March 29, 2009

In Pursuit of Bo-Consciousness

Edwin J. Bocage, a/k/a Spider Bocage, Little Bo, and best known as Eddie Bo, a fascinating, often enigmatic figure on the New Orleans music scene for over half a century, passed away just over a week ago. During his career, he wore many musical hats (including turbans): pianist/organist, vocalist, bandleader, composer (over 200 songs), arranger and producer. His work appeared on a huge assortment of labels, including a few of his own. In fact, his Wikipedia biography claims that, as an artist, he released more singles than anyone else in New Orleans, except Fats Domino. While I haven't done the math, that factoid might be accurate, although Johnny Adams and Lee Dorsey would also be in the running. To put it in perspective, though Eddie made a lot of records, precious few of his own sides were even local hits, as worthy as many of them were. Fats likely sold more on one of his big records than Eddie did on all of his singles and albums combined. Despite never achieving national or worldwide mass appeal, Bo continued to record - he obviously had a passion for it; and, of course, he did not labor in semi-obscurity by design. His intent, at least in his most productive years, was to break out with a hit and reap the financial rewards for his efforts; but the music business was often neither cooperative nor kind. He had better luck as a songwriter, when a few big-selling artists covered this tunes. Yet Eddie persevered both as an entertainer and recording artist, occasionally going back to carpentry or into other business ventures to help make ends meet, and, at least once, "retiring" to go on a spiritual quest. By the time of his passing, while certainly not rich and famous, he was still a popular local performer and had a small but loyal following around the country and abroad. I guess you could say that he achieved an underground legendary status, revered by other musicians, record collectors, and serious New Orleans music fans alike - the Bo-cognoscenti, so to speak.

Of course, because I am one of those fans, Eddie's musical exploits have often been a topic of my random musings here; but even if I weren't, it would be difficult to avoid talking about him, he was so wrapped up in the New Orleans music business for so long. If you're interested, I've listed links to most of my previous posts on Eddie's various recordings below *; and the music for those is in regular rotation on the HOTG webcast. Also, let me again recommend an outstanding site for either casual or serious Bo research from another dedicated fan: Martin Lawrie's incredible, illustrated Eddie Bo Discography at sougeneration . To get a profound sense of just how prolific Eddie was, I encourage you to browse around at Martin's site sometime, many times - it is one awesome resource.

As I mentioned in my previous post on Eddie's passing, Larry Grogan over at Funky 16 Corners and Red Kelly at The "B" Side are also doing some fine special tributes to Bo; and I encourage you to check them out, hear what they have to offer, expand your Bo-consciousness. Over the next month or so, I am going to be taking my own stock of Mr. Bocage's career, starting at the beginning here today. I've been pulling out and will be posting some tracks from the archives that Eddie was involved in both as a performer and producer, and hope to give you a sense of how he began his studio adventures, quickly got into the thick of things, and made important contributions to his hometown's music legacy.


With numerous family members employed both in the building trades and as musicians, plus a mother who reportedly could run some mean, barrelhouse piano a la Professor Longhair, Eddie Bo had the genetics and early influences to develop several skill sets that served him well in life: carpentry, piano playing, and funk. Like many of his contemporaries in the late 1940s, service in the armed forces allowed him to pursue serious musical studies at Grunewald's School of Music once he returned home, which expanded his musical reach. He was drawn to the intricacies of the newly emerging bebop style of jazz and envisioned it as his career path. But, as he began playing professionally around town, he had a practical revelation that diverted him toward popular music. As he told Jeff Hannusch in The Soul Of New Orleans, "I was a turncoat. I started out playing jazz and that's what I really wanted to play. But I switched to rhythm and blues because that's where the money was at the time."

Eddie's story up to this point was typical of many of his fellow music school graduates back then, and one of the reasons why New Orleans became such a great R&B town after World War II. It was full of strong veteran musicians plus up-and-comers who had serious chops and a desire to play jazz but couldn't make financial ends meet doing it. So they took work playing the simpler rhythmic jump music (a/k/a R&B and rock 'n' roll) that most of the club go-ers and kids listening to records wanted to hear and dance to. The complexities of modern jazz, especially bebop, were mostly relegated to late night jam sessions. Bo, like many of the best, put his own local flavor into the popular music he played, setting it apart from the R&B from other areas of the country.

