August 31, 2014


Air dates: Thursday, August 28, 2014, 1:00 PM, and Friday, August 29, 2014, 9:00 PM, on KRVS 88.7 FM Lafayette/Lake Charles, and online at You can hear a podcast of this show and previous shows on the website under “Programs” anytime. Just scroll down to Funkify Your Life and click on the show name to see the dated list.

Sorry for the delay in getting this up. Had an altercation with my office chair at home - and it won. I leaned back and it just kept going, dumping me on the floor. Messed up my back. Holiday weekend good times. Anyway, I’ll survive - just no sudden moves and got to remember that gravity always wins.

Although I didn’t actually mention it on the show this week, the two songs that I started off with remind me in their own ways of Hurricane Katrina, which passed just East of New Orleans on August 29, 2005. The resulting storm surge created levee and floodwall breaches that caused severe flooding and almost completely sank the City That Care Forgot, certainly making a lie of that nickname, forever. I’ve also got some songs Wardell Quezergue produced and arranged back in the 60s and 70s, a side from one of the rare singles made by the recently departed trumpeter, Porgy Jones, plus incredible drumming from a Lafayette native, among other funky grooves.

“Funkify Your Life” (Intro) - The Meters - from the New Directions re-issue CD on Sundazed, 2000..

“Unclean Waters” (K. Harris) - Dirty Dozen Brass Band - from their Mammoth CD, Buck Jump, 1999.
Written and recorded long before the Federal Flood, the song's image of unclean waters presaged the devastating aftermath of Katrina, while the gut-grabbing, rump-bumping groove is a force of nature in and of itself. If you missed this adventurous album the first time, definitely check it out. It's one of their best studio efforts, produced by Jon Medeski, who added his B-3 powers to the party.

“Broke Down the Door/The Treme Song” (John Boutté) - John Boutté - from his independently released CD (funded by the Threadheads), Good Neighbor, 2008.
If you watched the HBO series, Treme, you've heard the re-vamped and re-recorded version of this tune that became the theme song, with John again on vocal. The series was set in early post-Katrina New Orleans as residents of the historic Treme district sought to rebuild and restore their homes, businesses, lives and culture, with an emphasis on the city’s unique and diverse music scene, and featuring plenty of the actual musicians.

From a family of gifted singers, John performs regularly at d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street, but his recorded output has been minimal. So Good Neighbor is your best bet, so far.

“It’s Not What You Say” (M. Adams-A. Savoy-W. Quezergue) - King Floyd - from his Atco LP, Think About It, 1973.
This song and the two following were produced and/or arranged by the late Wardell ‘Big Q’ Quezergue at Malaco Studio in Jackson, MS, between 1970 and 1973, when recording venues in New Orleans were limited. He used the house band there and had them follow his arrangements precisely backing numerous vocalists from New Orleans and beyond. Early on, King Floyd’s “Groove Me” and Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” were big hits for Big Q’s team; but, although he made many other worthy records with a steady stream of artists, Malaco’s promotion staff had trouble getting them exposure in the national markets. You can read more background on this period in the second of my ongoing series of posts on Big Q's career.

“Love School” (E. Small-M. Cottrell) - Denise Keeble - from the original BFW single #1101, 1971.
As far as I know, Keeble only had two singles, both recorded with Big Q at Malaco, but issued on small side labels he set up with his business partner, Elijah Walker. For more details of Keeble’s work, see Part 4a of my Big Q posts.

“What Can I Do (When My Thrill Is Gone)” (Hal Atkins, Jr.) - C. L. Blast - from the original United single #224, 1970.
Blast (a/k/a Clarence Lewis, Jr) was a fine Southern soul singer originally from Birmingham, AL. He recorded for a number of labels around the country, including Stax, before hooking up with Quezergue for sessions at Malaco, resulting in three singles that should have gotten more notice, but were on micro-labels with no commercial clout. For more on the story, refer to the Part 4a post linked above.

“Shake Your Tambourine” (B. Marchan) - Bobby Marchan - from the original Cameo single #429, 1966.
A minor hit and one his best but lesser known solo sides, this tune was recorded in Nashville and leased to the national Cameo label. For background on it and Bobby, former lead singer of Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & the Clowns, see my post from back in 2006. He had an interesting and varied career, to say the least. As with most pop dance records, the hope was that the song would inspire a new craze and sell tons of product, but that didn’t materialize.

“Soul Train” (E. King-W.Quezergue) - Curley Moore - from the original Hot Line single #901, 1965.
No, it’s not that “Soul Train” from the 70s TV show that Questlove has all the episodes of. This is an original New Orleans tune with Curley Moore singing up front, who also was formerly in the Clowns. It’s an unusual little dance number, written by Earl King and produced/arranged by Big Q himself. Hot Line was an offshoot of Nola Records; and for some reason both labels issued the single. The song name checks various dances and cities around the country and has an insinuating little groove; but neither record stayed on the commercial rails. I featured "Soul Train" back in 2007, and there is much more discussion about it in that post.

“Do The Sissy” (J. Broussard-C. Simmons) - Charley Simmons & The Royal Imperials - from the original PJ single #107, 1968.
The Sissy was an underground dance in black clubs around the country towards the end of the 1960s and inspired a number of dance records, particularly in New Orleans. Charles ‘Charley’ Simmons was an auto mechanic and singer pulled into the fringes of the music business by his friend and neighbor, Joe Broussard, a talented songwriter. They both would soon be working with Big Q on his production team; but this was one of their early collaborations and Simmons’ first single.

If you’re interested, I did an examination of the Sissy dance record phenomenon in a 2011 post, which I later compressed into an article for OffBeat Magazine in New Orleans; but questions remain about the origin and extent of the dance’s popularity.

“Take Five” (Paul Desmond) - Doug Belote - from his self-released CD, Magazine Street, 2012.
As I said on the show, Belote is a very accomplished drummer in many styles, but especially well-versed in the ways of funk. He lives in New Orleans, but is originally from Lafayette, LA, and studied in New York with master drummer Ricky Sebastian, who hails from Opelousas, LA.

“Take Five” originally was worked-up in 1959 by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, a group that included the song’s composer, saxophonist Paul Desmond. They recorded it on a single that year, but nothing much happened until it was re-issued in 1961 and soon became a radio hit, a rare feat for a modern jazz record, let alone one in 5/4 time. On Doug’s take of the song, he is joined by Lawrence Sieberth on piano, Calvin Turner on bass, and saxophonist Jeff Coffin, who all play brilliantly; but it is Doug’s drumming that transforms the song into a powerful, funk-infused statement of his heavy talent from start to finish. With a one-hour show, I won’t usually play six minute songs (5:55 actually!); but this was well-worth the exception, being flat-out exceptional.

Produced by South Louisiana guitar slinger extraordinaire, Shane Theriot, Magazine Street is a hot sampling of Doug’s many musical strengths and influences.

“Tell Me The Truth” (M. Barbarin) - New Orleans Rhythm Conspiracy - from their self-released CD, Dancin’ Ground, 2007.
I first saw the group live at JazzFest in 2008, then went right over and bought the CD. It has such an impressive lineup of players with long histories in the New Orleans funk and soul scene. On this cut, George Sartin on guitar, Jack Cruz on bass, and Wilbert ‘Junkyard Dog’ Arnold on drums are the pared down rhythm section. Sartin has played with Cyril Neville’s Uptown Allstars, while Cruz and Arnold were longtime members of the Roadmasters, Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington’s great band. Cruz still plays with Wolfman. Arnold, unfortunately, passed away in December of 2008 after a long illness. Other greats contributed to the CD, like percussionist Uganda Roberts, Ivan Neville sitting in on B-3, and Wolfman himself on guitar. There is a Carnival/Mardi Gras Indian contingent to the band, as well, which makes it great funk album for any season.

