Eddie Bo

TrackSingle / Album
I'm WiseApollo 486-45
Oh-OhChess 1698
Every Dog Got His DayRic 969
Check Mr. PopeyeRic 987
I Found A Little GirlAt Last 1006
Fee-Fie-Jum-Bo-LiBlue Jay 156
Can You Handle ItBo-Sound BS-5116
Check Your BucketBo-Sound 5551
Pass the Hatchet (Roger & The Gypsies)Seven B 7001
Wake UpThe 1991 Sea-Saint Sessions

Eddie Bo photo 1

 

 

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Eddie Bo playlist

 

DAVE STEPHENS’ NEW ORLEANS SCENES

#18 EDDIE BO

 

Take a listen to the clip. It features Eddie Bo singing and playing three numbers in November 2007, roughly 16 months before his death. The songs are: Ray Charles’ Drown In My Own Tears, New Orleans legend Professor Longhair’s Big Chief and one that Eddie himself co-wrote and recorded, Dearest Darling, which was subsequently made into a hit by Etta James.

Anyone listening and reading those words with a broad knowledge of the R&B coming from New Orleans – and/or has read one or two of the other essays in this series – but who doesn’t know a lot about Eddie, would probably place him as operating roughly in the late fifties to early/mid sixties. Which was true in a way; he was making records then but that’s not what he’s been revered for over the last three decades or so. One factoid that regularly gets trotted out about the man is that he’s made more singles than anyone from the Big Easy other than Fats Domino. Another fact that might be more interesting is that one of his 45s has been sampled more than 90 times by artists including Justin Timberlake and Kanye West. You’ve guessed the genre by now, and this is the record, Hook And Sling Parts 1 & 2, released in 1969.

That record gave him his only national hit (a number 73) and #13 in the R&B Chart. It didn’t give him a step up to celebrity status. If he is now perceived as such by some then that’s been by a gradual process of osmosis. The drummer on the disc was James Black, a man whose skills in jazz including composition haven’t stopped him regularly receiving compliments like “simply one of the greatest funk drummers of all time”. Drummerworld made the following comment on his work on this record:

“James’ best known performance (and his only national hit) was on Eddie Bo’s “Hook And Sling”. That song, and especially the extended drumming on the B side (“Hook And Sling” Part Two) stands with James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” as one of the greatest and most intriguing moments in funk drumming – infinitely danceable, deceptively simple, and never since reproduced.”

Rewind (and there’ll be more on James Black later) …

Edwin Joseph Bocage was born on 20th September 1930 in New Orleans and was raised in the Algiers and Ninth Ward sections of the city. The family he was born into was renowned for having skills both in building and in music. Not content with having a mother who played self-taught piano in the style of Professor Longhair, Eddie also had cousins who played with major jazz orchestras in the Big Easy. After he had performed his spell of, what we call in the UK, national service, he studied composition and arranging in the Grunewald School of Music in New Orleans, an establishment whose alumni also included Earl Palmer, Edgar Blanchard, Robert Parker, Tommy Ridgely and Alvin “Red” Tyler. It was while he was at the Grunewald, that Eddie discovered pianists Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson who would be early influences on his style. However, post college, acquaintance with what was starting to happen musically in New Orleans prompted his career to start moving in other directions. As he told Jeff Hannusch in “The Soul Of New Orleans” (which was subsequently reported by Dan Phillips in the Home Of The Groove blog): “I was a turncoat. I started out playing jazz and that’s what I really wanted to play. But I switched to rhythm and blues because that’s where the money was at the time.”

He was far from alone. By the start of the fifties, smaller jump blues bands were starting to take over from larger (and hence, less financially viable) jazz orchestras, though the nomenclature still stuck, as in the Spider Bocage Orchestra, the first outfit to be fronted by Eddie with the nickname coming from his days in the army. He didn’t have the orch. with him when his piano skills were utilised by producer and label-owner Johnny Vincent, as part of the backing band for a session for Al Collins in ’55 which resulted in the single, Shuckin’ Stuff / I Got The Blues For You, which was released on Vincent’s Ace label (on which, more later).

Eddie’s own first record came one release later on Ace – #501 with the Collins record being #500 – and the credit on it was to “Little Bo And Orch.”. The tracks were Baby and So Glad with “Bocage” listed as writer for both (and the A-side not available on YouTube though it can be found on Spotify). Perhaps that lack of availability shouldn’t have surprised me but I can only assume that it’s a comment on Bo’s relative obscurity. And I can assure the reader that you haven’t missed a lot. Dan Phillips refers to it as “standard R&B fare that did not set the world on fire; but it was a solid performance and at least a start” and I don’t disagree – Eddie shouting on top of what sounded like a fairly typical jump blues band, and virtually nothing to say that he’d been born and brought up in New Orleans.

