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:
It’s not quite TGIF yet, and it’s not quite Mardi Gras yet, but this song should get you in the mood for both. Drink in the rich, testosterone-filled sounds (and flamboyant sight) of a purple-garbed Frankie Ford‘s romping rendition of Fats Domino’s classic “Whiskey Heaven.” Watch as Ford pounds the keys just like Huey “Piano” Smith and Clarence “Frogman” Henry taught him to all those years ago, during the halcyon days of New Orleans R&B. Sneak a peak at the orgasmic grimace Ford makes at minute 2:18 during longtime Allen Toussaint sideman and Chocolate Milk member Amadee Castenell‘s masterful tenor solo, which Ford introduces with the phrase “Now we gonna play one for your hangover.” Apparently, Castenell’s sax had the cure for Ford’s aches and pains.
Ooo-wee, baby — can’t wait! Gretna’s favorite and possibly most famous son is cruising over from the West Bank to the Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans’ Warehouse District for his first appearance at the Ponderosa Stomp this year. Find yourself a designated driver and come.
Meet that famed siren from Huey “Piano” Smith’s Clowns, New Orleans’ own Gerri Hall, lip-synching her song “Who Can I Run To” on “The!!!! Beat” show circa 1966, long after her Clown days. The song was written by another Ponderosa Stomp favorite, Bobby Parker of “Barefootin’” fame, produced by Wardell Querzergue, and originally released on Hot-Line 907. Hall serves as the piercing foil to Bobby Marchan on “Don’t You Just Know It” and as the lead singer on “Popeye,” and of course her vocals are prominently featured on numerous other Clowns 45s, such as “Don’t You Know Yokomo.”
Hall also recorded a handful of collector-prized 45s, including a version of “I Cried a Tear,” which Jerry Wexler leased for Atlantic Records. A native of the Lower Ninth Ward, she was actually nicknamed “Gerri” because of her crazy antics similar to the most popular clown of the time, Jerry Lewis. She is the sister-in-law of Rosemary (Hall) Domino and Reggie Hall. As a longtime habitue and waitress at the Dew Drop Inn, she experienced incredible New Orleans music history firsthand and knew virtually all of the local musicians of New Orleans’ golden age of R&B.
Superstar Lily Allen celebrated her new lil' band o' gold (or was it a big blue diamond?) by hiring Lafayette supergroup Lil' Band o' Gold to play at her wedding June 11 in England
Being not quite our cup of tea musically, Allen won’t be gracing the Stomp lineup anytime soon, but her unabashed ardor for LBOG isn’t the first time the swampy ensemble has mesmerized Brit popsters. Several years ago Led Zeppelin vocal banshee Robert Plant joined LBOG to record two tracks (“It Keeps Rainin’” and “I’ve Been Around”) for the Fats Domino tribute CD “Goin’ Home,” capped by a live performance at Tipitina’s preceded by a storied soundcheck at which the Fat Man himself joined in with a microphone while nursing a few beers at the bar.
Then, in 2010, Elvis Costello took the stage with LBOG for a Bobby Charles tribute performance at the House of Blues’ Parish Room, singing “Big Boys Cry” and “Before I Grow Too Old,” joined on the latter by swamp-pop legend Tommy McLain.
How did a relative youngster like Allen, who wasn’t even old enough to buy a Guinness when LBOG released their first CD in 1999, hear of the group? According to the London Telegraph:
For the pop singer Lily Allen, it was while listening to the mix CDs that her fiancé Sam Cooper made her when they first dated a few summers back. “You can hear the experience they have in their amazing voices,” she says. Allen jokes that they have spent half their budget flying out all eight members of the group to play at their wedding. “It will be worth it,” she says. “They are already classic and it will be a good way of feeling like Tarka [Cordell, Sam's half-brother and the band's late producer] is there.”
Indeed, Allen apparently couldn’t contain her groupie-like excitement about the band’s impending arrival, tweeting: “Lil’ Band of Gold are coming to london !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Joined by Tommy McLain, the group made their London debut at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on June 14, screening their documentary film “The Promised Land: A Swamp-Pop Journey,” followed by a live performance showcasing songs from their newish CD of the same name on the Room 609 label.
How did the thick Cajun musical gumbo go down at the celebrity-filled reception at Allen’s Gloucestershire estate? Allen tweeted June 13: “I had the most amazing wedding, thank you to everyone who went to such extraordinary efforts to make it that way. Lil Band Of Gold were incredible and they’re playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire tomorrow, I urge you all to go go. And watch them.” She even went so far as to post a link so her fans could buy tickets to the London show.
Though we quibble with his mild criticism of “plodding instead of pounding,” writer Rick Pearson of This Is London scrawled this glowing review about LBOG’s performance in a piece titled “Lil’ Band O’ Gold are fabulous company”:
Say what you will about Lily Allen, but she has impeccable taste in wedding bands.
Lil’ Band O’ Gold, an eight-headed swamp-pop monster from deep Louisiana, played at the singer’s wedding on the weekend and last night came to west London for a rare live showing.
Their recent album, “The Promised Land”, is only their second in 11 years, and had you brought a cat with you to a far-from-full O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, there would easily have been room to swing it.
However, those that were in attendance – mostly men of a certain vintage – were first treated to a film of the band and then a triumphant, two-hour performance.
Songs turned over at a rapid pace, pinballing from raucous rhythm ‘n’ blues (“Teardrops”) to quivering country-rock (“I Don’t Wanna Know”). Vocal duties were shared, although drummer Warren Storm had the best pipes.
And the group were joined by crooner-cum-Catholic minister Tommy McLain, whose gravelly turn on “Jukebox Songs” was almost as striking as his sparkly gold jacket and mighty beard.
Not to be outdone, David Egan channelled his inner Randy Newman on the rambling piano ballad “Dreamer,” before Steve Riley put his accordion through its paces on the 12-bar blues of “Ain’t No Child No More.”
There were too many mid-tempo, momentum-sapping ballads to make this a truly great gig: Lil’ Band Of Gold have a tendency to plod when they should pound.
For the most part, though, they were fabulous company. And let’s hope it doesn’t take another celebrity wedding before they’re back with us again.
Frogman Henry leads a Ponderosa Stomp Revue this Wednesday that also features Jean "Mr. Big Stuff" Knight, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, Bobby Allen, and Paul "Lil' Buck" Sinegal.
This is a rare local appearance by Frogman, 74, but the pairing with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sponsorship couldn’t be more appropriate. After all, as Frogman tells it, he learned at least some of his musical chops from several legendary Louisiana inductees, such as:
Henry Roeland Byrd, aka Professor Longhair: “I used to sneak into the Pepper Pot (in nearby Gretna) to see Professor Longhair. It was just him and a drummer, but it sounded like a whole band in there. When I played talent shows at school, I played his numbers and dressed just like him with tails and a long Indian wig.” [“The Soul of New Orleans: A Legacy of Rhythm and Blues” by Jeff Hannusch]
Antoine “Fats” Domino: “Fats was my inspiration. When I sat down at the piano, I tried to play everything he did. As far as I’m concerned, Fats is the real king of rock and roll.”
Dave Bartholomew: Frogman’s first brush with Bartholomew – Fats’ producer, bandleader, and co-writer – was during his stint with Bobby Mitchell’s Toppers, with whom Frogman got his start, eventually recording several Imperial sides with the group. According to Hannusch, “the Toppers auditioned for Imperial’s Dave Bartholomew, who thought the teenagers had potential. Henry played trombone on the group’s first session but eventually got fired because he missed a gig in order to attend his own shotgun wedding.”
Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, backed by guitarist Irving Bannister at Stomp 2004, is singing this Wednesday at a Stomp Revue sponsored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The split from Mitchell and the Toppers proved to be fateful. After high school, Frogman began working as a pianist at local West Bank clubs, and it was at the legendary Joy Lounge at Fourth Street and Huey P. Long Avenue in Gretna where Henry was inspired to write his most famous song, “Ain’t Got No Home” – and thus the Frogman was born. According to a 1999 Times-Picayune profile by Bill Grady:
Henry conceived the tune in a rare moment of annoyance while playing the Joy Lounge in Gretna in 1956. The bandleader, Eddie Smith, wouldn’t let the musicians quit until the place emptied of customers, and Clarence was bushed. “I was trying to tell the people to go home, so I hit a riff on the piano and I start singing, ‘Woo-woo-oo-oo-oo, ain’t got no home,’” Henry said. “I got my nickname from a disc jockey at WJMR, Poppa Stoppa. People were requesting the song. They’d say, ‘Play the frog song by the frog man!’ So Poppa Stoppa said, ‘From now on, you Frogman.’”
Recorded for the Chess label by New Orleans bandleader Paul Gayten and powered by key Domino sidemen Lee Allen and Walter “Papoose” Nelson, the song climbed to #3 on the Billboard R&B chart and took Frogman to auditoriums all over the country, including the Apollo. Over the years it has sold more than 8 million copies, having been featured in films such as “Diner” and “The Lost Boys” and – more infamously – as theme music on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. Other standout songs include “Lonely Tramp,”“I’m in Love,” and “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” which features piano by another Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Allen Toussaint.
Guitarist Paul "Lil Buck" Sinegal, seen here in 2002 with the late Nat Jolivette at the Circle Bar, leads the band at this Wednesday's Stomp Revue also featuring Jean Knight and Bobby Allen.
