THE song Berry is globe-famous for debuted in 1957 on a 45 released by Flip. The B-Side was “You Are My Sunshine,” which was a 1940 hit for Jimmie Davis, twice later to be governor of Louisiana.
BONUS 1: A ukulele/banjolele version of Richard Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel”:
BONUS 2: Live version of “Have Love, Will Travel” from The Black Keys:
2. “Mama’s Boy” by Biff Rose (1968)
HOW to describe Biff Rose other than as a charismatic New Orleans pianist (a very popular type)? Well, Tommy Smothers called him (on the bonus clip below) “very gentle, a very beautiful guy,” which also fits.
BONUS: Biff Rose singing “Gentle People” on the Smothers Brothers’ TV show, bookended by a few words of a more recent vintage from the still charismatic Biff:
AT the last Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans—the greatest show on earth, by the way—I was standing outside the Howlin’ Wolf theater, taking a break from the inside magic when whose sleek, elegant figure did I espy standing on the corner of S. Peter and N. Diamond but Allen Toussaint’s!?!?
Since he was momentarily by himself, I went up to him and said (of course, we had never met): “I bet you can’t guess my favorite Allen Toussaint song?”
People standing on the corner of New Orleans streets past midnight should not be surprised to be accosted by a lunatic. So the vaguely startled if not alarmed look I detected in Mr. Toussaint’s features were, I thought, a bit unfair. But I trudged on and practically yelled: “‘Trouble With My Lover’ by Betty Harris!”
It is impossible to encapsulate Allen Toussaint’s achievements in a 600-page biography, let alone in one sentence, but the man has written, performed, arranged, and produced more great pop, soul, & r&b songs than is humanly possible. Google for the truth if you don’t believe me.
Anyway, after I mentioned the Betty Harris record, Mr. Toussaint relaxed and his eyes expressed delight. “I hadn’t heard that before!,” he replied.
(To have impressed Mr. Toussaint is one of the notable achievements of my life and if I sound like I’m bragging, I am.)
It is, of course, impossible to pick just one Toussaint-related track as the best ever, but then again it seems impossible to think that “Trouble with My Lover” could possibly be topped by anything.
Though Ms. Harris was born in Florida, “Trouble with My Lover” is all New Orleans: Not only was it written and arranged by The Great Toussaint but that fab supporting band you hear? They would soon become known as The Meters. (Above photo: Allen Toussaint in 1968.)
BONUS: “Get Out of My Life, Woman,” another song written and arranged by Allen Toussaint, was a big hit for another New Orleans cat, Lee Dorsey. This live version by Dorsey is super-duper, even though I miss Toussaint’s funky, breathy piano, which can be heard on the original:
4. “(I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead) You Rascal You” by Jimmy Noone & His Apex Club Orchestra (1930)
NOT only are there too many great Louisiana jazzers to chose from, but too many of them covered this dynamite toon including: Clarence Williams, Louis Armstrong, Luis Russell, Louis Prima, and Dr. John.
A lot of those versions are great, but I’m opting for this one by the clarinetist and vocalist Jimmy Noone (born in Cut Off, Louisiana), who sings it here with teammate Eddie Pollock.
BONUS 1: Some people only see the racism in this animated clip of “You Rascal You,” but the very fact that Louis Armstrong’s person and music were considered marketable as a cartoon/music video likely means more than racism was at play:
BONUS 2: A young, young, young Sammy Davis, Jr., does his own thang with this song:
5. “Denga, Denga” by Ashton Savoy (1958)
BORN in Sunset, Louisiana, the guitarist Ashton Savoy is known, if he is, for playing with the Louisiana blues singer Katie Webster. This rollicking track was released by Eddie Schuler on his first-rate Goldband Records label, which came out of Lake Charles, Louisiana. That’s the same label for which many other very boffo artists (Al Ferrier, Johnny Jano, Jay Chevalier, et al) cut records, including Dolly Parton, who recorded her debut on Goldband when she was 13 years old.
BONUS: “Puppy Love”—Dolly Parton’s first record:
A winner from a Lafayette native (pictured with Danny White) who started off singing and playing piano in California for red-hot Joe Lutcher (of Lake Charles, Louisiana, brother of red-hot Nellie Lutcher, whose music adorned two previous OA cds). A bout of homesickness brought Miss Fran back home to Louisiana where she joined the band of a third Lutcher: Bubba.
BONUS 1: Nellie Lutcher on TV!
BONUS 2: Brother Joe Lutcher
7. “Good Jax Boogie” by Dave Bartholomew (1950)
LIKE Allen Toussaint, Dave Bartholomew cannot be pigeonholed: bandleader, trumpeter, arranger, songwriter, talent scout (he discovered Fats Domino), and—on this tribute to a once-upon-a-time local staple called Jax Beer—singer!
