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
HOTG Internet Radio

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
Hear it on HOTG Internet Radio

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)
Hear it on HOTG Internet Radio

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.


Anonymous equinox said...

Thanks for the link to that Maddow clip. Deep, deep, deep.

7:00 PM, June 23, 2010  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Nice selection from someone I'd not heard before. Thanks for the intro!

10:07 PM, June 24, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much

6:04 AM, June 26, 2010  

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