Marilyn Barbarin, Arnold’s wife, sings lead here and on two other songs on the CD. As her last name suggests, she is part of a musical family that goes way back into the city’s cultural history; but she is still not all that well-known as a vocalist in or out of the Crescent City, owing to the fact that she never had the opportunity to record extensively or for big labels. She had only four singles released locally between the mid-1960s and the 1980s. None of them did well commercially, but are prized by collectors and go for the big bucks when auctioned. I’ve got a few of those records and will be playing them along the way. For more details on her earlier work, see her page at Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven.

“Dap, Part 1” (John Berthelot) - Porgy Jones - from the original Great Southern single #106, 1974.
Big band jazz-funk, produced, arranged and written by the late John Berthelot, who started his Great Southern label around 1971 and kept it going for the next 40 years in New Orleans. Many of the more obscure tracks are available on CD/LP compilations released by Tuff City labels over the years.

In 2009,I featured cuts here from all three of Jones’ known singles, plus what background I could dig up on his long career as a trumpeter. Sorry to say, I never got a chance to talk with him. Porgy passed away just last week at the age of 74. I’ll get to those other records soon.

“All Nights, All Right” (W. D. Parks) - The Neville Brothers - from their original Capitol LP, The Neville Brothers, 1978.
The popular band fronted by the four Neville brothers, Aaron, Art, Charles, and Cyril, formed during the dissolution of the Meters in 1977. Art and Cyril, were members of that funky but dysfunctional group, but left after the recording of their final LP, New Directions [see my theme song for the show]. The saga of the Neville Brothers’ early years is a long, involved, but fascinating story that revolves around their association with a group of younger musicians called Blackmale, who became the brothers’ backing band. It’s far too much to get into here, but I did a feature on Blackmale, their leader, Gerald Tillman, the Neville Brothers and other associated groups here last year, if you are interested.

This album was tracked at Studio In the Country, in Bogalusa, LA and produced by the legendary Jack Nitzsche. Besides the brothers, only two members of their live band participated on the sessions. The album wasn’t particularly well-received, despite great playing and singing. The material did not adequately reflect the true funky, soulful nature of the band; and Capitol did not know how to market the record, which did not fit easily into any of the commercial radio format boxes. Written by L.A. session guitarist Dean Parks, this tune is the funkiest of the lot.

“Old Records” (Allen Toussaint) - Irma Thomas - from her original Rounder LP, The Way I Feel, 1988.
As I alluded to in my comments on the show, back in my other lifetime as the DJ/host of a weekly two-hour New Orleans music show show on WEVL in Memphis for 16 years, I played at least one track by Irma every time. After all, she did not earn the title of Soul Queen of New Orleans by accident, during a career that began in the late 1950s and is still going strong. While she recorded some funky songs along the way, her strong suit has always been R&B and soul, and, of course, her roots were in gospel music. Her resolute and enduring spirit can be felt in her rich, expressive voice which every song it touches and righteously represents the high quality of her city’s musical heritage.

Irma made some of her best early recordings doing Toussaint's songs for the Minit label in the early 1960s; and it’s good to hear her gracing one of his later offerings so well. They only get better.

August 23, 2014


Air dates: Thursday, 8/21/2014, at 1:00 PM Central and Friday, 8/22/2014, at 9:00 PM, on KRVS 88.7 FM Lafayette.. A podcast and playlist for this edition of Funkify Your Life and past shows are available from the KRVS website under “Programs” [or just use/bookmark the link!] You’ll find the podcast(s) in the ”Music” section under the current playlist - click on the link with name and date of show, then hit “Listen”.

This week’s playlist turns out of have been almost totally sourced from vinyl, with the exception of one CD cut. . . and the intro.

“Funkify Your Life” [Intro] - The Meters - from Sundazed CD re-issue of New Directions, 2000.

“Yeah You Right” (Shaab-Carter-Zeigler-O’Rourke-Cowart) - The Sister and Brothers - from the original Uni 45 (#55238), 1970.
Recorded at Deep South Studios in Baton Rouge and produced by Ron Shaab and Cold Gritz. The story of The Sister and Brothers, featuring Geri Richard on lead vocal with instrumental backing by Cold Gritz, is involved and still somewhat murky. You can get more details in my 2008 post on this record, which was the group’s second release. There you will find a link to another piece I did on their third single that came out on Calla. I’ve yet to cover their first 45 on Uni, but hope to get to it one of these days, as well as play more cuts on the show.

“It’s Your Thing” (R. Isley-O. Isley-R. Isley) - Cold Grits - from a re-issue of their Atco 45 (#741671), that was a part of the 2006 limited-edition What It Is vinyl box set.
I ended up using this copy because it is so clean, instead of the original 1970 45 (#6707) shown in error on my station playlist [soon to be revised]. Anyway, the Cold Gritz of the previous track and this Cold Grits are the same band, as their drummer, ‘Tubby’ Zeigler, verified to me. They produced and arranged both sides of the record, which likely was cut at Atlantic Records’ Criteria Studio in Miami. Just prior to that, Cold Grits had come to the attention of one of Atlantic’s esteemed producers, Jerry Wexler, who brought them to Criteria to work as one of the session bands backing various artists making records there. This was their only release as a group

Other details about them can be found in the post on the Sister and Brothers linked above.

“The Rubber Band” (Traci Borges) - Eddie Bo and the Soul Finders - from the original Knight 45 (#303-4), 1970.
Produced and written by Traci Borges, who owned the Knight label and studio in Metairie, LA. Eddie Bo arranged and sang the two-part song. I don’t recall if the Soul Finders were the backing female vocalists or the unidentified musicians. I wrote about this single, one on Bo’s most obscure funk releases, back in my March Mardi Gras post this year.

“Adam and Eva” (Herbert Hardesty) - Herb Hardesty - from the original Federal 45 (#12423), 1961/63
Lead saxophonist for over 60 years in Fats Domino’s band and on many of his studio recordings, Herb made some great records on his own, backed by some of his fellow band members between the late 1950s and 1963. This track, originally titled “Adam and Eve”, was cut in New York City in 1961, with the jazz pianist Hank Jones sitting in. The single was released twice at the time on two labels out of Philadelphia, but did not prosper. In 1963, Herb signed with Federal Records, which re-issued his NYC recordings and some new material; but none of those got any traction either. For more details see my post from last month featuring this track.

“For You My Love” (Paul Gayten) - Paul Gayten - from the Chess/MCA LP, Chess King of New Orleans, 1989.
Recorded in New Orleans for Chess Records, when Gayten was their A&R man in the city, this track from 1957 was not issued at the time, and first saw the light of day on this compilation of some of Gayten’s own recordings from the mid to late 1950s (also on CD and mp3s with extra cuts). Players included some of the N.O.’s best: Earl Palmer on drums, Frank Fields, bass, Gayten on piano, Edgar Blanchard, guitar, plus Lee Allen on tenor sax and ‘Red’ Tyler on baritone.

Palmer gave the tune a great New Orleans bounce groove with a hint of Latin flavor. Larry Darnell originally recorded the song with an R&B/swing groove for Regal Records and had a #1 R&B hit with it in 1949.

“Come On, Part 1” (Earl King) - Earl King - from the original Imperial 45 (#5713), 1960.
Dave Bartholomew, who produced and wrote or co-wrote so many hits for Fats Domino and others, was the long-time A&R man for Imperial Records in New Orleans and signed King in 1960 after he had left Ace Records. King’s two-part “Come On” was the first of his five singles for Imperial, plus one on the affiliated Post imprint, over the next two years. He had recorded a version of this tune for the Ace label earlier, but it was not issued until King’s Imperial single started getting airplay at home.

