May 31, 2008

A Case Of Mysterious Musical Alter-Egos

"I'm Going Home" (E. Bocage)
Marie Boubarere, Nola 731, 1967

(Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)

"I Know" (B. George)
(Tune in to
HOTG Internet Radio)

No one seems to know much of anything about Marie Boubarere, who seemingly had just this one 1967 release, both sides of which were recorded at a public performance, likely in New Orleans. The label fine print states, "Arr by Wardell", which doesn't refer to pirate noises. That's Wardell Quezergue, one of the principals of Nola Records and a name you've encountered a lot around here, if you've been keeping up (or, if you haven't, use the search box above). A busy behind the scenes contributor to the HOTG music scene for over four decades, he arranged the songs on this single; and it is quite possible that his big band, the Royal Dukes of Rhythm, is backing the singer, as suggested by the large horn section and tight playing. If so, then we're also probably hearing Smokey Johnson on drums.

In those days, commercially released recordings of actual live performances, as opposed to studio sessions overdubbed with crappy sounding fake audience noises, came out rarely in the Crescent City, especially on 45. At the moment, the only other that springs to mind, "Close Your Eyes" by Willie Tee, appeared on the Nola-affiliated Hot Line label (#910) that same year. Nola 731 is a well-balanced, high quality live recording for the time; and the relative lack of audience chatter leads me to believe that this was a concert performance, rather than something caught at a club venue. Anyway, it was a nice showcase for the quite pleasing voice of Ms Boubarere, not that it got her any lasting attention.

I had not heard these cuts until they were comped by Funky Delicacies/Tuff City on their double CD,
Wardell Quezergue: Sixty Smonkin' Soul Senders, in 2002, and did not find a copy of the single until last year. After looking around in vain for any shred of background material on the unknown singer, I turned to the record itself for clues. Of course, one side is a nice enough cover of the classic Barbara George hit, "I Know", while the other features the much more obscure "I'm Going Home", an Eddie Bo(cage) composition that had been first recorded a couple of years earlier, also on Nola, by Betty Taylor, a singer equally as obscure as Marie Boubarere. I did a post on that original recording in October, 2005 and have reactivated the audio so you can refer to it.

On first consideration, it struck me as a little odd that "I'm Going Home" was chosen as one of the sides, not that it's a bad song. It's just that Taylor's original was not a well-known record, probably even back then; but, I figured Nola had the publishing rights and just wanted to put one of their own songs on the flip side. Since it had been several years since I listened to the Taylor record, I cued up her "I'm Going Home"* for comparison and was immediately struck by the fact that the original arrangement had been followed very closely by Quezergue on Boubarere's version. After listening back and forth between the two a few times, I had a bigger revelation: not only are the arrangements close, Marie Boubarere sounds just like Betty Taylor with the added energy of singing onstage. It made perfect sense. Marie Boubarere recorded the live version of "I'm Going Home" because she did the original.

Now let me backtrack and admit that I was originally going to post this record because I had noticed that the Nola Records discography in
the R&B Indies lists this single and shows the name of Marilyn Barbarin ** in parentheses under Marie Boubarere's, implying they were the same person. Ms Barbarin, who later sang in the Explosions vocal group on several highly prized Eddie Bo productions, made her recording debut in 1967 on Nola #741, "One Little Word" b/w "Just A Teenager"; and as the latter title suggests, she was very young at the time. As much as I wanted it to be so, I did not hear a match between Barbarin's youthful voice and the more mature singing of Marie Boubarere. Besides, Barbarin's first record came out shortly after Boubarere's. No way were they the same person. I need to ask Mr. McGrath of the Indies why he coupled the two names. Anyway, dissuaded from that false lead, I turned instead to my comparison of this record with Betty Taylor's.