But the music didn’t stop with “Ain’t Got No Home.” With an assist from Louisiana songwriting legend and Chess labelmate Bobby Charles, Frogman scored his biggest hit with “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do,” which reached #4 on the national pop chart and has gone on to be featured in numerous films, including “Forrest Gump.” No less an authority than sex goddess/actress Elizabeth Hurley called “But I Do,” which appeared in the Hugh Grant-James Caan film “Mickey Blue Eyes,” “one of the most heavenly songs ever recorded.”
Seen here in 2004, Frogman Henry will be performing this Wednesday at the Howlin' Wolf for a Ponderosa Stomp Revue sponsored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Oddy enough, this wasn’t Frogman’s only association with Cajun music legends. According to Hannusch, after leaving Chess, Frogman joined forces with the notorious producer Huey Meaux of Winnie, Texas, recording “five great singles for Meaux that were leased to Parrot Records including the classic ‘Cajun Honey.’” Frogman also interpreted material supplied by another swamp-pop songwriter of Bobby Charles’ caliber whose ditties Domino also had waxed: “There was a guy out of Biloxi, Jimmy Donley, that wrote great country songs. He used to write and record for Huey so there were a lot of his songs around. He wrote ‘Think It Over,’ which was one of my favorite tunes.” In recent years, this writer has heard Frogman refer to his own music as “swamp pop” – no doubt because his repertoire has never gone out of style in the dance-crazed, more rural areas of southernmost Louisiana, whose musicians in cross-fertilizing fashion crafted their own New Orleans-inspired swamp-pop tunes, fueled as they were by the sounds of Crescent City-style R&B emanating from the city’s radio stations.
Frogman Henry smiles as ailing swamp-pop legend Joe Barry sings in public for the last time before his death in 2004.
In 1964 Frogman had his greatest brush with fame – that is, with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Beatles, opening 18 concerts for the Fab Four, including at New Orleans’ City Park Stadium. Frogman then plied his trade on Bourbon Street, tinkling the ivories for 19 years in various clubs during a storied era when giants such as Cousin Joe, Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, and Frankie Ford still trod that famous musical conduit. His contributions to music have been recognized by his induction into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame as well as the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, to name just a few.
Frogman Henry fans John, Paul, George, and Ringo clown with the New Orleans R&B legend in 1964.
One of Frogman’s later songs, ironically first recorded by British duo Chas and Dave, perfectly encapsulates the New Orleans piano tradition with goosebump-generating gusto. Pure rollicking R&B in a joyous, pounding Fats-style, “That Old Piano” tells the story of how such magical music has so often sprung from the humblest of origins, rooted in family traditions passed down from generation to generation during house parties and Saturday-night fish fries where a beat-up piano served as the centerpiece of interaction and the primary inducement for dancing. This video features Frogman performing the song live with a full band.
Though still going strong when he does gig, Frogman’s influence will now certainly live on in the music of his son, Clarence “Tadpole” Henry III, who performs R&B and soul at local clubs and festivals. Still, Ponderosa Stomp fans should come out Wednesday night to see why we think rock immortality in Cleveland should be the next stop for the Frogman, one of the treasured survivors of the golden age of New Orleans R&B. “People want to see the Frogman, but you know the Frogman wants to see the people too,” Henry once told Jeff Hannusch. So go see the Frogman, a very Special Man …
Frogman Henry smiles alongside Texas shouter Roy Head, with Stomp kingpin Dr. Ike at right.
The Ponderosa Stomp Revue, presented by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is set for June 8 (Wednesday) at 9 p.m. at the Howlin’ Wolf at 907 S. Peters St. in New Orleans.
Ex-Stax recording artist Jean "Mr. Big Stuff" Knight, whose hits also include "You Got the Papers (I Got the Man)" and "My Toot Toot," is singing at the Stomp Revue this Wednesday at New Orleans' Howlin' Wolf.
Fifty-four years ago today, per Bumps Blackwell’s recommendation, Little Richard Penniman (seen above with Jet Harris, Gene Vincent and Sam Cooke) joined forces with Fats Domino’s band — which included the late Earl Palmer, drummer extraordinaire who performed at the 1st annual Ponderosa Stomp and served as Master of Ceremonies for Stomp #4 — at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Recording Studio.
Their collective goal was to lay down tracks for Art Rupe’s Specialty label. As legend has it, nothing much happened, though, until the group broke for lunch. Then, in true recording studio mythology (see Elvis’ inaugural Sun session, or the story behind Isaac Hayes and David Porter’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’”), Little Richard sat down at the piano and began banging out a high voltage tune that he’d woodshedded in gay bars:
“Tutti Frutti, good booty
If it don’t fit, don’t force it
You can grease it, make it easy.”
Blackwell called in Dorothy LaBostrie to clean up the lyrics, and, after rolling tape for a record 15 minutes, one of the most iconic songs ever recorded in Orleans Parish was complete.
