The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #58 – Evan Christopher

Evan Christopher is a New Orleans-based clarinetist and composer. His performances and recordings preserve and perpetuate the tradition of the New Orleans clarinet style, with influences from greats like Sidney Bechet, Omer Simeon and Barney Bigard. After meeting the clarinetist Tony Scott at a Rome night club, Evan Christopher asked him for an autograph. Scott wrote “Good luck on ‘Clarinet Road.’ Lots of curves!” Evan Christopher has been going down that road ever since.

Gainesville, Georgia was a recent stop along the way; where this interview was recorded in the “before hours” piano bar of a hotel. We invite you to listen to an interview with a man who takes the calling of being a jazz musician very seriously, yet all the while remains humble and relatable.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #56 – Sam Lewis

Sam Lewis is a singer-songwriter. Although in the genre of country music, Sam Lewis writes songs that are soulful, meaningful and true to heart. He’s worked with everyone from John Prime to Kacey Musgraves. Chris Stapleton called him “a modern Townes Van Zandt.” Rolling Stone magazine called him one of the 10 New Country Artists You Need to Know. May 2018 will see the release of his third album “Loversity.” 

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #54 – Orange Kellin

Orange Kellin is a Swedish clarinetist, traditional jazz concert and recording artist based in New Orleans. Kellin has performed with his own ensembles as well as in bands comprised of New Orleans musical legends. It’s a great honor to present this interview with a passionate and talented artist. Orange Kellin’s story shows that truly great music will be found by people anywhere, and truly great songs were meant to last. He ends the story with a short solo musical performance.

Barry Cuda: Singer & Musical Archivist (Second Interview)

BARRY CUDA is the “pianimal.”  He has been a constant fixture in the Key West, Florida music scene for 30 years and could be considered a musical archivist.  He plays authentic roots music and various piano styles including ragtime, jump blues, earl rock ‘n roll, stride, boogie woogie, early blues, and barrelhouse.

In this interview, Barry Cuda invited Paul into his secret rehearsal place in Key West.  In addition to telling us a bit about his personal history, Barry talked about his fascinating album “New World Blues Roots” featuring his own piano work and congas from Uganda Roberts who performed with Professor Longhair.  The album explores the roots of blues and R&B with 14 instrumental songs originating from the 1860s to the middle of the 20th century.  Truly a unique album, and fascinating to hear Barry Cuda talk about it.

 

Rick Coleman: Author, Biographer

RICK COLEMAN is recognized as a leading authority on Fats Domino.  He wrote the definitive biography of rock ‘n roll legend Fats Domino, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n Roll.  In this interview, Rick Coleman talks all about the fascinating Fats Domino.

What is your favorite Fats Domino song?

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Now we’re going to take you to our interview with Mr. Rick Coleman, where he’s going to be talking about the one and only Fats Domino and his book, ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’

Ladies and gentlemen, our guest is Rick Coleman and he is the author of the book, ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’  Thanks for taking a moment to talk to us.

Thank you

Who is Rick Coleman?

Well, I’ve been writing about New Orleans rhythm and blues for about thirty years now.  I’m best known for writing a book on Fats Domino which came out a few years ago called ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’ 

And where were you born?

I was actually born in Port Au Prince, Haiti because my parents were missionaries in 1957 when I was born.  They had been living in Louisiana and my mother is more or less from here originally.  I consider myself a Louisiana man. 

Well Rick, tell us:  what kind of music did you listen to early on?

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and was a big fan of rock ‘n’ roll and popular groups like the Beatles and Beach Boys and all the rock ‘n’ roll groups and I still love it and a lot of my favorite music and, eventually, as I graduated from college actually, that’s when I really realized the contributions that New Orleans had made to rock ‘n’ roll and I’d always been heavy into rock ‘n’ roll history so I decided I need to contribute to writing that New Orleans rhythm blues and rock ‘n’ roll roots of New Orleans so that’s how I started writing in the early 80’s about New Orleans rhythm blues and I actually started doing, uh, radio documentaries at WWOZ radio and that graduated into writing for local magazines and then national magazines, a lot of album notes, a lot of liner notes and then the book. 

So why write a book about Fats Domino?

Why not?

(Laughs)
He was actually the most popular rock ‘n’ roll…rock ‘n’ roller of the 50’s after Elvis Presley and people have forgotten that but it’s absolutely true.  Unfortunately him, like a lot of rhythm blues artists from the 50’s and 40’s especially have been largely forgotten.  It…part of it was because a lot of the rock ‘n’ roll histories were written in the, first written in the late 60’s and early 70’s and at that time there was obviously a big hard rock and psychedelic rock type thing that was popular and people were just not into old rhythm blues artists that weren’t hard core blues so a lot of people were forgotten largely from that era.  Fats did have some come back during that era but he just seemed too happy and too innocent perhaps for that era to really take him seriously.  Add that to thefact that he had never done a lot of interviews and there hadn’t really been much research on him so that’s why it took me twenty years actually to write the book over, off and on, over the course of twenty years I wrote the book. 

Can you take us back to the first time you met Fats Domino?

Yes.   It was in August, 1985.  I actually live above New Orleans and there was a seafood festival going on and I had written an article about the 30th anniversary of rock ‘n’ roll, which at that time, rock ‘n’ roll was primarily dated from ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley and ‘Rock Around the Clock’ was certainly a landmark and New Orleans had been contributing to the birth of rock ‘n’ roll since the late 40’s and even back as far as 1947 when Roy Brown first did ‘Rocking Good Rocking Tonight.’ In New Orleans the song had popularized the word “rock” and, of course, Fats Domino was a major part of that because he had recorded ‘The Fat Man’ in 1949 and several other major hits, a string up to ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ which was a landmark…in some ways equal to ‘Rock Around the Clock’ because he was the first black artist to make the top ten with a rockin’ song and he actually paved the way for Chuck Berry who followed shortly afterwards with ‘Maybellene’ and Little Richard who followed shortly after that with ‘Tutti Fruity’ into the pop charts.  All of those actually pre-dated Elvis’s debut in the pop charts with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in early 1956.  That led up to me meeting Fats at the seafood festival because he’d liked the article I had written.

