"It's Your Voodoo Working" (C. Sheffield)
Charles Sheffield, Excello 2200, 1961
With the Voodoo Music Experience starting in New Orleans today, I thought I’d run with this way cool novelty from Charles ‘Mad Dog’ Sheffield, cut for J. D. Miller at his Crowley, Louisiana studio in 1961 and released on Nashville’s Excello Records, as were many of Miller’s productions.
Sheffield was a blues singer originally from the Beaumont, Texas area on the Gulf Coast, who started off recording as Mad Dog Sheffield in 1957. Backed by the Clarence Garlow Orchestra, he cut a tune called “Mad Dog” for the Goldband label (#1045) out of Lake Charles. Louisiana. Eddie Shuler, owner of Goldband, then leased the single to Hollywood Records (#1079) that year to no avail. Around 1959, the singer started recording with Miller, who initially issued two singles on his in-house Rocko label credited to Charles Sheffield. Then, Miller got Excello to put out “It’s Your Voodoo Working” b/w the fast chuggin’ “Rock ‘N Roll Train”, and a follow-up, “I Would Be a Sinner” b/w “The Kangaroo”; but, despite their excellent quality, both records, like Sheffield’s previous releases, failed to catch on. As far as I know, he only had two other singles, both credited to ‘Prince Charles’ and recorded for ‘The Crazy Cajun’, Huey Meaux, who issued them on his Teardrop and Jetstream labels respectively between 1962 and 1965.
While I haven’t heard all his earliest sides for Shuler or his later recordings with Meaux, I think it’s safe to say that Sheffield’s work with Miller was exemplary, especially the Excello sides, backed by topnotch Southwest Louisiana musicians: smokin’ saxman, Lionel Prevost (a/k/a Lionel Torrence), drummer Clarence 'Jockey' Etienne, and Lazy Lester on shakers [12/5/06: thanks to correspondent bbb, and Lazy Lester, for this info], to name the ones we know. They all conspire to conjure up some slinky, snake-dance syncopation with a touch of Afro-Caribbean, befitting the song’s voodoo* theme.
Back in the 1990s, I discovered Charles Sheffield’s Excello sides on a now out of print Japanese import CD compilation of Miller-produced material, Louisiana Bayou Rockers; and, just last year, I luckily found both of the 45s among a large lot of singles I bought down here on the cheap (#2200 itself often goes for over $400.00 near mint, ouch!). I will be getting back to some more of his work later. Looks like you can still find “It’s Your Voodoo Working” at least on Putumayo’s Louisiana Gumbo CD for not much cash. Hope it works for you.
*Not to be confused with the actual practice of the Vodun religion(s), of course.