While King’s Imperial recordings are considered classics today, the singles were not particularly successful at the time, because the label did not promote them. I’m pretty sure Wardell Quezergue arranged most of the tracks King recorded for Imperial. On this one, James Rivers played tenor sax, and ‘Kid’ Jordan baritone, with King on guitar, plus bassist George Davis, and Bob French’s casually funky drumming. As I said on the show, Jimi Hendrix did an amped-up cover of “Come On” in 1968 on his Electric Ladyland LP, which gave the song new prominence that inspired other covers over the years.

“Her Mind Is Gone” (Roy Byrd) - Professor Longhair - from the Atlantic double LP, The Last Mardi Gras, 1982. See my 2010 Mardi Gras post on this live album, recorded at Tipitina’s in New Orleans in 1978, for the backstory with a link to an earlier post on this specific track. Great performance, great recording - could have been an utter disaster for so many reasons, but fortune smiled.

“S.A.M.” (Sam Bros) - Sam Bros. 5 - from their eponymous Arhoolie LP, 1979.
See my July post on this tune in Part 1 of my Summertime Syncopations series.

“Straight Shot” (Johnny Ray Allen-Tommy Malone) - the subdudes - from their Lucky CD, 1991.
As I said on the show, I picked this tune particularly because co-writer and bassist, Johnny Ray Allen, passed away recently. I first heard of the subdudes when they were runners-up in the Musician Magazine Best Unsigned Band contest in the late 1980s. I knew of Magnie and Malone from previous New Orleans bands they were in, L’il Queenie and the Percolators and the Continental Drifters. Guitarist Malone, percussionist Steve Amadee, and bassist Allen were all from Edgard, LA. Magnie, the keyboardist was from Colorado, but had been working in New Orleans for quite some time. The four moved to Colorado for a few years while getting the band going, signed with EastWest, a division of Atlantic, in 1989 and release of their first CD, the subdudes. Lucky was their second, and last for the label. For more on the band’s history and musical connections, check out their informative website.

This tune shows more of the rock side of the ‘dudes, with definitely a funk feel to the groove. Nice horn work by Joe Cabral (The Iguanas), too.

“I Need You” (F. Beverly) - Stooges Brass Band - from their recent (undated) LP, Street Music, on the Sinking City label.
The first of many brass band cuts I plan to air on the show as it goes along. I picked this track because it’s fresh on vinyl and was written by funky soul showman Frankie Beverly, who with the San Francisco-based band Maze have been perennial favorites in New Orleans live and on record since the 1970s.

“I Can Fix That For You” (W. James-D. Garyson) - Dori Grayson - from original Murco 45 (#1045), 1968.
Starting in 1967, Shreveport soul chanteuse Dori Grayson, cut three singles for Heads Up Productions, run by Dee Marais there. Two appeared on Murco (#s 1038 & 1045), and the other was on Peermont (#1056) in 1970. Both were local labels. Grayson had an appealing voice and stuck mainly to the more pop side of soul; but her records didn’t find a big enough audience to take her beyond the Shreveport scene.

“Doin’ Sumpin’” (Naomi Neville) - Al Fayard - from the original Alon 45 (#9020), 1964,
Allen Toussaint arranged, wrote the tune (under his pen-name), and played piano on it. As I said on-air, the backing band was the Stokes, formed by Toussaint while he was in the service in Texas. With Fayard, their drummer, they recorded a string of mainly instrumental records written by Toussaint for the Alon label in New Orleans, released between 1964 and 1965; but they had only modest local appeal. One of the tunes, “Whipped Cream”, was covered by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in California and became a national hit in 1965. See my post on both of Fayard's Alon singles for more of the story.

“Soul City” (Ray Johnson) - Ray Johnson - from the original Infinity 45 (#024B), 1964.
As I noted on the show, Ray, who passed away last year, was the brother of the great saxophonist Plas Johnson, who for decades was a first-call session musician in L.A., CA, as well as a respected jazz player. Both of them relocated to the West Coast from New Orleans in the early 1950s. For more information on Ray, check my 2012 post on this song plus some other groovy organ tunes.

He was definitely working out on some proto-funk here, backed by some uncredited California session cats.

“Whatever” (Leon Ware) - Merry Clayton - from her Ode LP, Merry Clayton, 1971.
While highly prized as a backing vocalist since the 1960s, probably best known for her work on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”, Merry has done her best to get established as a solo artist over the years, but with only limited success. She was one of the featured singers in the award-winning 2013 documentary, 20 Feet From Stardom - highly recommended; and I did a brief overview of her career here back in 2008. Her albums are all well worth hearing.

“Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further” (Allen Toussaint) - Lee Dorsey - from his Polydor LP, Yes We Can, 1970.
As noted, this album was produced and arranged by Toussaint, who also wrote most of the material. The Meters were the rhythm section of record on this track, and almost all the others, with Gary Brown doing the sax work. I wrote about the album and song here back in 2011.

“Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley” (Allen Toussaint) - Robert Palmer - from the Island LP, Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley, 1974.
Producer Steve Smith, who formerly worked at Muscle Shoals Sound, brought Robert Palmer from the UK to record his first solo album in New York City with veteran Atlantic Records session players, and in New Orleans at the newly built Sea-Saint Studios, hiring the Meters as the backing band. Smith also called in Lowell George, leader of Little Feat, to play his sublime slide guitar on all the sessions.

The Sea-Saint tracks all cooked; but the killer was this tight, multi-layered, and intense reinterpreting of the song first recorded by Lee Dorsey on that Yes We Can LP. For more details on Palmer’s album and the New Orleans connections, check out the post I did on it this past June.

August 16, 2014


Air dates were Thursday, 8/14/2014, at 1:00 PM Central and Friday, 8/15/2014, at 9:00 PM, on KRVS 88.7 FM Lafayette. A new show airs weekly at those times. A podcast and playlist are available from the KRVS website under “Programs” - scroll down the list to Funkify Your Life and click on the show name to see the playlist(s). You’ll find the podcast(s) in the ”Music” section under the playlists - click on the link with name and date of show, then hit “Listen”.

This time out, I featured three songs with the late Idris Muhammad on drums, various tunes by recent inductees into the South Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and some other choice tracks

“Funkify Your Life” [Intro] - The Meters - from Sundazed CD re-issue of New Directions, 2000.

“Express Yourself” (Charles Wright) - Idris Muhammad - from Prestige CD, Legends of Acid Jazz: Idris Muhammad, 1996. 
This track originally appeared on his 1971 Prestige LP, Black Rhythm Revolution. Muhammad passed away on July 29 at the age of 74. One of New Orleans’ greatest drummers, he started out life there as Leo Morris, and early on was drumming on the streets with brass bands. As a teenager, he played and recorded with Art Neville's R&B band, the Hawketts, then joined Larry Williams band playing R&B rock ‘n’ roll, then moved out into the world, playing with various national R&B and soul artists, before going to New York later in the 1960s and breaking into the world of jazz. He soon became a sought-after accompanist, and one of the innovators of the acid-jazz movement near the end of the decade, working as both a player and leader, fusing funk rhythms with jazz. He never lost his natural-born foundation in the music of his hometown.

“Door Poppin’” (C. Fran - C. Hollimon) - Carol Fran & Clarence Hollimon - from their Black Top CD, See There!, 1994. 
From Lafayette, LA, Carol is was inducted into the South Louisiana Music Hall of Fame (SLMHF) at recent ceremonies in Houma, LA that I got to attend. In her early 80s now, she has been predominantly a blues and R&B vocalist and pianist since the 1950s. This track is from the second of two CDs she made for Black Top Records of New Orleans with her husband, the well-respected blues guitarist, Clarence Hollimon. Other great players on this album were Herman Ernest on drums, Lafayette bassist Lee Allen Zeno, Sammy Berfect on keyboards, and lead saxophonist ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff with the Kamikaze Horns. There is a side of hers from from a 1960s single later in the show.

“I’m Ready Now” (Ron Levy) - James ‘Thunderbird’ Davis - from the Black Top CD, Checkout Time, 1989. 
Another SLMHF inductee, blues vocalist Davis was originally from Alabama, and found his way to Thibodaux, LA in the early 1950s, living at Hosea Hill’s Sugar Bowl club and working there with the house band. While there, he partnered and toured with the legendary Guitar Slim, a/k/a Eddie Jones,who was backed by Lloyd Lambert’s band. After Slim’s death, Davis recorded a handful ofl singles for Duke Records in Houston from the late 1950s to around 1965. This Black Top album served as a fine comeback for him late in life, with assistance from Texas guitarists Clarence Hollimon, also a veteran of many Duke sessions, and Anson Funderburgh. Lloyd Lambert played bass, David Lee, drums, with producer Ron Levy on keys, and Kazanoff on sax, among other fine horn players.

“Tell Me that You Love Me” (M. West - D. Thomas) - Willie West - from the Uptown Rulers CD, From West With Love, 1999. 
A consummate soul vocalist, Willie also was inducted into the SLMHF this year. He started out in Raceland, LA, singing with his band, the Sharks in the 1950s, as a teenager. He did three singles around 1960 for the Rustone label in Houma, then moved to New Orleans where his long performing and recording career continued until 2006, when he relocated to St. Cloud, MN. In 2008, I did a feature on his musical journey which you can consult for more details. He is still recording and performing, both in the US and Europe. Two of his earlier recordings are featured later in the show. I’m pretty sure the late, great Wilbert ‘Junkyard Dog’ Arnold played drums on this one.

“Wa-Wa Guitar Man, Part 1” (S. Jones-B. Lacour-D. Douglas) - David Douglas - from the original Hep’ Me 45 (#1), 1971. 
Yet another SLMHF inductee, Douglas is also from the Houma area and a cousin of Willie West. The two-part single is his only known recording as a featured artist. Starting in the early 1970s, he joined Fats Domino’s touring band as guitarist and later switched to bass, staying until Fats stopped performing earlier this century. For more on this track see my earlier post.

“Git It” (Sam Henry, Jr) - Sam & The Soul Machine - from the Funky Delicacies CD, Po’k Beans & Rice, 2002. 
Sam, who died a few years back, had a long musical career in New Orleans as a pianist, composer, arranger, bandleader and educator. In the late 1960s, he combined his trio with Aaron, Neville, Cyril Neville and saxophonist Gary Brown to form the Soul Machine, which became a very popular soul/funk cover band. In 1969, Sam and members of his band, plus drummer Zig Modeliste of the Meters, recorded an album’s worth of original instrumental funk in New Orleans that was not released until Funky Delicacies put it out on CD with some other Soul Machine-related tracks, over 30 years later. Back then, Sam was shooting for the hit-making sound and grooves of the Meters, and definitely succeeded in that regard. For more on his band and their close relations with the Meters, again see my earlier post.

“Said To Myself” (M. West) - Willie West - from the original Warner Bros 45 (#8087), 1975. 
Between 1965 and 1975, Willie recorded exclusively but sporadically for Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn’s Tou-Sea Productions, which became Sansu Enterprises around 1970. He had singles released on their Deesu label, as well as one on Josie which had backing by the Meters, who also recorded for the label; but none had commercial success. Produced at Sea-Saint Studios, this fine WB 45 was his last for the Sansu team, and probably had at least some of the Meters on it, but did not get pushed to radio by the corporate overlords. So, it went pretty much unheard by the general public.

“Chocolate Cherry” (Anthony Dorsey) - Joe Tex Band - from Instrumental Explosion, BGP/Ace Records, 2004. 
This cut is on a UK CD compilation in my archives. I’ve got the original Dial 45 on order, but couldn’t wait until it got here. At the SLMHF ceremony, I talked with inductee Tony Dorsey a bit about this single, as he wrote and arranged both sides. From the Houma area, he played trombone and did horn arrangements for Joe Tex’s road band in the mid-1960s and confirmed that they all played on the session for this single. Most of Joe’s other Dial recordings had a mix of Nashville studio musicians and band members. Tony went on to work with Percy Sledge, among other soul acts, and toured with Paul McCartney and Wings in the 1970s. Another long-time member of Tex’s band was guitarist Lee ‘Leroy’ Hadley, Sr, who was also inducted this year. Hadley’s brother, Clarence, played bass at the time of this recording, as well. Bandleader Clyde Williams played drums; and the legendary Houston tenor saxman, Grady Gaines, was in the band then, too.

“We Got Something Good” (Maurice Dollison) - Irma Thomas - from the original Chess 45 (#2036), 1968. 
In 1967, Irma was promisingly signed to Chess records and sent to Muscle Shoals to record at Rick Hall’s Fame Studio with its killer studio band, the Swampers. The label also was sending the likes of Etta James and Laura Lee down there, looking for hits. Although Irma cut a good number of tracks, all impressive, Chess only saw fit to release three singles between 1967 and 1968. None of them got very far except the A-side of of her final single for them, “Good To Me”, an Otis Redding tune, which briefly got into the charts. I’m featuring the B-side, which also could have clicked. Unfortunately, Chess wanted to assign Irma to Phil Walden’s Macon, GA booking agency, but she refused to deal with Walden because he kept too much of the money. Thus, she missed out on the exposure of touring with some big name artists Walden represented. As a result Chess didn’t promote her records well and soon dropped her. Dat’s showbiz.

“Hurry Back To Me” (Allen Toussaint) - Diamond Joe - from the original Sansu 45 (#460), 1966. 
I did a post on Diamond Joe (Maryland), from Mechanicville, LA, near Houma, on the sad occasion of his death back in 2010. In researching the scant information available on him back then, I asked Willie West if he knew him; and, as you can read there, he and Diamond Joe were close friends. Joe, too, was honored by the SLMHF this year. An interesting tie-in to this week’s show is that early-on Joe played bass in the house band at Hosea Hill’s Sugar Bowl, which was fronted by ‘Thunderbird’ Davis.

“Willie Knows How” (M. West) - Willie West - from the original Rustone 45 (#1406), 1961.
One more this week from Mr. Willie. This cut was on the last of his three Rustone singles. The label was based in Houma, and, being small and not well-funded, lacked the ability to properly promote its productions and get much radio play. Soon thereafter, Willie moved to New Orleans, frequently performing live, and recorded a few singles for Frisco Records there, before hooking up with Toussaint.

Willie has a current CD out, Can’t Help Myself on CDS Records (I’ll get to some of that on later shows), and has been recording vinyl singles released by Timmion Records in Finland since 2009. They are preparing to release a new LP, Lost Soul, on him; and Willie will tour there in September, with hopes of a longer European tour later. Cuts from those will pop up in weeks and months to come, too.

“Oh Baby” (Larry Williams) - Larry Williams - from the Specialty CD Larry Williams: Bad Boy, 1989. 
As I said on the show, the majority of Williams’ material for Specialty was recorded in Los Angeles, where the label was based, but still had great New Orleans session musicians on it, who had relocated out there. From 1957, “Oh Baby” was one of a few tracks he cut back home at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio; but I don’t think this take was released at the time. The track is notable on this show because the young Leo Morris (a/k/a Idris Muhammad), who was the drummer in Larry’s live band, played on the session. Other musicians on the date were Lee Allen and ‘Kid’ Jordan on saxes, and Frank Fields on bass. Either Art Neville or Williams played piano. Larry also recorded another song called “Oh Baby” for Chess Records later, but it is not the same.

“I’m Gonna Try” (Johnny Williams) - Carol Fran - from the original Port 45 (#3000), 1965. 
Carol recorded four worthy singles for the Port label, based in New York City in the mid-1960s. This cut was the B-side of the first of those, which had “Crying In The Chapel” on top. I have a CD compilation with all those tracks plus good notes, but can’t locate it at the moment. So, I will just assume that she cut the Port sides in NYC, although the horn arrangement in particular on this one reminds me of a Toussaint production.