I wanted to touch on what you just mentioned, the song, ‘Fat Man,’ which, as you said, was recorded back in 1949.  Explain to the listeners why you and so many other R&B scholars think that’s a significant recording.

The thing was, rhythm and blues in the late 40’s, even in New Orleans, was kind of a mixed bag.  There was…uh…there was very different types of blues.  One strain of blues was risqué.  Another strain was very “pop-ish,” kind of like “white cocktail” blues and both those styles were popular in New Orleans but what the ‘Fat Man’ really contributed to rhythm and blues was it had a driving rhythm to it…almost a train-like, locomotive sound that people had really rarely ever heard anything like that before and it combined with Fats Domino’s utter exuberance and his vocal and his words that he sang, telling them, “They call me the fat man cause I weigh two hundred pounds.  All those women love me cause I know my way around.”  And then after that, he actually did a scat part where he went, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.”  People were just excited by that sound and it was a thrilling kind of thing.  Truthfully, what it was was that the two styles I mentioned earlier of rhythm and blues were older audiences who had been sitting around in bars and drinking alcohol and Fats Domino was like a new, young generation coming in.  He was 21 years old and he just had this utter enthusiasm for the music, and it was dance music perfect for a younger audience and that kind of set the trend for what came with rock ‘n’ roll a few years later. 

You’ve known Fats Domino for a long time.  What is he really like?

Oh, Fats is a wonderful guy.  He’s a really sweet man but he’s also a very private man.  He doesn’t go out too much.  He doesn’t, like I said, do interviews.  He just, uh…he’s kind of a simple man in a lot of ways but once you get to know him, he’s a delightful person.  He, um, he has certain things that he likes to do, like cooking and playing his music and being with his family and friends and, uh, he just doesn’t like to do a whole lot of other things (Laughs).  It’s really almost amazing that he really became a popular figure because he was never into going out and he was never a, had any great ego to satisfy since he liked to perform so much and liked to please people and, uh, you know, that was a great thing because he’s pleased millions and millions of people over…over sixty years now.

One of the things that your book, ‘Blue Monday,’ points out so well is Fats Domino’s influence on so many of the other popular recording artists.  I was amazed by the quote from Bob Marley, for instance, but there’s so many artists that have been influenced by Fats Domino.  So with that, I have to ask you: do you believe that Fats Domino is the true king of rock ‘n’ roll?


Well, that was something that, uh, that Elvis said when they were at Elvis’s comeback concert in Las Vegas in, uh, July, 1969, that all the reporters were paying attention to him but Elvis had become good friends with Fats, who happened to be at the press conference and he said, “Well look at Fats over there.  He’s the…he’s the real king of rock ‘n’ roll.”  And, uh, I don’t know if he was slightly joking or not but the truth isElvis was paying tribute to Fats because he knew that Fats had been around a long time before Elvis had.  He’d recorded the ‘Fat Man’ nearly five years before Elvis’s first record and, uh, he had definitely been the dominant figure of the early 50’s and, as I said before, he paved the way with ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ and many other hits.  There’s certainly a case to be made that Fats put the big beat into rock ‘n’ roll…him and Dave Bartholomew, his co-writer and band leader and producer…that they put the big beat into rhythm and blues which put it into rock ‘n’ roll and that’s pretty much the most significant element about the creation of rock ‘n’ roll was the big beat because that’s what makes the kids dance, okay, and if you ever watched American Bandstand, you’d always hear them say, rating a record, “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”  And that was very significant because, uh, white popular music, for the most part, up until that time had not had a major, big beat.  It really came out of black culture and specifically out of New Orleans, which had a history of, uh, heavy rhythms dating back to Congo Square even, which was the first place that slaves were allowed to keep their drums in the New World…the only place, really, and, uh, so it’s a very long and significant history in New Orleans of that rhythm.

Our special guest is Rick Coleman, the author of ‘Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.’  Do you have a favorite memory of Fats Domino?

I was writing the book…I was really just hanging out with Fats and we were fairly close at the time…and, you know, we’re…I still talk to him.  He’s still a sweet man.  But, then I was actually able to go with him to his concerts in his limousine occasionally.  One, this particular time, was at a Mardi Gras concert…I think it was 1992…he had, was taking two cars and I don’t remember…I think I was in the second car…and Fats was in the front car.  Then he was playing a concert at the Super Dome in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and it was called…one of these big parade krewes that was called Adenium(???) celebration, actually warming up for the Beach Boys that night and so, that was an incredible concert and, uh, he actually got stopped first of all at the security check point because he didn’t have the proper security and amazingly, Fats didn’t get mad at all.  Actually, he…we all got out of the cars and waited for a half hour (Laughs) to get the proper security clearances and that was kind of amazing in itself because when you think of superstars…but anyway, he went inside and we, uh, we actually were there an hour or so before the concert and he didn’t really know too much about the Beach Boys.  As a matter of fact, (Laughs), he asked me if they were black or white (Laughs) which is going to be pretty funny to anybody that hears that.  But the Beach Boys had, really amazingly, had never seen Fats perform over the years and they were actually outside his dressing room shalamming(???)…bowing down to his dressing room door, sort of like, “I am not worthy” and so it was an amazing night and I got to talk to a couple of them; Alan Jardine, specifically, he said, “You know, you don’t know what he meant to us man,” so it was quite an amazing concert.  I thought the Beach, you know, I love the Beach Boys but I think Fats actually stole the show from them. 

Well, I wanted to touch a little bit on a gentleman who passed away recently, Bobby Charles.  Did you know Bobby?

