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  • Item Category: Tools
  • Source: eBay
  • Sold Date: Mar 08, 2011
  • Channel: Auction House


Your purchase will be packed very carefully so it will arrive undamaged.

Sax player Joe Lutcher (brother of pianist/vocalist Nellie) led a jumping little band in the LA of the late 1940s.
Compiler Chas White puts it succinctly: “Recorded in the year that is most often cited as the turning point between the big bands and the rise of rhythm ‘n’ blues that developed into rock ‘n’ roll, the tracks reflect the era’s collision of styles and influences, mainly following Louis Jordan’s trailblazing route through the centre of it all but also diverting to the fringes of be-bop jazz on the one hand and laid back balladeering on the other.”

Joe fascinates me for several reasons. Mainly it’s that groove: a mixture of second line, mambo/rhumba, and straight jump (proto rock ‘n’ roll) drumming and percussion. Making the song even more remarkable is the fact that Lutcher, while he had Louisiana roots, was not from New Orleans . A blazing tenor sax player (ever hear “Stratocruiser”?) who doesn’t solo on this cut, he’s a rather underwhelming vocalist, but manages to get the story across: a travelogue set in the Crescent City on Fat Tuesday that hits the high points - Creole women, King Zulu, marching in the parade on Rampart “Avenue” (sic – it’s a street, y’all), and having a ball for free. Allowing the rhythm to predominate, Lutcher clearly understands much about the essentials of New Orleans music. Another strong plus for me on this tune is the raucous guitar intro. Grabs me every time.
Further fascination and enlightenment ensued when I realized that this tune predates Professor Longhair’s first recording of “Mardi Gras In New Orleans”, which was done for the Star Talent label in October, 1949. Lutcher’s “Mardi Gras” became popular in the New Orleans area soon after its spring release and ascended into the top 20 of the national R&B charts by fall. Although it is unclear exactly when Fess composed his tune, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that Lutcher might have provided some inspiration, or that, just maybe, on an earlier trip to New Orleans, Lutcher heard Fess gigging at the Caldonia Club an took some of that with him. Idle speculation, I guess. In any case, Fess’ first record did not make it far, as it was withdrawn because the session was non-union. A re-recording of it for Atlantic soon thereafter was not released until 1950. Besides Longhair’s tune, I think it’s safe to say that Dave Bartholomew’s recording of “Carnival Day” on Imperial in 1950 was also heavily influenced by Lutcher’s “Mardi Gras”. While I don’t know this for a fact, it seems probable that somewhere along the line Lutcher had first hand experience that helped develop a genuine feel for the city’s street beats.
Having grown up in Lake Charles, LA, Joe Lutcher took the lead of his older sister, Nellie , who was making a name for herself in Los Angeles as a singer, songwriter and pianist, and followed her to the West Coast in the early 1940s. He played sax in numerous bands there, including as stint backing Nat King Cole, then formed his own outfit and began recording for Specialty records. Sister Nellie, who was recording hits for Capitol Records in the late 1940s (“Fine Brown Frame”, etc), got him a deal with the label, which released numerous instrumental jazz and jump sides from him and his band. But, by 1949, the saxman had moved on to Modern, which was more focused on the territorial jukebox market. It’s through this route that “Mardi Gras”, only his second release for the label, first got into the ears of the locals in New Orleans . But, by 1951, his promising career was cut short when Lutcher gave it all up for the call of the church. Following that, his biggest musical claim to fame (or infamy) was the role he played in convincing Little Richard to forsake rock ‘n’ roll for religion at the height of his popularity.