Early New Orleans Rock N Roll/R&B

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first off i'm not talking about funk so check the meters shit at the door, i mean a bit earlier

which is much as I love it still real hit-or-miss stuff w/ me like. fuck some of the corny shit like "Sea Cruise" but then the very same band (Huey Piano Smith and The Clowns - but w/ Bobby Marchand instead of the slightly hipper Pat Boone-styled Frankie Ford up front) came up with unstoppable stomps like (of course) "Don't You Just Know It" or "Little Liza Jane" or holy jesus "Alimony". and then there's prof longhair who yeah of course he's brilliant but you can generally only find real low fidelity early stuff some of which is too jump-blues for my taste (never could deal with that swingy stuff, just a blind spot of mine, maybe it's actually good) OR else you get prof longhair live at some jazz festival in like 1985 and it's a bit like hanging out with your dad. BUT THEN you hear something like "BIG CHIEF" and holy shit its perfectly rolling with little twisty puzzle-like piano stabs. and then you got your dixie cups who all the girl groop jamc people forget about when they talk about the shangrilas and the ronettes because "Iko Iko" and "goin To The Chapel" are maybe too oldies radio but check "gee the moon is shining bright" and "I'm gonna get you yet" and ouch you'll hear what i mean. and then into more toussaint stuff (OK I'm edging into funk territory but let's still keep it pre-'67 for the sake of ) w/ LEE DORSEY, Betty Harris, Eddie Bo and so on. anyway i keep buying every old new orleans r&B record i find even though half of the tracks are fucking happy days 50's crap, the other 3/4's are about the best argument you could make for rock n roll

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Saturday, 23 August 2003 14:55 (eighteen years ago) link

OK I'm listening to Huey 'Piano' Smith - "That'll Get It (Even More of The Best)" a bottom-of-the-barrel grtst hits VOL 3(!?!) of the ACE stuff w/ lots of PREVIOUSLY UNISSUED ALTERNATE TAKE tracks which in the old R-&-B reissue world usually means ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME TAKE AS YOU ALREADY OWN (& this comp is no different) and even though a lot of it is just riding slightly modified "rockin' pneumonia" riddims they all improve on it - yeah huey was doing the dancehall/reggae producer thing in so many ways - getting different vocalists to sing different songs over the same backing track, the houseband w/ a revolving stable of singers, changing like one little hornline to create a NEW song OK anyway lot's of nice call&response and trade-off 2 vocalist stuff... some people theorize that The Clowns were formed in response/to cash in on the popularity of The Coasters novelty stuff, I mean other N.O. might have taken that more literally like Joe Tex & His X-Classmates "Charlie Brown Got Expelled" but there's some truth to it probably. you'll have to get back to me for a coasters vs clowns breakdown.

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Saturday, 23 August 2003 15:10 (eighteen years ago) link

Every strain of r'n'r-as-sound-qua-sound that wasn't Hendrix-like (ie artwavepunk) is N'awlins derived cuz it's a syncretic environment where they all talk funny. Accordions vs analog synths! "Lawd, I am SOOOO tah-huh-ed! How LA-AH-AHNG can this gaw AWWWNN!"

dave q, Saturday, 23 August 2003 15:12 (eighteen years ago) link

Chris Kenner was good: "The name of the place is 'I Like It Like That'"

bflaska, Saturday, 23 August 2003 15:13 (eighteen years ago) link

can i just interject here to say that "The Rockin Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu" has no doubt been Blueshammered to death by now, and the lyrics are ... well, they're no worse for rock-as-infection parables than "Poison Ivy" btu you probably think that's a little poodle skirt-y too and beleive me i understand. it's the kind of track that would make even brian setzer think, "wow, maybe the 50's were lame, how much would it cost to get these flaming dice off my neck?"

like when they were putting together the soundtrack to "stand by me" they were probably like dude, i dunno let's use "yakety yak" or "lollipop lollipop" instead this "rockin' pneumonia" shit, it's just too ... but it's also real basic greatness & if you can't get over it, then thankfully there's "rockin' behind the iron curtain" which is THE SAME SONG but BETTER

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Saturday, 23 August 2003 15:21 (eighteen years ago) link

i used to have the "oh lord how loooooong can this go ooooon?" bit on my answering machine when i was being hounded by a bill collector, he cracked up

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Saturday, 23 August 2003 15:23 (eighteen years ago) link

further from the huey piano smith as danchall idea, what about the connections between N.O. R+B & rocksteady stuff? I wonder if there's any early ska covers of Longhair or Lee Dorsey stuff...I mean intuiutively it seems connected but I'd like to know if its proveably so

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Sunday, 24 August 2003 16:18 (eighteen years ago) link

it gets touched on here: What's the musical connection between reggae and swing?

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Sunday, 24 August 2003 16:19 (eighteen years ago) link

I agree with you that 50s New Orleans is "the best argument you could make for rock n roll," though I might like a little more of it than you do. I love "Sea Cruise." for instance -- that rhythm section is too potent, too muscular to sound corny. If you can find a 45 of it, the b-side, "Roberta," might even be better (avoid versions of this song that mix out the background vocals).

The really great 40s/50s Prof Longhair is on Atlantic. The stuff released on other labels sounds like rehearsals for the Atlantic sessions. But it's too rolling, too behind the beat to sound like jump blues to me.

The secret weapon on most 50s NO records is the drumming, that jackhammer beat that no one plays anymore, that hardly anyone played then -- mainly just Earl Palmer and Charles Hungry Williams. It's the perfect foil to all that rolling piano. (Compare to Meters-style funk drumming, which imitates, rather than plays against, the piano line.) Lots of NO songs (eg "Rockin' Pneumonia" or "Mother-in-Law") are barely more than excuses to play that beat -- and without it, yes, they do sound corny. There really is no better drumming.

