Miss Tammi Lynn
“Listen – Mojo Hannah MP3″
Hey hey hey, it’s Wed-n-es-day….
How’s it going?
Despite the fact that I’m freezing my ass off, I cannot in good conscience complain because though I may lose an ass, those poor slobs up in Minnesota, Finland and similar locations in close proximity to the Arctic circle are freezing EVERYTHING off. This of course falls into the “everything is relative” file. One mans bitter cold is another mans trip to Miami Beach. All I know is that I must make a concerted effort to locate not only my gloves, but my ice scraper. Failure to do so could result in anything from frostbite to a head-on collision (and we wouldn’t want that to happen now, would we??).
In an effort to stave off the oncoming permafrost, I present to you today a selection from the Sister Funk files, with a tangential connection to the New Orleans Funk files, all of course stored in the Excellent Records wing of the high security Funky16Corners underground storage bunker (where all such things are kept).
The record I speak of is Tammi (Tami/Tamiya) Lynn’s 1972 version of the much covered ‘Mojo Hannah’.
I have to start things off by saying that this song and I have a long and pleasant history. Back in the day – the mid-80’s to be exact – when I was travelling amongst the long-haired, Beatle-booted garage and beat revivalists, before the arrival of the CD, I was doing my uneducated best to increase my knowledge of the music we here know as soul. In furtherance of this, I had picked up a few volumes of a Rhino records reissue series called ‘Soul Shots’, which contained a mixture of the obscure and the (even then) painfully obvious. A perfect example of the former was ‘Two For the Price of One’ by Larry Williams and Johnny Watson.
Now, I knew both of these artists a little bit, Williams being the man that brought you ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’ and ‘Bad Boy’ (both covered by the Beatles) and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson laid down ‘Gangster of Love’ (years before its appropriation by Space Cowboys etc). I had no idea that the two had teamed up in the mid-60’s to lay down an album that was not only packed to the rafters with high quality soul (the title cut being the finest example) but also had the coolest album cover EVER (in which Messrs Williams and Watson are riding two Cadillacs in a Ben Hur stylee).
My newfound affection for ‘Two For the Price of One’ led me into the LP bins, looking for similar sounds by these two cats. One fine day, at a little hole-in-the-wall record store in NYC (the name of which has long been erased by the sands of time) I found a reissue of the LP ‘ The Larry Williams Show, featuring Johnny Guitar Watson’. Naturally I grabbed it and dragged it home where it was placed with loving care on the old turntable, and the needle applied accordingly. It was a set with an odd pedigree, recorded live in the UK (maybe a year before their Okeh LP) with Williams and Watson backed by a British band called the Stormsville Shakers. The set list was a mix of rock, R&B and soul, including covers of Williams’ ‘Slow Down’ (another one covered by the Fabs) and ‘Hootchy Koo’, and a cool (if somewhat shambolic) cover of the Yardbirds ‘For Your Love’. My favorite track however, was a rollicking tune called ‘Louisiana Hannah’.
Flash ahead six or seven years, and I’m digging yet another Rhino comp, this time the ‘Roots of Funk’ volume of their ‘In Yo Face’ series. I get towards the end of the disc, and all of a sudden a tune comes on and I’m all like “Hey! I know this song!”.
The recording that I heard that day is today’s selection, ‘Mojo Hannah’ by Tammi Lynn. In the years since that day, I discovered that ‘Mojo Hannah’ was the original title of the song (not sure why Larry & Johnny felt the need to change the title).
The tune was written by Clarence Paul and Andre Williams, and originally recorded in 1962 by Henry Lumpkin (on Motown). It was redone by the legendary Betty Harris (her last Jubilee 45), Aaron Neville, the Intrigues, and Esther Phillips among others. Strangely enough, one of the earliest covers was a version (recorded in New Orleans with the AFO Executives) by Tami Lynn herself.
Lynn (real name Gloria Brown) grew up singing gospel in New Orleans, and was discovered in the early 60’s by bandleader Red Tyler, who brought her in to record for the AFO label. She went on to record a single for ATCO in 1965, and sing backup on LPs by King Floyd.
By the early 70’s, Lynn ended up recording an LP for the Atlantic subsidiary Cotillion. According to the always knowledgeable Dan Phillips over at the Home of the Groove, the Cotillion LP was a mish mash of three separate sessions (with different producers in different locations), and ‘Mojo Hannah’ was recorded in Miami under the aegis of Atlantic records poobah Jerry Wexler.
Lynn’s 1972 version of the tune is a funky killer, opening with some tasty organ and bass work, before Tammi drops in to testify. The lyrics (thanks Andre!) have a Dr, John Gris-Gris by way of the Detroit Chuckle Hut vibe, with all manner of voodoo, hoodoo, alligators and swamp water running through the song. Tammi whips the whole bag up into a tasty stew, taking the tune out of its R&B roots and placing it firmly into a funky context. The production is a nice mix of big city slick and Memphis grit, and Tammi is of course in fine voice.
Her Cotillion LP is available as a CD reissue, and while the 45 isn’t particularly cheap, nor is it crazy-go-nuts expensive, so if you really dig the song and wish to whip it on the crowd at your next funk night, you should be able to do so without breaking the bank.