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vendredi 19 juillet 2019



Louis Brooks is certainly not what one could call a "major" blues artist and he is mostly remembered for having brought to the limelight one of the most famous Nashville bluesman Earl Gaines, waxing several 45s with Earl as the featured vocalist of the band. Louis is nevertheless a very good sax player and bandleader and his large enough recorded output made between 1951 and 1959 certainly deserves to be better known, although facts about Louis' life are rather scarce.
            Born Louie O'Neal Brooks on 19 March 1911 in Nashville, Tn he was the son of a noted New Orleans sax-player who gave his thirteen children the taste for the music (eleven played an instrument!). We don't know how and when Louis' father settled in Nashville but there - probably during the 1940's - Louis formed a band, The Hi-Toppers that were regularly playing in clubs like the Sugar Hill. Brooks was "rocking the house" with his wide range of tenor sax playing, backed by his combo with Lowell Phillips tickling the ivories, Ollie Brown on bass and Billy Sherrill on drums with featured young vocalists Larry Birdsong, Helen Hebb or Earl Gaines and even a young Latimore!. Their reputation was solid enough for the Hi-Toppers to be hired by local labels like Bullett, Republic or Tennessee to play studio sessions behind R&B Nashville artists such as Christine Kittrell or Rudy Greene.
            Under his name (Louis Brooks and His Hi-Toppers), Brooks recorded several instrumentals and some vocals featuring Earl Gaines. They hit very high in 1955 with the first version of 24 hours of the day, then named It's love baby which climbed up to # 2 on the R&B Charts and would be covered by many artists like Ruth Brown, Hank Ballard and rerecorded by Earl Gaines under his name after he'd quit Louis Brooks' band.
            It seemed that this success opened a lot of touring possibilities for The Hi-Toppers but Brooks was making a good living working by day at the First National Bank of Nashville and didn't want to try the hectic and unsecure life of a full time professional musician. During the 60's, Louis focused to raising his family and disbanded the Hi-Toppers sometime during this decade. He would never record again and died at his Nashville home 5 May 1993.
            We have been able to gather all Brooks' recordings under his name, minus two rare tracks (One slow rock; It's driving me mad ) and unfortunately the copy of Please understand that we have is cut short at about half time. Since, our friend Earthbound has given us a .mp3 copy  of Please Understand and It's drivin' me mad. Thanks a lot, Earthbound.
If anyone has those numbers, a .mp3 copy would be a welcome addition to this post. Thanks to Andy G. and Robert Goodman for sharing their 45s.
            This article is largely based on David Whiteis book Southern Soul blues, Blues/ A regional experience (Bob Eagle/ Eric Le Blanc) and the website Black Cat Rockabilly.
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT

Louis Brooks, t-sax; Lowell Phillips, pno; Ollie Brown, bs; Billy Sherrill, dms. Nashville, Tn. 1951
01. Almost boogie
02. Wine hangover
Louis Brooks, t-sax; Lowell Phillips, pno; Ollie Brown, bs; Billy Sherrill, dms. Nashville, Tn. 1952
03. Keep pushing
One slow rock
Louis Brooks, t-sax; Lowell Phillips, pno; Ollie Brown, bs; Andy Davis, dms. Nashville, Tn. 1954
04. Waddle trot
05. Bus station blues (vcl: Andy Davis)
06. Double shot
07. Time out
Louis Brooks, t-sax; g; Lowell Phillips, pno; Ollie Brown, bs; Earl Gaines, dms. Nashville, Tn. mars 1955
08. It's love baby (24 hours of a day) (vcl: Earl Gaines)
09. Chicken shuffle
10. Can't keep from cryin' (vcl: Earl Gaines)
11. Baby, baby, what's wrong (vcl: Earl Gaines)
Louis Brooks, t-sax; Earl Gaines, t-sax; Skippy Brooks, pno; g; Ollie Brown, bs; Andy Davis, dms. Nashville, Tn. août 1955
12. A long time ago (vcl: Earl Gaines)
13. I don't need you know (vcl: Earl Gaines)
14. Please understand (vcl: Earl Gaines) (fragment)
It's drivin' me mad
Please Uniderstand / It's drivin' me mad are there:
Louis Brooks, t-sax; band. Nashville, Tn. 1957
15. X-Cello rock
16. Gonna stop foolin' myself (vcl: Earl Gaines)
17. Don't you know
18. B.R. Drag
Louis Brooks, t-sax; band. Nashville, Tn. 1958
19. Overton Lea Drive
20. Frisco
Louis Brooks, t-sax; band. Nashville, Tn. 1959
21. Ridin' home