“Cat Music” (Dave Bartholomew) - Dave Bartholomew - from a Mambo/Jukebox Jam re-issue 45 (#1026). 
This cut originally appeared on Imperial #5308 in 1954. I chose it at the last minute, because I needed a short song to fill in near the end of the show; and I’ve always dug the tune, which has ‘Tenoo’ Coleman on drums plus a bongo player, adding a Latin lilt to the jazzy groove. Dave’s hipster lyrics ice the cupcake.

“Cold Bear” (Turbinton-Charles-Charles-Clark-Pania) - The Gaturs - from the original Gatur 45 (#508), 1970. 
This single was re-issued nationally by Atco Records about a year later, but failed to make the charts. With the Meters’ hitmaking instrumental funk going on, groups like the Gaturs and Sam & The Soul Machine were jumping on the bandwagon, but putting their own slants on the format. 

The leader of the Gaturs was keyboardist and vocalist Wilson ‘Willie Tee’ Turbinton, who had been recording as a soul vocalist since the early 1960s. He had a hit in 1965 with “Teasin’ You” on Atlantic, which had first appeared on the local Nola label. After that he formed Willie Tee and the Souls with his brother, Earl, on sax, George French on bass, and David Lee on drums, a soul/funk band with jazz leanings who had a regular, popular gig at the Ivanhoe club on Bourbon Street. Through a friendship with Cannonball Adderley, who frequently came to New Orleans, Tee got a solo deal with Capitol Records, resulting in one pop-ish album, Man That I Am, which was not well-received. Regrouping, he formed the Gaturs, named after the record label, Gatur, he had started with his cousin, Ulis Gaines (Ga+Tur). 

A chance booking at a local festival with the Wild Magnolias resulted in a recording collaboration that fused funk and Mardi Gras Indian music on several singles and two ground-breaking LPs for the French Barclays label. In 1976, Willie recorded the impressive album, Anticipation, which failed to get any attention for the multi-talented artist, who passed away in 2007.

“Keep On Pushing” (Curtis Mayfield) - The Impressions - from the MCA CD, Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions: The Anthology 1961 - 1977, 1992. 
As I said on the show, I picked this song, recorded far from New Orleans, because Idris Muhammad, then still known as Leo Morris, played on the session. The track was cut in Chicago by the ever-impressive, hit-making group, The Impressions, with Curtis Mayfield on guitar and lead vocal, who also wrote, arranged, and produced the material. Morris/Muhammad played on a number of their recordings at the time. Besides the beauty and inspiration of the song itself, I like how Morris handled the ¾ time, managing to subtly break-up the beats a bit to give the groove a rhythmic push.

See the comments section on my KRVS playlist page for the show’s new email address. Feel free to contact me on matters concerning the show there or here.

August 08, 2014


Air dates, Thursday, 8/7/2014, at 1:00 PM Central and Friday, 8/8/2014 at 9:00 PM, on KRVS 88.7 FM Lafayette, LA. A podcast and playlist are also available from the KRVS website under “Programs”, just scroll down the list to my show.

“Funkify Your Life” (A. Neville-C.Neville-L.Nocentelli-J. Modeliste-G. Porter, Jr) - The Meters - from Sundazed CD re-issue of New Directions, 2000. 
Warner Bros originally released the album in 1977. Zigaboo Modeliste on lead vocal here. Recorded in San Francisco, it was their final LP for WB and as a band. Art Neville and brother, Cyril, left shortly after it came out. The remaining threesome recruited various keyboard players plus Willie West to help out on vocals; but they only lasted another year.

“Steppin’ Out” (Traci Borges) - Lionel Robinson - from original Knight 45 #3051A, 1971.
Produced by Traci Borges and recorded at his Knight Studio, Metairie, LA. Robinson did four singles for Knight in the early 1970s and deserved attention for this vocal talent, but got little more than a bit of local airplay.

“Action Speaks Louder Than Words” (Charles Brimmer-Louis Jones) - Lonnie Jones - from original Jenmark 45 #103A, 1972. 
Produced and arranged by a fine soulman in his own right, Charles Brimmer. Jones (a/k/a Louis Jones), recorded just two singles, both on Jenmark.

“Action Time” (E. Batts-J. Ellison) - Labelle - from original Epic LP, Phoenix, 1975.
Produced and arranged by Allen Toussaint and recorded at Sea-Saint Studios with some great local players, including Herman Ernest on drums. This overlooked LP was their follow-up to Nightbrids, which had the big hit, “Lady Marmalade”. Sadly, no hits came out of this equally fine effort.

“Summertime” (Gershwin-Heyward) - Gatemouth Brown - from original Cue 45 #1050, 1964.
 Produced by Jimmy Duncan for the tiny Cue label and probably recorded in Houston, TX. This is one of Gate’s rarest 45s, and surely the most unusual. Dig the very syncopated drumming, making it sound like a New Orleans record. His percussive, reverb-drenched, guitar-generated sound effects could have given a young Jimi Hendrix food for thought, had he or anybody else actually heard this obscure record. I featured this cut here back in July.

“Blues Cha Cha” (E. Blanchard) - Edgar Blanchard and the Gondoliers - new 45 #1004 from the 2012 Rounder vinyl box set, From the Vaults of Ric & Ron Records.
Originally recorded in 1959 for the Ric label, but unissued at the time. Rounder first re-issued this on the Troubles Troubles CD in 1988.

“Gotta Have More” (D. Johnson - E. Bocage - T. Terry) - Eddie Bo with the Barons - original Blue Jay 45 #154, 1964.
Produced, arranged and co-written by Eddie Bo for his own short-lived label. Maybe Smokey Johnson on the drums. This shows the high quality work Eddie was capable of.

“Bon Ton Roule” (Clarence Garlow) - Ronnie Barron - from Takoma LP Bon Ton Roulette, 1985. 
Recorded in L.A., CA. The New Orleans connections were, of course, Ronnie on piano and vocal, and the horn section, three tenor sax heavy hitters, Lee Allen, Plas Johnson, and Jerry Jumonville, with Jumonville also playing baritone. I included this cut in my Mardi Gras post this year.

“Giving On Into Love” (D. Reed - A. Wright) - Dalton Reed & the Musical Journey Band - from original Sweet Daddy 45 #100, 1985. 
From Lafayette, LA, Reed was an excellent soul singer who performed live for most of his musical career, while keeping-up his day job as a welder. I think this was his first commercial recording, self-produced and issued on his own label when he already was in his mid-30s. In the early 1990s, Scott Billington signed him to Rounder’s Bullseye Blues label and he made two well-received CDs, but died while on tour soon thereafter. [Forgot to back announce this one on the show.]

“Best Of Love Turned Blue” (David Egan) - A-Train - from their Sooto LP, Live at Humpfrees, 1983. 
Recorded at a music club in their home-base of Shreveport, LA. The band was put together by guitarist Buddy Flett, his bassist brother, Bruce, and saxophonist John Howe. The great Miki Honeycutt sang lead here with the song’s gifted writer, David Egan, on keyboard and backing vocal. New Orleans-raised drummer, Paul Griffith, brought in-the-pocket funk.

“Tropical” (Louis Villery) - African Music Machine - from Soul Power EP, Black Water Gold, 1972. 
Villery, a native of Tunisia who had played bass in Bobby Bland’s road band, was working as a studio musician at Sound City, a studio in Shreveport, when he put the group together with local players and cut four well-crafted funk singles in 1972-1974 for the new Soul Power label, none of which were commercial winners. The cut I played came from a later vinyl Soul Power EP compilation of the single sides, for its better quality audio. I featured the cut here on that same July post.