By the mid-1950s, he was using the nickname, 'Spider', that he had acquired as a boxer while in the service,and was leading his own band, the Spider Bocage Orchestra, holding down regular club gigs and touring behind various better known artists of the day. His first opportunity to record came from Johnny Vincent, who heard Eddie playing at a club and enlisted him to record for his new label, Ace Records. As pianist, Bo was in the session band backing Al Collins on the very first Ace release (#500) in 1955, "I Got The Blues For You" b/w "Shuckin' Stuff", which did not get airplay because the lyrics were deemed too dirty. Vincent also cut several sides with Eddie on lead vocal, and chose "Baby" and "So Glad" for release as Ace's second single, re-naming him Little Bo for the occasion.

"So Glad" (Bocage)
Little Bo, Ace 501, 1955
(tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)

As you can tell from "So Glad" , Eddie's debut as a featured recording artist was standard R&B fare that did not set the world on fire; but it was a solid performance and at least a start. Vincent did not follow-up right away with any more sessions; and, in the meantime, Eddie got scooped up by the Apollo label out of New York and recorded a single for them in New Orleans. For the A-side, he took Collins' "I've Got the Blues For You" and put a new musical spin on it with fresh, more radio-friendly lyrics, and called the result "I'm Wise". Released in 1956, the song quickly became popular in New Orleans and regionally, but didn't go any farther on its own. Then, later that year Bo managed to make indirect rock 'n' roll history when Little Richard appropriated "I'm Wise" during his seminal hit-making sessions in New Orleans for Specialty Records. Richard messed with the words a little, re-titled it "Slippin' and Slidin' (Peepin' and Hidin')", and kicked up the energy level, assisted by some great New Orleans session men. With the killer "Long Tall Sally" on the other side, the single shot to #1 on the national R&B chart and got into the Top 10 of the pop chart - a sure-fire two-fer hit.

"I'm Wise" (Bocage-Collins-Smith)
Eddie Bo, Apollo 486, 1956
(tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)

Back in 2006, I did a post (linked below) on the morphing of "I've Got The Blues For You" into "I'm Wise", then "Slippin' and Slidin'". I'm re-posting Eddie's version because I think it's such an important record in understanding how on top of his game he was early on and the part he played along with other New Orleans musicians and writers in changing the sound and rhythmic thrust of popular music. Little Richard's raw energy won the day in the marketplace, intensified by Earl Palmer's rolling locomotive drum shuffle; but Bo's song was left mainly intact, with its hipster lyrics and the funky push-pull, latin-tinged rhythms he set up. I don't know who played the lighter, syncopated drum groove on "I'm Wise", sounds a little too restrained to be Palmer; but the sax solo was probably rendered by Lee Allen, who often worked off the melody line. Eddie's jazz leanings showed through in his somewhat dissonant, Monk-like piano solo - maybe too esoteric for early rock 'n' roll, but dope nonetheless. It was just the start of the funk infiltrations and quirky musical proclivities that popped up in his productions more and more as time went by.

When Bo's first Apollo single started selling around town, followed in short order by Little Richard's incendiary take, Johnny Vincent rushed out a single on Bo to try to capitalize. He used "I'm So Tired", a plodding blues from Bo's initial Ace session that had not made his debut single; but Vincent had nothing else by the singer for the other side. Ever the conniver, he put an up-tempo dance track on the flip, "We Like Mambo", that had been recorded by one of his new signees, Huey Smith, and released them as Ace 515 with Eddie Bo shown as the artist. As you might predict, the DJs and record buyers went for "We Like Mambo" and it was popular locally - so much so that Eddie had to add it to his set list - none of which pleased Huey Smith, to be sure.