Mac Rebennack just happened to be standing outside J&M when the magic happened — and I got to quiz him about it 50 years later, for an article published in MOJO magazine:
“I was always hanging out there during Specialty sessions, trying to sell Art Rupe some songs. I remember telling my older sister, ‘This guy Little Richard is doing a session at the studio,’ and she replied, ‘Oh, I used to see him at Panama City.’ So Richard was already doing his thing as a solo act. He came out of those revues, where he had to really know his shit. Some people say he bummed his act from Esquerita, but to me, Eskew was more gospel sounding, and Richard was straight up hip. Sure, he sang kinda gospel but he played that ratty shit on the piano, with Earl Palmer following on the cymbals. His style was a revelation, a really good sound that could rock the house without fail.
Richard was a totally original cat – everything about him was off the hook. He was a little flamboyant, sure, but it went with that turf. Seeing him and Eskew hanging out wearing men’s suits, topped off with lipstick, that high hair, and women’s shades, would catch people off guard – they’d give them the once over two or three times, even though in New Orleans, we were used to the drag queen revues and traditions like that.
This is what made Richard special: As Fats Domino told me, ‘I couldn’t tell you what’s the difference between rock and roll and R&B.’ But Richard changed something in the New Orleans groove. Instead of a shuffle, he could play that eighth note thing on the piano, which set him apart from the rest of us. He used it from that first record on, and a lot of other people started using that shit. They still use it in rock and roll today.”
As Cosimo explained to writer Todd Mouton in the pages of Offbeat a while back, “If you transmit an emotion to the listener, it’s a good record. It’s gonna be a successful record. Now, having said that, how you measure it, I don’t know. How you predict it, I have not a clue. Because it happens, and everybody’s aware of it, you know, it’s fundamental. And yet totally evasive.”
Rebennack: “Back then, though, we didn’t really appreciate it. Everybody in New Orleans had so much to do, so many sessions to play on, that Tutti Frutti was just a little chunk of their lives. They didn’t have time to think much about it. I remember someone asking Red Tyler and Earl Palmer, ‘What do you remember about playing on it?’ and they both said, without batting an eye, ‘Very little.’”
Of course, like any million-selling single, there’s been an argument over the songwriting credits ever since.
LaBostrie, from Jeff Hannusch’s I Hear You Knocking: The Sound of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues:
“Little Richard didn’t write none ‘Tutti Fruitti.’ I’ll tell you exactly how I came to write that. I used to live on Galvez Street and my girlfriend and I liked to go down to the drug store and buy ice cream. One day we went in and saw this new flavor, Tutti Fruitti. Right away I thought, ‘Boy, that’s a great idea for a song.’ So I kept it in the back of my mind until I got to the studio that day. I also wrote the flip side of ‘Tutti Fruitti,’ ‘I’m Just a Lonely Guy,’ and a spiritual, ‘Blessed Mother,’ all in the same day.”
Blackwell, quoted in Charles White’s biography of Little Richard:
“I Knew that the lyrics were too lewd and suggestive to record. It would never have got played on air. So I got hold of Dorothy La Bostrie, who had come over to see how the recording of her song [I'm Just A Lonely Guy?] was going. I brought her to the Dew Drop. I said to her: ‘Look. You come and write some lyrics to this, ’cause I can’t use the lyrics Richard’s got.’ Richard turned to face the wall and sang the song two ot three times and Dorothy listened. Break time was over, and we went back to the studio to finish the session, leaving Dorothy to write the words. Fifteen minutes before the session was to end, the chick comes in and puts these little trite lyrics in front of me.”
And Penniman himself, again from White’s book:
“I’d been singing ‘Tutti Frutti’ for years, but it never struck me as a song you’d record. I didn’t go to New Orleans to record no ‘Tutti Frutti.’ Sure, it used to crack the crowds up when I sang it in the clubs, with those risqué lyrics. But I never thought it would be a hit, even with the lyrics cleaned up.”
I’ll let Mac close it out:
“Of course, the idea for Tutti Frutti was probably already floating around New Orleans. I bet Richard heard something like it from Eddie Bo. Considering who actually wrote this sucker – Dorothy LaBostrie, who wrote Johnny Adams’ and Irma Thomas’ first hit records – I’m sure the song came straight up out of the dozens. ‘A gal named Sue/She knows just what to do’ – that shit was nasty! Some New Orleans songs, like Tee-Nah-Nah, are Creole. You know, your tee-nah-nah is your ass cheeks, and your tee-nah-noo is your asshole. But Tutti Frutti isn’t Creole, and I don’t think it went with the ice cream flavor. You know what a fruit is, right? I think it had more to do with that shit. But did you ever hear Pat fucking Boone singing that crap? I don’t know if he got it and fucked it up, or if he didn’t get it, and fucked it up. Either way, it was pretty fucked up, but we didn’t pay no attention to that crap!”