March 03, 2006

For Your Dancing Pleasure, The Gondoliers



"Blues Cha-Cha" (Blanchard)
Edgar Blanchard and the Gondoliers, un-released Ric Records session, c. 1958


This cha-cha has left the building

When I was doing my research on Ric and Ron Records for the Mardi Gras series, I ran across a couple of nice unreleased instrumental tracks by Edgar Blanchard and the Gondoliers that I had forgotten about. These appeared on a Rounder compilation CD from the 1980’s called Troubles, Troubles that focused mainly on blues recorded for Ric in its early days, starting around 1958. The sides, “Blues Cha-Cha” and “Bopsody In Blues” were to be issued as a single by Ric Records, but were withdrawn at the last minute for Johnny Adams debut release, “I Won’t Cry”. So, I thought I’d feature my favorite and give you some background on Edgar Blanchard, who is not well-know today.

To me, “Blues Cha-Cha” (which is neither a blues nor a true cha-cha, it seems) has just a touch of cheesy lounge music feel (good in moderation) to it, with a groovy kind of afro-latin rhythm that I find hard to resist. Blanchard’s hip, solid arrangement, employing a central riff played by the saxes and his guitar, a rolling New Orleans piano throughout, plus that very danceable beat makes this little trifle fun to hear. I can imagine the band
* playing it at one of their many club gigs back in the day and bringing the dancers to the floor for some hip-swaying action.

Edgar Blanchard was certainly one of the most talented, popular, and well-respected guitarists in New Orleans from the late 1940’s into the 1960’s. But he did not do very much recording under his own name. After serving in WWII, he formed his own band, The Gondoliers. While working at Don Robey’s Bronze Peacock Club in Houston, the group was recorded by Robey for Peacock Records in 1949. The disk, “Creole Gal Blues” b/w “She’ll Be Mine After Awhile”, with Blanchard on vocal, did not do well; and they returned to New Orleans, playing primarily at the famed Dew Drop Inn. In 1950, Blanchard went out on the road with one the hot blues shouters of the day, New Orleans’ own Roy Brown, and became his bandleader, until leaving in late 1951. He can he heard on a number of Brown’s recordings from that era. On his return to New Orleans, he re-formed the Gondoliers and began playing club and road dates behind various popular acts of the day, such as Johnny Ace, Joe Turner and Ray Charles. By 1953, Blanchard was also doing a lot of recording session work in New Orleans for Atlantic (Turner, Charles, Professor Longhair) and Specialty, most notably with Lloyd Price and on some of Little Richard’s seminal mid-1950’s New Orleans sides. While working with the latter label, he also recorded two instrumental singles himself, “”Mr. Bumps” b/w “Ricki-Ticki-Too” (#585) and “Steppin’ High” b/w “Sweet Sue” (#586).

Under the direction of Paul Gayten, Blanchard also made many recording dates in New Orleans during that period for artist signed to Chess or related labels, such as Eddie Bo, Bobby Charles, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and Gayten himself. In 1958, Blanchard and at least some of the Gondoliers cut a single for Argo (Chess), “Loud Mouth Annie” b/w “Heaven Or Heartbreak”, which was released in the name of Myles & Dupont, who were pianist Warren Myles and saxophonist, August ‘Dimes’ Dupont, who wrote and sang the tunes.

Blanchard’s work with the newly formed Ric label began when two sides he cut for Ace Records, “Let’s Get It” and “Lonesome Guitar”, instead became Ric’s first issued single (#954) in 1958. Another single (#957), credited to just the Gondoliers, followed that. Blanchard stayed on to work as guitarist and arranger on many sessions for both Ric and Ron Records, owned by Joe Ruffino. He and the Gondliers also backed Johnny Adams on his sessions there. In the early 1960’s, Ric released an ill-conceived album on the band, Let’s Have A Blast, that I am told was terrible; and, that, unfortunately, pretty much closed the book on Blanchard’s recording career, although his group gigged regularly into the mid-1960’s.

Born right down the road East of me in Grosse Tete, LA, Edgar Blanchard passed away in New Orleans in 1972. As you can maybe tell, I am a fan of his work. I’ve read that the various incarnations of his band could play well in many styles. So, don’t let this one track nail him down for you. I’ve got at least one of his Specialty singles in storage. I’ll try to get one of those sides to you later on.

*While I can find no session details, The Gondoliers on “Blues Cha-Cha” were likely
Edgar Blanchard – guitar
August(e) Dupont – alto sax
Warren Hebrew – tenor sax
Lawrence Cotton – piano
Frank Fields – bass
Alonzo Stewart - drums

20 Comments:

Anonymous Jeff said...

Nice indeed. A wonderful find. Thank you much.

3:00 PM, March 03, 2006  
Anonymous amos said...

this is a great one, as is the B-side.
dan, i was really surprised when doing the research for my goofy little book at how much press coverage the death of edgar got in the local media. unlike most of the Black musicians of that era, his passing garnered a fairly big write up in the T-P. well, at least relatively so. someone in the media must have really liked him. i noted that when slim harpo died, not too long before edgar, his death went unnoticed by the T-P and barely by the Baton Rouge papers.

4:46 PM, March 04, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Dr. Amos is author of Gravesites of Southern Musicians, listing the final resting place of hundreds of musicians and some interesting tidbits about them. I always like to get comments from legitimate writers. Maybe some of it will rub off on me.

Anyway, Blanchard and the Gondoliers played a LOT of white clubs, as well as black, through the '50's and 60's all over the Gulf Coast. Sad to say,that may have made him better known and more newsworthy to the TP.
So, where is he interred?

9:15 PM, March 04, 2006  
Anonymous bbb said...

hi Dan
thanks for your great blog
on Bandy Records LP 7009
"real blues from New Orleans"
there's 6 blues by Edgard Blanchard
it seems like it been produced by Sax Kari

1:25 AM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Good sleuthing, bb! Blanchard played as a sideman (guitarist, of course) on a number of sides by Prince Royals (aka The Prince Royals) produced by Sax Kari in the mid-1960's. I think only a couple of singles were released out of that lot. I can only find listings for Kari 601 and Tune-Kel 609. I have the Kari 601 on a Night Train CD comp of Sax Kari productions, but did not know EB was on it. Both sides are rather listless blues numbers. And, of course, Night Train provided no info on Prince Royals or those particular tracks. I have never run across that Bandy LP comp. Anyway, Blanchard was not a leader on these tracks; but they would seem to be some of the latest sessions he was on. He was playing traditional jazz gigs later on. Thanks for that heads up.

9:54 AM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous bbb said...

thank you Dan
the 6 sides by EB are stone NO blues (drums,guit,bass ,harmonica,vc)
& they sound exactly like
POLKA DOT SLIM Instant records 3269
with a different singer
so i guess it's EB singing on BANDY
it don't sound like the Prince Royals
anyways thank you for your great blog

5:55 PM, March 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan,
sorry for the interruption.
I answered your last email twice (via my gmx address) - and twice I got it undelivered back (strangely enough each came back after more than a day).
What's happening with your HOTG email?
Dominik

7:03 PM, March 06, 2006  
Blogger Marco said...

Dan
That Rounder comp is still available. I'm waiting for it to come. "Blue Cha-Cha" is a great groove and you can cha-cha to it if you knows how. Thanks!

8:29 AM, March 07, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

I knew the true seekers among you could come up with this comp without a link. Cha-cha on, Marco.

9:16 AM, March 07, 2006  
Anonymous Amos said...

edgar got himself buried in the family plot at the new light baptist church in his hometown of grosse tete. i dont know of any other big name, or even big name by our general standards here from grosse tete.
now, excuse me while i cha cha to work.

7:06 AM, March 08, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

I'll have to stop by and pay my respects. Thanks, Ed! By the way, Grosse Tete is a great name for a town. Louisiana has some choice ones, town names that is. . . .

9:39 AM, March 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My uncle is Lawrence Cotton. He just celebrated his 80th birthday on Feb 2, 2007. He looks great and doesn't have a wrinkle on him. He never drank alcohol or smoked anything in his life. He showed all of us the pics with the Gondoliers and also when he was with Guitar Slim and headlined at the Apollo as King Cotton. He always had a smile on his face. I can honestly say, he is one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He still plays the piano at the Maison Burbon on Burbon street in New Orleans. Whenever you're in town make sure to see him. Uncle Lawrence, I LOVE YOU!!

9:43 PM, February 22, 2007  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Wow, Anon. Thanks for that info. I had no idea Lawrence Cotton was still with us and gigging, no less.
Wonderful. I will try to catch him sometime, for sure. When he played with Slim, he was in Lloyd Lambert's band, which was a great outfit. I'll have to dig out and post some of the stuff I have on them that features Mr. Cotton.

10:52 PM, February 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Mr Lawrence Cotton is alive and well, and a fountain of information for anyone interested in the history over the last 80 years of New Orleans music..he still plays beautifully, his mind is clear as a bell and his heart is as big as it ever was.IF you've never had the pleasure of listening too exquisite piano playing, definitely check him out at Maison Bourbon, he's only playing there one night a eek now I think, but it's worth the trip to Bourbon St. I had the extreme good fortune of meeting Mr Cotton through Kerry Brown (one of New Orleans best drummers) and it was love at first sight...what a wonderful treasure if you are interested at all in the 40s, 50s and 60s in New Orleans...By the way his birthday is tomorrow...HAPPY 81st BIRTHDAY Mr Cotton, see you for Jazz Fest!!

10:37 AM, February 01, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My brother, "Magazine Street Dave" Holt, lives across the street from Kerry and Mr. Cotton. My family and I were in town to visit and had the pleasure of having Easter Brunch with Kerry and Lawrence. In just the short amount of time we spent with them, we heard many wonderful stories from the past. Both are New Orleans treasures.

1:49 PM, March 26, 2008  
Blogger fess said...

I, Per Oldaeus, wrote an extensive article about drummer Alonzo Stewart a couple of years ago, published in the UK: NEW ORLEANS MUSIC magazine. I will try look up Lawrence Cotton when I go to New Orleans in the fall of 2009. Cheers!

9:00 AM, July 07, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Dan, Lawrence Cotton plays every saturday in Maison Bourbon Jazz Club 641 Bourbon Street he plays with Jamil Sharif. . He is one of the most finest pianist..he is 82 and used to play 5 days a week.. now he plays only one, on staurdays.. we just saw him this weekend. I hope you will enjoy him!

11:32 AM, August 04, 2009  
Anonymous terrence moore said...

hello mr.phlips! my name is terrence moore and edgar blanchard was my great uncle. i wish i can learn more about the history of him and the other band mates. i have a photo of him and sam cooke in the studio together along with lou rawls. my email is timesavert96@gmail.com,if its not too much; can you please contact me. thank you.

5:57 PM, July 17, 2012  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

I have contacted Terrence and encourage anyone else who might have information on the career of his great uncle to do the same, using the email address he provided.

Good luck with your project, Terrence.

10:33 AM, July 19, 2012  
Anonymous august dupont said...

Hello Terrence Moore. My name is August Dupont,My father was August"dimes"Dupont.He was with Edgar for 12 years.I have a lot of information on the band.email me at augied@verizon.net.

12:28 AM, October 05, 2012  

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