Eddie Bo - Baby I'm Wise
This track may be the earliest number I’ve posted here, but it’s a solid sender (like Little Richard’s friend Linda….stick with me, this is going somewhere…). If’n you don’t know who Eddie Bo is you need to get yourself edumacated, elsewhere on this here blog, as well as at the Eddie Bo Jam of the Month at the Funky16Corners home office. Needless to say (or needful to say, since I’m saying it) Eddie is one of the greats of the New Orleans scene (and just about anywhere else). His career goes way back into the 50’s, and this track is one of his earliest. As you listen to it spool out its one and zeros the chemical reactions that signal familiarity and memory in that brain of your should start firing. I know this song from somewhere, but where? Hmmmmmm….. Now imagine this tune covered with rum and set ablaze like a dish of Bananas Foster (and I do mean bananas…), tornado fingers tearing at the black and whites while about 65 pounds of shiny, processed hair teeters back and forth like so many spinning plates in a jugglers act on the Ed Sullivan show. That’s right Spanky! Little Richard (again). Mister Penniman, during one of his seminal New Orleans sessions for Specialty (fueled by locals like Earl Palmer and Lee Allen) got his hooks into (or “adapted” as the case may be) Mr. Bo’s tune and dragged it through the streets like a muffler hanging off the back of a funny car. I’m not here to deny the power of the Little Richard version - now entitled ‘Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’)’. I am a firm believer in the majesty and raw power of his works. However I am here to hep you to the little heard original material from whence the King of WOOOOOOOOOO wove his sequined jacket. There’s not that much time between the release of Eddie’s version on RIC and Richard’s version on Specialty (probably less than a year, since the Specialty 45 came out in 1956), and in the interim Richard managed to get his name on the writers credits. While the arrangements are substantially different (like the difference between a stern warning and a lengthy jail term), the song performed is not. Richard adds some lyrics here and there and omits the slowed down break from Eddie’s version, but none of his changes (at least in my opinion) rises to the level of authorship.* This of course is in the end neither here nor there. Both men are musical geniuses. Eddie Bo’s ‘Baby, I’m Wise’ is a solid rocker with some nice horns and a great guitar solo (Roy Montrell perhaps???), as well as Eddie’s outstanding vocal. While he may not have been the throat-shredding dynamo Little Richard was, Bo had a memorable, reedy tenor that is especially pleasing in his early, R&B work. Little Richard was of course one of the performers without whom there would be no rock’n’roll. Whenever I hear one of his records, or see a film clip of him in his prime I wonder how me must have looked and sounded to sedate middle-America in 1956. If Bill Haley and the Comets were giving parents the heebie jeebies I can only imagine the effect that seeing Little Richard had. The man was a 20 megaton volume and flamboyance bomb that ignited whenever the needle was dropped on one of his records. If I was 14 or 15 then and hear ‘Slippin’ and Slidin’ or ‘Long Tall Sally’ I would have been GONE from that moment on. I only wish that the rock music that was coming out when I was a kid (mid-70’s) had 1/100th the power…
*For the record, I have no idea who 'D. Johnson' is. Listed as author on the 45 label, I can only suspect that since Mr. Bo has been given credit for authorship (or co-authorship with Mr. Penniman) on subsequent publications, that 'D. Johnson' was someone with their hand in Mr. Bo's pockets.
NOTE: Dan Phillips over at Home of the Groove lays out the whole 'I'm Wise'/'Baby I'm Wise'/Slippin' and Slidin' story in detail.