February 27, 2007

Something Special Out Of "Nothin'"



"You Don't Know Nothin' About Love" (Jerry Ragavoy)
Irma Thomas, from The Way I Feel, Rounder, 1988

I couldn’t let February get out of here without an Irma Thomas post, both in honor of her 66th birthday on the 18th and her Contemporary Blues Album Grammy® for After the Rain. We were fortunate to see Irma and her band in Lafayette a few weeks back; and she never fails to impress with her high class, yet down home style. The woman’s got it goin’ on.

I was inspired to post this track after listening to Howard Tate’s impressive 45 side of the song from 1972 (Atlantic 2860), produced by its writer, the legendary
Jerry Ragavoy. In the late 1960’s, several versions were done by Lorraine Ellison and Carl Hall for Loma, a label that Ragavoy was involved with, neither of which I have heard; but Tate’s made me recall Irma Thomas’ own later strong turn with it. Her association with Ragavoy goes back at least to 1964, when she recorded her inspirational, definitive version of “Time Is On My Side” for Imperial, written by him under the pseudonym of Norman Meade. Of course, the young, cheeky Rolling Stones stole her thunder and sales, when they covered the tune soon thereafter; but Irma later rightfully reclaimed it. Ragavoy also produced some of Irma’s final and undeservedly overlooked Imperial sides in 1965.

“You Don’t Know Nothin’ About Love” comes from Irma’s 1988 Rounder album,
The Way I Feel, which was her second one for the label. During the 1980s and 1990s, Rounder was seriously focused on the music of the Crescent City. Scott Billington, who continues to produce her for Rounder, has always used the cream of New Orleans session talent plus some well-selected outside players on her records and also those of another classic singer from the city, the late Johnny Adams. The producer and label allowed these artists to revive their lagging careers by making classy, high quality albums that appealed to old fans and new audiences while staying true to the essential soul of their music. No small feat.

If you do not have any of Irma’s Rounder records (what are you waiting for?), The Way I Feel is an excellent starting point. It features three Jerry Ragavoy compositions: today’s feature, the title track (“All I know Is the Way I Feel” to be exact), and “Sorry Wrong Number”. Irma also does a fine Allen Toussaint song, “Old Records”, that has not been covered by anyone else, as far as I know, plus her take on a number of soul classics. “You Don’t Know Nothin’ About Love” is one of fours songs on the album she recorded with members of her own band, the Professionals, plus the Windfall Horns. While I usually focus on funk grooves here, I’ll always make an exception for something as powerful and transfixing as Irma’s moving delivery on this tune, testifying as a woman who knows much, maybe too much, about love.

Ever since I first heard her voice, it has spoken to me of the strong character, richness of spirit, and incredible quality of both the singer and her city. The two are now simply synonymous. And, if you don’t know what I’m talkin’ about, it’s high time you found out.

February 20, 2007



H A P P Y M A R D I G R A S ! ! !

Listen to WWOZ New Orleans Mardi Gras Webcast
(sitting in on-air this morning, The Reaper!)
Yeah you rite.

Well, Mardi Gras 2007 is now history. But, listen to 'OZ anyway. One of the finest
stations on da planet.

February 19, 2007

Lest We Forget - Loose Booty!



"Who Took The Happiness Out?" (Kevin Harris - Kirk Joseph)
Forgotten Souls Brass Band, from Don't Forget 'Em, 2001

Gotta have some brass band music for Mardi Gras Day. I heard this CD playing in the Louisiana Music Factory back when it came out and bought it for the great grooves and great players involved, especially sousaphonist supremo Kirk Joseph, who co-wrote this tune back when he was with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The Forgotten Souls are (were?) sort of a brass band side project supergroup of hot players from other bands (Rebirth, Dirty Dozen, Lil Rascals, Treme) forming the core unit with special guests (Stanton Moore, Donald Harrison, Monk Boudreaux, among others) sitting in on various numbers. Although several CDs by the band are still available, I don’t see this one listed anymore.

