March 03, 2014

Carnival Seasoning 2014, Part 2 ...and

With Mardi Gras Day fast approaching, allow me to add some last minute tunes to your dance card. The HOTG Radio webcast is on what we hope to be a temporary hiatus, as reported earlier. So, the offerings on this post and Part 1 [scroll down], will have to suffice for my holiday selections this year; but, once again, let me remind you to lock in to WWOZ’s 24/7 webcast direct from the source, the City That Care Forgot, to help fulfill your partying needs. 

“Red Dress”
Chosen Few Brass Band, Syla AL-349, 1985/86

I featured the mighty fine “Mardi Gras Iko/Food Stamp Blues” from this rare LP last year. You can read more about the members and origins of this influential, but relatively short-lived brass ensemble on that post.

I’ll just note that, although the title of this tune is shown as “Red Dress”, it is no doubt a juiced-up instrumental rendering of Tommy Tucker’s 1964 R&B hit on Checker Records, “Hi-Heel Sneakers”. The Chosen Few’s chosen title is derived from the first line of the original, “Put on your red dress, baby, ‘cause we’re goin’ out tonight.”

Whether or not your footwear is that snazzy, this rendition should make for some high stepping second-lining, whether curbside on the city streets as the parades pass by, or anywhere else on the planet you may find yourself.

“New Suit” (Wilson Turbinton)
Wild Magnolias, Treehouse Records 801A, 1975

As promised, here’s the top side of the single featured in Part 1, released in New Orleans for fans of the local Mardi Gras Indian, and Willie Tee’s funk, of course. The tunes would have been heard primarily on neighborhood jukeboxes and home turntables, as I doubt there was much commercial radio airplay, even in New Orleans. Then again, Tulane University’s non-commercial station, WTUL, was broadcasting at least to the campus neighborhood by that point (WWOZ wouldn’t fire up until 1980), so there is a good chance they got down on this record, too.

Written by Wilson Turbinton, a/k/a Willie Tee, who served as bandleader, writer/co-writer, and arranger for the Wild Magnolias’ recording projects, “New Suit” refers to the magnificent costume decorated with feathers, rhinestones, and beads in unique configurations that each member of the Indian gangs makes annually to wear for their runs on Mardi Gras day, as well as around St. Joseph’s Day a few weeks later. They are intricate, painstaking works of art that involve easily hundreds of hours each, all for the goal of having the most impressive displays of all, and acknowledgement of being “prettiest”. For more about the tradition, read here.

“The Rubber Band” (Traci Borges)
Eddie Bo & the Soulfinders, Knight 303-3, 1970-ish

“Rubber Band, part 2” [303-4]

[Revised 3/31/2014]
I wanted to get in a funky dance record, something that’s not heard too much. So what better than this hard to find, two-part Eddie Bo single from around/about the early 1970s. I assume that The Rubber Band was a dance going around New Orleans at the time, since the Meters did “Stretch Your Rubber Band” for Josie (#1026), which states “People all over the land, there’s a new dance called The Rubber Band....”. They had a brief national hit with it, just breaking into the top 50 on the R&B chart for several weeks early in 1971; and I’m sure the song was even more popular at home.

Conceivably, Bo’s recording of “The Rubber Band”, was a created in an attempt to catch the Meter’s wave and/or the dance’s fleeting appeal, and cash in; but the scarcity of this 45 and lack of information about it suggest that was not the case. Traci Borges, owner and operator of Knight Records and Knight Recording Studio in suburban Metairie, LA just west of NOLA, where the song was cut, was credited as writer and producer. Bo no doubt arranged the session, though, as it has plenty of the musical quirks and high funk factor his fans revere him for.

Though I don’t know who comprised the Soulfinders, their captured poly-rhythmic synergy is priceless. The track sounds like the Meters and some of James Brown’s band took magic mushrooms and jammed together with a harmonica playing hippie who wandered in. It all worked out surprisingly well, with the loose-but-tight, broken-up drumming gainfully guiding the groove. Since Bo had recorded several of his productions for the Scram label, including “Hook & Sling”, at Knight a year of two earlier, he may have used some of the same players, including master beat generator, James Black, in particular.

Though “[The] Rubber Band” did not directly address the dance itself, Bo would revisit the theme again as a title for one of his own productions, “Shelly’s Rubber Band”, that came out in 1971 on the House Of The Fox label, attributed to Curley Moore (and the Kool Ones).

[Note: Bob McGrath's second editon (2006) of The R&B Indies lists another Bo single with the Soullfinders on Knight, “Sweeter Than Mine” / “Afro Bush”, also numbered 303; but, that discography seems to be the only mention of it. Since reading that, I have found no hard evidence of the record's existence. So, I asked Bob about it. He does not recall where the information might have come from and now considers it an error. Even the experts can make a mistake from time to time, let alone us rank amateurs.

On a related tangent, after bringing up that alleged other Bo 45 on Knight in the earlier version of this post, my friend and consultant, Jon Tyler of the NevilleTracks blog, wrote in the comments that he had found evidence of a New Orleans single with the same song titles, but by another group, E. Gaunichaux & the Skeptics! It appears to have been a one-off possibly releasd on the band's own imprint, E.M.G. Mollatic Records. A label shot of it at Discogs shows that it was cut at Rosemont Studio in N.O and produced by one E. Lepage. Jon has a Youtube link for the audio of the A-side, "Afro Bush", in his comment. Listen for yourself; but it sounds pretty much like a young garage band to me. As unusual as the nomenclature may be on that record, I see no connection to Eddie Bo in any of it. I don't know how those titles got transposed to the Indies under Bo's name, though. If any of E. Gaunichaux & the Skeptics are out there, please report in and enlighten us.....]

“Bon Ton Roule” (C. Garlow)
Ronnie Barron, from Bon Ton Roulette, Takoma ST-72819, 1985

Finally, as Mardi Gras day is just hours away, here’s a South Louisiana R&B classic covered by Ronnie Barron on a great LP that came out almost 30 years ago. For details on Ronnie’s impressive, but mostly unheralded career in music, see my post on him from 2005 [I really need to get back to him with a big post - it’s been too long.]

Clarence Garlow recorded his original tune, “Bon Ton Roula”, which had an irresistible rhumba-esque groove and some cryptic turns of phrase, in 1949 for the Macy’s label in Houston, Texas. Released in 1950, it was a Top Ten hit on the R&B charts, and has been covered numerous times over the years. Of course, the title is a variant of the oft repeated phrase in South Louisiana French, “Laissez le bons temps rouler”, “Let the good times roll”, that sums up the party-down spirit of Mardi Gras and the region’s perpetually festive social life in general.

Ronnie’s version of the tune is bad-ass, singing in his lower register and rolling the piano keys backed up by some equally fine players: Harry Ravain, drums; Larry Taylor, bass; Al Johnson, rhythm guitar; with Lee Allen and Plas Johnson on tenor sax, and Jerry Jumonville on baritone sax. It should make a worthy addition to your Under The influence of Carnival playlist. Enjoy.....and

         M A R D I 

                                  G R A S 

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                                                          Y' A L L

                                                                       ! ! !

Photos by Dan Phillips, from 2014 Krewe du Vieux and Krewe Delusion parades, plus 2013 Super Sunday.

To see more parade shots, click here