Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Eddie Bo - Now Let's Popeye (Part II) (RIC 987)

Now Let's Popeye (Part II)

As I'm sure you know, Edwin Bocage has been increasingly acnowledged as one of the original progenitors of da funk. Excellent work has been done by folks like Larry Grogan, Martin Lawrie, and Dan Phillips that has documented his massive contributions to the music. Bo's work on Al Collins' "I Got The Blues For You" and his own I'm Wise had laid the groundwork for rock & roll as well, when Little Richard and Bumps Blackwell borrowed them for Slippin' And Slidin' in 1956.

After his stints at Ace, Apollo, and Chess, Eddie landed at Joe Ruffino's Ric and Ron labels in 1960. Ruffino utilized Bo's talents to the fullest, not only using him as his new songwriter, arranger, and producer, but putting his considerable carpentry skills to work building a studio for the company. He produced great records on Tommy Ridgley, Irma Thomas, and Johnny Adams for Ruffino, in addition to cranking out his own great sides like Tell It Like It Is and Every Dog Got His Day.

Bo then went on to fulfill every record label owner's dream in the early 60s, he created a national dance craze that rivaled The Twist! Now there are those that say that Eddie didn't make it up, that the dance came from the kids on the streets of his old neighborhood, the Ninth Ward. There are those who credit Chris Kenner with inventing the beat on his Something You Got. There are even those that claim that Huey Smith's version came first (Huey is one of them...). All we really know for sure is that RIC 987 was released in late 1961, and is, as far as I can tell, the first 45 with "Popeye" in the title. (Huey Smith & His Clowns' "Pop-Eye" - with vocals provided by a young Curley Moore - came out as ACE 649 in 1962).

It seemed like every record company in America jumped on the bandwagon after that, not wanting to miss out on the latest fad. Stax put out a whole album of Popeye tunes by the Mar-Keys. Ernie K-Doe jumped in with "Popeye Joe" on Minit. Don Covay was doing "The Popeye Waddle" on Cameo. Chubby Checker had the biggest hit of all when "Popeye (The Hitchhiker)", the B side of his #2 pop hit "Limbo Rock", broke the top ten on its own in October of 1962.

Joe Ruffino had a serious mistrust of national distribution of his records by other companies after Roulette basically stole his biggest hit, Joe Jones' "You Talk Too Much", out from under him in 1960. By the time he consented to lease Bo's original Popeye to Philadelphia's Swan Records, the dance craze had essentially run its course, and the single went nowhere.

One of the cool things about today's selection is that the label credits say; "Music by the AFO Studio Combo". This included, of course, Harold Battiste, Melvin Lastie, Chuck Badie, and probably John Boudreaux. Ironically, this same group recorded Barbara George's massive hit I Know at around the same time, only to see their own national distribution deal with Juggy Murray's Sue label steal their biggest star, and lead to the eventual collapse of AFO.

Bo ended up in a "pistol-waving" shouting match with Ruffino over this lack of support for his records, and the money he owed him, and left RIC in 1962 shortly before the label owner died of a massive coronary.

Eddie then began his odyssey of producing and recording for over 35 different labels over the years, leaving behind absolute funk masterpieces like Check Your Bucket, Pass The Hatchet, Can I Be Your Squeeze, and many more. Sometimes the records were produced on other artists, or sometimes just put out under various bizarre pseudonyms for one reason or another. His biggest hit came in 1969, when Hook And Sling (this time released under his own name) made it to #13 on the R&B charts. You can check out the dizzying array of Bo-related records at Martin Lawrie's superb Eddie Bo Discography over at Soul Generation.

One of the most sought after records in the Eddie Bo pantheon is the first release on a label he formed in 1964 called, aptly enough, FUN. It featured the young Snooks Eaglin (billed as Lil Snook) doing Cheetah b/w Sweetness. According to Martin Lawrie; "It is not clear if this record was ever released fully, several promo copies exist but so far as I know there are no issues." Talk about your basic Holy Grail, huh?

Anyway, I was lucky enough to see Eddie perform with Snooks (who I'm sure you know is one of my all time guitar heroes...) at the Rock N' Bowl in New Orleans while I was down there for Jazz Fest earlier this month. As far as either of them remembered, it was the first time they'd actually worked together since the release of FUN 303. It was simply amazing, man.

Do the Popeye, children!


On a more somber note, I wanted to show everybody this:

Here's what the Lower Ninth Ward looked like just 3 weeks ago. The absolute devastation of certain areas of New Orleans just blew my mind. Even though they don't report it on the News anymore and stuff, let me just say - "People, it's bad".

The City put on a brave face for Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras and all, but as the summer approaches, and the tourists stop coming, it's going to be a long haul. We already know that FEMA and the rest of our golfing country club government couldn't care less...

I know you've all been looking at those Katrina benefit links I have up on the right side here a long time. I was even thinking of taking some down... but after I saw the wounds with my own eyes, so to speak, I've decided they're staying. If you haven't done so already, please consider giving something back to the town that's given us all so much.

Thank You.


Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Great work, Red. I've just got to say 'amen'. I think you are corrrect that Eddie got the drop on the Popeye record craze. And, if he didn't invent the dance (it likely did come from 'the street'), he sure knew the moves, as evidenced by this track. Gotta love that scan, too, with the 19 cents price stamp. I'm so old I remember paying that for a 45. That's about 20 bucks in 2006 funny money, ain't it?
Keep supportin' New Orleans. Nine months out and the clean-up has hardly started, let alone the recovery!

2:13 AM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

Cool one Red. I only have the Swan issue, but interestingly enough, it drops the PT1/Pt2 designations. I also have (and I can't recall the artists off the top of my head) a 45 on a strange label, with another singer "covering" both sides of this 45. I'll try to dig it out when I get home

12:30 PM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

An update! I tracked down a listing for the record:
Leroy Jones - Giant 1002 - Check Mr. Popeye / Now Let's Popeye – 1962
The SoulfulKindaMusic discography says that this was a performer named Herbert Hunter (who I've seen included on a comp of Nashville based R&B singers) working under the 'Leroy Jones' alias. Why he decided to cover both sides of an Eddie Bo single is unknown to me. Maybe this is one for the Soul Detective?

12:41 PM  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

I know right?

...just another indication of just how CRAZY the "POPEYE" craze was, however shortlived.

You know what would be cool? What if everybody sent me every record they have with "Popeye" in the title... (I'm sure there's a bunch more we don't even know about), and I could make it this ongoing Soul Detective Case... (free spinach for all!!)

You In?

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

until now that's what i found

popeye train :tabby thomas
beale street popeye :james booker
smashin' the popeye pt1 :bb king
smashin' the popeye pt2 :bb king

there is a great new orleans popeye party on night train cd 7075

i know there is a
popeye by Cliff Thomas & the clowns
on ACE is it the same that Huey Smith?

keep on checking mr popeye

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Red and everybody else--

Thanks for the photo of the Ninth Ward. We must not forget that the devastation was not of a day, or a week, but could last years. It helps (a tiny bit) that, just today, the Army Corps of Engineers accepted responsibility for the levee failures, which might--or might not--prompt the government to suck it up and do the right thing. Probably won't; probably will find yet another way of passing the buck. Anyway, my girl friend and I were in NOLA a few weeks ago. I had never been there, but had been listening to the music for 50 years (literally, started in the 1950s when I was a kid). I fell in love with the city, totally, and despaired to see it in its present state. We, as a culture, can not let it die. An important piece of us will die with it, if that happens. So, Red, please don't take down your benefit links. The city still needs whatever we can send its way. Oh, and anyone interested might consider reading Douglas Brinkley's new book "After The Deluge," which tells it like it is about the chaos and callousness of the aftermath. A horrifying and infuriating book.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

So well said that you should not be, anonymous.

Hey, on the Popeye titles, I'll toss in "Olive Learned To Popeye" (Ace 652) by Scotty McKay.

And, bbb, I don't see an Ace 45 with popeye in the title by Cliff Thomas (a former rockabilly artist). One of his sides, "Don't Pony With Tony", did appear on an Ace comp LP, 'Popeye-Let's Have a Dance'.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

OK, this one may be a stretch, but it's certainly Popeye-related: "Searching For Olive Oil" (Sue 756) by the Senors (a/k/a the Monitors).

6:20 PM  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

Well, boys & girls. let me jump in here on this "mini-case" we've got goin' on the ol' Sailor Man...

I had heard about this one before, but forgot about it:

In 1960 (the year before RIC 987 was released), Lamont Dozier released a single under the name "Lamont Anthony";
ANNA 1125 - Let's Talk It Over/ Popeye

He sez; "I did a song called Popeye, and the song took off - it was a smash, a local hit...We had to cease and desist because the company that owned Popeye objected, but people went nuts for it. I think I decided to concentrate on songwriting right after that happened!"
(which as we know, worked out pretty well! )

SO, the single was pulled and re-issued with a different B-side - "Benny The Skinny Man", making it one of those ultra-rare $200 records in the process... does anyone have it??

Do you think Eddie Bo or Huey Smith or the rest of the NOLA crowd had ever heard of it?? In other words, was Lamont Dozier the TRUE creator of 'The Popeye'??

Stay Tuned!

10:20 PM  
Blogger TravelingMermaid said...

This is a great blog. Found you via Animamundi. I hope you don't mind if I share your blog and add you to my blogroll?
Thanks for keeping the NOLA links up - it's great for our morale to find people who still care about us....we are definately not ok down here. As if we weren't all crazy already, now Hurricane season has officially begun. I don't believe we can bear another one this year. Even a tropical storm will have debris and trailers as flying projectiles. It's really scary.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

Well Mermaid, I'd certainly be honored to be on your 'blogroll', thank you!

...and rest assured, there are still a lot of good people out here who care about what happens to your city.

Folks, you can check out the Mermaid's blog here:
Traveling Mermaid, for a view of New Orleans from a unique perspective...
and while you're at it check out AnimaMundi for a taste of the good life!

...and if you are, by chance, traveling to NOLA any time soon, there is a way you can make a real difference, by joining the Katrina Krewe and becoming part of the solution... thanks - red

9:16 AM  
Blogger the family cat said...

Where does JOYCE HARRIS fit in here-she was on a label called Domino and one of 2 Joyces on this short lived label set up by businessmen in order to create hit records.The only hit though was a song called You cheated by the SLADES

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

joyce harris did an on air interview with billy delle which is posted on 90.7 fm in new orleans, also there is alot on

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

soul generation paula watson new cd has e-boes songs one is baby baby baby by mentioned joyce harris cd is soul a go go with lots songs of r&b singers from n.o.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous the family cat said...

Re Eddie Bo-one of his 50s singles I'M WISE was copied note for note by Little Richard for Slippin' & Slidin' and passed off as his work even though the co credit "Bocage" was added
Little Richard once dared to call himself a songwriter-my kind of artist as I love the idea of copycats

4:44 AM  

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