“Who Took The Happiness Out?” is a stone mover suitable for any celebration, Mardi Gras being (big) chief among them, thanks to an irresistible groove laid down by Galactic drummer Stanton Moore [thanks to John for bringing this to my attention in the comments, as I at first misread the fine print on the CD card], with, of course, the unbeatable Mr. Joseph’s pump action bottom end. Nice arrangement. Just the drums start it out to establish the strong funk feel right off; and the tune breaks down to them again near the end, in case you had any doubt how killer the beats could be. What a drummer. I orignally thought it was three people! The horns rip and run on unusual multipart charts that lend complexity and depth to the piece, instead of it being just a straight out blowing session. But, ultimately, the reason why this is great Mardi Gras music is it’s potent ability to set your backside free. If you can sit still for this one, you dead. If not, then you succumb. Flow with the go. Dance in the streets. Forget your cares. Beg shamelessly for virtually worthless beads for hours in the cold. And shake what yo’ mama gave ya, ‘til the cops come to clear it all out at the stroke of Ash Wednesday. . . . . Enjoy.

Fess' Lost Mardi Gras In New Orleans



"Mardi Gras In New Orleans" (Roy Byrd)
Professor Longhair and His Shuffling Hungarians, Star Talent 808, 1949

After mentioning this original recorded version (78 rpm) of “Mardi Gras In New Orleans” in the previous post on Joe Lutcher’s “Mardi Gras”, I thought I’d put it up, too. I can’t say that either Professor Longhair or Lutcher directly influenced the other in the writing of their tributes to Fat Tuesday; all I’m pointing out is that there are similarities between the two songs in terms of subject matter and rhythm – plus both were recorded and released the same year, with Lutcher’s coming first. Just makes me curious.

As discussed above, Lutcher's “Mardi Gras” has a remarkable rhythmic groove with a decidedly Latin slant to it through the percussive elements laid atop syncopated march drumming that would be familiar to New Orleans revelers. You hear in Longhair’s tune, too, syncopated drums and a Latin tinge that is more subtle, as it comes through the rhythm of his left hand bass notes on the piano, rather than percussion accompaniment. This Caribbean and ultimately African undercurrent has long run through New Orleans music and was also tapped by the great Jellyroll Morton much earlier. Through his own creative intuition, Longhair early-on incorporated blues/rhythm and blues proto-funk and a Latin feel directly into his playing style, which he called “blues rhumba” in one song title. And, you can hear the result on this posted track, his first commercial release.

Of course, as I mentioned, “Mardi Gras In New Orleans” (#808, credited to Professor Longhair and His Shuffling Hungarians) and its follow-up (#809) were quickly withdrawn and shelved by the label, Star Talent out of Dallas, Texas, due to use of non-union musicians on the session. So, hardly anybody heard either of them; but Longhair had been making waves locally as a broken-mold musician through his club gigs, even before that. Following the Star Talent debacle, he cut some sides for Mercury near the end of 1949, resulting in a top ten R&B chart hit in early 1950, “Baldhead” (#8175, as Roy Byrd and His Blues Jumpers), which was a remake of a tune he had cut for Star Talent, “She Ain’t Got No Hair”. While that number was still in the charts, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, who was in town scouting talent, induced Longhair to into a now famous session where Fess recorded some classic sides, including a remake of “Mardi Gras In New Orleans”, which became his first 78 (#897) for the label. Credited to Roy ‘Baldhead’ Byrd to capitalize on his current hit, Fess’ Mardi Gras song was popular locally, but did not break nationally. Several other singles on Atlantic were issued on him, one as Professor Longhair & His Blues Scholars, another as Roland Byrd (his full name was Henry Roland Byrd); but, when these did not do well outside of the city either, Atlantic went on to other history making, before returning in 1953 to do another session on him.

Professor Longhair’s quirky rhythmic sense proved a challenge to many drummers he played with over the years, as he was way ahead of his time with time; and only the best funky drummers could ever fathom him. But, combined with unique piano key running, his rhythmic thrust profoundly influenced much of the music of his hometown right up to the present. And certainly it is he and not Joe Lutcher who is remember and given credit, which is as it should be. After all, however hip and clever (even influential) Lutcher’s “Mardi Gras” was at the time, it was a one-off thing, whereas Fess’ unique style from the start was simply who he was and how he expressed himself musically; and he played that way until the day he died, some thrity years after his first recording date.

