April 03, 2011

The Importance of Herman Ernest, Part 1

* [Update 5/15/2011: I am late in reporting the passing of Sam Henry, Jr., long-time music educator, keyboardist, composer, side-man, arranger, and band-leader, who is mentioned below in this post and in Part 2, and has been a focus in several other previous posts. He died on April 23rd and will be missed. I recorded several hours of background interviews with Sam a few years ago, and hope to use them to do a feature on him later this year. My condolences to his family, friends, fellow musicians and fans for their loss. Peace]

It’s been a while. This time, I’ve got the first part of what has grown into a fairly huge tribute to the great New Orleans drummer, Herman Villere Ernest, III, known to many on the scene as “Roscoe”, and occasionally called “Herman the German” by his long-time musical collaborator and employer, Mac Rebennack, a/k/a Dr. John. As previously noted, Herman
passed away on March 6, the Saturday before Mardi Gras, after a lengthy fight with cancer.

The more I’ve thought about his incredible musicianship and enormous body of work, the more I’ve had to write - this blog, of course, being as much about my own obsession as it is a resource that others might find informative and maybe even entertaining. Even if the audio on HOTG weren’t sourced predominantly from vinyl, I could never cover more than a mere smidgen of the sessions Herman recorded over a career that spans some 40 years. Take a look at his impressive session credits, though incomplete, at Allmusic to get a feel for his range.

For help with this effort, I have enlisted background from Danny Jones, who engineered numerous sessions at Sea-Saint when Herman was holding down the groove and humorously holding forth between takes; and, I consulted another always helpful source, Dwight Richards, drummer for Chocolate Milk, who knew Herman from way back. I truly appreciate their information and insights. Danny’s recollections will help fill in on Part 2.

ON THE ROAD EARLY ON

I’ve uncovered very little information about the youthful musical foundations of Herman Ernest, born in 1951 and, as far as I know, a lifelong resident of New Orleans. Obviously, coming up, Herman got a great musical grounding in the Home of the Groove, his fine-tuned musical instincts and strong rhythmic sensibilities enhanced by the cultural osmosis of second lines, Mardi Gras Indian runs, and myriad other opportunities to hear exceptional players performing at events across the city. If you have more details about his younger days to share, please contact me.

The same age as Herman, Dwight Richards started a band in the late 1960s called the Deacons with fellow students from St. Augustine High School. He told me he did not run into Herman on the active teen music scene in those days, and learned from the program handed out at the funeral that Herman had been in the Job Corp for a while after high school, which might explain why. It was a few years later, in the early 1970s, that the two crossed paths.

Around 1971, just out of his teenage years, Herman was hired on as drummer in vocalist King Floyd's new road band, the Rhythm Masters; and they began to tour hard on the strength of Floyd’s funk hit, “Groove Me”. Guitarist Teddy Royal, who I did a big feature on back in 2006, was also in the group, having been recruited by Floyd when the band was in New York City.

As Royal recalled, the rest of the rhythm section at the time consisted of conga player Eddie Folk, plus the Dabon brothers, Ernest on bass and Robert (‘Rock’) on keyboards. Because the house band at Malaco Studio was backing Floyd on his records, the Rhythm Masters did not cut anything with the singer; but, they did get a chance to record there, making their own 45 which came out on the one-off Success label. It was surely one of Herman’s earliest appearances on vinyl.




“I Can Do Anything You Can Do” (King Floyd - Teddy Royal)
Rhythm Masters, Success 100, ca 1972
Hear it on
HOTG Internet Radio

I posted the flip side of this single, “Black Conversation”, on Part 1 of my Royal piece; and the audio is in rotation on the HOTG webcast. While Teddy was the main creative instigator on the songs, the band contributed to the process and developed the hip, jazzy R&B arrangements themselves. The basic melody of “I Can Do Anything”, originally titled “NIckle Bag” (those were the days!), was based on the Deep South folk tune (and New Orleans brass band standard,) “Li’l Liza Jane”, which was the only thing about the record that might have sonically hinted at a Crescent City connection. Although the two instrumental sides were well-played and enjoyable, the 45 was never widely heard, and so did not live up to the commercial promise implied in the label’s name. The only release these cool young guns had as the Rhythm Masters, the 45’s limited run has made it a relatively hard to find collector’s item some 40 years on.

Eddie Folk’s conga playing was so prevalent on the tracks that Herman’s contributions to the grooves were understated to avoid rhythmic clutter; but his subtly syncopated accents and breakdowns on the hi-hat throughout can clearly be heard. Tasteful, savvy playing from someone still learning the ropes.

The Rhythm Masters split from King Floyd after a year or two of touring, because the singer had a habit of leaving them stranded on the road and not paying them regularly, and was generally hard to work with and for. Going out on their own, they changed the band name to World Blues and started gigging around New Orleans, utilizing several impressive singers during their run, including Larry Hamilton, C. P. Love, and Marilyn Barbarin. It was at that point that Dwight Richards, who was still gong to Loyola University at the time, started seeing the band play around New Orleans and met Herman through the Dabon brothers, who had also played in the Deacons.

In 1974, the brothers left World Blues to join with Dwight and others in Chocolate Milk; and, in short order, the new outfit had a management and production deal through Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn’s Sansu Enterprises, got a recording contract with RCA, and began tracking their first album at Sea-Saint around the time of the sessions for LaBelle’s Nighbirds album. Herman was the primary drummer on the two Toussaint-produced LaBelle LPs, so he would frequently run into Chocolate Milk at the studio.

After World Blues, Herman formed another club band with Teddy Royal called Cypress, which had a strong female lead singer - though no one I’ve talked to seems to remember her name! Teddy left the band in the mid-1970s to tour as band-leader with Malaco hit-maker Dorothy Moore; but Herman kept Cypress going, though his side projects were having much better results.

Throughout this period, Herman had been getting session work at Toussaint and Sehorn’s new Sea-Saint Studios. So, we need to backtrack a bit to discuss how that came about and led to the break that boosted his professional reputation and took him into the next important phase of his career.

MOVING ON UP TO TOUSSAINT

By the time I showed up [at Sea-Saint], Herman already was in there - he had a chair; and I came in as new kid on the block as far as sessions were concerned; but, after that, things began to rotate, and at times it was either me, Herman, or even Zig [plus several others fine drummers here and there, such as Bunchy Johnson] on different projects, or sometimes on the same project, playing on different songs. Herman and I were both on the Lee Dorsey album [Night People], for example....

Herman knew everybody in our band...and would come to our sessions and rehearsals and just hang out. Eventually, our bass player, David Barard, and Herman would start working with Dr. John. One thing about Herman, he always had a lot of stories, always had something to laugh about, was always imitating somebody and making a big production out of a joke.

As a drummer, I always admired his playing. I wouldn’t necessarily say he always played a strictly funky style, but he always played with a groove....He could make a groove out of anything! He came up with that beat on “Lady Marmalade” and the distinctive beats on “Night People”; but I’d say he generally had a more straight ahead style, and a perfect example is what he did with the Neville Brothers [the Fiyo on the Bayou album] on their version of those Meters songs you talked about on your blog. He gave them a groove that appealed to the masses instead of that purely New Orleans funk thing you could only understand if you drink our water.

Herman was doing more sessions at Sea-Saint that anybody...and, besides just being a good drummer, it absolutely had to be because he was best at taking directions from Allen.
- Dwight Richards

Several years ago I also had several long conversations about the early days at Sea-Saint with Sam Henry, Jr.*, one of the founding members of the legendary New Orleans funk band, the Soul Machine. A regular keyboardist and arranger at the studio throughout the 1970s, Sam told me that he used Herman on sessions there even before the studio officially opened in 1973. Having written a number of new songs, Sam asked Toussaint for and was granted permission to use the still “untuned” studio to record demos. Getting his foot in the door working with Sam was the key to Herman becoming quickly recognized at Sea-Saint as a versatile, dependable drummer; and being at the right place a the right time would soon really pay off for him.

You may recall that, starting in 1968, the Meters had been Sansu’s house band for production projects on Lee Dorsey, Betty Harris, Eldridge Holmes, and many others. After the group started recording hits of their own, Sehorn got them a long-term album deal with Warner Brothers in the early 1970s. At the same time, Toussaint also was signed to WB as an artist, songwriter and producer, which helped bring in the seed money to get the Sea-Saint facilities built, as there were no up-to-date recording studios in the city at the time.

When Sea-Saint was ready for the big time later in 1973, an opportunity opened up for Herman, because the Meters’ drummer, Zigaboo Modeliste, had various issues with Sansu and could no longer tolerate playing Toussaint’s strictly micro-managed arrangements - often detailed down to each an every beat. For the most part, Zig simply quit playing on the producer’s sessions for other artists. At first, Toussaint turned to Smokey Johnson, a legendary, go-to session drummer back in the 1960s, but soon realized that Herman had the perfect blend of chops, discipline, and adaptability in the studio. Even more importantly, Herman seemed to have the temperament to work under Toussaint’s demanding standards. One of the first calls for a session Herman got, if not the first, from Toussaint was a big one, working on what would be the breakthrough album for LaBelle, the high-energy female vocal group fronted by Patti LaBelle.




“What Can I Do For You” (James Ellison - Edward Batts)
LaBelle, from Nightbirds, Epic,1974
Hear it on
HOTG Internet Radio

For the sessions, Herman plus Art Neville, George Porter, Jr. and Leo Nocentelli of the the Meters served as the rhythm section, supplemented by Toussaint on piano and percussion, and several key members of LaBelle’s band. Herman played on every track except two assigned to Smokey Johnson; and I’m beginning to think he might actually have been called in to replace Smokey on the sessions.

“What Can I Do For You”, written by LaBelle’s guitarist and keyboard player, would be one of two hits pulled from the album, but the far more modest one, only getting into the mid-level of the Hot 100. An extremely athletic trio of powerful vocalists, who put copious energy into their performances in the studio as well as onstage, LaBelle required songs that had sufficient intensity and drive to bring out all they had to offer. Just listening to the tracks on Nightbirds is a workout; and I’m sure the players’ stamina was put to the test repeatedly on the sessions.

Particularly amazing on this track is the long ride-out which contains a riveting break-down on which Herman again works his hi-hat magic. It never fails to re-align my nervous system. Toussaint’s impressive arrangement is definitely one of his signature multi-instrumental, poly-rhythmic adventures, a complexly constructed mechanism of interacting parts with very tight tolerances and absolutely no room for error. Everyone had to be on top of their game to pull it off so flawlessly.

As for Herman, I think you can hear that he was playing some rather odd patterns in the body of the song, almost more like some proto-drum machine at times, which indicates to me that he was reproducing Toussaint’s drum line ideas, kept fairly spare because there was a lot of conga playing on the album (which, I believe was rendered by Toussaint himself, by the way). That Herman had the chops and attunement to play prescribed, idiosyncratic patterns, turn them out as an infectious groove, and keep the whole over-the-top shebang under control is testament alone that he was a top-notch drummer - and proof that Toussaint had chosen wisely.

Of course, the mega-hit on this LP was “Lady Marmalade”, which rose to #1 on the pop chart in 1975, somewhat surprisingly, since it sounded like nothing else on the radio - raunchy lyrics, sassy vocals dripping with attitude, and definitely strutting its funky stuff. The unlikely writers of the tune were Bob Crewe, who had a long history in mainstream pop music, penning numerous hits for the Four Seasons, and the younger Kenny Nolan, who also did the falsetto lead vocal on the far from funky original version of the song by the Eleventh Hour, recorded earlier in 1974. Hearing that record, Toussaint had the audacity to re-imagine it, tricking-out the presentation so that LaBelle and company could have their way with it and take the little alternative tourism fantasy from Super-8 to 3-D. They must have left a window open over on Clematis Street during the session, because track is imbued with so much local heat and humidity that, to this day, some people think Allen wrote it himself.

As noted by Dwight and other sources, it was Herman who suggested to Toussaint the beat that nailed down the “Lady Marmalade” groove, which split the difference between the straight-ahead drive that would soon be way over-exposed in the disco craze, and the more idiosyncratic down and dirty syncopations of local funk. His performance became an impressive part of his professional portfolio, and, to me, demonstrates Herman’s ability to synthesize an off-beat rhythm into something the general public could readily grasp and go ga-ga for on the dancefloor. It also proved that, given the opportunity, Herman could do much more than play as directed. He was a creative collaborator.