I knew him a little bit.  I interviewed him.  I got a good interview with him.  I certainly, uh, he and Fats were great friends.  There’s a little story behind him and Fats and it goes back to when Bobby wrote ‘See Ya Later Alligator’ and he was a teenager out in Cajun country out in Louisiana.  He’d written a song based on this old Cajun saying which had also been used in jazz and various things, “See ya later alligator.”  A girl had told him, “After while crocodile,” and that’s how he said, “Wow.  I’m going to write a song.”  So anyway he took that to a concert where Fats…Fats was pretty much his idol at the time as with a lot of Louisiana youngsters…teenagers, you know, especially out in Cajun country.  They just ate him up.  He was actually said…but he said that he was like only one or two or three black guys… white guys at a black concert in this one town…Abbeville, that’s what it is, and he walked up to Fats afterwards and asked him, “How’d you like to do this song,” and Fats just kind of laughed at him and said, “I never thought of doing a song about an alligator.”  That’s not what he said but that’s what he was thinking and so, but he said he’d already recorded so he politely turned him down but then Bobby, of course, recorded it and then Bill Haley had a huge, huge hit with it but that was the beginning of him and Fats kind of getting to know each other and years later, he recorded for Dave Bartholomew and Imperial and, uh, he wrote some more songs for Fats and specifically, when he was in Lafayette he met Fats backstage.  Fats told him that he had recorded a song, ‘Before I Grow too Old’ and he said, “Man, I wish I could hear it, but I can’t get to New Orleans.  If I hd to go to New Orleans, I had to walk!”  So he thought of that and said, “Wow!  That’s gonna be a song too.”  So he wrote that song just later that night and so, of course, that was…became a classic song for New…for Fats, ‘Walking to New Orleans’ and really, it kind of became the theme song after Katrina.  It was used a lot, talking about New Orleans and so, but Fats and Bobby remained close friends for many years.  As a matter of fact, Bobby passed away just, uh, in January, I think and he had just finished recording a song which he was so happy to record for Fats, his long-time friend, and it was called…it’s on his new album… his final album called ‘Happy Birthday Fats Domino.’

Just from your own personal tastes and your memories of over the years with Fats Domino, do you have a favorite song or could you pick a favorite Fats Domino song?

I think so.  I guess I’d go with ‘I’m Ready’ because it just had such a great rhythmic drive and Fats is, you know, I love a hard rocking sound and that just goes so fast and so heavy and Fats is just rocking almost as hard as Little Richard in that one to me.  He just pounds the song and if you listen to it, there’s actually no horns in that.  It’s quite an amazing thing cause they’re just…they actually performed that song on a Dick Clark show one time and at that time, in 59, horn players are just clapping their hands.  I mean, it’s just a driving song.  I love that, and it’s a rock ‘n’ roll anthem too, if you think about it, but, uh, but as far as…wow…but he’s had so many…so many great hits and the significance of them is just so great.  I mean, ‘Fat Man,’ ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ ‘Blueberry Hill,’ ‘Walking to New Orleans,’ and ‘Blue Monday,’ which, of course, is the song I titled the book over and that, uh, is…all of them have very great significance in their own ways.

Just from your own personal tastes and your memories of over the years with Fats Domino, do you have a favorite song or could you pick a favorite Fats Domino song?

I think so.  I guess I’d go with ‘I’m Ready’ because it just had such a great rhythmic drive and Fats is, you know, I love a hard rocking sound and that just goes so fast and so heavy and Fats is just rocking almost as hard as Little Richard in that one to me.  He just pounds the song and if you listen to it, there’s actually no horns in that.  It’s quite an amazing thing cause they’re just…they actually performed that song on a Dick Clark show one time and at that time, in 59, horn players are just clapping their hands.  I mean, it’s just a driving song.  I love that, and it’s a rock ‘n’ roll anthem too, if you think about it, but, uh, but as far as…wow…but he’s had so many…so many great hits and the significance of them is just so great.  I mean, ‘Fat Man,’ ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ ‘Blueberry Hill,’ ‘Walking to New Orleans,’ and ‘Blue Monday,’ which, of course, is the song I titled the book over and that, uh, is…all of them have very great significancein their own ways.

What is it you like about Fats Domino?

Well, I love that he is, uh, Fats is such a down to earth person.  As I said, he doesn’t really have any great ego.  He just loves music and he loves performing for people and making them happy.  That in itself, you gotta love that.  That is such a beautiful thing. That he was able to put his enthusiasm, his almost child-like enthusiasm, in his music for nearly sixty years is an amazing thing.  People just don’t have that kind of drive and enthusiasm for music for the most part.  He almost powered his way in, you know, through rhythm and blues and people thought, you know, that’s not something that most people wanted to do.  They…he didn’t care about if he was being too enthusiastic or that, you know, people didn’t…weren’t use to that kind of the hard driving sound.  He just wanted to play it and he wanted to entertain people and people caught on and they loved it…it was just kind of a youthful enthusiasm just driving through his music and that’s just the way Fats is.  He’s just a sweet, enthusiastic guy who just loves living, you know…loves living and enjoying life. 

I think the song that a lot of people most associate with Fats Domino, one of them is probably ‘Blueberry Hill.’  Tell us about that song.

‘Blueberry Hill’ was an old pop song and, uh, well actually it was first recorded by Gene Autry for one of his singing cowboy movies in, I think, 1940.  Shortly after that Glenn Miller had a big number one pop hit version of it, with girls singing the song, if you can imagine that and then probably the most significant version after that was Louie Armstrong’s version in 1949 and Fats Domino heard Louis Armstrong’s version of and he loved it but he really never knew the whole song so luckily, his brother-in-law, Harrison Verrett who played in a lot of New Orleans jazz bands as a guitarist and banjo player knew the whole song.  They were actually in Los Angeles at the time, in the spring of 1956 when they tried to record the song.  The fact that they, Fats didn’t really know the whole thing contributed to the fact that they really were not able to get a whole take of the song.  In other words, they would record the song but they couldn’t record it all the way through.  They had to stop at various times.  Dave Bartholomew was not too happy actually with the session because he knew that they had never completed a full take.  He told Lew Chudd, who was the owner of Imperial records,” Lou, I don’t have nothing,” when they went to dinner that night but Lew Chudd heard it and he said, “Well, it sounds pretty good.  I think we can put it on as a B side.”  Okay…so he has his engineer, who was Bunny Robine at Master Recorders Studio in Los Angeles edited together from the different takes and it came out alright he thought so he put it on the B side of a song called ‘Honey Child’ and they actually released ‘Honey Child’ and were promoting that when this disc jockey says ‘Wow, this song, ‘Blueberry Hill’ on the other side…that’s a great song,” and they actually had to flip it over and play ‘Blueberry Hill’ and, of course, it became the biggest record of Fats career.  I mean, it was just huge.  Amazingly, Fats never had a number one pop hit but ‘Blueberry Hill’ did reach number two.  It sold millions…you know, tens of millions of copies on its own and is the Grammy Hall of Fame and other legendary song classes but it was certainly the song that people know best of all for Fats.  The one thing kind of funny about it…actually the song was considered kind of risqué…’I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill,” and if you’ve ever watched the series, ‘Happy Days,’ you know that was one thing that Ritchie Cunningham, Ron Howard, use to say: “I found my thrill” whenever he was talking about girls, making out with girls.

