Two early R&B singers celebrated and “One Love”

As best as I can tell, Barbara George and Bobby Mitchell never recorded together but these two New Orleans R&B artists might have crossed paths while cutting records at J&M Studio (Cosimo Matassa).  If they did, they might have noticed they had the same birthdays. Start the show and read on.

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Bobby Mitchell

Born in Algiers on August 16, 1935, Bobby Mitchell was the second of 17 children and might have developed his singing ability just to get noticed among his sibling crowd. In 1950, Mitchell formed the first New Orleans doo wop group, The Toppers.  Their first recording was in 1953 with “I’m Crying” and “Rack “Em Up.” Later, when that group was decimated by the draft, Mitchell recorded with a seven-piece with his biggest hit being “Try Rock ‘n’ Roll.” In 1957, he got on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand with “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday” (you will hear that one on this show). But it was Fats Domino’s version that was a bigger hit.  Mitchell suffered early heart problems and retired in the early 60’s.  He became an x-ray technician at Charity Hospital and died on March 17, 1989. I start the show with Mitchell’s “Mama Don’t Allow” and later you’ll hear him singing “Sister Lucy.”

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Barbara George

 

Barbara George was born in Charity hospital on August 16, 1942. Since she was younger, she didn’t get into the J&M studio until 1961, working under the guidance of Harold Battiste and AFO records. Her most recognizable song is  the number 1 R&B song in its time, “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More).” Later in 1961, AFO produced the one and only Barbara George album “I Know” featuring mostly songs she wrote.  I play “I Know” and a song she recorded in 1968 with Eddie Bo’s help, “Something You Got.”

This show also features some reggae, including two versions Bob Marley’s “One Love” — the first by One Love Brass Band and the second one by The Nevilles performing live at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Speaking of Nevilles, Charmaine Neville and her band does a spacey number called “Rocket Nine” or “Rocket V” depending on whether you listen to the recording or read the liner notes.

As always, thanks for tuning in and let me know what you’d like to hear in the future.  Cheers.

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Big Sam delivers on promise of more dance music

Big Sam’s Funky Nation visits the Northwest this week so this show features two of his songs and a short interview with the band’s charismatic frontman Sam Williams. Let’s get started and I’ll tell you more.

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Big Sam’s Funky Nation

Big Sam just got back from a tour of Spain when I talked with him today about his trip to the west coast. He leaves tomorrow (Friday, August 3rd) for San Francisco. He’ll play Mississippi Studio in Portland on Monday, August 6 and the Nectar Lounge in Seattle on Tuesday, August 7.

We talked about how he lost his prized trombone when his touring van got broken into last time he came out to the west. We also talked about how Wendell Pierce copied some of his moves and his style when he played Antoine Batiste in the HBO TV show Treme. In fact the broad outline of the character was patterned after Mr. Williams.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation’s new release Songs in the Key of Funk  delivers on his earlier promise to include more dance songs. In this show, I play “What’s My Name (Big Sam” and “Buzzin.” But to get those songs and the interview, you have to listen to few other sets including a set of Led Zeppelin cover songs featuring a sousaphone on “Dyer Maker” and a three trombone salute to “When the Levee Breaks.”

Rolling with the HBO theme, Davis Rogan sings about the hassles of fake pot when acting in a song called “Prop Weed.” Also, this show includes my favorite version of St. James Infirmary, a rocking version led by Clint Maedgen and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band

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A Full House: Three Kings and Two Shows

I’ve got two shows to share with you this week because I had to dash off last week and didnt’ have a chance to edit and upload until now

Start with this one which has three “kings” in it.

little freddie kingI celebrated Little Freddie King’s birthday with a song by him followed by a song by his namesake, Freddie King.  (That’s two of the kings). Little Freddie King is actually Fred Martin and he turned 78 last week.  I spin “I Used to be Down” from his latest release.  To get to that song though, I “force” you to listen to two jazz and rhythm and blues sets that include  tracks from new releases by Jon Cleary,  Sabertooth Swing and Tin Men. I hope you can survive and stick with the show for the third king.

Later in the show, I do a set of songs that Elvis Presley popularized, including Smiley Lewis singing “One Night of Sin.”  Elvis took the melody but toned down the lyrics so it was moreof  a love song and less of a confessional.  I did this so I could talk about “The King” a documentary about the American Dream viewed from the perspective of Elvis Presley’s life.  I interviewed the director, Eugene Jerecki for a different program, and I include a one-minute clip of that interview where he describes the amazing music in this movie.

The July 26 show celebrates saxophonists Kevin Harris’ birthday by playing “Swampthang” from the New Orleans Suspects live album recorded at the Maple Leaf club.  Kevin Harris, who performs with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, blows his horn with with the Suspect’s Jeff Watkins that must made that old nightclub feel like it was coming down.  This song alone is worth playing the show but you’ll also hear  Lil Queenie (and Dog Days by Leigh Harris), Dr. John, Charmaine Neville, Lena Prima, Slim Harpo, Zigaboo Modeliste, Larry Garner, Tab Benoit to name a few.