While on the road with his band, Bo cut more sides for Apollo in New York; and four more singles were released, none successful. So, he tried his luck with Chess records, tracking a number of songs under the direction of their man in New Orleans, Paul Gayten . Out of those, two singles were issued, "Indeed I Do" b/w "Every Day, Every Night" on Checker 877 in 1957 and "My Dearest Darling" b/w "Oh, Oh" on Chess 1698 in 1958. Currently at The "B" Side, you can see label scans, read more on these releases and hear "Oh, Oh", a dangerous rocker for sure, plus "Walk That Walk", an unissued track similar in feel to "I'm Wise". When neither of these singles took off, Eddie parted ways with Chess fairly quickly. Later on, in 1960, Etta James covered "My Dearest Darling" on Chess' Argo label and had a big hit with it. In the meantime, Bo reconnected with Johnny Vincent and recorded his next release in late 1958 or early 1959. Ace was hitting on all cylinders by then with multiple charting records by Huey Smith and the Clowns, Earl King, Frankie Ford, and Jimmy Clanton, to name just a few
; and I'm sure Eddie wanted a piece of that action.

"I Love To Rock 'N Roll" (E. Bocage)
Eddie Bo, Ace 555, 1959
(tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)

A swinging mid-tempo rocker, "I Love to Rock 'N Roll" had a very danceable groove and spunky, fun-loving vocal from Eddie. It should have put him up on the national charts with his peers on the Ace roster; but, according to Jeff Hannusch in The Soul Of New Orleans, it too remained a regional seller at best. Very likely, Bo produced this record himself and used drummer Charles 'Hungry' Williams, who was doing a lot of session work for Ace and other local labels, having become the first-call drum man in the city after Earl Palmer moved out to Los Angeles. I consider this number to be a classic example of New Orleans feel-good ensemble playing - with a bounce to it courtesy of Hungry that is just a joy to hear. Neither straight ahead rock nor full second line strutting, it has a flavor all its own, capable of inciting an instant party every time it's played.

Once again, Eddie didn't stay with Ace. Instead, he chose to cast his fortunes with a new company, owned by Joe Ruffino, with two start-up labels, Ric and Ron. Bo signed on with Ric in 1959 as an artist; but Ruffino would soon give him more responsibility and opportunity to shine during his tenure. Eddie not only made some great records on his own, but wrote and produced for some of the city's best young R&B talent on both labels. In the next installment, we'll explore a number of great records Eddie was involved within the few years he worked for Ric and Ron. It was the beginning of a phenomenally productive decade for him.

[Many thanks to Martin for permission to use the two Ace label photos above, taken from his Eddie Bo Discography.]

*Further readings in Bo-consciousness from the HOTG archives:

Heavy Lifting - Al Collins, Eddie Bo, and Little Richard
Strange Fruit
- The Explosions
Hey, Fellas! - Oliver Morgan
How We Roll
- Eddie Bo, unissued (?) Rip Records session
Irma and Eddie Get It Right - Irma Thomas
Home Is Where The Mystery Is - Betty Taylor
As Seen On the Bo Discography - Tommy Ridgley
Four Kings (Part 2) - Tommy Ridgley, Freddy King, and Eddie Bo
Barbara George Remembered
Adams Sings Bo - Johnny Adams
Knowing The Barons. . . - The Barons
From Nookie Boy To The La La Man - Oliver Morgan
Struggles and Bucket Checks: Two Years On - Eddie Bo on Bo-Sound
Art Neville and Two Guys Named Bo
A Case Of Mysterious Musical Alter-Egos - Marie Boubarere
Chuck Carbo
Mary Jane By Any Other Name - Mary Jane Hooper
All Nite Hot Buns...and Hatchets
Eddie, Paul Gayten, Robert Parker, Roger & the Gypsies

March 20, 2009

Eddie Bo Is Gone

This just friend, Tom, host of the New Orleans Big Beat on WEVL in Memphis let me know today that Eddie Bo has passed away. A quick check of Keith Spera's blog for the Times-Picayune today reveals that Eddie died Wednesday of a heart attack. He was 79.