 

BLUES AND R&B 1955-1959

The headings are broadly indicative rather than precise, and just because my first doesn’t mention New Orleans doesn’t mean that hinterland is entirely invisible. I’ve also no intention of documenting every label move that Eddie made and any whys and wherefores associated with such moves.

I’m Wise (Apollo, 1956)
Eddie’s second single more than compensated for his less than auspicious debut. It consisted of a Bocage remodelled version of Al Collins I Got The Blues For You with that makeover incorporating additional emphasis on the latin aspects of the original with little horn flurries seemingly falling onto the listener, and a ‘cleaning-up’ of the somewhat risqué lyrics. Any fifties rock and roll fan will immediately recognise those lyrics as being not a million miles from the ones on a certain Little Richard record which appeared in the market only a few short weeks after I’m Wise.

Slippin’ and a slidin’, peepin’ and a hidin’, I’m so glad I got wise
Rippin’ and a runnin’, drinkin’ and a funnin’, Baby I got hip to your jive
You slippin’ and a slidin’, Peepin’ and a hidin’, I caught you in the act last night

The timing of Little Richard’s Slippin’ And Slidin’ couldn’t have been worse for Eddie’s I’m Wise. Richard was already riding high after his breakthrough with Tutti Frutti and this was the follow-up. Couple that with the presence of Long Tall Sally on the flip side and the fact that Cashbox dubbed I’m Wise as “Sleeper Of The Week” was all too prophetic; it just didn’t wake up! To add insult to injury, whereas I’m Wise was credited in terms of writing to Bocage, Collins, Smith (and who the mysterious “Smith” was I don’t know), Slippin’ And Slidin’ was credited solely to Penniman. None of that alters the truth that the charm of Eddie’s “story of his conniving, two-timing woman” (to quote Cashbox via 45cat) lost out to the amazing in-your-face vivacity and energy that Bumps Blackwell conjured out of Richard and the session team. Penniman didn’t have a Bo piano break that might have come out of the Grunewald though.

Oh-Oh (Chess, 1958)
While I’m Wise immediately broke with my assumption of there being only limited NOLA type material within this timeframe, Oh-Oh was something else again. Precursors to it don’t exactly spring out at you. Was it something that producer and co-composer (with Eddie) Paul Gayton had in his box of tricks? Was it something that guitarist Edgar Blanchard (identified by Dan Phillips in Home Of The Groove) came up with – he’s certainly very prominent on the track (and gets a double length break) all of which was something that was quite unusual in studios in New Orleans in the fifties and early sixties. Was it Chess asking for a higher guitars per track ratio after the success they were getting with Chuck Berry? Or was this down to the inventiveness of Eddie himself? We’ll probably never know.

 

Walk That Walk (Chess, 1958)
More typical of this phase than either of the above, a jump blues bubbling along nicely but not too redolent of the geography. Some comment on the Bo voice would be timely. To me it’s reminiscent of another piano-playing R&B artist, Willie Mabon, whose early work also appeared on Chess. In John Broven’s “Rhythm And Blues In New Orleans”, Mac Rebennack had the following to say about Eddie’s vocal style: “He sings in the flatted fifth that horn-player Charlie Parker used, and the jazz influence comes out in his singing and playing as well”.

 

NEW ORLEANS 1960-1963

… during which the musical tropes associated with other New Orleans R&B artists became more pronounced in the Bocage output.

Tell It Like It Is (Ric, 1960)
not the song associated later with Aaron Neville
The second line vibe is immediately with us from the percussion which announces this single but in addition there’s something of a Ray Charles feel about Eddie’s vocal and the way the horns provide staccato punctuation to the Bo phrasing. Did James Brown listen to this record before later coming up with Out Of Sight? The track would have been in the Ten but for its flip …

Every Dog Got His Day (Ric, 1960)
… on which the New Orleans rhumboogie style is even more to the fore but to more martial effect than when delivered by, say, Longhair. Note the blast which opens the syncopated brass riff; this would be “The One” in James Brown speak. Note too the prominence of the drummer, another important feature in funk music.

It’s interesting to compare the original to the later version of the song which appeared in the 1991 Sea-Saint Sessions with Chris Barber where the number has mutated into a relaxed funk item with the original brass riffs forming components of longer, more complex riffs and the Bocage piano playing a significant part.

Ain’t It The Truth Now (Ric, 1960)
1960 was a busy year for Eddie. The Ray Charles fascination didn’t wane and, on this track, is apparent in the intonation of his vocal, in the responses to it (from a lady called Martha Carter playing the role of the lead member of the Raelettes), and in the title itself which was Ray all over. But in addition, the continuous usage of sevenths chords reminds us that this is coloured blue and the overlay of horns over the initial boogie from Eddie’s piano tells us that we’re still in the Big Easy and that funk isn’t all that far away.

