King Floyd - Handle With Care (CHIMNEYVILLE 10202)
Handle With Care
In September of 1969, King Floyd had just about had it with the music business, and left Battiste, Rebennack et al to return to his native New Orleans and get a job in the Post Office. He had released an album on PULSAR ("A Man In Love") in 1967 that didn't do much, and was co-authoring some material for other artists (see last week's entry), but that wasn't puttin' no bread on the table. Floyd had written some lyrics, along with a bass line, for a new song that he submitted to Battiste, but was unhappy with the arrangement his people came back with ("...all pretty with the flutes and all of that in it..."). That was when he decided to head on home.
He shopped his tune around to some local artists without much luck. It was then that he came to the attention of the Creole Beethoven, Wardell Quezergue. Quezerque's NOLA record label had just folded, owing thousands of dollars in unpaid studio fees to Cosimo Matassa. He had worked out an arrangement with upstart MALACO records in Jackson, Mississippi that afforded him free studio time in exchange for exclusive rights on the music he produced there. Wardell, a true musical genius, would work out arrangements in his head, then rehearse the Malaco studio musicians until he felt they had it down. Once they recorded the instrumental backing tracks, he'd bring his stable of New Orleans talent up to Jackson in a rented school bus to lay down the vocals.
It was one of these artists, C.P. Love, who offered to give up his slot of studio time so that Floyd could record the song he had written back on the west coast. The vocals for "Groove Me" were recorded in one take, and the song was released as the B side of "What Our Love Needs". New Orleans disc jockey George Vinnett of WYLD flipped the record over and soon got the whole town rockin' and a boppin' to Quezergue's infectious funky beat. It wasn't long before ATLANTIC records was clamoring for distribution rights, and Floyd had a bona-fide monster hit on his hands with the number one record in the country, almost a year to the day after he left California (it would go on to top Billboard's 1970 R&B chart)!
In a way it was this sudden success that caused much of Floyd's superb subsequent output to be ignored. Although he would chart a few more times for Malaco's CHIMNEYVILLE label (most notably with "Baby Let Me Kiss You" in 1971 and "Woman Don't Go Astray" in '73), in many ways he is looked upon as a "one hit wonder".
Our current selection, the B side of the funked up "I Feel Like Dynamite", was released in 1974. This song, to me, is a true southern soul masterpiece, and shows the depth of Floyd's talents, not just as a singer, but as a songwriter as well. Quezergue's sparse guitar-driven Memphis-styled arrangement of the Malaco studio crew is just da bomb!
With that said, check out what MALACO has to say on the subject (both on the web and in the liner notes of their excellent box set, The Last Soul Company); "By 1974... Atlantic had not renewed their distribution option on Chimneyville, King Floyd had become difficult to work with, and Wardell Quezergue seemed to have lost his magic touch." (!) It seems to me more like they weren't makin' any money and were apt to overlook any of Floyd's compositions that didn't mimic the success of his first hit (for Dan Phillips' take on all of this, please check out the mighty Home of the Groove...).
A Greatest Hits album of Floyd's more obvious stuff is available, as is an excellent sampler of Wardell Quezergue's tenure at Malaco that was released last year (it appears that today's B side is even on there!).
King Floyd is still around today, and actually released an album on Malaco in 2000 - Old Skool Funk.
Groove me, baby.