October 23, 2006

Love Among The Ovens

"Graveyard" (Robert Ailsworth-Arthur Booker)
The Blenders, AFO 305, 1962

Continuing the Halloween theme, here’s a cautionary tale of what can happen to careless lovers who choose a cemetery for their tryst. Just the fifth single issued on the ill-fated AFO label (which I have discussed previously), “It Takes Time” b/w “Graveyard”, by a four or five man local vocal group called the Blenders, came out in 1962, around the time that the label lost its distribution deal with Sue Records. That commercial death-blow consigned the label’s remaining catalogue to instant obscurity; and AFO was out of business by the next year.

That was a real tragedy, since many great sides were cut during the label‘s two year run, using the core studio unit, who were co-owners of AFO: Harold Battiste (arranger, alto sax, and piano), Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler (arranger, tenor and baritone sax), Melvin Lastie (cornet, trumpet), Roy Montrell (arranger, guitar), Peter ‘Chuck’ Badie (bass), and John Boudreaux (drums). Also present on various sessions were a second line of great, generally young players: Nathaniel Perriliat (tenor sax, flute), Rufus ‘Nose’ Gore (tenor sax), Alvin Batiste (clarinet), Malcolm ‘Mac’ Rebennack (guitar, piano, organ), James Booker (organ, piano), Willie Tee/Wilson Turbinton (piano), and James Black (drums). While I don’t know specifically who backed the Blenders on their sides, obviously the list of possibilities makes it easy to see why this track works so well.

“It Takes Time” was a fairly forgettable ballad and may have helped doom the release; but
“Graveyard” is an upbeat, cookin’ little novelty number that has a sound different from the popular, mid-tempo, popeye-style swaying shuffles so prevalent on New Orleans records in those days. Particularly on this track, the slightly syncopated snare and kick drum pattern of ba-ba-boom-ba-boom under the fairly straight cymbal work gives the tune a groove that’s hard to resist. The overall arrangement is equally effective, with an outstanding horn section, dominated by that raging tenor sax.

There were a number of groups named the Blenders that recorded during the 1950s and early 1960s; but I believe this outfit was unique to New Orleans and only had one 45. If anyone can confirm any other releases for them, let me know. I’ve read that the lead singer for the Blenders was Arthur Booker, who co-wrote this song with another member, Robert Ailsworth; so, let’s give him props for an entertaining performance, especially on the ride out when he lets out that comic scream and says, “That you, baby? Somebody he’p me!” Good stuff. By the way, many years later, Arthur Booker was a member of
Louisiana Purchase, a group featured on HOTG several times. Stay in the loop, next stop is voodoo territory.

More New Orleans "ovens"


Blogger Nevilletracks Blog said...

As always, thanks for all the great info, Dan! To my ears, the lead singer on "Graveyard" sounds a LOT like the mysterious Charles Brown that Red Kelly was trying to find info about a couple months back - Jon

2:32 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Ah, very nice.

5:53 PM, October 23, 2006  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

Hey, ya never know!

(...if you haven't heard the 'Soul' Brown track, you can check it out here.)


7:04 AM, October 24, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Good call, Jon - and we thought you were just a Nevilles expert! The voices of Charles 'Soul' Brown and Arthur Booker, if it is Booker on this track, do have similarities, now that you mention it. It's at least another lead on one of Red's toughest mysteries yet over at Soul Detective.

8:16 AM, October 24, 2006  
Blogger Nevilletracks Blog said...

I was trying to find another Arthur Booker recording to see if I could compare the vocals and (maybe)help determine whether or not the vocalist on "Graveyard" was, in fact, Arthur Booker. The only recordings I have of Booker are his two "Arthur and Booker" sides with James Booker from 1956 (available on Tuff City / Night Train's excellent "James Booker: More Than All The 45's" CD.) Unfortunately, after listening to the two tracks, I still can't come to any conclusion as to the identity of the singer on "Graveyard." (Someone with better ears than mine might be able to make a more definite determination.)

Hopefully, some of these hints will eventually help lead to an indentification of Red's mystery singer. If not, it's always fun, digging out and enjoying some old recordings that I haven't listened to in a long time.

And, speaking of the Arthur and Booker sides, when Paul Gayten booked the recording session, he was actually planning to record James Booker and Arthur Neville but the latter was unable to make the session and was replaced by Arthur Booker. (Hey, I had to throw in SOMETHING Neville-related, didn't I?)

Again, thanks!


10:56 AM, October 24, 2006  

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