Sun 20 Feb 2011
|Professor Longhair||Her Mind Is Gone||Mercury Records: The New Orleans Sessions 1950 - 1953|
|Professor Longhair||Been Foolin' Around||Mercury Records: The New Orleans Sessions 1950 - 1953|
|Smiley Lewis||Tee-Nah-Nah||Shame Shame Shame|
|Paul Gayten & Annie Laurie||I Ain't Gonna Let You In||Creole Gal|
|Dave Bartholomew||Carnival Day||Dave Bartholomew 1947-50|
|Archibald||Stack-O-Lee Pt. 1||Crescent City Bounce|
|Archibald||She's Scattered Everywhere||Crescent City Bounce|
|Archibald||Crescent City Bounce||Crescent City Bounce|
|Dave Bartholomew||In The Alley||Dave Bartholomew 1950-52|
|Smiley Lewis||Sad Life||Shame Shame Shame|
|Tommy Ridgley||Tra la la||Crescent City Bounce|
|Fats Domino||Rockin' Chair||Out Of New Orleans|
|Fats Domino||Don't You Lie To Me||Out Of New Orleans|
|Guitar Slim||Certainly All||Sufferin' Mind|
|Cousin Joe||Second Hand Love||Crescent City Bounce|
|Blazer-Boy||Waiting For My Baby||Crescent City Bounce|
|Dave Bartholomew||Lawdy Lawdy Lord Pt. 1||Dave Bartholomew 1950-52|
|Tommy Ridgley||I Live My Life||Crescent City Bounce|
|Shirley & Lee||I'm Gone||The Cosimo Matassa Story|
|Smiley Lewis||You're Gonna Miss Me||Shame Shame Shame|
|Roy Brown||Letter From Home||Roy Brown 1951-53|
|Roy Brown||Money Can't Buy Love||Roy Brown 1951-53|
|Fats Domino||Going To The River||Out Of New Orleans|
|Fats Domino||Going Home||Out Of New Orleans|
|Fats Domino||Mardi Gras in New Orleans||Out Of New Orleans|
|Lloyd Price||Mailman Boogie||Lloyd Price 1952-53|
|Sugar Boy Crawford||Jock-A-Mo||Crescent City Soul: Sound of New Orleans|
|Smiley Lewis||Blue Monday||Shame Shame Shame|
|Smiley Lewis||The Rocks||Shame Shame Shame|
|Smiley Lewis||Down The Road||Shame Shame Shame|
|Guitar Slim||The Things I Used To Do||Sufferin' Mind|
|Guitar Slim||The Story of My Life||Sufferin' Mind|
|Guitar Slim||A Letter To My Girlfriend||Sufferin' Mind|
With the exception of two sides by Champion Jack Dupree, our first New Orleans show really started in the post-war era when the city's first blues and R&B singers started getting on record. Today we continue the story spanning 1950 through 1953. The New Orleans pre-war blues scene was not well documented on record outside of early performers like Richard "Rabbit" Brown, Lizzie Miles and Blu Lu Barker. Even in the 1940's the scene was dominated by jazz and dixieland bands like Kid Thomas, Billie and De De Pierce, George Lewis and John Handy. During the 1940's and into the 1950s a distinctly New Orleans approach to blues and R&B emerged. Usually piano-driven and backed by inventive rhythms that showed the marked influence of second-line marching and brass bands, New Orleans blues and R&B developed a rolling, joyous feel that captured the rollicking feel of the city. As author John Broven writes: "The freewheeling, happy-go-lucky music is known as the New Orleans Sound, which has its roots in the original beat of the old parade bands of the nineteenth century. Whether it's rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, soul or modern jazz, the parade beat is the ubiquitous common factor, the foundation, if you like." And as record producer Marshall Sehorn said: 'This is the home of the second line, that extra syncopated beat that has been in existence ever since the first black man picked upa tambourine."
There's a distinct emphasis on the piano blues, particularly in the formative years of the New Orleans blues scene of the 40's. This can be linked to the influence of jazz pioneers in the 1920s like Jelly Roll Morton. Three figures dominated, and set the tone for, New Orleans rhythm and blues in the 1940's and into the 50's: Professor Longhair, Dave Bartolomew and Fats Domino. Other pianists heard today include Archibald and Paul Gayten plus a slew of talented singers, most famously Roy Brown, Cousin Joe, Tommy Ridgley, Smiley Lewis and Guitar Slim plus a batch of fine little remembered figures from the Crescent City's past.
