October 01, 2013


I continue working up the next installment in my Big Q series (soon come, children!); but I’m dropping in a post here inspired by the long-awaited return of the Ponderosa Stomp concerts, music conference and record show coming up this week. The series skipped 2012, so anticipation has long been building for the event’s 11th iteration, October 3- 5 in New Orleans. Check their site for more.  

Among the many fine veteran artists featured at this year’s Stomp are four all too rarely heard Louisiana soulmen: Charles Brimmer and Richard Caiton from the New Orleans area, plus James Alexander and Lynn August from Lafayette.

So, what follows are short (for me) takes on five songs from these singers that I find worthy of note for one reason or another.  


I’ve written about a number of records by this fine vocalist over the years, with the most detailed posts having been done around the time he was scheduled to perform at the 9th Ponderosa Stomp in 2010. You can find them in the archives for perusal, dated August 18 and October 5 of that year. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Brimmer bowed out of that performance and did not get back on the bill until this year.. I’m really glad he’s booked again and look forward to being among the crowd of old and new fans there for that rare appearance on this Friday night’s show at Rock ‘n’ Bowl.

Of the four vocalists I’m featuring, Charles Brimmer certainly had the most recorded output, with over a dozen singles and two albums released in a span from the mid-1960s into the 1980s. As promising as a number of those records were, only one, the deep soul classic, “God Bless Our Love”, broke out nationally when Chelsea Records picked it up and put him in  the well-deserved national radio spotlight, albeit briefly.

Back in 2010, I featured a few of his Chelsea sides and have another one up this time; but first
I want to go back to Brimmer’s early days in the studio, when he was recording for Dave Bartholomew’s Broadmoor imprint. He cut three singles for Broadmoor in the late 1960s through an arrangement made with Bartholomew by another producer and small label-owner, Camille Incardona, who had Brimmer under contract.  

I focused on one of his other Broadmoor sides, the funky “What’s That You Got”, in 2010; but this cut took a decidedly different approach, designed to place the singer into the mainstream soul-pop market

"The Feeling Is In My Heart" (Morell Patterson)

Charles Brimmer, Broadmoor, 201-A, 1969

Excuse the sonic extra-crunchiness. This is actually the better of my two copies, both of which are pretty much trashed as far as the playing surface goes. Nicer, better-playing ones can be elusive...and expensive. Despite the prevalent snaps, crackles and pops, the musical content is still well worth hearing [but there are some cleaner copies streaming on YouTube, if you prefer.].. 

As Jeff Hannusch’s segment on Brimmer for The Soul of New Orleans related, Wardell Quezergue handled arrangement duties on sessions for Incardona’s own ABS label, which included Brimmer’s first two solo releases around 1965. It is assumed that Big Q continued to do so on productions for the singer’s Broadmoor sides; and the smooth instrumental  flow in and around the somewhat non-standard song structure strongly suggests his talent and experienced guidance were in play.

With its laid back, yet rhythmic lilt and Brimmers pleasing vocal, the song got airplay and sold well around New Orleans, raising his profile; but Bartholomew lacked the means to obtain national distribution; so the record went no farther. The singer had one more release on the label featuring “What’s That You Got”, as mentioned earlier; but it was not as well received. Disillusioned by the refusal of Incardona and Bartholomew to put out an album on him as they had promised, Brimmer refused to record any more for them during the several years left on his contract. Meanwhile, the exposure he got from his earlier releases allowed him to get better-paying gigs; and he began singing with a popular local band, Oliver and the Rockets,
around that time.

A few years later, Senator Jones, who owned a bevy of micro-labels convinced Brimmer to make records again. As noted, by mid-decade, the Chelsea Records deal brought the singerr his first and only big hit with “God Bless Our Love”, followed by three more singles and two LPs for the label; but none of the follow-ups made lightning strike again.

I’ve featured cuts from both of his Chelsea albums before; but want to catch one funky track from the second one before moving on. His rousing take,makes it easy to understand his appeal as a  live entertainer back in the day.

Charles Brimmer, from Soulman, Chelsea, 1976

First, let’s get past the fact that this song, written by another of New Orleans’ great soulmen, Tony Owens, blatantly rips off the basic structure and groove of Bill Withers’ famous 1972 hit, “Use Me”. Tony took Bill at his word, but luckily escaped legal consequences since the partially purloined tune appeared on a record that did not sell particularly well.

Other than that relative niggle, this is really one of my favorite Charles Brimmer vocals. His super smooth delivery belies the plentiful power he possessed; and he ranged from an always appealing tenor up into his falsetto with the greatest of ease while keeping his rhythmic sense right on the money. First rate stuff.

Musically the track has a much more complex production that Withers’ stripped-down inspiration  Arranger Raymond Jones, who worked for Senator Jones but was also Brimmer’s musical director onstage, brought out more of the Latin feel of the groove and deftly interwove the instrumental elements, including horns, into polyrhythmic counterpoints that took the track  higher. All in all, the artistry in Brimmer’s performance, the impressive arrangement and tight playing  provide reason enough to overlook the song’s derivation. 


I did an overview of Mr. Caiton’s career in June, 2012 as part a post in my Big Q series; and you’re welcome to read it for more details [scroll down a bit more than halfway on that page]. He was one of the last artists to record for Quezergue at Malaco in Jackson, MS. The resulting 45, “Superman”/”I’m Gonna Love You More”, was released on the Malaco label, which had virtually no promotion and very limited distribution. It likely got no play outside of the New Orleans area, and little there, resulting in negligible sales. Today  the record is sought-after by collectors, highly prized for both its rarity and quality.

