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.
“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!
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.
South Louisiana is still climbing out of this stormy weather from Tropical Storm Lee (now a depression whose vestiges are churning northeastward). Today’s Song of the Day features Ponderosa Stomp performer Bobby Rush joining two fellow legends – Bobby “Blue” Bland and Johnny Taylor – on “Stormy Monday” in a tribute to Bland. Check out Rush’s blazing harmonica blast near the end of the video! Bland won’t be joining the Stomp this year, and Taylor has passed on, but Bobby Rush will be interviewed at the Ponderosa Stomp conference and also will perform at the concert. Don’t miss his chitlin’ shtick! A Louisiana native now living in Mississippi, Rush will be sitting down with blues authority Scott Barretta in a presentation titled “Chicken Heads and Bow-Legged Women” from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15, as part of the Stomp’s conference showcase. As king of the chitlin’ circuit with his ribald vocals, unforgettable showmanship, bluesy guitar and harmonica, and voluptuous female dancers, Rush has been a consummate entertainer for more than 50 years with 20+ albums to his credit – and he shows no sign of stopping, whether he’s playing Carnegie Hall or a juke joint on a dusty old road off Highway 61 in the Mississippi Delta.
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).
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:
“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.