Larry Grogan, Brick, NJ
yes, It’s been a long time since the last post. lots of things have happened. I am posting from what used to be my local coffee shop in Tel Aviv, Israel. so nice to visit home, enjoy the warm weather, good food, be surrounded with friends, and and charging my batteries with some warm summer vibes.
I have visited lots of cool collectors lately. a bunch in Massachusetts, one who runs a cool monthly record sale in Highland Park NJ, a few french collectors from Paris with amazing collection of Jazz and African music, a car dealer in London and now, in Israel, I will have the chance to bring you some cool and rare Hebrew grooves.
This post goes about a month back, it was just when the pianist Eddie Bo had passed away. Larry contacted me after bumping into my blog with the help of my man Prestige. he lives close to him and they shared some time digging together and DJ’ing in occasional gigs. Larry runs this fantastic music blog http://funky16corners.wordpress.com/ , which spins around everything that is funky.
Based on his musical knowledge and funky orientation, and the fact that Edie Bo was Larry’s musical hero, I suggested Larry to base his blog post around the musical works.
When Eilon came down to NJ for the shoot, we talked about how one of my musical heroes – the mighty Eddie Bo – had just passed away. I had a stack of Bo and Bo-related 45s on my desk, which I had pulled out for the blog, and as I spun a couple of them Eilon suggested that maybe we could try something different and do the post as a tribute of sorts, relating to Bo as an important aspect of my own digging life.
I first got into Bo over a decade ago. The first record of his I heard (though not the first one I owned) was ‘Hook and Sling’, which opened the door for me to dig deeper not only into the sounds of Bo and the many artists he worked with, but into New Orleans sounds in general (especially Allen Toussaint, the other god in the NOLA pantheon).
Eddie Bo was – in many ways – the quintessential soul/funk artist for a crate digger. He was unfortunately (and unjustly) obscure, and in addition to his own substantial catalog as a performer, he was also a prolific composer, producer and arranger, and left his mark on a huge stack of incredible 45s.
Back in the day there used to be a storehouse of 45s in a weird little record store out in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Before we had kids, my wife would come digging with me, armed with a list of artists (and photocopies of record labels).
One of the first Bo sides I picked up in the field was on that trip, when I pulled Mary Jane Hooper’s ‘I’ve Got Reasons’ out of a stack of $2.00 records (easy to remember today since every record I got from that place has its price marked in china marker in the run out grooves). A decade later, it amazes me that for all the Eddie Bo records I have, that 45 was one of the few that I found while digging (in person), as opposed to various internet sources. Though Bo had a Top 10 R&B; hit with ‘Hook and Sling’ in 1969, there aren’t too many reasons for his stuff to show up out in the field, unless of course you’re digging down south.
It’s interesting that to most of the people reading this post, Bo is hardly considered obscure, especially when you’re talking about a record like ‘Lover and a Friend’. A truly great 45 on it’s own merits, one of the finest duets that Bo did, it took on a whole new status (along with a couple of dozen other records) when it was used by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist in the Brainfreeze mix. The brilliant drum break – apparently Bobby Williams – made ‘Lover and a Friend’ hugely popular with DJs and crate diggers. Like almost every other record in that mix (even the truly common ones) the value of ‘Lover and a Friend’ went through the roof, making it one of the more expensive Bo 45s I’ve found (and I had to get it from someone in Japan).
The cash value of these 45s isn’t really important (at least once the sting of paying for them is gone). One thing that can be said about all of them is that if you’re a DJ, i.e. not just collecting records for your own enjoyment, the Eddie Bo catalog contains an unusually high percentage of dance floor magic per side. Some of them, like ‘Hip Drop’ or ‘Check Your Bucket’ are classic good-time funky soul, guaranteed to keep a party rocking.
Others, like ‘Can I Be Your Squeeze’ by Chuck Carbo take things to another level. Not only one of Bo’s best, but one of the hottest funk records ever created (thanks in large part to the drumming of the mighty James Black), ‘Can I Be Your Squeeze’ is one of those records you hold back until folks are dancing, the party is nearing it’s peak, but you want to – in the words of Brother Sylvester Stewart – take things higher. If you’re spinning for a room full of people who are in the mood to move, and you drop the needle on ‘Can I Be You’re Squeeze’ chances are better than good that you are about to witness the one thing that makes being a DJ truly worthwhile; number one, that the dancers are going to start dancing even harder (especially during the mind-blowing drum breakdowns), number two, because number one reinforces your faith in the power of a truly great record.
I started out 25 years ago as a drummer, playing in garage punk bands, and though (after a while) I knew I wasn’t going to give Ginger Baker anything to worry about, the years I spent bashing away at a kit have informed my years as a collector. New Orleans was packed with genius drummers, from Earl Palmer, to Smokey Johnson, to Zigaboo Modeliste, to Bo’s main hitters Bobby Williams and James Black, and the drum sounds on those records have a lot to do with why they’re so powerful.
I was talking to a friend about D.Jing recently and I said that the records in my crates all have a certain kind of power, which we release when we DJ a party. DJ Prestige and I did a mini-tour of DC and Virginia not too long ago where we had excellent crowds. Once the people start dancing, the challenge for me as a DJ is to go into the box and find something to keep the energy going. When I drop a record like ‘Pass the Hatchet’ by Roger and the Gypsies, and a room full of people start losing their minds, and dancing even harder than they already were, there’s a feeling of success, and personal satisfaction. It’s almost like saying “Here’s some Eddie Bo. Take it and pass it on!” Fans will want to find it to listen to, and other collectors/DJs will want to find it to spin, and the energy that Eddie Bo put into that record 40 some years ago gets passed on again and again and again. It may never be a “hit”, but there will always be a group of people out there that love that record, who’ll get up out of their seats to dance every time they hear the intro. It’s important to keep that kind of vibe going, and it’s a real pleasure to witness it happening.
That ‘Pass the Hatchet’ is not only my favorite Bo record, but my favorite 45 of all time says a lot about what Bo was able to do, even when he was only the singer (read more about “Pass the Hatchet”). I’m certainly not alone in feeling this way. About ten years ago I paid $35 for an absolutely hashed copy of ‘Pass the Hatchet’, because I had to have it. It didn’t skip, but it did look like it had gotten from New Orleans to New Jersey being dragged behind a truck the entire way. Even in that condition it was still a killer, and a few years later, when I was lucky enough to mint up (for only a few dollars more) I sold that hammered 45 (with full disclosure about the condition) to someone who felt the same exact way about it that I did. Hopefully if he doesn’t still have it, he passed it on to someone else.
Now that I have kids (how else would I know that baby wipes cases are perfect for storing 45s?), I may not dig with the frequency that I used to, but the intensity will always be there. I’m just as excited now (maybe more so) about finding something new, and in the years since I’ve been doing the web zine and the blog, that excitement has always been compounded by knowing that I’ll get a chance to share that music with other people. I hope that my sons grow up to dig the music I have in the house (just like I did with my Pop’s records) but I wonder if there will be anything but MP3s by the time they’re old enough.
Q: What was your first album? How did you get it? At what age? Can you describe that feeling? Do you still have it?
A: The first record I purchased with my own money was a copy of ‘Introducing the Beatles’ on Vee Jay, which I bought at a soda fountain in Englishtown, NJ. I was a HUGE Beatles fan, so it was a major rush, and when I got it home I heard (for the first time) covers of soul songs like Arthur Alexander’s ‘Anna’ and the Shirelles ‘Baby It’s You’. Unfortunately I don’t still have it.
Q: Tell me about a record that’s too weird to believe, even for a die-hard record fiend?
A: I have a couple of Hammond cuts that are on the flip side of pretty unusual things. One (and I can’t remember the title) is the flip of a soliloquy of a dead guy listing his regrets. There are a bunch of organ instrumentals that appear on the flip side of completely unrelated/incongruous a-sides, like they were laying around in the vault and just got tacked on to take up space. There’s an amazing organ groove called ‘Slide’ on the b-side of a 45 of the 1969 Chicago Cubs singing a reworked version of Little Willie John’s ‘Fever’.
Q: Tell me about a record that has healed heartbreaks! Name one that made them worse!
A: I don’t know about heartbreaks (I’ve been happily married for a while) but I often turn to music to soothe my soul in times of stress. A couple of faves in that regard are ‘Fair Play’ by Diamond Joe (on Minit) and ‘I’m So Lonely’ by Little Buster (on Jubilee), both stunningly deep, incredibly good records.
Q: How many records are there in your collection that you have not yet listened to? How many will stay that way forever?
A: There are always a couple of stacks of things that haven’t been listened to thoroughly, but what’s cool is that in lean times (when there isn’t money to dig) I can always dig in my own crates, and I usually find something cool, whether it’s an interesting album track, or a “lost” b-side.
Q: Do you tell your best digging friends about your secret record-spots?
A: Always (and it’s not always reciprocal). It’s like I said about digging karma; I’ve been at it for a long time, and don’t really have a chance to dig on the road like I used to, so I figure it can’t hurt to do a good deed and send someone in the direction of a stash of vinyl. It might come back to me some day.
Q: This is your question…. Anything you want to say, add, observe, criticize, compliment…
A: I’ve been writing about music for almost 25 years, first in my own zines, then in newspapers and eventually in the Funky16Corners web zine (since 2000) and the Funky16Corners blog (since 2004). If I had to give a name to what I do, I’d say that I’m half historian (I dig for info as much as I do for records) and half evangelist, in that I get a tremendous amount of pleasure getting the word out about lesser known musicians.