Mardi Gras 2015 may have come and gone, but Ace Records is keeping the sound of New Orleans alive year-round, most recently with a pair of new releases from two venerable artists – Clarence “Frogman” Henry and Eddie Bo.
Born in 1937, New Orleans native Clarence Henry was one of many musicians inspired by blues singer and pianist Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd, a.k.a. Professor Longhair. A pianist, trombonist and a vocalist with a croak that earned him the nickname “Frogman,” the young Henry was energized by the success of Fats Domino, just nine years his senior. Signed to Chess Records in 1956, he went on to score memorable hits with songs like “Ain’t Got No Home,” “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do” and “You Always Hurt the One You Love.” (Of his ability to switch voices as heard in “Ain’t Got No Home,” Henry observed, “I sing like a girl and I sing like a frog!”) But Ace’s new anthology Baby Ain’t That Love explores a less-chronicled period of the artist’s career, collecting his Texas and Tennessee Sessions from 1964-1974.
Upon the conclusion of Frogman’s Chess contract in late 1963, he signed with Texas-based independent producer Huey Meaux, a.k.a. The Crazy Cajun. Manager Bob Astor scored his artist a deal with London Records’ Parrot imprint to distribute his new recordings. Tony Rounce’s fine liner notes for Ace’s package reveal that, although the Parrot singles were credited to producers Astor and Peter Paul, Huey Meaux was in the producer’s chair for these sides, four of which are included here plus eight unreleased tracks of the same vintage. The previously unreleased performances include alternate versions of both sides of Henry’s final Chess/Argo 45 “Looking Back” (co-written by Brook Benton) and “Long Lost and Worried” (written by the future Dr. John, Mac Rebennack, who served as a house bandleader for Meaux around this time) as well as versions of standards like “The Glory of Love” and “You Made Me Love You.”
Following his stint with Meaux and Parrot Records, Frogman moved onto the Dial label, recording four sides (all included here) at Chips Moman’s American Studios. Following an album for Roulette Records in 1969, the singer-pianist reunited with Huey Meaux in 1973. Meaux issued three songs from Clarence on his American Pla-Boy label, while seven other tracks – including a reggae cover of Frankie Ford’s hit “Sea Cruise” with a backing track recorded in Jamaica and a version of the Ernie K-Doe hit “A Certain Girl” – sat in the vaults for decades. All ten songs are included here.
Though Clarence “Frogman” Henry by and large ceased recording in the early 1980s, he’s continued to perform, even following illnesses and the loss of many of his motor skills which resulted in his inability to play the piano. Baby Ain’t That Love, a 1,500-unit limited edition, has been remastered by Nick Robbins, and includes a 12-page booklet detailing the history of these long-lost recordings.
Ace has also continued to dig into the vaults of New Orleans’ Ric and Ron labels for various compilations and anthologies, of which Eddie Bo’s Baby I’m Wise: The Complete Ric Singles 1959-1962 is the latest. Joe Ruffino founded Ron and its sister label Ric in 1958, naming the enterprise for his sons. Though the labels were only active for a short period, some of the city’s greatest talents passed through the company’s doors – including Eddie Bo. Born Edwin James Bocage, Bo was inspired – like Clarence “Frogman” Henry – by Professor Longhair, a friend of the Bocage family. Under the spell of Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson, Eddie first made his name in traditional jazz circles leading The Spider Bocage Orchestra. But it wasn’t long before he sensed a sea change in the sound of music and “defected” to R&B. His first recording came in 1956 on Mississippi’s Ace Records – a label with strong ties to New Orleans as well as the namesake for the current Ace, Bo followed his tenure at Ace with a stint at New York’s Apollo Records and then at Chicago’s Chess label. He had a big hit as a songwriter during this period, too, when Specialty Records artist Little Richard transformed Bo’s “I’m Wise” into “Slippin’ and Slidin'” on the B-side of “Long Tall Sally.”
