New Orleans is famous for many forms of music and all of last week we were about jazz—but what about the blues? As we learned last week, when you add a certain swing to ragtime, you get jazz. Well when you add that same swing to the blues, you’ve got jump blues—or blues with energy, perfect to dance to…and the foundation of NO R&B, which is also the basis for a lot of music we identify as Mardi Gras music.
And in its day, jump blues was a part of the Mardi Gras soundtrack as much as jazz or ragtime. Perhaps the biggest name in NO jump blues was Dave Bartholomew, who crafted a jump blues sound that bridged, dixieland jazz, carnival marches and the exotic sounds from the caribbean. He also mentored a generation of New Orleans greats and wrote quite a few songs that would become classics of New Orleans R&B. The tune I have today is one of his best, it’s Dave Bartholomew on your Mardi Gras Moment with his song “Jump Children”
Dave Bartholomew "Jump Children"
We ended last week with some tasty New Orleans Jump Blues, and and I spoke about how it, along with jazz, formed the foundation for early rhythm & blues. In the early 1950’s, rhythm & blues was coined to describe black music made for the black community. Of course, this music was popular among a great many more, black ,white, whatever… all over the US, rhythm and blues was being made, played and heard. Everywhere it was, had a distinct flavor for locals to savor.
In New Orleans, it had its own sound; lots of piano, a horn section, a complex syncopated "second line" rhythm, and of course lyrics that also reflected New Orleans life. You heard the father of NO R&B, Dave Bartholomew last Friday; today, we heard one of the hits he wrote from the man who recorded it first, Smiley Lewis, the unluckiest man in New Orleans. What he did was hit on a formula for slow-rocking, small-band numbers only to have Fats Domino come up behind him with similar music, and sometimes the same song, more ingratiatingly delivered. Lewis was practically drowned in Domino's wake…
…today that changed, I had Smiley on the original recording of “I Hear You Knocking” on The Mardi gras Moment…
Smiley Lewis "I Hear You Knocking"