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. . .



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a music nut and a lover of Louisiana music, I am familiar with Johnny Adams. In fact, one of the genres I collect is Christmas music and managed to find a copy of "Christmas With Johnny Adams" a couple of months back. If you happen to be interested in soulful Christmas music, you gotta get that one.


2:39 PM, September 22, 2005  
Blogger bozoette said...

This is so fine! I just found you today courtesy of the Gumbo Pages and I'm so glad I did. Best of luck in the coming days.

2:40 PM, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, Dwight here from Chocolate Milk. I did get your message. I am alive and well (relatively). The whole band is alive. We may try to all hook up in Atlanta soon. Like many people I lost everything including all of my musical equipment. I'm not down, I figure if everyone else I know can go through this then so can I.
It really does the heart good to come here and see that you are still carrying on. Please don't stop. This may turn out to be an important archive of New Orleans music history. I just don't know if it we ever be the same.
I'll call you service is iffy. I am in New Roads, LA...the former stomping grounds on one Roland Byrd, otherwise known as Professor Longhair! He was a friend of my uncles here in New Roads.

6:57 PM, September 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmm... Just found this site, via Chuck Taggart's "Gumbo Pages" (C. T and I know a buncha people in common though he don't know it). List mirrors a lot o' my "pre-latin" phase collection, which brings me to my question:
I'm trying to renew my effort to pull everyone's coat about the heritage this music represents, and I went web-lloking for some replacement stuff yesterday.
Is it me, or has all of James "Sugarboy" Crawford's stuff disappeared from availability? I had, pre-1/05 Los Angeles storms/flooding, one of the old two-disc vinyl Chess "Best of" sets. This doesn't seem to have ever made it onto CD, and there appears to be NO American pressing of ANY stuff on CD. Were these possibly sides that got tied up in the great Marshall Sehorn/Sugar Hill masters sale scandal, and never pooped back out the other side of the lawsuit or somthin?


Rich Gould-Saltman
Los Angeles

11:49 AM, September 25, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Glad to hear from Dwight, yeah, you right! Call me when you can, man.

Hey, Rich, try the 'Chess New Orleans' two CD set for "Jockomo". It's at amazon and elsewhere, I'm sure. There's never been a US CD comp of Sugarboy's sides. I have one from France. So, you are right, that LP comp wasn't redone to CD. Blame that on MCA. Sehorn had nothing to do with those masters from the 1950's.

6:45 PM, September 27, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ACTUALLY, if the lawsuit is to be believed, Sehorn didn't have anything to do with the Chess/Checker masters from the 50's, BUT he sold the rights to 'em ANYHOW, along with some stuff which, it now appears, hadn't even been recorded at the time he claims to have signed the 3 page licensing agreement with the "attached list" which magically kept growing. One of the great music industry scamola stories of all time...

2:18 PM, November 16, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

And for da music bidniz, that's sayin' somethin', SB.

2:35 PM, November 16, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank to information about Johnny Adams.

2:17 PM, December 28, 2005  

Post a Comment

<< Home