Because I had to rush out my last LB letter before going on a series of overseas tours all my news is a little late. By now I hope you’ve all rushed out and bought our new albums by Katie Webster and Elvin Bishop. Both of them are on very successful tours to (as we say in the record business) support their new releases. I think it’s been a wonderful year for Alligator, because we’ve been able to bring you so many new artists–The Kinsey Report, The Paladins, Maurice John Vaughan, Kenny Neal, Tinsley Ellis, Katie and Elvin. Now, for our last double shot for ’88, we’ve got Alligator debuts by two great veterans, Lazy Lester and Rufus Thomas.
All you fans of Louisiana swamp blues know Lester from classics of laid-back harmonica like “Sugar Coated Love” and “I Hear You Knocking.” You may have seen him during his last two years of barnstorming the country since he came back out of retirement. Or you may have heard his “Lazy Lester Rides Again” album cut in England last year. Now Lester is at it again, with those (dare I say it) lazy vocals and wonderfully idiosyncratic harmonica. Kenny Neal, the hotshot son of Lester’s old playing partner Raful Neal, is on guitar, the band is kicking, and the result is a slice of charming, low-key and very, very bayou blues. It’s called “Harp And Soul.”
Rufus Thomas, the World’s Oldest Teenager, the pioneering Sun recording artist, the first Stax hit maker, the creator of “Walking The Dog” and “The Funky Chicken” is back! His album is blues from start to finish, with some very funny writing, a fine band including a great horn section featuring Noble “Thin Man” Watts, and the inimitable Rufus personality. It’s called “That Woman Is Poison!” and it’s blessed with one of our best covers ever, courtesy of Peter Amft. Funky fun from start to finish! By the way, both these albums were produced at King Snake Studios in Florida by Bob Greenlee, who’s fast becoming a hot producer (almost as good as I am!). He writes, plays bass and baritone sax, arranges horns, etc. etc. Plus a nice guy.
I was reminiscing last time about signing Albert Collins through our mutual pal Dick Shurman, and Dick was nice enough to correct my chronology. Turns out the Wise Fools and Notre Dame gigs were in February of ’78, not summer of ’77.
Oops! Anyway, after much financial trepidation, I swallowed hard and we made our record deal. We booked Albert back into the Wise Fools for four nights in May to gig and rehearse. Since Albert didn’t have his own band, Dick and I had chosen the Casey Jones/Aron Burton Band, and they made an ideal rhythm section, plus being incredibly nice to work with. We rehearsed at the club during the day, with gigs at night. (It was around that time that Aron, opening the show, began calling the band The Icebreakers, and the name’s stuck ever since). Larry Burton, Aron’s brother and a very underrated guitarist and Allen Batts on keyboards comprised the rest of the band (Allen was mostly doing jazz gigs but had cut with Jimmy Johnson among others). During the week, I ran into A.C. Reed out on Lincoln Avenue, and suggested he come by and sit in on Friday night. I introduced Albert and A.C., and after the first chorus of A.C.’s tenor, Albert came down off the bandstand to the front table (where I was slowly going deaf) to tell me he wanted A.C. on his record (just like I planned it!). Little did I know that the team of Albert, A.C. and Casey was going to become one of the GREAT blues bands of the 1980s.
More next time,