lundi 1 juillet 2019

JUNIOR PARKER/ Complete 1952-65

JUNIOR PARKER/ Complete Recordings/ 1952-65

  With a velvet, bewitching, ingratiating, crooning voice that touched the young black women (and men) of the 1950's-60's, Herman "Junior" Parker has certainly been one of the most popular blues and ballad singer of those decades. Parker has created many blues and R'n'R standards like Mystery train, Mother in law blues, Feeling good, Next time you see me, Pretty baby, Barefoot rock, Stranded, These kinds of blues that has also been recorded by many major artists from Junior Wells and Paul Butterfield to Tina Turner and Elvis Presley. And one shouldn't forget that it is Junior Parker who the first brought Sweet home Chicago into the Top 40, making this hitherto rather regionally limited blues a kind of blues international anthem! Despite all those, Parker was during his lifetime rather neglected by the blues fraternity because he constantly also recorded ballads and sentimental songs that hit his main Afro-American public.
          Born 3d March 1927 on a farm near West Memphis, Parker plays at a very early age (hence his nickname) with his mentor Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller). In fact, Sonny Boy had launched a show "Sonny Boy and the Two Juniors" with Parker and James Cotton on his knees, two young boys he had taught the harmonica and took under his wing. In 1948, Junior is a regular member of Howlin' Wolf band in and around Memphis. But his idols are from the West Coast, Charles Brown and Nat King Cole and his style mixes all those influences for the better. Around 1949, he launches his own show with some young Memphian friends, B.B. King and Bobby Bland, then his own band, The Blue Flames with M.T. and Floyd Murphy playing the guitars. Finally, Ike Turner brings Junior and The Blue Flames to the Sun studios and they record several sessions under the supervision of Sam Phillips with a then minor hit Mystery train.
            But Phillips don't think too much of Junior and Parker starts a lengthy deal with Houston producer Don Robey, recording dozens of sessions for his Duke label that set up Parker as a regular hit maker. A wise man, Junior cashes on this success by creating his Blues Consolidated Revue with which he will tour constantly across the USA from 1954 to 1962, totalizing more than 200 gigs a year! Extremely popular, the revue shows a classy, very attractive, smartly dressed Junior who ignites his audience every night.
            But the mid-60's are very hard for blues singers, even the versatile ones like Junior and he can't cope with the new Kings of Soul, James Brown and Otis Redding. He has to break up his show after 1962 and Parker, despite being still rather young, appears less as a Junior than a has been. But with the new white blues audiences in the US and Europe, Junior decides to go back more and more towards the down home blues of his beginnings and he records several very traditional and excellent LPs for Groove Merchant.
            But the exhausting life of a touring artist is taking its toll. In 1968, Junior suffers a heart attack and he doesn't recover very well. The doctors diagnose him a brain tumor and he has to go quickly for surgery. Everything goes wrong and Junior dies during the surgery on 8th November 1971. His funerals are attended by a very large crowd in which one can see Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Little Milton among dozens of blues musicians.
            Junior Parker stands as a very influential artist and his large amount of recordings are very often first rate!
                                                                       Gérard HERZHAFT

            Voix veloutée et enjôleuse qui caresse l'auditeur et surtout l'auditrice, insinue et distille le blues ou la ballade, Herman "Junior" Parker (1932-68) a été durant sa carrière un des chanteurs les plus populaires auprès des Noirs. Il a créé de nombreux grands standards comme "Mystery train", "Mother in law blues", "Feeling good", "Next time you see me", "Pretty baby", "Barefoot Rock", "Stranded", "These kinds of blues" qui ont été repris abondamment par des artistes du blues et du Rock'n'Roll, de Junior Wells et James Cotton à Tina Turner, Paul Butterfield et Elvis Presley. Il installe sa version de "Sweet home Chicago" (cf le volume Chicago blues de cette série: 545 404-2) dans le Top 40 et popularise ainsi ce morceau, resté jusqu'alors plutôt confidentiel. Enfin, initié à l'harmonica par Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), il ajoute au style de son mentor l'élégance racée de sa personnalité.
Dans son oeuvre enregistrée, d'abord destinée au public noir du show itinérant qu'il a animé longtemps, Parker a toujours fait alterner des pièces sentimentales à la façon des crooners avec des blues. Ce qui l'a longtemps fait négliger par le public européen. Ce recueil - qui couvre sa meilleure période, 1953-66 - présente le bluesman Junior Parker, chanteur et harmoniciste.
            Né près de Memphis, Parker accompagne dès son enfance (d'où son surnom de Junior qui lui restera) Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) à travers le Deep South. En 1948, il est à Memphis dans l'orchestre de Howlin' Wolf. Mais ses modèles se trouvent en Californie parmi les chanteurs californiens décontractés et urbains tels Nat "King" Cole ou Charles Brown. Au cours des années, il se forge ainsi un style très original, mêlant le blues profond et rugueux de Sonny Boy ou Howlin' Wolf aux manières sophistiquées de ses idoles de la côte Pacifique. Il forme un groupe avec Bobby Bland et B.B. King puis les Blue Flames en compagnie du guitariste M.T. Murphy et écume les bars de Memphis et des environs. Repéré par Ike Turner, Junior est enfin présenté au célèbre fondateur des disques Sun, Sam Phillips qui lui fait enregistrer "Mystery train".
            Mais c'est à Houston pour le label Duke que Parker va pouvoir réellement exprimer sa personnalité. Accompagné par certains des meilleurs musiciens texans, très tournés vers le Rhythm & Blues et le jazz, il grave à partir de 1953 une oeuvre brillante et très versatile qui l'installe parmi les habitués des hit-parades Noirs.
            Cependant, la carrière de Parker n'est certainement pas limitée aux studios. En 1954, il prend la direction de la Blues Consolidated Revue dont il est la vedette jusqu'en 1962. Le spectacle se produit environ 20O fois par an dans les Etats du Sud et les quartiers noirs des grandes villes du Nord: théâtres, réunions de charité ou privées, meetings politiques, clubs et cabarets. Ce show itinérant que Junior dirige avec la rigueur d'un patron sudiste, contribue beaucoup à faire de Parker une très grosse vedette parmi les Noirs et surtout les Noires. Sa musique et son chant font bien sûr mouche mais aussi sa moustache sémillante, son sourire, sa prestance physique, sa façon très recherchée de s'habiller. Il pleure son blues, proclame sa passion, esquisse les pas d'une danse à la mode avec des auditrices de l'assistance, enflamme son auditoire et triomphe chaque soir.
            Par bien des aspects, la musique de Parker annonçait la venue de la Soul music. Il ne sera malheureusement pas en mesure de rivaliser avec les James Brown et Otis Redding, nouvelles idoles des Noirs et ses disques ne font alors plus recette. La fin des années 60 est particulièrement difficile pour Parker qui apparaît de moins en moins "Junior" et déjà presque un has been. Dans ses derniers disques, il revient à un blues plus traditionnel et tente de recentrer sa carrière vers le public blanc international qui est alors le soutien principal du blues.
            Mais la vie harassante qu'a mené Parker, chantant, jouant, enregistrant, dirigeant sa Revue a fini par user sa santé. Après une petite crise cardiaque en 1968 qui le force à réduire ses activités, Parker se plaint de migraines fréquentes. Les médecins diagnostiquent une tumeur au cerveau et l'opération se passe très mal. Junior décède dans la soirée du 8 novembre 1971. Son enterrement est suivi par une foule très nombreuse. Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Little Milton et des dizaines d'artistes lui rendent un dernier hommage lors d'un concert mémorable à Chicago. Il laisse une oeuvre de premier plan qui le qualifie comme un des bluesmen les plus influents de l'après-guerre.

Je consacre une étude plus étendue à la vie et l'oeuvre de Jr Parker dans mon ouvrage PORTRAITS EN BLUES.