George Perkins, the deep-soul and gospel artist who was slated to perform at this fall’s Ponderosa Stomp, died unexpectedly at his home in Hammond, La., on April 17. He was 70. Perkins was best-known for the hit “Cryin’ In the Streets,” an anthem he aptly pronounced “the right song at the right time.”
Born Sept. 25, 1942, at Denham Springs, La., Perkins came out of the gospel tradition.
“When I was 16 or 17, gospel was real hot,” recalled Perkins earlier this year. “I started a quartet, the Silver Stars, with Frank Turner and a couple of my nephews. We did a lot of Soul Stirrers songs.”
George Perkins points his fingers toward Soul Heaven, where the soul and gospel singer presumably has since gone after passing away in April. The “Cryin’ in the Streets” singer was scheduled to appear at the 2013 Ponderosa Stomp. (Photo copyright Aubrey Edwards)
The Silver Stars proved to be popular, appearing at local church services and gospel music programs. In 1968 the Silver Stars were invited to record for the Ebb Tide/Ebenezer’s Gospel label. Two singles appeared: “They Call Him Jesus” and “Father Don’t Forget Me.” While Perkins maintained a busy singing career, he also managed to graduate from business college, eventually becoming an insurance agent.
Two years later, fate would enter Perkins’ life in a way no one could have predicted.
“A hillbilly guy gave me the title to the song ‘Cryin’ In the Streets,’” said Perkins. “I came up with the rest of the lyrics. The lyrics were about the Dr. Martin Luther King assassination and the civil rights movement. I arranged the song, and it came out on the Golden label. WXOK in Baton Rouge started playing it. It stayed at No. 1 there for two months. Then it started to hit all over the South, Memphis to Florida.”
While Golden placed the record with All South Distributors in New Orleans, the label was hard-pressed to keep up with demand for the single outside of All South’s network of retail accounts. In stepped Houston’s Leland Rogers (brother of future country superstar Kenny) who owned Silver Fox, a label distributed nationally by Shelby Singleton Enterprises. Silver Fox leased the “Cryin’ In the Streets” master, and Rogers’ hooked Perkins up with a booking agent in Nashville.
“I performed all over the South: Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, all through the Carolinas. I stayed plenty busy traveling for months.”
Perkins was proudest of his weeklong stint at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem.
“I had the No. 3 record in New York, recalled Perkins — quite an accomplishment for a down-home Southern R&B record. “The Delphonics were No. 1 ["What You See (Is What You Get")] and Shirley Brown was No. 2 (“Woman To Woman”). The No. 4 record was the O’Jays’ ‘The Backstabbers.’”
When the dust finally settled, “Cryin’ In the Streets” had spent 12 weeks in the Billboard R&B charts, rising as high as No. 12.
The follow-up on Golden was “How Can A Broke Man Survive.” Despite its merit, the record stalled. Perkins moved on to Johnny Vincent’s Ace label in Jackson, Miss., even recording the inevitable “Baby I’m Fed Up With (Crying In the Streets).” No hits were forthcoming, and he did no better with a second-line record he cut in New Orleans with Clinton Scott.
1972 saw Perkins signing with writer/producer Jerry Strickland, who had formed the Soul Power label in Shreveport. Despite being perky Southern soul, both singles stalled.
By 1974, Perkins was working for the Royal Shield Insurance Co. in Baton Rouge. The company’s owner not only backed Perkins by giving him time off when he had out-of-town gigs, but also went as far as opening a recording studio (Deep South) and starting a label (Royal Shield) to help promote Perkins’ career.
“They had big plans for that studio,” said Perkins. “It was state of the art. They spent a lot of money on it, but it just couldn’t make a go of it. There just weren’t enough record companies in Baton Rouge to sustain it.”
As far as his Royal Shield releases were concerned, there were a couple of nice outing including the churchy “You’ve Been Good To Me,” which featured his old partner Frank Turner. Unfortunately, Perkins’ career seemed mired in the shadow of his original hit, which he even remade on Royal Shield. Perkins had a couple releases on his own label, GP, and he bowed out with a release on — you guessed it — the Cryin’ In the Streets label.
“I pretty much stuck to gospel after the early 1980s,” said Perkins. “In 1984 I cut a gospel album, ‘The Best of George Perkins.’ I still sang in church.”
Perkins leaves a wife, three sons, and three daughters.
