October 28, 2007

Curley's Melancholy Soul Train



"Soul Train" (W. Quegergue & E. King)
Curley Moore, Hot Line 901, ca 1965
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After a long search, I picked up this single a while back on auction for a very reasonable price (it can happen!). Although several earlier and later songs (and a TV show) had the same title, this is the original New Orleans "Soul Train", as sung by Curley Moore, and having nothing to do with Don Cornelius. Actually, Curley's rendition appeared twice around 1964 -1965: the Hot Line issue, backed with "This Way I Do"; and one on Nola (#707 - label shot courtesy of Red Kelly) with a different flip side, "Please Do Something For Me". I think the Hot Line (a subsidiary of Nola) may have been first - not sure about it, though, and haven't found a clue about why it appeared twice. The Nola single came out between two other classics, Smokey Johnson's proto-funk "It Ain't My Fault" and Willie Tee's "Teasin' You"; but the good placement did not help "Soul Train" achieve anything other than some local popularity.

I didn't buy the single because it was rare, but because I have long been crazy about this odd little tune, co-written by
Earl King and producer/arranger Wardell Quezergue. Thought it has been covered several times, as I'll go over a bit later, nothing beats the original for my money. That said, I can kind of see why it didn't have "legs". While numerous popular songs called out the popular dances on the era and various places around the country to connect with the dancing and record buying public, those generally attempted to evoke a party atmosphere of some kind. But the music on "Soul Train" seems far too subdued to call the kids out to the floor. Hear how the saxes play those long low notes under the verses and chorus. Almost stately. The trumpets have a bit rhythm as they follow the chords on the verses, but punchy and upbeat they aren't. On top of all that, Curley's vocal sounds wistful somehow. There is a kind of a feeling of longing to it, almost as if the song were in a minor key (which it is not). Then consider King's lyric on the chorus, "Oh, that Soul Train, music pouring out like rain. Just like rain." Don't know about you, Earl, but rain imagery equates to tears, thus sadness, for most folks. But, damn, it's a fine song, nonetheless. It definitely evokes a mood that gets to me, just a strange mood for a song about dancing; although there's nothing wrong in dancing when you're sad. This all brings up an association with another unusual New Orleans dance number, Chris Kenner's rather languid original version of "Land Of 1000 Dances" from 1962, which even started with part of a hymn, certainly a unique way to try to fill up a dance floor. Only the later hit cover versions sped it up and got a party started. In some strange homage, Earl King lifts several of the dance names plus pieces of Kenner's lyrics from that song and blatantly uses them in "Soul Train". Odd, but, hey, it's New Orleans, Jake.

In spite of it all, Quezergue's arrangement here seems a thing of pop beauty to me: very simple, yet syncopated, with a great flow. The drums, definitely by Smokey Johnson, are understated but create a superb, locked-in groove with just a few well placed beats per measure on the kick drum, snare rim, and tom-toms. Accompanying that is a perfectly integrated shaker, mainly on the offbeats throughout. Listening to this cut, and knowing when it was recorded, makes it pretty easy to figure out the possible players involved. Quezergue's recollections about who played on "Teasin' You" suggest the likely rhythm section: Johnson, of course, with George French on bass, George Davis, guitar, and maybe Tee or the producer himself on piano. The horns section probably was pulled from Quezergue's band, the Royal Dukes of Rhythm.

At first, I knew of "Soul Train" through cover versions, starting with
Snooks Eaglin's live repertoire; and for nitty-gritty versions of famous and obscure New Orleans classics, nobody beats Snooks. He recorded it for his 1992 Black Top CD, Teasin' You. Later, Cyril Neville also covered the song decently on his solo CD, New Orleans Cookin'. But the version lots of fans and collectors of early funk talk highly about is by Bobby and the Heavyweights, originally issued on the local Mor Soul label abound 1967 and soon picked up for national distribution by Atlantic. While not a direct lift of Curley Moore's version, it's still a close enough copy. Arranged by a young Traci Borges from suburban Metairie, LA, next door to New Orleans, their take on "Soul Train" attempted to move it up a notch, especially on the chorus, messing with the rhythm and making the horns more prominent and punchy. To my ears, though, Bobby and the Heavyweights only managed to sound like a competent but soulless lounge cover band.