Using only my increasingly decrepit ears (and a decent set of headphones and studio monitors) as my guide, I'll do a limb-climb and declare that Marie Boubarere is Betty Taylor, or vice versa. Listen for yourself to both versions of “I’m Going Home”; and I'll think you'll agree. So, instead of two mystery singers who recorded for Nola, we now have one, who used two names*** for reasons unknown. And maybe neither is her actual name. Another unanswered question that lingers is why she had no further releases, at least under her dual identities. As I said, her voice, while not quite exceptional, is certainly worth hearing. This is probably another example of the fate of female singers in New Orleans, who could not get the opportunities that their male counterparts had, resulting in far fewer records coming to us from the distaff side - sad to say. I would have liked to hear more from Ms Whomever. Instead, we're left with two versions of "I'm Going Home" and their flip sides on two worthy Nola singles under two different names, which marked a double career cul de sac for a solitary singer who well may remain an enigma by any name.

* Taylor's version can be also be found on the Night Train/Tuff City compilation, New Orleans Popeye Party.

** Note: Marilyn Barbarin is still active on the New Orleans music scene. I was extremely fortunate to hear sing at Jazzfest this year with the New Orleans Rhythm Conspiracy, who have a new CD out, which I hope to review at some point.

*** [6/11/2008 - UPDATE: I found the current 45 hole photo by accident today while looking for something else in the Wardell Quezergue: Sixty Smonkin' Soul Senders CD booklet, which I had neglected to re-read prior to this post. Ooops. Besides having that promo shot, the notes say that Ms Boubarere's former name was DuBarry, and that name was written on the back of the photo. Going with that gem of a clue, I have found that Marie DuBarry recorded "Never Trust A Man" b/w "Why", around 1965/1966 on the White Cliffs label, which was run by Cosimo Matassa. Though I have never heard laid eyes on that record, it appears that Wardell Quezerque was involved with the project. He co-wrote the B-side with Adolph Smith, who also wrote the A-side. That's the only activity I've dug up on short notice for Ms DuBarry. Of course, now we have three names to work with, two of which at least sound Creole French. But, I am starting to suspect that Boubarere was just a play on DuBarry - all in good, well-endowed fun - rather than her married or maiden name. Just a hunch. Where did Betty Taylor come from? Stay tuned. . . .]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

great work
thank you

2:36 AM, June 02, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice inquiry Dan hope you'll get one day the answer to your burning question ;o)

for sure this recordng sounds great !

8:25 AM, June 05, 2008  
Blogger Kees said...

Another fantastic song.
Boubarere... a very strange name? Who would pick that one as artists alias?
Sounds like her real name but it isn't anywhere on google (except for her release). Boubare or Boubaré may sound a little more likely in cajun French.

10:16 AM, June 08, 2008  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Thanks, y'all. You know, kees, Marie Boubarere sounds like the name of some voodoo priestess. Certainly mysterious; but just maybe a bit too good to be true - certainly not a common name in these parts - but you never know. I'd prefer to think it was her real name, over Betty Taylor.
Oh, well, onward through the fog. . .

11:56 PM, June 08, 2008  
Blogger Kees said...

Yeah, Baubare is Haiti-voodoo...

8:13 AM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Kees said...

In French, DuBarry sounds very close to Boubare(re). May be when it came to release the song, they did not have the name of the singer printed on the session tape, and they made a guess of how to spell that Marie 'Boo-bah-ree' name.
Betty Taylor probably was a made-up name, just to 'un-cajun' the name of Marie.

7:34 AM, June 14, 2008  
Blogger john paul said...

Dan before I got sick I worked the St Louis Mardi Gras and my brother in law was playing with Fontella Bass and she did I Know.I also heard Tina Turners version recorded in St. Louis but that track by Marie has a freshness about it that is astounding.I sure would love to hear her now.You're a lucky guy

10:55 PM, June 18, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone have an idea of the value the I'm Goin Home/I Know on NOLA by Marie Boubarere? I would be interested in buying an original copy if I could find one.

4:52 PM, August 28, 2008  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Well, anon, be prepared to pay whatever the market will bear, if this rarity ever comes around. It can be pricey - there is no set value on it I know of - maybe John Manship has it in his price guide, but he doesn't have it in stock at the moment. I lucked up and got my copy on an ebay auction that had very few bidders, if any. May you be so fortunate when you track one down.

11:32 PM, August 28, 2008  

Post a Comment

<< Home