Listen to Palmer on Fats Domino's "I'm Walking" (that intro!) or anything by Little Richard ("Slippin' and Slidin,'" "Lucille"). That's Hungry Williams on the Huey Piano Smith sides. You named most of my faves ("Rockin' Behind the Iron Curtain" is unbelievable). except for "Don't You Know Yokomo." "Don't You Just Know It" may be the greatest record of all time -- unless it's "Sick and Tired" by Chris Kenner, which also features Williams on drums. If you don't know it, you need to!

Burr (Burr), Monday, 25 August 2003 18:40 (eighteen years ago) link

thanks, burr. i'll try to track down some longhair on atlantic, i'm sure i just haven't heard the right stuff yet. I've only got a couple of chris kenner tracks on comps...
anyway i may have overstated my qualms, i do love this stuff maybe because of some of the cornball aspects not despite it.

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 25 August 2003 21:52 (eighteen years ago) link

oh and the other dude i forgot to mention (among many) was alvin robinson - his big hits were "let the good times roll"(not the shirley and lee song, a different one) & "down home girl", i think, which was later covered by the rolling stones.

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 25 August 2003 21:56 (eighteen years ago) link

there's good stuff here, by the way: http://funky16corners.tripod.com/5_alvin_robinson.htm

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 25 August 2003 21:57 (eighteen years ago) link

ALVIN SHINE ROBINSON. What a singer. Anybody ever heard his version of 'Don't Do It'???? I haven't, unfortunately

rumple, Monday, 25 August 2003 22:04 (eighteen years ago) link

Check out (if you haven't already) Smiley Lewis. Great versions of 'One Night' and 'I hear you knocking'.

James Ball (James Ball), Tuesday, 26 August 2003 07:45 (eighteen years ago) link

If you can find it, Charly put out a great Chris Kenner comp with about 25 trax--Collectables also did one w/ same cover and fewer songs. Great insane stuff.

I wouldn't say Prof Longhair is "New Orleans rock and roll" but it doesn't matter, it's still great. The early Atlantic stuff from '49 is poorly recorded but essential music. A good later one is "Houseparty New Orleans Style" on Rounder, cut in N.O. and Memphis early '70s.

Another good comp, probably OP but still floating around, is the two-CD Dave Bartholomew box, with Fats, Earl King and many others. There's also a really good comp called "Finger Snapping and Dancing Feet" or something like that, it's all the Toussaint-produced c. 1960 NOLA rock and roll hits like "Mother-in-Law" and Benny Spellman's "Fortune Teller" and "Ooh Pa Pa Doo." The Showmen doing "It Will Stand." Great stuff.

Nothing makes me happier than listening to Huey Piano Smith, stuff like "I'll Be John Brown" and so forth. What can I say, if someone gave me the choice between traveling back in time to meet John Lennon or Chris Kenner, I'd choose Chris Kenner.

Jess Hill (jesshill), Tuesday, 26 August 2003 23:13 (eighteen years ago) link

ooh poo pah doo
ya know they call me the most
& i won't stop tryin til i
create a disturbance in your mind!

duane, Wednesday, 27 August 2003 11:51 (eighteen years ago) link

one year passes...
It's a tragic shame there is no adequate collection to represent this stuff, because it's just as seminal and terrific as anything else from the era (and forget the academic "importance" of it or whatever, this shit just *cooks* on your stereo).

I've got Highlights from 'Crescent City Soul', which is a single disc distillation of an OOP four disc box set put out in '96. Every single track is absolutely killer. So many original versions of well-known songs done by other artists ("Come On" was done by Hendrix, "Let the Good Times Roll" by Nilsson, "Fortune Teller" by the Who, etc.) I'd get the box if I could but it's way too expensive second-hand.

I've tried to embellish this with two other sets, Finger Poppin' and Stompin Feet (all Toussaint productions) and Let the Good Times Roll, both put out on Capitol in 2002. But I'm still missing *tons* of stuff, and even buying single-artist comps by Lee Dorsey or Irma Thomas would not fix this.

According to AMG, the granddaddy of VA New Orleans R&B comps was a 3-cassette Rhino collection put out in the 80's and briefly made an apperance on CD only to go out of print. It's very tough to get a hold of, I've been looking for a while.

Also, there's a box that was put out last year called Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens, but this focuses on *all* of New Orleans music, not just r&b. Accordingly, there's a ton of stuff missing.

Keith C (kcraw916), Sunday, 1 May 2005 17:10 (sixteen years ago) link

I have Earl Palmer's book but haven't finished reading it. Earl hosted the Pinewood Stomp in New Orleans last week(2 nights of old r'n'b, swamp pop, and garage rock, mostly from Louisiana--there're a thread on that).

Did Smiley Lewis record in New Orleans? I like his r'n'b.

steve-k, Monday, 2 May 2005 12:18 (sixteen years ago) link

Irma Thomas's first version of "Ruler of My Heart" is one of the most achingly beautiful recordings I've heard ever, like walking through a thin mist of longing.

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Monday, 2 May 2005 13:12 (sixteen years ago) link

one year passes...
This is kinda where I'm at today, scrounging for more, but I *DO* want the corny Sea Cruise stuff, and I just got beyond the 40's/50's R&B/R&R stage so at the moment, I'm not in the market for anymore of that.

Very specifically, I'm searching more '59-'63 NOLA Soul ala Joe Jones/Lee Dorsey/Ernie K-Doe. I'm pleased this thread exists.