Check Mr. Popeye / Now Let’s Popeye (Swan, 1962)
… or Check Mr. Popeye Parts I and II since Now Let’s Popeye is merely continuation.
Eddie’s platter was strictly from Huey Smith territory but was the only one of all his records to strike that instantly recognisable stylistic stance. Intriguingly, Smith and the Clowns also put a record out celebrating the same dance which went by the name of “Popeye” without any elaboration. While 45cat dates them both as January 1962, it has Billboard registering the existence of the Smith disc a week or so before the Bo record so it would seem that Huey won the race, if race it was. He didn’t win out on quality of lyrics though; while his were standard dance disc fare, Eddie’s actually told a story and who could resist a song with a punchline of “You’d better check that spinach / Olive’s in the danger zone”. In terms of sales, both did very well indeed locally but only Huey achieved Hot 100 status; evidently the greater level of exuberance exhibited by the Smith ensemble pleased the national punters more. What they missed out on though were the pointers to the future contained in the more laidback Check Mr. Popeye. Compare the usage of percussion and the riffing in the clip – from Messrs Battiste, Perrilliat and Tyler with the equivalent in Out Of Sight (yes that record again!).

(And a note on the label, the record was actually cut and initially released on Ric but owner Joe Ruffino arranged for distribution via Swan. The marginally earlier date on the Ric release would have made the release neck and neck with the Smith record.)

Te Na Na Na Nay (At Last, 1963)
Don’t worry about placing this one’s importance in the history books, just stretch out and let your limbs enjoy the groove. You could call this bog standard NOLA but that’s a compliment in my book with the brass riffing away merrily and the trumpeter – was it Mel Lastie? – giving us a fine solo.

 

TRANSITIONAL 1963-1966

I Found A Little Girl (At Last, 1963)
All those things I’ve been saying about building blocks to funk are present here as is the evolution to complex riffs involving multiple instruments and vocals, but it’s one to enjoy on its own right as part of that rich New Orleans tapestry. Play it brother.

 

Just Like A Monkey (Cinderella, 1963)
A kind of stripped back version of a famous (and excellent) number from the Miracles, retaining and indeed, emphasising the Diddley beat but, instead of alternating between tonic and subdominant (as on the original), going for a single chord approach and switching to the sub-dominant for horn riffing between verses which creates a rather other-worldly effect.

Gotta Have More (Blue Jay, 1964)
The first few bars of this record will have you saying “it’s good, but surely it’s just more standard NOLA stuff” as that chord sequence you’ve heard a million times before – particularly from New Orleans – seeps in through the ear drums. But gradually other aspects emerge, the tautness of the riffing and the interplay between the Bo voice, the backing vocals (credited on the label as the Barons) and the instrumentation. The grunts and exhortations that were starting to appear more on records like this were also standard tropes in both funk and disco.

While talking about possible influences on James Brown, one also has to bear in mind the propensity of Eddie himself to soak up influences like a sponge, indeed much more so than the majority of other New Orleans artists, and Brown himself would undoubtedly have been one such influence. I also wonder whether the title Gotta Have More was a sly comment on the title of the most popular record by an earlier influence, Willie Mabon, with that record being Gotta Have Some.

Our Love (Will Never Falter) (Blue Jay, 1965)
Signs on this track that Eddie’s listening had expanded to take in what was happening in places like Detroit and Chicago in addition to his continued fondness for Charles and Brown but there’s a near funk groove going on underneath it all which threatens to break out when the trumpeter grabs his instrument during the break.

Fee-Fie-Jum-Bo-Li (Blue Jay, 1965)

A minor key, single chord affair which starts off with a spidery guitar followed by Bo himself with some nursery rhyme stuff before extemporising (and he might have been tickled to include his name in the title). Can I use that word again? F**k.

The only clip on YT was uploaded by a Jonathan Toubin who signs off as “Soul Proprietor, New York Soul Train”. His introduction to the track kicks off with “Looking for details about this one I found out that there’s not as much as a sound sample of this one online. And what a shame because this one’s one of Bo’s killer dillers.” And closes with: “A secret masterpiece by one of the all-time greats.”

Even more interesting is the solitary Comment from a gent called Richard Rowley, five years ago. I’ve reproduced it (in full, but slightly reformatted) below.

“I’ve been looking for this for years. I’m playing Lead Guitar on it, and it was recorded at Cosmo’s Studio, in New Orleans, LA. At that time, I was part of “The Infernos” band playing at the Masque Lounge, which was part of the Mardi Gras Bowling Alley in Gentilly. Jimmy Migliacio was the proprietor, and he also produced this recording. Jean Knight and Oliver Morgan stopped by and listened while we were recording.

Here’s the interesting part … We had no idea what we were going to record, and just for kicks I played that “intro” guitar lick. When Eddie Bo heard it, he came over to me and asked that I do it again. From there, Eddie sat down at the piano and started writing lyrics and the structure of the song. Five minutes later we had this groove going. Don’t know the name of the band, but this was not “the Infernos”.

I was only 18 years old at that time.”

