October 26, 2006

Workin' It

"It's Your Voodoo Working" (C. Sheffield)
Charles Sheffield, Excello 2200, 1961

With the Voodoo Music Experience starting in New Orleans today, I thought I’d run with this way cool novelty from Charles ‘Mad Dog’ Sheffield, cut for J. D. Miller at his Crowley, Louisiana studio in 1961 and released on Nashville’s Excello Records, as were many of Miller’s productions.
Sheffield was a blues singer originally from the Beaumont, Texas area on the Gulf Coast, who started off recording as Mad Dog Sheffield in 1957. Backed by the Clarence Garlow Orchestra, he cut a tune called “Mad Dog” for the Goldband label (#1045) out of Lake Charles. Louisiana. Eddie Shuler, owner of Goldband, then leased the single to Hollywood Records (#1079) that year to no avail. Around 1959, the singer started recording with Miller, who initially issued two singles on his in-house Rocko label credited to Charles Sheffield. Then, Miller got Excello to put out “It’s Your Voodoo Working” b/w the fast chuggin’ “Rock ‘N Roll Train”, and a follow-up, “I Would Be a Sinner” b/w “The Kangaroo”; but, despite their excellent quality, both records, like Sheffield’s previous releases, failed to catch on. As far as I know, he only had two other singles, both credited to ‘Prince Charles’ and recorded for ‘The Crazy Cajun’, Huey Meaux, who issued them on his Teardrop and Jetstream labels respectively between 1962 and 1965.

While I haven’t heard all his earliest sides for Shuler or his later recordings with Meaux, I think it’s safe to say that Sheffield’s work with Miller was exemplary, especially the Excello sides, backed by topnotch Southwest Louisiana musicians: smokin’ saxman, Lionel Prevost (a/k/a Lionel Torrence), drummer Clarence 'Jockey' Etienne, and Lazy Lester on shakers [12/5/06: thanks to correspondent bbb, and Lazy Lester, for this info], to name the ones we know. They all conspire to conjure up some slinky, snake-dance syncopation with a touch of Afro-Caribbean, befitting the song’s voodoo* theme.

Back in the 1990s, I discovered Charles Sheffield’s Excello sides on a now out of print Japanese import CD compilation of Miller-produced material, Louisiana Bayou Rockers; and, just last year, I luckily found both of the 45s among a large lot of singles I bought down here on the cheap (#2200 itself often goes for over $400.00 near mint, ouch!). I will be getting back to some more of his work later. Looks like you can still find “It’s Your Voodoo Working” at least on Putumayo’s
Louisiana Gumbo CD for not much cash. Hope it works for you.

*Not to be confused with the actual practice of the Vodun religion(s), of course.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great groove by an artist I wasn't familiar. Always a treat to encounter something new and good! Thanks. Have a great weekend.

4:56 PM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger The DoorKeeper said...

Dunno what happened here but I have most of October to catch up on, Dan, and some smokin' stuff it is too. You are excelling yourself. I particularly enjoyed the Lee Dorsey Mix. which saved me a load of digitising . Man I need a record player.

8:06 PM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

Freakin' awesome!

Thanks, bra!

6:39 AM, October 28, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Oh, yeah, Pico, there should be a shrine set up to J. D. Miller and that studio.

1:00 AM, October 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Dan
"voodoo working" is one of my favorite ; there 's a good cover
by the Solid Senders with late Keith Ferguson on bass

never heard the"Mad Dog" Prince Charles on Huey Meaux labels
there 's a Prince Charles on Jin 127 Cheryl Ann but it's not Mad Dog ;early Goldband are all great.

2:34 AM, October 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I listend to this track and it reminded me of a piece recorded by Sanford & Townsend titled VooDoo..Warner Bros 1977 release off the LP "Duo-Glide".. .anyone familiar with this version ???? similar groove.. lyrics different, however same arrangement and cool groove.. dig it.

bruce in durham

7:42 PM, November 01, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Nope, never heard that S&T song, Bruce. From what you say, they might have been "inspired" by this original, though.

9:41 AM, November 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't know by now there is a small "shrine" if that's what you want to call it, at City of Crowley bldg. where the old JD Miller studio was located from 60's to 80's. There are interactives with song compilations from each of his label, (Charles Sheffield "Shoo Shoo Chicken" on Rocko), an interview with Miller, and a swamp blues compilation among a great intro video.This was paid for by the City of Crowley.

5:22 PM, November 05, 2008  
Blogger Ann said...

Charles Sheffield was my father, He was a great dad. Sadly he passed away March 2010. His family will miss him. He was a really great Man. I very happy his music is still playing
Ann Williams, Spring TX

12:28 PM, May 20, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's very sad news, he is one of my favorites.

12:49 PM, May 20, 2010  
Blogger Aner said...

wow....is really your father??

I´m from Europe and I discover his music this year....I think he is, he was, fantastic.

But I have a lot of problems to find his music here...

big kisses....I continue dancing...


7:39 PM, June 14, 2010  
Blogger Buster Block said...

Just discovered this gem. Excellent groove! Does anyone have the lyrics and chords? I can make out most of the lyrics except for a few in the first verse. "My hands still (what?) and my head (what?)" My (what?) tastes sour?
It's your voodoo working and I can't get a (what?)"
Also, it seems to be Gm and Cm but I can't find the chords or tabs anywhere. Thanks, Buster at; bstrblock@yahoo.com

3:32 PM, April 23, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is so cool that's my grandfather my mother has all of his 45s

9:36 PM, May 20, 2015  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Hi, tif ant!

Glad you found this post. I also did one about his song, "The Kangaroo" back on 11/29/2006. The post is titled Another Kind Of Hip Hop - google that along with his name or look in my archives. After all these years, not much is known about your grandfather by music fans. If your mom has any memories about Mr. Sheffield's music that she'd like to share, please have her contact me:
hotgblog(at)gmail(dot)com. Thanks!

Great to hear from you.

10:16 PM, May 20, 2015  

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