So, my advice is to get on the Soul Train with at least a digitized version of the orginal, such as can be found on the Funky Delicacies/Tuff City compilation of Quezergue's productions,
Sixty Smokin Soul Senders. If not that, go with Snooks.

October 18, 2007

Denise Keeble Unchains Her Thing

[UPDATED 3/15/2012]

Not exactly a household name, Denise Keeble was one of a number of low profile artists who Wardell Quezergue and his Pelican Production(s) team tried to develop into hit-makers at the beginning of the 1970s. With recording opportunties limited in New Orleans, in 1970 Wardell and business partner Elijah Walker made arragnements to do virtually all of their production sessions at Malaco Studio in Jackson, MS, while the basic nuts and bolts of pre-production - songwriting, rehearsal, and the like - took place at the home of head writer Joe Broussard in the Crescent Ctiy.

Many of the resulting records, such as today's feature on Pelican, only got as far as limited release by small, independent labels such as Pelican, which had little ability to promote or disseminate their products far and wide. Buoyed by initial hits for several of his early King Floyd recordings on one of Malaco's in-house labels that Atlantic distributed, Big Q was shooting for similar results for his other projects at at the studio; but only Jean Knight struck further gold with "Mr. Big Stuff" after Stax agreed to release it, and just a few of her follow-ups got noticed at all. Despite his generally high quality efforts, Wardell's other productions had no significant commercial impact; and, after just a few years, the hard realites of the record business forced him to move his operations back to New Orleans.

The mere handful of releases on Quezergue and Walker's Pelican label are hard to come by, since, due the lack of demand, not many copies were pressed up. Limited resources left the partners unable to provide the right kind of encouragement to DJs for enough sustained radio airplay to even hope of geting listeners' attention. Unable to generate a buzz, Pelican couldn't attract the attention of any larger labels with a national reach. The result was virtually instant obscurity for their output. Of the four known Pelican singles, Ms Keeble seems to have had the first, followed by C. L. Blast (the best known artist of the bunch and the only non-local), Larry Hamilton, and Curtis Johnson, all of whom had just one apiece issued on the label before it folded.

Information on Keeeble is equally scarce. Afer much digging, all I have come up with so far is that she was
a decent but not particularly gifted vocalist who recorded just two singles, both, it seems, done at Malaco around 1970 with Quezergue producing and arranging. Besides her Pelican appearance, which we'll focus on this time, she also had a release, "Love School" b/w "Giving Up" on the one-off B.F.W. label (#1101).

Listening thhrough the surface noise accumulated on this record in the course of its long journey through the decades to my archives, there is enjoyment to be had in the grooves as well as revelations about Big Q's production process. So, let's listen to the results of what probably was a typical day at the office and studio for the Pelican and Malaco crews.




"Chain On My Thing" (Bryan Babour)
Denise Keeble, Pelican 1230, ca 1970
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While the early 21st century reader might infer from the title that "Chain On My Thing" is about a provocative piercing, the song is really one of those 'don't want to be tied down by a wedding band' numbers from the free-lovin' days of about 40 years ago. Even though the song was written by a man, I guess you could call the lyrics as sung by Keeble a Women's Liberation declaration of sorts. But, that's as far as I'll diverge into socio-political commentary.

As with many of Quezergue's Malaco-era arrangements, well-crafted, mutli-instumental rhythm patterns were assigned to each player on the track to bring the song's desired groove and feel to life. While not as
idiosyncratic of groove as, say, King Floyd's "Groove Me", this upbeat mover was definitely on the funky side with Vernie Robbins' locking in on the thrusting, ofbeat bass line that meshed perfectly with the tight, springy hits and hesitations in the pocket James Stroud laid down.

Even the talented house band at Malaco found it challenging to assimilate the often demanding elements of the producer's exacting arrangements; but their ability to nail such songs is what makes the output of those years working with Big Q especially noteworthy.

