We’re thrilled that Chicago blues-harmonica god Billy Boy Arnold is returning to the Ponderosa Stomp this year for its 10th anniversary. And the Stomp, of course, is named after south Louisiana’s Lazy Lester of Excello fame. Both appeared at the inaugural Stomp and both are perennial performers at the annual blowout. We love ‘em both. But who’s your favorite? And which songs are you most looking forward to hearing them do at this year’s Stomp?
Ladies and gentlemen – strictly for grins – we present to you this blues-harmonica smackdown. In this corner of the Web (below), Billy Boy Arnold performs “I Wish You Would,” accompanied by fellow Stomp favorites Henry Gray on piano and Jody Williams on guitar:
The oldest still-performing bluesman, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, passed away Monday, Aug. 29, just shy of his 96th birthday, on the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and a little less than a year after gracing the Ponderosa Stomp with his historic presence. The great bluesman worked with all the legends of the genre, from Robert Johnson and Big Joe Williams to Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, and Howlin’ Wolf. For his Stomp bio, click here. For his New York Times bio, click here.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by McCullough Funeral and Cremation Services, 851 E. 75th St., Chicago, IL, 60619. Visitation is Thursday (Sept. 1) from 6 to 9 p.m., while private services will be Friday (Sept. 2). Call (773) 488-8900 for more information or visit his Web site.
We present to you, as Song of the Day, Honeyboy Edwards performing “Wind Howlin’ Blues.”
“GG gave me his notice. He wanted to start his own group. … An artist with the talent of a GG Shinn does not need to share the money 12 ways.” – Boogie Kings bandleader Ned Theall, recounting Shinn’s exit from the group
It was 1966 when singer-trumpeter GG Shinn split from the Boogie Kings. But his legacy with Louisiana’s longest-running rock ‘n’ roll band is so strong that his spirit never really left. His short-but-indelible stint, during which time he fueled a power-packed vocal tandem with Jerry Lacroix, is still considered the group’s apex. And that’s saying something, given the cavalcade of great singers who’ve done tours of duty within the BK ranks, like Clint West, Tommy McLain, Lil’ Alfred Babino, Duane Yates, Allen Wayne, and Gregg Martinez, to name just a few. Shinn and his monstrous vocal chops make their welcome return to this year’s 10th annual Ponderosa Stomp.
GG Shinn and Jerry LaCroix, the King Brothers
In its heyday the twin Shinn-Lacroix vocal attack drew admiration even from megastars. “The Righteous Brothers really were in awe of GG and Jerry. Bill [Medley] and Bobby [Hatfield] have made many public comments about the talent of these two guys,” Theall recalled. Dubbing themselves “the King Brothers,” Shinn and Lacroix teamed up on numerous duets like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Let It Be Me.” It was their unbridled artistry and soul that lifted the Boogie Kings – as tight and musically proficient as the musicians themselves were – from mere cover band to something loftier.
As Theall added:
“The two years that we had GG and Jerry as a team molded the sound and style of the band as we totally broke away from the old sound of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. These two guys were so strong that many of our fans think that this was the ‘original’ Boogie Kings. They made such a huge impact on our success that it simply can’t be measured. … The odd thing about them is their contrasting styles. GG has this sweet, pure, smooth voice with a dramatic high register, and Jerry has a rough, get-down-and-dirty, soulful voice. But the two of them together would make the most beautiful blend of rhythm and blues music that the Boogie Kings have ever had.”
And once a Boogie King, always a Boogie King, as evidenced by Shinn’s reappearances with the group during modern-day reunion shows. But who is GG Shinn? Quite frankly, his full story has yet to be told. But Shinn was born Aug. 25, 1939, and hails from Franklin, La., where in 1956 he formed his first band, the Flat Tops. By 1963 he was recruited into the Boogie Kings, which had been founded in 1955 in Eunice, La., by Doug Ardoin, Bert Miller, and Harris Miller. The band played everywhere around Louisiana and east Texas, gaining in notoriety particularly at the Bamboo Club in Lake Charles and the Big Oaks club in Vinton near the Texas border, the latter club drawing a young Janis Joplin as a patron.
The Boogie Kings at their peak in 1965, with Jerry LaCroix and GG Shinn.
According to Theall: “We played at the Big Oaks every weekend and the crowds were tremendous. One had to be 21 years old in Texas to purchase liquor, but in Louisiana, one only had to be 18. The club was located about a half mile from the Texas border, so the kids would come over in droves to get boozed up.”