February 17, 2007

How To Do It Up Fine And Not Spend A Dime

For a historical, rather than hysterical, slant on Carnival songs, here are the back stories on two songs than don't get all that much attention:



"At The Mardi Gras" (Huey P Smith - Moore)
Huey & Curley, Ace 671, 1963

Here’s one I had ripped to mp3 and never gotten around to posting. From 1963, this Mardi Gras song never broke out into widespread seasonal popularity in New Orleans and environs; and I think you can hear why. It doesn’t have the high octane energy of Al Johnson’s “Carnival Time”, or the indigenous funk of Professor Longhair’s “Mardi Gras In New Orleans” and “Big Chief”. Instead, “At The Mardi Gras” just lopes along with a lighthearted insouciance and sing-song, good-timing lyrics, not really going much of anywhere, but still recognizable as the work of the city’s best novelty and party song writer, Huey ‘Piano’ Smith.

While this is essentially a recording by Smith and his band, the Clowns, it is credited to Huey & Curley, the latter being lead singer, co-writer Curley Moore. By this time, the group was far past it’s “sell-by” date in the record business, their run of popularity and heavy record sales having been from 1956 to1959. Back then, the rollicking aggregation was both a recording group and showband fronted by outrageous lead singer, Bobby Marchan, who ran the band on the road, while Smith stayed behind, writing the songs and supervising their recording sessions for Ace Records. Around 1960, Marchan was off on a solo career; and Smith moved the group to Imperial to work with producer, Dave Bartholomew, hoping for better business terms from the label. But, Imperial was on a slippery downward slope at the time; and, when the recordings with Moore and various other lead singers went nowhere, Smith came back to Ace, which essentially went out of business itself by 1963. As far as I can tell, the last song credited to Huey Smith & the Clowns on Ace was #649, “Popeye” b/w “Scald Dog”. After “At the Mardi Gras” didn’t click, their remaining handful of records for Ace were credited just to Smith himself. The group was history.

Huey remained active in the New Orleans recording scene throughout the decade, working for Instant Records on production projects for the Hueys and the Pitter Pats, vocal groups he developed, and for solo artists such as Lee Bates and Skip Easterling. In the late 1960s, he cut some singles for the label under his own name again, even reviving the Huey Smith & the Clowns moniker on one; but none of them packed much commercial punch. Plagued by drinking problems, Huey dropped out of the business, got religion, and eventually moved to Baton Rouge.
I have no session details for “At The Mardi Gras”; but, since Charles ‘Hungry’ Williams was the primary drummer on the Clowns sessions for Ace, I am guessing, with little actual certainty, he’s laying down the groove here Even though it’s a fairly laid back take, it sounds like his stuff to me.


"Mardi Gras" (Joe Lutcher)
Joe Lutcher and His Orchestra, Modern 20-672, 1949

Joe Lutcher’s “Mardi Gras”, recorded in Los Angeles for Modern in February of 1949, (shortly before I was born!) fascinates me for several reasons. Mainly it’s that groove: a mixture of second line, mambo/rhumba, and straight jump (proto rock ‘n’ roll) drumming and percussion. Making the song even more remarkable is the fact that Lutcher, while he had Louisiana roots, was not from New Orleans. A blazing tenor sax player (ever hear “Stratocruiser”?) who doesn’t solo on this cut, he’s a rather underwhelming vocalist, but manages to get the story across: a travelogue set in the Crescent City on Fat Tuesday that hits the high points - Creole women, King Zulu, marching in the parade on Rampart “Avenue” (sic – it’s a street, y’all), and having a ball for free. Allowing the rhythm to predominate, Lutcher clearly understands much about the essentials of New Orleans music. Another strong plus for me on this tune is the raucous guitar intro. Grabs me every time.

Further fascination and enlightenment ensued when I realized that this tune predates Professor Longhair’s first recording of “Mardi Gras In New Orleans”, which was done for the Star Talent label in October, 1949. Lutcher’s “Mardi Gras” became popular in the New Orleans area soon after its spring release and ascended into the top 20 of the national R&B charts by fall. Although it is unclear exactly when Fess composed his tune, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that Lutcher might have provided some inspiration, or that, just maybe, on an earlier trip to New Orleans, Lutcher heard Fess gigging at the Caldonia Club an took some of that with him. Idle speculation, I guess. In any case, Fess’ first record did not make it far, as it was withdrawn because the session was non-union. A re-recording of it for Atlantic soon thereafter was not released until 1950. Besides Longhair’s tune, I think it’s safe to say that Dave Bartholomew’s recording of “Carnival Day” on Imperial in 1950 was also heavily influenced by Lutcher’s “Mardi Gras”. While I don’t know this for a fact, it seems probable that somewhere along the line Lutcher had first hand experience that helped develop a genuine feel for the city’s street beats.

Having grown up in Lake Charles, LA, Joe Lutcher took the lead of his older sister,
Nellie, who was making a name for herself in Los Angeles as a singer, songwriter and pianist, and followed her to the West Coast in the early 1940s. He played sax in numerous bands there, including as stint backing Nat King Cole, then formed his own outfit and began recording for Specialty records. Sister Nellie, who was recording hits for Capitol Records in the late 1940s (“Fine Brown Frame”, etc), got him a deal with the label, which released numerous instrumental jazz and jump sides from him and his band. But, by 1949, the saxman had moved on to Modern, which was more focused on the territorial jukebox market. It’s through this route that “Mardi Gras”, only his second release for the label, first got into the ears of the locals in New Orleans. But, by 1951, his promising career was cut short when Lutcher gave it all up for the call of the church. Following that, his biggest musical claim to fame (or infamy) was the role he played in convincing Little Richard to forsake rock ‘n’ roll for religion at the height of his popularity.

If any of you know more about Joe Lutcher’s early career and anything that links him to New Orleans, please let me know.

February 13, 2007

Carnival Funk Convergence

As one of my co-workers said the other day, “Mardi Gras is bearing down on us like a freight train!” How’s that for a festive turn of phrase? Anyway, I’ve been so involved with work and numerous et ceteras that I’ve not been posting much lately. Now, here it is but a week before Fat Tuesday; and I’m playing catch-up, with my turntable still in the shop. Feels like like I’m hopping on one foot with an arm tied behind my back – but, let’s just call it another kind of kinky dance and find a way to get on with the party, shall we?



"Ho Na Nae" (Wild Magnolias-Wilson Turbinton)
The Wild Magnolias, 1973


Although this collaborative Carnival funkification between keyboardist and bandleader Wilson ‘Willie Tee’ Turbinton and the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indians originally appeared on the 1975 Barclay album (released only in Europe at the time), They Call Us Wild,
“Ho Na Nae” was recorded several years earlier during the sessions for the Wild Magnolias’ eponymous debut on Barclay (1973). When Polygram released CD re-issues of the albums with bonus cuts in 1993 and 1994 respectively (now out of print themselves, except as a very pricey set from Europe), this song appeared on each. I’m featuring the unedited version, which is just a bit longer, that was part of the lagniappe included on the first CD.

I posted on the Wild Magnolias in 2005 and 2006, if you care to go back to those for a bit more background, while we roll with “Ho Na Nae”. It’s a fine Mardi Gras Indian chant and groove coupled with music written and arranged by Mr. Turbinton and performed by the group he gathered together to record, the New Orleans Project, which included some of the players from his own funk band of the early 1970s, the Gaturs. The participants are listed below*. Remember, this mixing of the Gaturs concept with the Mardi Gras Indian tradition was still a groundbreaking, revelatory musical venture in 1973. And I don’t think it has really been topped over the succeeding three decades. The two groups first jammed together at the Tulane Jazz Festival in 1970; and, from that conjunction, several singles and the two albums were spawned. All of their cross-pollination predated the Wild Tchoupitoulas album with the Meters and Nevilles, which, though outstanding, is forever in the shadow of what came before. History was definitely made several times over by Tee and the Wild Mags.

