September 30, 2005

Got To Admire Their Pluck

"Pluck It" (Chocolate Milk)
Chocolate Milk, RCA, 1976

Consider it plucked

Prior to Katrina, my friend (who I met through this blog), frequent commenter and contributor to HOTG, Dwight Richards, was going to pick out a cut by his band, Chocolate Milk, so we could do a post on it together. Just before Rita hit, I got the urge to try Dwight’s cell again and check on him, since I hadn’t heard anything from him since the first storm. I got his voice mail and asked him to contact me. As some of you may have read, he checked in via the comments on my Sept. 22 Johnny Adams post, saying he was staying up at New Roads, LA (near where I evacuated for Rita) and had lost everything, including musical equipment, in the New Orleans flooding. I haven’t heard back from him yet; but, last night, I got the urge to put some Chocolate Milk up anyway. We can do another one together later. So, Dwight, if you get to see this, it’s for you and all the guys in the band. Stay safe and sane and get back to music making as soon as possible. If you need anything, or have anything to add, please let me (us) know.

“Pluck It” is from CM’s eponymous 1976 second LP, recorded at Sea-Saint Studio. I chose this rare instrumental track strictly for its groove. Up in the mix, Dwight’s drumming is a syncopated pleasure to hear and move to, start to finish. This is pretty much an ensemble piece, with the only real soloing done by keyboardist, Robert Dabon. While it’s long on funk, the track doesn’t overtly reveal New Orleans roots, as this talented band was reaching for broader appeal and commercial success and adopted a fairly sophisticated, polished style that only occasionally hinted at their origins. Dwight has told me that CM liked to jam a lot and wrote some songs on the spot at gigs or in the studio. This tune is probably a result of that process.

As I recall, Chocolate Milk started out as a jazz band and transmuted to soul and funk. I don’t know exactly how they got hooked up with Sansu Productions (Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn), based around Sea-Saint; but their work there got them signed to RCA, which released their first album, Action Speaks Louder Than Words, in 1975. After the title track charted, they went on to make, I think, three more LPs with Toussaint at the helm, then were assigned to George Tobin for a record, finishing off their run with RCA in the early 1980’s with Allen Jones of the Bar-Kays producing several albums. Throughout it all, they had charting singles, but never quite caught fire with the public. Of course, my favorite period for the band is their work from the home-base. During that period, 1975 – 1979, they were also part of the core house band at Sea-Saint and Toussaint’s backup band for his live gigs. You can hear a cross section of their work on the Razor & Tie "best of" CD, Ice Cold Funk. Action Speaks Louder than Words was reissued on CD by RCA only in Europe, it seems, and can be purchased as an import. I think Blue Jeans, a 1980’s record, also had a European reissue. Galactic has covered two of their tunes, and CM grooves have been sampled. So, if you are interested in hearing more, you got your search clues. Maybe Dwight can add more later.

This was the band line up for Chocolate Milk:
Dwight Richards, drums, lead and background vocals
Kenneth Williams, percussion
Ernest Dabon, bass
Robert Dabon, keyboards, vocals
Mario Tio, guitar
Amadee Castenell, Jr., saxophone, vocals
Jospeh Smith, III, trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals
Frank Richard, lead and background vocals

And, by the way, I featured another album track by them back in
the early days of this blog.

September 27, 2005

Sugar and Spice

"Girls Are Made For Lovin'" (Elliott Small)
Elliott Small, Bang, 1969
(Hear it on HOTG Internet Radio)

Sometimes we just need some musical empty calories, a bit of meaningless confection to soothe the soul. After the frazzled, mostly sleepless weekend I had waiting out Rita with my wife and in-laws, low impact is the order of the day. Because we headed about 70 miles Northeast of Lafayette along the Mississippi River, and the storm turned that way as it left the state, we had 30 hours of wind and torrential rain, over half the time with no power, but no damage at the evacuation house or home. We got off far luckier than those with seawater flooding and heavy wind damage to our South and West. Coastal Louisiana is now a shambles, almost border to border. Dig deep to help out some more; and allow me to settle back into things with this one.

“Girls Are Made For Lovin’”, a Wardell Quezergue (“Big Q”) production, has the feel of something by Curtis Mayfield, maybe, or Smokey Robinson. It’s not an identifiably New Orleans record, although it was made there, originally released on the New Sound label and picked up by Bang in 1969; but I really like its easy, lilting groove and the melody that is stuck in my head. Elliott (a/k/a Elliot) Small wrote the tune and sings the harmless, rather sweet lyrics pleasantly enough. Smokey Johnson might be on the drums, as Quezergue used him a lot. And, I believe that’s Mr. Small playing the harmonica, too.

Elliott Small may be best known to record collectors for an earlier tune, the great, upbeat groover he did with Quezergue producing for ABS out of New Orleans,
“I’m A Devil”, which also features his harmonica. The only other single I know of for him was a very funky piece of fluff, “E Ni Me Ni Me Ni Mo (Parts 1 & 2)” also produced by Quezergue and released on Malaco in the early 1970’s. Part 1 is on the out of print Malaco CD box set retospective, The Last Soul Company. As I learned in my research, Small was later a street performer (blowing harp and singing) in the French Quarter for many years. He and his partner, Stoney B, were featured in a piece on New Orleans street musicians in Where Y’At magazine in 2003. God only knows what’s become of him now.*

Here are some CD compilations with Wardell Quzergue productions and/or Elliott Small cuts:

Sixty Smokin' Soul Senders
New Orleans Soul A Go-Go
Don't Be No Sqaure, Get Hip to Quezergue
Northern Soul Of New Orleans
Strung Out

* [Elliott moved back to New Orleans in 2006 and can still be found at various spots around the Quarter streets singing and playing harmonica as 'Grandpa', but he has also become an international entertainer of note through his invlovement with Playing For Change. He has since toured in the US and various countries and played his first JazzFest at home in New Orleans this year (2010). Congratulations, Elliott! You were far too talented to just be singing for spare change.]

