* SIDE TWO OF SMIRNOFF’S “FUNKY OLD SCHOOL” LOUISIANA MIX *

Quick & Groovy Link to Hear All the Songs on Smirnoff’s Mix (minus the two garage rock songs)


Class in Aesthetic Dance in Cypress Grove, 1920s. University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

17.  “I Want to Be Loved (But Only by You)” by Savannah Churchill (1947)     

SAVANNAH Churchill is that rarest of birds: an artist whose real name trumps her stage name. Real name: Savannah Valentine. She was born in Colfax, Louisiana, but got to the city real soon, as you can hear in her voice. We’ve forgotten her, I fear, but she actually had a Number One hit in 1947: “I Want to Be Loved (But Only by You).” Wasnt 1947 the perfect year to be named Savannah Valentine? This clip is a succulent combo of sight and sound. 

18. Bayou Country by Gritz (1970)

IF I told you there is a great Southern Rock song that you just gotta hear called “Bayou Country” by a hirsute, paunchy Southern Rock band from 1970 named “Gritz” (that “z” is kinda sexy, no?), you’d stop everything and follow me to the ends of the earth to hear it, wouldn’t you?

 What? Well, guess what—you kinda should.

Actually I don’t know if this band boasted mullets or girth. Until I found my way into a compilation from Light in the Attic Records called COUNTRY FUNK: 1969-1975, which was released this year and is SURELY RECOMMENDED, and which contains “Bayou Country” by Gritz, I’d never even heard of them. And since then, I have not seen any photos of the band.

Going by clues scattered throughout COUNTRY FUNK, I learned that the Gritz song “Bayou Country” was written by Trevor Veitch and Duke Bardwell. Veitch is a Canadian musician/producer who was once a part of the folk group 3’s A Crowd. Bardwell came from a musical Baton Rouge family and before meeting Veitch, he started a stomping rock and r&b band there called The Greek Fountains.

According to an article by Wayne Franklin, Veitch and Bardwell wrote the song during their stint in singer Tom Rush’s backing band. From Franklin’s article, I also learned that after being dismissed from Rush’s band, Bardwell wrote a bunch of songs for:

“...a new project—a Baton Rouge band called Cold Gritz and the Black-Eyed Peas. Shortly after the band debuted on the Louisiana scene, with their signature swamp funk sound and interracial line-up, they scored an unprecedented record deal with legendary producer Lou Adler. The band, however, imploded before the album could be finished. Only ‘Bayou Country’ was released and remains the band’s sole legacy.”

A. That’s vague, but crazy enticing.

B. There is a picture of the actual 45 record in the liner notes to COUNTRY FUNK. When “Bayou Country” was released in 1970 by Ode Records, Cold Gritz and the Black-Eyed Peas had its monicker trimmed to...Gritz.

C. Don’t believe anyone who says ALL Southern Rock bites, even if you’re the one saying it. In tone and feeling, “Bayou Country” is genuinely evocative—more so than its cliched (but somewhat necessary) lyrical imagery. And the performances on this record are all superb. Long Live Southern Rock! In Doses! Long Live Cold Gritz and the Black-Eyed Peas! And Gritz! And grits!

BONUS 1: Duke Bardwell’s early band, The Greek Fountains with “Countin’ the Steps”: 

BONUS 2: Another fine ditty by The Greek Fountains: 

BONUS 3: Elvis asking his bass player Duke Bardwell of Baton Rouge to take a solo: 

19. (Every Time I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone by Roy Montrell and His Band (1956) 
MONTRELL swung guitar for many supreme acts: Lloyd Price, Little Richard, Allen Toussaint, and eventually became Fats Domino’s bandleader. Left to his own devices, he created this nugget for us. It’s too bad “Mellow Saxophone” didn’t become the hit it deserved to be because that would’ve meant more recordings from Roy Montrell and His Band. Let’s just be thankful for what we have!

BONUS 1: Robert Plant’s version: 

BONUS 2: A Finnish band’s take on it, and they’re good! 
 