You know, I was reading this interview that Dave Bartholomew did a few years back where said that…you know, we just talked about ‘Walking to New Orleans,’ but it’s kind of interesting:  there’ve been a number of Fats Domino’s with “walk” in the title: ‘I’m Walking,’ ‘Have You Ever Seen a Dream Walking,’ and Dave said that Fats thought that song titles with ‘walk’ in the title were lucky.  Had you ever heard that before?

Well, I think that he was saying that Fats thought they were lucky and obviously, you know, they were lucky for him ‘cause it was like you said, ‘I’m Walking’ and then he did ‘I Want to Walk You Home’ and then ‘Walking to New Orleans’ and that actually…those were three…I believe all three of those were number one R&B hits for him so, yeah, he definitely was lucky with that title…using the word “walk” in the title and part of the thing I think, you know, again goes back to Fats had a ,uh, had a rhythm in his songs and a walking rhythm certainly fits ‘Walking to New Orleans’ and it definitely does fit ‘I Want to Walk You Home’ but ironically, ‘I’m Walking’ is almost at a galloping beat if you listen to it but it sounds like he’s running almost, you know (Laughs).  That’s kind of ironic but specifically, ‘I’m Walking’ certainly was one of Fats’ biggest hits, right after ‘Blueberry Hill’ and ‘Blue Monday’.  That has a huge rhythm which was contributed to by the great drummer, Earl Palmer, who is in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame as an instrumentalist and it’s, uh, really almost a jazz brass band marching rhythm in there that they would play on snare drums and if you listen to it, it starts off at the, uh, a bass prelude.  In the brass band parades there was a, they would have a bass drummer and then they, uh, go into the snare drum and, uh, so if you listen to it, he’s playing both the bass part, which goes bump, bump, shbump bump bump…and then he goes into the two beat which is “I’m walking,” bump n bump n bump bump.  You know, so, uh, so it’s really a driving, driving rhythm and it’s not walking at all but it sure was a huge, huge hit and, uh, of course, Rickey Nelson made it into his first hit just shortly thereafter and, uh, ironically, it’s been recorded by a bunch of people.  I think Hank Williams JR did it in the 70’s and then even Ella Fitzgerald, of all people, recorded it in the 70’s and they’ve actually become both a country and a jazz standard.  It’s amazing how far some many of Fats’ songs have carried him.

Well you know, I was also thinking it’s interesting because, like we said, he had the, uh, “walking” in a few titles…in a few of his song titles but also “blue.” You know, ‘My Blue Heaven,’ ‘Blueberry Hill,’ ‘Blue Monday.’  It’s just kind of interesting I think.

Yeah…that’s another point.  Of course, that relates back to, uh, you know, the blues I would think, uh, that he would…that you would do a song with the word “blue” in it but, the thing is, you know, Fats did some blues but he always did kind of a…almost always had kind of a…some kind of a happy turn to most of his blues.  He never did the extremely broken down blues and ironically the other two songs you’re talking about, they are actually tin-pan alley songs.  ‘My Blue Heaven’ was a huge hit in 1927 and ‘Blueberry Hill’ from 1940 and so that…that really expanded Fats’ audience at that time because, uh, that was actually intentional that he was recording some of those tin-pan alley songs or, in other words, the pop songs from the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s that really expanded his audience because, uh, adults really had no respect for rhythm & blues and the fact that he did such a beautiful, exuberant version of these old songs which the parents, the kids’ parents knew, actually got the parents to buying these records.  So it was a huge breakout for Fats.  ‘My Blue Heaven’ was the first, and then he did ‘When My Dreamboat Comes Home’ which was also a big hit, another tin-pan alley song and then he capped off that little trilogy with ‘Blueberry Hill’ which, of course, was his biggest song of all time.

One of the other songs that he’s most known for is ‘Ain’t That a Shame.’  Tell us a little bit about that one.

