Barbara George Remembered
Yesterday, I was contacted by Naomi King, a reporter for The Courier in Houma, LA, who was writing a feature on Barbara George, because, as she told me, Ms George recently passed away, just shy of her 64th birthday, which would have been yesterday. That was news to me. Ms King told me that George had been living in the Chauvin, LA area (South of Houma); but she was born and raised in the New Orleans Ninth Ward. The reporter had seen my early piece on the singer while doing an online search and wanted some details about that for the article in the paper. We talked for a while about what I could remember; then I sent her some more information, including this discography at Soullfulkinamusic. So, again, as has happened all too often these days, I started to work up a remembrance of Barbara George and decided to feature two examples of her work, the second being a replay of my earlier post.
"I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)" (Barbara George)
Barbara George, AFO 302, 1961
Barbara George was still a teenager when popular local singer Jessie Hill brought her in to audition for Harold Battiste, who had just started AFO (All For One) Records in New Orleans with several musician partners, in 1961. Battiste, a fine musician, producer, and arranger, who had previously recorded numerous New Orleans artists for Specialty Records and worked with Bumps Blackwell on Sam Cooke’s first pop sessions, recognized her potential and set up a split recording date for her and another young singer who had just come in to accompany George, Lawrence Nelson, a/k/a Prince La La. At the session, George performed two of her own compositions, “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)” and “Love (Is Just A Chance You Take)”, which became the two sides of their first release on AFO, and just the second release for the fledgling label itself. The hooky, charming “I Know” immediately caught the public’s ear and was soon in high demand. So, on the strength of the song, AFO entered into deal with Sue Records to distribute the record nationally. Once available to a wider market, it soared to #1 on the R&B charts and #3 on the Pop charts. But her second AFO single, “You Talk About Love” b/w “Whip-O-Will” stalled at #46 on the R&B charts in 1962. That same year, AFO issued the album, I Know, on which all songs but one were composed by the singer.
Playing on “I Know” and the subsequent album were many of the founders of the label, the AFO Studio Combo: John Boudreaux; drums, Peter ‘Chuck’ Badie, bass; Roy Montrell, guitar; and Melvin Lastie, cornet; with Marcel Richardson on piano and an uncredited vocal chorus. Lastie’s solo on this single, written by Battiste for a distinctive change from the standard sax break, is a catchy, miniature classic perfectly suited to the song. George’s vocal, while youthful and not having a big range, is strong and has conviction on this and her other sides for AFO.
Unfortunately, the sudden success of “I Know” led to the rather rapid demise of both AFO and George’s career. Juggy Murray, the owner of Sue Records, was able to convince George to buy out her AFO contract and sign with Sue, plying her with inducements such as a new Cadillac which, unknown to her, was charged against her own royalties. Removed from her New Orleans backing, George’s four subsequent singles for Sue during the next year were decent enough but went nowhere; and, by 1964, she had left the label. Meanwhile, having lost both their main seller and national distribution deal, which Murray had severed on a technicality, AFO did not last too much longer, either. Some of the principals of the label relocated to California with Battiste, who tried in vain to keep the label going there. He went on to have a long association with Sonny and Cher as musical director, produced numerous other artists, including Dr. John’s first two albums, and eventually returned to New Orleans as a music educator.
"Satisfied With Your Love" (Joan Parker)
Barbara George, Seven-B, 1968
Very little is known about Barbara George’s personal or professional life; but, for whatever reasons, she did not record again until around 1967, when she did a session for the Seven B label in New Orleans, under the direction of Eddie Bo. That effort, a re-working of Chris Kenner’s “Something You Got” b/w “Satisfied With Your Love” (a Bo composition under alias), was not rewarded either; and at least a decade passed before she recorded again.
I actually prefer this cut to the better known cover of the Kenner classic on the other side, as George seems like she’s more comfortable and having a good time with the slightly suggestive (at least for the 60’s) lyrics. Bo’s arrangement is strong and steady; but neither the production nor the song itself are any great shakes. Still, just a stock Bo enterprise is worth hearing and enjoying any day. [As noted, Larry Grogan of Funky 16 Corners graciously allowed me to use his scan of this side. I transfered the audio from a Bandy LP compilation, It's Raining.]
Although her final two singles (see discography link) for Senator Jones’ Hep’ Me label in the late 1970-s era weren’t bad performances, neither of them got the attention of the public either. They aren’t particularly rare and can be found in shops and online fairly often. After that, nothing else was released on George until Collectables re-issued her first and only album on CD in 1994.
I had never been able to find any solid biographical data about this singer/songwriter, who seems destined to remembered only as a “one hit wonder”. Searches only revealed that at some point she performed at the Lion’s Den, the club owned by Irma Thomas and her husband (which was destroyed by post-Katrina flooding) and sang at K-Doe’s funeral. Fortunately, a real journalsit, Ms King, had better luck with her research, being able to speak with family and friends. If you haven't done so, I suggest you read her article, even if you have to register at the site. Other than that, all I can says is, "Rest in peace, Ms Barbara."