FUNKIFY YOUR LIFE - SHOW #6 - PLAYLIST
Air dates: Thursday, September 11, 2014, 1:00 PM, and Friday, September 12, 2014, 9:00 PM, on KRVS 88.7 FM Lafayette/Lake Charles, and online at krvs.org. You can hear a podcast of this show and previous shows on the website under “Programs” anytime.
First off, R.I.P. Cosimo Matassa, who died Thursday, at 88. Since I recorded the show two days earlier, I could not mention it in on-air. I won’t be doing a specific special on Cos for the show or blog, since he was involved in at least 98% of the New Orleans music recorded between the late 1940s and early 1970s.
When considering the real impact Cosimo and his three successive studios had on the city’s musical legacy, you realize that the world-changing popular music of New Orleans, be it R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, soul, funk or jazz might not have have flourished if he had not been there to document it and assist in making available to home turntables, neighborhood jukeboxes, and radio stations far and wide. It literally changed the world, and for the better. He always humbly credited the musicians he recorded for that; but, as the recording engineer (self-taught!!!), Cos was the man who captured the performances on magnetic tape as accurately as he could. In the 1960s, he began mastering and pressing many of those records, too, with the same care and professionalism. The sound he got, under primitive conditions by industry standards, was exceptional. So, every show and post featuring some of those records always has been and always will be a Cosimo special.
Read Keith Spera’s fine obituary on Cos at nola.com and see the video there of author/historian Rick Coleman interviewing the man himself. There has long been a link (Secrets of Cosimo’s Studio) in my sidebar under Resources to another revealing interview with Cos, covering the mainly technical aspects of his recording process. Even if you are not familiar with studio gear, it’s a fascinating glimpse into how he operated.
Sadly, I also note the recent passing of Tim Green, one of New Orleans’ best sax players. He never sought the spotlight, but was highly valued on the scene. I always enjoyed hearing him live and as a contributor to various studio projects over the years.
This week’s show was almost completely sourced from vinyl, with only the lead-off Dr. John cut coming from a CD re-issue, because I cannot locate the LP around here - in the wrong place at the wrong time!
“Funkify Your Life” [Intro] (Neville-Neville-Nocentelli-Porter, Jr-Modeliste) - The Meters - from the Sundazed reissue of their Warner Bros album, New Directions, 2000
"Peace Brother Peace” (Mac Rebennack) - Dr. John - from a MFSL remastered reissue CD containing the original ATCO 1973 LP, In The Right Place, 1995.
Still seeking my original LP copy. It’s around here somewhere. The album had the Meters as rhythm section, with Allen Toussaint producing, and contained the now well-known radio hits, “Right Place, Wrong Time” and “Such A Night”. Not a clinker on it. This tune started my “Peace” set this week, meant to help counteract (“doctorate your soul”, as the song says) the dire memories of this date,thirteen years ago. It also served as the theme song for my WEVL show back in Memphis, where my handle was ‘The Spin Doctor’.
“Smoke My Peace Pipe” (Willie Tee) - The Wild Magnolias - from their Polydor single #14242, 1974.
Written by funkmaster keyboardist, Wilson ‘Wille Tee’ Turbinton, who also arranged the music for the original album, The Wild Magnolias, this trippy track appeared in its full-length form there. The LP came out on Barclay in Europe and Polydor in the US that same year. Tee also put together the backing band, generically dubbed the New Orleans Project by the producer, with members of his own band, The Gaturs, plus his brother, Earl Turbinton on soprano sax, Snooks Eaglin on guitar, and various of the WM on percussion.
The album was the first of two Philippe Rault produced for Barclay, the result of an historic jam session several years earlier between the Gaturs and WM at a music festival on the Tulane University campus. Quint Davis put on that event, and then produced two obscure singles featuring the Wild Magnolias backed by Tee and various other funk musicians, before Rault came to town. Lead vocals were by Theodore Emile ‘ Bo’ Dollis, Big Chief of the Mild Magnolias, who were (and still are) a part of the rich and once mysterious Mardi Gras Indian tradition in New Orleans.
“Peace Begins Within” (LeFevre, et al) - Bobby Powell - from his original Whit single #6908, 1971.
This is Bobby Powell’s cover version of the song originally recorded by Christian rocker Mylon LeFevre in 1970 on his Mylon album that was produced by Allen Toussaint. On this version, the great, ear-catching arrangement was by label-owner Lionel Whitfield. It was probably recorded in Baton Rouge, home of Powell and the label.