‘Ain’t That a Shame’ was a very, very simple song as anyone who’s ever listened to it and knows and I gotta say that’s kind of the difference between Fats’ songwriting and Dave’s songwriting.  Dave’s certainly written a lot of simple songs but that was kind of Fats trademark; to write very, very simple songs, very simple lyrics and if you listen, Dave’s songs are clearly his, like ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘I Hear You Knocking’ and even ‘One Night of Sin’…uh, it has a more elaborate story line in there, where he talks about what happened to him in the course of the song.  But Fats would just write simple nursery rhyme, nursery rhyme type things.  Actually, that’s what Dave called them to this day.  It’s like ‘I’m Walking’ and ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ very, very simple one line songs….or ‘A Whole Lot of Lovin’ for that matter, which I think only has about twenty-something words in it and, you know, “You made me cry when you said goodbye.  Ain’t That a Shame.”  (Laughs)So, you know, that’s how Fats came up with that because he said he saw a lady beat the baby in the street or something and he said, “Ain’t That a Shame.”  He said, “Well, that could be a song,” and, uh, they were actually out in Los Angeles in 1955 and they put that together in almost the same time they recorded ‘Blue Monday’ and another big hit of Fats, it’s called the ‘All By Myself.’  The same, within two weeks of each other they recorded a whole spree of these number one R&B hits.  They, uh…Dave didn’t know exactly what to do with it but he, I guess he emphasized the beat.  Him…Dave and Fats were together on that mindset…to always have a heavy, heavy rhythm and so that was really, you know, like I said, the big beat that was driving his songs along so after Dave, Fats, said “You made me cry,” he had the drums and all the instruments come in and say ‘Bomp…bomp bomp!” You know, and people had never heard a heavy, heavy beat like that before on pop radio in the 1950’s so you gotta imagine the people were just astounded by that.  I mean, we don’t…people don’t really think about ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ these days but it was almost a revolutionary type sound, almost like we think of as ‘Tootie Fruity’ by Little Richard…but Fats never screamed like Little Richard but he had a heavier beat in some ways than Little Richard or, at least just as heavy.  Of course, Little Richard recorded all of his hits in New Orleans and used a lot of the same musicians for that same heavy beat and that’s he followed Fats into popularity.  ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ was very significant ‘cause it crossed over in July, 1955, the same month ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Hailey and the Comets became number one for over a month and so they timed a simultaneous shots of the revolution of rock ‘n’ roll.  Bill Hailey had the biggest record of the year there and Fats had the first record by a black man with the heavy beat in the top ten and that was…that was really the opening shots for the rock ‘n’ roll revolution.

Just amazing stories.  It really is amazing when you sit there and you look at all the different things that Fats Domino contributed to music.  One of the things that I thought was really interesting about the book and then, also I was reading that article that you did, ‘Seven Decades of Fats Domino,’ I knew about John Lennon, the fact that ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ was the first song that he had ever learned.  But, I didn’t know that George Harrison…that the first song that he learned was a Fats Domino song as well.


Yeah…let me talk about that.  Actually, kind of a forgotten Fats Domingo song, but was really one of his biggest hits, is a song called ‘I’m in Love Again’…”Yes, it’s me and I’m in love again,” and that was a huge, huge hit.  It was really bigger chart-wise than ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ ‘cause it made number three where ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ had been number ten and the significant thing was that in the late 1955 after ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ Fats was not able to cross over and again, that was what Lew Chudd of Imperial Records was so obsessed with was crossing over from rhythm and blues charts to the pop chart and you gotta realize this is simultaneous as the integration of schools at the time ‘cause when the integration ruling, the Supreme Court ruling was in July of ’54…okay…so this is one year later that Fats crossed over with ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ which, as I said, is a very, very  significant thing which people have forgotten about and, uh, but he was not… he had two number one R&B hits after that which were, um, ‘All By Myself’ and ‘Poor Me.’  Both of those topped the R&B charts but neither one of them even scratched the pop charts.  And so in early 1956,Fatts had finally scratched the pop charts again with ‘Boweavel’ which was a song like ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ which was covered by a pop artist which I didn’t mention about ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ which is very significant and that’s the reason why it really made the top ten was because Pat Boone had covered it, ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ and made it a number one pop hit which, if you’ve ever heard Pat Boone’s version…

Yeah, it’s not too good.

It’s awful!  But anyway, Teresa, Teresa Brewer who had likewise covered ‘Bo Weevil’ took that to the top five but Fats version didn’t do nearly as well. It only made, I believe, number thirty six but still that was his foot back into the door of, you know, the pop charts.  Ironically, the subject matter, ‘Bo Weevil’ is about an insect that gets into the white man’s cotton crop and ruins it, okay?  So that’s a little bit of irony there, that he got his foot back in the door with ‘Bo Weevil’ ‘cause blacks in the late 1800’s had actually kind of snickered about the boll weevil. It became kind of a folk hero for blacks because that was what was hurting the white man.  So, anyway, he got his foot back in the door with ‘Bo Weevil’ but when he really crashed the pop charts again was in the spring of 1956 with ‘I’m in Love Again’ which it just has a simple little loping beat, uh, “Yes it’s me and I’m in love again,” and, uh, had a nice little saxophone solo by the great Lee Allen who played a few of Fats solos but most of Fats solos on all of his hits were played by the great Herbert Hardesty.  He was still around and had played for Fats for sixty years, which was an amazing feat and, uh, anyway…but ‘I’m in Love Again’ became a huge hit…number three and it was heard by George Harrison in Liverpool.  First…he said it was the first rock ‘n’ roll song he’d ever heard.  It just amazed him and also, subsequently recorded by Paul McCartney and a whole bunch of other rock ‘n’ roll greats. 

I got to do a little interview with Fats Domino and he said that if he got songs that he liked he would come out with another record.  Do you see him coming out with another record at any time?

Sadly, I don’t think…I don’t think Fats is going to be coming out with any more records unless it’s something that’s already been recorded.  He really is not performing anymore.  He is 82 years old.  He probably won’t perform anymore because he, you know, he’s an old man.  You know, you’re lucky if you can perform into your seventies let alone your eighties but from what I understand from talking to him, he still plays piano and he’s at home and we can just be thankful for all the great music that he’s provided with us for sixty years and it’s a spectacular legacy and I gotta say that…I hope we hope we can do a documentary on him and also, you gotta look at the great tribute that all these rock ‘n’ roll stars did to him a couple years ago with the two CD tribute to him.  I mean, and it’s amazing the artists that are on there:  Robert Plant and Tom Petty and Nora Jones and Dr. John and John Lennon is even on there…and they’re all doing Fats Domino songs so just look at that and you’ll know how significant this man was.  You know, Elvis, like I said, called him the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Bob Marley said he started playing music with Fats Domino and so, I mean, just when you look at the scope of his influence, I mean, it’s just astounding.  But as far as him performing again, I don’t think it’s going to happen but I think that we should, uh, realize his legacy and pay tribute to him forever really.

My curiosity, I guess.  On that album, the ‘Going Home,’ the two CD tribute to him, did you have a favorite cutfrom that album ‘cause I agree.  I think that was just an incredible collection.

