Friday, October 07, 2005

Lee Bates - International Playboy

Funky Funky Nawlins
Ahhh yes…Friday is upon us once again, and so I bring you something juicy for the weekend. I’ve gone on in this space before about my ‘Instant funk’ rule, i.e., records in the Instant records discography with catalog numbers over 3300 are almost guaranteed to be funky (and conversely, records under 3300 are more than likely not). This rule of thumb has served me well over the years (though there is the rare exception...). Higher-numbered Instant 45s are hard to come by, and when I track one down, unless it’s prohibitively priced I like to grab it (whether I’ve heard it or not). It doesn’t help that Instant’s funk sides are woefully under-comped. With powerful stuff like Larry Darnell, some of the later Huey Smith sides, Skip Easterling and Lee Bates, the time is long since passed for a comprehensive compilation. Said formula – as it relates to today’s selection – had the assistance of previous Lee Bates sides already residing in my NOLA crates. Obie Leroy Bates was born in New Orleans in 1941. By the early 60’s the aspiring singer was doing time as Chris Kenner’s valet. He recorded his first 45 ‘Bad Bad Understanding’ for the White Cliffs label in 1967. After White Cliffs went out of business, Kenner brought him to Instant, where he would re-record the tune for his debut 45. Bates vocal style was seriously influenced by the (by then) late Otis Redding, and he tips his hat to Redding in the arrangement to ‘Bad Bad Understanding’ by lifting the horn line from Redding’s ‘Something is Worrying Me’ (the single was produced by Huey Smith). The flip side of that 45, ‘Simon Says’ is a funky dance craze number. Bates would go on to record a total of eight 45s for Instant, one of which – not surprisingly – was a cover of ‘Sitting On The Dock of the Bay’. Its Bates second 45 for Instant that brings us here today. I’ve been digging for NOLA 45s for a long time, and it’s unusual that I grab one and don’t recognize any of the names on the label. This is one of those times…Aside from Bates, the songwriters (Dozeir, Sigler, Broonier & Phillips - maybe Phil Phillips???) and the producer (the almost certainly pseudonymous ‘Alias Ducey’ ) were unknown to me. I’ve since found out that Ducey/Ducie eventually recorded a 45 for Instant with a group celled the New Orleans Poets, ‘Singing La Dee Dah’ (Instant 3326). As to who he actually is, I have no idea and would welcome any info readers might have. ‘International Playboy’ is a rough slice of funk with some great wah-wah guitar, hard drums and a wild vocal by Bates. The lyrics are a hilarious world tour of Bates’ international conquests, including the declaration:
My name is known in old Hong Kong I’m just as famous as Egg Foo Yung!
The flip side is a pretty straight-ahead cover of Melanie's big hit 'Look What They've Done To My Song'.
As far as Bates other 45s go, the only other one I’ve heard is ‘Mean Mistreater’, and it’s excellent. According to Jeff Hannusch in ‘The Soul of New Orleans’ many of Bates Instant 45s were local hits (Hannusch also mentions that Bates’ White Cliffs era band included none other than George Porter and Zigaboo Modeliste).Bates went on to record a number of 45s for local labels (including one for the later incarnation of Sansu records). He continued to perform locally, and recorded at least two LPs in the 90’s, one of which, ‘Stop Leanin’ On The Wall’ was composed almost entirely of Otis Redding tunes.


Blogger Shig MacBatches said...

um, dude. i be stealing these mp3s and listening to them at work all the time. thank you!

10/07/2005 08:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wassup !!! great song ..iam brazilian and i like soul music , hip hop , rap, R&B ...

10/07/2005 11:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an international playboy myself, I must say, this was rather enjoyable!.Cool voice, where did you find this one?

10/08/2005 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always good to hear these forgotten guys but in this case the definitive version belongs to Wilson Pickett as produced by Gamble & Huff. In Philadelphia is truly one of the hottest albums in the history of R&B, although for some reason it's only available as an import at the moment.

10/08/2005 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Yeah, Grogan's Instant Funk Dictum is a good rule to go by. Much, but not everything, after 3300 was funky, but pretty much nothing under it was. Great Lee Bates track. Never heard it before. Thanks.

The songwriters are Ugene (sic?) Dozier, BR Broomer, Lee Phillips (no relation) and Bunny Sigler. Definitely not a Louisiana crowd.
I got that off of the BMI website, which is a good source for songwriter info, as is ASCAP, and the US Copyright Office (also good for dating songs, at least when they were registered).

In his first book, Jeff Hannusch says that Lee Bates was one of the artists Huey Smith produced for Instant. This song from 1970 would probably fall during Huey's days there, don't you think? Don't know otherwise what's up with that 'Alias Ducey'. Never saw it before. But for another possibility, Earl Stanley did some Instant producing during that era.
Nice job, as usual, Larry. I'm waiting for that Instant comp myself.

10/09/2005 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

Rob / Dan
Y'know...I didn't even think to look beyond NOLA for the source of the tune (duh...). Sigler (i.e. Bunny) should have been the tip-off (s well as Gene Dozier - as in Gene Dozier & The Brotherhood, "Hunk of Funk" etc.), and I dropped the ball. Now to track down a copy of the Pickett LP. The stuff I've heard from it ('Engine #9') is hot.

I grabbed it off a friends set-sale list.


You're quite welcome!

10/09/2005 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I lived in NO,Bates had a local hit called Project Queen,which WBOK played for a while.
Can't find the song anywhere now.

4/11/2006 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

My sister was married to Lee for 27 years. She passed in 2003 he in 2004. They had 2 girls together but they left the house before Katrina hit. They both came to Fla with me and never went back. My son passed by the house on his way back to Ca. and recovered some of Lee's master tapes. I have several 45's a few LP's an CD's. The tapes look salvageable. I will soon be attempting to see if they will play. I eventually will try and gather up as much of his music as possible. I don't know who has what in Nola but will soon be trying to find out. As far as I know Lee never received any royalties from any of his music. Only what he could make selling CD's after shows. And that was late in his career. It seems Lee was always the last one to get paid and sometimes never did. It is nice to see how many people appreciate his talent. His was good. He wasn't shy about letting you know just who brought down the house. It was always Lee. He was actually a poor plow boy born in Mississippi. He went to Nola with a lot of talent and big dreams. It just never panned out. Thanks again for enjoying his music.

8/05/2009 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Larry, have you found out more about Alias Ducie and the New Orlean Poets? I have the 7" your are talking about.. Strangely I live alll the way in The Netherlands.

11/10/2009 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger radj said...

I Was in NOLA radio for a hot minute...late 70's, early 80's. Played Lee Bates songs on air and even hung out on a few "juke joint" type gigs with him...great guy! His later works were produced and promoted by Senator Jones, another great Mississippian who passed away in 2008.

12/31/2009 04:26:00 AM  

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