As Stroud recalled to Rob Bowman in the notes for
The Last Soul Company, Malaco's CD box set label retrospective, "It was difficult, because Wardell had it in his head as to what he wanted. . . . So he had to keep us sort of lined up to a point and make sure we learned what we were doing and then he allowed us to stretch out from there. But the initial grooves and the initial ideas were in Wardell's head." Obviously, though, on a tight number like this, there was not a lot of room to stretch; and the job simply came down to groove fulfillment.

"Chain" has a somewhat varied instrumental impact, though, since it seems the only electric instruments on this track were the bass and subdued keyboard. In a nice touch, Quezergue used a prominent acoustic guitar and a string section to soften and texture the sound, in contrast with Stroud's aggressive beats and the punchy horn accents. Keeble, whose voice reminds me at times of Barbara George, obviously gave the performance her all, but ultimately wasn’t able to step out and own it, or convince anyone to play and push it - a deficit no Big Q arrangement could compensate for.




"Before It Falls Apart" (Broussard - Savoy - Quezergue)
Denise Keeble, Pelican 1230, ca 1970

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"Before It Falls Apart" is the side I prefer, even though I think the song's creative reach exceeded its grasp. Writers Joseph Broussard, Albert Savoy, and Quezergue, the core of the Pelican Productions team, mixed in way more hooky elements than a couple of minutes could effectively hold, resulting in a production curiosity, rather than the danceable, sing-along hit it could have been with some pruning. Listen closely, though, because the busy, intricate arrangement never falters, due to excellent execution by the players; and Keeble's voice sounds somewhat better to my ears, though she hardly had a chance to settle in anywhere.

All in all, the song was just too kitchen sink quirky to have mainstream appeal, not that a B-side on a boutique label had much of a shot anyway. It reminds me of another stylistic stretch Quezergue tried with the Barons, Ltd song,
"Gypsy Read Your Cards From Me", that worked out better, but sill didn't get far on the radio. Nonetheless, these tunes show that Wardell and company had no chain on their creative thing.

October 10, 2007

Afroskull Lives!

To me, one of the real perks of the blog has been connecting with serious fans of the music, some of whom are top notch players, too. That's how I originally got to know the drummer for Afroskull, Jason (a/k/a the Reaper), keeper of the Funk Files. We would make comments on each other's posts, email about dis 'n dat, and eventually met one day when were were both in New Orleans for some beer and conversation. About a year ago, he linked me up to some of the band's impressive live recordings available at archive.org. Although they formed in New Orleans a decade ago, I've never caught the Skull in action, although I recall seeing listings for their gigs back then. By the time I moved down here, they had re-located to New York City, where at least some of them are from. Anyway, the other day Jason sent me Afroskull's 10th Anniversary press release and humbly asked if I would post it, and even sent along two mp3s, one live, and one a studio cut from their only CD, to share with the HOTG loose-booty community. Listening to them got me pumped to steer this here blog briefly back to the 21st Century. So, here's the press release, with information about their upcoming festivities, a bit of band history, and links to Afroskull sites.


* * * * * AFROSKULL CELEBRATES TENTH ANNIVERSARY * * * * *


Twin blowouts in New York and New Orleans to commemorate a decade of hair-raising funk New York based funk/rockers Afroskull have announced a pair of shows to celebrate the band's 10th anniversary, on October 12th at New York's Parkside Lounge, and October 20th at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans.

Afroskull formed in New Orleans in the summer of 1997 around a core of well-schooled musicians who had first met in the suburbs of NYC years earlier. Using the music of Funkadelic, Frank Zappa, Charles Mingus and Black Sabbath as their guides, they developed a unique style that is equal parts funk, hard rock and jazz. A devoted local following quickly followed along with a reputation for unrelenting funk-drenched sets that lasted well into the wee hours. In 2002, after the release of the locally acclaimed CD Monster For the Masses, several national tours and two legendary "Afroskull Does Black Sabbath" sets, the core of the band pulled up stakes and got back to their roots in New York City. In the years since, Afroskull has gained a whole new audience (along with several new band members) thanks to their red-hot live shows and is now becoming known among hard-core live music fans as one of th e city's best-kept secrets. And now October 2007 brings a 10th anniversary party to each of the band's hometowns, featuring special guests from throughout Afroskull's history.