With LaBelle’s commercial success came the opportunity for Toussaint to oversee their follow-up for Epic, Phoenix, which came out the next year and was also done at Sea-Saint. While I’ve featured this next song from that LP before here, it’s been a while; and since it’s another tribute to Herman’s ability to handle unusual, complex material, let’s cue it up again.




“Action Time” (J. Ellison - E. Batts - N. Hendryx)
LaBelle, from Phoenix, Epic, 1975
Hear it on
HOTG Internet Radio

On the Phoenix sessions, there was a more of a mix of Sea-Saint regulars with members of Labelle’s band; but Herman was the driving force on every track. Porter and Nocentelli played on most of the songs; but on this one and two others, Carmine Rojas was the bassist. James Booker took over on the organ for all the cuts; and Toussaint added the other electronic keyboards, with James Ellison, LaBelle’s musical director, on acoustic piano. Steve Hughes, and Ed Batts handled the additional guitar parts.

Though Toussaint wrote none of the material, his influence was again all over the record in the highly rhythmic arrangements he orchestrated. Herman seems to me to be again playing pre-determined patterns for the most part on “Action Time”, especially the stop-time vamp that starts the song and separates various segments, but it’s definitely more on the funky side in such a tight-is-loose way that many of the accents and flourishes were likely his own.

What comes off as brilliant to me, no matter who came up with it, is the way Herman’s snare work matches LaBelle’s staccato singing on the ride-out segment, turning it into a celebratory processional march for these outrageous divas. Had it been let lose and left to it own devices, this segment would surely have immediately broken down and morphed into a second line. To my mind, the action they get moving here is down at the other end of the spinal column.

OTHER 70s SESSIONS AT SEA-SAINT AND BEYOND

In 1976, Sansu produced and recorded an album at Sea-Saint for ABC Records on English blues legend John Mayall. Toussaint was at the helm, of course, and contributed all but three of the songs that made it onto the LP. As you might imagine, it was a mismatch of artist and producer, since Toussaint didn’t do blues and Mayall was unsuited for the R&B pop model by any stretch, though it seems ABC was trying to push him toward the mainstream with the usual misguided (if not completely clueless) record company zeal.

Still, the resulting record, Notice To Appear, wasn’t really a train wreck at all, due to some worthwhile material with excellent arrangements and execution. Mayall seems to have been a good sport about doing things according to Toussaint’s playbook, and used his great band on most of the tracks. Though well out of their comfort zone, they pulled the songs off - but the LP was no slamming success in the marketplace. For Mayall fans and the general public, it must have seemed as much a curiosity then as it does today; but, to Toussaint fans, it’s certainly an interesting find not only for the arrangements, but the rarely heard material he brought to it.

On three of his own songs, Toussaint did the tracking with some of his studio regulars, including Herman Ernest, Tony Broussard on bass, and the woefully under-recognized local guitarist, Steve Hughes. I’ve picked a standout example from the LP that again highlights why Herman was an important contributor to the Sea-Saint sound.




“Hale To The Man Who Lives Alone” (Allen Toussaint)
John Mayall, from Notice To Appear, ABC, 1976
Hear it on
HOTG Internet Radio

One of Toussaint’s unique hybrid pop songs, mixing elements of rock, soul and funk with a quirky storyline - sounding something akin to a cross between what Little Feat and Steely Dan were up to - “Hale To The Man” had its debut on this album. As far as I know, it was covered only once, and that was on another Toussaint-produced LP, In A State of Bayou, an instant obscurity by pop rocker Brian Hyland done the next year. For that project, Toussaint literally re-cycled the tune, using the backing track from this session again. By the way, I have no idea why it’s “hale” and not “hail” - other than just being a subset of quirk. It’s not a typo, since it’s also shown that way in the BMI database.