20. Love Lots of Lovin ” by Lee Dorsey and Betty Harris (1967)

DUETS often end up in a bland limbo-land. By not taking on the personality of one singer over another, they often take on NO personality. Well, here’s an exception and a song that in many ways was too easy to pick since it consists of two tasteful singers, a hot band, and an Allen Toussaint arrangement of an Allen Toussaint composition. (Above: Toussaint pictured on left; Dorsey on right)

BONUS: Here’s something slightly more obscure but still wunnerful, a duet by Eddie Bo and Inez Cheatham: 


21. Joe by Dale Hawkins (1969)

A treasured son of Goldmine, Louisiana, the always feisty Dale Hawkins (R.I.P., sweet man) gave us much more than “Suzy Q.” For example, his 1969 album, L.A., MEMPHIS, AND TYLER, TEXAS can be enjoyed from start to finish. The gritty, sticks-with-ya “Joe” is taken from that album and seems like what used to be called an “answer song” to “Hey, Joe.”

BONUS: Dale’s instrumental “Back Street” from L.A. MEMPHIS, AND TYLER, TEXAS was clearly meant as a song for a movie (imaginary or real, I don’t know). A YouTube wit picked up on that. Funny though: when you think of Dale Hawkins, the first thing to enter your mind is not “metropolis,” but, hey, when in Hollywood.... 


22. Blues Negres by Cleoma Falcon (1934)

I stumbled on "Blues Negres" on a compilation called HOT WOMEN: WOMEN SINGERS FROM THE TORRID REGIONS OF THE WORLD, put together by the one and only R. Crumb. Heres an ugly video of the song. But with music this good, who cares?

I’ve also come across a shape-shifter on YouTube named stbricesday who uses old film to make music videos for old Cajun songs. Here is one of stbricesday’s creations featuring the First Lady of Cajun, Cleoma Breau Falcon:

“Mon Coeur T’Appelle” by Cleoma Breau Falcon (1929): 

REQUEST FOR STBRICESDAY: Please take on “Blues Negres” by Cleoma Falcon next! 

23. “They Raided the Joint” by Linda Hopkins (1951)

THIS grand lady is the real thing, and though born in 1924 (as Melinda Helen Matthews in New Orleans), she still performs—that’s what I heard. If I had to chose my favorite Linda Hopkins song—which I would hate to be forced to do—I might go with: “Three Time Blues”—a threatening, homicidal blues that she reads with perfect intimacy. I also love her on the bouncy “Rock and Rock Blues”; the naughty “Shiver and Shake”; the insinuating “I Can’t”—she also does sultry perfectly. Like New Orleans itself, this hometown heroine has no boundaries. But I share “They Raided the Joint” just because this footage is so groovin.

24. Something Out of Nothing by Lenny McDaniel & The New Era (1965?)

BLUE-EYED Soul at its peak. McDaniel, the Caucasian singer, was 17 years old when this crazed romp was recorded:

BONUS: Even in 2011, you can hear Mr. McDaniel’s abundant soul still flowing: 


25. Havent Got a Dollar to Pay Your House Rent Man by Genevieve Davis (1927) 

MISS Davis is one of many great Louisiana female vocalists from the early jazz era but not much seems to be known about her apart from what you or I can hear in her singing. Apparently she made only one other recording, a lukewarm duet with one Leonard Mitchell. But think about it: Exactly half of Genevieve Davis’s recorded output is still worthy of our attention! By any standards, that’s a dang good ratio.

26.  Someone to Give My Love To” by Joe Simon (1973)

IS Joe Simon the Ray Charles of Louisiana? (Mr. Simon was born in Simmesport, Louisiana.) No less of an authority than Sir Shambling (www.sirshambling.com) raves about the man:

No question Joe Simon is the most underrated southern soul singer. Why? I think it’s because at first listen it all sounds so easy, so laid back. Never an “in –your-face” screamer, he achieved his emotional impact through a complete command of phrasing and dynamics, his rich dark velvet baritone voice simply oozed class and the subtlety of his approach worked on listeners like a slow flame. Simon had a beautiful dark velvet baritone voice which floated effortlessly over and around a tune. But if you pay close attention you’ll hear a master craftsman at work. I don’t know any singer who repays repeat listening so handsomely. Every time I play a Joe Simon track I hear subtle shades of emphasis, nuances of timing, volume and diction that make the cut come up brand new.