Above: The Lewis Sisters- Rose, left, and Margaret, right, with Dale Hawkins on stage at the Louisiana Hayride.
“In April 1957 Margaret Lewis won 2nd prize at a talent show in Plainview, sponsored by Johnny Horton, the prize being a guest appearance at the Louisiana Hayride at Shreveport. There, Johnny and Tilman Franks introduced her to local businesswoman Mira Smith, who had her own studio and played guitar with young local cats like James Burton. An aspiring songwriter, she took Margaret under her wing, sending her out on the road with local star Dale Hawkins. Margaret and her sister Rose ended up doing backing vocals for some of Dale`s Checker sessions in Chicago, singing on Baby Baby, Mrs Merguitory’s Daughter, La-Do-Da -Da, Superman and most memorably of all the awesome Little Pig. Later she sang on the equally awesome Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby by Dale.”
“Who do you love?” Bo Diddley asked. In the case of this Tuesday’s “Heroes of Louisiana Music at the Mint,” the answer is C.P. Love. This soulful Crescent City singer will be starring in the first installment of a four-part series presented by the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation and the Friends of the Cabildo, in conjunction with the Louisiana State Museum. The presentation starts at 6 p.m. in the Old U.S. Mint’s newly renovated concert space, where Love will perform, chat with music writer Jeff Hannusch, and answer audience questions about his long career in soul and R&B alongside some of the greatest legends of the industry. We hope that at the end of this presentation, you will love C.P. Love as much as you do some of his own musical heroes: Danny White, Smiley Lewis, Otis Redding, and Sam Cooke.
The very definition of an unsung hero, C.P. Love “has the rare distinction of being better known for a song he didn’t record rather than one he did,” according to Hannusch. The legendary King Floyd offered his newly penned song “Groove Me” to Love, who passed on the future 1970 smash hit in favor of its composer. Love brought a demo of King’s version to promoter Elijah Walker and famed producer Wardell Quezergue, who declared with his characteristic understatement: “I believe we have something.” And the rest is history. “I never regretted not recording ‘Groove Me’ — I felt glad for King,” Love said.
But Love, born Carleton Pierre Love in New Orleans in 1945, is brimming with his own talent, on both vocals and guitar, and has played with dozens of legends in soul and R&B since 1957. Growing up on the West Bank, Love recalled playing his first marquee gig in Marrero with piano giant Professor Longhair. “The band consisted of just Fess and a drummer. … [Fess] was a quiet guy who didn’t go for any humbug.”
In its heyday Love also frequented the city’s most famous incubator of R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, the Dew Drop Inn on LaSalle Street. “I started going by the Dew Drop, where I hung with Deacon John, Esquerita, Curley Moore, and Earl King.” Over the years Love has played in clubs all over the region, from the Devil’s Den on North Galvez to the F&M Patio and famed Bourbon Street spots like the Sho-Bar and La Strada, where he worked with Clarence “Frogman” Henry. “I did Bourbon Street for 10 years at several clubs. That was the best lesson I ever got as a singer.”
Plenty of Room For More – C.P. Love
By 1968, Love was recruited by Elijah Walker and Earl King to cut a single on their King Walk label: “Plenty of Room for More” / “You Call the Shots” — both Earl King compositions reminiscent of Wilson Pickett.
You Call the Shots – C.P. Love
With “Groove Me” a monster hit for King Floyd in 1970 on the Malaco label, Love once again deferred to Floyd and gave him the first shot at “I Found All These Things.” However, Love later cut the song as well, and it became a regional hit on Atlantic – and could have gone bigger if Love had been able to go on tour with James Carr for a stop at the Apollo Theater. “I Found All These Things” is considered a deep soul classic and one of the best souls singles from the Malaco vaults. Love and his band the Invaders toured with King Floyd for nine months and then with Candi Staton and Bobby Womack. He also has opened for talents such as Fats Domino and B.B. King.
I Found All of These Things – C.P. Love.
Love then played Bourbon Street for 10 years until the clubs went non-union, and he balked at the exploitative conditions. “If you wanted to work on Bourbon Street, you had to take a big cut in pay. I wouldn’t accept that.” Love moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1986 and worked the club and festival circuit along the West Coast. He also cut a four-track EP for the Award label and recorded an album on New Orleans producer Carlo Ditta’s Orleans label, whose roster has included Rockie Charles, Guitar Slim Jr., Coco Robicheaux, Danny Barker, and Roland Stone. Bassist George Porter and guitarist Leo Nocentelli of the Meters provided backing for the one-day session, which included three of his own songs.