“Moonburn” (Jon Cleary) - form the Point Bank CD Moonburn, 1999. 
From the UK, Jon moved to New Orleans in the 1970s and absorbed the city’s funky musical heritage. He is a soulful vocalist and mainly plays keyboards, but is also a fine guitarist. That’s him of most of the instruments on the track, backed by Jellybean Alexander on drums and Bill Summers on percussion. Ernie K-Doe does some of his patented vocal randomness in the background.

“Trouble With My Lover” (Allen Toussaint) - Betty Harris - from original Sansu 45 #480, 1968. 
This is the flip side of her smokin’ version of “Ride Your Pony”, on her final Sansu single. She signed with the label, run by Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn, in 1965 and cut some great records, only a few of which were even minor hits. Starting in 1968, the studio band was the Meters. For more on Betty's career, see Sir Shambling's Deep Soul Heaven.

“Do Something For Yourself” (B. Powell - L. Whitfield) - Bobby Powell - from Whit 45 # 715, 1966. 
One of the South’s finest soul (and gospel) vocalists, the woefully under-appreciated Powell hails from Baton Rouge, where Whit Records was based. In the early days of the label, recording sessions were done at Cosimo’s Studio in New Orleans, including this one, I’m pretty sure. [Another one I neglected to identify on-air.]

“Steal Away” (J. Hughes) - Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington - from his Rounder LP, Out Of the Dark, 1988. 
A Muscle Shoals classic soul tune originally done by Jimmy Hughes, funkfied New Orleans-style by the Wolfman and his band, the Roadmasters, with Jon Cleary sitting in on piano.

“Vieux Carre” (T. Andrews - J. Peebles) - Trombone Shorty - from the Verve CD, Say That To This, 2013. 
Nicely understated funk from Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews and his fine band, on most cuts. The Meters sit in on another number. He co-produced the album with Raphael Saadiq.

August 04, 2014


Big news.

Starting this Thursday, August 7, I will be producing and hosting a weekly show on KRVS 88.7 FM here in Lafayette. I'm calling it Funkify Your Life and will feature the funkier sides of R&B, soul, and jazz from New Orleans, elsewhere in Louisiana, and around the Gulf Coast - vintage and contemporary groove music sourced from my vinyl and digital archives. So, of course, the audio content of da blog will be appearing over time, in no particular order. . . . much like the former HOTG webcast, but now in one hour segments with a bit of vocal commentary.

My time slot on Thursdays is 1:00 - 2:00 PM Central US time, with a rebroadcast Friday nights at 9:00 PM. KRVS programming is available for streaming on their website; and they also offer playlist and podcast archives of local shows, such as mine, there - just hit the "Programs" link and scroll down to my show. So, you can hear FYL in real time or anytime, and most anywhere. 

I am honored to have been approved to be a small part of the impressive on KRVS operation, and look forward to airing the many choice cuts from my collection to a mostly new and potentially larger audience.

By the way, I plan to also post my weekly playlists here, along with some relevant links. So, keep a lookout and tune-in to Funkify Your Life!

July 28, 2014


The randomness continues with three more unrelated tracks, plus, two that might have someone in common. Each features a saxophone as lead instrument. . . and poly-rhythms, of course. The first two tunes in particular display a Latin music influence that fits naturally into the funky rhythmic underpinnings of New Orleans jazz and R&B that go way back through the Caribbean into Spain, the Middle East, and Africa.

“Reo” On Tulane

“Reo” (B. Tate)
Earnest Holland and His Orchestra, Tulane 102, 1960

Information on saxophonist and bandleader Earnest Holland is scant. I have found just a a few tidbits on his musical career other than his credit on this single, which appears to have been his second release, and quite possibly his last. When, starting in 1954, Sugarboy Crawford held down a two year gig at the Carousel Club in West Baton Rouge, LA, Holland was a member of his band, the Cane Cutters. As Crawford told Jeff Hannusch in I Hear You Knockin’, his entire group relocated to the town for that stint. In Bruce Bastin’s liner notes to a 1984 Flyright LP compilation of mostly unissued material recorded for producer J. D. 'Jay' Miller in Crowley, LA, rather misleadingly titled Going to New Orleans, I found the assertion that Holland came from Baton Rouge; but, since Bastin's subject was alternate takes of songs on Holland’s 1956 first single, I’m not sure if that means he had lived there for a while, or was actually raised in the area.

That record, “Give It Up (or tell where its at)”/”If I Had My Life To Live Over”, was cut by the saxman and his band at Miller’s studio. It was released on Excello 2089 under the name of Vince Monroe with Ernie Holland and his Orchestra. Monroe [actual name: Monroe Vincent] was the group’s singer, who, Bastin noted, was working out of New Orleans at the time, which ought to place Holland there too. I also found a credit for Holland playing tenor sax on a 1962 Danny White session at Cosimo’s for Frisco Records. So, one way or another, he had a presence on the local music scene.

The writer of “Reo”, Billy Tate, also played in Sugarboy’s band during their run at the Carousel, and later started the small Tulane label in New Orleans, when a lot of small, independent, local record companies were trying to get in on the action. A blind New Orleans guitarist and bassist (who also played accordion, according to Mac Rebennack in Under A Hoodoo Moon), Tate had been in the house bands at Club Tijuana and the Dew Drop Inn during the 1950s, as Earl King recalled to John Broven in Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans, and to Hannusch. He also did session work going back to the late 1940s, and recorded at least three singles of his own, with “Single Life”/”You Told Me” on Imperial 5337 from 1955 being the most well-known.

Tireless collectors and researchers, Peter Hoogers and ana-b, note in the Cosimo Code Forum that Tulane 102 was probably the label’s initial release of its five known singles. Peter found a 1960 Billboard review of the 45, and thus dates it by that. No doubt the session was recorded at Cosimo’s studio in New Orleans, but just prior to his use of the unique numbering system he developed to keep track of his studio clients and their releases, known these days as the Cosimo Code. Both sides of the single were instrumentals, with “Salt And Pepper” on top, a fairly standard, mid-tempo R&B outing in the same mold as Bill Doggett’s earlier hit, “Honky Tonk”. But “Reo” was a different matter, having a much more complex rhythmic approach.

The tune’s main draw, a highly percussive, danceable groove, was generated by an unknown drummer who stuck to the tom-toms and kick, joined by other percussionists, one playing bongos or congas, plus someone hitting a clave beat on a bottle. As for the song title, I’m not sure if Tate was going for Rio and misspelled it, but the rhythm does have somewhat of a samba feel to it. The melody line played by Holland’s tenor sax, voiced mostly in its lower register, is almost childlike in its simplicity. Clearly, the record was geared for the pop market; but got lost in the deluge of great material coming out in the city at the time, and quickly went under.

“Adam and Eva” By Way Of NYC

“Adam And Eva” (Reichner-Hardesty)
Herb Hardesty, Federal 12423, 1961

Herbert Hardesty, a consummate R&B saxophonist, was a dominant instrumental fixture in Fats Domino’s band from the late 1940s until Fats stopped performing a few years ago; but Herb also made some remarkable, mainly instrumental recordings of his own between 1958 and 1961. Many of these had never seen the light of day until 2012, when the Ace label in the UK, released The Domino Effect, a CD compilation of almost all of them, which I reviewed here. Integral to that project were the efforts of my friend, George Korval, who not only advocated for wider recognition of Hardesty’s talent and contributions, but uncovered a trove of his material recorded in the late 1950s but never issued. That important find became a major part of the Ace compilation. George also wrote an invaluable set of notes for the CD and gathered together some of Herb’s rare photos for the highly recommended package.

