Genius at Work: James Booker
Listen/Download -James Booker – Gonzo
I for one couldn’t be happier that this week is finally coming to a close. To borrow a well worn phrase from the Bard, life is currently beating me like a rented mule, leaving me tired, frazzled and ready to shut my brain off for a day or two. This has been one of those weeks that has been chock-a-block with stuff to do, places to be and spending far too little time in bed, sleeping or otherwise occupied.
Fortunately I have a block of restorative time penciled in for the weekend, during which I look forward to doing little more than making sure my sons are safe and fed, and feeding the non-creative section of what’s left of my brain with movies and such (and maybe a touch of light reading if I can muster up enough concentration.
The tune I bring you today is an old fave, which could land in either of two crates in the Funky16Corners vault, those being New Orleans and Hammond grooves.
The artist in question is the mighty James Booker.
Revered during his day as a keyboard master (on piano and organ both) and a dude with a talent for living on the edge (over which he eventually plummeted), James Booker wove his way in and out of the fabric of New Orleans music from his early days in the 1950s through his untimely death in 1983 (he was only 44).
Booker was not only gay at a time when that would have made his life difficult on a number of levels, but was also – sadly – an alcoholic and a junkie.
He recorded his first 45 in 1954 and eventually hit the charts with today’s selection, ‘Gonzo’ in 1960 which was a Top 5 R&B hit, floating just outside of the Pop Top 40. Booker recorded a number of excellent 45s for Don Robey’s Duke and Peacock labels (one under the name of BB King’s drummer Earl Forrest), all of which Robey took writing credit for (under the pseudonym ‘D. Malone’).
Booker also did a stint playing organ in the band of fellow New Orleans-ian Lloyd Price, an example of which can be heard in Funky16Corners Radio v.23.5 Old School Hammond.
It’s not hard to imagine legions of people dropping their nickels into jukeboxes all over the country to cut a rug to ‘Gonzo’, which features Booker on the organ as well as a sweet flute solo (maybe James Rivers??). It has an infectious melody and the production is wonderful.
I hope you dig it.
You can hit the old Funky16Corners web zine for a little more info on Booker (follow the link and then scroll down).
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