Indeed, it is Love’s own original songs of which is he proudest, including “Stubborn Girl,” “True Blue,” and “Secondline Home.” He owns his own publishing company, Pierre Publishing, as well as Trip City Jingles, a marketing-jingles firm. Having returned to New Orleans, Love has played the Jazz and Heritage Festival and clubs such as the House of Blues. However, he won’t be returning to Bourbon Street anytime soon. “I’m not going to embarrass myself by working on Bourbon Street for $8 a set.”
The Old U.S. Mint is at 400 Esplanade Ave. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The program runs from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. $30 general admission, $25 for Friends of the Cabildo members. For more information, click here or here, or call 504-523-3939.
Bobby Marchan in drag confers with Solomon Burke onstage
On its Sept. 15 kickoff, attendees at the Ponderosa Stomp‘s music conference learned about R&B legend, notorious transvestite, and pioneer rap promoter Bobby Marchan – in a panel led by Alison Fensterstock and illuminated by Marchan’s Manicure Records partner Henry “Palomino” Alexander; Q93 DJ Wild Wayne; and singer Gerri Hall of Huey “Piano” Smith’s Clowns. But before Marchan shared his consummate business acumen decades later with the rappers who founded Cash Money Records as well as chitlin-circuit stars like Sir Charles Jones and Mel Waiters, he made an impression as lead Clown vocalist, an emcee at New Orleans’ Dew Drop Inn and Club Tijuana, and later scored a #1 smash by covering the Big Jay McNeely hit “There Is Something on Your Mind” for Bobby Robinson’s Fire label. Be sure to listen to Marchan’s spoken interlude at minute 2:00 – pure tongue-lashing, sassy flamboyance infused with rap-like cadences.
Friday, Sept. 16, Stomp conference attendees will get a chance to get up close and personal with the man whose version of “There Something on Your Mind” Marchan made his own: Big Jay McNeely. From 2:45 to 3:35, Jason Hanley of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will interview McNeely. For more conference info, click here. Catch McNeely playing the Stomp on Saturday night. Full schedule is here.
“The King of the Sax Honkers,” Big Jay McNeely first topped the Billboard R&B chart in 1949 with “The Deacon’s Hop” on the Savoy label before charting once again in 1959 with the blues-drenched ballad “There Is Something on Your Mind.” Infusing his style with a frantic preacher’s intensity that paved the way toward rock ‘n’ roll, the rabble-rousing McNeely – seen at left playing on his back – became known for his outrageously flamboyant stage antics as much for his trailblazingly torrential sax blowing, recording for many labels including Federal, Vee-Jay, Imperial, Exclusive, Aladdin, and Warner Bros. McNeely played at the inaugural Stomp 10 years ago, and we are pleased to have this legendary rock ‘n’ roll madman returning this Saturday night. Don’t miss it!
Born Eddie Jones, Guitar Slim created one of the most seminal blues classics of all time in “The Things I Used to Do.” This is the B-side of that great record, both of whose sides feature Ray Charles on piano. A master showman who dyed his hair to match his suits and shoes, Guitar Slim was highly influential during the 1950s, and his colorful legacy, which touched musicians from Earl King to Frank Zappa, is well-worth another look. Come see WWOZ DJ and documetarian David Kunian lead a panel today discussing Slim’s career, with his peers and bandmates Gerri Hall, Irving Banister, and Lawrence Cotton. It runs 2:45 – 3:45 p.m. at the Renaissance Arts Hotel in New Orleans’ Warehouse District, 700 Tchoupitoulas St. For more info on the conference, click here.
The whole New Orleans R&B record scene was centred around the recording studios of Cosimo Matassa. Apart from isolated sessions in radio stations or on “field” locations, almost every R&B record made in New Orleans from the 1940s until the late 1960s was cut in his studios. Cosimo is mystified when asked why others did not try to establish another studio. “Beats the hell out of me, I don’t know,” he said. “It could be that New Orleans is just like a big small town.”
On Dec. 10, 1999, on the 50th anniversary of the recording of Fats Domino’s “The Fat Man,” Matassa, Bartholomew, and Domino reunited for a ceremony at 838 N. Rampart St. to designate the site a historic landmark. The event also drew Toussaint, Ford, Ernie K-Doe, and other musicians who recorded there.
