May 29, 2005

Heavy Lifting

The Wise One

"I Got The Blues For You" (Collins)
Al Collins & Orch, Ace, 1955

"I'm Wise" (E. Bocage)
Eddie Bo, Apollo, 1956

Here we have two songs that were the basis for one of Little Richard’s rock ‘n roll classics, “Slippin’ And Slidin’ (Peepin’ And Hidin’)”, recorded in February, 1956, at J&M Studios in New Orleans. I had thought about posting them before and never got around to it, until Larry Grogan at Funky 16 Corners put up Eddie Bo’s 1962 Ric remake of “I’m Wise” (called “Baby, I’m Wise”), thinking it was the original. After several of us commenters pointed out the existence of the earlier records, I decided to go ahead and let you hear the sources that Little Richard “borrowed” from so successfully. I would hope you are familiar with Richard Penniman’s groundbreaking, highly influential contributions to popular music history; but, if not, you need to get a decent compilation of his Specialty sides, many of which were cut in New Orleans, using the cream of the city’s session players, and hear them for yourself. There are many (including Mr. Penniman himself) who think that rock ‘n roll began in earnest right there.

The first single released on legendary Ace Records in New Orleans in 1955, “I Got The Blues For You” didn’t get any airplay because Al Collins’ lyrics about a hot chick he sees in a bar (“Baby with the big box, tell me where your legs stop” or is that “tell me where’s your next stop”, or both?) were too raunchy for radio (!). It had a laid back blues-rumba flavored drum groove countered by somewhat frenetic piano work by none other than Edwin Bocage (a/k/a Spider Bocage, Little Bo, or, most famously, Eddie Bo).

As Little Bo, Bocage performed “So Glad” for the second Ace release. After that single went nowhere, he signed with the Apollo label and recorded “I’m Wise” in 1955, using the structure of “I’ve Got The Blues For You” with more of a rock ‘n roll feel and new lyrics he wrote (about a double dealing woman) that he sang like a hipster rather than a rocker. Note Bo’s “out” piano solo; an early sign of things to come for his style. Recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s studio, where Little Richard was also cutting his history-making hits, Bo’s song was first heard by Penniman either there or on the radio, as it became a regional hit. Little Richard and Specialty producer Bumps Blackwell didn’t even change the lyrics or music much in lifting it. What they did to make it irresistible was have those great HOTG studio men (like Earl Palmer on drums and Lee Allen on sax) kick up the groove and turn on the heat to reinforce Richard’s powerful vocal attack and impassioned piano pounding. Those key elements turned “Slippin’ And Slidin’ b/w “Long Tall Sally” into a double sided #1 R&B single in short order, crossing over onto the Pop chart at #6.

Although, as evidenced in this label shot, early issues of “Slippin’ And Slidin’” did not acknowledge Bocage or Collins, they later got, at least, shared songwriting credits with Penniman, Blackwell, and the unknown J. Smith (possibly a Johnny Vincent alias). Really, though, Collins’ contribution is merely a footnote to the story, as it was Eddie Bo who supplied the lyrics and direction to the song that Penniman picked up and ran with. For Collins, his more significant credit was another song he wrote, “Lucille”, which Little Richard recorded to excellent effect in July of 1956.

The back story of “Slippin’ And Slidin’” doesn’t make the song any less of a classic. Musicians and songwriters often take from each other; but we should acknowledge, when we can, those shoulders the famous sometimes stand on to get to the top.

The Gifted Lifter

May 24, 2005

Odd Couple

Jessie 'Ooh Poo Pah Do' Hill

Shirley 'Sweetheart of the Blues' Goodman

"Ivory Tower" (Fulton - Steele)
Shirley & Jessie, Wand, 196?

Time's up for these two

Here they are, Shirley & Jessie, your American anti-Idols! Consider this post my antidote to tonight’s TV showdown. If you don’t live in the US, or even if you do, feel free to ignore this reference.

