(below) Tony Allen: the originator
“Listen – Night Owl MP3″
Here we gather at the middle of the week, poised – after a few days of intense suffering – to turn things around. Knowing that – unlike Sisyphus – we’ve all crested the hill and that the weekend is but a few days distant has always been good for the soul, and since soul is the coin of the realm hereabouts, what better way to celebrate than a little more of same?
I found today’s selection a few months back in my record show haul. When I first pulled it from the box, I assumed that I was getting a garage punk 45, but when I dropped the needle on the old GP3 (currently ailing, maybe about to be put out to pasture) what I got was something else entirely.
Though I’d never heard of the Bad Habits, in the weeks that followed I would, courtesy of that band, be taught a lesson in misconceptions, factual wrong turns and the like. Certainly nothing profound, but with enough light at the end of the tunnel to clear things up.
‘Clear what up?’ you say.
Well, sit right back and you’ll hear a tale….yadda, yadda, yadda….
Label scanner that I am, the first thing I noticed about the Bad Habits 45, once I got it home and settled in, was the Delaney Bramlett credit on the song ‘It’s Been a Long Time Coming’. This, and the distinctly Bonnie-esque vocals on the record pushed me in the direction of assuming (and we know what Felix Unger had to say about that slippery slope) that what I was holding was some early incarnation of Delaney and Bonnie (and maybe some Friends, but who knows?).
A bit of Googling revealed that there were other folks out there on the interwebs who thought the same thing. Naturally, being constitutionally unable to leave well enough alone, I started digging around, and discovered that the Bad Habits 45 had been released in 1970, well after the Bramletts were a going concern. I thought that maybe this was an early, possibly unreleased recording that the folks at Paula records issued to take advantage of their success.
In the end (or at least the first “end”) it remained a mystery. The record was digi-ma-tized, the label scanned and there it sat in my ‘to be blogged’ folder for several weeks.
Then – as is often the case – I dug a little more, whipped a little Google Fu on the webs and discovered that the Bad Habits were not in fact any incarnation of Delaney and Bonnie, but had only covered one of their songs.
As it turns out, the Bad Habits were a white Louisiana band – originally called Debbie and the Lads (maybe that’s Debbie singing?) – that signed with Paula Records in 1969 and went on to record four singles for the label in 1970 and 1971*.
The song that we feature today, ‘Night Owl’ (originally spelled ‘Nite Owl’) was a cover of a multi-regional 1955 hit by Tony Allen and the Champs.
Allen, a native of New Orleans relocated to Los Angeles in the early 50’s where he hung with folks like Cornell Gunter, Jesse Belvin and Bobby Freeman. Allen recorded ‘Nite Owl’ for Specialty Records in 1955, and it went on to become a favorite of the lowrider scene, as well as with “Beach Music” fans in the southeast.
The tune was later covered by the Righteous Brothers, Dick Dale & the Deltones, Bobby Paris and John Fred & the Playboy Band (maybe the version that inspired the Bad Habits?). There was even a Jamaican version of the tune by Lee & the Clarendonians.
The Bad Habits version is a rough slice of R&B, with a particularly raw lead vocal. It sounds like it was recorded long before 1970.
I’ve never heard any of the other Bad Habits 45s, but you know I’ll be looking for them now.
Hope you dig it.
Bad Habits keyboardist Ronnie Plaisance left a bunch of additional information about the band and the recording of this 45 in the comments section. I thought it only fitting that I move it up to the main page.
“My wife was messin around on google and found your link, and strangely enough, I was the original keyboardist for Debby and the Ladds, who became the Bad Habits when we signed with Paula Records back in 69 or 70′Bad Habits Paula Record Single Releases
Debby Folse was the female singer and boy could she and still can belt them out. Married now and performs locally.
The most informatative info I can offer is, that the guitarist Pershing Wells was just a kid when Nite Owl was recorded in Tyler , Texas, so Gene Kent the manager of the Bad Habits, had to call on the guitarist from Mouse and the Traps from Tyler to create the guitar solo. A little know fact…
I think his name is Bugs Henderson, who went on to much bigger things. check him out when you get a chance..Bugs came in and nailed that lead in two takes, and it was exactly want the producers wanted, as they sang most of it to him before recording.
I am currently working with the blue eyed soul revue, a group together over 30 years, who backs atrist such as Percy Sledge, Jimmy Clanton, Fats, and many more…on my space as blue eyed soul revue.
I was a young lad of 19 when all this fame hit us, and basically signed everything they asked me to, and just went along for the ride. Great oportunity and loads of fun and experience. I remained in the group the Bad Habits for a couple of years, then moved on.
The story that was given to us band members was that Paula records had two hits on the charts at the same time and had just enough money to promote one, which happened to be John Fred and the Playboys from Houma , La. with the tune Judy in Disquise with glasses, which was written about his sister who wore glasses. Our record had some success, but was not promoted to it’s full potential.
On another note, the members of our group were way against “bubble gum” commercial music and were asked to record Nite Owl as a flip side, never to be heard…LOL…We all were very serious musicians, who wanted more of a Chicago, or Blood, Sweat and tears, type audience…anyway…nite owl poped and off we rode in that direction.
Anyway hope this helps….”
327 Night Owl / It’s Been A Long Time Coming 1970
333 My Baby Specializes / Born On The Bayou 1970
342 I Don’t Wanna Discuss It / If The Whole World Stopped Loving 1971
353 Thank You For The Love / My Days Are Numbered 1971
*The Bad Habits guitarist Pershing Wells has an interesting web page. Check out the pics of him with Allen Toussaint, Oliver Morgan and Ernie K. Doe