Funk just doesn’t get more New Orleans than this, as far as I am concerned. If you don’t own any of this music, bite the bullet, pay the big bucks, and get a piece of the action. You simply can’t completely fathom the Home of the Groove without blasting lots of this stuff.


*The Wild Magnolias on “Ho Na Nae”:
Big Chief Theodore Emile ‘Bo’ Dollis - lead vocals, percussion
Joseph Pierre ‘Monk’ Boudreaux (Big Chief of the Golden Eagles) - background vocal, congas
‘Gator June’ Johnson, Jr., ‘Crip” Adams, ‘Gate’ Johnson, ‘Bubba’ Scott, James Smothers - background vocal and percussion
Norwood ‘Gitchie’ Johnson - bass drum



*The New Orleans Project on “Ho Na Nae”:
Willie Tee - keyboards, background vocals
Earl Turbinton, Jr.- alto clarinet, alto and soprano saxophones
Julius Farmer - bass
Snooks Eaglin - guitar
Larry Panna - drums
Alfred ‘Uganda’ Roberts - conga

February 04, 2007

THE TEDDY ROYAL STORY (continued)

In November, I featured the first part of my special feature on guitarist/composer Teddy Royal’s musical story, much of which centered around New Orleans, where he lived and worked for over a decade, playing countless, almost daily recording and/or club dates. The final segment picks up during that active time in his career, when, out of the blue, a job offer he couldn’t seem to refuse changed his life in unexpected, unimagined ways.

PART 2: MOVING ON - THE ROYAL ROAD TO JAZZ

Besides his steady session work during the later 1970s, Teddy Royal was a frequent member of a band headed by keyboardist Sammy Berfect. This gifted musician became one of Teddy’s many musical mentors, using him on gigs in various popular clubs around New Orleans, such as the Mardi Gras Lounge and the Shangri-la, and even taking him into churches to play gospel music. One night in 1979, when Berfect’s band was on the tail end of an engagement at the Shangri-la, two well-known members of Fats Domino’s band, saxophonist Fred Kemp and guitarist/bandleader Roy Montrell, dropped in. During a break, Kemp approached Royal and asked if Montrell could borrow his guitar and sit in on some numbers, saying Montrell might return the favor sometime and get him a gig with Fats. Teddy, of course, was a longtime fan of Domino and had met him several times, when the legend sat in at gigs on Bourbon Street; so he easily agreed to let Montrell play some tunes with the band. When Montrell came off the stage after playing a while, he had this exchange with the younger guitarist:

Montrell: “You want to go to Europe?”
Royal: “Yeah”.
Montrell: “Do you play bass?”
Royal: “No, I don’t. I play guitar.”
Montrell: “Well, you’re gonna play bass now.”
Royal: “I don’t know anything about no bass.”
Montrell: “Well, you’re gonna learn.”
Royal: “But, I don’t have no bass.”
Montrell: “I’m going to the phone right now and call Reggie [Hall, road manager] and Fats and tell them that we found who we want.” And that’s exactly what he did, coming back to tell Teddy to be at the airport at 9:00 AM the next morning, packed and ready to go.
Montrell: “You got a passport?”
Royal: “Um, yes, I do have a passport.”
Montrell: “So, we’re leaving tomorrow.”
Royal: “OK; but I don’t play no bass.”
Montrell: “We’re gong to rent you one.”

Depsite Montrell's hard sell, still not quite believing he would or could play bass, Teddy brought his guitar and amplifier with him when he showed up at the New Orleans airport the next morning. There he met the many other band members, including drummer Smokey Johnson, trumpeter and legendary record producer/songwriter Dave Bartholomew, and sax men Lee Allen and Roger Lewis, among others. When Fats arrived, the instruments and luggage were loaded; and everybody boarded a plane bound for Munich, Germany.

Once overseas, the band started rehearsals for a European tour in the lounge of their hotel. Reggie Hall showed Teddy the basic changes for the songs on piano. Then, Teddy picked up the white Fender Precision bass they had rented for him and tried to get his fingers to work the four fat strings, thinking, “What I am I going to do with this? I guess they’re going to send me back home.” When Fats came down that first day, he sat at the piano and began to show various musicians the specific parts he wanted them to play; but, the designated guitar player, David Douglas, couldn’t seem to get a handle on one part in particular. Fats was making him do it over and over, but without success. So, Reggie Hall says to Fats, “You know, Teddy plays guitar, too.” With that, Fats asked Teddy to play the lick on guitar; and, when he quickly did, Fats proclaimed, “David, you play the bass; and, Teddy, you play the guitar.” As simply as that, the switcheroo was on; and Teddy began what was to be a long term association with the Fats Domino band on the right instrument. It’s a good thing he brought along that guitar!

On the road with Fats over the next few years, touring much of Europe and parts of the US, Teddy’s roommate was often baritone saxophonist, Roger Lewis, who co-founded the Dirty Dozen Brass Band around that same time. Lewis and Fred Kemp made it a point to school Royal on jazz theory and improvisation in their off-hours. Prior to coming to New Orleans in 1970, the guitarist had only fleetingly encountered jazz, and didn’t really start to get a feel for it until he had been submerged in the atmosphere of Jazz City for a while. Many of the session and band regulars Teddy associated with during the 1970s were well-versed in modern jazz, but made their living playing r&b, soul, and funk. Among them were such notables as Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler, James Rivers, Wilson Turbinton (Willie Tee), his brother, Earl, and James Black, all of whom gave Teddy crucial exposure to the idiom. The more he heard; the more he explored; the more he learned, the more he realized that jazz was how he wanted to creatively express himself.

By the early 1980s, Fats began playing fewer concerts, freeing up Teddy to form a jazz group and do some touring on his own. Relocating to Chicago to expand his horizons, he played with Koko Taylor’s band for a spell in 1982, but continued to follow his jazz muse, gigging in the North and on the East Coast with his quartet or trio. Chicago was also where Teddy found the large Epiphone hollow-body electric guitar he uses to this day; and it was the perfect fit for his developing jazz style, heavily influenced by Wes Montgomery’s finger picked octave soloing. Through Brother Jack McDuff’s wife, Doll, who worked for the Ambassador Talent Agency in Chicago, Teddy got booked to do several well-received Wes Montgomery tribute performances in 1984 and 1985. She also took him to a Southside jazz club called The Other Side where he started sitting in with the jazz combo, led by organist Jon Logan, that played weekends there. Teddy was soon asked to join Logan’s group and received more valuable jazz ensemble schooling right on the bandstand. Often on those gigs, various giants of the genre such as Jimmy Smith or Arnett Cobb would come into the always hopping joint late at night and sit in with the band; and those close encounters further stretched the guitarist’s boundaries.

Teddy had begun writing his own jazz compositions while based in Chicago, recording some there and later in New Orleans. By the mid-1990s, his first CD, Morning Groove, was released in England, where his new manager was based; and he was poised to begin making a name for himself overseas. So, let’s pause the commentary and play a cut from that debut effort.



"Josiah" (Teddy Royal)
Teddy Royal, from Morning Groove, Sunshine Productions, 1994
LISTEN

From 1994, Morning Groove was a seven song sampler containing over a decade’s worth of Teddy’s compositions, four of them recorded in New Orleans and nicely arranged by his old
friend, collaborator, and employer, Wardell Quezergue [pictured with Teddy]. I chose “Josiah” from this batch because I like its hip moves and grooves, with fine drumming from New Orleans ace Bernard ‘Bunchy’ Johnson. Royal’s Domino bandmate, Fred Kemp, takes the tenor sax solo. Also playing are Alonzo Bowens on tenor sax, Bruce Hammond on trombone, Stacy Cole on trumpet, with pianist Richard Knox and bassist Charles D. S. Moore. Double-tracking his guitar, Teddy displays both his smooth, seemingly effortless Montgomery-inspired octave attack and agile single string riffing. Written around 1985, this deftly structured, Latin-influenced piece shows Teddy expressing himself with well-developed, higher order musical sensibility you can dance to.


