Sunday, 09 February 2014
ELDER MUSIC: Songs About Cities - New Orleans
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
This is easy for me today and it's hard. Easy because there are so many good songs about the city, hard because there are so many good songs about the city and trying to figure out which to omit is the hard part.
These are the tunes I selected. I could do another column with completely different music that would be just as good (musically, that is). It's all rather arbitrary. These are the tracks that caught my fancy today.
New Orleans is synonymous with the birth of jazz but the music from that city I prefer is from a later period, artists like Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Dr John, Lee Dorsey, the Neville Brothers and so on. A couple of those will be present today as well as a bit of New Orleans jazz. Other things as well.
The most obvious place to start - well, it is to me - is with a singer who is the musical heart and soul of New Orleans, FATS DOMINO.
Fats has several New Orleans songs in his canon so I chose one, not quite at random. He didn't write this song, the composer was Bobby Charles, but he said he had Fats in mind when he wrote it.
The song is one of Fats' most famous tunes, Walking to New Orleans.
LOUIS ARMSTRONG was born and bred in the city and probably more than anyone else, he developed jazz from a trivial entertainment into the art form it has become.
Louis recorded a number of tunes where he introduced the band. This is one of them, Where the Blues Were Born in New Orleans.
You'd think that with ELVIS next up there'd be a complete change of pace, but that's not entirely so.
There's certainly some Dixieland jazz on this track. Not surprising, really, as it was from the film King Creole which was the last of the decent films that Elvis made. All the rest after this were rubbish. The song is New Orleans.
Another song just called New Orleans is by HOAGY CARMICHAEL.
This is one Hoagy wrote himself and on the record he has the help of ELLA LOGAN.
Here they are with that song.
PROFESSOR LONGHAIR was known to his mum and dad as Henry Byrd, to others as Roy and to his fellow musicians as Fess.
Pretty much every pianist from that city who came after him was seriously influenced by his playing. Most of them acknowledge that debt. Fess's track is Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
BLUE LU BARKER was born Louise Dupont in New Orleans, of course.
Louise was an accomplished blues and jazz singer both on her own and with husband Danny Barker. She was a regular in the New Orleans music milieu and lived to the age of 84. Here she sings New Orleans Blues.
JIM PEARCE is a pianist and composer.
He has written themes for many TV programs as well as performing around the traps. Jim seems to have attracted a cult following which means that he's a really good muso but few people know about him. More should.
Here is My Last Parade in New Orleans.
WILSON PICKETT was one of the premier soul singers.
Along with many, perhaps most, singers in the genre he started in a church choir. After that he was a member of a gospel quartet and graduated to a soul group, singing pretty much the same way.
He left the group and became a solo singer and soon became as a good as soul singer as anyone (except Otis Redding and Sam Cooke). Wilson sings New Orleans.
JOE LIGGINS & The Honeydrippers were at their prime in the forties and early fifties.
Joe was from Oklahoma but moved to California in his teens. He lived in San Diego for a time and then went to Los Angeles, already a seasoned performer.
He formed The Honeydrippers with sax player Little Willy Jackson. The group was named after their first hit (or vice versa). Joe was one of the pioneers of the small jump blues band after the war that presaged rock & roll.
Here they are with Goin' Back to New Orleans.
Now for a complete change of pace, a pop song from 1959. I give you FREDDY CANNON.
Frederick Picariello, for that was the name his mum and dad gave him, had nothing to do with our city initially – he was from Massachusetts. However, he seemed to specialize in songs about places from all over the country.
Here is one of them, an old song that Freddy rocked up, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans.