Remembering the Swamp Fox

Tony Joe White ca. 1970

Tony Joe White burst onto the national music scene in 1969 with “Polk Salad Annie,” a top 10 hit inspired by Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe,” drawing on his real life experiences in rural Louisiana. Over the course of an uncompromising six decade career, Tony Joe kept it down home in both minimal bluesy recordings and gutsy live performances on guitar/harmonica and whomper stomper – his name for a Gibson distortion pedal.

His 1967 composition “Rainy Night in Georgia” was included on his second album Continued in 1969 only at his wife’s behest. Six weeks later, Atlantic Records super producer Jerry Wexler shipped White a new rendition by Brook Benton. As White put it in an interview with STB founder Ric Stewart in 2002, “It was like hearing the perfect voice sing those words back to me. I must have played it a 50  times in a row…” It shot to #1 in the R&B chart and #4 on the Pop chart in 1970 and Tony Joe was suddenly on top of the business.

Tony Joe White and STB founder Ric Stewart after an interview at the Warfield Theater in 2002.

Tony Joe White went on to record 16 studio records in a career packed with one great song after another. On September 28, 2018, White released Bad Mouthin’ (his first all-blues album) on Yep Rock Records, just a one month before his demise at age 75 from a heart attack.  The Oak Grove, LA native’s songs were often picked for covers by musical luminaries such as Tina Turner, Joe Cocker and Elvis Presley. Presley cut three Tony Joe White tracks and the two bonded. White related that Elvis would sometimes find him during sessions at Stax asking how to play some ‘bluesy licks.’ “He’d probably forget them in 10 minutes, but I’d show him anyway.” As the King was reinventing his sound in the early 1970’s, his stage shows featured “Polk Salad Annie” replete with Kung Fu stage moves.

White’s “Willie and Laura Mae Jones,” from 1969 album Black And White, was covered by Dusty Springfield on her definitive work, Dusty In Memphis. His appearance duetting on Johnny Cash’s TV show in 1970 was loose, full of laughs and captured the Man in Black’s appreciation for the Swamp Fox. For a moment, everyone wanted to be Tony Joe!

The respect from on high was to continue albeit after decades of a low profile solo career. On his long-awaited final release Chuck Berry covered Tony Joe’s “3/4 Time (Enchiladas).” The rock and roll pioneer described Tony Joe White to Rolling Stone in 2017 as “vastly underrated,” especially such songs as “Polk Salad Annie,” “Rainy Night in Georgia,” and “The Train I’m On.”

With the top talent offering such effusive praise, imitation and admiration, it’s inevitable that more fans will connect with White’s brand of authenticity. Quite possibly the greatest songwriter that not everyone knows, Tony Joe White’s unfiltered take on swamp rock and funky country blues already stands the test of time.

 

The Eddie Hinton Story – Will a troubled Southern R&B genius finally get his due?

He should have been a superstar along the lines of Eric Clapton. Or John Mayer. Someone like that. As gifted as he was as a soul singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Hinton should have been rich and famous instead of a tragic cult hero who died broke and broken, known mostly only to hardcore Southern R&B obsessives, a man whose best recordings aren’t even in print right now.

But that’s how the hand of fate works sometimes.

After moving to Muscle Shoals, Hinton played guitar on Staple Singers, Boz Scaggs, Waylon Jennings, Mavis Staples, Toots Hibbert and Jimmy Cliff records. His playing is featured prominently on the Aretha Franklin LP “This Girl’s in Love with You.” And “3614 Jackson Highway,” the underrated covers album Cher made at Muscle Shoals Sound, bearing that Sheffield studio’s now famous address.

 

Read the full story at: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2018/01/eddie_hinton.html

Tab Benoit at Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival

Down-Houma blues with Tab Benoit (Houma, LA) on the opening night of the 2016 Crescent City Blues & BBQ. Here is a clip of “Solid Simple Thing” from 2003’s The Sea Saint Sessions. Benoit has crafted an authentic gunslinging blues style over the last 30 years. He learned the ropes in Baton Rouge from blues heroes like Tabby Thomas and Henry Gray in the ’80’s.

The 3 day event in Lafayette Square Park is open to the public and put on by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Fats Domino – Singer R&B Explosion 1980

Fats Domino, New Orleans R&B pianist and vocalist updating his classics in a funkier vein with live performances of “I’m Walkin'” “Blue Monday” “I’m in Love Again” “I’m Ready” and “I Want to Walk You Home” in 1980. He powered hits such as “Blueberry Hill,” “Ain’t it a Shame,” and “Walking to New Orleans.” Also known by the nickname “The Fat Man,” the best-selling African-American musician in the 1950’s had an influence on Elvis Presley, the Beatles and many ska musicians who took note of his rhythms.

Domino was born in the Crescent City in 1928. He grew up speaking French Creole before English and had learned to play piano by the age of 7. Among his stylistic influences were blues pianists Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis and Little Willie Littlefield. Fats Domino’s music career took off in 1947 when Billy Diamond, a local bandleader and bassist heard him playing at a barbecue.

Domino signed onto Imperial Records and met Dave Bartholomew, who became his arranger and co-writer, in 1949. That year he and Bartholomew released the rhythm and blues cut “The Fat Man” which sold millions of copies and went gold in ’53. By the mid-50s Fats had become hugely popular with both black and white audiences. Despite his success with white listeners, Domino was still occasionally refused lodging on the basis of his race while on tour. His music releases were the most successful during his years with Imperial Records and Dave Bartholomew. After leaving New Orleans for Nashville in 1963 to transfer to ABC-Paramount, his records sales dropped off, in part due to changes in popular taste. Two years later he returned to New Orleans and reinvigorated his collaborative relationship with Bartholomew. In 1986, Fats was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but did not attend his induction ceremony. He continued to tour up until 1991, when he became concerned about his health and decided to remain in New Orleans. He even remained at his Gentilly home during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and had to be rescued from his attic as the flood waters rose in Orleans Parish. And the legend lives on!