Bobby Charles – Clean Water (1987)

FrontCover1Bobby Charles was born Robert Charles Guidry on 21st February 1938 in Abbeville, Louisiana. A native Cajun
himself, he recalled that his life “changed for ever” when he re-tuned his parents’ radio set from a local Cajun station to one playing records by Fats Domino. Most successful as a songwriter, he is regarded as one of the founding fathers of swamp pop. His own vocal style was laidback and drawling. His biggest successes were songs other artists covered, such as ‘See You Later Alligator’ by Bill Haley & His Comets; ‘Walking To New Orleans’ by Fats Domino – with whom he recorded a duet of the same song in the 1990s – and
‘(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do’ by Clarence “Frogman” Henry. It  allowed him to live off the songwriting royalties for the rest of his life! Two other well-known compositions are ‘The Jealous Kind’, recorded by Joe Cocker, and ‘Tennessee Blues’ which Kris Kristofferson committed to record.

Disenchanted with the music business, Bobby disappeared from the music scene in the mid-1960s but returned  in 1972 with a self-titled album on the Bearsville  label on which he was accompanied by Rick Danko and several other members of the Band and Dr John. Bobby later made a rare live appearance as a guest singer on stage at The Last Waltz, the 1976 farewell concert of the Band, although his contribution was cut from Martin Scorsese’s film of the event.

Bobby Charles returned to the studio in later years, recording a European-only album called Clean Water in 1987.

In September 2007, he was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Bobby Charles lived for some years in quiet seclusion at Holly Beach on the Gulf of Mexico and became  a local environmental activist. After his house was destroy ed by Hurricane Rita in 2005, he returned to Abbeville. He collapsed in his home near Abbeville and died on 14th January 2010. (Robin Dunn & Chrissie van Varik)

Bobby Charles

Around 1986, Bobby recorded enough songs for an album with the aforementioned Nelson and Young and members of their bands. One band member, Ben Keith

“…asked me if I had any new songs. I said that I did and I sang him a couple of ’em and he said, ‘Man, let’s go in the studio and do ’em right now’. So we went in, we got some time and we started doin’ some songs and before we knew it we were on our way to finishing another complete album and I just felt really good about this. This is the record that I’ve always dreamed of making. This is the first time I get to make MY record the way that I wanted to make it, from cover to cover.”

The album in question was released in 1987. Produced by Bobby’s own Rice ‘n’ Gravy company (so-called after Bobby’s favourite Cajun dish), it was entitled ‘Clean Water’ and was issued in Germany by Zensor. It included a version of ‘But I Do’, performed in a very different manner to Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, plus nine more Charles compositions, many of which were well worth a place in any record collection. The title track reflected Bobby’s interest in ecology: “I’m trying to clean all the waters of the world. It’s a big project but I think we can do it”. Three years later when he autographed the sleeve of my copy of the album he wrote “Smile – Better Days are coming”. These sentiments are particularly ironic in view of the recent BP oil leakage into the Gulf of Mexico and the disastrous consequences. It is difficult to understand why airplay was so difficult to come by in Louisiana at the time when four singles were released, even though the album was not originally issued in the States.

“They play Cajun in Berlin, Germany before they play it in Lafayette, Louisiana which is the Cajun capital of the world and that’s embarrassing to me, it really is.”

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Personnel:
Joe Allen (bass)
Bobby Charles (vocals)
Charles Cockran (piano)
Bessyl Duhon (accordion)
Mike Elliot (guitar, synth drums programing)
Karl Himmel (synth drums programing)
Jim Horn (horns)
Wayne Jackson (horns)
Ben Keith (bass, steel guitar, background vocals)
Doanner Kupper (background vocals)
Wade Benson Landry (fiddle)
Kenny Malone (percussion)
Larry Marshall (piano)
Terry McMillan (percussion, harp)
Joey Miskulin (accordion)
Tracy Nelson (background vocals)
Hrgus Robbins (piano)
Jackie Street (bass)
Bob Wilson (piano)

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Tracklist:
01. Lil’ Cajun 3.04
02. Secrets 3.27
03. Love In The Worse Degree 3.22
04. Cowboys And Indians 2.59
05. But I Do 4.26
06. Clean Water 3.10
07. Lil’ Sister 3.07
08. Party Town 3.56
09. Le Champs Elysee! 3.39

All songs written by Bobby Charles

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Robert Charles Guidry (February 21, 1938 – January 14, 2010)

 

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Bobby Charles – Chess Masters (1977)

FrontCover1Bobby Charles (Robert Charles Guidry), songwriter and singer, born 21 February 1938; died 14 January 2010:

The rock’n’roll classics See You Later, Alligator and Walking to New Orleans are among the compositions of the Louisiana-born singer-songwriter Bobby Charles, who has died aged 71. The son of a gas company truck-driver, he was born Robert Charles Guidry in the small town of Abbeville, Louisiana. He recalled that his life “changed for ever” when he retuned his parents’ radio set from a local Cajun station to one playing records by Fats Domino. He led a local group, the Cardinals, for whom he wrote a song called Hey Alligator at the age of 14. The song was inspired by an incident at a roadside diner, when his parting shot to a friend – “See you later, alligator” – inspired another customer to respond with: “In a while, crocodile.”

BobbyCharlesFanclubThe popularity of the song led a local record-store owner to recommend Guidry to Leonard Chess of the Chicago-based Chess Records label. After Bobby had sung it over the phone, Chess signed him up. He travelled to New Orleans to record the song and several others under the name Bobby Charles. On his first visit to Chicago, he shocked the label’s owners, who had been expecting to meet a young black singer and had arranged a promotional tour of the “chitlin’ circuit” of African-American venues.

Chess issued Charles’s Later Alligator in January 1956, but it was soon recorded as See You Later, Alligator by Bill Haley & His Comets, whose version sold 1m copies in America (coincidentally, publicity photos of Charles at this time showed him with a Haley-style kiss curl). Although Charles performed alongside big names such as Little Richard, the Platters and Chuck Berry on tours in the late 1950s, his own records for Chess, Imperial and Jewel did not sell that well. Nevertheless, he enjoyed songwriting royalties from hit versions of songs he had co-written, such as Walking to New Orleans, recorded by Fats Domino in 1960, and But I Do, recorded by Clarence “Frogman” Henry in 1961.

ChessSinglesCharles’s laidback, drawling vocal style was also a formative influence on a style of music made by white and black Louisiana teenagers that came to be called swamp pop – primarily slow, rolling two-chord ballads drawing from all the musical traditions of south Louisiana, such as country, soul and Cajun. The genre’s biggest national hits were Rod Bernard’s This Should Go On Forever and Joe Barry’s I’m a Fool to Care.
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Charles disappeared from the music scene in the mid-1960s but returned in 1972 with a self-titled album on which he was accompanied by Rick Danko and several members of Danko’s group, the Band. The album’s most remarkable tracks were Before I Grow Too Old and the languorous Small Town Talk. The radio DJ and historian Charlie Gillett summed up that song’s appeal: “It was precisely the uneventful nature of the music that made it so alluring. Alongside the Band’s rhythm section, Dr John slipped in behind the organ to play an instantly addictive melody that is still in my blood.”

PressKitAlthough the album was not a commercial success, Charles appeared on later recordings by Paul Butterfield and made a rare live appearance as a guest singer at The Last Waltz, the 1976 farewell concert of the Band, although his contribution was cut from Martin Scorsese’s film of the event.

His songs continued to attract other singers. Joe Cocker recorded The Jealous Kind (in 1976), as did Ray Charles and Etta James. Kris Kristofferson was among several BobbyCharles03singers to record the wistful Tennessee Blues. Charles returned to the studio rarely in later years, recording Wish You Were Here Right Now (1995) and Secrets of the Heart (1998). The 2004 double CD Last Train to Memphis was a retrospective of his compositions, with guest appearances by Neil Young, Willie Nelson and Fats Domino. In 2008, his friend and collaborator Dr John co-produced the album Homemade Songs, and late last year Charles had completed another CD, Timeless. Dedicated to Domino, it is scheduled for release at the end of February.

Charles lived for some years in quiet seclusion at Holly Beach on the Gulf of Mexico. After his house was destroyed by Hurricane Rita in 2005, he returned to Abbeville. His contribution to the music of his home state was recognised when he was inducted into the Louisiana music hall of fame in 2007. He had been in poor health recently with diabetes and was in remission from kidney cancer.

Charles was divorced and is survived by four sons.

This LP contains 18 tracks, Bobby Chales recorded for Chess Records between 1955 and 1957.

And The Paul Gayton band provides sizzling backup on these raw and raucous R&B numbers. A good way to remember one of the true pioneers of rock and roll.

BobbyCharles01Personnel:
Bobby Charles (guitar, vocals)
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The Paul Gayton Band

BackCover1Tracklist:
01. Watch It, Sprocket (Guidry) 2.06
02. Yeah, Yeah (McDaniel) 2.30
03. You Know I Love You (Guidry) 2.30
04. Good Loving (Guidry) 2.05
05. I’d Like To Know (Guidry) 2.27
06. Ain’t Got No Home (Guidry) 2.37
07. Time Will Tell (Gayton) 2.02
08. Take It Easy, Greasy (Guidry) 2.14
09. You Can Suit Yourself (Guidry) 1.59
10. See You Later, Alligator (Guidry) 3.45
11. On Bended Knee (Guidry) 2.14
12. I’ll Turn Square For You (Guidry) 2.15
13. I Ain’t Gonna Do It No More (Guidry) 2.33
14. Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey (v.Tilzer/McCree) 2.39
15. Lonely Street (Bisco) 2.30
16. Mr. Moon (Guidry) 2.06
17. One-Eyed Jack (Guidry/Gayton) 2.11
18. Hey, Good Looking (Williams) 2.07

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