Below, watch Bartholomew (who was taught by Louis Armstrong’s trumpet teacher, Peter Davis) blow some notes along with Porgy Jones before giving a shout-out to Matassa and the many legends who made their musical bones at the hit incubator, during a ceremony in September 2010 sponsored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which designated the site a historic Rock and Roll Landmark:
Here’s Eddie Floyd – one of the legendary Memphis label Stax’s most successful artists (as both a singer and songwriter) – doing his hit “I’ve Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do).” But with a career that predates his Stax days, Floyd also served in the Detroit vocal group Falcons, alongside Sir Mack Rice (also performing at this year’s Ponderosa Stomp) and Wilson Pickett. The group scored hits with “You’re So Fine” and “I Found a Love.” Signing with Stax in 1965, Floyd helped write “Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do)” and “634-5789 (Soulsville USA)” for Pickett. Indeed, almost every Stax artist recorded Floyd’s tunes, often co-written with Steve Cropper or Booker T. Jones, including Sam & Dave (“You Don’t Know What You Mean to Me”), Rufus Thomas (“The Breakdown”), Otis Redding (“I Love You More Than Words Can Say”), and Johnnie Taylor’s “Just the One (I’ve Been Looking For).” Floyd scored his own successes as a solo artist with “Knock on Wood” and “Big Bird,” (which he reportedly wrote in a London airport while waiting for a plane back to the United States for Redding’s funeral), among others.
As some Louisiana lagniappe, here’s Alex Chilton, a fellow son of Memphis and a frequent sideman at the Stomp, offering up his version of the same song, backed by Teenage Fanclub.
Wardell Quezergue chats with Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack at the Ponderosa Stomp's "Unsung Heroes" exhibit at the Louisiana Cabildo.
The legendary New Orleans arranger and bandleader Wardell Quezergue died at age 81 today at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie, La. Below is his biography from the Ponderosa Stomp, which he graced so often with his genius presence:
If the greatest measure of a man’s success is a view of what the world might have been like without him, Wardell Quezergue’s presence on God’s Green Earth has to be counted as one of the music world’s greatest blessings. Like his colleagues Dave Bartholomew and Allen Toussaint, Quezergue single-handedly shaped the sound of New Orleans; his arrangements and productions of songs like Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief,” Robert Parker’s “Barefootin,’” Willie Tee’s “Teasin’ You” and the Dixie Cups’ “Ike Iko” define the very essence not only of a city’s music, but its very culture.
Unlike Bartholomew and Toussaint, Quezergue never strove for a singular sound: in 1961 he helmed the Earl King Imperial sessions that produced raw gems like “Trick Bag” and “Always A First Time,” songs that could only have developed in a city where spectacularly attired Mardi Gras Indians and renegade brass bands rule the back streets. Ten years later, his arrangements of King Floyd’s “Groove Me” and Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” split the difference between Memphis and New Orleans and put the sound of those cities’ crossroads—Jackson, Mississippi—on the map. Now considered as essential a stripe of southern soul as Muscle Shoals, Memphis or New Orleans, the Jackson sound existed previously in pieces, but it took the sweeping hand of “the Creole Beethoven” (as Toussaint so memorably refers Quezergue) to drive it into the charts. The fact that both hits were recorded on the same day attests to Wardell’s legendary work ethic, as well as the man’s unquestionable musical genius.
Developing his arranging style in the service using a tuning fork, Quezergue cut his teeth with Dave Bartholomew before forming the Royal Dukes Of Rhythm and Wardell and the Sultans in the late ‘50s. Waxing sides such as “The Original Popeye” (as well as producing the aforementioned Earl King sides) for Imperial, when the company divested from New Orleans, Quezergue had already made his mark with the Watch, Rip and Frisco imprints, with incredible local hits like Danny White’s “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” and the Rouzan Sisters’ “Men of War.” In 1964 he partnered with Clinton Scott and Ulis Gaines to form Nola Records.
Hitting immediately with Robert Parker’s “Barefootin,’” under Quezergue’s watchful stewardship Nola amassed a staggering catalog of soul and R&B—from the obscure Charles “Soul” Brown to the famed Willie Tee—before its untimely demise in 1968. Along with subsidiaries like Bonatemp, Whurley-Burley and Hot Line, Quezergue kept himself busy with productions for smaller labels like A.B.S., Shagg and Mode, always using the same modus operandi: the song itself came first.