I can’t really pick out a favorite song.  I gotta admit, I haven’t really worn it out.  I think it’s pretty amazing that, for instance, that Robert Plant came down to New Orleans and actually recorded with a local band and he actually did two songs on there.  So, I mean, Elton John contributed a song.  It’s just amazing that so many of these artists just instantaneously said that they would love to be a part of it and, now, I don’t think they were getting paid the big bucks for this.  I think they really, really did it out of their heart.  That’s what I’m saying, that these artists…these rock ‘n’ roll artists from the past thirty to forty years really…they appreciated Fats in some ways, more than the public at large does.  I think, you know, Fats in some ways, you know, bigger in Europe where he toured consistently every year from the seventies to the early, to 1995 and, uh, so, you know…we in Louisiana and certainly around the country need to appreciate our great musical legends more and certainly Fats is one of the ones that has not been given the credit…all of the credit that he deserves because he is one of the central cornerstones to rock ‘n’ roll, you know.  You could argue that he may be the main cornerstone in some ways.  That’s what, as a matter of fact, that what Dave Bartholomew called him…”He’s the cornerstone.”

One final question before you go:  what would you like to say to all the listeners out there?

Well, I would like to say that, you know, Fats Domino is an icon and people should honor him as much as any of the rock ‘n’ rollers.  As I was trying to say before, he was second only to Elvis in rock ‘n’ roll in the early years and so he’s almost like an unsung hero because, you know, there’s only been one book on him and it took me twenty years to write.  It just tells you so much about the whole story of America and the rise of popular music and rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll specifically and New Orleans immense contribution to that.  You know, that is…that is…that is something that people have really not realized a lot.  You know, they’ve realized it a little bit more after Katrina maybe and, uh, New Orleans, the consciousness of New Orleans has increased but Fats is still…has never received his due and I’m gonna throw in a plug for another icon who I think has never received his due…Louis Jordan from the 1940’s.  He was the most popular black artist of the 1940’s and has never had a book ever.  Well, I’m taking that back.  He has one book but it’s not that good.  But he never had a documentary, is what I meant to say and likewise with Fats.  I’m hopefully working on a documentary on Fats in the near future and we hope to have that out sometime in the next year.  You know, hopefully that will help his legacy because people need to recognize not only the legacy of New Orleans but also of Fats Domino who was, you know, definitely one of the great legends of rock ‘n’ roll.  I appreciate you talking to me and giving me a chance to spread the word about Fats and New Orleans.

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO

Clarence “Frogman” Henry: Legendary Singer & Recording Artist

At 45 rpm’s Clarence Frogman Henry drove straight into the musical center of the listeners heart. That authentic New Orleans R&B sound revved its musical dynamo for the first time in the fifties and never ran out of fuel. Listen in as this legend talks about his youth, home, and of course music. The who’s who of music history you’re about to hear is only part of the journey. Fasten your seatbelts folks, this is quite a ride.

PART ONE:
 

PART TWO:

 

Harry Connick, Sr. : Singer

The verdict is in. Harry Connick Sr. makes crooning look easy. Big Easy.

The storyboard of his life could have been the workings of James Michener. But you’ll find a real and accomplished man, here. His passions for music, New Orleans, and his beloved family are center stage in this one on one with Paul.

Sit back and enjoy the words of The Singing District Attorney; The great Harry Connick Sr.

Part One

Part Two

Now we’re going to take you down to New Orleans, Louisiana, the home of our special guest, Harry Connick, Sr.  We hope you enjoy the interview.  Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to welcome our very special guest, the one and only Mr. Harry Connick, Sr.  Thank you so much for inviting me into your home and letting me do this interview with you.

You’re very welcome.

Who is Harry Connick, Sr?

Well, I was a professional lawyer.  I was the District Attorney in the city of New Orleans for twenty-nine years and I had been a legal aid attorney before that and before that, an assistant United State Attorney but somewhere along the line that ever-present desire to sing cropped out from time to time but nothing professionally.  While I’m a lawyer and I practiced law and I was a federal, I mean a federal and a state prosecutor I still, uh, loved to listen to music and to sing.  So, I guess I’m like many, many other people.  I have various interests and different interests, but two of them are law and politics and…and…and music….popular music. 

Where were you born?

I was born in Mobile, Alabama, March the 27th of 1926.  My mother and dad were from Mobile.  My grandparents were from Mobile except before that we had some people from Ireland who were our ancestors.  But when I was two years old, my dad, who was working at that time for the United States Corp of Engineers, was transferred from Mobile to New Orleans.  He brought my mother and my older brother and my younger brother and myself over so we’ve lived in New Orleans since 1928. 

Can you remember some of the early records that you listened to that you especially liked?

