Huey ‘Piano’ Smith .. ‘Doing the Santa Claus

 

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Doing The Santa Claus” by Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns –

Christmas “Nawlins” style, and one of my all-time favorite holiday records, to boot! Originally released in 1962 on the Ace label, Twas The Night Before Christmas is a hoot to listen to with some of the coolest Christmas songs this side of The French Quarter.  We gave this album a spin at our weekly vinyl gathering at a local bar last week, and there was a couple dressed up in Santa outfits dancing away to this irresistible record.

Smith was one of the most important figures to come up in New Orleans during the rock ‘n’ roll era, right up there with Fats Domino, writer Dave Bartholomew, Lee Dorsey and Allen Toussaint. At an early age, he fell under the influence of Professor Longhair and later became an in-demand session player, playing piano on Little Richard’s early Specialty sessions, and also on Smiley Lewis’ classic single “I Hear You Knocking.”

In 1957, Smith formed the clowns with Bobby Marchan, a female impersonator, and scored the top-five hit “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.” They scored again a year later with two hits on the same single (no less) with their signature song “Don’t You Just Know It” (featured as a prior Song Of The Day) on the A-side and “High Blood Pressure” on the flip.

Smith also wrote and played all of the instruments on the Frankie Ford hit, “Sea Cruise,” and would have been the lead singer on the track, if Ace Records hadn’t erased his vocals in favor of Ford’s for the single. (That’s how the industry worked back then, and the rest is just history, my friends.)

Bobby Marchan left The Clowns in 1960 and was replaced by female vocalist Gerry Hall featured on this festive favorite.  Mac Rebennak (aka Dr. John) is also heard on this track, not playing piano, but playing guitar and singing. Smith gave up rock and roll completely many years ago in favor of joining Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Eric Berman

Posted by Larry Carta


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