October 12, 2007 @ The Parkside Lounge
317 E. Houston St (corner of Attorney St.), New York City
8:30pm

The New York version of the 10th anniversary brings the band back to their long-time homebase on Manhattan's Lower East Side, and will feature Jason Marshall on bari sax (of Roy Hargrove's RH Factor), bassist Bearded Jon Stonbely, and a special appearance by NYC guitar mercenary The Wild Koba.

October 20, 2007 @ The Maple Leaf Bar
8316 Oak St., New Orleans
11pm

The New Orleans party will be an epic Afroskull marathon, a true melding of the NOLA and NYC lineups, featuring original bassist Funky Dollar Bill Richards (of I Tell You What fame), and the Horns of Doom: Chuck Arnold on trumpet, Rick Trolsen (of Bonerama) on trombone, and Jason Mingledorf (Papa Grows Funk) on tenor sax. Other scheduled guests include Big John Shaffer on vocals and the Madd Wikkid a.k.a. Earl Scioneaux on keyboards.

For more info and mp3s, visit:

Afroskull.com
Afroskull on Myspace
Afroskull on the Live Music Archive
***********************************
So, now that we know where the parties are going on, let's hear a couple of tunes. It's kind of hard to describe the Afroskull experience; but, even listening to a few flimsy mp3s (Jason had to down-code his beefier files to meet the requirements of my music server), I think you can get an impression that this band has a big, dangerous delivery that should be rated in megatons. It's a high-powered groove generator, throbbing with jazzoid horns, all-around intense musicianship, pedal to the heavy metal tendencies (with Black Sabbath in the collective woodshed!?), and Zappa-esque compositional conceptualizing. Fused under extreme heat and pressure with a creative abandon and a gonzo attitude, Afroskull's music demands spirit-possessed body movements and has "Holy Shit!" moments of revelation aplenty.

"Zero Hour"
Go to archive.org

Here are a few comments Jason sent along with "Zero Hour": Recorded live at the Parkside Lounge, NYC, 1/7/05. Also available at archive.org. This tune will eventually be featured on our next studio album, which is still being recorded. We're hoping to have it finished by Mardi Gras.

Looking forward to it. . "Zero Hour" is a fast rolling rattletrap of vibrating parts tightly wound around Jason's rapid-fire, incredibly complex, multi-dimensional drumming (the man must have a few extra arms). I have to go to the gig just to see him actually play this. The more I listen into it, the more amazed I am. On the verge of flying apart at any moment, "Zero Hour" miraculously holds together. Sheer centrifugal force? Gravity waves? Pure collective willpower? However it's done, remember, these are trained professionals. To avoid serious injury, don't try this one at home kids. That jaded New Yorker applause after this song is the only thing off. A riot should have broken out.

The players on "Zero Hour" were:
Joe Scatassa - guitar
Matt Iselin - keyboards
Dan Asher - bass
Jason Isaac - drums
Seth Moutal - percussion
Jason Marshall - bari sax
Jeff Pierce - trumpet
Mark Nikirk - tenor sax


"Theme From Afroskull"

Jason writes, "Theme From Afroskull" was featured on our first (and so far only) studio album, Monster for the Masses*. It was released in 2000. This is the tune that gave the band its name. The "Monster for the Masses" bit at the end was the culmination of a very loose concept that ran throughout the album (monster wrecks New Orleans but wins the citizens over while he does it - doesn't seem quite as funny now as it did back then).

Well, Jason, black humor is better than none at all. Life changes the way we appreciate art more than the reverse, I suppose. This one cetainly works as a soundtrack for the fear of destruction that has always been the monster in New Orleans' closet. Blatantly cinematic, "Theme" is a horror/spy movie soundtrack on steroids laced with lysergic acid diethylamide. Sun-Ra ( and Mingus, too, I guess) jamming with Zappa and Zigaboo at Ozzfest might have sounded something like this, had it ever come to pass. Hearing this stuff, I can't help but be reminded of a current incredible live New Orelans band that mixes some intense rock covers with da funk, brass band style: Bonerama. Perhaps Jason can enlighten us sometime as to any inspiration the Skull may have given to the Bones. As a matter of fact, one of those Bones, Rick Trolsen, will be playing in the Horns of Doom on the 20th. Should be very extremely dangerous, as Eddie Hinton would say.

