A fan has sent us the following piece, and we thought it would be a great tribute to post it here and share it. It's a well-researched history of New Orleans music...from the "corner of Rampart and Dumaine." --Gumbo le Funque
Cosimo was truly the architect (along with Dave Bartholomew and Allen Toussaint) of a 'golden period' in early Rock n Roll: the New Orleans R&B era, which coincided with several other national trends, and lasted all the way until the Beatles overthrew everything. He was also a very low-key and humble man, and spent many years after retiring from recording running his small (and I mean 50x20 feet!) French Quarter grocery, accessible and friendly. His son still runs the grocery.
New Orleans rock was happy rock: nothing dark, bitter, or angry. It was fun, light, and often with a wicked sense of humor. It reflected the city: Laissez les bon temps roulez! It of course had a great beat, and accented drums, horns and pianos, since those were the instruments New Orleans had grown up with since jazz was invented there at the turn of the last century. Guitars were in faint evidence if heard at all.
But it was great music. Thank you, Cosimo, and thank you all the rest that put this music together. (Thank you also to Sam Phillips, because it was both Memphis AND New Orleans that ultimately gave birth to R&R) Here's a lot of samples from Cosimo's recordings, with pictures following (no particular chronological order):
Next to Elvis and the Beatles, there was probably no bigger shot across the bow of mainstream comfortable music than this guy, recorded by Cosimo in 1955:
This clip has Richard lip-synching to Cosimo's studio recordings. Look at the number or horns - the poor guitar player is cowering somewhere in the back! The big dancer in the second part has got to be from New Orleans. Alan Freed is announcing, and one shot shows Bill Haley (pale wanna be) sitting in the audience. Richard was from Macon, GA, but recorded his hits at Cosimo's.
(Bonus history: Richard reportedly basically ripped off the persona and sound of another 'Southern Flower' who called him/herself Esquirita, who predated Richard, but didn't record until after Richard got popular): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imZyUcZjc0s (not from Cosimo's)
Back to Cosimos's, here's another side in keeping with the fun spirit of Cosimo and New Orleans (it's a shame youtube is now so successful that there are ads before most clips. Most ads have a button that will allow you to skip them after 2-3 seconds):
(Laissez les bon temps roulez = Let the Good Times Roll)
New Orleanians can't be philosophical without a sense of humor, because, after all, that's really the right attitude, isn't it? Here's Dave Bartholomew (Fats Domino's producer and song-writer):
Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew in Cosmos's studio.
Huey "Piano" Smith's band was called the Clowns, and apparently lived up to their name with fun, wild shows. Their main singer for several years was Bobby Marchan, who also worked as a female impersonator at the original Dew Drop Inn: http://www.knowla.org/entry/1465/ (The building and sign still stand in New Orleans)
(If you're REALLY into obscurity, here's Bobby Marchan's biggest hit on his own; it has some great spoken-word interludes, and became a local classic):
Back to more mainstream stuff:
Here's one that was written and recorded by Huey Smith - he was really surprised and pissed when a white producer stripped his vocals off, and added his white protegee's vocals on top of the music. It was a hit, probably would have been a hit for Huey also:
Frankie Ford's real name was Francis Guzzo; obviously too ethnic for mainstream Waspy America. (At times, it seems that almost half of New Orleans is of Sicilian heritage; Cosmo was)
The grandfather of funky New Orleans keyboards (biggest influence on Dr. John, etc) was Professor Longhair. He was 'retired' and sweeping floors when he was rediscovered by Quint Davis (founder of the mighty, might Jazzfest - which has been jamming since the year after Woodstock), and made a 'star' again. His original sides at Cosimo's were obscure and not very well known, at least nationally. Interestingly, several of his original sides are now being used in Subaru commercials (!). Wow, everything IS connected! Here's a couple of the old sides from Cosimo's:
OK, on this one, you can look up the original 'Big Chief' on youtube. Here's a rare clip of Professor Longhair (in cap), Dr. John (in his 'Nite Tripper' days), Earl King (who sang the original with Professor Longhair) and the original Meters doing that fun and funky Nawlins thing (this is also one of the Subaru songs):
Red beans and rice are always the special on Mondays in New Orleans. Cosmo had a great smile - he loved his work, loved his grocery, and loved life!
Lastly, because music and life are about dreams and hopes, reality and disappointment, humor and pathos, let's end with another non-Cosmo track from a gentleman that originally recorded at Cosimo's. Earl King wrote such fun and funky numbers as Big Chief and Trick Bag, but here's a pleasant and meditative song to sail into the sunset with:
Namaste to all, and especially Cosimo Matassa and all of the great New Orleans players that have made my own life just a little bit better.
Here's our version of some tunes made famous by people who have stopped into the corner of Rampart and Dumaine, to work with Cosimo.