September 22, 2005

Funkin' With Johnny

The Tan Canary

"Baby Baby I Love You" (Ronnie Shannon)
Johnny Adams, from Stand By Me, Chelsea, 1976

Ain't no doubt about it

So, sitting here somewhere between oblivion and oblivious, watching the next monster storm track, it’s starting to look like we may have to evacuate for Rita after all. So, I’m going to suck it in and run with what I have ready to go, posting this track I found among some CDs I burned from vinyl years ago to use on my radio show. The album it comes from is boxed up in storage for now; and I can only hope it’s there after the storm passes. Such is life on the edge of disaster.

Johnny Adams’ voice was an under-recognized national treasure; and any fan of New Orleans music should have at least a sampling of his work from the early 1960’s though the late 1990’s, when he passed away. His cover of “Baby Baby I Love You” is from his mid-1970’s LP on Chelsea, Stand By Me, a Senator Jones production, arranged by Raymond Jones (no relation to Senator, I believe). Raymond had recorded in 1973 as Ray J on Senator Jones’ Hep’ Me label and went on to do a lot of arranging for the producer/label owner. Adams did many sessions and quite a few singles for Senator Jones during that decade, recording at Sea-Saint Studios; and most of that was released on Senator’s JB’s label. It is through his Sea-Saint connection, specifically Marshall Sehorn, that Senator Jones got some of his productions released nationally. Besides Chelsea, Adams had another album of material released on Ariola. I featured a funky track from it back on December 14, 2004. These albums and his many singles were not commercial successes, and the singer got very little money for recording them. But having records out allowed him to continue to pick up gigs around the area; and he kept up this recording arrangement until Rounder Records signed him in the early 1980’s and helped revitalize his career and get him some of the national attention he deserved. He recorded for them for the next 15 years; and many of those albums are classy classics.

Much of the material Adams recorded for Senator Jones consisted of uninspired arrangements of cover songs, including country, sung well by Adams, but often half-heartedly. Many of the songs were ballads. “Baby Baby I Love You”, though, while a cover of the song done so well by Aretha Franklin, is an exception to the usual rather humdrum, stock production process, particularly the drum groove, which doesn’t have a straight beat in it. This syncopated tour de force from start to finish reminds me of Zig Modeliste, and, while it could be him, I don’t think he was doing any sessions at Sea-Saint at this time. Smokey Johnson is another good possibility, because I know he had the chops and did play on some of Adams’ sessions in the 1970’s. Rising to the occasion, the bass bounces and rides with the drums, giving this track definite propulsion. Adams digs in and shows off some of his gospel based soul roots, issuing forth some of his spine tingling, ecstatic screams. All in all, I’d rate this one of the funkiest tracks he ever sang on; and it is definitely a cut above most of his other recorded output during the period.

You can find much of Johnny Adam’s early and later material available on CD and probably mp3; and you can hear some of his songs at these links:

Early 1960’s recordings
Rounder Recordings

I hope to be with you again on the back side of Rita. . .


September 19, 2005

Gate Jumpin'

"Baby Take It Easy" (C. Brown)
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Peacock, 1952

Easy come, easy go

I’m an admitted sucker for this jump stuff, pounding, upbeat, pumped up horns, shouted vocals (you needed lots of vocal projection to be heard over the band on live gigs with minimal amplification), which was really rock 'n roll before the term was coined. Of course, I don’t feature much of it here at HOTG, as we pursue the more syncopated, funky side of the music equation for the most part. But I have to make exceptions sometimes; and, today, it’s to feature the recently departed Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown back in his early days, recording for the Peacock label out of Houston in the early 1950’s.

On this number, Gate and the band get a little wild, especially the horns. The baritone sax soloist to whom Gate says, “Blow, Fred”, is Memphian Fred Ford, an exceptional player who did quite of bit of session work down in Texas back then. I was fortunate to get to see and hear Ford at various venues around Memphis later in his life. I don’t know who’s on trumpet, put he really lets it rip towards the end. And, of course, Brown rocks out his solo. He took the T-Bone Walker style of Texas big band blues, goosed it up a notch or two with his own guitar virtuosity and high energy, and branched out from there for over fifty years. No, he wasn’t much of a singer; but he got the job done, while his hip, jazzy riffing (on guitar or fiddle) and choppy, syncopated chording combined with an always top notch band to make most of his records memorable and his live shows dynamite.

