While I put together the forever promised Spooner show, I figured I'd take a week and focus on one of those great two siders from Southwest Louisiana: Little Bob and the Lollipops with the sweet R&B ballad, "Nobody But You" b/w their hit stomper "I Got Loaded."
Little Bob, born Camille Bob in Arnaudville in 1937, was (and still is) one of the great R&B and Swamp Pop singers of Southwest Louisiana. As quoted by Herman Fuselier, Lafayette music journalist, Little Bob came to our ears the honest way after trading a horse for his first set of drums: "My thing was to make a dollar. Help my mother and father get off that farm, man. When you're a sharecropper, you don't make no money, working on half. About the time the crop come in, the white man had it all. I was tired of going in that field. Dew on your hands in the morning, bending your back digging potatoes and breaking corn, running from snakes. It was a lot easier playing music. In '55, I was making $85 a week playing music. That was big bucks back then."
After some time backing Good Rockin' Bob on drums, Little Bob decided to break out on his own. He wanted to name the band Lil' Bob and the Tigers, but on the advise of a club owner and tapping into the popularity of Cookie & the Cupcakes, he wanted something with a little more girl appeal: and Lil' Bob & the Lollipops was born. I wish bands could still have names like that today. The band got quite a following playing the fraternity and dancehall circuits in the gulf area.
In 1964, Little Bob & the Lollipops recorded for Carol Ranchou's La Louisianne label in Lafayette, pumping out 5 stellar tracks in July, including today's song: "Nobody But You" along with its B-Side, "I Got Loaded." "Nobody But You" was a minor hit (Top 40) nationally in 1959 for Chicago R&B singer Dee Clark. Although somewhat forgotten to history, Clark had a number of smaller hits in the hey day of R&B, culminating in 1961 No. 2 hit, "Raindrops." Clark's version of the song is very urbane R&B (you can listen to it here) complete with extraneous production (including a flute and almost constant backing singers) and his super smooth tenor with the occasional falsetto. There's no doubt it's a sweet, sweet song.
Little Bob & the Lollipops do a bit more with the tune, by doing less. The band is the straight R &B line-up, guitar, bass, drums, and horns--recorded with nothing else (most likely 'cause they couldn't afford any more). The interesting thing about this recording to me is that Little Bob's vocals sit right on the crossroad of the influences on Southern Soul: the material being the urban R&B with a hint of those doowop harmonies in the falsettos, mixed with a little Sam Cooke climbing those notes and a little Bobby "Blue" Bland in the phrasing.
It's also got a couple of the elements of Swamp Pop that I love. Little Bob starts with the money making falsetto hum, achieving that instant recoginition of a song that is so important to the great Swamp Pop tunes. And, although this is more of an accident than an intention, the sound of the singer going into the red on the modulator in those early recordings is endearing to me--there's that piece of compression when Little Bob gets loud that (for no good reason) I find compelling. And then there's the B-Side.
"I Got Loaded" is a great Southwest Louisiana party tune: relentlessly upbeat, repetitive enough in its structure to keep the dance going strong, and anthemic for that sing-a-long. Fellow blogger, Funky 16 Corners, captures that feeling by admitting how he can't help but sing in the car at the top of his lungs everytime this track hits him. I also like the bravado and simplicity of the tune: there's no narrative, no reason, no sad tales--it's just what happened and will happen. Dance to it or not. Don't think about it.
The tender, slow dance ballad on Side A, the stomper on Side B. Now that's what a 45 should be.
There's a bunch more to the story: Little Bob endured some very tough times being a black performer in the early 60s in the South, which is well told by Shane Bernard in his excellent book, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues, and by Fuselier in the liner notes to the La Lousianne cd. But this story has a good ending, Little Bob still plays to this day and the La Louisanne record label still exists to this day.
Department of Discography:
That same label, La Louisanne has a great cd of 26 tracks recorded by Little Bob and the Lollipops recorded between 1963 and 1969. Check out their website here. The label seems to be run still in the family, as David Rachou is listed as the re-masterer of the tracks. It's got all those great Swamp Pop songs: blues, New Orleans soul (including one by Eddie Bo, who I just learned yesterday, sadly passed away), some originals that sound like crosses of Sam Cooke and Art Neville, and mid 60s soul cuts.
Lil' Bob also recorded for Goldband, Whit, Jin and others. Sir Shambling has posted some of those tracks here.
The great Southern Soul singer, Willie Hightower, who Barney Hoskyns described as "Sam Cooke after a night on the tiles," also recorded a stellar version of "Nobody But You" in 1968 for Capitol, which has been reissued by the London record store Honest Jon's in collaboration with Astralwerks on a self-titled cd.
"I Got Loaded" has been kicking around for a while in other forms, on a New Orleans (sic) party mix cd from Rhino, covered by Los Lobos (whose version was in Bull Durham), Elivis Costello and others.
Thanks for listening and reading. The set list:
Roy Hamilton; From the Dark End of the Street; Tore Up: The AGP Recordings (Shout!)
Little Bob & the Lollipops; Nobody But You; I Got Loaded (La Louisianne)
Arthur Alexander; Anna (Go To Him); Ultimate (Razor & Tie)
The Masqueradors; I Got It; Bell 733
Kelly Brothers; You're That Great Big Feelin'; Sims 265 (Heart of Southern Soul; Excello)
Little Willie John; Let's Rock While the Rockings Good; King 5142
Irv Le June, Jr.; One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer; The Greatest of the Greats; Goldband
Cleveland Crochet; Sugar Bee;
Ted Taylor; Don't Lie; Okeh 7154 (Shout!)
Bobby Powell; Who's Your Lover; Whit
Sleepy LaBeef; You're Humbuggin' Me; Electricity; Rounder
Joe Tex; Don't Let Your Right Hand Know; Dial 4006
Buddy & Julie Miller; The River's Gonna Run; Best of the High Tone Years
Carla Thomas; Baby I Like What You're Doing To Me; Stax 0024
Doug Sahm; She Put the Hurt on Me; Juke Box Music; Antone's
Doris Duke; Feet Start Walking; I'm a Loser; Canyon (Kent)
Johnnie Allan; Your Picture; Promised Land (Ace)
Mighty Sam McClain; Talk To Me; Amy 984 (Sundazed)
Bobby "Blue" Bland; You Got Me (Where You Want Me); I Pity the Fool; (Duke/MCA)
Barbara Lynn; There's Something on Your Mind; You'll Lose . . . Jamey Recordings
Arthur Conley; I'm Gonna Forget About You; Sweet Soul Music; Atco
Earl Gaines; Have Faith (In Me); I Pity the Fool;
The Raelettes; I'm Getting Along Allright; Tangerine
Larry Coney; More Time (To Explain); (Down & Out; Trikont)
Tommy McClain; I Can't Take It No More; Essential (Jin)
Johnny Cash; I Couldn't Keep From Crying; Now There Was a Song; Columbia
James Carr; Love Attack; Goldwax (Kent)
Bettye LaVette; What Condition My Condition Is In; (Dirty Laundry; Trikont)
Wilson Pickett; Stagger Lee; I'm In Love; Atlantic
Bobby Womack; Arkansas State Prison; My Prescription; Minit