In the best possible way, of course

*Read Offbeat's review of that album.

[Post-gig update: Man, that was an awesome show, still going on when I bailed to look for a cab at 2:30 AM, geezer that I am. For those of you in the New Yawk area, definitely a must see/hear band, even if you are jaded. Maybe they'll see fit to favor us with another taste later on.]



October 05, 2007

Louisiana Instrumental Obscurities

I thought we needed something completely different to follow Willie Tee; so, I've pulled out four instrumentals from other parts of Louisiana, at least one of which is a mystery record. As always, if you have any information to add about these tracks at any time, feel free to put it in the comments or email me.


"Rooty Tooty" (West-Webster-Prevost)
Lonel Torrence, Zynn 1023, ca 1961

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"Rooty Tooty" b/w "Moscow Twist" was Lionel Torrence's second instrumental single for Zynn. Torrence, whose real name was Lionel Prevost*, played frequent sessions at the Crowley, Louisiana studio of J. D. 'Jay' Miller (who owned Zynn) from the late 1950s into the next decade, alongside other regulars such as pianist Katie Webster, guitarist Gabriel 'Guitar Gable' Perrodin, bassist 'Fats' Perrodin, and drummer Clarence 'Jockey' Etienne. Having formerly played in the busy road band of zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier, Prevost, whose saxophone style often raucously walked on the wild side, appeared on classic Miller swamp blues productions for Lonesome Sundown (Cornelius Green) and Lazy Lester (Leslie Johnson), plus numerous other acts Miller recorded in that era, including swamp pop legends Warren Storm, Bobby Charles, and Johnnie Allen. Allen has called Lionel Torrence "one of the top-notch swamp pop saxophonists". Making his musicianship even more impressive is the fact that he played a sax so physically funky that it was literally held together with numerous rubber bands (as fellow saxman Harry Simoneaux recalled in John Broven's South To Louisiana).

I just recently tracked down a minty copy of this single, but have loved "Rooty Tooty" since I first heard it on an early 1990s Flyright CD compilation of Jay Miller's productions, Louisiana R'nB. Likely from the early 1960s [hats off to kees whose comment to this post corrected my earlier dating from the R&B Indies], what a rockin' party record this is, with the musicians joining in on the chorus and tossing out some chatter and even a scream during Katie Webster's piano vamping. Torrence does not play a flurry of notes; but he injects a lot of grease and stretches the ones he uses just right, getting a great nasty tone. That amazing, high-pitched, suggestive squeal during his mid-song solo really gooses things up. I'll also add that, as Torrence, Prevost had another Miller produced single, "Flim Flam" b/w "Saka" out on Excello in 1962. If I could just time travel, I'd go back to some steamy Southwest Louisiana gig to hear Torrence rootin' 'n' tootin' in the horn section. But, barring that, hearing this track brings the festivities fifty years forward for at least a few minutes.

*NOTE: The first instalment of an outstanding feature on Lionel Torrence/Prevost by Paul Harris, who interviewed the sax man around 20 years ago, is now viewable at Sax on the Web. I thank Neil Sharpe, contributing editor, for making me aware of it.

Also, the Flyright LP collection of sides featuring Torrence, including his solo recordings, Sax Man Supreme, mentioned in that feature, can be found at the MTE website, based in Crowley, LA. Very cool. Check it out.



"Hogwash" (R. Shaab)
Earnest Jackson, Stone 001, 1973
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The party groove continues with "Hogwash", an R&B rave-up that, if it weren't for the slight "wah" of the guitar, sounds like it could have come from nearly the same era as "Rooty Tooty" rather than from the B-side of a 1973 single by Baton Rouge area soul singer Earnest Jackson. While the A-side is a fairly straightforward cover version of Al Green's "Love And Happiness" which certainly can't touch the original, the instrumental flip surprises. I don't know if Jackson actually plays on the track or not. In fact, I know very little about Jackson period. Maybe he was a guitarist, too, since this is a guitar dominated track. It might not be steeped in the funk of the day, but it cooks nonetheless and has fine playing throughout. Chalk this up as another reason you should always check out the B-sides (ain't dat right, Red?).

