A Cracked Bell & A Cold Bear
I'm dedicating this post to the outstanding New Orleans drummer for Willie Tee, the Gaturs, and the New Orleans Project (who backed the Wild Magnolias on their first two albums), Mr. Lawrence Panna, Sr., who passed away on February 23, 2007. As his son said about him, "He was a tremendous drummer with an incredible zest for music playing, who also played with other groups like Oliver and the Rockettes and Louisiana Purchase. Outside of music he was a printer and a coach at St. Martin's Episcopal School in Metairie, LA for many years." Larry Panna added much to the musical tradition of his community and will be missed.
Willie Tee in New Orleans, May, 2007
"Liberty Bell" (Wilson Turbinton)
Willie Tee, from Anticipation, United Artists, 1976
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It's been two years since I first posted this one, and you can read more about it back there, or not. I'm way too sleep deprived to care. To my somewhat heat-addled, warped, and mildly hallucinogenic mind, Willie Tee's "Liberty Bell" is a perfect song to celebrate Independence Day. For those of you on another side of whatever major or minor pond separates us logistically, on July 4th in the US of A, we celebrate freedom, lack of oppression, and the human rights guaranteed in a constitution hashed out by the learned and illustrious fore-fathering founders of this nation over 200 odd (and getting more so all the time) years ago. If you fail to see the immense irony contained in that last sentence, you must not have been on this planet very long. For, in an intensely moronic effort to save our country from the Others, we have given up whatever tenuous grip we had on those rights and our sanity. Mr. Wilson Turbinton was originally spot on with his assessment of America in its bicentennial year; and he could have written this song yesterday, just as well. The only thing that maybe dates it is that he assumes there is hope of changing things. Seems we're much more cynical and indifferent (or in denial) these days, with our leaders perpetrating blatant malfeasance and rampant ineptitude on all fronts, with more opening up all the time. In the oft quoted words of one of America's great cartoon philosophers, Pogo Possum, "We have seen the enemy, and he is us." Uh, oh, I'm turning into Keith Olbermann here. Need a cold bear...I mean, beer. All I wanted to do was play some friggin' music - really. Anyway, what Willie said. . . and have yourself a funky Fourth, what's left of it.
A Reasonable Facsimile
"Cold Bear" (W. Turbinton, E. Charles, D. Charles, L. Clark, L. Pania[sic])
The Gaturs, ATCO orig #6870, 1971
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OK. Some holiday lagniappe for good measure. As I have pointed out before, some of the stuff by Willie Tee's funk outfit, the Gaturs, just exudes the hot, moist, funky, sweet-buzz-goin'-on summer vibe. It puts me right in that place year 'round. So, let's celebrate the recent kick-off of the sultry season here above the equator with a "Cold Bear", what the man in the intro to the song says he's in need of.
This is probably the Gaturs' best known side, as Atlantic picked up the original Gatur Records single for national release on ATCO in 1971. Not that it was heard much even then; but it has since gotten onto a bunch of CD comps*, including Funk Drops and the US counterpart, What It Is. As a matter of fact, this single is another reproduction/re-issue from the limited edition What It Is 45 box I've mentioned before. Not deep funk, "Cold Bear' has a great groove, but with a light touch, and moves along quite nicely. Tee's B-3 and Louis Clark's wah-wah guitar dance around each other, while Erving Charles' bass bobs and weaves in and amongst Larry Panna's tastefully broken-up drumming that stays in the pocket. Percolating congas, probably played by Uganda Roberts, add to the polyrhythmia. This is definitely one that should be pumping the speakers as you cruise the highways and by-ways and hang out all summer long.
*Of course, Tuff City/Funky Delicacies released an entire CD of issued and unissued Gaturs and Willie Tee sides from his Gatur label entitled Wasted; and there is one other Gaturs single and more of Willie Tee on Gatur Records (along with his earlier Nola and related labels material) on the Night Train CD Teasin' You.