As I mentioned when I briefly reported his death last week, Gate had been living in Slidell, LA for many years. I think he lived in New Orleans for a time in the 1970’s or early 1980’s; and, although he was raised in East Texas (and passed away there, having been evacuated from Katrina’s path), he was born on the Louisiana side of the border and always had a bit of the swamp in his multi-faceted style. I got to catch Gate live numerous times over the years; and the thin, wiry man with the big cowboy hat always was fun to watch. He had a very unaffected, loose, playful approach to his instrument that made his fretwork appear less complex and technically proficient than it actually was. He always had great band arrangements, too. Besides his early records, my favorite albums of his are his return to the big band sound on Gate Swings and American Music, Texas Style in the late 1990’s. He came back to his Louisiana roots for Back To Bogalusa, in 2001. I got to interview him several times on my radio show in Memphis; and he was the ideal guest, always willing to talk, full of opinions, witty and intelligent. My biggest problem with him was getting him not to smoke his pipe (which we was always either puffing or filling) in the air room.

The last time I saw him was at OffBeat’s Best of the Beat Awards show earlier this year. Although he was barely able to walk onto the stage, he played a few tunes with the house band, led by his longtime pianist, Joe Krown, and showed us in just a few minutes what a class act he really was

Eddie Bo and Band Sit In On Big Sam's Set

Man, after two weeks of gloom an doom, I was ready for a release and got it at the 307 Jazz Club in downtown Lafayette this past Firday night. Not only was Big Sam's Funky Nation there, but as an added surprise, before the second set started, Eddie Bo and his band took the stage and did four numbers that had the full house (including a number of displaced New Orleanians) shouting out for joy.

Big Sam's drummer, the fantastic Eddie Christmas, and his trumpeter were a little late getting to town, so he started the first set with Eddie Bo's drummer and sax player, who came to play and sounded like they'd been with the band all along. After a couple of songs, the rest of Sam's band took over, joined by guest keyboardist Lenny McDaniel (who has relocated to Lafayette from New Orleans, I hear), and let loose with about 45 minutes of in yo' face funk that had the crowd dancing, bouncing, and revelating. Mr. Big himself, who for a large guy can shimmy dance with the best of 'em, was especially on fire, coming out into the crowd to dance and blow his trombone towards the rattling rafters.

After a brief break, Mr. Bo and his band came up and, to the delight of the crowd, broke into "Big Chief", followed by a funkified version of "You Are My Sunshine", his own classic and timely "Check Your Bucket", and closed with a soulful "Georgia". It was just so welcomed, amazing, and reassuring to hear him and Big Sam again live in a club. I felt uplifted and told Eddie's sister, who I had met earlier, as I was leaving the club, "Somehow, I think everything is going to be alright". Music truly heals. It needs to return to New Orleans ASAP.

September 16, 2005

Bi-Coastal Bonerama


Our friends in Bonerama, New Orleans' heavily honkin' trombone ensemble - with drums, electric guitar and bass/tuba, of course - are making the road a way of life of late, as home dries out, airs out, and awaits claims adjusters and general deliverance. Check the schedule. They may be coming your way. If so, make that party! And give 'em my regards.

Friday, September 16 (hurry up, you're late!)
Tribeca Rock Club
16 Warren Street
New York, NY
Show: 10:30 PM
Doors: 9:30 PM
Tickets: (212) 766-1070 or

Saturday, September 17
Earlville Opera House*
Earlville, NY
Show: 8:00 PM
Doors: 7:30 PM
Tickets: (315) 691-3550 or
*The Earlville Opera House will be hosting a Hurricane Relief Dinner by Friends of the Opera House. All proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. Dinner will be served from 6:30 to 7:30 PM. A minimum donation of $10 is suggested for dinner. Call (315) 691-3550 to reserve your spot.

Sunday, September 18
Mexicali Blues Café
1409 Queen Anne Road
Teaneck, NJ
Show: 8:00 PM
Doors: 6:00 PM
Tickets: (201) 833-0011 or

Wednesday, September 21
The Radisson Hotel
500 Leisure Lane
Sacramento, CA
Tickets: (916) 922-2020 or

Friday, September 23
Boom Boom Room
1601 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA
Show: 9:30 PM
Doors: 8:30 PM
Tickets: (415) 673-8000 or

Saturday, September 24
The Blue Monk
3341 SE Belmont
Portland, OR
Show: 9:00 PM
Doors: 7:30 PM
Tickets: (503) 595-0575 or

Sunday, September 25
KSDS JAZZ 88 Ocean Beach Jazz Festival
Ocean Beach Pier
Newport Ave. at the Pacific Ocean
San Diego, CA
Show: 2:00 PM
Doors: 12:00 PM

Stealth Funk From Toussaint And The Meters

"Keep On Lovin' You" (A. Toussaint)
Z.Z. Hill, United Artists, 1974

Can't keep it on

For a long time I knew that Allen Toussaint had produced some sides on Z.Z. Hill for United Artists at Sea-Saint in New Orleans back in the 1970’s; but I hadn’t heard any of them until I found a double CD compilation in the mid-1990’s called The Complete Hill Records Collection/UA Recordings: 1972 – 1975. On the second CD were the four sides, three of which were also written by Toussaint and one by Leo Nocentelli, that had appeared on Hill’s UA album, Keep On Lovin’ You in 1974. Although the Meters are the rhythm section for these tunes, they do not inject their own group vibe into the project.

I recently found the single version of our feature track, which made it up to #39 on the R&B charts. What I dig about the record is that it’s certainly not a predictably Toussaint product either in the composition or its dense, dark feel. Had I not known he was involved with “Keep On Lovin’ You”, I doubt that I could have guessed it. That’s what makes it so interesting to me and why I decided to revisit it here.

According to Bill Dahl’s notes for the CD collection, Hill’s album was rather inconsistent due to the use of three producers (including Lamont Dozier on four tracks, Denny Diante, and Toussaint) and various studios and session players. Of the New Orleans sessions, the album’s title track and its single B-side, Toussaint's "Who Ever's Thrilling You Is Killing Me" are the standouts. Nocentelli's song, "Look What You've Done" would have made a great Meters track; but its potential is squandered by the overuse of strings. "Keep On Lovin' You", though, is the clear winner, using sophisticated, multi-layered arrangements to create a true musical landscape which Hill inhabits to soulfully deliver this tale of futile love. Zig Modeliste’s surprisingly methodical kick drum groove pulls you in from the get-go; and the hip, syncopated ostinato riff of George Porter, Jr.’s bass keeps you hooked. The moody strings (arranged by Jimmie Haskell and overdubbed in LA) and well-harnessed horns (Toussaint's charts) rise and fall with close to an orchestral counterpoint at times. Though reined-in, funk abides within the percolating congas, Nocentelli’s mixed low guitar chops, those handclaps, and the occasional rhythmic thrusts of the string and horn sections.

The keen eye will have noted that the single label lists two other producers for the tune beside Toussaint: Denny Diante and Spencer Proffer (?). I have no way of knowing exactly how they collaborated on this; but I feel that Diante and Proffer probably had some say on adding the strings to the session and having them done away from Toussaint’s home base. The composer surely called the shots on the basic arrangement, as well as the horns, in his own studio. In any case, I think "Keep On Lovin' You" is an impressive piece of work, revealing why so many sought to use his material and his production talents during the 1970's.

September 14, 2005

Make It Funky! on Cable And More Relief Items

RAJ posted several comments today about his discovery that VH-1 was airing Make It Funky! tonight 7:00 to 9:30 PM Central. I discovered his first one about five minutes before airing and tore into the other room to fire up the Betamax (wish I actually had one of those) aka the VCR, as my digital recording domain does not yet extend to video. I actually got to watch most of the show; but reams of commercials really break up the rhythm of the film and sap some of the spirit. Plus, I think they excised some of the film segments to fit in the maximum adverstising. That said, I pretty much feel the same way about it I did after first seeing it. If you are fairly familiar with the city and its musical history, the film is not extremely revelatory but still heartwarming and pretty damn hip. For those less in the know, it does a nice job imparting information and explaining details about the music and culture of New Orleans in a relaxed manner mostly from the mouths of the music makers themselves. "Info-tainment" at its best. I really would like more live music; but I realize the powers that be like to leave us wanting more. That's the hook for the DVD. I still need to see it again uninterrupted.

So, thanks RAJ for your heads up and comments, including the fact that you think it will air again this Sunday on BET - check your local listings, people. What a pieice of timing for this documentary! Just when New Orleans needed appreciation and a high class promo in the worst way, Make It Funky! was due out. Michael Murphy should be buying lottery tickets. He's got the sight! I'm so glad he had the drive and desire to get this project done.


Eddie Asssistance
Of course, the are plenty of reputable relief organizations around for you to use to lend support and aid to victims of Katrina. But, sometimes, knowing exactly who you are helping can personalize it somewhat. Over the weekend, I had contact will Eddie Bo, who is in this area with members of his band. He pretty much lost everything in New Orleans; and, seeing as he has been a frequent topic of conversation on HOTG, I thought I'd give you his current address where he is accepting any financial support you can offer:

Edwin J. Bocage
306 West Plaquemine Street
Church Point, LA 70525

I know he would appreciate whatever aid you can send, even encouraging words. I am trying to help him find some gigs in the area, too. Hope it works out.


The Tipitina's Foundation is working to provide support for New Orleans musicians flung far and wide. You can see what they are up to and lend a hand if you can at their site.


Lastly, I hear from Tuff City that they will be donating a portion of September sales of any of their CDs or LPs to "worthy charities aiding the displaced people of New Orleans".

That's it for now. Got music in the works. . .

September 11, 2005

Wishing Well

"Wish Someone Would Care" (Irma Thomas)
Irma Thomas, Imperial, 1964

Looks like she gets her wish

I heard a DJ on KRVS, the public radio station here in Lafayette, play this a few days ago. And, of course, as you often see things with new eyes after a life changing event, you can also hear songs with new ears. With Irma’s heartfelt wish voiced on this single, I flashed on all of those images of the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast from the last two weeks. The thoughts keep running through your mind of what it must be like for them; but you don’t really know. So this one’s for them, because it’s not always about getting your groove on. And sometimes it does seem that nobody cares. . . .