Floyd Soileau of Ville Platte’s Jin label hired the band to record their first album, titled “Clint West and the Fabulous Boogie Kings,” which included the West vocal showcase “The Twelfth of Never.” But by 1965 West split from the Boogie Kings, and Texas singer Jerry LaCroix joined. As Theall tells it: “The band’s only competition was a band called ‘Jerry and the Dominos.’ We were wiping them out so badly that Jerry gave up his band and called me for a job with the Boogie Kings. I hated for that to happen because we really admired Jerry’s band. But then again, I was very happy to have the opportunity to work with Jerry. We had 11 pieces already, but I hired him anyway because of his enormous talent.”
Recalling the first time he heard the Boogie Kings, Lacroix noted:
“It was like a freight train coming through that room! These guys had five tenor saxophones, a couple of trumpets, a Hammond B-3 organ and one of those Louisiana drummers. They were playing all of that what is now called swamp pop music back then. Fats Domino, Bobby Charles, Louisiana-style music. These guys were really super powerful. They were great. So, after our band kind of disbanded, all of my friends went to the Berklee School of Music in Boston. So, I said if I can’t lick these guys I’ll join them. I called up Ned [Theall], the leader of the band, and asked him if he could use another singer. He said, ‘Come on.’ There were three lead singers and all the horn players sang like black chicks in a gospel choir. They had beautiful voices. It was just an incredible band.”
A chance encounter with Sam Montel of Baton Rouge, who had been the force behind Dale and Grace of “I’m Leaving It Up to You” and “Stop and Think It Over,” led to a recording session at Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans. The resulting album, “Sam Montel Presents the Boogie Kings,” includes the key tracks that cemented Shinn’s place in the annals of Louisiana rhythm and blues. Rich with Shinn’s jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics, those songs include “The Crying Man,” “Fever,” “Funny How Times Slips Away,” “Harlem Shuffle,” and “Devil of a Girl” (the latter penned by Morgan City rockabilly swamp-popper Vince Anthony Guzzetta).
By May 1966, the Boogie Kings scored an extended gig in Lake Tahoe, Nev., and according to Theall, “this was to be the last major appearance of the GG and Jerry team.” In 2010, Shinn told the Houston Chronicle: “I left the band because I wanted a small band that could travel better. That big band, it was just too expensive to move around.” Shinn formed a group called the Roller Coasters, which released the infamous “Putt-Putt” album, whose cover featured a trumpet-blowing, suit-wearing Shinn fronting a seven-piece ensemble (including two drum kits) set up on a miniature golf course.
Below is an audio recording of Shinn playing the 1968 Port Sulphur High School prom in Plaquemines Parish during this Roller Coasters period of his career, performing dynamic versions of the Temptations’ “Get Ready” and Glenn Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.”
According to the Houston Chronicle:
In 1966, he put the Roller Coasters together and Lacroix joined him about a year later. The band was together for “two or three years,” Shinn recalled.
The Roller Coasters did shows up and down the Gulf Coast and played in Miami a lot, he said. “That was fun. Those days are gone.”
Shinn and Lacroix went separate ways. Shinn joined a jazz-rock fusion band called Chase, which produced two albums in the early 1970s. Shinn joined Chase in the middle of the recording session for the second album, “Ennea,” which was released in 1972.
As told by Theall in his inimitable style:
G.G. Shinn had replaced the lead vocalist in the Chase band. Their vocalist had split when the song “Get It On” went all the way to No. 1. Sound familiar? I knew Bill Chase personally. He was a brilliant trumpet player and a great person. I went to the first rehearsal of the band Chase. I remember it well, because Bill forgot his mouthpiece, and I loaned him mine. GG did the vocals on Chase’s second album. It was a masterpiece of an album, but it did not go anywhere. Shortly after the second album was released, Bill Chase was killed in a plane crash, and the world lost a great trumpet player and a wonderful man. Rest in peace, my brother. GG’s big opportunity was delayed by an act of fate. But he was lucky not to be in the plane with Bill.
Although the first Chase album sold nearly 400,000 copies, “Ennea” was not as well-received by the public. One likely reason was a shift away from trumpet sections. A single, “So Many People,” received some radio play, but the side-two-filling “Ennea” suite, with its tightly chorded jazz arrangements and lyrics based on Greek mythology, was less radio-friendly.