What reaches out to grab you on this original track is the monster playing by the ensemble, inter-connected by Toussaint’s deft arrangement. Everything worked off of Herman’s cookin’ groove, a punchy backbeat drive, perfectly in the pocket, that just kept getting more complex and funkified as the song progressed. It’s all so engaging in fact that Mayall’s vocal limitations and somewhat awkward handling of the lyrics are barely noticed. Meanwhile, I keep imagining Toussaint doing his own version of it, and sincerely hope that happens someday. He would kill on it.

As I think these prior songs demonstrate, Herman had the ability to simultaneously drive a song forward and mess with the beat in creative, poly-rhythmic ways, which surely endeared him to Toussaint, who wrote songs that often walked a jagged edge between genres, and created arrangements that demanded a high degree of rhythmic flexibility. At this point, Herman already had what it took to be hailed as one of New Orleans' finest drummers; and he was just getting warmed up.

Playing on Sansu sessions was not the only game going down at Sea-Saint. Early on, Herman tracked some exceptionally funky drums for Wardell Quezergue’s production of Chuck Simmons’ 45, “Hustler’s Strut”, which later re-appeared with new lyrics as “Lay It On Me”. I featured it in my post on Chuck last year. Senator Jones also had a production line going at the studio during the 1970s, putting out numerous singles and a few LPs by various artists for his own and outside labels. A host of great local players cut those records, including Herman, who appeared on soul-funk instrumentals by saxophonist James Rivers, and some of Johnny Adams’ records, among others.

1976 was also when Herman began a several year stint playing on the road and recording with soulful New York folk-rocker Richie Havens, joined by New Orleans compatriots, Tony Broussard on bass and lead guitarist Darryl Johnson, who were members of Herman’s band, Cypress. As a matter of fact, Havens continued to call them Cypress while they were with him. Broussard did his share of Sea-Saint sessions back then; and Johnson occasionally worked there himself (see Night People). During their time as Havens’ rhythm section, Cypress participated on at least two of his albums, End of the Beginning (1976) and Mirage (1977). Herman may have gotten connected with Havens through William D. ‘Smitty’ Smith, a busy LA (as in Los Angeles) session pianist who came to Sea-Saint in 1975/76 to make his own album with Toussaint, A Good Feelin’, for Warner Brothers , which I'll get to at some point.

When not touring, Herman continued to play studio dates at Sea-Saint; and in 1978 participated in what would be Lee Dorsey’s final album project, Night People.

NIGHT WORK, IF YOU COULD GET IT

As Dwight Richards has told me on several occasions, Toussaint in those days ran his basic tracking sessions mostly at night, starting in the evening hours and often going until dawn. Any given night there were many musicians lounging around Sea-Saint, socializing, playing cards, and eating the food, as they waited to see if they could pick up a session. Besides the core of regular players from Chocolate Milk and the Meters along with Herman, Teddy Royal, Sam Henry and others, a who’s who of the city’s legends could also be found there, including Earl King, James Booker, Irma Thomas (looking to sing backup!!), and even Professor Longhair at times. It was quite a scene.

Knowing that makes it easy to see how Toussaint came up with these lyrics:
Night people. Hanging out. Looking at each other.
Waiting for something to happen.




“Night People” (Allen Toussaint)
Lee Dorsey, from Night People, ABC, 1978
Hear it on
HOTG Internet Radio

I first did a post on this song back in 2005, and it’s well-worth a revisiting. At the time, I was not sure whether Dwight or Herman played on it, as both are listed in the credits for the album as a whole; but we know now, as Dwight has confirmed., that it was Herman who developed the beats for this outright funk excursion.

Sansu’s biggest hitmaker of the 1960s, Lee Dorsey, had been without a record deal since 1971 and was happily working away at his body and fender business, when Toussaint and his partner, Marshall Sehorn, convinced him to make the Night People album in 1977, which Sehorn then placed with ABC for national release - though by all the copies I saw back then in cut-out bins, the company did little or nothing to promote it. As in the old days, Toussaint wrote all the tunes, recorded the tracks with his studio regulars, then had Lee come in and do the vocals.


One wonders how “Night People” could not have been a hit, since it’s a killer track, certainly the highlight of this very well done album, with a signature Toussaint arrangement full of highly rhythmic instrumental interplay*. Despite what the lyrics say, something is definitely happening from moment we hear Herman kick in on his full kit after the intro - an incredible groove.