“Wish Someone Would Care” is one of the few songs
Irma Thomas has written during her long career (that have made it to record, anyway) and is first rate. As the A-side of her first single for Imperial Records in 1964, it was also her most successful record, reaching #17 on the Billboard R&B charts. Between 1961 and 1963, Irma had made six classic but not nationally recognized singles (such as ”Ruler Of My Heart” and “It’s Raining”) with Allen Toussaint for Joe Banashak’s Minit label in New Orleans, which was distributed by Imperial. In 1963, Irma’s went to Los Angeles to record for Imperial, and, working with H. B. Barnum, brought forth this hit. She relocated there; and, over the next few years, the label (which had been bought out by Liberty) released a total of nine singles and two albums on her. But none of them had the commercial impact of “Wish Someone Would Care”. Of all those Imperial sessions, just two songs seem to have been done in New Orleans (“Take A Look” b/w “What Are You Trying To Do”). The rest were either West Coast or New York (Jerry Ragovoy) productions. Irma’s work for the label was not consistent, mainly because some of the material pushed her too far towards pop, where she could sound rather cold and unconvincing at times. The popish B-side of this single, ”Breakaway” worked well for her, though, and was a hit in her hometown. But it is records like “Wish Someone Would Care”, “Time Is On My Side” and “I’m Gonna Cry Till My Tears Run Dry” that should make us glad she had this run with Imperial.

I’m not going to belabor the other details of this song. It’s words are simple and sincere; and she delivers the emo (my daughter’s term) convincingly. The uncluttered, rather stately arrangement doesn’t get in her way, either. All I can say to Irma. and every other person harmed in some way as a result of that damn hurricane, is that I hope you soon get that wish in the form of the help you need to carry on.

Note: You can find much of her Minit and Imperial work on two CD compilations, Kent's Time Is On My Side and Sweet Soul Queen of New Orleans on Razor & Tie, both available at amazon (Can't get the link to work. You're on your own) or elsewhere.

More Sad News and More Places To Help

I am sorry to relate that Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown has passed away after a struggle with cancer. He had been living in Slidell, LA for many years and was evaculated to Texas prior to Katrina. I just saw this on the OffBeat Forums. [Correction 09/13/2005: Gate had suffered a heart attack after being evaculated, as passed as a result. He was 81 and had lost his house in the storm.]

Also on those forum pages I have learned of two new non-profit relief organizations that have been set up to directly assist New Orleans musicians in need. New Orleans Musicians Relief Effort and NOLA RELIEF. The latter has been set up by blues pianist and vocalist, Marcia Ball, who has deep roots in Louisiana and New Orleans. As it doesn't seem to have a web address yet, here's the mailing address:

P.O. Box 2629
Austin, Texas 78768
Make payable to: NOLA RELIEF or MARCIA BALL (ear-marked FOR RELIEF)

Both Marcia and NOMRE's Cindy Chen promise that aid will go directly to New Orleans musicians, most of whom they know personally. Feel free to inquire directly with the organizations prior to donating. Seems both are legit, though.

September 10, 2005

Making The Point

As you may recall, back in May, I offered my first impressions on Michael Murphy's documentary labor of love on New Orleans music, Make It Funky!, after I had gone to an advanced screening.

While I had one small gripe with it then, it's time to erase that and embrace the film totally. Before Katrina hit, Make It Funky! was an entertaining and compelling portrait of the importance and significance of New Orleans' musical heritage. After the devastation to the city and the displacement of its citizens and their music makers, this thing is absolutely priceless. I urge you to see it in a threatre, rent it, buy it. The concert footage is smokin'; plus, you get to hear some of the originators of the music talk about it very personally.

The theatrical and
DVD release of Make It Funky! is set for September 27th. I have not seen it again since the screening, so I can only imagine how much more poignant and uplifting the film will be now. Can't wait. There is no better arguement for why New Orleans must be reclaimed, rebuilt and revitalized.

September 09, 2005

Who's In Austin - and - Margie Is Inspired

An old friend in Memphis, Jim Spake, a gifted, versitile saxophonist and fan of New Orleans music and culture, sent me this link about Crescent City musicians relocating to Austin, TX. Check it out. Here's a quote:

Their beloved city is gone, awaiting a rebuilding process that could take months and even years. So several New Orleans musicians are moving to the Texas city that, like their hometown, is known for an affinity for live music and instinctive playing.

I am sure there are more than the notables metioned in that article who have gone to Austin, a hip place to be, especially South Austin. One byproduct of Katrina's aftermath will be the infusion of the sunken city's music and arts into other areas, probably for a long time. New Orleans' loss becomes a gain for any place that gets to experience some of its culture firsthand and interact with it's unique citizens. Yeah, you right.
* * * * * * * * * *
As you will recall, I posted the other day about the saftety of Irma Thomas and Margie Joseph and the loss of their homes in the storm. Then I received an e-mail from Sue Trapper, who conveyed this letter from Ms Margie:

Greetings To All Gods’ Beloveds:

I have asked Sue, my very best friend to write this personal message to you all -- my dear, dear Soulful friends. My cup is overflowing with joy -- my heart with rivers of gladness -- truly because I realize that love still abounds throughout the earth, touching every heart with grace. I am deeply humbled by your love and concern, and I am so thankful unto God that He is still doing what I know that He is able to do -- exceedingly and abundantly above all that we are able to think or ask.

The hurricane disaster transformed me and revealed to me what a mighty God we serve. I thank you deeply – ever deeply -- for your continuous prayers, personal notes of care and concern, and offers of assistance. God bless you each and everyone. My family is safe, and we are waiting to see where God is going to take us next. Dear Lord, I pray for all those who have suffered so greatly.