BONUS: Speaking of Jax Beer, here’s a TV spot for it:
BONUS 2: And another, said to be the first TV commercial to feature African-American actors:
8. “Pigtails and Blue Jeans” by Leonard “Chick” Carbo (1958)
CHUCK Carbo, Leonard’s better-known bro, deserves praise for his sterling career, which began with gospel and then partook of r&b, soul, and funk. But brother Leonard, a.k.a. “Chick,” had that Carbo mojo down pat too. Both bros sang for Louisiana’s most famous doo wop group, The Spiders, and both had worthy solo careers. Here’s Chick backed by The Upsetters, the New Orleans studio band that backed Little Richard on many records.
BONUS: Another Chick recording, “Two Tables Away," selected by Red Kelly:
9. “Natural Soul Brother” by Danny White (1968)
IT’S hard keeping up with the endless stream of sweet, sensational soul singers who poured out of Louisiana. Of Danny White, Allen Toussaint said: “Danny was never really a big-name artist, but he had a band that worked the Sho Bar on Bourbon Street that was really hot.” Well, he should have been a big name artist and that big name should have been NATURAL SOUL BROTHER!
BONUS: Because very little regional garage rock from the 1960s got airplay beyond regional radio, it is rare to find film of such groups. So I’m gonna cheat here and simply link you to one of my favorite all-time garage-punks songs, “She Said Yeah,” by a band called The Rolling Stones. This sizzling cover, which is a minute and fifty-odd seconds of high energy run amuck, includes infectious backup vocals that weren’t on the original (nice touch). The original was by Larry Williams, who also wrote “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “Slow Down,” and he was from New Orleans and that’s the connection:
12. “Classified” by James Booker (1976—from a live show in Hamburg, Germany)
JAMES Booker is the most well-known of my choices here but I couldn’t resist and sometimes I think it’s his back-story that commands attention more than his performances. I was torn between sharing “Gitarnarias” or “Classified,” and chose the latter by a hair-nose simply because of this hypnotic film clip. Also, you can find a link to the sublime “Gitanarias” below.
BONUS 1: “Gitanarias” performed by James Booker. From the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuouna to the legendary hands of James Booker at a pub on Maple Street in New Orleans:
13. “Sixteen Chicks” by Joe Clay (1956)
FROM the town of Harvey, Joe Clay (who was born with the name Claiborne Joseph Cheramie) is a rockabillin barn-buster of the highest pedigree. He not only cut his own A-level tracks (other Joe Clay keepers include “Get on the Right Track” and “Don’t Mess with My Ducktail” and “You Look That Good to Me”), but apparently he also played guitar for Elvis on a few records, and, according, to wiki, “he even filled in as a drummer for Elvis when he played Pontchartrain Amusement Park in New Orleans and D.J. Fontana could not make the gig.” The blog American Roots Music contends that Joe Clay’s version of “Sixteen Chicks” ranks “as one of the purest uninhibited, quintessential rockabilly songs from the 1950s” and I concur.
BONUS: A live performance (audio only, but still fetching) of Johnny Ray Harris on The Louisiana Hayride from 1960. “Are there any Cajuns in the house?”
THIS hot-doggin’ fireman from Shreveport took the bones from Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and added meat and a baritone. Why did so many great artists come from Shreveport?
“I Don’t Care” by Webb Pierce:
Clearly from the same show as above. Two Louisianans for the price of one.
TONS of bands from the 1960s called themselves The Inn Crowd or The In Crowd, but only one had the magical hyphen and came from Shreveport—our boys! This is another song that I learned about on garagehangover.com. If I haven’t made it clear what an essential source that site is, I hereby do so now.
BONUS: As mentioned earlier, footage of 1960s garage rock can be nigh impossible to find. Here’s a nice way to cheat without cheating: born John Henry Ramistella in New York, he moved to Baton Rouge as a babe in the 1950s and became, no doubt overnight, Johnny Rivers! The only difference between “Secret Agent Man” and other classic garage-rock songs is that “SAM” became a national hit.
16. “Put on Your Grey Bonnet” by Wingy Manone & His Orchestra (1939)
BACK in the good old days, you didn’t ignore people’s disabilities, you made fun of them. Thus, after Joseph Matthews Manone somehow lost his right arm in a tussle with a New Orleans street car, he became forever known as Wingy. So labeled, you might think Wingy was a bitter old coot. Well, according to the most joyous of sources, Mr. Louis Armstrong, Wingy himself consistently displayed “a wonderful Sense of Humor. He still knocks me out. And everybody else.” We don’t even have to take Satchmo’s word for it; ain’t there joy to be heard in Wingy’s voice and music?
In a jewel of book published in 1999 by Oxford University Press called LOUIS ARMSTRONG, IN HIS OWN WORDS: SELECTED WRITINGS, Satchmo had more to write on this subject:
BONUS 1: Music video starring Wingy Manone and His Band!
BONUS 2: Bing Crosby singing “Rhythm on the River” with Wingy Manone’s band. Wingy comes in, visually, around the 1:20 mark. Note the gloved and inert right hand:
BONUS 3: From Wingy Manone, it’s a short hop to Louis Prima. I don’t pretend he’s obscure or unheralded, but just in case YOU have not seen live footage of Prima, YOU must see live footage of Prima: