Somebody's Gonna Miss Me
THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Listen my children and you shall hear a most improbable tale... a tale that even I couldn't have dreamed up. As a continuation of our journey with Sir Lattimore Brown
, I knew that things would remain interesting, but I wasn't prepared for this!
I had promised Lattimore that somehow, some way, I was going to get him back up on stage where he belonged. I poked around a little bit, and explored several possibilities, but for one reason or another, things just weren't coming together. After I received this note from him (on the bottom of his Soulscape
contract) in March, I knew I had to do something. "I won't let you down!"
he had told me again and again... how could I face myself down there in New Orleans knowing that he was only eighty miles away... it was a 'roll of the dice', I told myself, but I decided I had to do something
Things just kind of fell into place after that. Every phone call I made, every email I sent, the doors seemed to just open in front of me. From being able to secure a place to play at the last minute during Jazz Fest week, to being able to sign The Checkmates
to back him up, somehow it appeared it was all meant to be. With Studio Pollman
on board to supply the world class graphics, and WWOZ
behind us, things just started to snowball. We began working on a set list, and I sent Lattimore down the lyrics to a bunch of his songs, so he could get ready.
Then I lost him.
Like so many in his financial situation, he depends on these prepaid cards that add minutes to your cell phone, and once they run out, that's it. To tell you the truth, at his age It's amazing that he even has
a cell phone, but by the end of every month the money gets tight, the minutes run out, and you can't get through. Here I was committed to this concert, and promoting it all over the internet and the radio and everything, and every time I called him, I got this error message... I wasn't sleeping much. One day I got this phone call; "Red, if you need to reach me, you can call this lady. She'll get the message to me..."
Great. Once we got around to April, though, he bought another card, and the cell phone worked again. "Listen,"
I told him, "don't be running out the minutes on that card this month. The show isn't until the 27th, and I'm going to need to get a hold of you."
Only, of course, he did.
With just a week before the concert, I had no way to reach him. Days went by, I didn't hear from him... I was about to start checking area hospitals. Man!
I didn't even know his exact address! I hunted around and found that number he gave me. I decided to try and do a 'reverse look-up' on it, and what I found out just kind of broke my heart. The number was for the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen
, a volunteer food pantry in East Biloxi that feeds the needy and the hungry. This was this man's life, eating there most every day... and I was worried about things like lyrics and set-lists. I called and, sure enough, the kind folks there were able to put me back in touch with Sir Lattimore. He assured me that everything was fine, and that there was nothing to worry about. "I won't let you down!,"
he told me.
Then I got another phone call. "Hello Mr. Red, my name is Wraquel, and I never knew my father. The whole time I was growing up, I was told that his name was Sir Lattimore Brown, and I've been looking for him all these years. The other day at work, I just decided to do a Google search on him, and I found your website with the information about the concert in New Orleans. My mother and I would like to make the trip down there from Knoxville to see him."
I was floored! Unbelievable, my friends, this power of the internet. Wow. She sent me some photos she took on her cell phone, and as you can see, there is definitely a strong family resemblance! Of course, I wasn't sure how Lattimore was going to take the news, so I figured I'd let Wraquel, and her Mom, surprise him at the show...
With Chase Thompson
and the crew slated to meet me in Biloxi, I took off in search of Sir Lattimore. I found him living pretty much right around the corner from the Soup Kitchen, and we headed to Wal-Mart to buy him some much needed clothes and stuff (not to mention a new phone card!) before getting together that night for an impromptu rehearsal at a local motel.
He still had it, I thought... things were gonna be just fine. I slept like a baby.
When we got to New Orleans on Sunday, we found the town literally papered with posters and flyers thanks to Paul Pollman and his intrepid wife 'Honey', who actually carried them over from Amsterdam in their own luggage, then fearlessly set about hanging them just about everywhere. Together with WWOZ dee-jay Allan 'Alski' Laskey
, they made up our top notch advance team, and the whole town was talking about the return of Sir Lattimore the following evening.
We had dinner later that night with Jason Stone, the one and only Stepfather of Soul
, who had come into town with his wife to check out Jazz Fest, and help out any way he could. If you recall, it was Jason who had started this whole ball rolling in the first place, when he forwarded that fateful email to me. As it turned out, he would become an integral part of the crew, and I truly would have been lost without him. Thanks, Stepfather!
You know, I wasn't going to put this in, but I feel like I just have to - it's so New Orleans... Later that night, we tucked Lattimore into bed, and stepped out for a few beers on Frenchman Street. As I was standing out there in front of Bicycle Michael's
, I noticed this really drunk guy next to me. He was holding a brown cardboard box. In the box was an assortment of old glasses, and like knick-knacks. "What is this a traveling yard sale?" I asked him, "Yeah," he slurred, "everything in the box is two dollars." Well, I didn't really need anything, but... I peered down inside this like tall Hurricane glass and I saw this pair of dice. "I'll give you a dollar for them." I said, and put them in my pocket. I didn't think much of it, and by the time the rest of the crew showed up the yard sale guy had disappeared...
Alski had us scheduled to bring Sir Lattimore in for a live on-air interview and performance on Andrew Grafe's Blues Eclectic
program on WWOZ the afternoon of the show. With Wiley and the band not due to arrive until later on, the other two members of the Chase Thompson film crew volunteered to help out. With Aaron Little on guitar, and Ryan Walker on drums (who are also a part of the smokin' band featured on the new release Roy C Live
), we drilled Lattimore on the two songs he was going to sing on the radio. "Wait for that G Chord," we told him, "and pick up the key from there..." Only, of course, he didn't, and Aaron had to gamely drop it down a step to try and follow where it was he was headed... ah, the glories of live radio! This was my first inkling that maybe, just maybe, I was being a little naïve... that this whole thing wasn't going to go as smoothly as I thought.
Lattimore pulled it out, however, and the interview (and his version of I Know I'm Gonna Miss You
) got a lot better. Out in the hallway, he was reunited with Little Freddie King
. As it turns out, the two of them had worked together many times out on the circuit back in the day, and it was great to listen to the two of them reminisce... WWOZ is the only radio station I can think of where this would even have been a possibility, and I want to take a moment here to thank Jorgé Fuentes
and the rest of the gang up there for welcoming us in, and putting Sir Lattimore back out there on the airwaves!
We were due to meet the Checkmates for our only rehearsal with them at about 5 o'clock at The Banks Street Bar
. Before we even got started though, Wraquel and her mother Wilma showed up. I was hoping that we could wait till after the show, but the cat was now definitely out of the bag... Wilma had been a dancer with the Sir Lattimore Brown Revue out on the road, and when she got pregnant way back in 1968, her father convinced her that she should stop all that foolishness, and get a job. That's just what she did, and has just recently retired after putting in 40 years at the Post Office! You go, girl! I watched with bated breath as Lattimore was reunited with the daughter he hadn't seen since she was six months old... imagine? It just knocked him out. I mean, here is a man who's been living kind of desperately alone since Katrina hit, and he suddenly had a family again. It was pretty deep, to say the least, and I tried to just stay out of the way.
Nevertheless, we had a show to put on, and The Checkmates ran through the eight song set-list we had worked out with Lattimore, and things seemed to be going great. Like I said before, he still had soul, and by the time he got to the end of songs like I Wish I Felt This Way At Home
he was really showing me something. The hard work that the band had put in figuring out the arrangements and everything seemed to have paid off, and as the sun set on New Orleans, we were as ready as we were ever going to be. If he could pull this off again in a few hours, things were gonna be just fine...
With Alski spinning some great records inside, The Stepfather and I 'worked the door' as people began showing up in droves. Like I said, I never could have made it without him, as there was cash flying everywhere, and he helped me to keep things organized, and on an even keel. Celebrities like Mr. Fine Wine
, Anaïs Nohant
and Dave The Spazz
were on hand, as Wiley and the band went through their hot opening set. As serious journalists like Scott Barretta
, Bill Dahl
, and Johannes Wachter
showed up, I knew it was going to be a night to remember, one way or the other...
Professional photographer Jacob Blickenstaff
kindly consented to cover the show, and below are just a few examples of the incredible photographs he took to document Sir Lattimore's resurrection:
So, how was it? Well, I'll be honest with you, there were moments of brilliance, and there were moments when the Stepfather and I were cringing out there at the door (like when Lattimore decided to sing 'Blueberry Hill')... all in all, though, it was a historic event, and if there were problems, I put the blame squarely at my own doorstep for expecting this 77 year old man to pick up where he left off almost forty years ago, sing songs that he probably never even performed in the first place, and do it after only an hour's rehearsal with a band he'd never met. Considering all of that, he, and the Checkmates, did a positively fantastic job. There is that, and then there is the fact that he was walking out of there with a family he didn't even know he had.
I'd say it was an unqualified success.
The next morning at breakfast, with the film crew and The Stepfather already on their way back home, my cell phone rang. It was Doctor Ike, the Grand Poobah of the Mystic Knights of the Mau-Mau
. I had spoken with him last summer about Lattimore possibly appearing at the Ponderosa Stomp
, but when nothing came of it, I had decided to run the show the night before myself. I felt the dice in my pocket. Was I about to get chewed out for coming in and stepping on their turf? "Listen,"
he said, "No matter what, all of us are on the same road here. All of us want the same thing, to get these guys the recognition they deserve. Of course we want him for the Stomp, he belongs there!"
Great googly-moogly, folks, I couldn't believe it! We ironed out the details, and it was arranged that Sir Lattimore would do a couple of songs with Wiley & The Checkmates on Wednesday night, before their set with Bobby Patterson
I brought him around to the Ponderosa Stomp Music Conference
the next day so he could reconnect with Rick Hall
and Dan Penn
, both of whom had cut him at Fame and American Sound respectively, some forty years ago. Penn seemed especially blown away by the whole thing, and told me that he used to tune in Lattimore on his 'little green radio' when he was coming up, and that he idolized him right along with folks like Bobby Bland and Jimmy Reed.
Lattimore held court backstage at the House of Blues later that night, and it was kind of like Sunset Boulevard
as people who hadn't seen him in years came up and re-introduced themselves. As you may have noticed, that green suit we bought him last year was certainly getting some mileage, as he was one of the most nattily dressed performers at the Stomp! After watching the New Orleans R&B revue's Eddie Bo
tribute, and seeing our man Tony Owens
sing I Got Soul
, we split up for a while, until it was time to get ready for his set...
If you look closely at the picture of Lattimore and Wiley at left, you can see the imprint of the hot pink glitter lipstick that was just planted on him by one of the Billion Dollar Baby Dolls
, the infamous 'card girls' of the Stomp, who really took things to the next level. Surrounded by beautiful women once again, just as he had been back in the Twirlers
days, he was in seventh heaven. With a renewed sense of energy and focus, Sir Lattimore hit the stage and just tore it up:
Special thanks go out to our man 'Francis Ford' Pollman for capturing the whole set on video, after we had lost our film crew and all of that... You just gotta love it, folks - "I want all my beautiful friends right here, the ladies who got so much soul to come around here and get up on this stage... we gonna have a ball in here tonight, we come here to party... and we want everybody to leave here tonight happy, feeling good, and have something to talk about for a long time to come."
Mission accomplished, Lattimore.
It was an incredible night, to say the least. We left there on cloud nine, just so thrilled that Dr. Ike had offered us the chance to step up to the plate, and play with the big boys. Just like he had promised me, Sir Lattimore hadn't let me down...
On Friday morning my phone was ringing off the hook... I was getting text messages up the wazoo. Did I see it yet? Lattimore was in the New York Times... What?
It took me a while to actually see it (thanks, Noah!), but sure enough, in the New York Times coverage of The Ponderosa Stomp, Sir Lattimore Brown was featured as one of the four photographs they used for the article. As I looked at it, though, something was wrong... he wasn't on the Parish Stage with Wiley & the Checkmates, he was up there on the Main Stage dancing in front of Lil' Buck and the Topcats! How did I miss this? I called Lattimore, who I had put on the Greyhound bus back to Biloxi the day before, and asked him about it. It turns out that he waited until I drifted off somewhere, and just took it on himself to get out there... "Well, you told me I had to promote myself, right?"
he asked me. I felt the dice in my pocket, and I laughed.
You can't make this stuff up.
A note about today's selection: Lattimore's only Excello single, it was recorded with Jimmy Beck's 'Pipedreamers' in the small studio above Ernie's Record Mart in Nashville in 1960. While listening to Bill Dahl interview Lattimore Wednesday morning at the hotel, I heard him mention that it had been covered by Sam Cooke
as well, which is something I wasn't aware of. As it turns out, Sam's version was recorded in December of 1961, and included as an album track on Twistin' The Night Away
, which was released early the following year. All Lattimore had to say about it was "Sam never paid me a dime!" [Astublieft to Peter H. for the label scan and mp3... u bent het grootst!]
There is still a limited number of autographed Studio Pollman posters available, and I'm offering them at a special price as a fundraiser for Lattimore, who is, New York Times or no New York Times, back eating at the soup kitchen as we speak. They are printed on high quality glossy stock, measure approximately 16" x 24", and come in a handy mailing tube. They're only $15, plus shipping and handling ($5 domestic, $10 international). Not only are they very cool, but you know the money's going straight to the man himself... you can get yours by clicking on the poster below:Special Thanks To: Paul and Honey Pollman, Allan Laskey, Andrew Grafe, Jorgé Fuentes and the rest of the folks at WWOZ, Jason Stone, Chase Thompson, Ryan Walker, Aaron Little, Cies De Theye, Herbert Wiley, JD Mark, Amp and all the Checkmates, John Ciba, Marc Franklin, Dr. Ike, Señor Chubba and all the Mystic Knights, Dan Penn, Rick Hall, Bobby Patterson, Lil' Buck, Tony Owens, Peter Guralnick, Patty and Armand St. Martin, Spooky LeStrange, Spackle McCrackle and the rest of the Billion Dollar Baby Dolls, Scott Barretta, Garry Cape, Paul Mooney, Bob Wilson, Ben Berman and the krewe at Offbeat, Richard and 'Becca at the Banks Street, Jacob Blickenstaff, Cheryl Gerber, Wilma Spencer, Wraquel, Young Sleezy, Johannes Wachter, Bill Dahl, Pierre Baroni, Noah, Peter H, Derek at the Holiday Inn, Angelo at Louisiana Travel Services, Christy D, Jill and the crew in East Biloxi, Miss Cathy at Loaves & Fishes, Jody at Wal-Mart and everyone else who cared enough to become a part of this historic journey. It's All Good!