I first heard “Someone to Give My Love To” on the MORE DIRTY LAUNDRY comp, which celebrated black artists who covered country music. Ever since, I have been listening to, and enjoying, the music of Joe Simon. (Both MORE DIRTY LAUNDRY and the first volume, DIRTY LAUNDRY, deserve your ears.)

BONUS 1: Joe Simon balladeering: 

BONUS 2: Joe Simon singing the theme to CLEOPATRA JONES: 


27. Hard Luck Blues by Beatrice Hill with J.D. Nicholson & His Jiving Five (1954)

I’D love to know more about this one. All I know is that the label, Elko, came out of Louisiana and that Clifton Chenier is in the band backing the very smooth Beatrice Hill.

 

28. Dont Let the Devil Ride by Ike Gordon (1975?)

I’M a sucker for the guitar-playing of the Rev. Charlie Jackson and that’s him on guitar on this track, with Ike Gordon singing. The great Booker label (“The Gospel Headquarters of New Orleans”) was responsible for the original release and the great Tompkins Square label out of New York is responsible for not letting us forget and for sharing this and a glob of other gems via their 3-CD collection: FIRE IN MY BONES: RAW + RARE + OTHERWORLDLY AFRICAN-AMERICAN GOSPEL (1944-2007).

BONUS: The Rev. Charles Jackson, originally of McComb, Mississippi, moved to Louisiana to preach and play. Here is a very awkward Aussie TV interview with him followed by no awkwardness whatsoever: his sublime music: 


29. Get on Board Aunt Susan” by Jimmie Davis (1931)

ONE reason to love music is that politicians are usually not involved in it; in neither its creation or production. Outside, at shows, they might get on stage; introduce an act; pick a pocket or two; say a few lies; but then they leave us, God willing.

I first learned of this song from Allen Lowe in his seminal book, AMERICAN POP: FROM MINSTREL TO MOJO: ON RECORD: 1893–1956, and then I heard it for myself on the boxset of CDs that accompanied the book. In the section of the book on Davis, Lowe wrote:

Politics is an arc of fantasy, reinvention, and denial that exists apart from any real inner life, a profession and philosophy completely divorced from most true and personal feelings.

Amen, Brother Lowe!

Jimmie Davis is maybe the one politician I could tolerate—if only he promised to sing and not yap. Twice the governor of Louisiana, Davis is still pretty famous for having written (or at least purchased the rights to) and sung, “You Are My Sunshine.” He also wrote and sang others. I don’t know about his politics, actually, but he had a warm, smooth voice.

Some people have enjoyed knowing Davis recorded some bawdy songs before becoming governor. But that’s a one-trick pony and I prefer the magic of this oddity, “Get on Board Aunt Susan.” On this song, Jimmie Davis was something even more than two-sided: he was a visionary.

If I am not mishearing, the lyrics refer to a white woman (Aunt Susan) who does not want to get aboard a train or boat because there is a black woman aboard. The singer involves both his heart and mind in his response and in trying to argue with his aunt to change her mind. I don’t know of any earlier song by a white person dealing more open-mindedly with race. If you do, please let me know. That’s the great Snoozer Quinn, of Blogalusa, Louisiana, by the way, on guitar.

BONUS 1: Jimmie Davis, actor, singer, politician: 

BONUS 2: Snoozer Quinn on film! 

 

"FUNKY OLD SCHOOL" SUMMARY: Please send your comments to editorsinlove@gmail.com and let me know if you'd like to see PART 2 of SMIRNOFFS FUNKY OLD SCHOOL LOUISIANA MIX because I wouldn’t mind sharing many more musical discoveries that you might like. Thanks! MAS