You will be hearing from me very soon, as I complete my debut gospel album in many years; and I look forward to be able to behold your faces somewhere somehow. I’m alive and I am coming to you in the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Your Sister In Christ
SistahPraise Margie

Sue also included another letter that Margie had sent to her fans before the storm. And, I will pass on a section from it that deals with the gospel album she mentions and an honor to be bestowed on her:

I have almost finished my debut gospel album and have experienced the glorious presence of an anointing here to affirm what I have believed throughout my life. In September, I am being honored by the State of Mississippi Gospel and Blues Commission for my contribution to music and for freely sharing my gift of song to help many communities in their health and human service endeavors. My hiatus was predestined as so is my return to share once again with you songs from my heart. I love you all, but most importantly you must know God loves you more. I will see you soon! May God bless you and keep you.
Your Sistah of Praise. Margie

Best of luck with the new album, SistahPraise! I am sure she would love to hear from anyone who cares to write her. Sounds like she is well-equipped to deal with whatever comes her way.

September 08, 2005

What The People Say

"People Say" (Leo Nocentelli, Art Neville, Joseph Modeliste, and George Porter, Jr)
The Meters, Reprise, 1974

Wish I didn't have to say it's gone

Have we got a right to live?

It just needs to be the Meters now. A protest song you can shake what you mamma gave ya to. Flat out fonk This is the single version of “People Say”, with over two minutes edited and faded off the song as it appeared in 1974 on their Rejuvenation album (which you should own, no excuses). In his liner notes for the Sundazed CD reissue of the LP, New Orleans artist, cartoonist, journalist (currently with OffBeat), hometown cultural know-it-all, and occasional drummer Bunny Matthews calls it, with his usual lack of understatement, “the funkiest album ever recorded”. And it’s hard it argue with that, because this record is so strong and burnt up with funky fiyo.

Even it its shortened form, “People Say” delivers the goods on what the Meters have to offer at their best. The drumming of Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste here is a masters class in syncopation, hesitation and push/pull groovelation. And he sings this one, too! Bassist George Porter, Jr. keeps it simple and essential, locking into the rhythmic riff that Leo Nocentelli’s guitar opens with. Leo’s picking and scratching style defines funk guitar; and, when he and George do that fast, tight ensemble run in the middle of the song – perfection. Throughout, Art Neville plays a distinctly New Orleans piano figure and adds a touch of organ to the mix. The uncredited horn section (arranged by Toussaint?) pops in and out, at play with the beat. Production is credited to both Allen Toussaint and the Meters; but, I don’t think Toussaint ever needed to work with the band much creatively; so, he more than likely helped with the horns and oversaw the recording process.

Being the go-to band in Party Town, USA from the late 1960’s through the late 1970’s,
the Meters didn’t usually delve into the state of the world with their lyrics (their spin-off band, the Neville Brothers, would run with that); but “People Say” definitely has something to say. It may not be very eloquent or even totally coherent here, as there is another verse on the full length version (again, go get it). But I think the basic question asked in the chorus is universal, vital, and applicable 30 years later to what has happened to their brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors in desolate, deluged New Orleans.

Don't forget, as far as I know, the orginal Meters should still be on tour this fall. Don't miss 'em.

(l-r) Leo, Zig, Art, and George

September 07, 2005

Benefit auctions, and Olbermann's editorial

Larry Grogan mentioned at Funky 16 Corners that there are some hurricane relief benefit record auctions going on at the Soulstrut board. I didn't see any of them because instead I found a video clip posted there of Keith Olbermann's MSNBC editorial. If you haven't seen it, you can read it on his blog. Many have spoken eloquently about the regional (and national) disaster from Katrina and its aftermath; but I don't think I've read or heard anything as measured, succinct and spot-on as this. Here's a sample,

And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological.

It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.

Read the whole thing, though. Then recall the story about the king who had no clothes. But, mere incompetence is not the issue here. This adminstration had to be dragged to the rescue and still hasn't quite made it (or gotten it). And it was pretty much MIA in pre-storm preparation. I agree with that poor crying local official who called it abandonment. Just saying you care after you did nothing productive when it was needed most only proves that you are lying or delusional. The party's over in New Orleans, for now. It's up to people who actually give a shit to bring it back. Remember, it is a city that dances in the streets after a funeral. There will be a lot of funerals, and a lot of rebuilding; so put on your best dancin' work boots and join in.
Anyway, that's my take on it this early AM. Nighty night, America. More music is on the way. . . .

September 05, 2005

Irma and Margie Safe But Devastated

This info on Irma Thomas and Margie Joseph was forwarded by our friend, Nancy McAfee, of KPFT in Houston. It's from the Soul Music Store.

Hi everyone

It has, of course, been quite a week for all of us: the effects of Hurricane Katrina are being felt worldwide and for those of us who know folks from the Gulf Coast, it has been particularly tough watching the images on television. Members of the soul music community worldwide have been particularly concerned with the slew of R&B legends who live in the affected areas: we do know that Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino and The Neville Brothers are safe and although we don't know how some of our soul brothers and sisters are faring - and our prayers go out for all of them - we did find out about IRMA THOMAS and MARGIE JOSEPH.

Thanks to Manuel Esparza of Chicano Magazine, we were in touch with Irma: she and her family are safe but she has lost her home and all her possessions; if soul music lovers wish to send donations, they will be gratefully received. Address is Irma Thomas, PO 1274, Gonzales, LA 70707-1274. (
NOTE: I cannot verify that is address is accurate; so, you might want to check it before you send any funds. --Dan)

Manager Sue Tapper has also thankfully given us an update on Margie, whose home in Gauthier, Mississippi was also completely destroyed. She and her family are safe and Margie asks that concerned members of the soul music community send any donations in her name to the Mississippi Children's Home Services and Cares Center, Inc. at: Our prayers go to both soul ladies and their families.

I have no word of the fate of the Lion's Den, the club Irma and her husband owned and ran. I think the area where it was located got water. It is right across Broad from the city jail.

Percolatin', Darlin'

Leigh "L'il Queenie" Harris

"My Darlin' New Orleans" (Cuccia-Neville-McLean)
L'il Queenie And The Percolators, Great Southern, c. 1988, orginally on Ignant, c. 1981

Support one or all of the worthy causes

This one was suggested by my wife today. It’s one her favorite songs about New Orleans, and one of mine, too. I actually have two versions. The original appearance of the song was on an album, Ron Cuccia And The Jazz Poetry Group, that came out in 1979. It was a recording of a concert done by the group at the Community Arts Center in New Orleans the previous year. Cuccia led the group and would either just rap his poetic lyrics in a Southern drawl over the instrumental backing from Ricky Sebastian on drums, Ramsey McLean on bass, John Magnie on keys, and Charles Neville on sax, or have Magnie and/or Leigh “Lil Queenie” Harris sing them. It’s a pretty good record of one of the interesting musical combinations going on in the city at that time. Anyway, Cuccia wrote the lyrics to the tune, and Neville and McLean composed the music.

This version of “My Darlin’ New Orleans” was recorded by Harris and her band,
L’il Queenie and the Percolators, around 1981 on the obscure Ignant label. The 45 I have is a reissue of that by Great Southern around 1988. For more on this outstanding band that was very popular locally and regionally, but only put out this one single, check out that link I just gave you. My copy of the 45 and its cool sleeve are in storage; and things have been too chaotic here for me to go out and dig for it. So, I am relying on memory for all the players. Correct me if I am wrong. On drums is the great Kenny Blevins from Lake Charles, who went on to be a part of the Goners rhythm section, backing Sonny Landreth for years, including when Landreth backed John Hiatt. I think Ricky Cortes is on bass here. Magnie, who co-founded the group with Harris, plays keyboards. On guitar at the time of this record is Tommy Malone. After the Percolators broke up around 1983, Magnie and Malone formed the original Continental Drifters, and then the legendary Subdudes. As I recall, Fred Kemp, who played sax for Fats Domino for many years, did the solo on this tune. All in all, this is a historic little outfit and a groovin’, good time tribute to some of the idiosyncracies that make the Crescent City unique and sorely missed already.

Miraculously, this song was reissued on CD as part of the huge four volume compilation, Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol’ Box Of New Orleans. If you want one diverse collection of New Orleans music mixed up in no particular order, grab it. I have just about everything on it, but you might not. (Note 09/05/2005, Shout Factory is donating proceeds of this set to disaster relief, accoring to the Gumbo Pages) As we all sadly survey the aftermath of Katrina, I think “My Darlin’ New Orleans” should be in our arsenal of feel good music from back in da day. Thanks, honey, for reminding me. You’re so good at that.

Great Southern 45 sleeve

September 04, 2005

New Orleans Musicians Continue To Be Heard From

And some have not. More about that further on. . .

I am still in semi-shock here and things have been hectic. My daughter, a Loyola student in New Orleans, thankfully evacuated the Saturday before Katrina hit; but she won't be going to school there for who knows how long. She found out Loyola Chicago is taking some of the New Orleans students, so we have been making arrangements to get her up there immediately. My wife's brother and his family lived in the Lakeview area of New Orleans; and her neice lives in Slidell. All are safe, but have lost their homes, possessions, cars, you name it. Lafayette currently has about 40,000 evacuees here. Our ususal population is 110,000, I think; so it's a huge influx. My friends in Biloxi got out safely and are waiting in Mississippi, where they still had no power due to the storm, for the chance to go back and see if they have anything left. Some freinds from New Orleans are safe in Florida and Memphis, etc. Others I have no word on.

Many stories coming from New Orleans are still horrific, although some are heartening. I saw a guy on a Baton Rouge TV station who has a shop in the Quarter and lives in a house in Uptown near Audubon Park. He just left Friday, because he said the smoke from all the fires was getting bad! He said the Quarter within about 5 or 6 blocks of the river is in good shape and not flooded, as it is high ground. And, he had been checking his place of business regularly and had seen no looting in the area. I can cofirm that from other TV news footage. There was even a bar open - but not serving! He also said Uptown is pretty dry, also with no looting that he knew of. This is a large residential area 3-5 (?) miles West of downtown where Tulane and Loyla are located. That's cheered me a little.

What does not cheer me is the fact that hurricane season still has two months to go! And September is the worst month usually. See this satellite image of the New Orelans area for a general flooding perspective. It shades too much of the Quarter, I think. Looks like the Garden Distric may be in fairly good condition, too. In fact, much along the river appears to dry out into Metairie. There are other such images around the web with even more detail.

Back to the musicians. Reaper from Funk Files let me know that Eddie Bo is safe and may be in Lafayette. The sites below all have forums or message boards with contact information, lists of musicians who are known to be safe and those unaccounted for.
Thanks again to Reaper for some of these:

WWOZ 'OZ is back webcasting from a remote location, too!
Rebirth Brass Band
New Orleans Musicians Union
New Orleans Bands

Also, I got this message via e-mail from Jake Carlin in Philadelphia, who is looking for information on Teddy Royal, who I have discussed here before. He writes,

dear sir,
i think you know my friend Teddy Royal. I am very concerned about his well being for i have not been able to get in touch with him since the disaster in LA. I you have been in touch with him please give him this message: "from all of us at the dawson st pub in Philly, you are in are prayers, as well as anyone close to you! Please call us , we are very concerned!

God bless! luv
Jake and friends!

I have sent Jake those links above. I have been getting a lot more traffic on the blog since the disaster, surely because people are searching for New Orleans information and just run across HOTG on the listings. That's fine. But, to any people seeking current information, note that this blog is not going to be your best resource. But I hope you will come back another time, if you'd like to get a glimpse into some of the forgotten music of the city.

Surveying my New Orleans music collection (wondering how I'd move it, if the next hurricane comes our way), I am left wondering if these are now the collected artifacts from a lost civilization. We all must do what we can, if we can, to help make sure that is not the case.

September 01, 2005

Discovering Tony Owens

"Do What You Wanna Do" (Isaac Bolden)Tony Owens, Island, 1976

This single is the only one I have or have heard by Tony Owens. While the A-side, “The Letter That Broke My Heart” is a well-done ballad, it’s the B-side, “Do What You Wanna Do”, that has the funk. Both sides were written, produced and arranged by Isaac Bolden for Sansu Enterprises, the production company based around Sea-Saint Studios, owned by Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn. Because it was recorded around 1976, I am going to guess that a number of members of Chocolate Milk were on this session. It’s got their well-polished funky feel and smooth backing vocal style. As our contributor, Dwight Richards (hope you’re somewhere safe, man), the drummer for that band, has told us before, they worked on a lot of sessions at the studio in the mid to late 1970’s.

I like Tony Owens’ voice on this tune. It’s another one without much going on lyrically; but he digs into it anyway, comes up with some King Floyd sounding squeals, and brings the soul to the funk. I’ve read that most of his other recordings were slower, straighter deep soul. I have yet to hear that material, but, maybe they should have gone for a few more like this one during his career – just sayin’. Here’s some background.

According to Jeff Hannusch in The Soul Of New Orleans, the multi-faceted Mr. Bolden discovered Tony Owens at a high school talent contest in New Orleans in the mid-1960’s. Bolden had just started a label, Soul Sound, and worked with the singer to release his first single, “I Got Soul” in 1966; but the record did not get any attention. In 1968, Bolden produced Owens’ next single, “Wishing, Waiting, Hoping”, which was better received, on the renamed Soulin’ label. Although a third single was also done and got local airplay, Owens kept a low profile, working to support his family and not performing in public. All of that changed though with the release of his next Soulin’ single, “Confessin’ A Feelin’” in 1970, which got tons of airplay locally and then was picked up for national distribution by Cotillion. That record just made it into the Top 40 during its month on the charts, pulling Owens into the limelight for a national tour and gigs all around his hometown.

Unfortunately (and we have to use that word too much telling the story of many artists), Cotillion passed on the next single; and it was issued on Soulin’ to little avail. So, Owens began working with his band at a club on Bourbon Street. When Bolden began his association with Sansu, he brought Tony Owens into the fold around 1973, producing two non-starting singles for Listening Post and Buddah before “The Letter That Broke My Heart” b/w “Do What You Wanna Do” was recorded and leased to Island in 1976. That single, too, got no notice and was Owens’ last recording for 14 years, until he re-cut “Confessin’ A Feelin’” in 1990. As of the turn of the century, Tony Owens was working as a carriage driver, giving tours of the French Quarter and contemplating a comeback. Now, in New Orleans, making a comeback is on everybody’s mind.

All the news I can stand to post. . .

To say I am in utter disbelief about the aftermath of Katrina is to seriously understate the case. Anyway, I've got some music to post later tonight, I hope, to get my mind off the never-ending bad news in my part of the planet.

Just to throw in some music related distaster news, here are a couple of items sent to me by friends at WEVL in Memphis today.

Fats Domino and others were/are missing, or at least unaccounted for. What's up with Allen Toussaint having to go to the Superdome, the refuge of last resort? He's one of the stars of HOTG and not a poor person, or so I thought. He drives a Rolls, or did. And now he is being taken to the Astrodome? That's better than Superdome Hell; but, has he no kinfolk, no friends to stay with, no line on a motel somewhere? Forgive me for trying to make sense of anything to do with all this.

And, here's the story that tells of Fat's rescue.

To quote Stevie, "heaven help us all".

Friday, September 2 - One of my readers, e-unit, posted this in the comments: "Hello Dan, greetings from Chicago. Did Eddie Bo make it out unharmed? How about other New Orleans greats such as Dave Bartholomew, Cosmo Massima, and Huey "Piano" Smith?"

I have have no news about these legends. As I recall, Huey Smith has lived in the Baton Rogue area for many years. Other people are asking these same questions. I suggest any of you who are interested might check the message boards of several New Orleans sites, Offbeat and WWOZ (see my links to the left), that are still operational by some miracle. Also, for other fairly current New Orleans updates, try

Use this link to contribute to Red Cross disaster relief.