"Tough Guy" (Oropeza-Theriot-Jackson)
Kathy Savoy, Instant 3273, 1965
Today we address this bit of New Orleans pop fluff from Ms Kathy Savoy, a/k/a Cathy Savoy, or Kathy Savoie [see update below*], about whom I’d found out next to nothing over the years since I first heard this side on the Bandy LP compilation, Love You New Orleans. I later came across the single, too, which seems to have been her only release. While it’s not typical of the stuff I feature here, it is a fairly rare, and, I think, tasty piece of aural cotton candy. Besides, posting it gives me a chance to talk some about Earl Stanley.
“Tough Guy” was written by two of the same team that brought the world “Pass the Hatchet”, Earl Stanley (whose actual name was Earl Stanislaus Oropeza) and his partner, Ray Theriot. Oscar Jackson, who is unknown to me, is also given writer’s credit on Savoy’s single. Stanley, a mainstay guitarist and bassist in New Orleans back then, and Theriot were partners in Thunder Recording, a small New Orleans studio and production company where Stanley and his revolving band, the Stereos, recorded their own material and backed up many mostly unknown singers who didn’t have connections and wanted to cut a record on the cheap. The producers either released one-off singles for them, or leased the sessions to other local labels. That’s how “Pass The Hatchet”, the legendary 1965 record and subject of much cult-worship, got onto Joe Banashak’s Seven B. As well, Savoy’s project, the ballad “Let This Love Of Ours Begin” (same writers) b/w the hooky pop of “Tough Guy”, probably came to Banashak’s Instant label through a similar process that same year. While it may be empty calories, there’s some good musical energy and a nice, simple arrangement on our featured side, somewhat reminiscent to me of the Newbeats’ “Bread and Butter” (and maybe Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop” a bit) from the same era. Savoy’s vocal is decent but unexceptional, like the single itself, I suppose, which seems to have gone nowhere in short order. [Note 7/20/2006: I've learned from the singer herself that she was only 15 when she recorded this single. So, her lack of vocal dynamics is due to inexperience. Still, there's an innocent charm to her voice that's appealing.]
For more insights about Earl Stanley’s long career, read Micheal Hurtt’s fine Offbeat piece on him. It reveals that Stanley’s record business model was that there’s no telling what will be a hit, so to up the odds of scoring one, release lots of product, which he and his partner tried to do, good and bad, much of it on the fly, just to see what might take off The busy bandleader and side musician continued to do some production work for Banashak later in the 1960’s on sides by Art Sir Van, Lenny McDaniel, Skip Easterling, and possibly Lee Bates. Aside from his success on Eddie Powers’ now forgotten hit, “Gypsy Woman Told Me”, on Sims in 1964, none of his other songwriting or production ventures took flight; although, I would hope that the latter day recognition of “Pass The Hatchet” and it’s use in several film soundtracks and on CD compilations have brought him and his associates a few royalty checks for their efforts.
The only reference to other possible players on Savoy’s single is a mention I found by Stanley that drummer Wayne Tschantz worked with him on the sessions. As for Savoy herself, other than a listing as a background singer on some of Johnny Adams’ sides for Senator Jones in the 1970’s, there’s nothing more to tell. If you know anything about her, please drop me a line.
* Update: 7/18/2006 - An anonymous commenter has supplied this information: I just saw her sing as a walk-on guest in a Metairie lounge a couple times this past week. She also sings with a group called the Wise Guys. . .and has sung backup on Benny Grunch's "12 Yats of Christmas" CD series.
So, I pulled the Grunch CD from my archives and found her listed there as one of the vocalists, her name shown as Kathy Savoie. With that spelling of her name I was able to find her bio and photo on the Wiseguys website. It gives a pretty good rundown of her long singing career. Of importance to this post is her recollection that "Tough Guy" was cut at Cosimo's studio on Governor Nichols, rather than at Earl Stanley's place.
Now, I've got to try to find that LP she did with Wayne Chance backed up by Skor. I happen to have a late 1970's Skor single that I've never listened to (well, I've got a lot of singles, what can I say). I'll have to go grab it now, though I doubt she'd be on it. I am so glad to finally find out more about Ms Savoie (Savoy) and learn that she is still active in music. I will try to contact her through that website. Again, thanks to the unknown Metairie lounge hanger who sent me the leads!