From This Day On (Seven B, 1966)
A splendido curtain-opening from Spanish trumpets followed immediately by an arpeggio of mangled strings and then, well what? A Western theme combined with Detroit soul? In their obit for Eddie, The Guardian called this “an intoxicating and individual concoction”. There’s less funk here but plenty of evidence that Eddie was growing increasingly confident at mixing sonic components.

Falling In Love Again (Seven B, 1966)
This title never enters my mind without the image of Marlene Dietrich, both visual and aural, and the song with same title. Whether Eddie ever heard Marlene, who knows, but his song is energetic and exhilarating rather than sweet but sombre, with lyrics matching his mood: “I’m bipping when I aughta be bopping / I’m running when I aughta be stopping”.

 

FUNK (1966–2009)

In the James Brown Toppermost which was co-written by Cal Taylor, Ceri Taylor and myself, I contributed the section on JB moving to a funk approach and also several of the footnotes. Due to the fact that I wouldn’t claim to have massive knowledge of the world of funk, I did a fair amount of background reading on the subject and documented my view of what funk is in Footnote #6 to which I would refer the reader. Of interest also might be Footnote #5 on ‘call and response’ and Footnote #7 which lists pointers towards funk in earlier Brown records. Given my enhanced appreciation of Eddie’s role in taking on board and progressing funk within the New Orleans musical community, I have modified the Brown footnotes and this is discussed within the footnotes to this essay.

On to the records …

Can You Handle It (Bo-Sound, 1969)
The multi-part riff but with evolving variation and with a splendid piano – played by Eddie himself one presumes – which wanders in and out. This one is in, in part because it’s about as close as Eddie gets to the formula as laid down by the Godfather of Funk himself, but more so because of those fruity horns which place the record firmly in the New Orleans tradition.

And, like my next one, there was a motto – or what I’m inclined to call one of Eddie’s aphorisms – nested within the extended version of the title line:

If you can’t handle it, leave it alone

We’re Doin’ It (Thang) (Bo-Sound, 1970)
Multiple seventies sounding guitars, a drum beat that conjecture says might be a loop and Eddie interacting with the ladies in the chorale. Reportedly the track has been sampled on four occasions with one of those being for the famous Dirty Harry from Gorillaz.

Check Your Bucket (Bo-Sound, 1970)
Minimalist melody and a lyrical theme that had crossed the tracks to Hank Williams and here it was back again in black territory. Yup, it’s My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It with Eddie playing up the metaphorical aspects of that title:

When your kisses fail to move her
And your rap does not seem to groove
And your touch don’t turn her on
Brother as sure as you’re born
Your bucket gotta hole in it
Your bucket gotta hole in it

So, what do you do? Check your bucket, of course. A delightful effort. Less James Brown than my first in this grouping but plenty of Eddie Bo.

 

OTHER ARTISTS/COLLABORATIONS

There are loads of records which fall under this heading; in the seventies in particular, he took a step sideways and focussed more on producing, arranging and usually composing and his presence was invariably there, right in front of you, sometimes in disguise, sometimes not, as in the track with the mysterious Ms Cheatham (see later).

Martha Nelson/Carter (see earlier and footnotes)
I Don’t Talk Too Much (Ric, 1960)
An answer record to You Talk Too Much from fellow New Orleans artist Joe Jones, earlier on in the same year (and on the same label but distributed by Roulette). The arrangement is more subdued than on the Jones song but perhaps it was felt that that was a better fit to the title. While Ms Carter released the grand total of four 45s, Eddie also produced fine soul platters from ladies whose output consisted of no more than one record and whose names haven’t been forgotten, they just never established any recognition at the time due to lack of promotion.

Johnny Adams
Going To The City (Dynamics, 1965)
One that didn’t find its way into the Adams Toppermost with Johnny somewhere between his smooth and his gritty approaches. Note the novel usage of the backing singers in what would normally have been the break.

“Candy” Phillips
Timber (Atlantic, 1965)
The quotation marks immediately tell us that an alias has been used but they don’t tell us why. The singer was, in fact, Chris Kenner whose semi-inebriated tones should be immediately recognised by any New Orleans music fan (and yes, it’s very likely that he was inebriated). The hollered “CUT(s)” come from Eddie. There’s a limited melody present but in other respects the track is pointing clearly in the funk direction, and Eddie might have still had it in mind when he got involved with the one below.

Roger And The Gypsies
Pass The Hatchet (Seven B) 1966
Sometimes mistakenly referred to as an Eddie Bo record with our hero operating under an alias, but in fact Mr. Bo only came in right at the end of the creation of this little baby. The guys responsible for the record were Earl Stanley and the Stereos. I’ll let Michael Hurtt of Offbeat tell the story:

“One day, Stanley’s cousin Roger Leon stopped by. Roger barely even played guitar, but he’d come up with the only requirement necessary: a cool riff. He even had a title for his song-to-be: “Pass The Hatchet.” Stanley worked out a basic arrangement and the Stereos laid it down in the time left at the end of their next session. Joe Banashak at Seven B Records licensed it, ingeniously engaging Eddie Bo to whoop and holler over the track. The end result was one of the most hypnotic songs in all of New Orleans music, its wicked maraca shaking, compelling parade beat rhythms and crazed demands of “Let me chop it!” conjuring an intangible mystique.”

Earl himself apparently came up with the name “Roger And The Gypsies”, presumably a credit to Mr. Leon. In the same Offbeat article, Earl is quoted as saying, “Of all the producing that I ever did, the one I took the least interest in was ‘Pass The Hatchet,’ and that’s the one that made me all the money.” The record sold well locally but didn’t initially hit national consciousness. However, over the years it has achieved cult status, hopefully assisting Earl and Roger in their retirement.

The composer credits on the song are R. Leon, Jr., R. Theriot, E. Oropeza. The first we’re now familiar with, the second being Ray Theriot who was Earl’s partner in the founding and management of the Thunder Recording Company on St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans, and the last was Earl himself as in his full name, Earl Stanislaus Oropeza.

I’ll leave the final words on this record to Larry Grogan of Funky 16 Corners:

“Oooooohhhhhh MAMA!!! This is one of those records that when the needle hits the wax, if you ain’t dancin’ you’re DEAD! ‘The Bigger they come, the harder the fall! Let me chop it… let me chop it… LET ME CHOP IT!” and the drums begin again with renewed force, followed by the sinister rattle of maracas. When it stops, it stops without a fade, leaving the dancers with their heads spinning. Powerful stuff.”

Eddie Bo & Inez Cheatham
Lover & A Friend (Seven B, 1966)
The mystery about Ms Cheatham was her identity. In the liner notes to In The Pocket With Eddie Bo, author Bryce White reports that there had been an assumption amongst fans that the name was an alias. However, when the question is put to Eddie, he says: “Inez Cheatham is her real name. She was a background singer for Allen Toussaint before I picked her up. He wasn’t going to record her by herself. He had her strictly as a background singer.”

If I had to categorise this track I’d call it rock funk, with a guitarist not all that far from the action, and the structure not a million miles from twelve bar. What’s far more important about this record is the guy who kicks it all off on his drum kit. Here’s Eddie (from those liner notes again) on James Black, the man behind that drum kit, and, on another mystery, “The Pocket”:

“When I say put it in a pocket (to musician(s) – DS), you’ve got to develop a pocket. You play this, another one can play something with his foot. Like James. I never had to tell James what a pocket was. He’d go out of the pocket and play the pocket at the same time and go outside. Now how he got there, I don’t know, but all these rhythms he was playing, I didn’t need extra drummers or to hit on something extra, to get that second beat, he did it himself.”

Remember? James Black was there on Hook & Sling plus quite a few other crackers.

Doug Anderson
Hey Mama Here Comes The Preacher (Janus, 1971)
I’ve associated the term ‘rock funk’ with Lover & A Friend. Bryce White in his In The Pocket liner notes uses it in relation to this track and others. But it doesn’t illuminate who Doug Anderson is. The track is instrumental only, consisting of a relentless non-changing guitar riff in front of an organ playing vaguely spacey-sounding stuff around it. Not my favourite track on the album and didn’t come near my selections. However, flip it and you get something completely different. I Won’t Cry (I’ll Just Laugh Myself To Death) is a soul burner par excellence of the kind we tend to reserve the classification ‘Deep Soul’ for, with Doug turning it all on in the central role and Eddie providing the arrangement.

Finding anything out about the man wasn’t simple: the standard sources didn’t give me anything of note but a cross reference in 45cat pointed me towards a brief but informative article – contributed by Doug himself – in the estimable Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven. This is it.

 

BALLADS

I made very brief mention at the start of this essay of Eddie’s My Dearest Darling, a song which he co-composed with producer Paul Gayten while he was at Chess Records and which was released as a single in 1958. Description-wise I’d call it a blues ballad verging on early swamp pop, which course was born and thrived in Louisiana. It didn’t do anything for Eddie in terms of sales at the time but Chess didn’t forget the number and it was used as a vehicle for Etta James in the early stages of her Hot 100 chart run from 1960 through to 1964. Chess played up the ‘ballad’ aspect by giving Etta a big strings arrangement to an even greater extent than its predecessor, All I Could Do Was Cry, which was her breakthrough into the nation’s Top 50.

All I need
Is someone like you
My dearest darling
Please, love me too

Eddie always had a penchant for ballads and they continued to appear, often as flip sides or on LPs, throughout his career.

 

ALBUMS

For much of Eddie’s musical existence, his mode of communicating with the world was via singles rather than albums. In major part this was due to his habit of label-hopping and his lack of such chart success that would tempt a label to lavish one or more LPs on him. However, his early period has now been well covered by compilations including Check Mr. Popeye from Rounder in 1988, Baby I’m Wise: The Complete Ric Singles 1959-1962 from Ace UK in 2015 and Slippin’ And A Slidin’: Singles As & Bs 1956-1962 from Jasmine in 2020.

