters News You Can Use

Well, I'm not ususally blogging news items, as I've got plenty to keep me busy around here; but I've got to share this one with you.

Hot on the heels of my reading in the August, 2005
offBeat that Zig Modeliste was moving back to New Orleans, after years of living on the West Coast (Bay Area, I think), I got the weekly offBeat e-mail newsletter today and read that the original Meters will be touring this fall! So, that awesome reunion concert at Jazzfest that was supposed to maybe quite probably kinda sorta be their last bash - it was just a warm-up for the reunion tour. They have dates booked in Las Vegas (!!) and New York in October and November, so far. For their co-manager, they have chosen Quint Davis, who is the director of Festival Productions, which runs the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I think Quint was really one of the driving forces behind their reunion this spring. Many people thought it couldn't be done, including some of the Meters. He will share management duties with Elevation Group, the company that handles the Neville Brothers. One big happy extended family once again.

This is surprising news. Maybe I just didn't see it coming. It seems the success of the reunion concert, the buzz it generated, and the ca-ching it promises, led this band down the Bygones Be Gone path. I wish them nothing but success. The Meters never had much of a payday from all that "legendary band" legacy. They've still got the chops. So, have at it m'bruthas.

If any HOTG readers, lurkers, and listeners go to one of the shows, please e-mail me a review or just an impression - and I'll try to put it up. Now go get in line for tickets.

August 01, 2005

As Seen On The Bo Discography

[UPDATED 2009]

"Spreading Love" (Edwin J. Bocage)
Tommy Ridgely [sic], Ridge-Way, c. 1968

(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)

I took my own advice (something I should do more often) and was looking over Martin Lawrie’s fine, informative work on his Eddie Bo discography at soulgeneration, just clicking at random on the labels to see what popped up that I didn’t know about (quite a bit, really). One of the things that I found was the label scan and notes for a 45 Bo produced and issued on the Ridge-Way label with Tommy Ridgley as the featured artist. Anyway, I was reading along and saw that the songs were “Spreading Love” b/w “Live”; and it dawned on me that I had a copy of “Spreading Love” somewhere.

Then I remembered that it was on a cassette tape (!) comp I got in New Orleans back in the late 1980’s, containing a bunch of obscure Tommy Ridgley releases from the 1950’s to 1984. I think there may have been an even more limited LP release prior to the cassette; and I was told by the the Louisiana Music Factory staff at the time that Tommy himself put it out (there was precious little information on the tape card). All the transfers except the 1984 track, “Lay It On Me NOLA” (which was released on a Sound of New Orleans 45, but seems to be taken from the master tape), are from old singles - some a little worse for wear - probably from the singer's own collection. A few years back, I burned the cassette tracks to CD, and then ripped an mp3 of this song for reference. I since found a copy of the single [the HOTG radio stream has been updated], as shown above, and several of the other 45s on that collection.

Martin suggests that this dates from around 1970, when Bo released another version of "Spreading Love" on a Ram 45 by one Percy Stone along with the Explosions, the female vocal group Bo also worked with on several of their own highly prized 45s. I have not heard the Ram 45; but I just have a gut feeling that Ridgley's may pre-date it by a couple of years. In fact, by the sound of it, I might even say it goes back to
around the Seven B era (1966-67).

I guess the most unusual thing about “Spreading Love” is how normal it sounds - just a good, well-sung, straight ahead swinging soul song with a nice, uplifting, make-love-not-war message. Only the flute that riffs through the song is a bit out of the ordinary. Really, if I hadn’t read Martin’s piece and gotten the record, I might never have guessed Bo had anything to do with this one. The lack of funk or experimentation here is what makes me think that it was done earlier that '70.

Reinforcing that is the B-side, "Live", a straight-ahead Bo-penned ballad with a seize-the-day message. This must be one of Bo's older tunes, as it was published by White Cliffs, Cosimo Matassa's company; and Bo had been using his own company, Eboville, since 1964. Anyway, Ridgley, a truly fine balladeer, delivered the song with style and grace. As good as these performances were, I think Bo probably released the limited run single on his own, hoping to get enough local radio attention to attract a national label to pick it up. But it didn't work out that way; and the sides remain generally unknown to this day.

Tommy Ridgley is another one of those great, under-rated, if not almost forgotten, New Orleans vocalists, bandleaders and songwriters that this blog seeks to spotlight. He got his first big break in the very early 1950’s when Dave Bartholomew hired him as vocalist for his band. Ridgley recorded with them and then as a solo artist for Imperial, Atlantic (including the legendary instrumental “Jam Up”), Decca, King and Herald, among others, in that decade. In 1956, while on Herald, he formed his own band, the Untouchables, which had become the house band at the Dew Drop Inn by 1960. That was the year Ridgley signed on with Joe Ruffino’s Ric Records; and, in a two year span, he made a string of classic singles that were popular only in the New Orleans market. Probably the biggest of these was an Eddie Bo composition, “In The Same Old Way”. During the next few years, he worked with his friend Bo again, doing several other singles on labels such as Cinderella and Johen before they collaborated on “Spreading Love”.

By the way, Tommy Ridgley is also notable for discovering Irma Thomas in the late 1950’s, giving her first singing job with his band, and getting her signed to Ruffino’s other label, Ron Records, where she launched her recording career. Ridgley’s own career was revived in the 1990’s when he released three solo CDs. The best of them was his last, Since The Blues Began, on Black Top in 1995. Also, Colletcables has compiled his 1950s Herald recordings on CD; and Rounder collected his Ric and Johen sides on New Orleans King of the Stroll.

Although he was in his 70’s and in poor health when I had the pleasure to hear his live shows in the later 1990s, Tommy's voice was still an impressive instrument. He passed away in 1999. I’m so glad he put out that little tape for his fans, since it has led me to some great 45s over the years. I'll try to bring you some more of them along the way.