2-CD-Album DigiPac (6-plated) with 70-page booklet, 47 tracks, playing time approx. 126 minutes.
- New Orleans is still in everyone’s hearts and minds…not least for the music it contributed to the world.
- The beginning of New Orleans R&B is chronicled in an astonishing new Bear Family compilation!
- It features early and great performances by crescent city legend Professor Longhair!
- Most of the recordings new to CD! Some have never been available since the early 1950s!
Back in 1989, we issued a double LP, 'Mercury Records--The New Orleans Sessions, 1950.' Containing early and great (not to mention some unissued) recordings by Professor Longhair, Alma Mondy, and other Crescent City legends, it was a definitive statement of New Orleans R&B at its inception. We uncovered the original acetates at Mercury Records' vault, and painstakingly restored them, thereby re-creating one of the great field trips in record business history on two LPs!
Since CDs were introduced, we've had requests to reissue that 2-LP set, but we couldn't see how we could improve upon it..until now. Researcher Rick Coleman, whose recently published book on Fats Domino is recognized as a classic work in New Orleans R&B, figured out that a Mercury R&B session long thought to have taken place in Los Angeles in 1953 actually took place in New Orleans. To confirm his hunch, Rick spoke with Mercury A&R man Dee Kilpatrick, who recalled recording Alma Mondy along with a female impersonator, Pat Valadear, Woo-Woo Moore, and Plas Johnson's brother, Ray. So we included everything from that session, plus the ultra-rare gospel recordings by the Silvertone Singers from the 1950 sessions!
Add new photos, new notes, and digitally enhanced sound. That's how we took the story of Mercury's New Orleans sessions to a new level. A fitting tribute, especially as so many of the neighborhoods that gave birth to this music may never return!
The Mercury New Orleans Sessions, 1950 & 1953
The Mercury New Orleans sessions began with William B. Allen, who owned a radio supply store at Orleans and North Robertson streets and also distributed Mercury records in New Orleans. In late 1949 Allen talked to Mercury's main office about recording black artists in New Orleans. "He had impressed the people in Chicago in knowing something about it and having something to offer," recalled Murray Nash, Mercury's primary Southern A&R (artists and repertoire) man of the time, "and they sent me down there to check it out."
Allen acted as Mercury's talent scout. He didn't have to look very far, as his business was on the border between the French Quarter, where George Miller & His Mid-Driffs often performed, and the black Treme district, where Professor Longhair and Alma Mondy played the'Caldonia Inn,' though one or two of the Mercury artists were chosen from an audition at the 'Club Desire,' a swanky black nightclub in the middle of a poor Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood a few miles to the east of the downtown area on Desire Street, likely after Nash, who usually recorded country music, arrived from his home in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Before signing with Mercury in 1948, Nash had been a successful distributor and A&R man for RCA Victor, where over the course of a decade his many achievements included the creation of several innovative distributing practices, persuading producer Steve Sholes to sign Hank Snow, and the recording of the original version of Tennessee Waltz by Pee Wee King and the Golden West Cowboys (after Sholes had rejected the song) – Nash would later recommend the song to Mitch Miller, the pop A&R man at Mercury, for either Patti Page or Eddy Howard to Record. Of course, Miller recorded the song with Page and the rest is pop music history – perhaps (an alternate story suggests that 'Billboard' writer Jerry Wexler, having liked Erskine Hawkins’ pop cover version, recommended the song to Jack Rael, Page's manager).
In early 1950 Murray traveled to one of his favorite cities, New Orleans, where segregation was obvious. "New Orleans was divided and there was a regular black section, and they had their clubs and businesses,"sremembered Nash. "Whites normally didn't go into the colored section at all." Nash and Allen went to segregated black clubs and had to stand behind the bar to watch the artists. On one memorable night Allen enjoyed a black hairdresser's convention at a nightclub, watching women wearing hairdos "three or four feet" above their heads!
From all indications – the releases of the records and mentions of the recording in the media - the first sessions were probably held in February 1950. Likely because of economic considerations – seven artists recorded in marathon sessions over two nights – the recordings were made at National Recorders in the Godchaux Building on Canal Street, instead of at Cosimo Matassa's J&M studio. The songs were recorded primarily on 33 1/3rpm acetates. "That's all they had at National at the time," says Cosimo Matassa. "Two engineers from WWL and another guy named Ray McNamara, an organist, owned National. They got all of the aircheck business from WWL (radio)... They weren't around a terribly long time after that."
The musicians on the session were George Miller's Mid-Driffs, including Miller on bass, Lester Alexis on drums, Alex 'Duke' Burrell on piano, and Leroy 'Batman' Rankin and Lee Allen on tenor saxophones. Alexis recalled that former Paul Gayten sideman Jack Scott, husband of Jewel King of '3x7=21' fame, played the guitar.
"He (Allen) knowed how good we was," claimed Lester Alexis. "He wanted to invest some money. So he used Fess, Alma and all them recording and we backed all of them up... We started playing early that night and recorded all night, man. We ate and drank and everything (in the studio)."
In April 1950 'Billboard' reported, "Murray Nash did his first Southern blues and rhythm waxing, cutting Roy Byrd and his Blues Jumpers, New Orleans group, and Alma Mondy, blues singer...
|The Mercury New Orleans Sessions (2-CD) 1|
|1:||Miss Lollypop's Confession||MONDY, Alma|
|2:||Love Troubles||MONDY, Alma|
|3:||Baby Get Wise||MONDY, Alma|
|4:||Just As Soon As I Go Home||MONDY, Alma|
|5:||Street Walkin' Daddy||MONDY, Alma|
|6:||A Job For A Jockey||MONDY, Alma|
|7:||Still My Angel Child||MONDY, Alma|
|8:||No Stuff For Me||MONDY, Alma|
|9:||I Need You Baby||MONDY, Alma|
|10:||You Done Me Wrong||MONDY, Alma|
|11:||Byrd's Blues||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|12:||Her Mind Is Gone||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|13:||Bald Head||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|14:||Hey Now Baby||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|15:||Oh Well||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|16:||Hadacol Bounce||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|17:||Longhair Stomp||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|18:||Been Foolin' Around||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|19:||Between The Night And Day||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|20:||I Walk In My Sleep||JOHNSON, Theard|
|21:||Lost Love||JOHNSON, Theard|
|22:||Boogie's The Thing||MILLER, George & MID DRIFFS|
|23:||Bat-Lee Swing||MILLER, George & MID DRIFFS|
|The Mercury New Orleans Sessions (2-CD) 2|
|1:||She Won't Leave No More||LITTLE JOE GAINES|
|2:||Snuff Dipper||LITTLE JOE GAINES|
|3:||Mercury Boogie||CRAVEN, Dwine (Mr. Brown)|
|4:||New Way Of Loving||CRAVEN, Dwine (Mr. Brown)|
|5:||Bye And Bye||SILVERTONE SINGERS|
|6:||What Are They Doing In Heaven Today||SILVERTONE SINGERS|
|7:||Call On Jesus In Scret Prayer||SILVERTONE SINGERS|
|8:||Rest From Labor||SILVERTONE SINGERS|
|9:||Keep Yoru Hands On Your Heart||VALDEVEAR, Pat|
|10:||Baby, Rock Me||VALDEVEAR, Pat|
|11:||Boogie The Blues||JOHNSON, Ray|
|12:||House Of Blues||JOHNSON, Ray|
|13:||I'll Never Let You Go||JOHNSON, Ray|
|14:||Smilin' Blues||JOHNSON, Ray|
|15:||Somethin's Wrong||MOORE, Herbert 'Woo Woo'|
|16:||Five Long Letters||MOORE, Herbert 'Woo Woo'|
|17:||Miss Lollypop's Confession||MONDY, Alma|
|18:||Love Troubles||MONDY, Alma|
|19:||Just As Soon As I Go Home||MONDY, Alma|
|20:||Her Mind Is Gone||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|21:||Hadacol Bounce||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|22:||Longhair Stomp||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|23:||Between The Night And Day||BYRD, Roy & HIS BLUES JUMPERS|
|24:||Bat-Lee Swing||MILLER, George & MID DRIFFS|