Glenn Miller, I guess.  But, you know, before that even we…I used to hear things on the radio and…Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee…and some people….I don’t even remember who they were specifically…but Russ Morgan and his band and, uh, Guy Lombardo use to play on,uh, New Year’s Eve from the Astoria Hotel, the ballroom in the Astoria Hotel in New York City.  What I really remember vividly, I guess, was Glenn Miller….some of his music and uh, a moonlight cocktail and in mood and things like that and, of course, Benny Goodman.  I guess, the Dorsey Brothers and things that they did; ‘Pinetop Boogie Woogie’ and things like that.  And then The Warriors came and I remember that Harry James became very prominent and he had some good singers with him.  Dick Haymes was one of the singers and Frank Sinatra for a short while even, and Helen Forrest was his vocalist and you had Ray Eberle with the Jimmy Dorsey Band and Helen O’Connell sang with him and did a lot of duets.  And then Glen Miller…they had the different bands.  He had the singing groups, The Pied Pipers and the Modernaires .  I didn’t know it at the time but the songs that appeal to me uh, I guess, were also written for the war effort that was going on at that time, were written by Sammy Cahn.  The lyrics were written by Sammy Cahn.  I mean, they still play them and people still record them but in war years too, you have to remember that they were writing music for the war…for the people at home and actually in combat and overseas.  Songs like ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’ and ‘Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me,’ ‘Kiss me once and kiss me twice, and kiss me once again…”it’s been a long, long time’ and things like that.  I remember those and I remember particularly a song, I was living in Atlanta at the time because my father had been transferred during World War II.  He was stationed in Atlanta before they sent him overseas.  Louis Jordan and his Tympany 5 had a song called ‘Ration Blues’ and rationing in World War II was what affected everybody.  I’m not kidding you.  Gasoline and automobile tires and meat steak and beefsteak and butter and all of the automobiles, you couldn’t get them anymore.  And anything made with rubber or metal was rationed and out of that came a song by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five called ‘Ration Blues.’  I use to sing it when I would do some of my shows but it goes “Baby, baby, baby what’s wrong with Uncle Sam?  He’s cut down on my sugar now he’s messing with my ham.  I’ve got the ration blues.  I’m blue as I can be,” and things like that and you had ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”  The Andrews Sisters did that so that was very much ingrained in me when I was a kid but because the only thing…we never saw those people and we only heard them and big medium, of course, was radio.  I would glue my ear to my…I had a radio in my room when I was in high school and when I was youngers, I used to get home in time to listen to ‘Little Orphan Annie’ and some of these serials that use to run on a daily basis but after a while I got a little bit older and I started to get home to listen to the Chesterfield Show.  I think Harry James was on that, and Benny Goodman had a show and the different big bands were very much in demand for radio time.  Records were still 78rpms.  In fact, I use to buy them.  I had no phonograph, but I would buy them and I would buy the books that they useto sell.  They use to sell a songbook, they called them, and they would have all the songs…all the popular songs of the day in it and I’d buy those and I’d listen…look up the song when I would hear it on the radio.  So I had a great, great love and fascination for big bands and for singers and such is that.  I liked other music too but coming from New Orleans, I think I heard Blues all of my life.  We lived in an integrated neighborhood.  I lived on Plum Street.  The street behind us was Oak Street and part of that was…not part of it, a lot of it….was occupied by black folks.  We would hear their music, especially on Saturday night.  There was no air conditioning in those days…this was the 30’s.  Whatever they played, they played loud (laughs) and it would drift through the neighborhood.  You could hear it, you know.  So I was exposed to some varying, various kinds of music.

You have two recordings available and you sing a lot of the Tin Pan Alley kind of songs, and as far as I’m concerned, of all the songs that have been written those are my personal favorite.

I like ‘em too.

I love those kinds of songs and so I wanted to ask you, do you have a favorite songwriter?


Not really.  Again, growing up in New Orleans you’re exposed to this music.  There’s a certain sound to most of that music.  They call it a street beat.  When I started to work, about 1990, I think I was 65 then.  It’s a hell of a time to get started in a singing career, but it came about quite by accident, and if you’re interested I’ll tell you, but I was working in clubs in New Orleans at a place called ‘Maxwell’s Toulouse Cabaret.’  I worked there for five years.  I also worked at, uh, Roland von Kurnatowski, who is a big fan of Tipitina’s…he owns Tipitina’s now, as a matter of fact.  He had a club on Decatur Street.  I sang there for five years, a couple of nights a week, three shows a night.  So a lot of people caught… tourists come to town….most of the songs people play…are use to anyway, were New Orleans songs or New Orleans style.  I was attracted to that and it was something that I think had great appeal but I still liked the, uh, the stand and so I don’t know of any particular artist, composer, let’s say.   I know that I like, uh, I like that music.

This is very hard for a lot of people to answer, but could you name a favorite song?

Uh, I tell ya…I think it’s impossible (laughs).  I’ve tried to do that and if I’m listening to Frank Sinatra sing something, whatever it may have been, you know, that would be my favorite song at that time and if I played a Dick Haymes record, ‘Mam’sell,’ or something like that, then that would be my favorite song.  And, but, you know…it’s so hard to distinguish degree of, I guess acceptance to music.  It’s, it’s so individual, but I’m fickle as hell when it comes to, comes to saying which is my most favorite songs.  A song, maybe a song would be my favorite song for some while but time will pass and it will be another one.  I don’t even remember which…I do like ‘Moonlight Serenade’ if it’s the vocal version of that.  Sinatra sang that.  Sinatra did so many incredible songs.  So did Haynes and so did Crosby and so did, uh, Andy Russell from those days and those fellows so it’s hard to say.

I wanted to ask you about this record store that you owned.

Uh huh…

Or, actually, there were two.

At one time, that’s right.  We, when, uh, I had worked in, uh, Casablanca in Morocco.  I’d gone over there as a civilian after I did my tour of duty in the service during World War II when I was over there and I came home.  I got married in Tangier…married to the mother of my two dear children…and we came home and I was in bed.  I was, I was laid up and in poor…I had tuberculosis and it was a prolonged period of bed rest…very strict bed rest in addition to the medication and my wife, Anita, wasn’t from here and so we came back…we were uprooted very summarily in Casablanca, or Neuaseur actually where I was working.  We were brought back home after long circuitous route finally ended up back in New Orleans.  She wanted to work and she went out to find a job and it was very difficult for her to, uh, get work because at that time, also to today, in a certain extent, New Orleans is extremely provincial and if you don’t know somebody…it’s less of that today so don’t anyone who hears me not come to New Orleans for a job but, uh, she couldn’t get a job and so she came to the hospital one day and said “You know, I think I’m gonna open up a record shop, with greeting cards and little electronic equipment like recorders and things such as that.”  So I said, “Okay,” so she did.  She did it on her own, God bless her.  I came home shortly after she opened and after I was able to recover, I went down and worked with her but that’s how that came about and then after a couple of years…I mean…it was a small business but it was a very successful business and it helped me get through law school and helped Anita get through undergraduate law school too.  We, uh, after a couple of years, we opened up a second business…a branch of it…and all we did was lease space in another building.  We had two businesses and one day we were sitting down at supper and I think we both came to the realization that this is really not what we wanted to do with our lives and we wanted to be able to give something and do more, accomplish more so I told her that I’d like to go to law school.  I’d go to undergraduate school and get my degree.  I wasn’t thinking too much of law school at that time cause law school came about while I was finishing up my undergraduate work at Loyola and, anyway, she had gone to Monmouth College in New Jersey and we both decided to go back to school so we split shifts.  I would work in the afternoons and she would work in the morning.  I…my classes were scheduled eight o’clock in the morning till noontime and her classes, she arranged to have them in the afternoon till five or six o’clock or whatever.  So I’d go to school early in the morning and she’d go to work and I’d walk in at twelve-thirty.  I’d pick up special orders, incidentally, on the way home for kids who would come in and want a record today and we didn’t have it.  They would have it tomorrow and…so…we had a great special order department and, uh, so I’d walk in and take over and she would walk out, you know, and we would meet that night at home and we went through that for about four years but it was worth it so it was a good business, and a successful business but one that was very limiting from a challenging point of view, you know?