What a body blow this is for his legion of fans. Another influential giant of New Orleans soul and funk from the 1950s onward is no more, an eccentric innovator and a risk-taker who pursued his musical muse against often long odds and frequent adversity up to, including, and beyond the Federal Flood. I am just beginning to take this all in.

Of course, I'll have more to say. . .and play, later on.

Update 3/22/2009: I want to direct y'all over to Funky 16 Corners where the always enterprising Larry Grogan already has a very hip Eddie Bo-related podcast mix of the more funky stuff Eddie was involved in producing/writing, mainly for other artists (although a couple of those "others" were actually Eddie!). Not only that, Larry has re-posted "Hook and Sling" and "Pass The Hatchet". And he's not done yet! So, while waiting for me to summon something up, get down with Mr. Grogan. While I don't work nearly as fast as Larry, his offerings have freed me up to feature some of Bo's earlier work, including productions for other artists, most of which I have not posted before. Stay tuned. . . .

Almost forgot to tell you that I have just added three more Eddie Bo songs to the HOTG Radio stream. They are cuts from several of his self-produced CDs from the 1990s: Eddie Bo And Friends - 1995 (later re-issued as A Shoot From the Root, in Germany - I think), Back Up This Train - 1996, and Nine Yards Of Funk - 1998. Very funky stuff. Enjoy.

Update 3/25/2009: I've learned from OffBeat that there will be a memorial service for Eddie in New Orleans at the Rock 'N Bowl, Wednesday, April 1, from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM - open to all. Alex Rawls adds in his Pop Life blog that Allen Toussaint, Joe Krown, and Marva Wright are scheduled to perform, so far.

Update 3/27/2009: I haven't had much time this week to work up material from my Eddie Bo archives, sorry to say. The good news is that others have their own archives and have been busy. Besides Larry Grogan, who continues his Bo bounty with podcasts and posts at Funky 16 Corners, my bro Red Kelly has a tribute up over at The "B" Side with some tracks from Eddie's Chess recordings and one of his Ric sides. He's done his usual fine job and has saved me some time and bandwidth to boot. Both Larry and Red must be able to blog in their sleep. Check these guys out!! My hat's off to 'em. Hope to have the first part of my Bo restropective up in a day or so and will try to fill in where I can some of the stuff they don't have up. . . .yet. Hint, we're starting at the beginning.

[Update 3/28/2009] Well, after much delay, including a malware attack on my laptop that took an entire day to undo (note: never go to a "free" photo editing site), I have finally got Part 1 of my Eddie Bo retrospective up. See above. I also wanted to hip you to another bountiful Bo tribute mix at Second Line Social. Thanks to Jukeboxmafia for the heads-up. Bo-consciousness abounds.

PLEASE NOTE: I just realized that I neglected to copy the following information from my word processor. Sorry for the late heads-up - but this information has been available at other sites I've linked to, anyway.

A fund has been set up to defray expenses incurred by Bo's family and to continue his musical legacy. Send your donations to
Eddie Bo Memorial Fund
P. O. Box 57175
New Orleans, LA 70157-7175

March 08, 2009

Let's Hear More From Snooks. . . Aw-rite?

I've been burning up what few brain cells I have left trying to remember the first time I saw Fird 'Snooks' Eaglin, Jr. perform live. This lack of specifics has much more to do with my age (and maybe what I was drinking back then) than with the impact of his performance, I'm sure. Fortunately for me, I got to see him play often in New Orleans. So, his always entertaining, go-for-it gigs have all blurred into one big stream of consciousness memorial funfest, making it hard to sift out that one show that got me started. I know it was in the early 1980s, more than likely at Jazzfest; but, whatever the venue and exact date, I immediately became a fan of that extraordinary man, as have so many others who caught his shows out at the fairgrounds racetrack or in a local club, such as the Rock 'n Bowl. Over the years, people would call me when I was doing radio in Memphis, saying they'd been to New Orleans and were knocked out by a guitar player and singer named Snooks - best music they heard; and I have gotten similar comments since I've been doing the blog. He had that effect. As noted here and elsewhere, Snooks passed away on February 18th, just prior to Mardi Gras, at the age of 73. Another of New Orleans' unique voices and talents has slipped away.