Why anybody (like track’s producer, Huey Meaux, the “Crazy Cajun”) thought pairing
Shirley Goodman and Jessie Hill would be commercially viable enough to justify the sessions, I’ll never know; but, as a record collector and fan of all things musical, quirky, strange, and deliciously obscure in the HOTG, I am sincerely grateful for the attempt.

Cut in Los Angeles with a band of New Orleans expatriate musicians led by Mac Rebennack, the duo’s remake of “Ivory Tower”, their first pairing, was issued on Wand around 1967 or 1968, I’d guess. Two other Wand singles taken from the sessions followed in short order, all falling on deaf ears, so to speak. This track certainly sounds like a hometown tune with a syncopated popeye suffle that recreates the feel of some of Jessie Hill’s sides for Minit earlier in the decade. Rebennack’s radical re-arrangement of a hit ballad from the 1950’s is typical of the things he’d try in the studio. When this version begins with Jessie’s intro, you think it’s on the road to nowhere, then Shirley comes in with the band kicking behind her; and they’re off on a groovin’ little ride. From Dr. John’s mention of these sessions in Under A Hoodoo Moon, I gather that the players included Rebennack on guitar, Barron on piano, Al Frazier on bass, John Boudreaux on drums, and Dave Dixon on percussion. He tells a funny story about one night recording with Shirley & Jessie when the band had LSD given to them instead of uppers and totally devolved in mid-song. Fun times in Babylon.

Say what you will about Shirley’s piercing and often off-key (though not on this tune) vocals and Jessie’s ragged but right on sound, they are both readily identifiable and distinctive. But blend they do not. Still, I enjoy this cut and most of the others they did in their short time as a duo, working with Rebennack and their other HOTG friends. Meaux’s Crazy Cajun label released most of the single sides and several unissued songs on an album in the 1970’s called You’ll Lose A Good Thing (they covered several songs by Barbara Lynn, one of Meaux’s artists). Goodman and Hill also worked with Rebennack on his early Dr. John projects. Jessie had some success as a songwriter (with Mac and others) and did some solo recording
* in California, culminating in his Naturally album in 1972, before returning to New Orleans. Shirley scored an early disco hit as Shirley & Company with “Shame, Shame, Shame” in the mid-1970’s, proving, I guess, that anything is possible in pop.

*Larry Grogan’s Funky 16 Corners blog has a great recent post on one of these.

May 20, 2005

Make It Funky! (?)

A Review

As I mentioned earlier, I went to an advance screening of the film documentary, Make It Funky!, here in Lafayette back on April 26. This was sponsored by the Recording Academy (NARAS, you know, the Grammy award people), which also hosted several showings of the film in New Orleans later in the week. Following the film, the director, Michael Murphy, took questions from the audience, including one from your intrepid (or is that insipid?) reporter. Stick with me, and I’ll get to that “(?)”.

Around two hours in length, the film still felt short to me, as it covered a lot of musical and cultural ground, seeking to reveal the essence of what makes New Orleans music unique and valuable. It intersperses pithy interview segments with local notables (Cosimo Matassa, Allen Toussaint, Earl Palmer, to name a few) and non-locals (Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, and Ahmet Ertegun, for example), with archival footage and live performances filmed last year at a six hour concert at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans. To his great credit, Murphy has edited a massive amount of material down to a film with a running time suitable for theatrical release and yet still interesting and coherent. Of course, in doing so, much of the story and music is left in the cutting room. And yet, his feature should give those who know precious little about New Orleans music a palatable dose of education mixed with good entertainment. Murphy promises a later DVD release that will include at least some of what he had to leave out, even hinting that he might present the many hours of interviews he conducted in book form at some point.

In an inspired choice, Murphy enlisted Art Neville of the original Meters and currently of the Funky Meters and Neville Brothers bands, whose performing and recording career goes back to the 1950’s, to narrate the film. It’s an enlightening pleasure to hear about the music of New Orleans from Art and some of the other people who made it happen.