What little I know about Earnest Jackson comes from the R&B Indies discographies and a Tuff City/Funky Delicacies LP compilation I have, Funky Funky Baton Rouge. Jackson had just a few singles released under his own name, with this one being his first on Stone, as well as the first release for the label. A blurb for the LP on the Tuff City website suggests that "Love And Happiness" got some airplay around the country. There were two great, very funky follow-ups: "Joy And Affection" backed with an instrumental version (#202), and "Funky Black Man" b/w "Why Can't I Love Somebody" (#203). Jackson also had a later single, "Reaching Out For Your Love" b/w "My Funny Valentine" issued by Royal Shield, another small Baton Rouge label.

Interestingly, the two sides of Stone #001 had different producers. Harold Cowart produced the rather faithful copy of "Love And Happiness". He had played bass for John Fred and the Playboys before joining three other Baton Rouge musicians to form Cold Grits, who, among numerous other gigs, played on sessions at Muscle Shoals and served as a rhythm section at Criteria Studios in Miami in the late 1960s (on "Rainy Night In Georgia", for example) and released a funk instrumental classic, "It's Your Thing" on ATCO. Corwart was involved with Deep South Recording Studio in Baton Rouge, as was the producer and writer of "Hogwash", Ron Shaab, who also worked on soul/funk singles for George Perkins and the mysterious The Sister and Brothers (you can read more about Cold Grits in the comments of that post, too). That Tuff City blurb I mentioned also intimates that Earnest Jackson's Stone sides involved the Cold Grits rhythm section (Cowart, plus Ron 'Tubby' Ziegler on drums, Jimmy O'Rourke on guitar, and Billy Carter, keyboards), but I have no corroboration of that, although it makes sense that at lease some of those players are on the sessions, since Cowart was involved with the production. I'll try to feature some of Jackson's funkier sides later and, possibly, find out more about the artist and session musicians. The Baton Rouge soul and funk scene of the 1960s and 1970s is still a relatively undocumented era; and there's much more to be revealed.




"Shootin' The Grease" (Jesse Gresham)
Jesse Gresham Plus 3, Head, ca 1972

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[UPDATED 2011-2012]
This strange little track I alluded to as a "mystery" in my intro has had some light shed on it since I first posted this (see below). I had come up empty finding much of anything on Jesse Gresham Plus 3, whose "Shootin' The Grease", appeared as the flip side of a re-issue of Robert Parker's "Barefootin'" on the Head label, which was run by Stan Lewis, owner of the Jewel, Paula, and Ronn labels, among others, in Shreveport, LA. Head didn't release much else, a re-issue of Aaron Neville's "Tell It Like It Is" b/w "Why Worry", and a single by the Tornados. In poking around the web on this one, I discovered that "Shootin' The Grease" is actually the same song as Gresham's two-parter, "The Penguin" that was released on Jewel (823) in 1971. The Head re-issue differs only in that it includes a drum intro that supposedly wasn't on the original. For that, they renamed the thing? Go figure. The R&B Indies dates the Head release as 1972, which sounds about right. My fellow blogger and musical archaeologist, Larry Grogan, featured this side on one of his podcasts, and thought the track might have originated in 1966; but he got that, I think, from the number on the label "SL-1966", which has nothing to do with the date. It's the matrix number for the original Jewel side, which was "The Penguin, Part 2". Part 1 was SL-1962.



In 2011 none other than the great blues journalist and historian, Jim O'Neal, contacted me throuhg the comments on another post to give me the lowdown on Jesse Gresham Plus 3. Here's what he had to say:

They were a popular soul band around Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the '70s, led by organist-pianist Jesse Gresham from the nearby town of Drew (known to New Orleanians as the home of Archie Manning [and Pops Staples!]). The band on his Jewel session (which was done at  Sam Phillips' studio in Memphis) included Johnny Agnew, guitar, and Larry Haggans, bass (both from Clarksdale) and drummer Nathaniel Jefferson from West Helena, Arkansas. The group had some vocalists, but never recorded again after the all-instrumental Jewel session. The band at times also included Josh Stewart and Earnest "Guitar" Roy, who are both still active on the Clarksdale blues scene. Gresham did double duty as a schoolteacherand is now a minister in Drew, where he narrowly lost a recent election for mayor. We included a photo of him, and of one of the Jewel 45s, on the recent Mississippi Blues Trail marker that was dedicated in Drew in honor of the Staple Singers and other local performers. The text and photos from that marker [are] posted at the Blues Trail website. - Jim O'Neal, Research Director Mississippi Blues Trail

