“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.
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.
Today, in New Orleans’ Jackson Square, Taylor Swift, Dave Matthews and others are performing on a giant stage in front of hundreds of thousands of Saints fans and untold numbers of TV viewers. Tomorrow, on Friday September 10th, just steps away, three musical giants of New Orleans will be celebrated in the Cabildo in front of a much smaller crowd but with no less fanfare.
Here is some flip cam video I shot at the recent Stomp gala. It’s not the greatest- but it will give you an idea of what went down.
The video features music by Lil Buck Sinegal and the Top Cats with Stanley Buckwheat Zydeco Dural, Bobby Allen, Jay Chevalier, Frogman Henry, Al Carnival Time Johnson, and Dave Bartholomew. Others appearances include Wardell Quezergue, Dr. John, Harold Battiste and Warren Storm.
The Louisiana State Museum Foundation honored legendary producer Dave Bartholomew, studio owner Cosimo Matassa and the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation recently at the Cabildo in New Orleans. The event marked the 60th anniversary of the Fats Domino release “The Fat Man,” widely considered the first rock ‘n’ roll record, which Bartholomew arranged and Domino recorded at Matassa’s J&M Recording Studio. Currently on display in the museum is “The Secret History of Louisiana Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which was curated by the Ponderosa Stomp and features exhibits about Domino, Bartholomew and Matassa’s contributions to early rock ‘n’ roll.
“The third night of the inaugural Lincoln Center edition of the Ponderosa Stomp — the annual spring resurrection of forgotten roots-rock and R&B heroes and heroines, founded and held in New Orleans — was an oddly formal affair, compared to the outdoor soul and rockabilly shows presented earlier in the week. ‘Everybody get on your feet/You make me nervous when you’re in your seat,’ Robert Parker sang on Sunday night in a well-preserved voice at the start of his 1966 hit ‘Barefootin’,’ one of the many Crescent City R&B classics associated with the evening’s honoree, producer-arranger-songwriter Wardell Quezergue. But sitting down is where the otherwise delighted audience at Alice Tully Hall stayed during most of the two-hour revue. In New Orleans, when a song like that is in the air, anything short of a shimmy is against the law.
But Quezergue, who turns 80 this year, deserves the lofty setting. In the Sixties and Seventies, he earned the nickname ‘The Creole Beethoven’ for his masterful blend of New Orleans rhythms and commercial wisdom in bedrock soul recordings such as Earl King’s ‘Trick Bag’ (1962), Professor Longhair”s ‘Big Chief’ (1964) and King Floyd’s ‘Groove Me’ (1970), then on mainstream collaborations with Paul Simon and Willie Nelson. At Lincoln Center, Quezergue conducted a ten-piece band from a chair as more than half a dozen of his original charges, including Dr. John, the Dixie Cups, Jean Knight and Tammy Lynn, recreated their biggest hits with him.”
And Jon Pareles covered the event for the New York Times, writing in part that, “the Dixie Cups, the New Orleans girl group, had distributed napkins before the concert, to be waved over the New Orleans second-line parade beat, and they got the audience up and dancing for ‘Iko Iko,’ which they turned into a medley of Mardi Gras songs and ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ After their segment, Rosa Hawkins of the Dixie Cups turned to Mr. Quezergue and said, ‘Thanks for the hits.’”