Most of Caiton’s limited vinyl output is hard to find and pricey when one turns up, which is why I own only one to date; but its easier to find his material in the digital realm. In 2003, Grapevine put out Reflections, a 20 track CD compilation of his work; and downloads of at least some of them can still be purchased.

Around the time that Charles Brimmer was recording for Broadmoor, Caiton began making records with arranger Eddie Williams that were released on the tiny Up-Tight label. In all there were four singles issued, with the second, “Take A Hold Brother And Sister”/”I Will Love You”., being the most well-received. It got a lot of airplay and sales locally, but had no access to extended exposure. I lucked into my copy within the last few years, and am featuring the A-side as an audio snapshot of the artist as a young man.

Richard Caiton, Up-tight 151, 1968

As I noted in my earlier piece, the singer has said that he always had his sights set on writing songs and making records for the national mainstream soul-pop market, which is why you will not hear much of anything in his music that identifies it as coming from his home base. Such is the case with “Take A Hold Brother And Sister”, which flirts with the funky side but owes a lot to the influences of both Curtis Mayfield and Motown.

For an independent project, I am impressed with the high production quality of this session [as is the case for all his Up-tight recordings] in which Williams incorporated strings, horns, organ, and piano, along with bass, guitar and drums into a very effective arrangement that would have fit well into radio playlists of the day.. Caiton’s emulation of Mayfield extended of course to his singing, as he virtually always stayed in his falsetto and had the ability to extend his range even higher as needed. Quite an instrument.

More than his other songs, this one has a strong message, speaking to solidarity and mutual support among his “brothers and sisters” during those days of social upheaval. Such serious themes were appearing more frequently on soul records of the day, with Mayfield again being a leader; and no doubt the record could have been a contender around the country with the right breaks, or had a larger label re-released it nationally. Unfortunately, neither outcome came to pass, as was the sad case with every record Caiton had out.

Having a family and working as an educator, Caiton did not do much live performing when he was making records, and even more rarely thereafter. So, his P-Stomp appearance should be one to savor. Hope it might herald the beginning of more to come. . . .


As you can read in the brief background notes on Mr. Alexander at the Stomp site, his career as a professional vocalist was confined to the 1960s, and he worked mainly in and around his hometown of Lafayette, LA , performing with several bands of the day before joining Lil’ Buck and the Top Cats, Paul ‘Lil’ Buck’ Senegal’s big soul and R&B outfit that toured regionally.
Of course, Lil’ Buck and his new Top Cats have been the backing band at the Stomp for a number of years now, so Alexander’s performance will not only be a reunion but a chance to glimpse what the group was like back then.  

Alexander’s only known recording was on the first of the band’s two singles for the La Louisianne label, based in Lafayette. My copy comes from the digital domain.

Lil’ Buck and the Top Cats, La louisianne 8079, 1968

As this performance attests, Alexander was an affecting soulman and obvious asset to the Top Cats during the five years he was with them.  They primarily covered the hits of the day on the bandstand, and you get the sense that Alexander was the right singer for the job.

This side can be found on the now out of print Kent CD, Lafayette Soul Show, and some commercial download sites, it appears.
After the Top Cats broke up around 1970, Lil’ Buck went on the play with the great Clifton Chenier; and Alexander got out of professional music and went to work in the oil fields to support his family. Glad he’s still around for another shot at the spotlight.


Again, you can catch some quick background on multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Lynn August at the Stomp pages. Growing up in Lafayette and blind since birth, he was a musical prodigy with a career that started early and has had many twists and turns. He played drums for several years with the wild rocker Esquerita, starting in the late 1950s at age 11 (!), then learned keyboards and accompanied himself on solo gigs as a vocalist. In the 1960s, he fronted a big band before going back to solo work in the 1970s. Later in life, he picked up the accordion and got a band together to play zydeco music in the 1980s and 1990s. He still performs solo gigs around Lafayette. When I first moved here about 10 years ago, he was playing weekly at one of the Piccadilly cafeterias in town; and I recall seeing a sign recently in another restaurant saying he would be there.

On the recording front, I first became aware of Lynn August through his 1992 and 1993 Black Top CDs, Creole Cruiser and Sauce Piquante, fine collections of zydeco and R&B material. When he cut his first single in 1966 for the local Tamm label (#2008), he was just in his late teens; and the top side “Little Red Rooster” had a garage band vibe to it. As far as I know, he only had three more singles, one of which I ran across just a month or so ago. I’d never seen it before.

"One Way Ticket" (Glenn Norris)
Lynn August, Preview (no #), 1972

I’ve only had a chance to research this rarity using the RTL (Read The Label) method; but results show that it was produced in nearby Crowley, LA at  J. D. ‘Jay’ Miller’s Modern Sound Studio on the town’s main drag.  Preview appears to have been an in-house imprint for the studio’s production company, which likely released the single in hopes of getting larger label to pick it up.

“One Way Ticket” very much aspired to the style of one of soul singer Tyrone Davis’ mega hits on the Dakar label from a few years earlier,  “Can I Change My Mind”, and several of his similar follow-ups - a tempting target to shoot for, no doubt.  Strangely, just a year prior to August’s 45, Davis had a Top 20 hit also named “One Way Ticket”; but it was a different song altogether.

Vocally, August did a good job selling this number, digging in with grit and conviction; but the production quality and songwriting were not quite impressive enough to get the record beyond the local airwaves. Still, it’s an enjoyable track worth seeking out.

Later, August cut at least two singles and an album for Floyd Soileau’s Maison De Soul label out of Ville Platte, LA.  

He’s playing very late on the Friday show; and the diehards should be in for a treat.


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