August 17, 2006

Barbara George Remembered

Yesterday, I was contacted by Naomi King, a reporter for The Courier in Houma, LA, who was writing a feature on Barbara George, because, as she told me, Ms George recently passed away, just shy of her 64th birthday, which would have been yesterday. That was news to me. Ms King told me that George had been living in the Chauvin, LA area (South of Houma); but she was born and raised in the New Orleans Ninth Ward. The reporter had seen my early piece on the singer while doing an online search and wanted some details about that for the article in the paper. We talked for a while about what I could remember; then I sent her some more information, including this discography at Soullfulkinamusic. So, again, as has happened all too often these days, I started to work up a remembrance of Barbara George and decided to feature two examples of her work, the second being a replay of my earlier post.

"I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)" (Barbara George)
Barbara George, AFO 302, 1961

Barbara George was still a teenager when popular local singer Jessie Hill brought her in to audition for
Harold Battiste, who had just started AFO (All For One) Records in New Orleans with several musician partners, in 1961. Battiste, a fine musician, producer, and arranger, who had previously recorded numerous New Orleans artists for Specialty Records and worked with Bumps Blackwell on Sam Cooke’s first pop sessions, recognized her potential and set up a split recording date for her and another young singer who had just come in to accompany George, Lawrence Nelson, a/k/a Prince La La. At the session, George performed two of her own compositions, “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)” and “Love (Is Just A Chance You Take)”, which became the two sides of their first release on AFO, and just the second release for the fledgling label itself. The hooky, charming “I Know” immediately caught the public’s ear and was soon in high demand. So, on the strength of the song, AFO entered into deal with Sue Records to distribute the record nationally. Once available to a wider market, it soared to #1 on the R&B charts and #3 on the Pop charts. But her second AFO single, “You Talk About Love” b/w “Whip-O-Will” stalled at #46 on the R&B charts in 1962. That same year, AFO issued the album, I Know, on which all songs but one were composed by the singer.

Playing on “I Know” and the subsequent album were many of the founders of the label, the AFO Studio Combo: John Boudreaux; drums, Peter ‘Chuck’ Badie, bass; Roy Montrell, guitar; and Melvin Lastie, cornet; with Marcel Richardson on piano and an uncredited vocal chorus. Lastie’s solo on this single, written by Battiste for a distinctive change from the standard sax break, is a catchy, miniature classic perfectly suited to the song. George’s vocal, while youthful and not having a big range, is strong and has conviction on this and her other sides for AFO.

Unfortunately, the sudden success of “I Know” led to the rather rapid demise of both AFO and George’s career. Juggy Murray, the owner of Sue Records, was able to convince George to buy out her AFO contract and sign with Sue, plying her with inducements such as a new Cadillac which, unknown to her, was charged against her own royalties. Removed from her New Orleans backing, George’s four subsequent singles for Sue during the next year were decent enough but went nowhere; and, by 1964, she had left the label. Meanwhile, having lost both their main seller and national distribution deal, which Murray had severed on a technicality, AFO did not last too much longer, either. Some of the principals of the label relocated to California with Battiste, who tried in vain to keep the label going there. He went on to have a long association with Sonny and Cher as musical director, produced numerous other artists, including Dr. John’s first two albums, and eventually returned to New Orleans as a music educator.

"Satisfied With Your Love" (Joan Parker)
Barbara George, Seven-B, 1968

Very little is known about Barbara George’s personal or professional life; but, for whatever reasons, she did not record again until around 1967, when she did a session for the Seven B label in New Orleans, under the direction of Eddie Bo. That effort, a re-working of Chris Kenner’s “Something You Got” b/w “Satisfied With Your Love” (a Bo composition under alias), was not rewarded either; and at least a decade passed before she recorded again.

I actually prefer this cut to the better known cover of the Kenner classic on the other side, as George seems like she’s more comfortable and having a good time with the slightly suggestive (at least for the 60’s) lyrics. Bo’s arrangement is strong and steady; but neither the production nor the song itself are any great shakes. Still, just a stock Bo enterprise is worth hearing and enjoying any day. [As noted, Larry Grogan of Funky 16 Corners graciously allowed me to use his scan of this side. I transfered the audio from a Bandy LP compilation, It's Raining.]

Although her final two singles (see discography link) for Senator Jones’ Hep’ Me label in the late 1970-s era weren’t bad performances, neither of them got the attention of the public either. They aren’t particularly rare and can be found in shops and online fairly often. After that, nothing else was released on George until Collectables re-issued
her first and only album on CD in 1994.

I had never been able to find any solid biographical data about this singer/songwriter, who seems destined to remembered only as a “one hit wonder”. Searches only revealed that at some point she performed at the Lion’s Den, the club owned by Irma Thomas and her husband (which was destroyed by post-Katrina flooding) and sang at K-Doe’s funeral. Fortunately, a real journalsit, Ms King, had better luck with her research, being able to speak with family and friends. If you haven't done so, I suggest you read her article, even if you have to register at the site. Other than that, all I can says is, "Rest in peace, Ms Barbara."


Blogger Tuwa said...

These are good.

8:29 PM, August 17, 2006  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

That Seven B track is one of my fave Bo-related cuts. A GREAT record by an underrated singer.
I just e-mailed you a label scan.

12:21 PM, August 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

barbara was a wonderful singer and woman.she will be sadly missed by all those who knew and love her.her legacy will never be forgotten...crystal columbia,sc

10:56 PM, August 20, 2006  
Blogger mick said...

