Key to the Highway2017-02-22 Mardi Gras
Buckwheat ZydecoJohn Mooney
Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns
*************************Next Tuesday is Mardi Gras and, each year, it is my pleasure to dedicate an entire show to the music of Louisiana and today’s is this year’s edition. “Play an Accordion, Go to Jail” is a common bumper sticker in the Bay Area, but our main artist should definitely prove an allowable exception to that rule. It might even make my cousin wish he hadn’t given up the instrument in his youth. Hopefully, he will hear today’s show since he avails himself of KKUP’s streaming to his remote location in the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada.
Stanley Dural, Jr. was born November 14th 1947 in Lafayette, Louisiana, but became known popularly as Buckwheat Zydeco, so nicknamed in his youth because his braided hair created an apparent likeness to the Little Rascals character.
A quote from The New York Times might help explain why the accordionist and his band, Ils Sont Partis Band, were among only a few Zydeco bands to achieve mainstream popularity: “Stanley ‘Buckwheat’ Dural leads one of the best bands in America. A down-home and high-powered celebration, meaty and muscular with a fine-tuned sense of dynamics … propulsive rhythms, incendiary performances.” NPR’s Weekend Edition referred to him as "the go-to guy for Zydeco music.”
Stanley Dural Sr. was an accordion player but Jr.’s first choice was the organ, and it was on this instrument, in the late 50s, among the artists he backed were Joe Tex and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. It was not until 1971 that he founded his own group, the 15-piece funk and soul group Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, with whom he achieved local success for the single It’s Hard to Get.
In 1976, Buckwheat joined Clifton Chenier’s Red Hot Louisiana Band, still playing organ, and right away he saw the effect they had on the audience: “Everywhere, people young and old just loved Zydeco music. I had so much fun playing that first night with Clifton. We played four hours and I wasn’t ready to quit.” Chenier is the only artist I can think of who gained as much name recognition in the Zydeco field as Buckwheat Zydeco, albeit a generation or two earlier.
Inspired by his time spent with Clifton, Dural took up the accordion in 1978 and the next year released One For the Road with his band named Buckwheat Zydeco, the first of three albums for the Blues Unlimited label. After a short time with the Black Top label, Stanley moved on to Rounder Records and received Grammy nominations for both of their releases, the 1983 album Turning Point and 1985’s Waiting for My Ya Ya. Another switch, this time to Island Records for a five record deal, making them the first Zydeco group ever signed to a major label, brought about another Grammy nomination for their initial album, On a Night Like This. The band could also be seen in the 1987 movie The Big Easy.
1988 would find Buckwheat’s ensemble touring with Eric Clapton as well as the guitarist’s twelve night gig at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Buckwheat was now a highly sought out commodity, performing on tours and sometimes in the studio with such artists as diverse as Keith Richards, Robert Plant, Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Dwight Yoakam and David Hidalgo, Paul Simon, Ry Cooder, and U2, even the Boston Pops, as well as providing music used in movies including the Bob Dylan bio-pic I’m Not There. The group also made several television appearances including on The Late Show with David Letterman, CNN, The Today Show, MTV, NBC News, CBS Morning News and many others. They were also invited to play the final episode of The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon. Buckwheat also acquired an Emmy for his music in the CBS TV movie, Pistol Pete: The Life and Times of Pete Maravich.
In addition to a number of appearances at The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the most noteworthy of his many Festival performances were the Newport Folk Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival. Buckwheat performed at inaugural balls for both of President Bill Clinton’s terms and also in the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta to a worldwide audience of three billion. Amid his heavy touring schedule, Buckwheat started Tomorrow Recordings and released Trouble, the first of his four albums for the label between 1997 and 2005.