“That’s All A Part Of Lovin’ Him” (Jerry Strickland-Bobby Patterson) - Tommie Young - from her original Soul Power single #114, 1972.
As I said on the show, Bobby Patterson, soul singer, producer, arranger and writer, discovered the gifted singer, Tommie Young, in Dallas, where she was predominantly doing gospel, and brought her to Shreveport to record for the new Soul Power label he had started with producer/writer Jerry Strickland, who ran Sound City studio. Over the next two years, she sang material, much of it written by Patterson and Strickland, that was released on six singles and one album. Several of the songs charted, but didn’t really sell especially well or get much airplay outside the South. They probably could have done better had she toured to help promote them. With no breakout national hit, Young went back to Dallas and gospel after her run with Soul Power, but did get wider attention in 1978, when she sang on the soundtrack to Cicely Tyson’s movie, A Woman Called Moses.
For more details, see what the intrepid crew at Soul Detective had to say about her.
“Walking On A Tightrope” (Percy Mayfield) - Percy Mayfield - from his original Brunswick LP, Walking On A Tightrope, 1969.
Often called “The Poet Of The Blues”, Mayfield started life in Minden, LA, located east of Shreveport, in the northwest part of the state. After high school, he began writing songs and pursued a singing career in Texas, then relocated to Los Angeles by the late 1940s, where he soon made a name for himself and had numerous hits as a featured artist. For more details on this incredibly prolific and talented man, check out his bio.
This particular album of all original material for Brunswick was probably recorded in Chicago, where the label was based. Being 1969, there was a lot of funkiness going in the playing and arrangements.
“Gotta Be Funky” (Bobby Rush-Calvin Carter) - Bobby Rush - from his original On Top single #2000, 1972.
Bobby Rush, grew up in Homer, LA, right up the road from Minden, not far from the Arkansas line. When he was a teenager, his family relocated to Arkansas, where he began his performing career; and, by the 1960s, he was active on the Chicago blues scene and started recording, having some success with upbeat boogaloo R&B. By the start of the next decade, his music had moved to the distinctly funky side, and his lyrics and stage act got raunchy. He recorded sporadically and stayed on the road, playing the southern “Chitlin; Circuit” for decades. But it wasn’t until the turn of the century that things took off, as he has recorded a series of well-received CDs, still highly funkified, and won numerous awards from the Blues Foundation. For some more info, see my posts from 2006 and 2007 on two of his singles released by the Jewel label.
“Cha Dooky Doo” (M. Vince) - Art Neville - from his original Special single #637, 1958.
Art Neville, oldest of the Neville brothers, one of New Orleans’ most well-known musical families, was a bandleader and solo recording artist long before he formed the Meters in the late 1960s, and brought his siblings together as a supergroup a decade later. At 17, he joined the Hawketts as pianist and singer, and the popular local band recorded the classic “Mardi Gras Mambo”, which came out on Chess Records. They remained active on the local scene; and in 1956, Harold Battiste, who was handling A&R for Specialty Records, offered Art a contract as a solo artist. Meanwhile, he and the Hawketts became the road band for another Specialty artist, Larry Williams. “Cha Dooky Doo” was released in 1958, and sold well, giving Art more exposure; but he was soon drafted and went into the Navy. Although Specialty released another single on him, his inability to tour to promote his records caused the label to cool on him. On his return, he moved on to work with Allen Toussaint at Instant Records in the early 1960s.
Frequently noted on this track is the distorted guitar sound, that was very influential, but not done on purpose. I forget which, but the amp either had a cracked speaker or a loose tube. But that fuzz tone would become increasingly popular in rock music over the years. For more on two of Art’s solo sides from later in the 1960s, see my 2007 post.
“High Cotton” (Lloyd Lambert) - Lloyd Lambert and His Band - from their Specialty single #553, 1955. Lambert was a bassist and bandleader from New Orleans, who was the first in town to use the electric version of the instrument. When Guitar Slim signed with Specialty and started recording, he was backed by Lambert’s band in the studio and on the road. This mid-50s instrumental by the band featured the quirky piano work of Lawrence Cotton and some great growling sax work by Joe Tillman.
“No Buts, No Maybes” (Roy Byrd) - Professor Longhair - from a 1980s reissue single of his original 1957 ebb 45 #101.
