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.
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.