Thanks so much to Jim for providing this information. As for the track itself, it is an intriguing bit of, for lack of a better term, garage funk - pretty basic, and probably cut quickly and on the cheap. But the spunk in its funkitude comes through, bringing to mind "Pass The Hatchet", classic progenitor of the genre by a band of young white guys in New Orleans, Roger and the Gypsies, which was actually pretty much Earl Stanley's outfit by another name, with Eddie Bo overdubbed free associating on top. I'm not saying one sounds like the other here - only that there's just the right touch of amateurishness to it, even though Gresham's band were professionals, more or less. The sound they were going for was Delta get-down, not city slick. 


Jim said that they only had one session for Jewel; but it obviously involved four sides being recorded, because Gresham's band had one other Jewel single, "Bust Out" b/w "Get It Where You Find It" (#833), in 1972. I'm hoping to get that posted one of these days, too. The fact that it came out on Jewel makes it fair enough game for HOTG.



"Monkey In A Sack" (G. Sam)
Lil' Buck, La Louisianne 8133, 1969

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Last, but definitely not least, we have master guitarist Paul "Lil' Buck" Sinegal (sometimes spelled Senegal) doing "Monkey In A Sack", a squirming, undulating, calorie burning groove that is simply one of the best funk tracks to ever come out of Louisiana, in my warped opinion. Recorded right here in Lafayette for La Louisianne Records circa 1969 using his band at the time, the Top Cats, this side and its even more frenetic instrumental flip, "Cat Scream", should have torn it up nationallyand brought the band accolades and adulation (even money!); but, as often is the story, it instead skyrocketed to obscurity, becoming another object of obsession for collectors. This single was his last of three issued on the label. I've looked at a lot of records in my time and have never even laid eyes on a copy of it. My holding comes from the out of print CD compilation, Lafayette Soul Show, that Kent put out in 1993. Great collection - so good I've even seen bootlegs of it since it was deleted. Would somebody please re-issue it?

Accompanying Lil'Buck's tasty guitar percolation, the churning organ work on this cut is courtesy of Stanley 'Buckwheat' Dural, who much later would forsake the B-3, strap on a big piano accordion and make an international name for himself as
Buckwheat Zydeco, bringing high-quality roots R&B-based creole (NOT Cajun!) zydeco music to the world, following the death of the great Clifton Chenier. The Top Cats broke up shortly after "Monkey In A Sack" came out. I guess they figured if that didn't make it, nothing would. Anyway, both Sinegal and Dural eventually joined Clifton Chenier's Red Hot Louisiana Band and played with him during the height of his popularity through the 1970s. After Chenier passed away in the 1980s, Lil' Buck played with another zydeco kingpin, Rockin' Dopsie, and formed his own band, the Cowboy Stew Blues Revue in the 1990s. Along the way, he's played on well over 300 recording sessions, including Paul Simon's groundbreaking Graceland. In 1999, Allen Toussaint, long a fan of the guitarist, produced a CD for him, The Buck Starts Here, a mainly blues outing, that was released on NYNO. Lil' Buck has performed at the Ponderosa Stomp, and, to this day, can be heard playing the clubs of Lafayette and environs with his current smokin' band. From personal experience I can tell you that they do killer shows. Buck always looks like he's enjoying it as much as the audience. Having started out in the 1950s doing R&B with the Jive Five, he's the read deal connection back to the days when Louisiana's musical styles and cultures were beginning to mix and bear amazing fruit. And one more thing, he's a cool cat and nice guy, who always says hi to me when we cross paths and thanks me humbly when I tell him how great his gig was. I've gotta tell ya, though he doesn't know it, just getting to hear him play has helped to make me feel right at home down here.