April 04, 2006

Bobby Marchan Shakes It



"Shake Your Tambourine" (Bobby Marchan)
Bobby Marchan, Cameo 429, 1966


[Sorry. Bobby's stepped out to powder his nose.]

For a performer who spent much of his career working as a female impersonator, Bobby Marchan has a pretty impressive discography. Entering the world as Oscar James Gibson in Youngstown, Ohio, he developed his drag comedy act while still in his teens, and by 1953, at age 23, he had blown into New Orleans with his Powder Box Revue of faux femmes and immediately found work around town. He began recording soon thereafter, doing blues sides for Aladdin and Dot, and then signing on with the new Ace label as an R&B solo artist in 1955.

He initial sides for Ace were done as Bobby Fields; but, by the next year, he was back using Marchan. While in New Orleans, he met pianist, bandleader, songwriter Huey Smith, also an Ace artist; and Smith, who was not a strong vocalist, decided to have Marchan sing lead in his band, Huey ‘Piano’ Smith and the Clowns, who were just taking off on the strength of their first hit, “Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu”. For the Clowns, Marchan laid aside the dresses and wig and turned the band into a music and comedy revue with a wild stage act. Experienced on the road, he took them out on tour (with a young James Booker on piano), leaving Smith, a family man, behind to write songs tailored to the singer’s style. That formula worked perfectly; and Marchan fronted the Clowns during the height of their popularity (1957-1959), recording such classic Smith tunes as “High Blood Pressure”, “Don’t You Just Know It” and “Don’t You Know Yockomo”.

Marchan left the Clowns and Ace Records when a soul ballad he had recorded, “There Is Something On Your Mind”, was released by Bobby Robinson’s Fire label (after Ace had passed on it) and began climbing the charts in 1960. On the basis of that hit, he began touring as a solo artist and went on to release six more singles on Fire over the next few years. Once that fire went cold, he made a couple of records with the Stax subsidiary, Volt, (on the recommendation of Otis Redding), that didn’t light anything up. Then, through a long-time friendship with Joe Tex, who was recording for Dial Records in Nashville, Marchan signed with the label in the mid-1960’s. Working with label-owner/producer Buddy Killen, he recorded over a dozen singles that were either released on Dial or leased to other labels, such as Cameo, in an association that lasted into the mid-1970’s.

That brings us to “Shake Your Tambourine”, a great little 1966 vintage dance number on Cameo produced by Killen in Nashville. It got into the upper reaches of the charts and was Marchan’s last single to do so. No, it’s not a New Orleans record; but, I think the party spirit that Bobby brought to the Clowns is still evident in his tune. Besides, it’s just damn fun to hear. I really love the mid-song breakdown. If you are not already familiar with Marchan, I hope this song will inspire you to seek out some of his
other work (see also below).

Bobby Marchan continued making records into the 1980’s and worked his act in the New Orleans area again, later in his life. He passed away in 1999. Over the years, he also wrote some hit songs recorded by other artists: ”Body English” by King Floyd, “Get Down With It” by Slade, and “Separate Ways” by Z. Z. Hill. Coming to New Orleans (where, to say the least, the unusual is a way life) probably allowed Bobby to shine more than anywhere else he could have landed. So, I look at his story as an example of what the HOTG influence could do for a unique, gifted entertainer who knew how to flaunt it.

'Miss' Bobby

Bobby Marchan on CD compilations:
Having A Good Time (with Huey Smith and the Clowns)
The Best Of Bobby Marchan (Fire recordings)
The Dial Records Southern Soul Story (a fantastic label retrospective – also has King Floyd sides)
**Several of these are also available at the Louisiana Music Factory.

7 Comments:

Blogger Larry Grogan said...

This is my favorite 45 by Marchan. Ought to be better known.

3:08 PM, April 10, 2006  
Anonymous Carl said...

I picked up a CD compilation of rare Ace Records tunes several months ago and it had several cuts from "Miss" Bobby. Good music. Weird back story, but good music and for me, that's what matters.

4:48 PM, April 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dan - I'm sorry for asking a question about an older posting, but I have 2 copies of this Bobby Marchan record, one just like yours and one where the song is entitled "(SHAKE YOUR) MONEY MAKER". Any idea why the different names were used. Thanks. Michael R.

1:24 PM, September 11, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Well. . . good question, Michael. A little research reveals that Cameo 429 was issued as "Shake Your Tambourine" AND "(Shake Your) Money Maker", both backed with "Just Be Yourself". Although he says in the song that the name of the dance is "Shake Your Tambourine", Bobby sings "shake your money maker" a lot more than the name of the dance. As to why there are issues with differing titles, I'd guess that the record company might have originally titled it 'Money Maker' and changed over to 'Tambourine' to avoid confusion with Elmore James'"Shake Your Money Maker", a different song entirely.

I had never noted the 'Money Maker' title before, as three discographies I consulted for this post listed it as "Shake Your Tambourine". But I since have found
one discog for Cameo that shows it the other way and have seen several other listings that way, too. But, I think your 'Money Maker' version is far less common, and might be worth more money to somebody.

If anybody else has anything to add, please feel free to comment. Thanks for bringing this up, Michael!

3:42 PM, September 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insight, Dan. While I have your ear, I just noticed that my copy of Alvin Robinson (BC 113) features Bottom of My Soul b/w Down Home Girl, while a copy of BC 113 for sale on ebay has Bottom of My Soul b/w Let the Good Times Roll. Maybe this was just good marketing, since I feel compelled to own anything Alvin Robinson recorded and "Let the Good Times Roll" is a personal favorite. Any hints as to whats up? Thanks again.

5:31 PM, September 16, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Wow, Michael, what's up with you and those variant 45's!? This is really off topic for this post, so please email me (see link to left of main page) for further discussion.

The item shown on ebay is how Blue Cat 113 is listed on every discography I have for the label and Robinson: Bottom of My Soul b/w Let The Good Times Roll
(a/k/a Come On). Down Home Girl b/w Fever was issued in 1964 on Red Bird 010, about a year before the Blue Cat. As you may know, Red Bird and Blue Cat were related labels. Robinson had one release on RB and three on BC, with 113 being the last.

I'd like to see scans or photos of the labels on your single. I am stumped as to what you've got. It's hard to see how it was a labeling mistake or similar mixup, when Down Home Girl and Let The Good Times Roll came out under different imprints. You'd think it was done on purpose - but for what purpose? Did the pressing plant at some point put the wrong song on the flip, causing the record company to print up some labels for the bad run? Is your copy some sort of promo that wasn't actually released? Or is your copy a boot?

Oh, well, I could speculate all night. I just don't know. If you can send me photos/scans and let me know the maxtrix number in the dead wax run-out on each side, maybe I can figure it out - or ask someone with more expertise. By the way, where did you get that record?

Anybody else got a clue?

1:15 AM, September 17, 2006  
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