Monday, March 14, 2005

Skip Easterling - Keep The Fire Burning

The term “blue-eyed” soul – generally used to refer to white singers of black music – is often misused. The fact that it’s used at all is problematic. True, there are few white singers that sing soul music with any real power or feel, but the problem is the term “blue-eyed” soul is applied to any white singer trying to sing soul, whether they’re any good or not (I’m looking at you Michael Bolton…). Over the years, singers like Doug Sahm, Mitch Ryder, Felix Caveliere, and Michael McDonald (as well as countless other lesser-knowns) have demonstrated a real feel for the music by without the need to resort to minstrelsy. The bottom line is, “soul” (at least in the musical sense) is an intangible, you either have it or you don’t, and if you don’t and you try too hard, it’ll be obvious in the low quality of your output (I’m still looking at you Michael Bolton). One of the aforementioned “lesser-knowns” who sang with an authentic sense of soul was the great James ‘Skip’ Easterling (for the whole story on Skip check out the interview with him on the Soul Generation site). Easterling made a grip of records in New Orleans through the 60’s and the 70’s, recording for Ron, Alon, Instant and other NOLA labels, and working with both Eddie Bo and Huey Piano Smith. One of his best sides (and a 45 that’s commanding serious coin these days) is the Eddie Bo (written/arranged/produced) jam ‘Keep The Fire Burning' from 1967. The tune, which sounds like a lost b-side to Oliver Morgan’s “La La Man” (also a Bo project), is a hard charging soul dancer (which would explain it’s popularity with the notoriously deep pockets of the Northern Soulies) with one of Easterling’s best vocals. The arrangement is 100% classic Bo (bearing all of the instrumental and vocal hallmarks of his best 60’s productions – for himself and others), and Easterling does this solid foundation justice. Easterling’s other ALON sides (including more upbeat sides as well as some tasty ballad performances), and his later, funkier 45s for Instant (‘I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘Too Weak To Break The Chains”) deserve a high quality reissue (Sundazed? Hello???) that would bring to light the work of an excellent, albeit minor part of New Orleans musical history. The high quality of this record (above and beyond Easterling’s stellar performance) also goes a long way toward demonstrating Eddie Bo’s position as one of the great musical “auteurs” of the New Orleans scene. As demonstrated repeatedly in the Funky16Corners Eddie Bo Jam of the Month, Bo was equally adept as songwriter, arranger, producer, and talent scout which should place him firmly in the first rank of New Orleans soul along with Allen Toussaint and Wardell Quezerque.


Anonymous cj grogan said...

Is that Peter Lemongello or Hagebert Humperdink (Englebert bro)

3/14/2005 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

That's Skip. Despite the gull-wing collar and the somewhat deranged stare, the man has soul.

3/15/2005 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Very good choice, Larry. Skip is a soul singer - period - and does deserve a digital retropsective. Charly did an LP of his Alon and Instant sides. I blogged "Too Weak To Break The Chains", which Huey Smith produced, a few months ago.
Glad you got to one of Bo's.

3/15/2005 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

Thanks Dan. I'm waiting until I gather enough 45s to make my own "digital retrospective" (I think I have 3 ALONs and 2 Instants). Gotta keep digging...

3/15/2005 01:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skip is a great inspiration also. He co-wrote and wrote some songs on my last album and my producer and fans loved them. He is always willing to help someone with advice and encouragement. Most of all he has always been honest with me, whether I needed to hear good or bad. This honestly helps an artist if they know how to take constructive criticism. Skip produced my first album, recorded at Studio In The Country, in Bogalusa, LA. I had faith in Skip before we started the recording, but when it was finished I was really impressed!
Vocalist, songwriter, composer, producer...... He is truly a GREAT person. I'm glad to call him my friend!

Love ya' Skip!

Di Anne Foxx

4/27/2005 11:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great work as usual larry, good to see skips music being appreciated, I will forward your page link to him. so he can check it out. keep it up :)


6/16/2005 06:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skip also has one more 45 That I produced in 1985 called Meat Rack Tavern. Great,Very rare. Also I produced an CD for Skip in 1999 "Never Released", Quarter In The Jukebox. Great! Great! Record. Anybody interested?

12/01/2005 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don't mind this site using the picture I personally took of Skip Easterling, which was lifted from my own site, but it would have been nice to at least receive a credit that the picture came from me.

Bob Walker

1/13/2007 11:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I met Skip in 1976 in Slidell,La. I had the honor of working with him in the late 1970s-80s in a couple of local clubs and engagements around Slidell. Skip's vocal range is second to none. He is an outstanding singer, songwriter and all around entertainer. Thanks Skip for the memories, your music and that fabulous voice you have. The best of luck to you and yours.

5/15/2008 04:05:00 PM  

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