While the concert performances are all very good in quality and sound, my problem with the film is in these segments. Most of the performers are backed by a stage band, which I assumed would be all New Orleans players, as well they should be, seeing as the focus of the film is what makes that special hometown vibe happen. As the concert footage started, I couldn’t identify the drummer on stage. When Earl Palmer, an absolute HOTG drum saint, sat in on drums for a song, the other drummer stayed on stage playing, too. Then I realized who he was, Steve Jordan (also an interviewee), a great drummer, mind you, but definitely NOT a certified New Orleans player. He wasn’t just sitting in; he was playing on most of the performances. Even though a couple of other local drummers were allowed to play on a certain songs, such as Willie Green’s performance with the Neville Brothers (the band he has been in for over 20 years), I had a disconnect with the film at that point.

Certainly, the average (non-geek) viewer would not have my reaction, or even realize what was going on But I found this non-sequitur odd and disingenuous to the spirit and thesis of the film. So, afterwards, when the applause was over and Mr. Murphy got up to take questions, I just had to inquire, “I was wondering why Steve Jordan was used as the drummer for most of the concert. As you well know, New Orleans is a town FULL of excellent drummers. Jordan is a great drummer, too; but why use an outsider for this film?”

Murphy’s seemed somewhat uncomfortable as he said that I had asked a good question, and then proceeded to explain that it was a “show business” decision. To get a distributor interested in the project, he said he had to have some “names” associated with the film. The outstanding New Orleans names wouldn’t do; so, he got Bonnie Raitt and Keith Richards in to talk and perform. When negotiating to get Richards on the project, Murphy was told by Keith’s “people” than Keith wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it unless Jordan participated. Thus, in order for the world to see a film purporting to represent was is good, true and funky about New Orleans music, the director had to chose not to use actual local drumming talent for much of the live music. The irony gushes from that concept.

As my friend and occasional blog contributor, Dwight Richards, said with just a smidge of exaggeration, when I told him this tale, “Man, you can throw a rock anywhere around here and hit a great drummer.” Yes, Dwight, they could have used a different hometown cat drumming on every song and not gone through them all. Those drummers literally make it funky. But that’s not what you’ll find in the concert footage of Make It Funky!, the movie . And that, my friends, is showbiz.

Am I being too much of a purist? Maybe. But I still don’t think this well-made documentary delivers completely on its promise. Others haven’t seemed to mind. Jan Ramsey, of OffBeat Magazine, referred to this film as having the potential to do for New Orleans music and musicians what The Buena Vista Social Club did for those of Havana. Wonderful thought, Jan. Glad you brought that up, because the only semi-well-known (non-local) “names” performing in that project were Ry Cooder, who instigated it, and his son, as I recall. And it seemed to work out famously, showcasing the actual musicians it set out to praise. While not a fatal flaw by any means, Murphy's taking some of the downhome funk out of Make It Funky!, just so Keith Richards could do a tune with the band and talk a bit about what New Orleans music means to him, is not really a fair trade off, since it compromises credibility and shows some disregard, even disrespect, for the local drumming community, sorry to say. At least, that’s the way it comes off to me.

With that caveat emptor, I urge you to go see Make It Funky! when it comes out this fall. Support and learn more about New Orleans music. When all is said and done, this film is still a touching, informative, enjoyable tribute to the Home of the Groove, despite the devil in the details.

[Update 06/03/2005: I have recently been furnished with a list of all the New Orleans drummers who participated on and/or performed in Make It Funky! and the related concert. In fairness to them and Michael Murphy, the director, I wanted to show you the list (with my notes), since I did not have this information earlier:

Herman LeBeauf (works with Allen Toussaint)
Eddie Christmas (Big Sam’s Funky Nation– and a fave of mine lately)
“Mean” Willie Green (of the Neville Brothers, as I noted in the post)
Shannon Powell (a great addition to any group)
Herman Ernest (Dr. John’s band and many sessions)
Russell Batiste (of da Funky Meters and Orkestra from da Hood)
Bob French (many sessions in the '60’s–and still working, as far as I know!)
Earl Palmer

I have learned that, due to his poor health, Mr. Palmer requested that Steve Jordan also play drums when he sat in during the filmed concert last year.