The track at hand was part of a 1959 four song session Herb was invited to do in New York City along with several fellow members of Fats’ band and the esteemed jazz pianist, Hank Jones. Herb wrote the all-instrumental numbers, “Beatin’ and Blowin’”, “69 Mother’s Place”, “Perdido Street”, and “Adam and Eve” (the title was later amended). As George details in his notes, Herb did not know who set the sessions up; but, after they were done, the first two songs appeared on a one-off 45 for the Paoli label (#1001) out of Philadelphia, naming the band Herb Hardesty and the Rhythm Rollers and giving co-writing credit to someone unknown to him named Reichner. Within a few months, the same two songs re-appeared on a Mutual single (again #1001), also from Philly; but neither had any success and quickly vanished.

Enter Syd Nathan of King Records, who in 1960 heard Fats’ band live and signed Herb as a solo recording artist. Before making any new product, Nathan purchased the New York session masters and released them in 1961 on his Federal subsidiary under Herb’s name. “Beatin’ and Blowin’”/’69 Mother’s Place” came out first (#12410) followed by “Perdido Street”/”Adam and Eva” (when the title changed). Korval goes into much more detail in his notes, but this is the short(er) version of how this tune and Hardesty’s other handful of releases came to appear on Federal.

Aside from the token “Tequila”-like intro section, I dig the Latin groove on this one, masterfully undertaken by Cornelius ‘Tenoo’ Coleman, Fats’ longtime touring drummer. It’s great to hear him on these sessions, as well as others found of the CD, playing in settings where we can hear more of his versatility and expertise. In particular, his facility with improvising beats and counter rhythms makes apparent why he is considered one of the early funk innovators, cited by such notables as ‘Jabo’ Starks, one of James Brown’s early drummers.

Accompanying Herb’s tenor sax was Clarence Ford on the baritone, also a veteran of the Domino road band, along with Jimmy Davis on acoustic bass. Guitarist and bandmate Roy Montrell was also on some of the NYC sessions, but not this particular track, it seems. Meanwhile, Hank Jones maintained a low-key sideman’s role on the tune; but his rich piano comping proved to be tasteful and rhythmically engaging.

Neither Herb’s first two singles on Federal nor another pair, comprised of sides he cut in Cincinnati during 1961, again with members of Fats’ band, did well commercially, and marked the end of his brief solo recording career. Back in 2005, I wrote about one of those later 45s (#12460), notable for a side featuring guitarist Walter ‘Papoose’ Nelson’s vocal. In fact, the other single (#12444) had Nelson singing on one track, too, and may be the rarest of them all. Another good reason to pick up the CD.

Eddie And Eddie’s Seven B Collaboration

“Something Within Me” (E. Langlois - E. Bocage)
Eddie Lang, Seven B 7006, 1966

New Orleans singer and guitarist Eddie Langlois performed and recorded as Eddie Lang from the mid-1950s into the 1970s and should not be confused with the pioneering, Italian-American jazz guitarist, Salvatore Massaro, from Philadelphia, who used the same stage name during the 1920s and 1930s. Most of the background information I have about the later Lang’s recording career comes from Jeff Hannusch’s notes to the 1988 Rounder CD compilation of blues artifacts from the Ric & Ron label archives, Troubles, Troubles; but Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven has a short work-up on him, too, plus audio of some of his other tracks. A few more of his tunes can be currently found on YouTube.

According to Hannusch, Lang was a member of Jessie Hill’s seminal band, the House Rockers, while still a teenager. When they split up, he formed a blues band with another Eddie (Jones), who was new in town and called himself Guitar Slim. The two cut individual singles for the Bullet label in Nashville, but only Slim’s got noticed. Then in 1953, Guitar Slim began recording in New Orleans for Specialty Records, and his career took off. Specialty put him with the Lloyd Lambert band for studio and for road work. So, Lang moved on to a solo career.

In 1956, he recorded a session in New Orleans for the RPM label out of Los Angeles, resulting in two decent singles, neither of which scored commercially. One side was a blues tune, while the rest were typical New Orleans R&B of period. Two years later, Johnny Vincent of Ace Records heard Lang at the famed Dew Drop Inn and signed him up for a recording session backed by Mac Rebennack’s band. Two of those tracks were slow, bluesy numbers, and the others were rockers, including the misleadingly named rave-up, “Easy Rockin’”. For some reason, Vincent let Joe Ruffino, who was just starting up two new labels, Ric and Ron, release Lang’s material on two Ron singles in 1958 and 1959. The first (#320), with “Easy Rockin’” on it, did well locally; but the second (#324) lacked similar impact. He didn’t record again until meeting up with the next Eddie in this tale some eight years later.

The smokin’ cut featured here is the B-side on the first of two 45s Lang made for Joe Banashak’s Seven B label. Eddie Bo was recording for the label at the time and also doing production, arranging, and songwriting for other artists. Over the course of just a couple of years, Bo made half a dozen fine singles of his own for the label and oversaw many memorable sessions for others.

The arrangement on “Something Within Me” was outstanding, though it seems to be a stylistic throwback to the big horn-driven R&B sound inspired by one of Bo’s early influences, Ray Charles. The pulsating power of the groove came from the stutter-step drumming, not quite funk, but driving the beat with syncopated counterpunching that the bass locked into and was picked up by the chugging horns charts. The influential drummer, James Black, would be a good candidate for this kind of playing and was doing other sessions for Bo at the time, including Skip Easterling’s “Keep The Fire Burning”, on Alon that same year. His groove on that track is similar to this one; so, I’ll vote for Black.

.As for the soloists, James Rivers, a Bo regular in those days, likely took care of the sax attack, with Lang picking guitar at the end. Also dig his flat-out singing style on this tune, letting it rip in gonzo mode at the top of this range. While no Ray Charles, Lang had a gospel-like fervor that took him to the right place, rendering a vocal performance worthy of the song’s high spirit.

While not featured here, the less tightly packed, midtempo topside, “The Love I Have For You”, gave Lang’s soulful side a chance to shine; and he played plenty of stinging guitar licks throughout to keep things stirred up. It is well worth seeking out. All in all, this great, under-appreciated 45 showcases the strengths of both Eddie’s, but somehow, like much of Bo’s other Seven B output, didn’t get noticed.

After his two for Seven B, Lang’s next opportunity to record didn’t come until 1973, when he cut pretty much straight blues on two singles for Senator Jones’ Superdome label. He had a substantial regional hit with the initial two-part release, “Food Stamp Blues”, when the more prominent Jewel Records in Shreveport re-issued it, giving it an outlet to more markets. Several years later, Lang suffered a stroke which ended his performing and recording career.

The Still Mysterious “Soul Machine”

“Soul Machine”
The Meters, from a bootleg Josie 45 (#2507), early 2000s

Of all the tracks that the Meters recorded in New Orleans from 1968 - 1971 while Josie Records was releasing their material to a national audience, “Soul Machine” stands out because of the saxophone soloing over the groove. Their signature instrumental configuration on any other session in those days was a lean, mean four-piece: organ, guitar, bass and drums. What caused this lone exception? And who was that sax player?

Contrary to appearances, Josie never released “Soul Machine” on a Meters single or album. The record pictured, which has “Here Comes the Meterman” [the actual flip of “Cissy Strut”] on the other side, is an early 21st Century fabrication (from the UK, I think) that I bought on purpose, just to have the song on vinyl. The audio was probably surreptitiously sourced from the 1999 authorized re-issue CD series that Sundazed did on the Meters’ catalog, where “Soul Machine” appeared as one of two bonus tracks on The Meters, reproducing the band’s first Josie LP. The song also showed up on Sundazed’s 2002 Zony Mash CD of mainly non-LP cuts from the Josie era. The song’s inclusion on The Meters CD suggests that the band likely cut it that same year, 1969.

