Bobby Charles ‘Bobby Charles’

 

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#810 in the Series) is Bobby Charles, Bobby Charles

Bobby Charles is one of those artists that you know intimately, has been in your life for a long time, but you just can’t remember, or never really knew how the relationship got started. Born in 1938, a true Cajun by birth, Charles was one of the swamp rock founding fathers, a genre that deliciously combines zydeco, boogie rock, rockabilly, and old juke joint rhythm and blues.  A typical “he’s big overseas” artist, in his early days he was generally known as a songwriter penning “See You Later Alligator,” famously covered by Bill Haley and the Comments, and “Walking to New Orleans” for the fat man himself, Fats Domino, ultimately landing 7 songs on the U.K. singles charts and three in the top 10 including “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do” a hit for Clarence “Frogman” Henry in the early 60’s.

As fleeting and under the radar as his career was leading up to 1972, Bobby Charles, based on his down home energetic live shows and his songwriting pedigree, was lucky enough to strike up a friendship with Rick Danko and The Band. The partnership bonds became so strong that Danko himself along with John Simon produced Charles’ eponymous record, and Charles did not appear in the movie, but played “Down South in New Orleans” with Dr. John and The Band on The Bands’ triple L.P.  The Last Waltz. He also can be seen in the movie during the finale.

In Bobby Charles the album, Danko and Charles set out to make an album that would not only spotlight the New Orleans R & B, Cajun, Rock & Roll, and Country sides of the artist, but would also layer in the folksier side of Bobby Charles, a musical blending of genres that Danko and The Band were just now in the process of perfecting.

With ivory tickling assistance from Dr. John, and members of The Band participating on most of the tracks, Danko and Charles just may have created an American Classic that is as close in spirit to Music from the Big Pink as you can get, and while it may not be the first, it just might be the best blue-eyed soul album ever recorded.

From the opening track “Street People” the rootsy “Basement Tapes” stylistically perfect song could have been recorded in Woodstock, and thematically could have been written by Randy Newman, who was majorly influenced by Bobby Charles.  Just listen to “I’m in a Good Place Now”, a song that could have easily been the second single on Randy Newman’s Sail Away.

The pace is not fast here, the songs are sort of slow and meandering, and just about perfect for a lying in a hammock, drinking a mojito on a spring “no worries” day.  Sort of a thinking mans’ chill-ax record. “Small Town Talk” is a cool organ-riff drenched pleasure about the dark side of living in a small town, and on “Grow too Old” we are reminded of some of the simple things we should do before we are too old.

I wanna go out dancing every night

 And I want to see all the city lights

And I wanna do everything that I been told

But I got to hurry up before I grow too old

The Band influence is kicked up another huge notch on “I’m That Way” with some smokin’  piano interludes this time by John Simon, and the album closer “Tennessee Blues”, with the strongest vocal  track on the record, puts a final stamp on a previously unearthed treasure that defies genres and should be must-have addition to any desert island disc library.

Walt Falconer, Houston, Texas, USA

Track and Personnel Listing.

Side One

1. Street People

  • Drums: N.D.Smart II
  • Electric guitar: Amos Garrett
  • Acoustic guitar: John Till???(acoustic solo)
  • Bass: Jim Colegrove
  • Jingle Bells: Geoff Muldaur

2. Long Face

  • Drums: Levon Helm or Billy Mundi
  • Piano: John Simon
  • Organ: Garth Hudson (probably)
  • Bass: Rick Danko (probably)
  • Electric Guitar: Mac “Dr. John” Rebbenack???

3. I Must Be In A Good Place Now

  • Electric. Guitar: Amos Garrett
  • Piano: John Simon
  • Vibes: Mac “Dr. John” Rebbenack???
  • Drums: N.D.Smart II
  • Bass: Jim Colegrove

4. Save Me Jesus

  • Drums: N.D.Smart II
  • Electric Guitar: Amos Garrett
  • Bass: Jim Colegrove
  • Piano: John Simon
  • Acoustic Guitar: ???

5. He’s Got All the Whiskey

  • Tenor Sax: Garth Hudson
  • Baritone Sax: David Sanborn
  • Trombone: John Simon
  • Alto Sax: Herman Shertzer
  • Trumpet: Joe Newman
  • Bass: Ben Keith
  • Drums: Billy Mundi
  • Acoustic Guitar: Two guitars ??? Geoff???
Side Two

1. Small Town Talk 

  • Organ: Mac “Dr. John” Rebbenack
  • Drums: Levon Helm
  • Acoustic Guitar: Mac “Dr. John” Rebbenack

2. Let Yourself Go

  • Pedal Steel: Ben Keith
  • Electric Guitar: Amos Garrett
  • Piano: John Simon
  • Bass: Jim Colegrove
  • Drums: N.D.Smart II
  • Acoustic Guitar: ???

3. Grow Too Old

  • Back-up Vocal: John Simon
  • Electric Guitar: Amos Garrett
  • Piano: John Simon
  • Drums: N.D.Smart II
  • Alto Sax: David Sanborn
  • Bass: Jim Colegrove

4. I’m That Way

  • Drums: N.D.Smart II
  • Dobro: Ben Keith
  • Piano: John Simon
  • Bass: Jim Colegrove
  • Acoustic Guitar: ???
  • Electric Guitar: Amos Garrett

5. Tennessee Blues

  • Electric Guitar: Amos Garrett
  • Accordian: Garth Hudson
  • Acoustic Guitar: ???
  • Drums: N.D.Smart II
  • Bass: Jim Colegrove
  • Violin: Harry Lookofsky

Related Links

Thanks to Bearsville Studios for the personnel notes.
Thanks also to Mr. Jim Colegrove & Geoff Muldaur who added information as well.
Photos to the right are 1&2) Bobby Charles 3) Dr. John 4) Rick Danko 5) Levon Helm
Listen to Bobby Charles below….
Posted by Larry Carta


Leave a Reply

Before you post, please prove you are sentient.

what is 5 plus 5?