By Eric Overmyer
My list of semi-obscure/not-quite forgotten New Orleans/South Louisiana albums/songs/performers/artists.
On the cover of ‘Goin' Back to New Orleans,’ Dr. John is in full Indian regalia. And his cover version of the title tune is fantastic. But so is the original, by Joe Liggins and His Honeydrippers. Deacon John does a good one too. Joe Liggins was one of many New Orleanians, especially from the Creole Faubourgs (Treme, the Marigny), who chose their own version of flight and exile and went to Los Angeles post Jim Crow.
Another New Orleans singer who's as forgotten as Joe Liggins is Chuck Carbo, who led a doo wop group called The Spiders (remember them? No?) Chuck recorded a number of albums, and some of his most popular songs were "Black Drawers," "Drawers Trouble," and "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On." I know what he was thinking about. For years, his "Second Line On Monday" could only be heard on WWOZ and found on the flip side of the 45 of "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On," but it was reissued last year on ‘Chuck Carbo With Ed Frank's New Orleans Rhythm and Blues Band.’ Sonny and Annie sang it in Jackson Square in Season 1's Mardi Gras Episode. "He must have been a VIP, for the Second Line to wind/From the CBD to the Vieux Carré /To Claiborne and Ursulines." Talk about local. Chuck Carbo should have been that kind of VIP, and Ed Frank, too, a now half-forgotten, and never famous, genius New Orleans piano professor.
Like Ronnie Barron. A running buddy of Dr. John's, a virtuoso player and singer, a Boogalese from the West Bank. Check out his amazing vocal on his own compositions, "Louisiana Flood" on ‘It All Comes Back’ and "Broke My Baby's Heart” on ‘Better Days,’ both with the great Paul Butterfield. There are a million versions of Earl King's "Big Chief" (five hundred thousand by Professor Longhair alone), but one of the best is Ronnie's, off his own solo album, ‘My New Orleans Soul,’ a great and undeservedly forgotten record. He even whistles like Fess. And drink some "Pink Champagne" off the same joint.
‘Goin' Back to New Orleans’ is not one of Dr. John's obscure albums, but ‘Tango Palace’ is, and it has some of my favorite Mac Rebennack tunes. He wrote the album with the equally legendary Doc Pomus. The title tune is tremendous: "Every town's got a tango palace…Every town's got a tango dancer/Pretendin' Latin ancestry…" If only. A great version of Chris Kenner's “Something You Got," the wonder "Louisiana Lullaby," and my personal favorite, "I Thought I Heard New Orleans Say." "Red beans and pinball machines/Chicory coffee and hoodoo queens/File gumbo and pralines/Everything's hot down in New Orleans/I thought I heard New Orleans say/They is a street parade/Down on Esplanade/If it rains we'll feel no pain/Cause we gonna march today." Yeah you right! Tighten up with dat umberella! Tell your bidness!