March 04, 2005

I'm Guessing Smokey Stole This Show

Nothin' but the devil. . .
"Why You Wanna Do It" (W. Harper - T. Royal)
Willie Harper, c. 1967

Back in December, I posted a funky little number by Willie Harper called “Look At The Clock”, which was written by Harper and guitarist Teddy Royal, produced/arranged by Wardell 'Big Q' Quezergue in the early 1970s, but never released. Just the other day, I found this other way funky tack, “Why You Wanna Do It”, a devilish tale of woman trouble, featuring Harper on vocal and written by the same team, on an old Charly compilation LP called Sehorn’s Soul Farm. The vinyl is in storage; and my notes on my CD burn say only that this cut was unreleased. But from its sound, I’m going to venture that Quezergue produced it, too, around the same time as “Look At The Clock” with probably at least some of the same musicians [note: Teddy Royal had since backed this up]. I also have a hunch that the recording venue was Sea-Saint in New Orleans, which would put the date at no earlier than late 1973.

As you listen to “Why You Wanna Do It”, note that the drums and bass are up in the mix, highlighting the irresistible groove going down. Again on speculation (that’s why I get paid the big bucks!), I’m going to say the drummer was  Smokey Johnson, another HOTG legend, a funk drummer before the designation existed, who taught and inspired the likes of Idris Muhammad and Zigaboo Modeliste. Quezergue had understandably used Johnson often on sessions in the 1960s; and it is verified that Smokey was the main session drummer at Sea-Saint early on, before Herman Ernest took over. 

That still leaves the spunky bassist unaccounted for. George Porter, Jr, did a lot of session work there at the time, but David Barard of Chocolate Milk might be a possibility, too, or Tony Broussard, as both were around then. Since Royal co-wrote this tune and worked regularly on projects with Big Q and Toussaint, he's a good bet for the guitarist  [since confirmed by Teddy]. Sam Henry, another regular on sessions for Wardell and Senator Jones, may well have played clavinet here. Finally,the horns bear the stamp of Querzergue’s arranging skills, and most probably were the house section.

Why these tracks were left behind is hard to fathom. Harper had recorded with Toussaint for years during the previous decade, starting with a vocal group, and then as a solo artist on Alon, Sansu and Tou-Sea. Toussaint used him often for background singing, as well. But the singer had never grabbed the public's attention; and, by the 1970s, the Toussaint was no longer interested in singles, getting into the more lucrative mainstream album market as a producer for hire. He thus left the smaller sessions on local artists to his staff, Quezergue and Issac Bolden.

To me, Smokey Johnson (if indeed it is him) and his able cohort on bass jacked this track. It should have been released for the power their groove alone.


Blogger Larry Grogan said...

Very cool track. I'd never heard anything this late by Harper (only familiar with his Alon & Sansu sides). I'll have to look for this one!

2:51 PM, March 07, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Larry, if you or anyone else is looking for Harper's Tou-Sea sides, here are the few titles I know of that were released: "Look At The Clock" (see my Dec '04 post), "I Don't Need You Anymore",
and "Walk You Out Of My Life". The unreleased sides are this current post and "That's What You Need". All songs were written by WH and Teddy Royal and produced by Quezergue, according to my sources.
There may be a few more; but that's all I've run across.

10:45 AM, March 08, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

PS - 'The R&B Indies' doesn't list most of these sides (it doesn't have complete discographies - yet); but it does show that "A Certain Girl" was the flip of "I Don't Need You Anymore".

11:00 AM, March 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings all,
Dan,communicating regarding the mystery of performers on the unreleased piece 'WHY YOU WANNA DO IT';written by W.HARPER and TEDDY ROYAL in 1967.
Discovery of the answers posed surrounding the individuals who united to do it is underway.
As the pieces of the puzzle come together,the results obtained,your readers shall obtain.
Keep the music alive..
Many blessings to all....

9:38 PM, December 02, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Backatcha, DOLCI. Cool. Can't wait.

1:14 AM, December 03, 2005  
Blogger leejay1 said...

I am looking for people who knew H. Lee Johnson. He played primarily in New Orleans in the 1965-1968 time slot.He was 39 in 1968. He had played with and was buddies with Jay Cave (where I got my middle name) and Pete Fountain, etc. He was a jazz drummer- from Alabama originally. He was my dad, and passed away in 1991. I cannot find any mention of him at all on the internet, though he was good, but never made it to fame. If anyone has any tracks with his name on them, or knew him/of him, please contact Lee Jay at 12.20. 07

12:26 PM, December 22, 2007  

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