June 23, 2010

A Lil' Bob Party Mix for the Big Spill Generation

Greetings from the realm of hot licks, dirty tricks, and big-ass oil slicks. As the news endlessly cycles, surely everyone now knows two months on about our latest perils: monstrous, worst-case, nightmare scenarios of impotent, inadequate technology gone wildly wrong wrought by corporate and governmental incompetence and malfeasance. A so far unstoppable underwater gusher of crude from a blown-out well and blown-up drilling rig, seemingly engineered by monkeys (regrets to any insulted simians) and watched-over by the brain-dead, spews giant underwater plumes spreading ever outward like some ghostly giant squid, putting the multi-state coastal economy in disarray, facing the devastation of a progressively trashed eco-system. There is plenty of blame to go around; but, ultimately, once again, Pogo's dictum, "We have met the enemy, and he is us", all too perfectly applies to this unrefined mess.

Before you click off, thinking I have gone pecan and am turning the blog into a running rant on the Great Gulf Oil Disaster of 2010 (not to be confused with the eerily similar Great Gulf Oil Disaster of 1979), let me assure you that, though I am nuts, I will try to leave the commentary to others who do it so much better. I intend to keep eyes, ears and mind on our main diversion, groovin' old records, mainly from the City That Care Forgot (a moniker surely earned with the help of loads of alcoholic beverages and various mind-altering potions) and environs. Though, in the spirit of full disclosure, we must own up to the fact that our precious black, grooved discs were, after all, pressed from pucks of petroleum by-products: but, in my humbly warped opinion, it's one of the best uses for hydrocarbons ever invented. How's that for being part of the problem. . . . Hi, I'm Dan, and I'm a vinyl junkie.

My point in dredging all this up in the context of some kind of record party? The reason for even interjecting the woefully mis-named "spill" into these proceedings is to observe the dichotomy that this region has long lived with. Throughout its inhabited history, dark clouds of impending doom have often hung over the coastal communities, as disasters man-made or natural (or both!) have befallen us; and yet, if there were ever a place in the universe where a good buzz resists being killed, my friends, it would be in South Louisiana. "Laissez les bon temps rouler", over-worked into a department of tourism cliche, actually, for reasons mysterious and wondrous to me, describes a potent coping mechanism encoded into the local human genome. It's not just in New Orleans. Consider Morgan City, LA, down on the coast West of NOLA, which for years has celebrated the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival, a tribute to the eternal desire to have it both ways. Even with the futility of that approach now evident, they have announced that the festivities will go on this year, though surely the oil and irony will be more abundant than the crustaceans; but, still, the good times, or what passes for them nowadays in these parts, must roll. It's just what we do, turn away from the sadness and ruination of our lives for a spell, get loose and boogie to feel-good music 'til we puke, pass out or get back to work.

As the Louisiana state of mind and body can spontaneously become airborne and spread to non-locals in fits of uncontrollable partaking and booty shaking, I'm posting one of the great anthems to joyous self-medication, a classic of jumpin' Southwest Louisiana R&B, "I Got Loaded", by Little (a/ka Lil') Bob, which states in no uncertain terms that total inebriation and feeling alright are inextricably linked. All the drive-through daiquiri stands down here certainly are monuments to that notion. Sure, we're just treating the symptoms, but a little occasional ignorance can be at least momentary bliss. Are you feelin' me?

I'm not breaking any new ground with this cut, easily found on compilations, movie soundtracks, etc. For many years my archived copy of the song was on Little Bob's 1965 La Louisianne LP, Nobody But You, done with his outrageously cool band, the Lollipops, but the single eluded me, until I moved down here. Since then, I have picked it up along with Mr. Bob's (actual name, Camille Bob) quite obscure later funk 45s, too. So, I thought I'd pull them out, put them up, and try to help us all ignore the obvious for a bit (hey, the MMS did that for years!). But, even with the trouble in these parts today and more looming on the horizon, music can take us to a place where things are better, and ease our burdens in the here and now. Apply liberally, as needed.

Little Bob on drums with the Lollipops

"I Got Loaded" (Camille Bob)
Little Bob, La Louisianne 8067, 1964/65
Hear it on
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A tidy summary of the career of Camille Bob, who got his start in music as a drummer before he became the leader of his own very popular local band, can be found at his website. Also Sir Shambling has a page devoted to the singer with a complete discography and audio of several of his more deep soul releases. So, I won't get too redundant here. In 2004, La Louisianne Records, which began in my current abode of Lafayette, LA in the late 1950s, released a CD compilation of Bob's work for the label, which I highly recommend. The notes for it were done by local music journalist and radio personality, Herman Fuselier, and contain some nuggets of information from Mr. Bob not found in other bios I've seen.

One insight Fuselier offers is that the groove and basic structure for "I Got Loaded" (which, by the way, is not a cover the Peppermint Harris song of the same name) evolved out of a spontaneous jam at one of Lil' Bob & the Lollipops' weekly gigs at a club in Lafayette back in the mid-1960s, with Bob adding some words that the drinking crowd could relate to. Though the band didn't think it would amount to much at the time, I'm sure it was a dance-floor filler from the get-go. In 1963, they were recruited to record by Mr. Carol Rachou, owner of the High-Up, Tamm, and La Lousianne labels. After one 45 each on High-Up and Tamm in 1964, the band's next release came out on La Louisianne. The mid-tempo "Nobody But You", a cover of Dee Clark's 1962 release, was the A-side, with Bob's own rave-up, "I Got Loaded", relegated to the back.

Although the single did not chart nationally, it caught on like wildfire on regional radio and jukeboxes, with "I Got Loaded" becoming dominant. Its upbeat syncopated swing has proven irresistible to decades of groovers and been frequently covered itself over the years, most notably by Los Lobos in 1984, which is where many outside of the Deep South first discovered it. But the original can't be touched. Bob's sunny, testifying tenor sounds so positive, it makes you totally forget that overindulgence has any downside. Those horn lines answering the verses are spot on perfect, as is the ultra-hip, jazzy solo by blind saxman John Hart, a South Louisiana legend himself. Anchoring it all were the singing drummer's solid yet understated beats, simple on top, but still pumping some counter-rhythm on the kick.

Playing the area clubs as well as fraternity parties, Lil' Bob & the Lollipops were first and foremost a cover band, doing the hits of the day mixed in with a few originals. With Bob's smooth, adaptable vocal style, the band could carry off satisfying renditions of most any popular soul song; and that is what Racou went for when he released the LP, Nobody But You, to follow up on the action from that single, using mainly tunes by others from the band's onstage repertoire, including the title track, outside of "I Got Loaded" and one of Bob's ballads.
In all, La Louisianne released a total of six singles credited to either Little Bob alone or the full band; but none had anywhere near the impact of #8067. After a few years, Bob switched over to the Jin label, run by Floyd Soileau in Ville Platte, LA, recording sides which led to at least three issued 45s and the 1968 LP, Sweet Soul Swinger, which again was heavy on the cover material. But, while entertaining, there was nothing in those Jin releases to spark another fire.

As Mr. Fuselier also notes, the Lollipops were hired in 1969 to tour with soul singer O. V. Wright as his backing band; but, after a while, Camille Bob returned home, leaving the rest of his band on the road with Wright. He cut a one-off soul single as Camille Bob & the Lollypops for the Whit label in Baton Rouge in 1971; but back in the Lafayette area, he got involved with funk, performing with an up and coming young outfit, Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers. Leader and keyboardist Stanley 'Buckwheat' Dural (better known these days as Buckwheat Zydeco) soon had them also working as a house band for the new Soul Unlimited label, owned by Mark Miller, who ran the Master-Trak/Modern Sound Studio in Crowley, LA. Miller was the son of legendary studio and label owner, producer and songwriter, J. D. 'Jay' Miller, and had taken over and modernized his father's operation. The first single (#101) from Soul Unlimited was a funky soul offering featuring singer Dennis Landry, "Miss Hard to Get" b/w "M'm' M'm Good" (which we'll get to in due time) arranged and backed by Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers. On the second release (#102), Camille Bob stepped up to deliver two of his most compelling originals.

"Brother Brown" (Camille Bob)
Camille Bob, Soul Unlimited 102, 1972
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With a funk-quotient to match its high energy, the backing track surely contributed to Bob's aggressive performance. Even though he was talking on the verses, telling the tale of the bad-dealing Brother Brown, he dug in on the choruses, and just listen to those yells and screams on the ride-out. Obviously, playing with Buckwheat took his game up a few notches, making his recorded work with the Lollipops sound quite tame by comparison. The band rendered a swirling funky whirlwind of a track, with hard-hitting, hot and heavy horns recorded near distortion. Not knowing for sure, I'll venture that Bob was on the drums, playing with plenty of syncopated drive. All in all, it's a strong track that at sufficient volume comes down on you like a full-out southbound freight.

"2 Weeks, 2 Days, Too Long" (Camille Bob)
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As attention-grabbing as "Brother Brown" is, I find this side to be more appealing, more back in the pocket, melodic and structurally complex. There's some funk to the groove, starting as a subtle shuffle and growing more intricate as it goes, getting polyrhythmic by the break-down near the end. Showing themselves capable of great things here, Buckwheat & the Hitchhikers created a precise and perfectly balanced rhythmic interplay of parts underlying Bob's top of the line Southern soul vocalizing. Without a doubt, this single offers more strong proof that the singer deserved much more recognition and appreciation than he got from the world at large.

I don't know who else was in Buckwheat's band at this time, either. I know he had played keyboards in guitarist Paul "Lil' Buck" Sinegal's band, the Topcats, for a while; but I don't know if Lil' Buck (a La Louisianne recording artist, himself) reciprocated. If you have anything on the players, do contact me or leave a comment. And what was Cyclophonic Sound, the recording method touted as "A New Dimension in Stereo" on the label? The only reference I could come up with on short notice had to do with some Readers Digest LPs back in the day being recorded in Cyclophonic Miracle Sound by RCA. Likely it was just a hyped name for some fairly innocuous processing, because it wasn't around too long.

The only other single I can find listed for Camille Bob is one I ran across in the virtual bins a while back, "Harry Hippie" b/w "Kill that Roach", both uncredited cover tunes released on Miller's Master-Trak label in 1980. The top side, an uninspiring cover of Bobby Womack's big hit of the early 1970s, was sung well enough, but Bob couldn't rise above the soulless backing of synths and a drum machine. I read somewhere, though, that it was somewhat of a local hit for him. Go figure. The flip was short on dynamics but definitely more fun

"Kill That Roach"
Camille Bob, Master-Trak 3010, 1980
Hear it on HOTG Internet Radio

Covering the 1978 disco-funk hit by the group, Miami, Bob's version has a sort of cheesy, motel lounge vibe to it (heavy on the Arp String Ensemble) that teeters on the brink of banality. What redeems it is that his vocal remained engaging despite the very limited lyrics and range he had to work with; and those bongos in the background and the real live sax solo juiced things up just enough. This repetitive trifle has been stuck in my head for weeks - and now I am infecting you.

So many good tracks worth hearing and knowing about have been recorded in Louisiana outside the New Orleans sphere. In years past, I occasionally did segments on some of those, and sometimes featured material by artists from the region who recorded elsewhere. I needed to get back to that again, and will continue, as time permits. It's been too long. We can always use more diverse grooves for the playlists of our End Of The World As We Know It soirees.

June 01, 2010


Ever since hearing the impressive top side of this single on grapevine's 2002 CD compilation by Gary Cape, Crescent City Funk and more..., I had been trying to score a copy. I wanted it for the vinyl archives because it's one of those rare records that is not only a massive groover, but also historically significant. Finally, earlier this year, I prevailed, blowing several months of my meager vinyl budget in the process. But, before we get into that groove, some background on 'The Groove' himself.

What little I know about the late Gus Lewis began with Jason Stirland's brief notes for the tune on that grapevine CD insert. Later, I ran across a bit more during research for my Eddie Bo series last year. As a few of you attentive readers may recall, Lewis, a New Orleans radio DJ (WYLD) during the 1960s, was listed in the songwriting credits on a few of Eddie Bo's productions from the mid-1960s. One song, "The Goose", on a Tommy Ridgley 45, showed Lewis and Rosemary White as co-writers right on the label. On the others, Lewis received more covert co-authorship credit with Bo (and a cut of potential royalties) likely just to encourage his airplay of the tunes. As mentioned before, this was common stealth-payola back in the day. The songs were "Shake, Rock and Soul", "Reassure Me", and "Timber", a two-sided obscurity that Bo mysteriously had Chris Kenner cut as Candy Phillips. None of those records actually included Lewis' name in the parenthesis beneath the song title; but the BMI registration for each had him where it counted (had there been anything to count!).

Stirland also noted that Lewis tried his hand at running a record label, Libra, around 1970 in New Orleans. When I looked up the Libra discography in
the R&B Indies, there were four releases. But, researching those, I found that two listed (102 and 103) were actually issued by a different Libra label, while the fourth is also spurious - a later 70s disco 12' single on yet another unrelated label of the same name. So, that leaves Lewis' Libra with just one 45, but a great one. Libra 101 featured the pleasing vocal of Inell Young, who is known mainly to Eddie Bo fans, select collectors in the US, and to the Northern Soul crowd in the UK. Young also had two fine prior records, one for Joe Banashak's Busy-B label (sides produced and written by Bo), and the other on Bo's own Big-9 imprint, featuring "The Next Ball Game", coveted by funk aficionados for James Black's broken-field beats. Her Libra single featured a smooth, funkified groover, "What Do You See In Her", penned by Lewis. Sadly, those singles, which were her only known recordings, seem to have been commercial non-starters; and, after the Libra label quickly faded away, both she and Lewis did too.