As well-known and loved as he was around his hometown, Snooks was not effectively presented as a featured recording artist for most of his career. Besides non-locals discovering him on their vacations, it was not until the 1980s that he made a name for himself outside of New Orleans through his fine recordings for the Black Top label. He was a contemporary in age of both Allen Toussaint, with whom he played as a teenager in his first band, the Flamingos, in the early 1950s, and Art Neville, who headed up a popular rival 1950s band, the Hawketts. As Jeff Hannusch relates in The Soul of New Orleans, Snooks made his first commercial record for Victor Augustine around 1953, when he was about 17: two gospel sides, including "Jesus Will Fix It", released on a 78 billing him as Blind Fird. It had limited local sales. Already known around town for his prodigious guitar chops, he was asked that same year to join James 'Sugar Boy' Crawford's band, replacing guitarist Irving Banister, who had been drafted. As a result, Snooks played on a number of Sugar Boy's recording sessions in New Orleans for Chess Records, including the classic "Jock-A-Mo". When Banister returned from the service, Snooks went back to gigging with the Flamingos, already exhibiting his unique style of spontaneous guitar wizardry and ability to play virtually any popular song the crowds requested, whether the rest of the band could follow or not.

When Dr. Harry Oster and his assistant, Richard Allen, came to New Orleans in 1958 looking for folk artists to record (there was once a market for that), they were for some reason told to go to Snooks' house. Finding him sitting on his porch strumming a guitar, the duo immediately sensed his talent and got his consent to roll tape. Over 50 songs were eventually tracked, most with just Snooks and his acoustic guitars (6 and 12 string), but a number of them had added washboard, harmonica, and vocals by Lucius Bridges and Percy Randolph. The sessions were later released in various combinations by a number of labels including Folkways and Folk-Lyric/Arhoolie. To boost the saleability of the tracks to the purist folklore crowd, Oster's notes for the releases stated that Snooks was a blind street musician. While Snooks had both the lack of eyesight and the repertoire to pull that off, easily playing solo blues, folk, R&B, and other genres, too, he told Hannusch that he had never stood on sidewalks busking for spare change, being much too busy doing R&B and rock 'n' roll in clubs and at dances; but the fabricated notion of Snooks' early days as a street performer still crops up. Meanwhile, in the real world, the Flamingos soon broke up; and Snooks began gigging around town as L'il Ray Charles, playing Charles' repertoire, mimicking his vocal style, and doing well for himself.

Several years after Snooks recorded for Oster, he was signed by Dave Bartholomew to Imperial Records. Bartholomew, who worked for more than a decade with Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis and other Imperial artists as a writer and producer, was still recording local talent for the label. In the early 1960s, he produced records on Snooks, Earl King, Alvin 'Shine' Robinson, Shirley and Lee, Frankie Ford, and Huey Smith and the Clowns. Snooks' first session for Imperial was in the Spring of 1960; and, over the next three years. he cut more than two dozen sides with Bartholomew and had nine singles released. While none really lit up the charts, they sold locally; and Imperial kept releasing more until the California-based label was bought out by Liberty Records in 1963, ending its New Orleans productions.

I only have a couple of Snooks' Imperial singles. A lot of the material Bartholomew had him doing was slow to mid-tempo and often did not allow him to display the edgy energy of his own style of performing. In fact, most of the songs Snooks did were either written or co-written by Bartholomew; or he had the publishing on them. So, it was more about working the boss' catalog than showcasing the artist. Snooks always did a credible and professional job, and occasionally got to shine. But I'd have to say he was not served all that well by his Imperial experience - which is why no one hails these records as classics the way Earl King's originals for the label are revered. I got my overview of the sessions from the CD, Snooks Eaglin: The Complete Imperial Recordings, released by Capitol in the mid-1990s and now out of print. In 2006, I featured a cut from one of my Snooks singles, "Travelin' Mood", and have reactivated the audio on that post. To boot, I'm featuring here the flip side of that single, plus one of the better tracks that Imperial did not see fit to release.

