Mongo Santamaria – Lady Marmalade


Mr. Mongo Santamaria


Listen – Lady Marmalade MP3″


How’s every little thing?
I come to you relatively late in the week (at least as things go hereabouts), both tired (from work and all) and energized, because I’m preparing to throw down some heat this Friday night at the second installment of the Asbury Park 45 Sessions.
The inaugural session was a fantastic night, well attended and more than well spun, as the resident selectors – your host DJ Prestige, DJ Prime, Connie T. Empress, Jay Boxcar, Jack the Ripper and yours truly – played some of the hottest rare funk and soul, and will be doing so again this Friday. This time out they will be joined by WFMU’s Cool Hands Luke, and Brooklyn’s own Sport Casual, fresh from the decks at the Lucky Cat in Williamsburg.
If you are close enough to make the trip, and dig funk and soul spun exclusively on 45 (and I know you do) you’d be a fool to miss it.
Now, on the matter of the blog, I couldn’t very well finish the week out without some fresh sounds to carry you into the weekend, and so I won’t.
Today’s selection is a later 45 by one of the true kings of Latin soul, the master, Ramon ‘Mongo’ Santamaria.
If all you ever heard by Mongo was his classic version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ then you wouldn’t be doing too badly, because as Latin soul goes, there are few selections as powerful (especially considering how early that particular cut falls on the timeline).
However (and this is a big however), were you to stop there, you would be depriving yourselves of a veritable wellspring of Afro-Cuban, boogaloo-ban, shake-yer-shoe-ban groove grease, and as your physician, I must recommend you not go down that particular road.
Mongo was not only a master conguero, but he also had a good enough ear to stay a few steps ahead of musical trends and the good taste/hippitude to do so with a great deal of flair.
He left Cuba and hit New York in 1950, and over the next 40 years recorded countless albums as a sideman (including many with Cal Tjader), and dozens as a leader. He recorded for Battle and Riverside into the mid-60’s, when he switched to Columbia, and then in 1970 to Atlantic. In the early 70’s he began to record for Vaya records (a subsidiary of the Fania label).
His cover of the Labelle disco/funk classic ‘Lady Marmalade’ hails from his 1975 Vaya LP “Afro Indio’.
The tune was written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan*, and originally recorded by Nolan’s group the Eleventh Hour in 1974. Labelle went into the studio with Allen Toussaint and the Meters in 1975 and rerecorded ‘Lady Marmalade’, turning into a Number One hit in the process.
Mongo recorded his cover later that year giving the tune a Latin edge (with a slightly jazzy twist), and while it may not be the fire starter that the Labelle version was, it was still a heater.
As far as I’ve been able to tell, none of Mongo’s Vaya catalogue is currently available in reissue, but as he was one of the bigger crossover successes of Latin music, the vinyl shouldn’t be too hard to find.
So…try to make it out to the Asbury Park 45 Sessions, and if I don’t see you there, I’ll see you on the interwebs.

*Nolan, by himself and in tandem with Crewe wrote of a number of best selling pop and disco records, before waxing one of the truly insipid wimp-pop records of all time, ‘I Like Dreaming’, which of course – in an unpleasant twist- went on to be a huge hit. However, having also co written ‘Lady Marmalade’ Nolan is also laughing all the way to the bank.

10 Responses to “Mongo Santamaria – Lady Marmalade”

  1. fleamarketfunk Says:

    plaese to bring any latin heat you like. i’ll have a couple, but if you know where i can get a copy of ocho doing hot pants road, well, i’ll take it. i love mongo, and this twist on that song was just the treat i needed as i’m picking out records. thanks.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Boogaloo always welcome. Thanks for the great selection.

  3. tim Says:

    thanks for this, i never knew. mongo put out what is the funkiest latin groove i’ve ever heard – “sofrito”. track that down for some kicks. smokin’…

  4. Vincent Says:

    A reissue of “Afro Indio” is available on eMusic as a DRM free download. I think that they also have one more title from his mid 70s catalogue but I can’t swear to it. Once again, I highly recommend to you and your readers that a subscription to this service is money well spent. I’ve been a member for about four years now. In fact last night, I just d/l’d a wealth of NOLA funk including that classic Eddie Bo CD that Dusty Groove seems to NEVER have in stock when I’m ready to buy it.

  5. funky16corners Says:

    Y’know Vincent, I never thought to check download services for reissues! Great idea. I also have to endorse E-Music, where I downloaded dozens of Delta blues LPs, as well as a grip of jazz.

  6. Ciggie Says:

    If only I still lived in Jersey! Thx for the post

  7. Tim Says:

    Looks like Dusty Groove has a bunch of his CDs, including Afro Indio:

    I’ve only heard a few Mongo tracks (We Got Latin Soul + his cover of Cold Sweat), but don’t have any in my collection. Of the albums in print on CD, which would you recommend as a starting place?


  8. funky16corners Says:

    It’s hard to say where to start. As long as you’re not only interested in funky stuff, I’d grab one of the comps of his Battle/Riverside stuff, which is all excellent. His late 60’s Columbia LPs all have something to recommend them, and his Atlantic Lps (which are out as budget reissues) are also excellent.

  9. Dan Says:

    Thanks for the info on Kenny Nolan. How did he ever write “I Like Dreaming” after a song like this? I bet he’s laughing all the way to the bank. I just heard this song done by a no-name orchestra the other day in an elevator.

  10. Mongo Santamaria - I Can’t Get Next To You « Flea Market Funk Says:

    […] got me into him. I never pass up some Mongo, and Funky 16 Corners did a great post about him here , with his cover of “Lady Marmalade”, which I narrowly missed digging up recently. DJ […]

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