Now back to the record at hand (you groove hounds have probably skipped ahead, anyway), which was the one and only for Lewis as a featured artist. "Let The Groove Move You", an attention-grabber from the get-go for its raw energy alone, was a somewhat of a harbinger of change for the local music scene.

"Let The Groove Move You" (Gus Lewis)
Gus 'The Groove' Lewis, Tou-Sea 131, 1967
Hear it on
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You may recall that the Tou-Sea label was one of several operated by Tou-Sea Productions (which later became Sansu Enterprises), owned by Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn. There were less than a dozen releases on the imprint, all probably recorded in or around 1967. After the earlier Dover Records disaster that did in so many small local labels, the partners had regrouped, getting distribution for their output mainly through Amy-Mala-Bell in New York, to which their hit-maker, Lee Dorsey,was signed. At least some of the projects on Tou-Sea seem not to have had Toussaint's creative involvement, including this 45, which had the Big Q, Wardell Quezergue, as the nominal producer and arranger of the sides, both of which were written by Lewis (the ballad "Together" was on the flip).

I say nominal because the playing by the three-piece rhythm section (drums, bass and guitar) on this track was so exuberantly gonzo that I don't think Quezergue did much more than write the charts for and direct the robust horn section and backing singers. It's the kind of performance that would have suffered if messed with too much. Usually, the Big Q, like Toussaint, was much more meticulously hands on in his approach; but what else could be done with the force of nature that Lewis set free in the studio? Just step back, let 'em blow, and try to keep the sound pressure from over-saturating the tape (not too successfully on that last bit).

Anyone who hears this track is immediately struck by the drumming - literally. It's so overpoweringly aggressive, any resistance would be ridiculous, and movement is the only option. Now, note that date. Such powerfully broken-up funkification was unprecedented on record in 1967 New Orleans, and should thus be considered truly groundbreaking, definitely the first wave of the wide-open New Orleans grooves that would come out over the next few years on sides by Eddie Bo and the Meters, among others.

But, who dat drummer? I'm pretty sure it wasn't James Black, an obvious choice for something this rhythmically messed with. As "out" as Black could seem to go into the creative funk, he was a technical master and always seemed to know, or at least sense, where he was and where he was going. The drummer here seems to have been less adept. His spontaneous, seat-of-the-pants enthusiasm worked well for the track, but also revealed some sloppiness and/or over-reaching in his sticking. If it weren't for the spot-on bass work, perfectly in the pocket, motivating the groove on though the dense thicket of beats, I get the feeling the drummer might have lost it. Still, it's awesomely inspired playing from all concerned. Each time I hear that kickin' into, I am reminded of drummer Bobby Williams, who Eddie Bo would use to great effect on "Lover And A Friend" in 1968, the beginning of which, though slower, had equally provocative beats. Then there's Williams' own polyrhythmic tour de force, "Boogaloo Mardi Gras", another Bo production recorded around that same time. To my way of thinking, his driving, street-beat style on that record really makes him a good candidate for the get-down funky drummer on "Let the Groove Move You".

With Lewis repeatedly referring to "my band" on the track, I wonder if he brought in the mostly unidentified rhythm section for the session. Near the central breakdown, he calls out the bass player as Lee "Oiler", it sounds like - a name unfamiliar to me. So, they may not have been session scene regulars. Hard to tell, as the players off the grid in New Orleans can be exceptional, too. Any help?

Finally, while not a singer of any great shakes, 'The Groove' rendered a perfectly appropriate vocal dynamism to the tune, mostly talking his hip lyrics and enthused interjections, spiced up with some apt grunts and screams. Sure, he was channeling some James Brown action and inspiration; but, coming through the New Orleans spigot, it emerged in a uniquely different dimension. Rather than approaching the recording as just a vocal artist, I get the sense that Lewis might have brought the song and players in with him as a ready-made package, almost fully formed, rehearsed (more or less), ready to just add horns and backing vocals, and roll tape.

However it all went down, 'The Groove' earned his handle for all time with this untouchable ensemble performance. He and his musical cohorts surely deserve a more prominent place in the annals of New Orleans funk for it, too.

Consider it so moved, Gus.