“We created songs from scratch,” Quezergue later recalled of his ‘60s apex. “The songs were really what would dictate the sound.”
In this way he differed from Bartholomew and Toussaint, whose styles often framed a song’s success. But it was this free-wheeling approach that would serve him well in Jackson during the coming decade. After the double-barrelled success of “Groove Me” and “Mr. Big Stuff,” the big boys came calling, and an avalanche of Quezergue productions surfaced on labels like Chimneyville, Atlantic and Cotillion: aside from powerful cuts by Irma Thomas, Tami Lynn, Johnny Adams and the Unemployed (a funk group headed up by Quezergue’s sons!) Wardell soon reached back to New Orleans to form his own imprints, Pelican and Movin,’ issuing such funky masterpieces as Curtis Johnson’s “Sho ‘Nuff The Real Thing” and Chuck Simmons’ “Lay It On Me.”
Despite Malaco Studio’s proven track record with Floyd and Knight, Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue,” christened with a beautiful arrangement courtesy of Wardell, was too far of a stretch for Atlantic. Faced with bankruptcy, Malaco released it themselves in 1975 and Quezergue racked up one of his biggest successes: the song hit number three on the pop charts and redefined the southern soul sound just as disco was beginning to steamroll it.
A quiet giant, Quezergue continues to work in New Orleans, content to do what he’s always done: unassumingly make music history. For more on Quezergue, read here.
With Tropical Storm Lee having battered the central Gulf Coast, specifically south Louisiana, for all of Labor Day weekend, today’s Song of the Day continues the rain theme, with three versions of “Raining in My Heart” by Excello-related artists (or their sidemen) who will be appearing at this month’s 10th annual Ponderosa Stomp. First up, the Excello swamp bluesman who created the anthem, Slim Harpo. Though Harpo is now jamming in that great jukejoint in the sky, Harpo’s primary guitar players — James Johnson and Rudy Richard — are both scheduled to appear at the Stomp’s Excello reunion this year. According to musicologist John Broven in his book “South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous”:
“Rainin’ in My Heart” changed everything for Slim. For a start, The Cash Box warmed to the record: “Slow moaning, earthy blues proves the artist’s meat as he takes the tune for a tuneful ride. A real weeper.” … The mesmerizing “Rainin’ in My Heart” more than justified the reviewer’s optimism. After climbing the R&B charts the record crossed over to the popular ratings and reached No. 34 on the Billboard 100 in the summer of 1961.
Warren Storm, left, with fellow swamp-pop legends, the siblings Van Broussard and Grace Broussard
Next up, a version by brother Warren Storm, who logged many an hour in Jay Miller’s legendary Crowley recording studio playing drums on records by Lazy Lester and other artists with the likes of fellow hired guns: pianists Carol Fran (appearing at the Stomp this year) and Katie Webster; bassist Bobby McBride; guitarists Guitar Gable, Al Foreman, and Pee Wee Trahan; and fiddler/bassist Rufus Thibodeaux, among others. Here is Storm’s own version of “Rainin’ in My Heart”:
And finally, here is a live 1989 version of “Rainin’ in My Heart” by Ponderosa Stomp inspiration Lazy Lester, looking as resplendent as ever in a red Dixie beer baseball cap, now a collector’s item in the wake of the landmark Tulane Avenue brewery’s decimation by Hurricane Katrina and looters galore. We still have a tear in our beer over Dixie’s relocation above the Mason-Dixon line to Wisconsin, which now brews the beverage (presumably) sans its key ingredient of muddy Mississippi River water:
With a tropical weather system churning in the Gulf of Mexico and drenching south Louisiana for the weekend, what better Song of the Day than the unofficial national anthem of the state of Louisiana, “It’s Raining,” sung by national treasure Irma Thomas and written by Allen Toussaint, who produced the song for Minit and played piano. Toussaint is making his official debut at this month’s 10th annual Ponderosa Stomp, though he has been spotted in the audience at previous Stomp-related events. The Thomas-Toussaint partnership included several other major songs, such as “Ruler of My Heart,” which was later reinterpreted by Otis Redding as “Pain In My Heart.” Imperial Records acquired Minit in 1963, and a string of successful releases followed. These included “Wish Someone Would Care” (her biggest national hit), its B-side “Break-a-Way” (later covered by Tracey Ullman among others), “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is” (co-written by the young Randy Newman), and “Time Is on My Side” (a song previously recorded by Kai Winding, and later by the Rolling Stones).