Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Jessie Hill, Ooh Poo Pah Doo (Pts. 1 & 2).
Jessie Hill, Whip It On Me.
Allen & Allen, Tiddle Winks.
Aaron Neville, Over You.
The Del Royals, Always Naggin' (Crumblin' Fussin' Nag Nag).

All hail Minit Records, New Orleans' finest exporter of the 1960-63 period, and whose sound was primarily the work of pianist/songwriter Allen Toussaint.

Well before Phil Spector, Toussaint was a studio mastermind--he found many of his label's artists, wrote and arranged their songs, and performed with them in the studio while producing the sessions. His role came as something of an accident. Minit had been formed in 1959 by a local record distributor, Joe Banashak, and local DJ Larry McKinley--their strategy was to offer short (hence the name) recordings by local talent (which McKinley would shamelessly flog on his radio shows). Toussaint subbed for Minit's first A&R man when the guy left town; when the A&R man never came back to New Orleans, Toussaint had a job.

Minit's first hit was by Jessie Hill, a gruff-voiced belter who once drummed for Huey Smith and the Clowns. Hill had written a novelty song, "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," that was popular in the New Orleans clubs, and McKinley had the song rushed out in time for Mardi Gras 1960, during which McKinley played it non-stop. The track was split over two sides--the A-side, Part 1, featured Hill's vocal, while Pt. 2, the instrumental side, had much more crossover success, hitting #28 on Billboard. "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" is the sound of the Ninth Ward, pure and early funk. "Whip It On Me," the follow-up, is denser, dirtier and even more majestic.

Soon afterward, Toussaint and songwriter Allen Orange teamed up for a one-off single, "Tiddle Winks," and also wrote "Over You" for the debut of a young singer, Aaron Neville. (Toussaint opens the track with Chopin's funeral march, to signal the singer's strangely light-hearted homicidal intentions. "I'm gonna slay you baby!" Neville sings, with sun in his voice.)

And the Del-Royals' "Always Naggin'," another Toussaint composition, was cut around the same time as Ernie-K-Doe's "Mother In Law," which, upon its release in 1961, would be one of Minit's smashes. The Del Royals weren't really a group, just some studio regulars led by singers Calvin Lee and Willie Harper (who had sung backup on "Mother In Law," along with bass singer Benny Spellman, who we'll be hearing from in future years).

A mini-Minit discography:

Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo," recorded 12 December 1959, was released in February 1960 as Minit 607 (it was an R&B #3); "Whip It On Me," which could've been sequenced on the Stones' Exile on Main Street, was recorded 2 June 1960 and released the same month as Minit 611.

"Tiddle Winks," recorded 3 March 1960, was released in April as Minit 609; Neville's "Over You," recorded 1 July 1960, was issued the same month as Minit 612 (hitting #31 R&B); and the glorious "Always Naggin'," while recorded in October 1960, wasn't released until late '61 as Minit 637.

All the tracks are on The Minit Records Story, a 2-disc compilation that is blissfully good and, naturally, long out of print. You can get most of the songs on The Instant & Minit Story, though it (insanely) doesn't include Jessie Hill's "Whip It On Me" and might be going out of print in any case. "Whip It On Me" is, however, on Finger Poppin' and Stompin'.

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