April 13, 2007

Funky As A Georgia Grasshopper?

Since I am focusing on Lanor Records this week, I though I'd pull out this side, too, as an example of how you often can't assume anything about a record just by the label it is on. In this case, although it appeared on this small Louisiana label, "Funky Grasshopper" turns out to be by a Georgia-based artist and was recorded there, too.

"Funky Grasshopper" (H. Boynton)
Hugh Boynton and Salt and Pepper, Lanor 571, ca. 1972

As I understand it, Hugh Boynton's manager in Georgia approached Lanor owner Lee Lavergne about recording the singer and arrangements were made to cut sessions at Capricorn Studios in Macon, probably around 1970-1971. I believe that all the material for Boynton's four Lanor releases was recorded at these sessions. Whoever Salt and Pepper were, perhaps the female back-up singers, it seems they only got co-billing on this one release, which turned out to be Boyton's final single for the label. His other sides were more soul and blues oriented. I haven't found that he had any subsequent releases after his run on Lanor.

I first learned of "Funky Grasshopper" on Larry Grogan's Funky 16 Corners webzine; and, recognizing the label but not the artist, I added it to my always lengthy want list for further investigation. Eventually, I found a copy at a reasonable price and started researching it, only to discover its Georgia origins. While it probably has no Louisianans playing on it, this track pretty much lives up to the modifier in its title. I like the music, but find the lyics lame and Boynton's vocal not all that impressive. With no session musician information for his Lanor sides to be found, I can but guess that at least some of the players might have been from the regular house band at Capricorn in those days: Johnny Sandlin, drums, 'Pops' Popwell, bass, Paul Honsby, keyboards, and Pete Carr, guitar. Of course, back then, the early Allman Brothers Band were cutting there; and most of the sessions for Johnny Jenkins' swampy, funk-infused Ton Ton Macoute! album originated there, as well, about 1970. While I've read that Duane Allman played on one of Ella Brown's Lanor sides, also recorded at Capricorn around 1971, I don't think he's on Boynton's "Grasshopper". Interestingly, around this time, Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn were using Capricorn to record the Meters, as Cosimo's studio had been closed down by the IRS and their new Sea-Saint Studio was not yet completed. In another HOTG connection to Macon, Capricorn's owner, Phil Walden, was managing Dr. John during the early 1970s and trying to get the Meters on his roster, too. So, I there was definitely some kind of New Orleans/Louisiana vibe around the place in those days.

But, since this funky grasshopper turns out to be from Georgia, we'll chalk the investigation up to experience. Live and learn. As decent a track as it is, any Louisiana link to this one is tenuous at best.

[Update, 2008]: I really should have updated this last year due to the comment I received shortly after posting, which you can read for yourself. That comment started a chain of investigation and events that is still ongoing. The short version is that the commenter, Chris, pointed out that the backing track for this side is identical to the backing for a single by James Duncan that came out on Federal around the same time. And he's right. The Federal version, with different (and better) lyrics and vocal sounds much better that Boynton's rather murky Lanor side. Come to find out, the b-sides of both Duncan's and Boynton's singles have identical instrumentation, too!!! I turned the investigation over to Red Kelly and his cohorts at Soul Detective; and you can read all about the ongoing research on this strange mystery there. The record business often has its share of shady deals and outright rip offs going down. So, while I'm not exactly shocked by the fact that somebody stole some backing tracks, it's something I haven't seen happen quite like this. We may never find out the hows and whys; but we're trying.]


Blogger seanoneillsongs said...

I think my partner, Shirley and her sister, Dee (now deceased) were Salt and Pepper.

Shirley's been living in Ireland for about 10 years - She did backing vocal for The Allmans and Percy Sledge among others.

We were talking about it this morning and I've been researching Hugh Boynton since. She would have been about 14 at the time. The particular track she mentioned to me was Running out of fools.

I'd love to surprise her with a cope - or a recording of it if anyone can oblige.


10:10 AM, March 13, 2011  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

I have referred this comment to Red Kelly at Soul Detective; and he is on the job. Hope to see an update there soon. Thanks for the information!

10:10 AM, March 20, 2011  

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