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 The sides, “Blues Cha-Cha” and “Bopsody In Blues” were to be issued as a single by Ric Records, but were withdrawn at the last minute for Johnny Adams debut release, “I Won’t Cry”.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