On part one we spun a half dozen sides by Professor Longhair and we open today's program with two more, "Her Mind Is Gone" and the rollicking "Been Foolin' Around." Longhair grew up on the streets of New Orleans, tap dancing for tips on Bourbon Street with his running partners. Local 88s aces Sullivan Rock, Kid Stormy Weather, and Tuts Washington were early influences. Longhair began to take his playing seriously in 1948, earning a gig at the Caldonia Club. Longhair debuted on wax in 1949, laying down four tracks (including the first version of his signature "Mardi Gras in New Orleans," for the Dallas-based Star Talent label. Union problems forced those sides off the market, but Longhair's next date for Mercury the same year produced his first and only national R&B hit in 1950, the hilarious "Bald Head." The pianist made great records for Atlantic in 1949, Federal in 1951, Wasco in 1952, and Atlantic again in 1953 plus other scattered small label sides through the 50's.
|Imperial Records Billboard Ad, 1952|
Today's program boasts several more fine piano pounders including Paul Gayten, who we featured on the first installment, plus several sides by Archibald and of of Fats Domino whose 1949 smash "The Fat Man" we played in part one. When most people think of the song "Stagger Lee," they think of Lloyd Price and his 1958 chart-topping single. Eight years before Price's version, however, a single on Imperial Records (spelled "Stack-a-Lee"), credited to and featuring the piano of Archibald, reached the R&B Top Ten. He was born Leon T. Gross in New Orleans, LA, in 1912 and took up the piano as a child, initially entertaining at parties under the name "Archie Boy," which became Archibald. In 1950, he was signed to Imperial Records, part of the same wave that brought Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino onto the company's roster, and Archibald made his first recordings in March 1950. He never saw the national charts again with any of his sides, recording for Imperial until 1952. He died of a heart attack at the age of 60.
Paul Gayten, a seminal figure in New Orleans rhythm & blues, led a varied career in the music business as a bandleader, producer, label owner, and one-time overseer of the West Coast operation of Chess Records. A nephew of blues-piano legend Little Brother Montgomery, Gayten once led one of the top bands of New Orleans, but he gave up the performing life in 1956 to turn his attention to production and eventually to his own California-based Pzazz label. Gayten wrote Larry Darnell's 1949 classic "For You My Love" and recorded a few Top Ten hits of his own for Regal and DeLuxe (1947-1950), some of them with vocalist Annie Laurie including today's featured track, "I Ain't Gonna Let You In."
The most popular exponent of the classic New Orleans R&B sound, Fats Domino sold more records than any other black rock & roll star of the 1950s. Domino's first single, "The Fat Man" (1949) made number two on the R&B charts, and sold a million copies. Just as important, it established a vital partnership between Fats and Imperial A&R man Dave Bartholomew. He would also usually employ New Orleans session greats like Alvin Tyler on sax and Earl Palmer on drums, musicians who were vital in establishing New Orleans R&B as a distinct entity. Domino didn't cross over into the pop charts in a big way until 1955, when "Ain't That a Shame" made the Top Ten. We spotlight a number of bluesy items from his early years including "Rockin' Chair", a fine rendition of Tampa Red's "Don't You Lie To Me" and a blasting version of "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" among others.
We played a batch of terrific sides by Dave Bartholomew on part one and continue with the second line strut of "Carnival, the good time "In the Alley" and the slinky "Lawdy Lawdy Lord Pt. 1" all propelled by some a band of knockout New Orleans musicians. Bartholomew helped develop and define the sound of rhythm & blues in the Fifties. He was a bandleader, trumpet player, songwriter, producer, arranger, talent scout, businessman, and more. Although he never made the pop charts under his own name, Bartholomew was a key figure in the transition from jump blues and big-band swing to rhythm & blues and rock and roll. Bartholomew is most famous for having discovered and produced Fats Domino, with whom he produced and wrote songs for through the Fifties and beyond. But he’s worked with a who’s-who of New Orleans R&B figures: Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley & Lee, Earl King, Roy Brown, Huey "Piano" Smith, Chris Kenner, Robert Parker, Frankie Ford, James Booker, Jewel King, James "Sugar Boy" Crawford, Tommy Ridgley and more. In the late 40s, he formed his own band, which became one of the most popular and accomplished in the city. Between 1947 and the early 60’s Bartholomew recorded prolifically under his own name mostly for Imperial but also for Deluxe, Aladdin, Specialty, King and Jax. His records featured the cream of New Orleans musicians like Earl Palmer, Ernest McClean, Edgar Blanchard, Lee Allen, Alvin "Red" Tyler, Frank Fields and others.
Also returning from part one are Tommy Ridgley, Cousin Joe and Roy Brown. Ridgley was on the Crescent City R&B scene when it first caught fire, and he remained a proud part of that same scene until his death in 1999. Ridgley cut his debut sides back in 1949 for Imperial under Dave Bartholomew's direction. He cut four 1953-1955 sessions for Atlantic cut sides for Herald in the late 50's. From there he cut sides for the local Ric and Ronn imprints. During the 90's he cut several fine albums before passing in 1999.