I first encountered the moody “Soul Machine” on that re-issue. A few years later, 2002 to be exact, Funky Delicacies/Tuff City released a CD containing a previously unissued album (plus some other tracks), Po’k Bones & Rice, by Sam & The Soul Machine, which I bought in a heartbeat.The sessions had also been recorded in 1969 at Cosimo’s Jazz City Studio; and one brief track on the CD set off a mystery that inspired a lengthy blog post back in 2006, and still has not been totally resolved. I decided to revisit the Meters’ song because the one I have chosen to follow it made me wonder again about who the saxman might have been.

I knew about Sam & The Soul Machine primarily through the Neville Brothers’ autobiography, The Brothers Neville, which revealed that the origins of the Meters and S&TSM were intimately entwined. In 1967 Art Neville had come back to New Orleans after leading the backing band on the road for his brother, Aaron, who toured extensively off his Parlo hit, “Tell It Like It Is”. Art was ready to start a group of his own, and enlisted the then unsigned Aaron [Parlo had gone out of business] and youngest brother, Cyril, to be a part of it, along with a hot young sax player, Gary Brown. The rhythm section was in flux for a while; then. Art found three young cats, Leo Nocentelli, George Porter, Jr. and Joseph ‘Zigaboo’ Modeliste, who had the funky chemistry he had been looking for. The group, Art Neville & The Neville Sounds, quickly got popular on the local club scene, with the three brothers fronting the band on vocals; but, when Art was offered a regular and good paying gig at a French Quarter bar that only had room for a foursome, he decided to take it and cut Aaron, Cyril, and Gary Brown loose.

Meanwhile, bandleader and keyboard master Sam Henry, Jr. had a popular trio going, but jumped at the chance to expand when approached by the two brothers and Brown. They combined into a new band, the Soul Machine, which soon became popular around town playing mainly cover material. Subsequently, Art and his combo, were hired in 1968 to be the studio band for Tou-Sea Productions (later to be called Sansu Enterprises), owned by Allen Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn. Besides laying down backing tracks for Tou-Sea artists, the group soon became recording artists themselves, when Toussaint began taping their improvised instrumental studio jams. Sehorn got the tracks placed with Josie Records in New York; the band rebranded as the Meters; and their tight, minimalist funk singles soon became national hits.

Inspired by the Meters’ success, Sam Henry cut an album’s worth of his own funky instrumental tracks with members of his band [he planned to do another project using Cyril and Aaron later], along with two hired drummers, Joe Gunn and Zigaboo. One of the tracks Zig played on was called “Gospel Bird”, which, for reasons unknown, is not complete on the Funky Delicacies CD. When I heard it, there was enough (about half the tune) to recognize that is was a slightly faster rendition of the song I knew as “Soul Machine”, with a quite similar arrangement. I was both confused and intrigued by these two versions with separate titles done by two different bands, who were more than just contemporaries; but I didn’t do any real research on what might have gone on until after I started the blog. I was prodded into action by an alert reader, John, who had recently discovered the tunes himself and emailed to ask what I knew about them.

His questions and mine engendered my 2006 post, “Gospel Bird Vs Soul Machine”, in which I reproduced our correspondence and speculated on the origins of the two tracks,. You can read all the details there [I’ve got to fix all those typos!]; but I will say that my thoughts were speculative at best until I contacted Gary Brown, and then heard from Sam Henry. Gary did not recall the Meters’ song or session, and, after listening to it, insisted that he was not the sax player and didn’t know who was. Sam verified that he indeed did write the tune, but added that he didn’t even know the Meters had recorded it until Art Neville mentioned it to him some 30 years later. [I had to break it to Sam that the Meters were given the writers’ credit for “Soul Machine” on the Sundazed CDs.] He also had no clue why the tape that he gave to Tuff City only had about half of “Gospel Bird” on it. So, some of the mystery was resolved, but some has lingered.

After considering the provenance of the song again recently, here’s what I’m fairly certain about. The Meters got the song via Zigaboo, who played on most of the S&TSM album sessions. Zig must have let them hear the tape, because their arrangement is so close to Sam’s. As far as I can tell from the portion of “Gospel Bird” heard on Po’k Bones & Rice, the Meters essentially lifted the whole thing, just slowing it down a bit. But, hey, Sam obviously intended it to sound much like a Meters song in the first place! Maybe the extreme similarity of the tracks was why the Tou-Sea/Sansu team never had it released, or was it that Sehorn did not have the publishing rights and would not have gotten revenue out of it?

As for the main question remaining: who played sax on “Soul Machine”? I think the next track provides at least a promising possibility.

Alvin Thomas Up Front

“Sax-O-Soul” (John Berthelot)
Alvin Thomas. Great Southern 102B, 1972

In 1972, when tenor saxman Alvin Thomas recorded this hot instrumental single for John Berthelot’s Great Southern label, both he and Gary Brown played in the horn section on Allen Toussaint’s Life, Love and Faith LP, also cut at Jazz City Studio. Each also continued working for Toussaint as session musicians after Sea-Saint Studios opened the next year.

Of course, it would have been ideal if Brown had played on both “Gospel Bird” and “Soul Machine”, since the takes sound so close to each other. Ben Sandmel’s notes to the CD re-issue of Lee Dorsey’s 1970 Yes We Can album material put Brown in the studio playing a solo on one of the tracks. So, he was in Sansu’s employ at least that early. But, as he denied doing the Meters session in question, I have thought over the years about other possibilities, maybe James Rivers or even ‘Red’ Tyler; but Rivers, it seems, did not do regular session work for Toussaint/Sehorn productions, not that he couldn’t have been called in. Tyler did tons of session work in New Orleans over the decades for everybody, but often was used more for his baritone sax skills, though he was a classic R&B and jazz tenor player as well.

When I decided to feature “Sax-O-Soul” on this post and started researching Thomas further, I got the feeling that he should definitely be in the running for “Soul Machine”. Unfortunately, I haven’t found out much about his resume prior to 1972. New Orleans studio musician credits are spotty at best for the 1960s. I only know that he was more or less a contemporary of the great saxophonist, Edward ‘Kid’ Jordan, and played with him later in the 1970s in the Improvisational Arts Quintet, a free-jazz ensemble in New Orleans. Just before the group did their first recording, Thomas died in 1977. Their album, No Compromise!, finally released in 1983, was dedicated to him. [Check out this YouTube video of the IAQ in 1976 with Thomas playing tenor sax. His solo starts around 7 minutes in.]

Anyway, Thomas was old enough to very well have been playing Tou-Sea/Sanus sessions in the late 1960s and even before. Maybe someday, I’ll stumble across something more definite. Right now, he’s just my latest hunch for sax on the “Soul Machine” session.

On to the record at hand. which was only the second issue for Great Southern. The talented Berthelot was working out of Jazz City during this period, getting this feet wet in producing, arranging and running a record label. He wrote both sides of the single and engaged Thomas to play them. The A-side, “The Hesitation”, featured his dexterous flute-work; while this one shows off Thomas’ substantial sax chops. His musical fluency as a soloist leaves no doubt why Toussaint would have wanted him onboard.

The names of the other musicians on the record remain unknown. I was fortunate to have been contacted by John Berthelot late in 2010 after he had seen my post on his label’s third single, “Dap”, a killer two-part instrumental written by him and featuring the great trumpet player, Porgy Jones. I interviewed John on the phone several times about his general background in music and planned to do more on the details of individual projects. Sadly, he passed away early in 2011, before we could get any farther.

Around 1978, John re-issued this single with new song titles, “The Roach”/”The Streetcar”, adding an actual streetcar bell to the latter track. but neither the original or the re-vamp fared well commercially. The tracks have appeared on two Tuff City compilations, Jazzy Funky New Orleans (1999, Funky Delicacies) and John Berthelot, the Maestro of New Orleans Music: A Retrospective (2010, Great Southern Records).

Guess that’ll get it for now. As always, your comments are welcome, especially if you can shed any further light on “Soul Machine”. I’ll be back with some more hot fun in the summertime in a few weeks, give or take. . . .