Archive for the ‘Huey Piano Smith’ Category

Professor Longhair

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Listen: Mess Around / Professor Longhair

‘Fess, as he was known to friends and fellow musicians, waited thirty years after releasing his first single before making a lone trip to the UK. The master of “rhumba-rhythmed piano blues and choked singing”, to quote journalist Tony Russell, was promoting his PROFESSOR LONGHAIR LIVE ON THE QUEEN MARY album and ‘Mess Around’ single. Recorded on board said ship during a party thrown by Paul and Linda McCartney, the album is an oasis worth searching out.

Through time, his invention of what became known as the New Orleans Mardi Gras sound has been revered by everyone from Fats Domino and Huey Piano Smith to Allen Toussaint and Dr. John. Despite a most productive period on Atlantic Records in the 50′s, he never had mainstream success, instead spiraling downward during the 60′s and 70′s, landing work as a janitor saddled with a gambling addiction. Only during the last years of his life did he begin to see royalties of any kind. And so with little fanfare, bless Paul and Linda for coming to his aid, helping secure a deal with Harvest, and giving him a deserved, overdue break.

Your initial listen through ‘Mess Around’ will simultaneously reveal everything about his distinctive, one of a kind style, apparently the result of learning to play on a piano missing several crucial keys.

Many times when legendary players, years on, try to recapture their spark via a current, contemporary album, the magic sounds tired or lost altogether. Not the case here. Not in the slightest.

Robert Parker

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

RobertParkerBarefootin, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

RobertParkerBarefootinUKA, Robert Parker, Nola, Island, Sue

Listen: Barefootin’ / Robert Parker

Robert Parker began his recording career playing with Professor Longhair on ‘Mardi Gras In New Orleans’ in ’49. Over the next decade, this guy worked with just about every New Orleans musician, including Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, and Huey ‘Piano’ Smith. You name it. Hitting his stride in ’66, after signing to the small Nola Records, he and the label delivered a Top 10 (#7) BILLBOARD hit with ‘Barefootin’.

RobertParkerAction, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

Listen: Let’s Go Baby (Where The Action Is) / Robert Parker

RobertParkerJukebox, Robert Parker

As it turns out, the single was a classic double A side, as ‘Let’s Go Baby (Where The Action Is)’ became a huge Mod club hit in the UK. It’s cemented his popularity in Europe till this day, where he still can make the occasional appearances and get some royal treatment.

RobertParkerGetTa, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

Listen: Get Ta Steppin’ / Robert Parker

Despite lack of national radio and chart success, his musical success never stopped. Released in ’74 ‘Get Ta Steppin’ eventually became known as a southern funk template, determined not only by those in the know but more importantly, via endless sampling.

RobertParkerGetDown, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

Listen: Get Right On Down / Robert Parker

Almost as though lightning struck twice, not unlike the ‘Barefootin’ / ‘Let’s Go Baby (Where The Action Is)’ coupling, ‘Get Ta Steppin’ / ‘Get Right On Down’ proved to be another double side, basically must have in any respectable soul collection, 7″ single.

RobertParkerCountry, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

Listen: Give Me The Country Side Of Life / Robert Parker

Despite not issuing albums during the 70′s (his only LP is BAREFOOTIN’ from ’66), Robert Parker just proceeded to make a seemingly essential single each year or so, right up through ’76.

RobertParkerLittleBit, Robert Parker, Nola, Island

Listen: A Little Bit Of Something (Is Better Than A Whole Lot Of Nothing) / Robert Parker

As with his 60′s output, career long musical arranger, producer and collaborator Wardell Quezergue was part of ‘A Little Bit Of Something (Is Better Than A Whole Lot of Nothing)’, his final single prior to recording retirement and one I just never see around.

Jessie Hill

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Listen: Ooh Poo Pah Doo (Part 1) / Jessie Hill

As legend has it, by his teens, drummer Jesse Hill formed his first group, The House Rockers in ’51′ followed by periods drumming with both Professor Longhair and Huey Piano Smith. Well oiled, he formed a new version of The House Rockers in ’58, this time with a focus on singing.

The origins of ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ reportedly lie with local pianist known only as Big Four from who Jesse Hill reportedly modeled his lyrics and melody, later fleshing the song out with an intro from Dave Bartholomew. Honed to a sharp edge on stage, he demo’d then shopped it to some local record labels. Ultimately recording the song at Cosimo Matassa’s studio with Allen Toussaint producing. Released by Minit in early ’60, the single became an instant favourite at Mardi Gras, eventually going on to sell 800,000 copies and cracking both the BILLBOARD R&B Top 5 and the pop Hot 100 (#28).

Eventually moving to Los Angeles, Jesse Hill found plenty of work both writing for and playing with fellow New Orleans musicians including Harold Battiste and Mac Rebennack as they passed through town to record. During the period, he placed songs with loads of local RnB labels, even Sonny & Cher, and as well, Ike & Tina Turner, who took ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ to #60 in ’71.

Casey Jones & The Governors

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

CaseyJones, Casey Jones & The Govenors, Huey Piano Smith, Philips, Eric Clapton, Tom McGuiness

Listen: Don’t Ha Ha / Casey Jones & The Governors CaseyJonesHaHa.mp3

Casey (real name Duncan) Jones left Liverpool for London stumbling around with rotating-door lineups that included Eric Clapton and Tom McGuinness in his band The Engineers. Like a few before them, off to Germany they went. Why I’m not sure. I always thought England was the happening place in the 60′s. It was in Hamburg that Casey Jones & The Governors formed and had some success as a live band, basically reinventing RnR standards of the day with a Beat Goup twist.

I picked this up in one of those 39ยข bins of flop 45′s at a Two Guys Department Store near the Thruway in Syracuse back in ’74. It was a treasure trove, predominantly loads of Philips/Smash/Mercury/Fontana titles, for some reason.

Listen once and you’ll hear that it’s Huey Piano Smith’s ‘Don’t You Just Know It’. Smith is credited as writer and the title switch fooled me into thinking it was an original for years.