"Younka Chounka, Part 1" (Allen Toussaint)
Al Fayard with the Stokes, c. 1964
At least he dog won't change your interest rate
On my radio show in Memphis, I used to do a Halloween special every year, pulling out all sorts of New Orleans music with “scary” subjects: hoodoo, voodoo, magic, nightmares, devils. etc. I usually included "Younka Chounka", too. Al Fayard is the vocalist on this obscure and seemingly never released track. At least, I can’t find any evidence of it on 45. He was a member of the Stokes, a band that Allen Toussaint formed in Houston around 1963 while stationed there as a draftee. Toussaint, with the Stokes, who were, I believe, fellow enlisted men, recorded a bunch of his instrumental compositions, trying to make another hit like “Java”. These were released on Joe Banashak’s Alon label in the 1964-1965 era. The most well-known was “Whipped Cream”, which was covered by and became a hit for Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass. That version also became the theme song for “The Dating Game” on TV.
I am a sucker for New Orleans novelty tunes, especially ones with nonsense lyrics. I found this one on a Charly LP called Tou-Sans-Souci, from at least 20 years back, which is a collection of Toussaint’s early to mid-1960’s tunes, mostly with the Stokes. “Younka Chounka, Part1”, with its strange chorus and lyrics about some vaguely described, fearsome creature encountered on a dark street that turns out to be listening to rock and roll on a transistor radio (this was way pre-iPod), makes for a trifecta in my book: a novelty tune with some nonsense lyrics that’s suitable for Halloween. Not even Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns, New Orleans’ premier novelty group, had one of those.
Not much is known about Fayard. The listing of the Stokes’ personnel in Jeff Hannusch’s I Hear You Knockin', shows Aldo Vennari as the drummer, and Fayard as percussionist; but the Charly album shows Fayard as the drummer on these sessions, which were cut in Texas. Besides his work as part of the band, he had one Alon release in his name, the funky “Doin’ Sumpin’ (Parts 1 & 2)” – we’ll get back to that one later - plus this unissued mystery track. In all likelihood, the other Stokes were backing him up. Toussaint wrote and arranged this tune and , I’m sure, ran the nice piano solo. Part 2 is really the same as Part 1, but with different background vocals.
Hope y’all have fun this All Hallows Eve; and don’t forget that Tuesday, November 1, is La Toussaint, All Saints Day. How’s that for a tie-in and closer?