To me, the hallmark of great funk drumming is that it is a spontaneous creative process. There are no set patterns, as the drummer rarely repeats himself. Essentially, he or she extemporizes, using expertise and poly-rhythmic sensibility to syncopate and break-up the beats repeatedly in unexpected ways while still keeping the groove coherent. Though it may sound effortless to hear, that’s where the high level of skill comes in, because truly funky drumming is obviously complex, with a far higher math involved than standard playing; but it has to be so ingrained in the drummer that it’s virtually instinctual - you can’t think about what you are doing, or you’ll lose it. It’s all happening in the moment, too fast for conscious computation or reflection.

The amazing thing about Herman Ernest is that he could play the full-out funky of “Night People”, or scale it back and use those tricks to subtly enhance a more straight-ahead approach, as a song or arrangement required. That, for me, is what pushes him up into world-class territory.

*[Players on individual tracks of Night People weren’t shown, but on the list for the album as a whole were the cream of the late 1970s crop at Sea-Saint: Herman and Dwight on drums; ‘Afro’ Williams and Kim Joseph on percussion; David Barard on bass; Toussaint, Robert Dabon, James Booker and Marcel Richardson on keys; guitarists Darryl Johnson, Steve Hughes, and Eugene Synegal; with Amadee Castenell and Joe Smith on horns.]

TO MAC AND BACK

Since Herman’s death, I’ve read in several obits comments by Dr. John saying that they played together for almost 40 years. Now, I don’t want to fault his memory or mathematical skills; but it does not appear that Mac regularly recorded or played live with Herman until the mid-1990s, after his long-time drummer, Fred Staehle, left the band. Without a doubt, though, Herman was a valuable asset to Mac’s shows and albums for many years after that, but the earliest evidence of Herman being in the band I have found is on a concert at Montreux in 1995, which may be available on DVD. Also, try the 1996 concert CD, Trippin’ Live, with Dr. John and band recorded in London at Ronnie Scott’s club, for a great example of Herman’s contributions during that period. Over the ensuing years, he would go on to become the musical director of the group, as well.

Actually, Mac is not that far off the mark, in one sense. He and Herman had a connection that went pretty far back. While it's possible that they first met at Sea-Saint in 1974, when parts of Dr. John's
Desitively Bonnaroo album were being cut there, they seem to have first worked together later in the 1970s when Mac did two Dr. John album projects for Horizon Records, a subsidiary of the A&M label.

In Mac’s book,
Under A Hoodoo Moon, first published in 1994, there is a grand total of one mention of Herman, more or less in passing, discussing a group of musicians Mac was involved with during the recording of his Horizon LPs, City Lights (1978) and Tango Palace (1979), produced by the legendary Tommy LiPuma. Not only did those musicians participate on the sessions to varying degrees, some of them also backed Dr. John on a limited number of gigs to promote the releases. Having become affiliated with A&M though his work on Richie Havens’ two records for the label, Herman gained entry into that group with Mac, and possibly did play some gigs with him at the time. More importantly, Herman was asked to lay down grooves on four Tango Palace tracks, recorded in Hollywood.



“Renegade” (Mac Rebennack - Gerry Goffin)
Dr. John, from Tango Palace, A&M/Horizon, 1979
Hear it on
HOTG Internet Radio

Neither City Lights nor Tango Palace got much commercial traction; but the former certainly has come to be considered one of Mac’s classics. While Tango Palace doesn’t share that consensus, mainly due to its inconsistent songwriting, the performances by Mac and the diverse collection of top-shelf session players**, some from New Orleans, but many not, were outstanding; and Herman more than held his own by comparison with the other formidable drummers on the sessions, including the legendary Steve Gadd.

Mac wrote the clever, catchy “Renegade” with pop song-stylist Gerry Goffin, who had much success years earlier creating hits with Carole King. In Herman’s hands, the song had a strong, bouncing strut to it, anchored by his in-the-pocket backbeat, spiced up with funky fills. On top of that, LiPuma and co-producer Hugh McCracken added plenty of supplemental percussion, including multiple marimbas, and a nice breakdown just past the halfway point over which Mac did his own kind of rapping.