But after Eddie’s label Bo-Sound was well and truly bedded in, our man turned his mind to LPs and a veritable river followed. Some of these can be ordered from the Official Eddie Bo website which contains a limited discography of his work. The LP format gave him the chance to stretch out beyond the Part 1 and Part 2 format of most of his funk 45s.

Having his own label didn’t stop him recording for others of course. Both New Orleans Solo Piano (Night Train International, 1995) and Shoot From The Root (Soulciety, 1997) were positively reviewed by AllMusic.

Outside of Bo-Sound itself, the main compilations of funk material to look out for are: The Hook And Sling (Funky Delicacies, 1997), Eddy Bo’s Funky Funky New Orleans (Funky Delicacies, 1999) and In The Pocket With Eddie Bo (Vampi Soul, 2008). The last named can be recommended. Contained within its 28 tracks are a few devoted to the early days plus a significant number of the records Eddie produced for other artists. The presence of those tracks was an essential precursor to the generation of the section above entitled “Other Artists/Collaborations”. In addition, the album liner notes contain the results of a long interview with the man himself.

And last but by no means least, the album Eddie Bo & Chris Barber: The 1991 Sea-Saint Sessions was released in 2016 by Last Music Co. Quite why it had sat in the can for so long I don’t know and can only assume that it was due to Eddie’s relative obscurity in 1991. I’ll leave it to the reviewer in Music Republic Magazine to introduce the album:

“It was while Chris Barber was playing with Dr John for a month in New Orleans during 1991 that a friend suggested that Chris should rent Marshall Sehorn and Allen Toussaint’s “Sea-Saint” studio for a couple of days to cut Eddie Bo with some of New Orleans’ finest on the session. Eddie jumped at the opportunity and rounded up some top guns, starting with Bobby Bland’s long-time guitar player Wayne Bennett.”

It’s worth adding to the above that not only was Wayne Bennett, Bobby Bland’s long-time guitar player, he was also on the Blue Boy’s classic version of Stormy Monday Blues and at the time this album was cut he was a member of Eddie’s road band.

The set consists of a mix of Eddie’s current and earlier material with the odd oldie like Careless Love to remind us of really old New Orleans (and maybe to make Barber feel more at home) plus a few new numbers. About half of its tracks are on YouTube and, luckily for us, the album is on Spotify which, unfortunately, is not something you can say about any of his other funk albums.

I’ve selected one track from this set to complete the Ten, and it’s:

Wake UpEddie Bo & Chris Barber: The 1991 Sea-Saint Sessions (Last Music Co, 2016)
The number actually appears twice in the set; an abbreviated version is the opener and the full version takes up the final position. With the Barber trombone fitting neatly into riffing position and Bennett’s guitar extemporising throughout, I feel that the record offers a gentler form of funk than much of Eddie’s late sixties and seventies output but is still suggestive of the Crescent City.

 

 

FOOTNOTES

1. Eddie was fond of wearing a turban or some other form of eastern headgear but when or why this habit started isn’t documented.

2. I looked at both 45cat and SoulfulKindaMusic for singles – the latter sometimes had more shown than 45cat – but where possible utilised 45cat for release dates.

3. After Eddie died the authors of three key blogs put extra effort into celebrating his life and music: Home Of The Groove (Dan Phillips) with “In Pursuit Of Bo-Consciousness”; Funky 16 Corners (Larry Grogan) and The “B” Side (Red Kelly) and all three are well worth investigating.

4. Al Collins, not to be confused with the famous blues guitarist Albert Collins or the disc jockey Al “Jazzbo” Collins, has left minimal traces of his career on the world wide web. 45cat has him down as Al (Ace) Collins with his only release being Shuckin’ Stuff / I Got The Blues For You. For reference purposes, this is what the A-side sounds like. The Wiki entry for the Little Richard song, Lucille states:

“It was composed by Albert Collins (not to be confused with the blues guitarist of the same name) and Little Richard. First pressings of Specialty 78rpm credit Collins as the sole writer. Little Richard bought half of the song’s rights while Collins was in Louisiana State Penitentiary.”

The Wiki article refers to the online “Our Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame” and an entry from a “Bill G”. It uses exactly the same words as replicated above and doesn’t elaborate any more.

The only (very minor) resemblance I can see to either of the two tracks on the Collins single is the usage of the name “Lucille” in Shuckin’ Stuff (and that’s assuming that I’m hearing the lyrics correctly). I can add that Eugene Chadbourne writing in AllMusic manages to expand this fragment of information plus the sourcing of Slippin’ And Slidin’ into three whole paragraphs but you don’t learn any more about the mysterious Al Collins in the process.

5. 45cat lists a second record from Eddie appearing on Ace following his debut record coupling I’m So Tired with We Like Mambo. While it is surmised that label chief Johnny Vincent released the record in response to Eddie’s ‘official’ second single I’m Wise / Happy Tears appearing on the competing Apollo label, the dates for the two records – 1956 with no month for I’m So Tired and February 1956 for I’m Wise – don’t fully confirm the point. What we do know though is that only the A-side of the Ace single was an Eddie Bo track (presumably the only one left from his first session for the label), the flip was one that Vincent already had in the can from Huey Smith which would later see release with modifications including a title change, We Like Birdland.

6. The New Orleans French Quarter site has the following to say about the term “second line”:

“Second line parades are the descendants of the city’s famous jazz funerals and, apart from a casket, mourners and a cemetery visit, they carry many of the same traditions with them as they march down the streets.”

and

“The people who are part of the hosting organization are the “first line” of the parade (at a jazz funeral, this would be family members of the deceased, the hearse and band) while those who follow it along, dancing and often singing as they go, form what is known as the “second line.””

7. There’s very little information available about Martha Carter. The following appeared in Part 3 of Dan Phillips’ In Pursuit Of Bo-Consciousness blogs:

“What little is known about Martha Carter comes via Jeff Hannusch’s segment on her in his notes to Rounder’s compilation CD, New Orleans Ladies: Rhythm and Blues from the Vaults of Ric and Ron, which was also reproduced in his book, “The Soul of New Orleans”. From the city’s Ninth Ward, she came into the world as Martha Nelson and grew up singing in church, that great proving ground for so many soul vocalists. In the late 1950s, when just 16, she got the attention of Oliver ‘Nookie Boy’ Morgan and joined his band. When Bo encountered her a few years later in a nightclub, Carter was still a teenager but singing with the Porgy Jones Band, tackling jazz numbers along with the popular R&B of the day.”

She went on to make four singles for Joe Ruffino, three on his Ron label, and one under her maiden name of Martha Nelson on Ric. Phillips goes on to discuss the singles. One Man’s Woman released in 1961 and written by Eddie but produced by Harold Battiste gives a flavour.

8. To quote Wiki on the “Popeye Dance”:

“The Popeye was a popular dance in the dance craze era of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Originating in New Orleans around 1962, the Popeye was performed by shuffling and moving one’s arms, placing one arm behind and one arm in front and alternating them, going through the motion of raising a pipe up to the mouth, and alternate sliding or pushing one foot back in the manner of ice skating, similar to motions exhibited by the cartoon character. According to music historian Robert Pruter, the Popeye was even more popular than the Twist in New Orleans.”

Wiki goes on to tell us that a compilation of 23 Popeye dance songs was released in 1996 on an album entitled New Orleans Popeye Party. It lists several such songs of which the Huey Smith and Eddie Bo numbers are the ones most strongly associated with the dance.

9. In the original James Brown Toppermost, I wrote Footnote #6 (on the origins of funk) and the third para started:

“While many essays on the topic, including the one from Wikipedia, draw a strong correlation between funk and music emanating from New Orleans particularly that from the likes of Professor Longhair, I remain to be fully convinced.”

The research I have done for this Toppermost has caused a change in mindset, or to paraphrase a famous quotation: “This gentleman is for turning”. Wider reading on the subject suggests that Wiki might have been expressing a view that was not universally held. However, Eddie Bo’s music from the early sixties onwards (plus related research) has caused me to come much closer to that view.

Some background:

In 2013, Benjamin Doleac published an article entitled “Strictly Second Line: Funk, Jazz and the New Orleans Beat” in the online Ethnomusicology Review. In it, Benjamin stated:

“Since the 1960s, when James Brown essentially invented funk music by building on rhythms introduced to him by two New Orleans-schooled drummers, the relationship between “second line” and “funk” rhythms has been increasingly symbiotic.”

and, referencing the book “Give The Drummers Some” written by Jim Payne:

“Drummers Charles Connor and Clayton Fillyau were two of the many musicians schooled in the mixed feel of second line and New Orleans R&B rhythms. While the former was a native of the city who followed second lines and worked with Professor Longhair as a teenager, the latter hailed from Tampa. Both worked for “Godfather of Soul” James Brown in the early 1960s, and the rhythmic principles they introduced to the band would have a profound impact on Brown’s groundbreaking later work.”

It’s also pertinent to quote a little of the Wiki article on Chuck Connor:

“Connor’s first professional work as a drummer came in 1950, at the age of 15, when he was hired by Professor Longhair to play drums with him at Mardi Gras. Over the next three years, Connor played drums with Smiley Lewis, Guitar Slim, Jack Dupree, and Shirley and Lee. At the age of 18, in 1953, Connor became the drummer of Little Richard’s new, hard-driving rhythm & blues road band, The Upsetters.”

He was the man behind the drum kit on many of Richard’s Specialty records and went on to work in the James Brown band. The latter has said about him that he was “the first [drummer] to put funk into the rhythm” (from the Wiki article but also appears elsewhere).

In the foreground we have the music of Eddie Bo which is the best illustration I’ve seen of the type of New Orleans performances/arrangements that pushed Brown, helped by people like Connor, into funk, and then moved forward in an eerie parallel manner into funk itself in the second half of the sixties. I’m not naïve enough to think that JB was devouring Eddie’s releases but it’s not unlikely that he didn’t hear the odd one like Check Mr. Popeye.

10. In The Guardian obituary on Eddie, they quote the man himself on how he came to get involved in the Earl Stanley and the Stereos / Roger and the Gypsies record. Apparently, the group were working on the track but it wasn’t coming out right and …

“Me, Tommy Ridgley and Irma Thomas had gone fishing, and when we came back, we passed by the studio,” he recalled. “We dropped Irma off, and they asked me to come in and see what I could do with this. And me bein’ stupid, I said; ‘Well, I’ll fix it for you.’ So I arranged it, and me and Tommy put our vocals into it, and I told him what to say. It was spontaneous, you know? My name’s not even on it. That hurts.”

11. There’s an addendum to the record with the mysterious lady vocalist, A Lover And A Friend (with information courtesy of Dan/Phillips/Home Of The Groove). Dan reports that after Eddie had his falling-out with Joe Banashak and stopped working for his (Joe’s) labels, Joe gave his artists and then current projects to Huey Smith. The latter used the backing to A Lover And A Friend as the base for an artist called Little Buck and the song, Little Boy Blue.

12. “He also bought a doctor’s office and salon on Banks Street which he and his manager converted into an eatery for fans called “Check Your Bucket” after his 1970 hit. Like his home and recording studio it was hit by Hurricane Katrina while Bo was on tour in Paris. Due to Bo’s carpentry and bricklaying skills he took on the task of completing the hurricane damage repairs himself.” (Wiki)

13. Eddie appeared on two Willy DeVille albums, Victory Mixture and Big Easy Fantasy. He’s also featured playing (and singing) in this clip of Willy performing Every Dog Got His Day.

14. Eddie died of a heart attack near his home in Picayune, Mississippi, just outside New Orleans on 18th March 2009 although according to this report from his son Owen, there are mysteries relating to the death and the events that followed. A memorial concert was held for him on 1st April 2009. The musical guests included Dr. John, Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint.

15. In December 2005, an album was released entitled Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album For The Gulf Coast. The Wiki writer refers to it as “an album which presents songs recorded in September and October 2005, shortly after the failure of misdesigned levees flooded New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. With the destruction of their hometown fresh in their minds, New Orleans artists set about making music that directly acknowledges the city”. Eddie appears on the album together with the artists whose names have already appeared in the previous footnote plus others including the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Wild Magnolias and Buckwheat Zydeco. Here’s Eddie with The Saints.

I wanna be in that number …

 

 

 

 

Eddie Bo photo 2

Eddie Bo (1929-2009)

 

Eddie Bo official website

Eddie Bo Discography (by Record Label)

Eddie Bo at 45cat

Eddie Bo biography (AllMusic)

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, #15 Huey “Piano” Smith, #16 Roy Brown, #17 Johnny Adams, #18 Eddie Bo, #19 Guitar Slim

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

TopperPost #1,008

3 Comments

  1. Carl Parker
    Feb 10, 2022

    Thanks for this introduction to Eddie Bo’s music.
    I have to admit that I had never heard of him until now, and it’s hard to understand exactly why. While I don’t claim to be a huge aficionado of New Orleans music, I’ve heard a fair amount of it over the years and from what I have listened to, from your links above, he could hold his head up with the best of them.
    He should have been much better known. I will enjoy filling this gap in my musical knowledge over the next few months.

  2. Andrew Shields
    Feb 10, 2022

    Like Carl hadn’t heard of Eddie before this, but really enjoyed the music here. Excellent Toppermost as always.

  3. Dave Stephens
    Feb 11, 2022

    Carl, Andrew, thanks for your kind words. I’ll try and answer your question(s). As I see it there are several reasons why Eddie doesn’t often get mentioned alongside many of the other New Orleans names like Doe, Dorsey, Hill, Kenner etc. In part his habit of switching labels probably worked against him in terms of sales and hence, recognition. In addition, although his skills for arranging and production were considerable, I don’t think his abilities in the area of composition quite matched them. Or to put it another way, not that many of his melody lines have great stickability in the brain. One exception of course is ”I’m Wise” but that came from someone else. Vocally also, Eddie didn’t stand out like the others. Have a listen to one of those compilations from his early days – there’s one on Spotify – and I think you’ll see what I mean. I think Eddie’s main contribution was in bridging the gap from New Orleans R&B, which was largely disappearing by the second half of the sixties, to funk (a point I attempted to make, possibly at boring length, in the essay).

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