About his 2009 Grammy nominated album for Alligator Records, Sonicboomers.com noted, “The CD is a vastly entertaining and appealingly diverse package. Bandleader Dural remains an ever-engaging vocalist and a whiz on any keyboard he touches. So, for Buckwheat Zydeco fans, Lay Your Burden Down finds the maestro and his group near the top of their form. For listeners with less interest in the ol' accordion get-down, the collection supplies enough interesting wrinkles to get the good times rolling." Guest performers on the album included Steve Berlin of Los Lobos (who also produced the release), Sonny Landreth, Warren Haynes, Trombone Shorty, and J.J. Grey.
The career of Buckwheat Zydeco lasted from 1971 to 2016 but was brought to a conclusion with his passing from lung cancer on September 24th 2016 at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in the town of his birth, Lafayette, Louisiana, but his music lives on. Enjoy
*************************John Mooney was born on April 3rd 1955 in East Orange, New Jersey but at an early aged his family moved to Rochester, New York. One of his neighbors was Blues legend Son House and John was taught the basics of both the guitar and the power of the musical genre. Mooney would later back House on his mid-70s performances in the twilight of his career.
In 1976 Mooney relocated to New Orleans where he quickly signed on with Blind Pig, releasing his first album, Comin’ Your Way, in 1977. His next album was Late Last Night for Bullseye Blues, which hit the shelves 1990. The backing musicians are Jon Cleary on keyboards, David Ransom on bass and Kenneth Blevins on drums. It is from this disc that we air Mooney’s first set.
John veered away from his acoustic style when he formed Bluesiana I 1983 with drummer Kerry Brown and bassist Glenn Fukunaga to meld the music of the Delta with the rhythms of New Orleans. The band is well represented today from the live album, Travelin’ On, recorded in Breminale, Germany in 1991 by the Bay Area’s own Blue Rock’it label.
These two albums were put together early in John’s recording career and were instrumental as a foundation for an enduring run of entries on record store shelves. Enjoy
*************************Huey “Piano” Smith became known through a handful of R&B hits he had with his band, the Clowns, but he was also behind the scenes of several more of the Crescent City’s classics. He became a highly desired sideman in a city known as a Mecca for talented and innovative piano players.
Huey was born on Robertson Street in New Orleans on January 26th 1934 where, early on, he listened to an uncle play piano. He took music lessons but also learned much from his sister and listened to Charles Brown, Ivory Joe Hunter, Ray Charles, and Hank Williams on the jukeboxes, but it was a piano player he often heard in his neighborhood, Professor Longhair, who had the most profound effect on his own style. Entering a talent contest with a friend under the pseudonym Slick and Dark, they performed a tune the two penned, Robertson Street Boogie.
When he was fourteen he put together the Honeyjumpers, a group loosely inspired by the music of Louis Jordan. A year later, in 1950, Huey teamed up with guitarist Eddie Jones, better known as Guitar Slim, and drummer Willie Nettles. Eddie Jones and his Playboys recorded for Imperial in May of 1951 and Smith also backed Jones’ 1952 session for Bullet. Huey’s first recordings he was credited for were in a session for Savoy split with guitarist Earl King in 1953. Slim’s first sessions for Specialty had Lloyd Lambert’s band backing him which featured Ray Charles on piano, although one of my sources says it was Lawrence Cotton and not Ray Charles who played piano for Lambert. Johnny Vincent had Jones continue with the Lambert band for his touring so Huey teamed up with Earl King as vocalist. Smith preferred to be bandleader and not lead singer.
In 1955 Huey was a part of the sessions that created Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti and Smiley lewis’ I Hear You Knockin’. Johnny Vincent had left Specialty to set up Ace Records and he convinced Earl and Huey to come record for him. They laid down Those Lonely, Lonely Nights and the tune, credited to Earl King, became the label’s first hit; Huey was upset when the platter listed the piano as by “Fats”. It started King on his solo career, but in mid-1956 Huey came out with his own release, Everybody’s Whalin’ with Little Liza Jane on the B-side. Huey provided Ace’s first national hit in August 1957 with Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu, reaching #9 on the R&B charts and #52 on Billboard’s Hot 100. As Smith recalled, “I was trying to pick up on some catchy lines. Chuck Berry had this line, ‘I got rockin’ pneumonia sittin’ down at a rhythm revue’ and Roy Brown had a line about ‘young man rhythm’.I started thinking about opposite lines like ‘kissin’ a girl that’s too tall’. So we came up with Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu right there in the studio.”
