The season of Fall is environed by music
30th September 2013 · 0 Comments
By Geraldine Wyckoff
Ponderosa Stomp Roots Out the Swamp Dogg
The Ponderosa Stomp, taking place Thursday, October 3, through Saturday, October 5, at the Rock ‘n Bowl, is all about celebrating, remembering and most of all presenting those deep-rooted artists who were vital in the creation and evolution of blues, rhythm and blues and rock and roll. Some could be considered household names like the great R&B and soul singer Maxine Brown (Friday, Oct. 4) who climbed the charts with her self-penned hit, “All In My Mind” and such classics as “Oh No Not My Baby.”
Other names, like Jerry “Swamp Dogg” Williams Jr., might not immediately ring a bell though his presence prevails on an array of genres as a composer, vocalist, producer and pianist. He’s credited for putting together and arranging the renowned Muscle Shoals horn section that reigned supreme backing artists for Atlantic Records. He, along with good friend Gary U.S. Bonds (“Quarter to Three), wrote the often-covered “Don’t Take Her She’s All I’ve Got” that gained country singer Johnny Paycheck a Grammy nomination.
The soul singer was first recognized as Little Jerry Williams who was introduced on his memorable tune, “I’m the Lover Man.” The multi-talented artist and noted outspoken renegade took on the handle Swamp Dogg to espouse his political views of the world. In 1970, he released his first album, Total Destruction to Your Mind, using that unusual moniker.
“Would you let somebody else do that to you?” Swamp Dogg asks with a laugh when questioned on the origins of his name. He explains that legendary record producer Jerry Wexler coined the word Swampsters.
“If you listen to “Sweet Home Alabama” you hear them say that Muscle Shoals has got the Swampsters,” Swamp Dogg says. “Well the Dogg part happened because I was trying to get out of the conventional R&B, soul, Black thing because it wasn’t making it for me. It didn’t allow me to do and say what I wanted to do and say.”
“The dog is, in my connotation. a word for freedom – freedom of expression, freedom of the mind. That’s what the dog represents,” Swamp Dogg sincerely yet hilariously continues. “As a dog, you can walk around as a real dog and do just about anything you want to do. Pull up flowers, shit in the house, bite somebody – if you’re not rabid – and be forgiven. You’ll be forgiven sometime before the day is over.”
Thus we get tunes like “God Bless America for What?” from his album Rat On!, the album cover of which shows Swamp Dogg astride a giant rat. He proudly informs that it has been declared one of the worst album covers in history. “Pretty far out – that’s where I like to go,” he says mentioning that the album is available again on vinyl and CD.
His latest release due out in March, The White Man Made Me Do It, will include “If that Ain’t the Blues, Nothin’ Is.”which addresses the ineptness of Congress. Another recently-penned original on the album is “Prejudice Is Alive and Well,” which deals with education, health care and employment in the Black community.
Swamp Dogg also boasts a strong connection to New Orleans as he produced and wrote most of the tunes on Irma Thomas’ 1973 album, In Between Tears, that has now been remastered, repackaged and re-released.
“That’s my love, writing and production,” declares Swamp Dogg who promises to bring some of his Little Jerry Williams soul numbers as well as his more eyebrow raising numbers to the Stomp on Friday night.
For the full schedule of events go to www.ponderosastomp.com.
Gentilly Fest – It’s a Family Affair
The Gentilly Festival, which takes place Friday, October 4 through Sunday, October 6 at the Ponchartrain Park Playground (Press Drive and Prentiss Avenue) is a laid-back affair that feels like a neighborhood picnic. It’s more than that, of course with three stages of music – the main stage, gospel tent and kids’ tent – food vendors and other activities. The event, which began five years ago to benefit and say thanks to organizations such as the New Orleans police and fire departments, kicks off on Friday evening at 5:45 p.m. with such hefty artists as Big Sam’s Funky Nation. The music begins at 11 am on Saturday and includes festival regulars, the jazz group Bleu Orleans that is celebrating the release of its new album, Transformation. On Sunday the activities begin at noon with the beautiful and talented rhythm and blues and soul singer Chrisette Michele closing the festival at 6:15 p.m.
Performances in the Gospel Tent include the Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church Choir on Saturday and the Zion Harmonizers on Sunday. Oh, and don’t forget the pony rides!
For the full music schedule and other information go to www.gentillyfest.org.
Havana-born pianist Roberto Fonseco, a huge talent who grew up in a musical family and has been pursuing his art since childhood, arrives for a free performance at the House of Blues on Tuesday, October 1. The show is presented by the Jazz & Heritage Foundation as part of its Jazz Journey series.
The pianist and vocalist will be performing with a full spectrum of instruments including special guest, Guinean kora player Sekuo Kouyate. Among Fonseco’s many accomplishments is that he has been touring with the world famous Buena Vista Social Club.
New Orleans purveyors of boogaloo, Latin/soul/funk band Los Po-Boy-Citos open the show at 8 p.m.
This article originally published in the September 30, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.