Growing up in New Orleans, Cousin Joe began singing in church before crossing over to the blues. Guitar and ukulele were his first axes. He eventually prioritized the piano instead, playing Crescent City clubs and riverboats. He moved to New York in 1942, gaining entry into the city's thriving jazz scene (where he played with Dizzy Gillespie, Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and a host of other luminaries). He recorded for King, Gotham, Philo (in 1945), Savoy, and Decca along the way, doing well on the latter logo with "Box Car Shorty and Peter Blue" in 1947. After returning to New Orleans in 1948, he recorded for DeLuxe and cut a two-part "ABCs" for Imperial in 1954 as Smilin' Joe under Dave Bartholomew's supervision. But by then, his recording career had faded.
Born in the Crescent City, Roy Brown grew up all over the place: Eunice, LA (where he sang in church and worked in the sugarcane fields); Houston, TX; and finally Los Angeles by age 17. His seminal 1947 DeLuxe Records waxing of "Good Rockin' Tonight" was immediately ridden to the peak of the R&B charts by shouter Wynonie Harris and subsequently covered by Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many more early rock icons. Roy Brown didn't have to wait long to dominate the R&B lists himself. He scored 15 hits from mid-1948 to late 1951 for DeLuxe.
Today's New Orleans installment marks the debut of several crescent city stars including Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price and Guitar Slim. Lewis hit New Orleans in his mid-teens and played clubs in the French Quarter. By 1947, his following was strong enough to merit a session for DeLuxe Records, which issued his debut 78. Nothing happened with that disc, but when Lewis signed with Imperial in 1950 (debuting with "Tee-Nah-Nah") things began to happen. He scored his first national hit in 1952 with "The Bells Are Ringing," but enjoyed his biggest sales in 1955 with "I Hear You Knocking." Strangely, Fats Domino fared better with some of Smiley Lewis' tunes than Lewis did ("Blue Monday" in particular). Similarly, Elvis Presley cleaned up "One Night" and hit big with it. After a long and at successful run at Imperial, Lewis moved over to OKeh in 1961 for one single, stopped at Dot in 1964 just long enough to make a solitary 45 and bowed in 1965. He died in the autumn of 1966, all but forgotten outside his New Orleans home base.
Growing up in Kenner, a suburb of New Orleans, Lloyd Price was exposed to seminal sides by Louis Jordan, the Liggins brothers, Roy Milton, and Amos Milburn through the jukebox in his mother's little fish-fry joint. Lloyd and his younger brother Leo put together a band while in their teens. Bandleader Dave Bartholomew was impressed enough to invite Specialty Records boss Art Rupe to see the singer. At his very first Specialty date in 1952, Price sang his classic "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" (its piano intro courtesy of Fats Domino). It topped the R&B charts for an extended period, making Price a legitimate star. Four more Specialty smashes soon followed.
Guitar Slim, born Eddie Jones in Mississippi, turned up in New Orleans in 1950. He debuted on wax in 1951 with a mediocre session for Imperial, cut a 1952 date for Bullet before scoring huge with "The Things That I Used to Do" on the Specialty label. The song hit the R&B charts for 14 weeks in 1954. Strangely, although he waxed several stunning follow-ups for Specialty in the same vein, he never charted again. He switched over to Atlantic Records in 1956. Excessive drinking and life in the fast lane took its inevitable toll over the years, and he died in 1959 at age 32.
We also spin a track apiece by Shirley & Lee and James "Sugar Boy" Crawford. Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee, scored three massive R&B hits before either one of them were both 20 years old: "Feel So Good," "Let the Good Times Roll," and "I Feel Good."
In 1950 James "Sugar Boy" Crawford and eight classmates formed the band the Sha-Weez. Producer Dave Bartholomew signed the Sha-Weez to New Orleans imprint Aladdin Records in late 1952, helming their debut session at Cosimo Matassa's legendary J&M Studios. In late 1953 Crawford began recording for Chess as Sugar Boy and His Cane Cutters. His Chess debut, "I Don't Know What I'll Do," was the label's first release cut in New Orleans, and enjoyed strong local airplay. The follow-up, "Jock-a-Mo," appeared in early 1954 and also proved a regional favorite.
I'm planning on doing a part three and possibly part four on the music of New Orleans. On deck for part three will include more sides by Guitar Slim, Lloyd Price, Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis and Dave Bartholomew plus sides by Earl King, Ernie K-Doe, Bobby Marchan, Little Sonny Jones and many others.