The Horizon label folded soon after the release of
Tango Palace, which, as a result, never had a chance. After that, Dr. John went without a major label record deal in the US for a decade and continued to fight his heroin addiction, before mounting a comeback in the late 1980s; but he did continue to do some live performances and was a regular at JazzFest over the years. As I mentioned earlier, the next recording Dr. John did that had Herman on it was Trippin’ Live, followed by the experimental funk of Anutha Zone in 1998. From that point, Herman played on every other Dr. John album up until the latest, Tribal, looks like.

If you know exactly when Herman became a regular or even a substitute drummer in Mac’s live band, let me know; as I just can’t recall when I first saw him at one the their shows.

**[Tango Palace players: Dr John, keyboards; Abe Laboriel, bass; Steve Gadd, Herman Ernest, and Andre Fischer, drums; High McCracken, Alvin Robinson, guitars; Fred Staehle, Steve Gadd, Herman Ernest, Paulinho Da Costa, Neil Larsen, Ronnie Baron, percussion; plus a large horn section arranged by Harold Battiste and Dr. John; and tons of backing vocalists including Tami Lynn and Ronnie Baron.]

Stay tuned for Part 2, which I hope to have up in a week or so, give or take, right as festival season kicks in. I’ll have some more of Herman’s work for Toussaint at Sea-Saint from around 1980, maybe a song or two from those Richie Havens LPs, plus a little something extra to close it out.

SELECTED ROSCOE-VISION:
Herman Roscoe Ernest III
The Drummers Cometh
Dr John & the Lower 911

9 Comments:

Blogger ana-b said...

Excellent. Another post I should just copy and save in my files. I had no idea Ernest played on so many records.

I'm looking forward to part 2.

1:03 PM, April 06, 2011  
Blogger Lois said...

Wow..this was great information. Herman was my brother inlaw and I never knew all this stuff. I'm forwarding this link to my sister, Joyce. I'm sure she'll want to keep a copy of this.

Great Job.

9:47 PM, April 08, 2011  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Thanks, ana. As usual, Part 2 has been delayed a bit, as I didn't get it finished before French Quarter Fest. Hope, by JazzFest!

Lois, glad you found this stuff informative. If anyone in the family has any information about Herman's musical training, do let me know. Appreciate your getting in touch!

10:47 PM, April 08, 2011  
Anonymous Cebrina K. Sanders said...

Herman was my stepfather. I remember as a little girl the times he would be up late perfecting his "funk" and how excited he would be about traveling the world, especially working with LaBelle. My mom and him had a wonderful time when Patti came to record in New Orleans, and someone from Antoine Domino to the musicians with Chocolate Milk frequented our home. He was a wonderful father, son, friend and most of all a great musician. Thank you for your education on my Dad, he's sorely missed.

4:01 PM, April 29, 2011  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

It's my honor to be able to bring information about Herman to y'all. Part 2 is coming up - delayed by festival season.

I heard numerous comments yesterday at JazzFest from musicians on stage paying tribute to Herman. He is missed!

2:11 PM, April 30, 2011  
Blogger Big Pete said...

Hey Dan - I'm just catching this article now, and I'm so glad I found it. Thanks to you I'm listening to Solomon Burke's record Sould of the Blues right now. first track - right there, you hear Herman's swinging cross-stick snare trick he does on Maceo Parker's record. He was the man - and I am so glad so many folks appreciate what he did. Thanks for the writing. I'm gonn go get Phoenix right now!

8:26 PM, June 16, 2011  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Thanks, Big Pete. Keep groovin' on Herman's hittin'.

11:28 PM, June 16, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great info. Thank you for posting this. Along the time of playing with Richie Havens, Herman and his band played the First Bermuda Jazz Festival. This is were I first met up with them. Incredible musicians!! Herman will be misseed!1

2:40 PM, January 20, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember talking to Herman on the phone after The Richie Havens Concert in Central Park New York. He said when the band hit the last note of the last song, Bam! every light went out in New York. He walked up many flights of stairs to get back in his hotel room, opened the window listening to sirens and glass breaking while he called home to Nola with another great story! Miss u Tee Tee!

12:51 AM, February 23, 2014  

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