A.C. Reed (center)
“Listen – Boogaloo Tramp MP3″
Top O’the Morning to ye.
The middle of the week is here, and I just discovered that today’s post will bring us smack dab in the middle of an entirely unplanned, yet fortuitous “theme” week, in which all three of the records (Mon – Wed – Fri) have something in common. It’s kinda like a backward, somewhat twisted Sesame Street for funk fans. Of course I have yet to figure out whether my place in this alternate universe is that of the Big Bird or Oscar the Grouch (more likely, that), but since the concept behind the accidental theme isn’t really all that “high” (As in ‘high concept’, son! Pay attention!), I’ll try not to belabor the point.
Back a month or so ago, when I was in the midst of the “rigorous” (cough…) blog-content selection process, among the records I pulled from the crates were three of what the leading lights of record collecting nerdery call “answer” records, i.e. songs that use an established hit as a jumping/ripping off point, and go from there.
The funk and soul universe is jam packed with such songs, which more often than not is a good thing. Sometimes, in the case of a tune like the Isley Brothers ‘It’s Your Thing’ (on which Mondays selection is based), you get everything from direct riffs on the original – like the Marva Whitney banger – to somewhat more subtle approaches like Clarence Wheeler & the Enforcers ‘Doin’ What We Wanna’ which is a lot closer to the kind of “quoting” that jazzers have been doing for the better part of a century, i.e. grabbing a riff or a bit of the signature melody line from a song and building an entirely new framework around it. Sometimes this is done so subtly and masterfully that the source material is all but invisible to all but the trained eye (rarely the case on the funky side of things, where the connection is meant to be noticed, if only out of an opportunistic “buy my record because it sounds like a hit” vibe).
While more often than not the “answer” is grounded in the lyrical content of the newer record – in that the narrator of song B is making direct reference to the lyrics of song A – sometimes the records that follow a hit are only picking up on the barest of bones, usually just a riff and a reference in the title.
Now, I can’t say for sure, but I’ll bet that when Lowell Fulson dropped ‘Tramp’ in 1965, he had no earthly idea how this funky and relatively simple tune would end up being spun off into a grip of imitations and tributes (sometimes outright thievery). His own hit was soon surpassed by the famed duet by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, and – speaking of outright thievery – renamed and re-presented a ‘Champ’ by the Mohawks, a staple of the beat diggers oeuvre.
Todays selection is one of those records that manages to glom itself onto not one, but two different trends. It is certainly not unique in the history of funk, and believe it or not is not even unique in the history of ‘Tramp’ rip-offs (the other being the Showmen Inc’s ‘Tramp from Funky Broadway’ on the NOW label). This time out, we get a very tasty 45 from the hands (and sax-o-ma-phone) of Mr. A.C. Reed. The tune in question, ‘Boogaloo Tramp’.
Now A.C. Reed is one of those guys that had a very interesting career, proving himself adaptable through five decades of jump blues, blues, soul/funk, and back into the blues again, working with the likes of Earl Hooker, Willie Mabon, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells (for an extended period), Son Seals and the mighty, mighty Albert Collins. Between the mid-50’s and his death in 2004 Reed played and recorded as both a sideman and a leader, laying down ‘Boogaloo Tramp’ for the Nike label in 1966.
When I said Reed was working two different trends in this particular tune, it bears mentioning that the whole “boogaloo” thang was a much wider, less specific trend (so non-specific as to have little real meaning in the vast majority of records – outside of the Latin world – that use the word in their titles) than the ‘Tramp’ one. I guess I’d even go so far as to modify my original statement to say that in this case, we may actually have a one-trend record here in which the ‘boogaloo’ is merely a modifier, placed before the ‘Tramp’ to suggest that this is no mere “copy’ of Mr. Fulsons magnum opus, but rather a new chapter in the saga (a breath of fresh, funky air if you will).
That said, ‘Boogaloo Tramp’ is indeed a groovy record, in which A.C. grabs the source material, gasses it up a bit with a dirty guitar riff, some righteous honking on his axe and the occasional vocal interjection. That there is little actual distance between the tune of Fulsons original and Reed’s re-working is of little consequence, because, unlike the Mohawks, who basically changed little more than the title, Reed applies enough moxy to his iteration of Tramp-ness to add something of substance, and in the words of Abe Simpson, it was ‘The style of the time”.
Should you wish to grab your own copy of this groover, you can expect to drop upwards of $20. I would council patience in such a search as I have seen the price of this record fluctuate (there are also a couple of different pressings). Though I’m positive that this has been comped, I cannot remember exactly when or where. Either way, you now have this MP3 to keep you warm.
See you on Friday with a selection from the ‘Big Stuff’ wars of the early 70’s…