The groove-wear on my ebb copy was just too noisy for good radio listening. So, I used the clean reissue instead - which is also why I kind of misspoke on-air about this set being all Specialty sides. You can hear the original version on my post from earlier this year on cool piano tracks by Fess, Ray Johnson, and James Booker.
“Baby Don’t You Do It” (Holland-Dozier-Holland) - Alvin Robinson - from his original ATCO single #6581, 1968.
Known in musical circles as ‘Shine’, the late singer/guitarist Alvin Robinson remains a severely under-recognized New Orleans artist in the Ray Charles mold, who made some great records few have heard. For more details on this single and his activities in the late 1960s and early 1970s, check my 2010 post. Marvin Gaye did the original version of this tune in 1964.
“Chained” (F. Wilson) - The Sister and Brothers - from their Calla single #175, 1970.
This 45, as did the Baton Rouge group’s first on Uni (I played a cut on show #3), featured Geri Richard on lead vocal. Here, she did a song originally recorded by Marvin Gaye for Tamla in 1968. For more details on Richard and this Calla single, see my 2008 post.
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (N. Whitfield-B. Strong) - Ray Johnson - from his original In-Arts single #107, 1968,
Another Marvin Gaye-related track, this time recorded by keyboard professor Ray Johnson, who I also featured on show #3. For more backstory on his incendiary instrumental version of the tune, see my 2012 post on several of his singles.
“Jump Into Your Love” (Ernie K-Doe) - Mr. Ernie K-Doe and the Olympia Music Co. - from his Syla single (no number), ca late 1980s.
Speaking of incendiary. This track knocks you back as soon as the horns blast after the short drum countdown, grabs your backside, and shakes you around like a ragdoll. As I noted in my 2008 post on this 45, it was his last vinyl release, as far as I can tell; and the fact of the medium employed meant that not all that many people could hear it, except maybe on some old club jukeboxes somewhere, and the turntables of WWOZ and WTUL, where surely it got some non-commercial airplay. Anyway, I can’t improve on what I said about the single there, so read it, if you dare.
“Who’s Gettin; Your Love” (Willie Hutch) - Etta James - from her original T-Electric LP, Changes, 1980.
The making of this album, produced/arranged by Allen Toussaint and recorded at Sea-Saint, was a saga that lasted several years on and off, as two different record labels were involved, then uninvolved in the process, before MCA stepped in to complete the sessions and release the LP on T-Electric. I discussed that backstory in a 2011 post on the late great drummer, Herman Ernest.
“Love Grows On Ya” (Ed Volker) - The Radiators - from their Epic LP, Zig-Zaggin’ Through Ghostland, 1989.
About a decade after the Radiators got their start, they were signed to a major label, Epic, who released three albums on them in the late 1980s. Zig-Zaggin’ was the second. Despite having some impressive material, it has been long overlooked and underheard. Their first for the label, Law Of The Fish, had their radio “hits”; but Epic pretty much stopped promoting them as soon as the initial buzz cooled off. Though definitely a rock band, the Rads were always too eccentric and eclectic in their influences and creative process to fit into any mainstream record company niche. They had a long and successful career doing their own thing on independent labels, their own and others, and, of course tearing it up on stage. They were meant to be experienced live. Hope you were around for some of that before they retired. If not, catch a reunion show - they still do ‘em occasionally.
“The Point” (Mac Rebennack) - Mac Rebennack - from his original AFO single #309, 1962.
Mac (a/k/a Dr John, later in the decade and beyond) had not been playing organ long when the recorded this 45 for AFO, with another great tune, “One Naughty Flat”, on the flip. Quick learner ain’t the half of it. I covered this record in my 2012 post on organ instrumentals.
“Red Dress” (see notes) - Chosen Few Brass Band - from their original Syla LP, The Chosen Few Brass Band, 1985.
During their brief run, the Chosen Few were led by tuba master Anthony ‘Tuba Fats’ Lacen, who had earlier helped the Dirty Dozen Brass Band get off the ground. This tune is actually an uncredited instrumental version of Tommy Tucker’s 1964 R&B classic, “High Heel Sneakers”, a worthy addition to the brass band repertoire. Since this was a ULL football weekend, it seemed a red dress was appropriate attire for the second line out.
On yeah, and….WHO DAT!!!