I was an R&B DJ in those great days at many stations across the land from 1961 to 1969.
Wherever and whenever 'Blasts from the Past' segments would come 'round, that great voice of hers would ring thought my memory and I would search for her aching cry of "I Know."
You left behind a solid record of sound dear Barbara.
A lot of us thank you for being there when the radio was HOT and the local DJ was tuned in to hearts and minds of the city.
Still play those old 45s at home.
Gonna play you agin right now!

Lee Vaunce, Mike Sheppard, KDIA, KGFJ, WWRL

11:35 AM, August 21, 2006  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

Even though she may be known forever as a "one hit wonder", that hit, in my opinion, did more to popularize the New Orleans "sound" than any other single record I can think of... it's just such a tremendously influential song, and it still holds up today.

May she rest in peace (far from the Juggy Murrays of this world...)!

12:27 PM, August 23, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Thanks, all. And, welcome back from the Great White North, Red!

1:43 PM, August 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Barbara George a couple of times in the early 90s during Jazzfest - at the Toulouse club and on a riverboat. I bought a copy of an album called Bad Luck and Trouble which I have not seen mentioned. It was a cassette tape and was dated 1990, produced by Milton Battiste. Anyone know anything about this? Great blog. Have a look at mine (same designed by coincidence), You can find it at

4:00 PM, August 24, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Nick, I missed that BG album/tape. There must have been a small supply. It's not on her discography or any information I have on her - nor did I see it for sale in New Orleans at the time. Milton Battiste's products (since he produced it, was it on his DuBat label?) were limited runs. Thanks for letting me know about it and seeing her gigging. You caught a fairly rare appearance.
Happy blogging.

10:33 PM, August 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for remembering my Aunt Barbara George

I loved "Take Me Somewhere Tonight" and "Love"

She was not a one hit wonder.

Those were 2 great songs that she recorded but I guess enough promotion were not placed on them.

My Auntie is loved and truly missed.

I'm glad I got to spend alot of time with her last summer.

She loved me and my kids.

Her music is timeless, classic R&B

Again, thanks and thanks to Naomi KIng for the wonderful story she wrote in The Courier

If there is anyway you can get me a copy of "take me somewhere tonight" i would appreciate it

I love that song more than "i know"

email at

thanks and god bless

3:04 PM, August 25, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Thanks for your comments about your aunt. I will e-mail you about your question.

6:44 PM, August 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 35yo and from Manila. I love sixties music and have always loved Barbara George. Whenever i compile cds for friends who appreciate the same music i do, "I Know" would always be part of the playlist. She will be missed.

8:27 PM, August 25, 2006  
Blogger Jadd said...

From Spain RIP Lady Barbara.

8:50 AM, August 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dan. You're right. The cassette says it's Dubat. Artists said to be Barbara George and Sunpie (presumably Sunpie Barnes), producer Milton Battiste, engineer Stanley Jeffrey. Tracks are Bad luck and trouble, Whip a reaux, Something you got, I know, Mr Bo Jangles, He bring out the best in me, Everyday I have the blues and I believe my baby's cheating on me.

4:01 PM, September 01, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

You've got a rare one, Nick! If you have not already done so, burn that to CD for preservation. Those cassettes can self-destruct.

4:16 PM, September 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She will be truly missed. She was my cousin and a very dear and close friend to my mom. I remebered and loved the song," Take Me Somewhere." I remember dancing and singing that as a little girl. She was definitely loved.

10:07 AM, September 15, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found a copy of her 'if you think' 45 in my collection. It's unbelievably good and kinda raunchy, too! I'll be lookin' for more o'her stuff, fo' sho'...

12:53 PM, December 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have since a young boy living in Houston, Tx wondered about this lady's career. I had a hand me down 45 record of "I Know" with the flip side being, Love (Is a Gambles Game)I remember the orange and black label of the 45w/ Afo letters on it.

1:51 AM, October 20, 2007  
Blogger strandwolf said...

I found a reference to a song called "Try Me" that she supposedly sang. Would like to check that out.... The B-side of 'Hep Me' label 45 #159, called "Leave Me Alone" is absolutely stunning, seriously. What talent for musical/emotional expression she had!

3:17 PM, September 23, 2010  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Most everything Barbara did was worth hearing. You can probably get her early AFO/Sue stuff via download; and quite a few years back, Collectibles did a CD re-issue of her first LP. I still plan to do a follow-up post on Barbara with more of her lesser known numbers. I just work slow....

6:59 PM, September 23, 2010  
Blogger Sunpie Barnes said...

Hi Sunpie Barnes.. Enjoying the comments.. Wrote the songs that were none covers on the cassette at Du Bat Studios in Milton's back yard. Woopa Reaux and others. Ken Afro-Williams was the engineer for all the recordings. We had a great time back there. Rebirth and Young Oylmpia rehearsed in the same time as we did. Ms. Ruby Milton's wife used to make fried bologna sandwiches and grape cool-aid for us to eat on the gig at the studio.. Barbara and I had a band called the Down Home Blues Band. Played all the roughest Jukes in New Orleans. Gerome's uptown on Felicity and Rampart was our regular Friday gig back in 1989 and 90..

12:31 AM, June 25, 2014  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Wow, Sunpie, thanks for this information on that cassette album you and Barbara made with Milton Batiste at his studio. Nick had asked about it in a comment above.

As I mentioned back then, I missed that very local and limited release at the time, and have yet to find one. I also didn't know that you and Barbara had that blues band back then. Guess I wasn't in the right dive at the right time!

I need to update the post.

Appreciate your taking the time to share your memories. Hope you will check in again sometime.

10:51 AM, June 25, 2014  

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