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.