Bo’s ties with Ruffino and Ric Records ran deep; Ruffino had actually hired Bo – descended from a long line of carpenters, bricklayers and shipbuilders – as a carpenter to build the Ric offices! Bo might have walked into Ruffin’s company as a carpenter, but he walked out as a recording artist. He became the ninth artist on the Ric and Ron labels, issuing his first single with “Hey There Baby” b/w “I Need Someone,” both of which he wrote himself. Between 1959 and 1963, Bo released nine singles on Ric, all of which are included here. Despite writing and recording in various popular styles, Bo’s recordings failed to catch on – even “Dinky Doo,” which was leased by Capitol Records for nationwide distribution. “Check Mr. Popeye,” a dance tune based on the comic strip character, was picked up at Dick Clark’s urging by Philadelphia’s Swan Records and bubbled under in 1961 at No. 101, earning Bo his best chart placement. In addition to the eighteen single sides originally released, Baby I’m Wise includes four tracks which premiered in 2013 on Rounder’s limited edition Ric and Ron box set.
Upon departing Ric, Bo’s records appeared on a variety of labels including Scepter, Atlantic, and once again, Chess and Capitol. He also continued working as a carpenter, and affected by the ravages of Katrina, Bo used his skills to help rebuild his neighborhood before his 2009 death. He lived long enough, however, to see a young generation of hip-hop artists embrace and sample his catalogue. Tony Rounce tells Bo’s story in this release’s 12-page booklet. Duncan Cowell has remastered.
Both titles from Clarence “Frogman” Henry and Eddie Bo are available now for order at the links below! Eddie Bo’s Baby I’m Wise will be available on June 5 in the U.S.!
- Ain’t Got No Home (Parrot 10822, 1964)
- The Glory of Love
- Savin’ My Love for You
- Think It Over (Parrot 309, 1966)
- Baby Ain’t That Love (Parrot 10822, 1964)
- You Made Me Love You
- Looking Back
- Cajun Honey (Parrot 309, 1966)
- Cheatin’ Traces (Edsel EDCD 605, 1999)
- You’ve Got a Lot to Learn
- Sea Cruise (Edsel EDCD 605, 1999)
- Long Lost and Worried
- You Darling You
- I Can’t Take Another Heartache
- Heartaches by the Number
- Hummin’ a Heartache (Dial 4057, 1967)
- That’s When I Guessed (Dial 4072, 1968)
- This Time (Dial 4057, 1967)
- Shake Your Moneymaker (Dial 4072, 1968)
- It Went to Your Head (Edsel EDCD 605, 1999)
- We’ll Take Our Last Walk Tonight (American Pla-Boy 1990, 1974)
- You Can Have Her (American Pla-Boy 1990, 1974)
- Mathilda (Edsel EDCD 605, 1999)
- Rock Down in My Shoe (Edsel EDCD 605, 1999)
- In the Jailhouse Now (American Pla-Boy 1986, 1974)
- A Certain Girl (Edsel EDCD 605, 1999)
- Hurt Control (Backing Track)
- Sock-a-Dilly Alabam (Edsel EDCD 605, 1999)
Tracks 2-3, 6-7, 10, 12-13, 15 & 27 are previously unreleased
All tracks mono except Tracks 14, 19, 23 & 26
- Hey There Baby (Ric 962, 1959)
- I Need Someone (Ric 962, 1959)
- Tell It Like It Is (Ric 969, 1960)
- Every Dog Got His Day (Ric 969, 1960)
- Everybody Knows (Ric 964, 1960)
- You Got Your Mojo Working (Ric 964, 1960)
- Warm Daddy (Ric 974, 1960)
- It Must Be Love (Ric 977, 1961)
- Ain’t It the Truth Now (Ric 974, 1960)
- What a Fool I’ve Been (Ric 977, 1961)
- Dinky Doo (Ric 981, 1961)
- Everybody, Everything Needs Love (Ric 981, 1961)
- I Got to Know (Ric 985, 1961)
- Bless You Darling (Ric 985, 1961)
- Roamin-Titis (Ric 989, 1962)
- Nothing Without You (Rounder RICBOX 16, 2013)
- Satisfied with Your Love (Rounder RICBOX 16, 2013)
- Ain’t You Ashamed (Rounder RICBOX 16, 2013)
- I’ll Do Anything for You (Rounder RICBOX 16, 2013)
- Check Mr. Popeye (Ric 987, 1962)
- Now Let’s Popeye (Ric 987, 1962)
- Baby I’m Wise (Ric 989, 1962)
All tracks mono.