Mighty Hannibal - Jerkin' the Dog
The Mighty Hannibal
I want eeeeeeeevrybody...
That feel like I feel... To hold your hands up... And clap your hands!! Words to live by. Words sung by the great be-turbaned one, Atlanta’s own James T. Shaw, aka the Mighty Hannibal. Imagine if you will, a big sweaty (very likely intoxicated) southern guy strolls out on the screen to introduce the Mighty Hannibal. The Mighty H stands there, as if frozen in time, waiting for the tape to start running, and when it does, he recites the words above. But you weren’t paying attention because you were hyp-MO-tized by the Mighty Hannibal’s silky white pant-suit and gold lame turban. You are momentarily stunned, and distracted once again by the fact that your 22-month-old sonny boy is dancing in front of the TV because his cute little ears are filled with the hoodoo coming out of the speakers- and even though that is in and of itself incredibly cool you wonder if it might have some unintended, long-term consequences (“I told you Dad, I want a TURBAN not a baseball cap!!!”). The above scene is all true....courtesy once again of ‘The Beat’. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial (this must be the fourth time I’ve cited those DVDs in the last few weeks), it seems that every viewing brings another such revelation (though that was the only time that Miles got a hot foot, so props to Hannibal...). I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. ‘Jerkin’ The Dog’ is a smoking hot slice of mid-1960’s soul that ought to be required listening for those affected by lethargy of any kind, as it should be enough to remedy said affliction (i.e. It’ll peel the wallflowers out of their seats and have them sweating up the dance floor in no time at all...). Mighty Hannibal came into the world as James T. Shaw. He got his start in a doowop group with Edward Patton and Bubba Knight of the Pips (as in Gladys Knight and the...) and went on to record his own sides after relocating to Los Angeles in 1958. He went on to record for King in the early 60’s, eventually landing back in Atlanta on Wendell Parker’s Shurfine records, where ‘Jerkin’ The Dog’ was his debut 45 for the label in 1965. The record would go on to chart regionally. Interestingly enough, Hannibal’s backing band on this (and his other Shurfine 45s) was a white band called St. John & The Cardinals, which featured guitarist Paul Goddard who would go on to play in the Atlanta Rhythm Section. To say that ‘Jerkin’ The Dog’ is anthemic, is simultaneously hyperbole and underestimation (probably depending on your level of intoxication). The opening lines, quoted above give off a gospel-ish, brow-mopping call the holy spirit vibe that is amplified all the more by the comparatively profane nature of what follows. The alternating guitar lines, one playing the signature riff and the other going... CHANK! CHANK! CHANK! ...in time with the drums is a sure fire dancers call-to-arms (and legs), producing the intended jerking motion. This brings me back to the film of Hannibal working it out on ‘The Beat’, in which what is basically a lip-synched performance rises to another level entirely. Hannibal, the ties of his turban draping down his back, flanked by Go-Go dancers, performs the tune like some kind of funky shaman casting a spell on every market in which the show was broadcast (I’d be willing to bet that for months afterward the sales of turbans went through the roof all over the south). If the stage had been decorated with zulu war masks and blazing torches the effect couldn’t have been more hypnotic (in some ways the sterility of the TV studio makes Hannibal’s appearance all the more extreme). Hannibal went on to have a hit in 1966 with ‘Hymn No. 5’ (the flipside of which, ‘Fishing Pole’ is a killer), which was also issued on Josie. He would record for the Loma label, spend time as a pimp, have an extended period of drug-related troubles and do a stint in jail for tax evasion before emerging in the 70’s recording for the Aware label. Norton records put together an outstanding collection of Hannibal’s best work (including ‘Jerkin’ The Dog’). Pick it up...now!
PS Check out Brian Poust's excellent Georgia Soul site which features detailed info on Georgia artists and labels (like Shurfine).