Shinn toured with Chase, even traveling to Japan, and YouTube videos of that tour capture Shinn’s overwhelming vocal power for posterity. Though Bill Chase is dead, the group’s members still perform together at reunion gigs.
According to the Houston Chronicle: “Shinn formed a band called T.S.C. Trucking Company and spent time in Las Vegas. That band lasted for about 15 years.” According to guitarist Gerry Mouton’s Web site bio: “While Gerry was with G.G., they played all over the country. Beaumont, Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Little Rock, Panama City, Nashville, Memphis, Louisville, Iowa City, Denver, Aspen, Monroe, Jackson, Biloxi, Ruston, Joplin and more places than Gerry can remember.” The band likely also included Boogie King/White Trash sax player Jon Smith and future Toto singer Bobby Kimball at one time or another. Shinn also has played with Luther Kent, who said of GG: “Always loved singing with GG. We did a few gigs with the Chicken Hawks, also with the Boogie Kings. GG is one of the greatest vocalists I’ve ever heard!!!!!!!”
Shinn “returned to Louisiana in 1986 and opened up a nightclub in Lake Charles,” according to the Chronicle. “He got married and moved north to Monroe, when he opened another club. Now he has a club in Alexandria, which coincidentally is the town where Lacroix was born.”
In 1992, Shinn formed a veritable supergroup with fellow Louisiana legends John Fred Gourrier of “Judy in Disguise” fame and country-music artist Joe Stampley, a north Louisianian whose 1960s group the Uniques scored a regional hit with a cover of the Allen Toussaint composition “All These Things” and landed on “American Bandstand.” Performing as the Louisiana Boys, the trio also recorded a 1997 album of the same name, produced by Howard Cowart, who played the famous bass line on “Judy in Disguise.”
In 2000, Shinn released a great album on Gary Edwards’ Sound of New Orleans label, titled “You Can Never Keep a Good Man Down.” Shinn is joined by an all-star cast of Crescent City R&B masters, including drummer Harry Ravain (a former latter-day Boogie King), pianist Al Farrell, guitarist Allen Poche, and tenor saxist Jerry Jumonville. Standout tracks include the title song as well as a version of “Two Steps From the Blues” that’s a dead ringer for Bobby “Blue” Bland, and a scorching rendition of Danny White’s “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” (with blazing guitar work from Poche).
If you’re ever in Alexandria, GG’s nightclub is the hottest spot in town, though one gets the impression that most patrons have little to no idea of the owner’s musical pedigree. Just make sure the legend is performing on the night you go. The club also brings in acts like Cajun accordionist Wayne Toups, soul icon Percy Sledge, swamp-pop singers like Warren Storm and TK Hulin, and country and cover bands, though the focus of the mostly under-40 crowd seems to be on dancing to the DJ’s tunes. While you’re there, pick up a copy of GG’s “Christmas with GG Shinn” CD, in which Shinn breathes brand-new soul into those sometimes-tired holiday standards. You can also catch GG singing around the state and in Texas at festivals and clubs, where he often team ups with TK Hulin to re-create the electric duets of his “King Brothers” days. With Boogie Kings bandleader Ned Theall having died in 2010 after a final Boogie Kings CD that included GG on several tracks, that band’s future is up in the air, though original founder Doug Ardoin is now fronting a new lineup. What’s not up in the air is that GG Shinn remains one of Louisiana’s most powerful singers. If you have any doubts about what blue-eyed soul is all about, catch him at this year’s Ponderosa Stomp. GG will school you.
Blind pianist/singer Bobby Powell of Baton Rouge left gospel music in the 1960s to test out his R&B chops, signing with Whit Records, for whom he recorded “What Are You Trying to Do to Me” b/w “Red Sails in the Sunset,” which Jewel released nationally. His second single, a version of “C.C. Rider” b/w “That Little Girl of Mine,” topped the national R&B charts in 1965. His third single — “Do Something for Yourself” b/w “It’s Getting Late in the Evening” — made it to #21 on the charts. Had Powell not switched back to gospel music, he would be perfect for the Ponderosa Stomp. Let’s hold out a candle that both he and Huey “Piano” Smith both might be coaxed to appear one day – with the latter fantasy booking qualifying as the musical coup of this new century. Above is Powell doing the B-side on Hoss Allen’s “!!!!The Beat” show.
