Understanding Lee Bates
"Bad, Bad Understanding" (Leroy Bates)
Lee Bates, Instant 3304, 1970
I am posting another Lee Bates track in conjunction with the work going on right now at Soul Detective on this relatively obscure New Orleans vocalist and songwriter. Haven’t checked that yet? Go right on over and see us geeks in action and join in on the tag-team research, if you want.
Since I just featured Bates and his song, “Mean Mistreater”, in January, I’ll dispense with the background, which you can catch up on through my Archives and/or at Soul Detective, which re-prints my post and one by Larry Grogan and expands on them with contributions from other Bates fans and collectors.
“Bad, Bad Understanding” b/w “Simon Says” on Instant 3304 was Bates’ initial single for the label. The top side is a re-make of a self-penned song that first appeared on White Cliffs 45 #270, Bates’ recording debut, in the mid-1960’s. I’ve never heard that 45; but I’m hoping that someone will offer a link or post it on Soul Detective soon so that we can compare the two. From the opening drum beats, you know you’re in for a funky ride on his Instant version, produced by the legendary Huey Smith. It is a fine, upbeat dance number with full-tilt New Orleans syncopation in the drums, plenty of punch in the arrangement, and a distinct early ‘70’s feel in the bridge. The main horn section riff and verse and chorus sections reveal their roots in the prior decade; while the Huey Smith piano tremolo style, under the horns before the final bridge, goes back to the 50’s. But it all hangs together nicely as a thoroughly New Orleans product.
As I’ve mentioned before, Bates’ unschooled, raw vocal style owes a lot to his former mentor and employer, Chris Kenner. But, you can hear a considerable Otis Redding quality and influence in what he does, too. He heard that from so many people over the years that finally, in the late 1990’s, Bates released a CD Stop Leanin’ On The Wall!, mostly comprised of Redding covers.
Enjoy the track. Enjoy the weekend. And join us as we come to understand more about Lee Bates (Joe Haywood, too, for that matter, and more to come, I'm sure) over at Soul Detective.