Current faves:

(1960) Clarence 'Frogman' Henry - (I Don't Know Why) But I Do
(1960) Joe Jones - You Talk too Much
(1960) Jessie Hill - Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Pt. 2
(1961) Ernie K-Doe - Mother-In-Law
(1961) Ernie K-Doe - Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta
(1961) Lee Dorsey - Ya Ya
(1961) Party Boys - We Got a Party
(1962) Reggie Hall - The Joke
(1963) Chris Kenner - Land of 1000 Dances

PappaWheelie, Olives, Red Wine, Coffee, Scotch, and Me (PappaWheelie 2), Monday, 28 August 2006 17:14 (fifteen years ago) link

there's a pretty good 2-disc set collecting all of chess records' new orleans stuff. they were a minor player on the n.o. scene, but it's got clarence frogman henry and some other good stuff. there are a bunch of sugar boy crawford songs on it that are just killer.

gypsy mothra (gypsy mothra), Monday, 28 August 2006 18:25 (fifteen years ago) link

hmmm, no mention of beatles/stones fave larry williams yet? his "slow down" is fierce. and he's got lots and lots of others.

Irma Thomas's first version of "Ruler of My Heart" is one of the most achingly beautiful recordings I've heard.

"two winters long," "it's starting to get to me now" and "some things you never get used to" are the ones of hers that kill me every time.

fact checking cuz (fcc), Monday, 28 August 2006 18:51 (fifteen years ago) link

yeah, larry williams is one of the more punk rock n.o. guys for sure. NOW JUNIOR BEHAVE YOURSELF!

have you heard the irma thomas at muscle shoals record? really good too, though I'm totally with you on your irma picks esp 2 winters

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 28 August 2006 19:00 (fifteen years ago) link

never heard that muscle shoals record. does it measure up?

fact checking cuz (fcc), Monday, 28 August 2006 19:06 (fifteen years ago) link

Funky16Corners - http://funky16corners.wordpress.com

Has blogged about Lee Dorsey


This blog covers mostly New Orleans funk, but has gone back further on ocassion. I think I recall an old posting about Lee Dorsey

curmudgeon (DC Steve), Monday, 28 August 2006 19:13 (fifteen years ago) link

I think this should be divided into 3 threads


PappaWheelie, Olives, Red Wine, Coffee, Scotch, and Me (PappaWheelie 2), Monday, 28 August 2006 19:16 (fifteen years ago) link

yeah, i think it does measure up, cuz. it's a little later than the n.o. stuff you mention and different, but every irma fan i've played it for has dug it. email if you want me to burn you a copy, it can be tricky to find new.

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 28 August 2006 19:56 (fifteen years ago) link

Gotta get a mention of "Jam Up" by Tommy Ridgley in here. Palmer on drums. This is on Volume 2 of the Atlantic R&B '47-'74 series.

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Monday, 28 August 2006 23:48 (fifteen years ago) link

There is NOTHING corny about "Sea Cruise." That song there is the sheer essence of hogwild 50's rock & roll, from New Orleans or any other town - any haters should put on their tie-dye T-shirts and Mardi Gras beads and go back to the damn Radiators, or the Neville Brothers, or something.

My own fave N.O. lost classic - Willie Tee's cryptic "Teasin' You," which featured one of the earliest (1965) references to getting high in a hit song ("you done bought a lot of drinks, she's as high as she can be..."). And those old-time expressions he uses in the fadeout are insane ("You're nothing but a popcorn/Sucker John/They call you The Island Man/Because you think you're raising sand/They call you Doc/(couldn't make out this line)." Louisiana swamp-pop artist Tommy McClain did a real good version of this one.

As for Willie, he followed it up with "Thank You, John," which has a real confusing plotline...as best as I can tell, John took out Willie's girl against her wishes, and she comes back with bruises (!!!), so I think Willie is thanking John for all the $$$ they're gonna get after they sue him? At any rate, I never really cared for that one, but "Teasin' You" and "Walking Up A One-Way Street," both by Willie Tee, are classic examples of N.O. R&B morphing into soul.

Rev. Hoodoo (Rev. Hoodoo), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 03:32 (fifteen years ago) link

Barbara George of "I Know (You Don't love me no more)" r'n'b fame from 1961 just died recently at age 64. http://www.houmatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060817/NEWS/608170323 and see the Aug. 17th Home of the Groove blog posting

curmudgeon (DC Steve), Tuesday, 29 August 2006 15:27 (fifteen years ago) link

three years pass...


RIP Rockie Charles, the New Orleans President of Soul

curmudgeon, Sunday, 14 March 2010 16:07 (eleven years ago) link

Just saw on Offbeat.com that New Orleans drummer Bunchy Johnson died. He was recently filmed in the opening episode of "Treme" (soon to air on HBO--created by David The Wire Simon) according to Treme writer David Mills-- see blog post below. Bunchie apparently drummed with Mardi Gras Indians and a who's who of old-school New Orleans r'n'b greats.


curmudgeon, Thursday, 25 March 2010 13:26 (eleven years ago) link

Bernard “Bunchy” Johnson, Drums
Bernard "Bunchy" Johnson grew up along the musically fertile streets of uptown New Orleans' 13th Ward and downtown's Treme neighborhood. As a youngster he second lined with Mardi Gras Indians in Uptown's Shakespeare Park, as well as in Treme, home of some of the city's best brass bands.

At 19, Bunchy went on tour with King Floyd, Johnnie Taylor, and Candi Staton. He returned to New Orleans to perform with Clarence "Frogman" Henry and The Deacons, the precursor to Chocolate Milk. He also performed and/or recorded with Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, The Dixie Cups, Irma Thomas, Lloyd Price, Jean Knight, Ernie K-Doe, Johnny Adams, and Ruth Brown. When drummer James Black passed away Bunchy was chosen to take his place in Dave Bartholemew's band, where he remains to this day. Bunchy's first self-titled CD/DVD will be released in the fall of 2009.


curmudgeon, Thursday, 25 March 2010 13:29 (eleven years ago) link

one month passes...


curmudgeon, Thursday, 29 April 2010 14:56 (eleven years ago) link

two months pass...

Probably leans more toward jazz, but I just picked this up and highly recommend it. This is the album Baptiste moved to a higher spot in hopes of saving it from the Katrina floods in HBO's Treme.

Jazzbo, Saturday, 17 July 2010 14:44 (eleven years ago) link

two weeks pass...

As good a thread as any to mention that Chris Kenner's "Land of 1000 Dances" is just amazing. So simple -- one chord, no real chorus -- but so entrancing. I'd known that Pickett was covering someone, but I didn't realize the original was so vastly different.

city worker, Monday, 2 August 2010 14:29 (eleven years ago) link

This book:


(typo-ridden as it sometimes is) has great chapters on unsung heroes like Kenner -- who comes off mostly as as an amiable drunk who could never really get his act together. If I had a time machine, I would go to 50s New Orleans to hang with Chris Kenner and Smiley Lewis.

All 10 songs permeate the organs (Dan Peterson), Monday, 2 August 2010 14:49 (eleven years ago) link

I just ordered both of Hannusch's books -- thanks for the recommendation Dan!

city worker, Monday, 2 August 2010 19:31 (eleven years ago) link

I have "I Hear You Knockin'" and must still finish reading it. Hannusch also writes for Offbeat Magazine out of New Orleans.

I need to get the John Broven book- "Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans."


curmudgeon, Tuesday, 3 August 2010 14:56 (eleven years ago) link

I've had the Broven book from the library at some point, and can't remember whether I thought it was good, bad or mediocre.

I've reread "I Hear You Knockin'" numerous times. Even though, as noted above, crazy editing things happen (Ernie K-Doe turns into Ernie K-9 at one point!!) he gets some really great reminiscences from Tuts Washington, Earl King and others about guys like Smiley Lewis, who was never interviewed before he died.

I don't know if this recent CD compilation has been mentioned, but I can't recommend it highly enough.


All 10 songs permeate the organs (Dan Peterson), Tuesday, 3 August 2010 15:21 (eleven years ago) link

Broven did an appearance at a suburban W. DC library a year ago that I missed cuz I was out of town.

I have to get that comp.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 3 August 2010 15:40 (eleven years ago) link

Broven's book is definitive. The Cosimo box contains a lot of Little Richard stuff and other things that have been collected pretty thoroughly elsewhere. but it does have "Travelin' Mood" by Wee Willie Wayne, a New Orleans standard you can't find too easily, and which Snooks Eaglin used to do. The Wilson Pickett version of "Land of 1000 Dances" was cribbed from not the Kenner recording but from Cannibal and the Headhunters. The Pickett version is far less nuanced than the Kenner version. This is typical of all covers of New Orleans r&b, I've found.

Also got a copy of Aaron Neville's Tell It Like It Is LP from '67. A little lighter and sweeter than the run of NOLA r&b but a real good record nonetheless.

I found a bunch of Eddie Bo productions over the last year and my favorite of all of them is "Timber" by Chris Kenner, recording under a souldenym of, I believe, "Candy Lewis." Just incredible. Chris Kenner gives me hope for the human race in all its imperfections.

ebbjunior, Tuesday, 3 August 2010 16:58 (eleven years ago) link

Yeah, the Cosimo box contains a fair amount of songs I already owned, but a TON I had never heard before. The oft-anthologized stuff sits next to Little Leo (Lloyd Price's brother,) Peewee Crayton and vocal groups like The Barons. It works like the Stax boxsets for me (with Otis Redding and Sam & Dave interspersed with Mable John and Ruby Johnson) in that it plays really well across 4 discs, and there really aren't any duds in the set.

And yeah, "Timber" is fab!

All 10 songs permeate the organs (Dan Peterson), Tuesday, 3 August 2010 17:29 (eleven years ago) link

one month passes...


Cosimo Matassa's J&M Recording Studio named Rock and Roll Landmark

curmudgeon, Saturday, 25 September 2010 05:32 (eleven years ago) link

two years pass...
two months pass...


Author Broven, plus Red kelly and others re producer Cosimo Matassa

curmudgeon, Thursday, 25 April 2013 14:48 (eight years ago) link

Totally into the idea of the Cosimo Code, still not exactly sure what it is. Have a few of those Broven books but haven't really gotten around to reading them yet.

What About The Half That's Never Been POLLed (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 25 April 2013 14:53 (eight years ago) link

nine months pass...


After the launch of The Cosimo Code last year, John Broven was contacted by Deborah Williams, the daughter of the late John 'Scarface' Williams. Through telephone conversations and other corresepondence, she has provided us with the first in-depth look at this New Orleans legend, together with some incredible unpublished news clippings and family photographs.

Williams was an integral member of Huey Smith's Clowns in the golden age of New Orleans R&B and, along with Bobby Marchan, was the voice of the Clowns with his declamatory, enthusiastic vocals. Then Williams formed his own group, the Tick Tocks, which was recorded by Harold Battiste and Allen Toussaint in the 1960s. Williams, much revered among the New Orleans music community - especially by Dr. John and Aaron Neville - was murdered in 1972 before the New Orleans R&B revival took place, hence his comparative anonymity for far too many years... Lovingly written by Williams' own daughter, the profile below will hopefully change all that!

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 11 February 2014 15:55 (seven years ago) link

seven months pass...


Cosimo Matassa, New Orleans recording studio owner, engineer and rock 'n' roll pioneer, has died

Keith Spera, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on September 11, 2014 at 8:53 PM, updated September 11, 2014 at 11:10 PM

Cosimo Matassa, the New Orleans studio owner and recording engineer who helped craft timeless recordings by Fats Domino, Little Richard, Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair, Lee Dorsey, Lloyd Price, Aaron Neville, Dr. John and many others, died Thursday (Sept. 11) at Ochsner Medical Center. He was 88.

The sound created by Domino, producer Dave Bartholomew and Mr. Matassa at J&M Recording on North Rampart Street staked New Orleans' claim as the birthplace not just of jazz, but of rock 'n' roll as well.

excerpt from link. RIP oh great engineer

curmudgeon, Friday, 12 September 2014 16:43 (seven years ago) link

So many amazing records


Brad C., Friday, 12 September 2014 21:27 (seven years ago) link

Is v. 1 of the box set available on US Spotify? I can only find v. 2.

Brad C., Saturday, 13 September 2014 17:46 (seven years ago) link

looks like a lot of the tracks have disappeared but here: http://open.spotify.com/album/1R9tlJyqXxgTN4YvrrfzUX

adam, Saturday, 13 September 2014 19:49 (seven years ago) link

spotify links are awful maybe this one: spotify:album:1R9tlJyqXxgTN4YvrrfzUX

adam, Saturday, 13 September 2014 19:50 (seven years ago) link

Found it, thanks!

Brad C., Saturday, 13 September 2014 23:50 (seven years ago) link


excerpt from NY Times obit

“Virtually every R&B record made in New Orleans between the late ’40s and the early ’70s was engineered by Cosimo Matassa, and recorded in one of his four studios,” Jeff Hannusch wrote in “I Hear You Knockin’: The Sound of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues” (1985).

More than 250 nationally charting singles and 21 gold records were recorded at the studio, most of them distinguished by what came to be known as the Cosimo sound: strong drums, heavy bass, light piano, heavy guitar and light horns. It is sometimes also called simply the New Orleans sound.

The studio became a sought-after resource for the independent labels that emerged or grew in importance after World War II. Chess, Aladdin, De Luxe, Atlantic, Savoy and Specialty, among others, used the studio, originally for just $15 an hour.

The hits born there included Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”; Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll”; Professor Longhair’s “Mardi Gras in New Orleans”; Smiley Lewis’s “I Hear You Knockin’ ”; Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise”; and Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1,000 Dances.”

Some music historians say that rock ’n’ roll began in 1947 when Roy Brown recorded “Good Rockin’ Tonight” at J & M. Others say a signal moment came on Dec. 10, 1949, when Fats Domino cut eight songs there, including his first commercially released single, “The Fat Man.”

curmudgeon, Sunday, 14 September 2014 05:26 (seven years ago) link

I knew he recorded a lot of stuff I loved, but I had no idea of the sheer breadth. That Big Joe's "Shake, Rattle and Roll" was recorded by Matassa was news to me, but it makes sense when you hear it.

Jazzbo, Monday, 15 September 2014 18:36 (seven years ago) link

I hear those records differently than the Times reviewer: heavy piano and horns, not so much guitar. This one by Eddie Bo, featuring the great Edgar Blanchard, is a rocking exception though. Guitar riff on this is just insidious.


Dick Clownload (Dan Peterson), Monday, 15 September 2014 19:32 (seven years ago) link

another Matassa obit


Cosimo Matassa
April 13, 1926 – September 11, 2014
by Geraldine Wyckoff
September 22, 2014

curmudgeon, Saturday, 27 September 2014 17:58 (seven years ago) link

one year passes...

Frankie Ford last week and now


New Orleans drummer who played on Professor Longhair's "Big Chief," Earl King's "Trick Bag," and, under his own name, the Mardi Gras classic "It Ain't My Fault."

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 7 October 2015 16:56 (six years ago) link


Futuristic Bow Wow (thewufs), Wednesday, 7 October 2015 17:51 (six years ago) link


adam, Wednesday, 7 October 2015 17:55 (six years ago) link

Aw crap, I hadn't heard about Frankie Ford either. It was so hard to miss Ponderosa Stomp this year, because my chances of ever seeing Mabel John or Joe Clay are getting fewer.

Half as cool as Man Sized Action (Dan Peterson), Wednesday, 7 October 2015 19:54 (six years ago) link

rip, so underrated. "Ain't My Fault" is everything.



lil urbane (Jordan), Wednesday, 7 October 2015 20:21 (six years ago) link

I forget who I heard the story from, maybe Bob French, about Smokey Johnson in the record label office saying "I've got a song to record!" and playing that beat on the table, then being told something to the effect of "um that's not a song yet" and going back to write the melody.

lil urbane (Jordan), Wednesday, 7 October 2015 20:27 (six years ago) link

five years pass...

we like birdland

unknown or illegal user (doo rag), Saturday, 8 May 2021 19:35 (six months ago) link

four weeks pass...

It's like a million degrees in Minneapolis (well, 90+ F) so I am pretending I am in New Orleans and listening to a Jessie Hill compilation. These sessions must have been an amazing, drunken party. Half the songs sound the same, trying to rewrite "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" to find another hit, but they're all great! "Scoop Scoobie Doobie" is the most ridiculous piece of hollering nonsense, riding that unstoppable New Orleans beat.


Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Monday, 7 June 2021 19:47 (five months ago) link

Ridiculous & great, love that swung tambourine against everything else.

Also in case people don't know:

He was grandfather to brothers Troy "Trombone Shorty" and James Andrews, and their cousins Glen David Andrews and Travis "Trumpet Black" Hill

change display name (Jordan), Monday, 7 June 2021 19:55 (five months ago) link

Damn, that Jessie Hill song is creating a great disturbance in my mind (and yeah, the swung tambourine is indeed esp awesome); wish I could be walking across Frenchmen Street right now sweating through my mask--thanks!

Kangol In The Light (Craig D.), Monday, 7 June 2021 20:42 (five months ago) link

xp I had actually just been listening to James' Satchmo of the Ghetto, which opens with a song about Jessie that borrows bits from both "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" and "Scoop Scoobie Doobie." That prompted a deep dive into his granddad's stuff.


Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Monday, 7 June 2021 21:07 (five months ago) link

Very, very informative thread, with lots of appealing comments, enticing descriptions, thanks! For me the gateway was Dr. John's early 70s Gumbo, ace choice of singles way the fuck OOP then, don't know if they ever did all make it to the same place again. if you can stand his vocal jive-shtick at all (and indeed, his voice in extended interviews was much the same)longtime NOLA studio rat Mac Rebbenack is the guide for this, with a round-up of the right players and roungh & ready sound, and yeah sounds like they've known all these songs from an early age (some of the records weren't really that old, but wtf OOP).
Also New Orleans as Hell, though he finally hit big in Vegas (think he started working in late 1930s?): leavu us not forget my man Louis Prima; can't top xgau's description of another gateway:
Zooma Zooma: The Best of Louis Prima [Rhino, 1990]
A Vegas fixture for a quarter century before he died at 67 in 1978, this Storyville-born Sicilian singer-trumpeter shared his entertainment philosophy as well as his Christian name with Armstrong and Jordan. He crossed over r&b with 1950's "Oh, Babe!" but it was the honking tenor and rough vocal cameos of his compatriot Sam Butera that added rock and roll anti-class to a jazz act that pitted Prima's jocular leads against the sensible musicality of his consort Keely Smith. Prima was a go-for-the-gut clown whose signature musical tactic was to intersperse flat-out novelties like "Robin Hood" and "Jump, Jive an' Wail" with two-song medleys that moved the crap-shooting punters on to "I Ain't Got Nobody" before "Just a Gigolo" got old. Since 1990, when Rhino assembled these 18 tracks (14 on cassette, remember that one?), there have been more straight reissues, reshuffled comps, radio transcriptions, and live exhumations than I want to hear or count. More likely to cost four bucks than the 40 some chiselers are charging, this out-of-print 18-track laff-fest is probably the best, probably because it keeps the rock market in mind. The best alternative I've heard is the 1991 Capitol Collectors Series, which has eight more tracks but omits the nostalgic "Robin Hood" and the fat "Them There Eyes"/"Honeysuckle Rose." Forget Capitol's 26-track 2007 Jump, Jive an' Wail: The Essential Louis Prima, with its non-NAACP "Civilization (Bongo Bongo Bongo)," pre-IIADL "Luigi," and bored run-throughs of "Hello Dolly" and "Cabaret." The pura the zooma the betta. A
Although those others are worth checking out online, if you can't get enough.

dow, Monday, 7 June 2021 21:38 (five months ago) link

I have an 8CD Bear Family box of Prima's stuff. It's not all essential, not by half, but the peaks are fantastic. (I didn't pay what Bear Family's asking; I got it on eBay for about half that — dead stock from a record store that went out of business.)

but also fuck you (unperson), Monday, 7 June 2021 21:44 (five months ago) link

Yeah, most of his comps are best approached as berry picker's baskets for your own mixes--8 CDs!! can't imagine, but congratz for getting it at a great price.
A variety of good-to-primo Prima here, also interviews w his co-stars, perfect foil Keely Smith and right hand man Sam Butera, although (with two hours to fill) sometimes the Vegas side of the conceptualizing is too much: Flying Burrito Bothers' "Sin City," perfect---Kay Starr's Wheel of Fortune," (starting w spooky, thrilling sound of the wheel itself), amen---Wayne Newton's "Danke Schoen" o shit. But overall it's---quite a riide:

dow, Monday, 7 June 2021 21:54 (five months ago) link

I wish there was more footage of them on YouTube; the dynamic between Prima and Smith is fantastic. An obvious precursor to Sonny & Cher, too...


but also fuck you (unperson), Monday, 7 June 2021 21:59 (five months ago) link

Yeah, look at her eyeing him, "Mm-hmm." But she's listening.

dow, Monday, 7 June 2021 22:11 (five months ago) link

dow, Gumbo was not a singles collection (it was all recorded in '72) but rather a tribute to songs that were local hits for others in the 50s and 60s: Sugar Boy Crawford, Longhair, Earl King. I'm sure Mac heard a song like "Blow Wind Blow" by Junior Gordon on local radio often when he was young; it was the golden era of local and regional hits, and New Orleans produced a bunch of 'em.

I was listening to Tommy Ridgley the other day, another guy like Jessie Hill who really never made it nationally, but had many local hits, so when Snooks Eaglin would cover "Lavinia" or "Ooh Lawdy My Baby" those weren't obscurities to him, those were songs he would have heard on the radio in his youth.

And yes, that Rhino Prima comp is excellent fun.

Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Monday, 7 June 2021 22:17 (five months ago) link

Yeah, I said it was Dr. John rounding up other guys who knew the old stuff.

dow, Monday, 7 June 2021 22:20 (five months ago) link

AKA Mac or Mack Rebennack (right spelling?), already a New Orleans sessioneer in his teens, like late 50s.

dow, Monday, 7 June 2021 22:24 (five months ago) link

Sorry, reading and working at the same time!

Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Monday, 7 June 2021 22:26 (five months ago) link

No prob, I do type a lot. One of those Gumbis guys, one of the main guys on there, was Ronnie Barron, AKA Rev. Ether--made an album of that title I've never heard, but xgau nails this 'un too:

Ronnie Barron: Blues Delicacies, Vol. 1 [Vivid Sound, 1980]
The erstwhile Reverend Ether, who worked as Paul Butterfield's sideman after declining Dr. John's shingle, here adds a respectfully raunchy collection of standards to the modest store of first-rate New Orleans rock and roll LPs. This is no Wild Tchoupitoulas or Fats Domino or Crawfish Fiesta, but it sure holds its own against Mac Rebennack's Gumbo or Lee Dorsey's Yes We Can. A minor delight for the aficionado and a revelation for the uninitiated. Problem is, it'll cost you 15 bucks as a Japanese import, if you can find it. Rounder, Alligator, Flying Fish--help! Warners--oh never mind. A-

dow, Monday, 7 June 2021 22:33 (five months ago) link

Cool, didn't know about that one. Definitely in a Dr. John bag.


Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Monday, 7 June 2021 22:48 (five months ago) link

Cool, thanks! Reminds me of Bobby Charles s/t '72 LP---he was a swamp pop country bandleader also into Fats Domino, who had a hit w BC's "Walkin' To New Orleans," declined' See You Later Alligator," but Charles did alright with it on Chess---Ed Ward tells his story here, w good musical excerpts https://www.npr.org/2012/06/13/150960729/the-untold-story-of-singer-bobby-charles">:https://www.npr.org/2012/06/13/150960729/the-untold-story-of-singer-bobby-charles As Ward says, Charles was on the lam from a Nashville pot bust, made his way up to Woodstock, chosen cos he liked the name, and stumbled into the right crowd, where he got to record his s/t, which we-uns used to meller out with after playing The Meters' Cabbage Alley and xp Dr. John's Gumbo---Light In The Attic reissued the original LP version, which they aptly describe here:
A virtual who’s who of classic ‘roots’ rock – the album features 10 Bobby Charles classics supported by the likes of Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel of The Band, long time Neil Young sidekick Ben Keith, Bob Dylan’s former running mate Bob Neuwirth, session maverick Amos Garrett, the esteemed Dr. John, Geoff Muldaur and several others.

But this is far from an all-star jam session – this is an ensemble record in the truest sense of the word – with each musician simply supporting the Louisiana vibe that flows thru the 10 song collection of country, blues, R&B, and folk that all have that distinctive Bobby Charles signature sound..
Later it was a CD with three bonus tracks, and then a Rhino Handmade triple-CD! Expected to have way too many alt-takes, demos, etc., but here are a lot of titles I hadn't seen before:
https://media.rhino.com/press-release/bobby-charles Handmade CDs are ltd. ed. and go OOP fairly quickly, but this and others are still available as downloads, reasonably priced.
I find a lot of swamp pop (not that I've really heard a lot, but a lot of what I've heard) to be clunkly, at least compared to NOLA slippin'-bouncin' etc, but his LP has enough of the latter (and never clunks), though it is his boondocks stoner voice, making its way over the beat, floatin' to New Orleans:

dow, Monday, 21 June 2021 21:17 (five months ago) link

That's the original 10 tracks, although I think this playlist starts w the LP's closer? Good audio, anyway.

dow, Monday, 21 June 2021 21:19 (five months ago) link

I can't believe how late to the game I am discovering Rockie Charles. He played many Jazzfests I attended in the 1990s/early oughts, but I never saw him, and I'm just now hearing his 1996 debut album Born for You. His vocals are very Al Green-inspired, and he had a great, soulful touch on guitar as well. Really kicking myself for never seeing him.


Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Tuesday, 22 June 2021 15:08 (five months ago) link

Thanks, hadn't heard of him! Here's a better link for the whole Bobby Charles s/t playlist:

dow, Friday, 25 June 2021 17:56 (five months ago) link

three months pass...

Hurricane Ida destroyed or severely damaged thousands of homes in south Louisiana after the category 4 storm roared ashore on August 29. WWL-TV in New Orleans reports that among those whose homes have been made all but unlivable is New Orleans R&B singer Clarence “Frogman” Henry. His residence in Algiers suffered extensive roof damage which has led to collapsed ceilings and a mold outbreak, yet the music icon continues to live amid the damage while he awaits his insurance claim.


curmudgeon, Thursday, 14 October 2021 03:21 (one month ago) link

Aw, that's sad. And frustrating.

Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Thursday, 14 October 2021 14:05 (one month ago) link

Oh man, I didn't even know he was still alive! That's really terrible, I've gone through something similar but to a much milder extent. Dealing with the insurance companies was like having AAA come over and take a shit on you while you're sitting by your wrecked car.

birdistheword, Thursday, 14 October 2021 14:33 (one month ago) link

Awful! In happier news, as I said over on[The Band.
The greatly expanded xpost Bobby Charles turned out to be all worthwhile:
Yall I just listened to the xpost Rhino Handmade 3-CD expansion digital ghost on Spotify (also available as downloads, like maybe all the Handmades; I've noticed Fugs, Beefheart, Television: two more LPs-worth of good-to excellent tracks, which hopefully he still had the rights to put (w/o re-recording) on yon self-released albums, when he reportedly fled Woodstock Babylon for Sweet Home Louisiana(nuthin weird goin' on down there, nuh-uh). Listening this way, I don't have the CD booklet, but who specifically played what on what has always been conjectural, according to my not-very-extensive research, and a lot of this sounds as Bandy as the original s/t; also, several cuts sound like they might incl. Garth *and* Dr. John, ideally enough. Anybody looking for cover material should def. check this out, "You Were There" def. rec. to Willie.

dow, Thursday, 14 October 2021 17:03 (one month ago) link

Great thread, listening to Vol. 1 of the Cosimo Matassa Story comp, so many great songs.

o. nate, Thursday, 21 October 2021 15:13 (one month ago) link


The home to much mid- 20th century New Orleans sounds the Dew Drop Inn may be coming back. Article has some interesting anecdotes on its historic roots

curmudgeon, Monday, 25 October 2021 04:00 (one month ago) link

I see I first posted about Sugar Boy Crawford in this thread 15 years ago. I’ve had my eye out for a compilation of his stuff all these years and never found one. Even looked in record stores in New Orleans.

I've never actually seen this Sugarboy comp in the wild, but it does exist.


Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Monday, 25 October 2021 17:40 (one month ago) link

And I hope the revitalization of the Dew Drop comes to pass. It's been floated a few times in the past without success.

Three Rings for the Elven Bishop (Dan Peterson), Monday, 25 October 2021 17:42 (one month ago) link

I've been catching up on Lee Dorsey - I don't think I've ever seen his records pop up during any visit to a record store, partly due to their sporadic availability - and I noticed that Elvis Costello's 2006 collaboration with Allen Toussaint is mostly Dorsey's stuff, and the tracks are primarily drawn from two albums that EC listed in his own list of 500 favorites for Vanity Fair. Anyway, great stuff, and it's kind of astonishing that despite a healthy amount of recording activity and a handful of sizable hits, Dorsey turned to auto repair as his main trade just to make a living.

birdistheword, Monday, 25 October 2021 18:02 (one month ago) link

I was super sad to read that about Clarence Henry. I would guess he never got near his fair share of what his records sold. Absolutely love the news of a local cleanup company owner, a fan, volunteering his services, and the insurance deductible. (Obviously, everybody dealing with disastrous damage like this should get similar support, but, welcome to America.)

As a listener, I've never dug beyond "Ain't Got No Home," its sequel song, and "I Don't Know Why," which I have on comps. Have always adored them. I should seek out a good best-of.

This is a good thread! I finally picked up a Huey "Piano" Smith best-of recently, the old Rockin' Pneumonia disc, and it's fantastic listening. It is sadly missing the fabulous "Free, Single, and Disengaged," with its surprisingly wistful hook... which I think is played by a typical small horn section but has always merged together in the lo-fi recording to sound almost like a bassoon to me.

I Am Fribbulus (Xax) (Doctor Casino), Monday, 25 October 2021 18:21 (one month ago) link

Oh I gotta look up that disc, thanks!
xpost xgau sees Lee Dorsey w The Clash:

Yes He Can Can
Lee Dorsey saunters onto the Palladium stage in cream-colored three-piece suit, chocolate shirt and hankie that match his skin, and low boots of lemony patent leather. This is the kind of man for whom the word dapper was invented. No more than five-six and slender, he dances with a rolling gait that's spry rather than spectacular. After all, he's 55 years old. Anyway: "I guess you heard about my motorcycle accident. I broke this leg"--indicating the left--"in four places. But I refuse to sit down."

I doubt that 10 per cent of this audience even know his name, much less his medical history, although "Holy Cow" and "Do-Re-Mi" and "Ya Ya" and "Working in a Coal Mine" and "Ride Your Pony" all ring bells. Dorsey isn't a legend like the Clash's previous openers, Bo Diddley and Sam & Dave, and if there were any justice he wouldn't need to be, because he's recorded good music right into the '70s, with two classic albums to his credit: Yes We Can (1970 Polydor cutout) and Night People (1977 ABC cutout). Dorsey hasn't appeared in New York since he and the Apollo were in their commercial prime around 1966, but he's completely at ease, lilting through his hits with occasional well-aimed shouts and uttering his "thank you very kindly"s and "heh-heh-heh"s with vaudevillian charm and esprit. Unlike most oldies acts, he's not going through the motions, probably because he's never put himself on the block as an oldies act. His band, four "funky white boys"--Dorsey's description--from New Orleans called Skor, sing way too loud and quite flat on "Holy Cow" but then settle into a pleasing, slightly rockified Meters groove, with drummer Ronnie Arcement's versions of Ziggy Modeliste's impossible accents and crossbeats especially deft. Somebody should bring Dorsey back to this city, preferably with Skor, before 1994.

I should add that the headliners were spectacular. I just figure they'd want me to give the spry its due.

Village Voice, Mar. 17, 1980

dow, Monday, 25 October 2021 18:59 (one month ago) link

Here he checks the 70s albums, and some subsequent collections---man I gotta get to these:


dow, Monday, 25 October 2021 19:04 (one month ago) link

setlists from that tour:
Cool pic of him w them (linked in case not spozed to paste image)

dow, Monday, 25 October 2021 19:08 (one month ago) link

Excellent write-up and capsule reviews from xgau.

Re: Huey "Piano" Smith, I would recommend this compilation, and it does have "Free, Single, and Disengaged":


birdistheword, Monday, 25 October 2021 19:20 (one month ago) link

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