Barbara George

TrackSingle / Album
I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)A.F.O. 45-302
Love (Is Just A Chance You Take)A.F.O. 45-302
You Talk About LoveA.F.O. 45-304
HurtedI Know (You Don't
Love Me No More)
Don't Ask Me No QuestionsI Know (You Don't
Love Me No More)
Bless YouSue 766
Something's Definitely WrongSue 796
Satisfied With Your LoveSeven B 7019
Take Me Somewhere TonightHep' Me 149
Leave Me AloneHep' Me 159

Barbara George photo 1

 

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Barbara George playlist

 

 

DAVE STEPHENS’ NEW ORLEANS SCENES

#8 BARBARA GEORGE

 
Quite why it is that way I don’t know but New Orleans seems to have spawned more one hit wonders than most other American cities. Perhaps it was something to do with the fact that the city must have generated more dollops of music per square metre or per head of population than other cities; the constant jostling for attention of its artists only allowed one through at a time (that is, of course, apart from the mighty Domino who just kept rolling like that equally mighty river –and you know very well what river I’m talking about).

Barbara George was one of those one hit wonders.

Her record was I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More) which, in the week of 13th November 1961 hit the #3 position in the US Hot 100, and managed 3 weeks at the number one spot in the R&B Chart. Quite something for a first record and a feat she never got anywhere near achieving again.

She was born Barbara Ann Smith – where the “George” came from doesn’t seem to be on record – on 16th August 1942 in New Orleans, and was brought up in the Ninth Ward of that great city. Like most of her peers who were raised in New Orleans, but went on to become professional musicians, she started singing in a church choir. Where she differed from some is that she started writing both religious and secular songs from an early age.

Singer Jessie Hill, who had already had a national chart hit, was the man who got Barbara an audition with Harold Battiste, the founder of AFO (All For One) Records. Harold liked what he heard, a recording session was arranged and out popped record number one, I Know, backed with Love (Is Just A Chance You Take). Both songs were credited to Barbara (but see also footnotes). The flip was a slow tripletty affair with Harold himself on piano and horn fills from Mel Lastie (cornet) and Nat Perrilliat (tenor sax). But what really set this side apart from the A-side and later singles from Barbara was her attitude; she wasn’t taking it easily. So the cards refused to fall for her, the least she could do was get angry about it.

What about that A-side though? In comparison to “Love” this was a relatively bouncy affair in spite of those lyrics, with a call-and-response team coming in hard on the “no more’s” and Barbara bemoaning the fact that “it has to be someone else lovin’ you more”. However, listen carefully and you’ll note an “Ain’t no use in me cryin’ now” in verse 2 followed a couple of lines later by “Ain’t no use in you hangin’ round”. So again, she’s taking a tough stance and kicking him out, but unlike the flip she’s not getting too worked up about things. But it’s the music which makes this track: a simple melody line set to a chord progression heard a million times before and after – most essays on Barbara liken the tune to Just A Closer Walk With Thee though whether there’s actually any truth in the gospel number being the source, I don’t know, given the tendency of music journalists to pluck material from earlier essays. The arrangement isn’t overly New Orleansy; while Battiste’s piano is again well to the fore, the horns largely sit this one out notwithstanding a delightful solo from Lastie which had been scored by Battiste. The unaware listener would probably put this effort more in a Ray Charles and the Raelettes bag rather than something emanating from Fats Domino land. I should give a name check to John Boudreaux on drums though; he does offer a whiff of the more exotic rhythms to be found in the Crescent City.

A factor that undoubtedly helped I Know achieve its success was the distribution and finance arrangement that Harold had made with Juggy Murray, co-founder of Sue Records based in NYC. Sue was established in 1957 and had produced records which regularly hit the R&B Chart with a few crossing over to the Hot 100. Initially, this arrangement was very beneficial to the fledgling AFO label and I Know, but over a relatively short period of time the relationship between the two principals soured, in part due to Barbara starting a different sort of relationship with Juggy. Inevitably the arrangement was severed and Murray bought out Barbara’s contract (see photo at foot of post). Reportedly – and the report appears in several places – the sum involved was $25,000 plus a fur coat and a Cadillac.

Which moved her away from New Orleans and home to what must have seemed like the big time. Over the period while this was all happening AFO got one more single out of her and several tracks for an LP. The single comprised You Talk About Love and Whip O Will with both tracks again penned by Barbara. Both were slabs of New Orleansiana with my taste buds responding more to the A-side, something of an East End knees up as filtered through a smorgasbord of Big Easy musical styles. Harold’s on the Joanna again with the break taken by the drummer – Boudreaux probably – but punctuated by the horns.

You Talk About Love only just made it into the US Top 50. Lack of Sue promotion wouldn’t have helped.

The LP (which was named after the hit single) wasn’t an unqualified success, and one gets the impression that not a lot of time had been spent on the tracks. Unsurprisingly, all four sides from the singles were present. A couple of the other titles were deceptive: Without Love wasn’t the Clyde McPhatter song subsequently recorded by Elvis and quite a few more, and Honest I Do wasn’t the Jimmy Reed number. Both were George originals. The only song she didn’t write in the set was the jazzy standard Since I Fell For You which had an arrangement that was more sophisticated lounge than New Orleans but she makes a good fist of it. That arrangement incidentally was from guitarist Roy Montrell not Battiste who handled all the other tracks; Montrell was also in the studio for I Know as part of what was effectively (and with some variation), the house band.

I have a couple of selections from I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More). Hurted gets my vote in part for the highly unusual usage of our shared language, but lines like “I don’t want to be hurted anymore” fit perfectly well with other titles from New Orleans denizens: She Put The Hurt On Me (see footnotes) and I’m Gonna Put Some Hurt On You. And the whole thing rattles along quite merrily with none of the participants at all worried about any negative messages contained in the lyrics.

The melody line and verse structure are a little clearer to follow in Don’t Ask Me No Questions but, like Hurted, one gets the impression that the groove was more important than anything as mundane as a tune; maybe this was where things were going and producer Battiste was ahead of the game.

Barbara’s Sue phase produced four singles. Conventional wisdom has it that these records don’t stack up against her AFO discs and I’m not going to disagree. Jason Ankeny in AllMusic states: “The charm and verve of her AFO singles is sorely absent from Sue efforts like “If You Think,” “Send for Me (If You Need Some Lovin)’,” and “Recipe (For Perfect Fools),”” which is a fair summation. That said I would make an exception for a flip from summer ’62 entitled Bless You. It’s a blues ballad performed at just the right pace, with just the right instrumentation – do I detect a trombone in there? – and Barbara is just right too: utterly convincing and completely comfortable with the arrangement which you couldn’t say about the other Sue tracks. You even wonder if they snuck back to Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio in North Rampart Street to record this one. It’s that good.

Barbara included a dedication on Bless You. Right at the start of the record she can just be heard saying, “Bless you Juggy, bless you darlin for all you done” (and, credit where it’s due, I have to thank Our Esteemed Editor for spotting this).

There were a couple of other Sue tracks which, while not having the atmosphere of Bless You, certainly weren’t to be sneezed at: Try Again released in ’62 certainly had some of the spirit of Barbara’s New Orleans work and the arrangement featuring tootling horns wasn’t a million miles from something that might have been conjured up in the Crescent City. In contrast, Something’s Definitely Wrong, penned by two writers associated with the Brill Building, Jimmy Radcliffe and Aaron Schroeder was upbeat pop but good pop.

Not a lot is known about Barbara’s later life and career. Jason Ankeny in AllMusic states that she suffered drug and alcohol problems starting in the mid/late sixties, though later in life she took to the church. Recording activity was limited to a tiny handful of singles for a couple of labels.

In ’68 she cut Something You Got / Satisfied With Your Love under the watchful eye of Eddie Bo for the Seven B label. The A-side was a look back to the minor classic penned and performed by Chris Kenner in ‘61. It’s a decent version of the song adding an increased sense of urgency to the original but my heart is still with the easy rolling latter, hence Barbara doesn’t get my vote. The flip, however, does get in. Set to a mid tempo loping beat, its sound is more Detroit than New Orleans but Barbara delivers it well, with the otherwise minimal backing building to a series of mini climaxes.

All was then quiet until 1979 when a character called Senator Jones crossed Barbara’s path. Jones – full name at birth, Senator Nolan Jones – was yet another colourful New Orleans character whose story is told in this fine feature from the good people at The Ponderosa Stomp. After attempts by Jones to get into music as an artist failed, he switched to producing other artists and setting up labels for them to appear on. The Ponderosa Stomp article opens up with the statement below before moving to Jones’ career:

“Since the late 1950s to the dawn of the new millennium, there have been well over 200 different independent labels operating in and around New Orleans – perhaps the most of any American city outside of Nashville and New York. In the early days the record business appealed to individuals of various backgrounds who shared an entrepreneurial streak.”

Jones certainly saw himself as something of an entrepreneur and he did have some success particularly in rejuvenating the career of singer Johnny Adams. He also, in the words of the Ponderosa Stomp writer, “recorded several New Orleans R&B veterans, including Chuck Carbo, Tommy Ridgley, Barbara George, Chris Kenner, and James Rivers.”

Barbara’s two records for the Senator – I find it just too difficult for words not to say that even though it’s grammatically rubbish – were cut for his Hep’ Me label in ’79 and ’80 with tracks Take Me Somewhere Tonight / I Got My Guards Up and Leave Me Alone / This Is The Weekend. Neither of the flips are available which is a shame because the singles don’t seem difficult to get hold of, but both the A-sides are of interest. Take Me Somewhere Tonight is a fascinating hotch potch of musical techniques with Barbara’s vocal majoring on the intimate but getting decidedly more clamorous every few seconds. The extremes of light and shade take a little time to get used to but the journey (lasting a generous 5:20 plus) is well worth taking.

Leave Me Alone was written by Barbara. It opens with a recitation and then…

Every man has a woman outside of his own
But I give you no reason to play around with all the loving that I give to you

Deep soul and I’m inclined to make over dramatic statements like “this is the song that Barbara was born to sing” which may or may not be the case but it’s an impressive record. Would that more had followed.

Nothing did. Barbara rarely sung outside church from then onwards. I say “rarely” because she did sing at Ernie K-Doe’s funeral in 2001 and also appeared as a back-up singer on Willy DeVille’s album Victory Mixture in 1990 – DeVille used as many local legends as he could get his hands on in the recording which was devoted to New Orleans.

Barbara lived in Chauvin, Louisiana for the last ten years of her life. She died there in August 2006 at the age of 63.

 

FOOTNOTES

1. There is a Toppermost in place on Jessie Hill. He’s the man who had a smash with Ooh Poo Pah Doo in 1960. It was the first hit for the Minit label which had been in existence for less than a year when the record was cut. It was also the first hit for Allen Toussaint as a producer. Hill was part of the extended Ninth Ward family which included Mel Lastie and Prince La La (see later).

2. My Toppermost on Jessie Hill has a footnote on Harold Battiste. This is it with minor changes:

Harold Battiste was also from New Orleans but he was more of a background figure than some of the names we’ve come across in this series. Although he was a highly competent musician and performer he’s best known as composer, arranger, producer and teacher. He was the arranger on Sam Cooke’s You Send Me, a record that shouldn’t need introducing to anyone. Later arranging successes included plenty for Sonny & Cher. In terms of production, he was the man behind Mac Rebennack/Dr. John’s Gris Gris album plus follow-ups from the good doctor. Harold also founded All For One (AFO) Records. Wiki has a lengthy piece on the man.

3. AFO Records was the first black musician owned record label in the US; it was also the first label owned by a black person in New Orleans. It was set up as a musicians’ collective with other founding members including Mel Lastie, John Boudreaux, Chuck Badie and Alvin “Red” Tyler (sax player and star of many a record featuring Fats Domino, Little Richard, Lloyd Price and more). In addition to R&B which was the main money earner for the label, Harold also recorded modern jazz from musicians from the city and surrounding area. After the break-up with Sue Records, distribution issues started becoming problematical and in ’63, Harold mothballed the label and, along with a few other notable musicians, headed for Los Angeles. In the 1990s he revived the label releasing material that was still in-the-can from the earlier period plus totally new stuff.

4. The Wiki feature on Barbara states that I Know was written by her mother, Eula Mae Jackson. However in all other places where a writer for the song is mentioned, that writer is down as Barbara George. Those places include the Wiki feature on the song itself, and 45cat which shows the credit that’s on the actual record. I’ve gone with the majority view.

5. In the Offbeat article on Harold Battiste written by David Kunian, Peter “Chuck” Badie (bass player on I Know) is quoted as saying in relation to Mel Lastie’s solo on that record, “That solo that Harold wrote for Melvin? I was told that Miles Davis heard it and said, ‘Who the f**k is that?’”

6. Henry “Juggy” Murray, who along with Bobby Robinson founded Sue Records, was one of the more colourful music business people who actually went on to make records himself in the seventies. Wiki reports him as saying about one of his artists, Baby Washington: “I would rather record her than eat”.

7. The I Know recording session was actually set up as a split session in Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studios. The same backing musicians and producer (Battiste) were used for another AFO artist, Prince La La (real name Walter Nelson). The record that he cut was the self-written She Put The Hurt On Me, a song which Battiste had originally had in mind for Barbara. The record hit the #28 spot on the R&B Chart. La La/Nelson died in 1963 at the age of 27. According to Wiki there were mysterious circumstances surrounding the death. Some sources put it down to an accidental heroin overdose but foul play has also been mentioned (Wiki).

8. In relation to the Seven B record label, Discogs states: “US rhythm & blues and soul record label formed in 1966 and located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Subsequent to the label’s first release, it was managed by Joe Banashak. The main artist and producer for the label was Eddie Bo.” They list 35 records from the label. 45cat list 41.

9. Eddie Bo was born Edwin Joseph Bocage in 1930 in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. He had much in common with certain other names we’ve come across in the New Orleans Series: Allen Toussaint, Wardell Quezergue, Harold Battiste and Mac Rebennack but where he differed from some of them was that, in addition to producing and arranging he recorded a huge number of singles in his own right with that number, reportedly being more than anyone else from New Orleans other than Fats Domino (Wiki). I would point the reader at the fine essay on Eddie from that same source but as a treat, take a listen to I’m Wise, a single that Eddie cut in 1956 but with a song that was heard again as Slippin’ And Slidin’ from Little Richard some months later.

10. Chris Kenner was a New Orleans R&B singer and song writer who created several classic records, some in association with Allen Toussaint. A Toppermost on the man is available (in the New Orleans series). This is Chris’ Something You Got.

11. Johnny Adams was also a New Orleans singer but he’s one for whom there isn’t yet a Toppermost in place. His Reconsider Me, a country soul opus hit #28 in the Hot 100 in 1969.

12. The best source of information on the Hep’ Me record label is the Ponderosa Stomp article I reference in the main text. Note the positive comments on the Senator at the bottom of the blog (other than one on payment!).

13. In 1963, I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More) was covered by Beryl Marsden, a lady from Liverpool who for several years managed to straddle the Mersey and the more southern oriented R&B scenes. Here’s Beryl singing the number with the 10-piece Coventry soul band Johnny B Great and the Quotations on German TV’s Beat Beat Beat in 1966. However, the prize for cover of the number should go to Fats Domino who recorded it in 1968 with the abbreviated version of the title, I Know, for his album Fats Is Back. This is it.

 

 

Barbara George photo 3

Here’s the Cashbox caption with its industry-speak prose: Juggy Murray, topper of Sue Records, bought the management contract of Barbara George last week. The diskery prexy picked up the contract of the nineteen year old New Orleans born singer from AFO Records who discovered the lark a year ago. Her first wax, “I Know”, which was a best-selling hit, was masterminded by Murray. A big recording programme for the young singer is planned in order to cash in on her current popularity. The thrush is now on tour with Sam Cooke and will return to Gotham early in May to cut a series of singles and an album of standards for Sue, which also has her recording contract.

 

Barbara George poster

 

Barbara George photo 2

Barbara George (1942–2006)

 

Barbara George discography at 45cat

The AFO Foundation (& history of AFO Records)

The Sue Records Story

Barbara George biography (Apple Music)

Dave Stephens’ New Orleans scenes
#1 Fats Domino, #2 Chris Kenner, #3 Jessie Hill, #4 Barbara Lynn, #5 Benny Spellman, #6 Ernie K-Doe, #7 Irma Thomas, #8 Barbara George, #9 Earl King, #10 Smiley Lewis, #11 Professor Longhair, #12 Shirley & Lee, #13 Lloyd Price, #14 Dr. John

ONE HIT WONDERS ON TOPPERMOST
#1 Jody Reynolds, #2 James Ray, #3 Richie Barrett, #4 Mickey & Sylvia, #5 Scott McKenzie, #6 Blue, #7 Chris Kenner, #8 Dawn Penn, #9 Shep and the Limelites, #10 The Poni-Tails, #11 The La’s, #12 Thomas Wayne, #13 Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford, #14 Carl Mann, #15 Duncan Browne, #16 Harold Dorman, #17 Ned Miller, #18 Gary Shearston, #19 The Fendermen, #20 Jimmy Radcliffe, #21 Joe Dolce, #22 Sanford Clark, #23 Bob Luman, #24 Jessie Hill, #25 Ernie K-Doe, #26 Irma Thomas, #27 Barbara George

Dave Stephens is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is described by one reviewer as “probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across”. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX

Read the Toppermosts of some of the other artists mentioned in this post:
Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Jessie Hill, Ernie K-Doe, Chris Kenner, Little Richard, Jimmy Radcliffe

TopperPost #844

1 Comment

  1. Andrew Shields
    Mar 12, 2020

    Thanks for another brilliant contribution to our musical education. Didn’t know a great deal about Barbara before this – had taped ‘I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)’ off a radio show years ago without writing down who the artist was – (so thanks also for clearing that mystery up)- but will be exploring her music further now. Thanks again….

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