One of the stops on Huey’s tour backing up Shirley and Lee was at the Royal Theatre in Baltimore where vocalist Bobby Marchan was the opening act. Smith had backed Marchan on his successful Ace release, Chickee Wah Wah, and the two decided backstage to form Huey Smith and his Clowns. After Free, Single and Disengaged b\w Just a Lonely Clown failed to chart, their 45 Don’t You Just Know It b\w High Blood Pressure reached #9 in the spring of 1958. The song’s title came to mind when the band’s tour bus driver whose response to practically everything was “Don’t you just know it.” While the record was achieving such a good market, the group was rushed into the studio to put together Havin’ a Good Time (also the title of the CD that provided the music for this set) with the flip side We Love Birdland, but it achieved only local success.
Vincent had again drawn Smith’s ire when he had him record We Like Mambo as the flip side of Eddie Bo’s My Love is Strong (one source says it was I’m So Tired) and ultimately credited both sides to Bo, but the last straw was in 1958 when he took Huey’s Sea Cruise track, sped it up a little and replaced the vocal with Frankie Ford, essentially stealing another hit from the piano man. Huey had another hit for Ace with December 1958’s release of Don’t You Know Yockomo b\w Well I’ll Be John Brown (#56 in the Hot 100), then left for Imperial in 1959.
The musical tastes of times had changed and Huey was struggling at Imperial when, in 1962, Vincent released The Popeye, a tune Smith had recorded while with Ace, and its success caused Imperial to drop Huey so he returned to Ace until the label folded in 1964. Huey went on to form his own label, releasing a disc under the name Shindig Smith and the Shakes, and he went on make a few recordings of little note through the end of the 60s, instead depending on his gardening business to make his living. In 1970, Huey had a session for Cotillion with hopes of an album but only a single was put out. In 1981, Huey decided to retire from music in Baton Rouge, with the exception of appearances in the 1979 and 1981 with Bobby Marchan, became a Jehovah’s Witness and set about studying the Bible while running his gardening business. Enjoy
*************************Since it is still relatively new, I thought I’d mention that KKUP is now streaming on the internet and, while it is still in a developing stage, we have been putting out the word. I’m not all of that good with high-tech stuff, but it seems pretty easy to access. If you go to our website at KKUP.org you will see on the home page a strip of options immediately above the pictures of the musicians the next to the last option being LISTEN ONLINE. By clicking this, it brings up a choice of desktop or mobile. I can only speak for the desktop but after maybe a minute I was receiving a crystal clear feed. As already mentioned, this is still a work in progress and we are currently limited to a finite number of listeners at any one time. I mention this so you will be aware to turn off the application when you are not actually listening. (I put the player in my favorites bar for the easiest of access.) Now we can reach our listeners in Los Gatos and Palo Alto, even my family in Canada. Let your friends elsewhere know they can now listen to your favorite station, and while they have the home page open they can check out our schedule.
What You Gonna Do?
Walking to New Orleans
Hard to Stop
Country GalBaby Please Don’t Go
It Don’t Matter
Late on in the Evening
Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu(part one)
Don’t You Just Know It
Little Chickee Wah-Wah
Lil Liza Jane
Well I’ll Be John Brown
Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu
High Blood Pressure
Don’t You Know Yockamo
Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns 21mins
I’m Gonna Love You AnywayIt Must Be Magic
Buck’s Going Downtown
Buck’s Going Uptown
Rock, Boogie, Shout
You Lookin’ for Me?
Mean MistreaterMaybe Baby
Standing Around Crying
Ain’t Gonna Marry
Out on the TownPut It in the Pocket