Yeah.  You wanted to do something that would be more meaningful to you.


Yeah.  I think we felt we had something to give.  She…my wife, Anita, was a very bright lady, smart, as I said, and she was very good with people.  She was very helpful to people.  She helped people.  She…they…people would come into Studio A, our record shop, and they were outright mean sometimes, some of them, and I use to tell her, I said, “Here comes your grouch. (Laughs) You take care of this one,” you know.  So she would…she’d laugh and she’d gotten…after a while that guy became a regular customer and he’d say, “I’d like for your wife to wait on me.”  (Laughs)  I said, “Okay,” and, uh, we made some good friends that way…friends that…that…that…people that after we closed the record shop were still friends.  We lived in a great neighborhood and there was a lot of young kids and a lot of family people so this was in one of the shops in Lakeview but anyway, she was good about that, you know.  Did I answer your question?

Did you ask me a question?

Did I answer your question? (laughs)


Oh…yes…you sure did…you sure did.  You mentioned a second ago, you said “your two lovely children.”  One of the recordings that you made was a duet and it’s the song ‘Rocky Mountain Moon’ and it’s a duet with Mr. Harry Connick, Jr. Was there ever a time when you thought “You know what?  Harry Connick, Jr.’s going to be a musician.”

Oh, immediately…immediately.  Not when he came out of the womb, but shortly thereafter (laughs).  What demonstrated that to us was his incredible time.  My wife, his mother, noticed it when he was in a high chair.  He couldn’t have been two years old.  We brought records home from the Studio A record shop and we’d play them so we had a lot of music going and he would sit there sometimes and start…if he had spoon or something in his hand and he’d start hitting on the tray that was on his high chair and Anita, one time, said, “Oh, listen to that.”  I said, “He is very noisy,” you know (Laughs), and she said, “No, no…listen to it.”  We looked at each other.  She said, “His timing is impeccable.”  His mother…she came from a family of musicians.  Her brother was a very good, a very accomplished musician.  So he would come in and stand at the foot of our bed sometimes and, when he was maybe four, and I had a mandolin that Anita had given to me when I was in the hospital, in Dartmoth(???)Memorial Hospital down here in New Orleans.  It was called a Nick Manoloff method of playing the mandolin and I tried and tried and tried and I could play a few things but anyway, I brought it home with me and he would get that though.  He wanted…he wanted that, you know.  So I let him have it and we would be in bed and he would come in…I remember him vividly sometimes and what he was wearing.  He would come in and stand at the foot of the bed and start singing whatever…’Raindrops’ or whatever and he would strum and he…it was the same thing…no playing…he just strummed…and he said, “Listen Mom. Listen Papa,”  and so we would listen and he would be finished and we would try to go back to sleep.  We said, “That was good.”  He says, “You want to hear another one?”  (Laughs)  So we did that…we knew very early on when he…we would go to different places where they had pianos and he’d sit down.  So finally a fellow…a good friend of mine…my campaign manager named Dan Kelly…my wife had done a lot of legal work for him…he wanted to show his gratitude by giving us a piano, a piano for Harry really and he sat down there and he would play and play and he would pick out the songs.  I think ‘When the Saints go Marching In’ was the first song he really played and he was…then he developed like that…but that was when he was six and seven old. 

This is an interesting question I think because everyone that answers it seems to give a different answer.  What is it you like about music?


Oh…I like…the music that I like…I like the structure of it.  I like the lyrics to it.  The lyrics to me…Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer…you were mentioning ‘Rocky Mountain Moon.’  That’s a Johnny Mercer song.  Not one of his best songs but, uh, nevertheless a good one and typical of Mercer I think.  But, uh, those songwriters had an incredible ability to compose songs that had true, wonderful meaning and they conveyed a particular thought so that’s what I was attracted to.  And then the arrangements I guess is what, you know, what impressed the hell out of me.  With Fletcher Henderson and some of those people who arranged for these big bands were just incredible and that and then someone like Nelson Riddle comes along and some of the things that he did…absolutely incredible.  It’s so…it’s so…it draws you.  It’s so listenable and I like that and that’s what…that’s what does it.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like other kinds of music or that the lyrics are not good.  It just means that they’re not very deep a lot of times.  There’s not a lot of meaning to some of these things.  They’re too repetitious, you know, and, uh, but if you listen closely to the lyrics of the songwriters, Harry Warren and Hammerstein and whatever those people wrote…and believe it or not, I think Sammy Cahn, who wrote popular…pop music also wrote some wonderful songs, you know, that…they’re very serious.  So, that’s what…I think the combination of lyrics and music, the arrangement…plus the melodic aspect of the song is just…

My final question for Mr. Harry Connick, Sr.:  Thanks to the technology, this broadcast is going out all over the world.  What would you like to say to all of the folks who are listening in?

Well, listen to the old folks sometimes (Laughs).  Listen…get…they’re still available.  They’re on the internet now but…you know…the Harry James and the good jazz music we had too.  And..but above all, and more than anything else…and I’m being very serious, listen to Harry Connick, Jr. (Laughs)

And Sr. (Laughs)

Thank you very much. 

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO