January 23, 2006

Hey La Hey

"Fire Water" (The Wild Magnolias/Wilson Turbinton)
Wild Magnolias, Treehouse 801, 1975
(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)

As my wife reminded me earlier today, it’s time for another Mardi Gras post. Of course, I already had this cut picked out; but she didn’t know that. She just felt it. It’s a Louisiana thang.

“(Big Chief Like Plenty Of) Fire Water” was recorded at Studio In The Country in Bogalusa, LA in 1975 for the
Wild Magnolias’ second LP, They Call Us Wild. As the first LP, it was produced by Philippe Rault, and issued on the Barclay label in France. What? You expected something this hip to appear on a domestic label? Probably through the auspices of Quint (Cosmic Q) Davis, who had helped bring the Wild Mags and Willie Tee together in 1970, a single from these sessions was released locally on the one-off Treehouse label, with this track as the flip side of “New Suit”, which I featured a year back, on January 7, 2005. You can read more background on that post.

Taking a traditional Mardi Gras Indian song from the Wild Magnolias’ repertoire, arranger, keyboardist, and bandleader Willie Tee (Wilson Turbinton) created the groovin’, bottom-heavy funk bed for “Fire Water” with his fine band: Erving Charles on bass, Larry Pana on drums, Alfred ‘Uganda’ Roberts on congas, and Lewis Clark (a/k/a Guitar June?) on guitar. Singing lead is
Big Chief Theodore Emile ‘Bo’ Dollis, backed by Monk Boudreaux and other members of the WM. As noted, Turbinton had been collaborating with the group since sharing a bill with them at Tulane University five years earlier, arranging, writing and providing backing for them on their first single, “Handa Wanda”, in late 1970, and on the Wild Magnolias album in 1974.

This merging of the Indian maskers’ arts with the emergent funk music of the times created a compelling hybrid that gave Mardi Gras Indians international exposure and made the Wild Magnolias a cultural crossover phenomenon at home. With the popularity of the group, which continues to this day, and the subsequent 1976 recording of the Wild Tchoupitoulas with the Nevilles and Meters backing them up, the Indians, once secretive and virtually unknown outside their own neighborhoods, came to be acknowledged as a vital part of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

It remains to be seen if the Indian traditions and culture can survive with so many of the neighborhoods, from which they sprang and in which they endured, abandoned and in ruins. In Carnival season 2006, I, for one, hear this valuable, endangered music with new ears. It’s going to take a lot of fire water to forget all the lake water; but, over hundreds of years, New Orleans has somehow defiantly survived, and will again, its numerous natural and man-made disasters. The key lies in the will of its people to discover creative ways of celebrating the constant miracle of life on the brink, precariously situated, as usual, somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Big Chief Bo (left) in concert off-season

***NOTE: I neglected to mention an affordable CD compilation, Mardi Gras In New Orleans, that has "Fire Water", "New Suit", and both sides of the Wild Magnolias' first single, plus other cool Mardi Gras classics. Those out of print CD reissues of the WM albums from the 1970's are very high priced these days (see Comments), as are the LPs, of course.


Blogger Marco said...

Great stuff! The people will be back to take back their city.

8:49 AM, January 24, 2006  
Blogger Marco said...

I found the cd on amazon! Someone has one on there for $100+. I decided to buy the less expensive choice Thanks for posting that, man!

9:15 AM, January 25, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Nice score, Marco.

Other readers, please note what I added to the bottom of this post today, if you are looking for a CD copy of this tune. I know the original vinyl of the early WM albums and the CD reissues, too, are pretty expensive these days.
The compilation I mention is on a New Orleans-based label, Mardi Gras, and is a cool starter kit of Mardi Gras music.

10:10 AM, January 25, 2006  
Blogger The Reaper said...

One of the best shows I have ever attended was the Wild Magnolias at the Funky Butt during Jazzfest '99. Folks, if you ever have a chance to see the Wild Mags play live, JUST DO IT.

1:21 PM, January 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks Dan for reactivating this track through the "hommage" to Willie Tee. It's such a great groovy and greasy track I love it !!!!! I have only "Life is a carnival" from the Wild Magnolias so I know what will be my next Amazon order ;o)

Great feature as always !

6:59 AM, October 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tower records has some of the CD's from Sunnyside Label at cheap price (14.95$)
Here is the link

It includes 2 CDs I will go for it

7:05 AM, October 04, 2007  

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