Musical Chairs

Posted on March 22, 2009 – 3:00 PM | by OldManFoster
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mindyMindy Giles has been working in the music industry for most of her life, beginning with a gig as a teen record store clerk.  She soon graduated to promotions and eventually landed a head office slot at Chicago’s prestigious blues/Americana label Alligator Records where she worked on records with many of her musical heroes.  Locally, Giles is best known for organizing the popular Americana Ramble music series and for the concerts she produces with Steve Nikkel under the name Swell Productions.

Lloyd Price “Personality” and “Stagger Lee” /Little Richard ” Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”-from The Best of Lloyd Price Millennium Collection(MCA) and The Very Best of Little Richard( Specialty)

Lloyd PriceWhen I was six , my big brother and I played these two 45s endlessly, especially on Saturday nights when our parents were out dancing and we were replete/stuck with the baby sitter. Price had(still has) a big voice and he rocked the classic NOLA rhythm–how was I to know that it was arranger Dave Bartholomew, pianoman Fats Domino and the world’s greatest drummer Earl Palmer behind him? I loved that wicked wailing, elephant trumpeting sax and the big female vocal chorus doing call and response with him. And as happy-bouncy as that song was, “Stagger Lee” was also, but the subject matter was blood dark; an archetypal danger man, a Crawlin’ Kingsnake, a Superfly, involved in black on black crime where Stagger Lee shot Billy cause he touched his five dollar Stetson and cheated at cards. Price’s version of this classic song had that big girl pop chorus egging Stagger Lee on. As a shy kindergartener,  a late Saturday night with hot buttered popcorn and soul man Lloyd was… priceless.  But there was more – Wildman Little Richard unleashed with his ballsy falsetto  whoooooooooooooo!!!”  and “wop bop aloo bop alop bam boom!!” might have sent our next door neighbors to clapping their kid’s ears, but  we’d never know, we were too busy jumping and hopping and running the stairs yelling “Tutti Frutti !!” and “Good Golly Miss Molly!!” Richard was from Georgia, but the band and the label was pure New Orleans:  Dave Bartholomew leading Red Tyler and Lee Allen on sax, Justin Adams on guitar, Frank Fields on bass, Earl Palmer again on driving drums.  Some years later when we all heard the Beatles flop those mops and sing their “wooooo!!”, I knew where they got it.

Dr. John –Gris Gris  and Gumbo ( Atco)

Dr JohnHigh school in the late 1960s, even in lower Hoosierland, was trippy and I loved working in the nerve center of out little town –the local ( and only) record shop. We got to open records and play them for people. I opened them and played them for me. One that grabbed my eye in 1968 was by Dr. John, The Night Tripper, called Gris Gris.  in his thick Yat accent, Mac Rebbenack became his concocted mystical character, (though based on a real man  in the 1840s)a powerful and somewhat vengeful voodoo hoodoo man who burned candles, lit incense, made mojo bags , threw glitter–all to control love, instill fear and in general take the listener on an ancient ” Carribean Rim ” circa 1960s psychedelic trip. With his growly talk-singing, black slang and his old pal Harold Battiste producing, Mac made a record that was WEIRD & PERFECT for the time. Four years later, he  made Gumbo, a timeless classic , a rich roux from his own New Orleans R&B upbringing, with wonderful versions of songs that the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest goer generation knows first from him—“Iko Iko,” “Big Chief,” “Junko Partner,” “Tipitina,” and “Those Lonely Lonely Nights.”  Years later, at Alligator Records in Chicago, I started a subsidiary label called “Rockback”  and re-released these two albums! And I have some personal gris gris from the Night Tripper hisself…

Little Feat-Dixie Chicken (Warner Brothers) 

Near this time, in 1973 Little Feat, an LA band, made a rootsy masterpiece called Dixie Chicken–the influence of New Orleans snakey funk was everywhere on this album and a favorite, ” On The Way Down,” was written by one of the poet laureates of The Crescent City, the great Allen Toussaint. Can I say we are bringing Little Feat guitarists Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett right here to Sacramento on Sunday, March 1 at Harlow’s ?? There I did. It’s a rare show, don’t miss it.

Professor Longhair- Crawfish Fiesta(Alligator). 

In my musical timeline, it is now 1980. I  live in Chicago, am VP of Alligator Records  and have just co-written the liner notes for our first foray into New Orleans music. We started right at the very top: Professor Longhair.The album  is Crawfish Fiesta and many critics do believe it is one of his greatest. I’m too close to it, but  I must point to it regardless–he was truly “The Bach of Rock,” a pianist and singer who brilliantly mixed Afro-Cuban, funk, blues, jazz and rock & roll into the Party Music that propelled a singular city into a world musical spotlight. It  was for him that the Jazz & Heritage Festival was created, for him that the club Tipitina’s was started, and to him that so many other great New Orleans musicians pointed as the beating heart of the city. He died the day we released this album, age 61. Everytime I listen to this absolutely joyous album…well, there are many kinds of tears that flow.

Snooks EaglinSnooks Eaglin-Out of Nowhere/ Teasin’ You/ Live In Japan ( all on Black Top).

Finally, the great guitarist who passed just a few weeks ago on Feb. 18. The spirit of true New Orleans musical legacy surely moved from Fess to Snooks. Neither musical genius cared to travel outside of New Orleans, though the demand was worldwide. Better to bring all us fans  to New Orleans so that we might partake of the particular heady, happy magic inherent there in their music. Snooks’ playing style was so riveting, his sculpted spider fingers and thumb all picking and strumming at the same time that dancers were always in a mental mess–do you obey the music he is making –or stand stock still on the floor in amazement and watch his hands ?? It’s just like the T-shirt says: “There’s nothin’ more New Orleans than Snooks at the Rock’n’Bowl, Y’all!” Lucky blessed folks are we who saw these two music giants, now both gone. Lucky too though,  that we still all have the musical chairs they built for us…

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