Fellow Red Stick resident Raful Neal, a harmonica wizard and patriarch of the Neal blues clan whose first band featured a young Buddy Guy, did a version of his own for La Louisianne label in 1969. Check out his interpretation below. Though Neal died several years ago, his legacy lives on in the music of his sons – Kenny Neal, Lil’ Ray Neal, and others – not to mention those he played with, including Slim Harpo band alumni James Johnson and Rudy Richard, who are both scheduled for the 10th annual Ponderosa Stomp next month. And of course, Lazy Lester.
The History Channel’s Louisiana-set “Swamp People” reality series, which tracks alligator hunters in the marshes from Pierre Part to Port Sulphur and all points in between, has become the most popular show in the network’s history. But let’s not forget the original “swamp people”: Doug and Rusty Kershaw of “Diggy Liggy Lo” and “Louisiana Man” fame – the latter having the distinction of being the first song broadcast back to Earth from the Moon by the Apollo 12 astronauts. In their earliest days, the brothers grew up on a houseboat with their parents and siblings with French as their first language, and this song is a tribute to their hardworking father, who probably could have been cast on “Swamp People” to teach Troy Landry a thing or two about “chooting” gators.
Below is modern-day footage of the multi-instrumentalist Doug Kershaw strumming a guitar instead of his fiddle in an interesting rendition of the Cajun dance standard “Colinda” that runs the gamut from mellow to powerfully dramatic. Doug, seen here in a marked departure from his trademark manic performance style, is accompanied by his son Tyler Kershaw on drums.
It’s “Blue Monday,” and that is today’s Song of the Day, written by Dave Bartholomew, originally recorded by Smiley Lewis but performed here at “Austin City Limits” in 1986 by Fats Domino in a band that includes Ponderosa Stomp regulars Bartholomew and Herb Hardesty, as well as Joseph “Smokey” Johnson on drums, Lee Allen on tenor, guitarist Jimmy Moliere, and Roger Lewis doing the famous baritone solo created by Hardesty.
Fats had met sax player Sam Lee, Harrison Verrett’s cousin, at the Watkins Hotel and invited him to play on the session. Lee, nicknamed “Hold That Note” for his ability to play extended notes, was supposed to play the baritone solo on “Blue Monday,” but the versatile Herbert Hardesty had to step in to play another classic solo. “’Blue Monday’ is as close to perfection as one can imagine,” music writer Hank Davis would later observe. “The eight-bar sax break is a gem of almost frightening economy. It is one of the most memorable, bluesy, and yet simple runs in all of r&b.” Ironically, Hardesty had never played baritone saxophone before and didn’t even like the instrument. The song was the third future #1 r&b hit that Domino recorded that month.
Below is Smiley Lewis’ version, recorded two years earlier than Domino’s studio version:
In a preview of this year’s Ponderosa Stomp, ringmaster Dr. Ike revealed on WWOZ-FM radio last night that that living embodiment of New Orleans music, Allen Toussaint, would be reprising some of the tunes from his first solo album, named “The Wild Sound of New Orleans” by “Al Tousan,” recorded in two days in February 1958. The all-instrumental album featured the song “Java,” with which New Orleans trumpet giant Al “Jumbo” Hirt made national waves. The only thing missing from Toussaint’s Stomp performance will be the cream-of-the-crop Cosimo studio players that graced his record, such as saxophonists Alvin “Red” Tyler and Nat Perrilliat, trumpeter Melvin Lastie, guitarists Justin Adams and Roy Montrell, and drummer Charles “Hungry” Williams, to name just a few.
And here’s Hirt performing “Java” on the “Ed Sullivan Show”:
Today’s Song of the Day is the musical epic that inspired young Cajun-rock revivalists Steve Riley and C.C. Adcock to form the supergroup Lil’ Band o’ Gold in the late 1990s. As regular attendees of swamp-pop elder statesman Warren Storm’s Lafayette lounge performances, the duo was captivated by the singer’s powerhouse interpretation of one song in particular: “Seven Letters,” originally done by Ben E. King of “Stand By Me” fame. Storm had originally made noise around Acadiana with the song in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s midlife of his career, releasing it on his Jin-label album “Heart and Soul,” which was produced in Nashville by Bob Hendricks and Jay Jackson (reportedly with backing by some members of country megagroup Alabama, though this is unverified). After requesting the song from Storm innumerable times, Riley and Adcock decided to form LBOG, with the masterstroke move of getting Storm singing behind the drum kit once more – a duty Storm had forsaken because he was simply tired of lugging the things around at his age.