You can also currently hear another number from one of the Imperial 45s at Red Kelly's The "B" Side.

"My Head Is Spinnin'" (R. J. Mitchell & Ford Eaglin)
Ford Eaglin, Imperial 5765, 1961
(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio

"I've Been Walkin'"(R. J. Mitchell & Ford Eaglin)
Ford Eaglin, unissued Imperial
(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio

Recorded in June of 1961, "My Head Is Spinnin'", written by Snooks and R. J. 'Bobby' Mitchell, another local Imperial artist, is a pretty standard R&B/pop song of the day that does not reveal any overt New Orleans roots. The changes remind me somewhat of Arthur Alexander's "Anna", although that tune did not come out until 1962. Maybe Alexander was taking from Snooks. Anyway, the song is a good example of the type of tune Snooks was doing at Imperial, although he at least did have a hand in writing this one. He's pretty subdued vocally (sounds like he might have had a cold!) and musically, although the arrangement is well-done and the song pleasant enough.

On the other side of the coin, we have the much more lively performance of "I've Been Walkin'" from that same session, also written by Mitchell and Eaglin, which never got released, at least not until the Capitol CD came out. It's still played pretty safe, but is upbeat and has some fine guitar soloing. I always like it when Snooks plays something particularly hot and says "yeah", like he does here. I think he has always been his best audience! Besides Snooks, the basic rhythm section for these songs was Frank Fields on bass, James Booker on piano, and Smokey Johnson, drums. Not too shabby. So, why was this one was left in the can?

After Imperial went through corporate assimilation and left most of its New Orleans roster behind (Irma Thomas did record for them later), Snooks made only one more record that decade, the ultra-rare "Cheetah" b/w "Sweetness", both originals, for Eddie Bo's very short-lived Fun label around 1964, where he was shown as 'Lil' Snook. Fun was Bo's first self-owned recording venture; and Snooks was his lead-off artist. But very few copies of the single exist (Hannusch has a label shot of it in The Soul of New Orleans). Needless to say, it was not a big seller. Two decades later, Snooks would reprise those tunes on different Black Top CDs.

As with many R&B artists, the 1960s after the British Invasion hit were tough on Snooks, making it hard to get work. So, he moved out of the city, across the river to the West and spent several years gigging in and around Donaldsonville, LA, before moving back closer to New Orleans around 1970 and starting to play in the city again with the resurgence of interest in the local music scene. He was soon performing at the Jazz and Heritage Festival, where he began playing with Professor Longhair. They toured together for several years and did some recording in Woodstock, New York and Memphis, Tennessee that did not see the light of day for almost 20 years. In June of 1971, Snooks recorded a solo album set up by producer Sam Charters for the Sonet label, which was based in London. Just vocal and acoustic guitar, it was another attempt to pass Snooks off as a folk-blues artist. Though it became the second volume of the label's Legacy of the Blues series, the record was no more to Snooks than some quick money in his pocket. After that, he became involved in a history-making project when Quint Davis, director of Jazzfest, who had hooked Snooks up with Fess, got him into the studio band led by Willie Tee for first Wild Magnolias album sessions in 1973; and the guitarist went appropriately wild with the wah-wah on the psychedelicised funk (see Mardi Gras music post below).

Recording opportunities did not materialize again until 1977, when Charters returned to record a second LP on Snooks for Sonet, Down Yonder, this time with a small combo and more of a New Orleans R&B feel.

"No More Doggin'" (J. L. Hooker)
Snooks Eaglin, from
Down Yonder, Sonet, 1978
(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio

Here's Snooks doing his far more funky take on the Roscoe Gordon classic, "No More Doggin'" (with writer's credit on the record given to John Lee Hooker, who had done a cover version of the song). On D
own Yonder Snooks was backed by some fine hometown players: Ellis Marsalis on piano (a jazz great who has never done many R&B sessions), brothers George and Bob French on bass and drums respectively, and Clarence Ford on sax. They gave him some good grooves and support to work with. But, while Snooks was in fine form, unfortunately, the LP had a near fatal flaw: his guitar was not well-recorded. It sounds like it was plugged directly into the mixing board on some cuts, including this one, giving it an insubstantial tone. On others, the guitar was first run through an overdrive/fuzz effect that made it buzz like a giant wasp. Annoying at best. Had the producer let Snooks plug into an amplifier with a decent microphone in front of it and left off the cheesy effect box, this record would have generated more enthusiasm.

Although Snooks continued to play Jazzfest, often with former Meters George Porter, Jr, and Zigaboo Modeliste backing him, and a few clubs, such as the newly opened Tipitina's, he did not make another recording until 1986, when he was lured into the Southlake recording studio in Metairie by brothers Hammond and Nauman Scott to make an album, Baby You Can Get Your Gun, for their new Black Top label. It is extremely difficult to capture the magic of a performer like Snooks on tape or a hard drive in the controlled confines of a studio; but producer Hammond Scott was able to get the right combination of material, players and vibe to finally give Snooks what he needed to make outstanding recordings. In all Snooks did five albums
* for Black Top, before the label sadly folded near the close of the last century. I hope I am not stepping on any toes, if I include one of my favorite cuts from Snooks' Black Top days that appeared on his second CD, Out Of Nowhere.

"Oh Lawdy, My Baby" (T. Ridgley)
Snooks Eaglin, from
Out Of Nowhere, Black Top, 1989
(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio

On this tune, written and originally recorded in 1953 by the great New Orleans vocalist and bandleader, Tommy Ridgley, Snooks and band stayed true to it's spirit and strong second line groove. Trading solos with guitarist Anson Funderburgh (who also recorded for the label), and saxman Kaz Kazanoff, Snooks let loose with some hot fretwork. Ron Levy was on organ; and drummer Marc Wilson and bassist Rhandy Simmons were, I think, members of Anson's band, the Rockets. I really dig how Snooks slips in a repeating lick from Rufus Thomas' "Walkin' The Dog" on the verses. That's the slyly inventive way he continually mixed things up.

As good as his Black Top albums were, Snooks was always best live, where his in the moment spontaneity and gonzo guitar work would always amaze, entertain and frequently amuse us. Sometimes his taking on virtually any request could be distracting, since he would go through the song trying to sing while calling out chord changes to the band. There is a funny example of this on YouTube, where he keeps losing George Porter on a song and telling him, "Follow me, son!" But everybody forgave Snooks that stuff, because he would turn around and peal off something utterly brilliant on the guitar, and always kept things at least interesting, danceable...and frequently funky. Though he could play myriad songs, he had stock numbers he did at most gigs, including this next one, which is another of my favorites in its original version and Snooksified as here, captured live a few years ago in New Orleans.

"Dizzy Miss Lizzy" (Larry Williams)
Snooks Eaglin
(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio

As Snooks would often tell a crowd, waxing educational from time to time, "This song was done by Larry Williams back in 1958, aw-rite?" Accompanied by George Porter on bass and drummer Kim Joseph, Snooks lets rip some outrageous runs on this pumped-up yet funked-out version of "Dizzy Miss Lizzy", making Williams original classic rock 'n roll record sound almost polite by comparison. Fird Eaglin, Jr. was born of a broken mold, perfectly imperfect, irreplaceable and unforgettable as a performer. He put his stamp on every word, note and chord of every song he played. For those of us who were blessed to have seen him have his way with various and sundry popular songs and shared in the obvous joy he had doing them, things just won't be the same without him around; and we can't help but be diminished by his loss. So, we'll just try to keep jammin' the tunes and remember the good times - aw-rite?

Actually, the Scott brothers put out one more Snooks project in 2002, now out of print, The Way It Is, on their Money Pit label (guess we know how they viewed the music business by that point). On most of it, Snooks is backed by Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. It's definitely one of Snooks' funkiest projects. Try to find a copy somehow.

[More Snooks on YouTube with George Porter, Jr., Jon Cleary, who I forgot to mention earlier, and a drummer who kind of looks like Kenny Blevins. Good stuff.]