His second CD, Keep On Moving On, came out the next year and had Hank Crawford and Henry Butler sitting in, upping the chops ante considerably. As Royal started playing dates at various London venues and breaking into the scene there, his continued association with Fats helped him get good foot-in-the door billing; but, once inside, the highly favorable response he got to his music was rightfully earned. So, after doing Domino’s 1995 European tour, Teddy returned to England to capitalize on his auspicious start.

1996 turned out to be big for him, starting out early in the year with engagements at some of the London’s better clubs. For one of those, Hank Crawford came over to join him, which increased the buzz considerably. Also, Paul Jones, host of a popular FM jazz program, began regularly playing “London Blues” from Keep On Moving On, and interviewed Teddy on the show. With that boost, the song was soon on the UK jazz charts..

Later in the year, Teddy and some of the other members of Fats’ band were booked to play at the Pizza Express Jazz Club (which was more upscale than it might sound) in Soho. They performed as the aptly named Fats Domino’s Sidemen and drew in large, enthusiastic crowds on their two week run, playing, not exclusively jazz, but lots of classic New Orleans music. Joining Teddy for the highly successful engagement were Hebert Hardesty, another legendary tenor sax man who had played with Fats since the 1950s, Emile Vinette on piano, bassist Erving Charles, and Bobby Wilson on drums.


In 1997, Royal returned to London to promote the release of his third CD, Royal Blue; and, over the next few years, he and his own jazz group would play New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and return to London several times. Then, he had a serious career setback with the death of his manager. He lost many of the connections and bookings that they had built up; and his CDs eventually went out of print.

Coming back from that, Teddy moved to the Philadelphia/New Jersey area a few years ago and married a charming woman he met at one of his gigs. He has kept playing as much as possible, with club dates around Philly and in Cape May, NJ. Also, recently, he has done several concerts at the Mainstage Center For the Arts in Blackwood, NJ,
one of which was just this January. And, last summer, he was asked to play with funky jazz organist Jimmy McGriff’s band at a show in Mt. Vernon, New York. Coming up in April, Teddy and his group will take part in another tribute to Wes Montgomery at the Cape May Jazz Festival. Future plans also include releasing a CD compilation of material from his first three albums, which were never issued in the US; and a CD of newer material, since he never stops writing.

As so many of us, Teddy has been personally devastated by the physical and cultural destruction wrought in Crescent City since Katrina. But, as he wisely says, “New Orleans has a spirit that will never die. It’s just been interrupted.”. A first choice player for some of the greats of that music scene, he never hesitates to express his gratitude to the city for all it has given him: working with and learning from the city’s best players, writers, arrangers and producers.

Through the years, he has maintained regular contact and continued to perform with Fats, whenever his semi-retired old friend gave him the call. It has been a way to stay linked to New Orleans and its musical traditions, even as he has moved on with his own music projects and settled elsewhere. Although Mr. Domino has not taken the stage since his harrowing rescue from his flooded home, Teddy and all of us hope he will soon play again. When he does, more than likely you’ll find a righteous jazz guitarist up there proudly popping four fat strings of a bass Fats bought him! That’s right. In an ironic twist to this story, in 2003, Fats implored Teddy to take over for long-time bassist Erving Charles, who had just passed away; and, always wanting to please the man who befriended, frequently housed, and employed him for over 20 years, Teddy stayed at Fats’ house for a month and taught himself to become, after all, the new bass player in the band. Somewhere, the late Roy Montrell must be laughing.

It has been both and honor and a pleasure to talk with Teddy Royal and present an overview of his life in music, so far; and I appreciate his time and patience. As for his own ambitions and prospects as a first rate jazz musician and composer, who has seen his share of the ups and downs of the music business over a 40 year career, the characteristically soft-spoken, humble guitarist sums up this way:
I’m always going to keep playing my box and keep creating. I feel good about myself, because the Lord has given me the energy to keep on movin’ on!

Amen to that.


--- To purchase Teddy Royal's latest CD, see his upcoming gigs and contact him for bookings, visit his website: Royal Blue.

Go directly to Part 1 of the TEDDY ROYAL STORY