One of Storm’s most popular vocal tour-de-forces, the version above was video-recorded at New Orleans’ Chickie Wah-Wah club in April 2010, with Storm’s drum kit up close and personal onstage and Adcock’s introduction of “This is the best song in the world right here.”
Comparing and contrasting this live version with the original studio cut above, the listener will marvel at how Storm’s voice has aged with amazing grace, mellowing like the finest Tennessee whiskey in an oaken cask, yet retaining (and even deepening) his trademark stentorian soulfulness. Storm has indeed come a long way since he cut “The Prisoner’s Song” in the late 1950s and walked into Graceland one day to witness his hero Elvis Presley sitting at a piano and launching into the young Cajun’s hit in a Kingly tip of the hat.
Lil’ Band o’ Gold’s studio version of “Seven Letters” also is well-worth a listen, kicking it up a notch with Richard Comeaux’s wailing pedal-steel guitar, soaring like Evangeline’s ghost across the wind-swept Cajun prairie.
Don’t miss Warren Storm at this year’s Ponderosa Stomp – singing and bashing away at the drums in his unique style that is inspired by not only New Orleans’ Earl Palmer but also Cosimo session drummer Charles “Hungry” Williams. For more about Storm’s musical dalliances with the likes of Lily Allen, Robert Plant, and Elvis Costello, click here.
In those halcyon pre-Katrina New Orleans nights of early 2005, a mysterious stranger and his comely companion stepped into the Circle Bar to the country and rockabilly rhythms of Michael Hurtt and the Haunted Hearts. A circle jerk of mutual admiration ensued as the club’s patrons slowly realized that this intense itinerant was no ordinary straggler but none other than the legendary Hunter S. Thompson, and the ailing “Gonzo” journalist himself realized that the country-fried sounds he was drinking in were every bit as soul-satisfying as the glass of Chivas Regal before him.
“We were playing at the Circle Bar in early January, and the bartender came up and told me that Hunter S. Thompson was in the audience and that I should dedicate a song to him,” explains Michael Hurtt, singer and rhythm guitarist for the aptly named Michael Hurtt And His Haunted Hearts. “I assumed he didn’t want anyone to know who he was, but apparently he was introducing himself to everyone. So I said, ‘From a bunch of broke writers and artists to someone who has actually done something with his life, this one’s for you, baby!’ And then we played something salacious and dirty-some screwed up but catchy double entendre.” Thompson was clad in matching red Western-style shirt and pants that night, appropriate dress for the show, according to the rock ‘n’ roll hillbilly band’s front man (and OffBeat contributor), currently cast as an extra in an Elvis movie.
“He was in town, writing something for Playboy about ‘All The Kings Men,’” says Hurtt. ‘He said, ‘West Coast hillbilly music, that’s my thing!’ I had made these hand-drawn fliers for our Christmas show that had snowflakes on them. We ripped one down, and wrote our information on it. He said he could get Sean Penn to cast us in the movie, but we had already auditioned for it. … Well, we went out of town for a few days, and when I got back there was a message on my machine from one of the girls he was with. She said, quote, ‘He’s prone to outbursts. There’s something about that flier and that lettering …’ The flier had become a kind of talisman that had a calming effect on him, enough to get him to focus and to write.” As reported by Hurtt, Thompson had lost the flier (supposedly while engaging in illicit activities with Jude Law and Sean Penn), was tearing apart his hotel room looking for it and needed another one to finish the article. “It was surreal, but somehow it made perfect sense. I was honored that he loved something I hand drew in 20 minutes at my kitchen table, not to mention the music.” … “Of course it sucks that Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide,” explains Hurtt as an addendum to the interview. “But the day after we met Hunter S. Thompson, we were playing in Memphis. Jim Dandy, the lead singer of Black Oak Arkansas, was up front, going nuts in leather chaps. Hopefully we’ll continue to draw a diverse audience.”
“Sometimes he’d be screaming, but there were these mournful, sad, quiet outrages. When he was screaming, you felt that at least there was some life going on there, but he’s get these faraway teary stares. … I saw him three or four times with tears in his eyes for no reason. Suddenly the mission became ‘How do we cheer him up?’ We had only limited success, but there were moments. We went to the Circle Bar in Lee Circle. There was a bluegrass fusion band there, and Hunter loved them. He would sit at the bar, and the bartender knew Hunter’s work and was giving him free drinks and the VIP treatment. We had a wonderful night. He couldn’t walk, but he was dancing in his seat and whooping and doing his Iroquois war cheers in the air.”
From the New York Post:
January 15, 2005 — HUNTER S. Thompson is 67, but he still throws some pretty wild parties. Sean Penn, Jude Law and Johnny Knoxville attended a debauched bash in Thompson’s New Orleans hotel suite, where lines of cocaine, piles of pot and bottles of Chivas Regal were laid out on Thompson’s coffee table. Penn and Law are in the Big Easy filming “All The King’s Men,” a political drama inspired by the life of demagogic Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long. We’re told that Penn flew in his pal Thompson to write a piece about the movie for Playboy and that attendees took turns reading passages from Thompson’s work aloud to stir his creative juices.
His last visit was just about a month ago, and he was in good spirits. He reportedly was covering the filming of “All the King’s Men,” but he also found time to head down to Magazine Street to buy a shave at Aidan Gill for Men and a seersucker suit at Perlis Clothing. One night at the Circle Bar, he happened upon a set by Mike Hurtt & the Haunted Hearts and the band’s set of hillbilly rock and country made him ecstatic — so much so that he took a copy of the band’s flyer and promised Hurtt to try to get his music into “All the King’s Men.”
“He’s got that Kentucky blood in him,” [Doug] Brinkley says. “If you put on Earl Scruggs or Bill Monroe, Hunter would get physically all up. He loved that sound.”
If you’d like to get a taste of the sound that captured the savage heart of Hunter S. Thompson in those dark days before his own bizarre, untimely death, come catch Michael Hurtt and his Haunted Hearts as they back Jay Chevalier and other music legends at this year’s Ponderosa Stomp. P.S. To learn how New Orleans piano genius James Booker’s organ-driven opus “Gonzo” reportedly inspired Thompson to name his style of journalism “Gonzo,” click here and here.
Move over, New York and the ladies of “She’s Got the Power!” Because a true daughter of Dixie, Lavelle White, who can be claimed to varying degrees by Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi (not to mention Chicago), is bringing her singular mix of blues, R&B, gospel, and funk to the 2011 Ponderosa Stomp.
Schooled in the blues by guitarist Clarence Holliman, Lavelle White broke onto the scene by recording numerous singles for Don Robey’s Duke label, including today’s Song of the Day, “Stop These Teardrops,” which features Mac Rebennack on piano.
“Listen. I want to explain something to everybody. I am not a blues singer! I sing blues because that’s what people want. I also sing funk, soul, country, and spiritual. I’m all of that. When I first started singing, it was rhythm and blues. I didn’t just do blues. … With me, it’s funk, soul, blues, jazz, and a little rap.” Thus does chanteuse Miss Lavelle White set the record straight in the book “Women in Texas Music: Stories and Songs.”
White’s music career began in the 1950s, when she brought her powerful Dinah Washington-influenced vocal style and songwriting talents to Houston’s rich R&B scene. Early on she worked with Clarence Holliman: “I came to the clubs singing, and I couldn’t carry a tune in a paper bag. Clarence taught me my timing.” She eventually got a break and started recording for Don Robey’s Duke/Peacock label with assistance from Johnny “Clyde” Copeland. “He was on the first record that I did for Duke Records: ‘If I Could Be With You”/”Teenage Love.”
The Mississippi-born White waxed nearly a dozen singles for Duke, including “Just Look at You Fool,” “The Tide of Love,” “Yes, I’ve Been Crying,” and “Stop These Teardrops.” She also wrote “Lead Me On” for Duke labelmate Bobby “Blue” Bland and toured nationally throughout the 1950s and ’60s with artists such as B.B. King, James Brown, Junior Parker, Sam Cooke, Gene Chandler, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Isley Brothers, Aretha Franklin, and Smokey Robinson.
In the late 1970s White moved to Chicago and became a favorite on the local blues scene, headlining at the Kingston Mines and other clubs from 1978 to 1987 and working with Junior Wells and the Louisiana-born bluesmen Lonnie “Guitar Junior” Brooks and Buddy Guy. Of Guy she says: “Go to Buddy Guy’s club. He’s a wonderful person. He’s marvelous. He’s beautiful.”
She returned to Houston in 1988 and once again began working the clubs, eventually settling in Austin in the early 1990s, where she recorded three highly acclaimed CDs, “Miss Lavelle,”“It Haven’t Been Easy,” and “Into the Mystic.” A four-time W.C. Handy Awards nominee and a Texas Music Hall of Fame inductee, White is an exciting addition to the Ponderosa Stomp lineup.