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Helen Gillet performs on Gumbo YaYa and at Olympia concert

Jazz-based cellist, singer, composer and improviser Helen Gillet graced the KAOS studio during my July 12, 2018 show.  She also performs this evening in my backyard.  Go ahead and get the radio show started which begins with Jon Cleary’s new song “Big Greasy.”

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Helen is a total pro.  Despite feeling under the weather, she braved I-5 traffic and arrived exactly when she said she would.  She set up quickly with the help of our talented KAOS Music Department and as a result, we got to spend over an hour together on the air talking about her music, New Orleans and she performed one of my favorite’s (“Atchafalaya”).

She also talked a bit about her experience learning the cello in Singapore and the difficulties with how to categorize her music which is so difficult to define yet so pleasing to listen to.

I’m sorry if you missed the Olympia concert. Subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss the next one.

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Honoring Henry Butler, Smiley Lewis and Freedom

Welcome to my July 5th, 2018 edition of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.  There’s lot to love about this extra-long show so go ahead and get it started.

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Henry Butler performing in Port Townsend, WA in August 2017. He died July 2, 2018.

We lost Henry Butler on Monday, July 2 to colon cancer. He was born in New Orleans September 21, 1948 and grew up in the Calliope housing project. He lost his sight to glaucoma as an infant and learned how to play a variety of instruments while attending the Louisiana State School for the Blind. He was known for piano playing, smoothly handling jazz, blues, classical and improvisation and had a powerful voice. He was a teacher and entertainer. In this show, I play his “Down by the Riverside,” “Henry’s Boogie” and “Jamaica Farewell.”

Throughout the show, I touch on the theme of America and Freedom as interpreted by New Orleans musicians including songs by Shamarr Allen and Dee-1 (“Only in America”), Rebirth Brass Band (“Freedom”), and Delfeayo Marsalis (“Make America Great Again” with Wendell Pierce.)

I also celebrate Smiley Lewis’s birth anniversary (July 5, 1913) with “Shame, “Shame, Shame” and “Don’t Jive Me.”

The first song is by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band with “Dead Dog in the Road.” New songs by Shawn Williams, Tin Men, and Cyril Neville.  And much more in this extra long edition of the show.

 

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Here’s a glimpse into New Orleans country music scene

Two June CD releases are burnishing the city’s country music reputation and you’ll hear tracks from both in today’s show. Start it rolling and then learn more about Shawn Williams and Gal Holiday.

shawn williamsShawn Williams’ second album Motel Livin’ is a gripping compendium of lyrical songs that leave me a bit unnerved but fully entertained.  Her voice haunts and I’m going to enjoy digging deeper into this new release.  I play “Best of Me” and later “Buried Alive.”

More upbeat and more battle worn is Gal Holiday and her Honky Tonk Revue with the new release Lost & Found. Almost a decade before The Deslondes formed, Gal Holiday (aka Vanessa Niemann) broke ground on the new wave of country in New Orleans. And true to her band’s name, you can dance to her music. I play “Found Myself Instead” and “Desert Disco.”

While Luke Winslow-King’s music has been difficult to describe, I’ve never thought of it as country until his latest release Blue Mesa. You can listen to his “After the Rain” and decide for yourself.

To keep the roots vibe rolling, I follow these sets up with The Big Dixie Swingers with “I Haven’t Got a Pot,” Eric Lindell with a live version of “Bayou Country” and The Radiators doing “Straight Eight.”  Also, an encore performance of Albanie Falletta who charmed the smart attendees of her concert at Traditions Cafe in Olympia Sunday night.

Jazz sets follow and if you’re patient enough I finish with Dash Rip Rock’s “Let’s Go Smoke Some Pot” in honor of the State of Oklahoma adopting a medical cannabis initiative this week.

Oh and I almost forgot, while digging through the KAOS studio’s vinyl vault I found Danny Barker’s 1988 release Save the Bones  and I played his version of “St. James Infirmary.” Struck by his riffing on the traditional lyrics description of his funeral, I thought about Fred Johnson’s  description of how Danny Barker’s traditional funeral came about that I recorded in October of 2017 in his office in New Orleans.  You’ll get to hear the story as well on this show.

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Gumbo YaYa serving thick in jazz, spiced with Carbo

This week’s show serves up a strong doze of New Orleans style jazz and swing but also country and rhythm and blues, including a classic by Chuck Carbo.  Get it started while I tell you who else is in the show.

Albanie Falletta’s wonderful “Black Coffee Blues” kicks off the show, followed by a swinging love song by Antoine Diel, Al Hirt and his band at his best with “Yellow Dog Blues,” and the amazing Aurora Nealand performing “Touploulou.”

Dee Dee Bridgewater does a duet with Glen David Andrews on “Whoopin’ Blues.” David Egan rocks its with “Dead End Friend” and Eddie Bo does the instrumental “Just Wonder.”

carboStay with the show for Chuck Carbo’s “Meet Me with Your Black Drawers On.”  After a country set featuring new releases by Gal Holiday and Shawn Williams, jazz fans patience will be rewarded  with the Riverside Jazz Collective” “Just Gone” from their new release, Stomp Off, Let’s Go.

Also, this show includes songs by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Larry Williams, James Andrews, Galactic, Dr. Michael White, the Big Dixie Swingers, Bon Bon Vivant, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Quintron.

 

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With one hand, New Orleans piano player let the good times roll

This week’s show is about the one-handed piano player you have likely heard but not heard of. Edward Frank played on scores of R&B hits created in the Cosimo Matassa cauldron in the 50’s and early 60’s. But there’s more to the story so go ahead and get this week’s show started, kicked off by BeauSoleil’s “Bon Temps Rouler.”

EDWARD FRANK

Edward Frank on piano.

This show celebrates Edward Frank’s birth anniversary. He was born June 14, 1932  and died in February 1997.  Despite his early R&B history, he spent his later years playing more contemporary jazz at venues such as the Palm Court Cafe and Preservation Hall. He was a talented horn arranger and keyboardist, involved with  Dr. John’s “Goin’ Back to New Orleans,” the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s”Jelly,” Snooks Eaglin’s “Soul’s Edge,” Tommy Ridgley’s “Since the Blues Began”and Chuck Carbo’s  “Drawers Trouble” and “The Barber’s Blues.”

Frank was born and attended high school in New Orleans. Except for a stint at college and some time in Houston working Bobby Blue Bland, he mostly made his home in New Orleans.  He also played in Europe with Lillian Boutte.  His performances were made more remarkable because of a disability that rendered his left arm paralyzed. This show features Frank playing piano on songs by Lloyd Price, Bobby Charles and Shirley and Lee (backing them up on their hit, “Let the Good Times Roll.”)

But first you’ll be treated to a set that includes Carlo Ditta’s “Tell It Like It Is,” the New Orleans Jazz Vipers’ “Swing that Music” and Professor Longhair recorded live in Chicago.

Stay with the show after the Edward Frank set because Davis Rogan, another New Orleans piano player, calls into the show to talk about how he was given a valuable life lesson by Ed Frank after losing a spot in Kermit Ruffin’s band.  This show also has songs by Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Hot 8 Brass Band (doing a long cover of “Sexual Healing”), Chocolate Milk, Corey Henry, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and a new song by Gal Holiday and her Honky Tonk Revue.

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June Yamagishi delivers excellent argument for open borders

June Yamagishi shocked his agent when he announced that despite a revered career as a guitarist in Japan, he wanted to live and work in New Orleans. On the occasion of his 65th birthday, this episode of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa celebrates his decision. But wait there’s more. (But go ahead and get the show started)

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June Yamagishi playing with Cyril Neville and Corey Henry in October 2017.

Chocolate Milk, a popular New Orleans funk band from the 70’s, kick the show off with their opening song from their 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival performance.  I follow that up with a set of music featuring June Yamagishi and his guitar. Two tracks from Papa Grows Funk, a band he was part of for 13 years. Because he also loves Mardi Gras Indian music, I included a song by The Wild Magnolias that features some strong Yamagishi licks.

Also, here’s a link to a short video of his cameo appearance on the HBO show, Treme, where he is trying out for the band being assembled by Wendell Pierce’s character.

From this point in the show, I swing through a jazz set that starts with a classic King Oliver number from the late 1920’s and finishes with a recent recording by Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring an original song.

Coco Robicheaux kicks off the next set which offers two songs about the importance of keeping on the good side of your woman. Paula of Paula and the Pontiacs sings about the importance of getting the coffee (grind) right while Larry Garner, with help from Buckwheat Zydeco, does a number called “Ms. Boss.”

Three contemporary zydeco and cajun numbers push the boundaries of those genres with the help of Bonsoir Catin, the Lost Bayou Ramblers and Rosie Ledet.  A country/folk sets follows before I swing back into funk and finish with a genre-busting song by the BlueBrass Project.   Actually, Irma Thomas gets the last word with “Since I Fell for You,” with Dr. John on piano.

There now, lots of reasons to keep listening.  Thanks for tuning in.

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Funky Eliza Jane and Satchmo’s famous quote star in today’s show.

“I don’t know, boss. . but I won’t do it again,” is allegedly how Louis Armstrong responded to a pointed question from the president of Okeh records when he asked him who was playing trumpet on a song recorded by a competing label. The song was “Drop that Sack” and you’ll hear it on today’s show.

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Armstrong strayed from his label briefly to record with Vocalion under a band named after his wife Lil Harden.

Helen Gillet’s memorable “De mémoire de Rose opens the show followed by Satchmo’s 1926 recording and a live recording of Big Sam’s Funky Nation at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival doing almost 12 minutes of funk with some familiar touchstones throughout, including “Eliza Jane.”

I do a set of jazz, swing numbers followed by a Latin-inflected number by Charmaine Neville and her band appropriately titled “Dance.”  I break into the new release by Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue and offer up some New Orleans Suspects, Seth Walker, Professor Longhair and Lena Prima.

Near the end of the show catch a great number sung by Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes with the Smoky Greenwell Band followed by Rosie Ledet’s “It Might Be You” from her latest release. If you stay with me long enough, you’ll catch another Helen Gillet number.

Thanks for tuning in.

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