Now, I still stand by my stated personal (purist geek) opinion about the use of Mr. Jordan on this project. But, in the bigger picture, it’s a minor quibble and has nothing to do with either Jordan’s spirited playing, or the fine work the director has done to bring myriad elements together into an impressive whole and to get the project into theatres. It’s an inspiring film; and I look forward to seeing it again when it is released. Hope you will support it, too.]

Reverend Ether

"Don't Let My Husband Catch You" (Ronnie Barron)
Ronnie Barron, from Reverend Ether, Decca, 1971

Back to the ether

I met Mac Rebennack when I was 15. I'd been aware of him since I was 12, and he had a good working band that played on the west side where I lived, in Algiers. New Orleans was a real fly-by-night town, where there was a big tourist crowd and people wanted to drink. They didn't care about the music that much, just wanted to be entertained. So I created my 'Reverend Ether' character, almost by accident. I made up this mythology about the voodoo and the gumbo. I'd shake the tambourine and say, 'I'm gonna drop the truth on you!' I made up all this shit. This was before I worked with Mac, when I was working in a club on Bourbon Street. He'd come in and kind of watch what I was doing. I had also written this song, 'Black Widow Spider,' that was part of the act. Mac realized the value in it, and after he hired me he wanted me to be the original Dr. John, because I already had a handle on the thing. – Ronnie Barron (Ronald Raymond Barrosse, 1943 – 1997)

With his 1971 album, Reverend Ether, I think Ronnie Barron sought to artistically reclaim the concept he had let Mac Rebennack turn into the successful hoodoo-hippie musical Carnival shaman, Dr. John. Barron’s persona may have been as much huckster as heavenly healer; but the music he injected into the project was a rave-up of influences, mixing barrelhouse blues, gospel, minstrel show revue, funk and soul.

What he skips over in the story he tells above is that he and Mac Rebennack became musical partners and collaborators soon after they met, with Mac producing and playing on records with Barron (as Ronnie and the Delinquents and Grits 'n' Gravy) for Ace and AFO from 1959 to the early 1960’s. This was back when they gigged together, with Barron as the featured singer and keyboardist and Rebennack as leader and guitarist. After Mac got injured in a fight, had legal and drug troubles and split for the West Coast, Barron joined the Prime Ministers, a jazz-soul combo, in the mid-1960’s and played regularly on Bourbon Street with them, until he and the band re-located to Los Angeles a few years later at Rebennack’s urging. It was out there that Barron was offered the Dr. John role in Rebennack’s band, which he refused on the advice of his manager; so, Rebennack became Dr. John instead. The Prime Ministers broke up around 1970, right as Barron signed a solo deal with Decca to release this album. Their drummer, Fred Staehle joined Dr. John; and sax man Jerry Jumonville worked with Delaney and Bonnie and Dr John. Wayne DeVilliere, the main keyboardist, would go on to play with a band called Sweet Salvation (featured here a few weeks ago) before joining Three Dog Night. Bassist and second sax, Eddie Zip, also stayed on the West Coast, switched to piano and became a songwriter/performer.

It would make sense that, at least, some of those guys played on the Decca album; but I have found no session details. Whoever they were, the band on the record had a good, loose, funky feel, and could rock out, too. I am pretty sure Barron was radiating the 88s on this cut and throughout the album He definitely had chops and, as you can hear, quite a wide vocal range. My one gripe with his singing is that he often used his strong falsetto too much on some tunes. Although the whole record had lot of full-tilt playing and singing going on, it didn’t quite hang together overall, nor was it recorded or mixed all that well. Decca let it sink like a stone; and Barron moved on to join Paul Butterfield’s Better Days as a sideman and songwriter, and did session work for many artists: Ry Cooder, John Mayall, Tom Waits, Dr. John, Eric Burdon, et al.

Besides Reverend Ether, which I picked up as a Japanese import CD, Ronnie Barron made several other fairly good records before he was done: The Smile of Life (released in Japan), 1978; Blue Delicacies, 1981; and Bon Ton Roulette, 1983. We will sample some of those other works down the line. In his later years, he did some movie acting, but developed heart problems and returned to the ether in 1997. If you haven’t encountered him before, here’s your introduction to another notable link in the HOTG chain. Enjoy.

Da Rev

May 16, 2005

More Than A One Hit Wonder

"I Want Somebody (To Show Me The Way Back Home)"
[Turbinton], Willie Tee, Atlantic 2302, 1965

I featured Willie Tee (Wilson Turbinton) here back on October 30, 2004, posting a cut from his 1976 album, Anticipation; and I’ve also previously pointed out his vital work as composer, arranger and band leader for the groundbreaking Wild Magnolias albums from the mid-1970’s. Recently, I happened on this single when looking through my collection for something else (always a good search method), and thought I’d give it a spin.

A gifted pianist at a young age, tutored by Harold Battiste and Ellis Marsalis, Tee began to play sessions and record as a vocalist for his mentors’ label, AFO (All For One), in the early 1960’s. After the demise of AFO, he was signed to Nola Records, which was owned by his cousin, Ulis Gaines, and partners Clint Scott and Wardell Quezergue. Tee’s debut single for the label in 1965, “Teasin’ You” b/w “Walking Up A One-Way Street”, both written by Earl King and deftly produced and arranged by Quezergue, created enough regional action to cause Atlantic to take note and option to release it nationally, turning it into a top twenty hit. With that success, Atlantic released two more of his Nola team singles that year to far less acclaim.

“I Want Somebody” b/w “You Better Say Yes” was the last of his Atlantic singles. While the featured side, penned by Mr. Turbinton, is an outstanding record in its own right, you can hear similarities in production and arrangement with what would be the next big Nola hit in 1966, Robert Parker’s “Barefootin’”.  Probably, many of the same musicians are on both; and George Davis’ unmistakable lead guitar work is evidence of that, as is Smokey Johnson's hip, Latin-feel on the drum groove for this project. With its upbeat, bigger sound, and soulful vocal, complete with a well-placed scream, “I Want Somebody” is definitely the oddity of Tee’s Nola/Atlantic output. His other Nola-produced tracks were classy and classic, but mainly mid-tempo soul/pop or smoothly sung ballads.

It would be about five more years until he began recording serious funk with his band, the Gaturs. In between, he put together as jazzy proto-funk band, Willie Tee and the Souls, made a pop album for Capitol, and produced some of Margie Joseph’s earliest sides. Although he had just a solitary hit record, Willie Tee deserves recognition and appreciation for his versatile talents and many important contributions to the New Orleans musical continuum.

May 13, 2005

Swamp Side from the Big Easy

Some guy and a mod John Fred

"Shirley" John Fred (T. Bryan, J. Fred) Montel, 1958

RIP, John Fred

We were driving through Baton Rogue a few weeks ago, listening to a local university station, when I heard the DJ say that John Fred (Gourrier) had passed away. So, I made a mental note to make him the subject of my next Swamp Side. Probably best known around the planet for his 1968 single, “Judy In Disguise”, which became an international hit, going to #1 on the pop charts in the US, the Baton Rouge native started his recording career a decade earlier at the age of 17 in Cosimo Matassa’s famous New Orleans studio, cutting his own song, “Shirley”, for the Montel label. On that track, he was backed famously by Dave Bartholomew’s house band, who had just finished laying down “Whole Lotta Loving” and some other tunes with Fats Domino.

“Shirley” got into the top 100 in 1959; and John Fred did a little touring, forming a band with friends from high school doing mostly r&b and early rock ‘n roll cover tunes they dug, which at that time was still considered unusual, if not dangerous, in the Deep South. They continued performing and recording into the 1960’s without much chart action, until their danceable, wry, Louisiana send-up of Beatles-style record making brought them brief fame and a multi-million seller on the Shreveport-based Paula label. After a few albums and declining sales, John Fred became a fairly successful record producer in his hometown, and continued to record on his own up until a few years ago.

He certainly doesn’t sound 17 or out of his element on his first single; and he was blessed with smoking studio backing: Charles “Hungry” Williams on drums, Frank Fields on bass, Ernest McLean or Walter Nelson on guitar, and Warren Bell and Clarence Ford on saxes. Hungry’s perfectly in the pocket propulsive shuffle simultaneously rocks and swings the song. Recording at the end of another session, for a label with limited resources, the band probably learned the tune, worked up a head arrangement (no charts) and tossed it off all in short order, testifying to the efficient, highly talented, hit-making work done regularly in the Home of the Groove. What an incredible introduction to the record business for John Fred!

Not far from Baton Rouge. . .

May 09, 2005

Strange Fruit (updated 2009)

The actual Juanita Brooks

"Garden of Four Trees" (Edwin J. Bocage)
Explosions, featuring Juanita Brooks [sic], Gold Cup, about 1970

(tune in to HOTG Internet Radio HOTG Internet radio)

Eddie Bo started to do some producing for me, but his stuff just didn’t sound right. . . .I always felt that there was something that didn’t fit or was out of tune on everything Eddie Bo produced. I tried to tell him, but he just laughed. – Joe Banashak (owner of Minit, Instant, Seven B, and related labels), as quoted in I Hear You Knockin’ by Jeff Hannusch.

When he produced the Explosions’ “Garden Of Four Trees”, Eddie Bo was a few years removed from working for Banashak at Instant and Seven B, and at the tail end of his stint with Al Scramuzza's Scram and related labels. As he had done in the mid-1960s, Eddie again began making records on his own and would continue to go it alone for the rest of his life. Gold Cup was one of several imprints he used in the early 1970s; but, when interviewed late in his life by Martin Lawrie for the Eddie Bo Discography, Eddie could not remember much about this label. As Martin points out in his section on Gold Cup, Bo did an interview with Wax Poetics in 2004 in which he revealed that there had been a mistake on the credit for the featured vocalist on "Garden Of Four Trees". Instead of lead vocalist for the Explosions, Juanita Brooks, Marilyn Barbarin actually sang the tune. As some of you may know, Barbarin had another release on one of Eddie's labels of the period, Bo-Sound (#105/106), doing the fiercely funky Bo original, "Reborn", b/w "Believe Me". The singer, though, was never a member of the Explosions, according to Bo; and it remains unclear why she was featured on a record attributed to them, instead of the equally talented Brooks [who passed away in September of 2009]. Chalk it up as another of the inscrutabilities scattered throughout Bo's career.

Now, to some ears, “Garden Of Four Trees” just ain’t quite right. They would be in the Banashak camp, I suppose. But to the true funk fiend, virtually everything else can slide, as long as the beat moves booty with poly-rhythmic passion and/or abandon. I’m usually a bit less absolute; but, on this track, I’ll have to agree that the groove rules, despite some minor musical mayhem. Ultimately, I believe there was even some method to Eddie Bo's alleged madness on this strangely conceived funk anomaly with hard to decipher lyrics, semi-cryptic botanical metaphors, and some unusual changes, to say the least. Sure, Ms Barbarin's vocal strays toward atonality in the purposely off kilter sections between the bouncing, vaguely Afro-beat feel of the verses. But it’s still a great performance. Personally, I think Bo wanted her to go out, or left her out-ness in, relishing the spontaneous imperfection as part of the artistic allure of the piece. Keeping things unusual, he made the bass an effective, agile lead instrument on the track, while the drums and other percussion undulated throughout, overriding and rendering irrelevant the occasional dissonance.

There were two other known singles on Gold Cup, before Bo let it fall by the wayside, both by the Explosions: the funky, innocuous, but hooky “Hip Drop, Pt 1 &2” (#005) and another two-parter, the ultra-rare, "Jockey Ride" (#555), which, as Bo confirmed to Lawrie, was sung by Juanita Brooks. The latter record had been rumored but unknown until recently, when Martin discovered a copy, much to the envy of collectors and all seekers of Bo-consciousness. I long to hear it, at least, since I'm sure I can't afford it.

Be sure to marvel at Martin's handiwork on the Eddie Bo Discography - still a bit buggy and incomplete, but a massive and valuable resource for which he deserves much praise. Also, for a well-considered appreciation of various aspects of Eddie Bo’s musical career, mostly from the late 1960s onward, check out Larry Grogan’s fine work at his webzine,
Funky 16 Corners.

As Joe Banashak attempted to articulate, during the later 1960s and on into the next decade, Mr. Bocage could be an unpredictable, mischievous recording artist and producer. Along with all his confusing aliases, quirky compositions, offbeat arrangements, and sonic experiments, Bo managed to create and inhabit his own peculiar world of funk in New Orleans, finding a sound and approach on his projects distinct from his contemporaries. He truly was a trip; and, as with many unique and creative artists, most people didn't get what he was up to at the time. We probably still don't; but the world in a way has been catching up to him. His cult continues to grow, because in much of his music you can hear his joy in making it and the fun he had when he occasionally goofed on everybody. How amazing it must have been to him that people still appreciate his work and dig records that he had all but forgotten about.

Note: This cut can be found on several CD compilations, including
New Orleans Funk, on Soul Jazz.

May 03, 2005

This Week's Words To Live By

"A Little Bit Of Something [Is Better Than A Whole Lot Of Nothing]"
(Robert Parker) Robert Parker, Island, 1976

Nevertheless. . .

So, the song title sums up the blog output for this week. Hope you can hang with it. The tune itself is an interesting artifact: enjoyable enough, but without rendering you sockless, I guess. It’s a Sansu production with Wardell Quezergue credited as the arranger. Released as a single on Island in 1976, the track may have been recorded around 1974, according to Jeff Hannusch in The Soul of New Orleans. The other side is an equally funk-infected tune, penned by Leo Nocentelli, called “Better Luck In The Summer”. If the vinyl eludes you, both songs can be found compiled on the Collectables CD, Barefootin’.

That flip-side songwriting credit leads me to guess that we may have Leo’s wah-wah guitar scratching on this tune; but I don’t feel Zig in the drums. I could be wrong about it; but the sticks seem just a bit too predictable, for lack of a better word. I like this groove, though – just don’t know who’s doing it. That said, I might vote for George Porter, Jr. as the bassist of record. But, it’s guesswork. I couldn’t find any mention of session players for this one. My friend, Dwight, who has drummed for Chocolate Milk since the fairly early 1970’s and did a lot of session work at SeaSaint Studios (Sansu’s home base) back then, has told us before that various combinations of players were used for sessions there, with neither Toussaint nor his partner Marshall Sehorn paying much attention to crediting who played on what. Leo Nocentelli backs up that view in
an interview I read recently.

Robert Parker is a limited, but effective singer, getting the job done on his own tune. His music career as a sax player and vocalist is a cool compendium of HOTG associations: playing with Professor Longhair in the early days, fronting a band that backed numerous touring singers (Roy Brown, Solomon Burke, Joe Turner) in the 1950’s, session work with Eddie Bo in the early 1960’s, including a hip fist solo single, and, of course, his big, top ten hit for Quezergue’s NOLA Records, “Barefootin’” in 1966. But, “A Little Bit Of Something” didn’t do anything to reheat his popularity in the next decade; and a whole lot of nothing seems to have been issued on him since.

I was in high school when “Barefootin’” came out; and I wore the grooves through to the other side. That year, I saw Robert Parker perform it at the MidSouth Coliseum in Memphis on one of those r&b all-star tour package shows, where the hit artists of the day came out and did their greatest and/or latest. I remember, when the band struck up the signature guitar and horn intro, Parker cruising out onto the stage in a bright yellow suit (or was it red? – anyway, it was bright!) – barefoot, of course – and tore it up. And, although I was big on New Orleans back then as an exotic place I visited, I didn’t realize he was from there for many years. Funny that he is almost the only act I remember from that show.