Tuesday, April 18, 2006:

The Roots Canal: Larry Williams

Larry Williams -- Bad Boy
Larry Williams -- Dizzy, Miss Lizzy
If you only know these songs from the Beatles' cover versions, you'll be amazed by the Larry Williams originals. It turns out that the Beatles imitated Williams in everything from the guitar licks to the phrasing. As great as the Beatles versions are -- Paul McCartney called Dizzy Miss Lizzy one of the best Beatles recordings -- they don't come close to capturing the energy and abandon of Larry Williams' originals.

Larry Williams was a 1950s New Orleans rock'n'roller who was supposed to be the next Little Richard, after Little Richard abandoned secular music for the ministry. He had a string of hits but never achieved Little Richard's iconic status. Apparently, he was more popular in England than America, which might explain why the Beatles became such big fans. Williams played and sang with the same manic energy as other great early rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly as well as Little Richard.

The Beatles also covered another Williams song, Slow Down, and John Lennon recorded Williams' Bony Maronie on his 1975 retro collection, Rock'n'Roll.

Here's something else I was surprised to learn while researching this post: Larry Williams later became a record producer and, with Johnny "Guitar" Watson, co-wrote the lyrics and had the first vocal hit of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," the great Cannonball Adderley instrumental that was actually composed by his keyboardist Joe Zawinul, another fascinating guy who also founded Weather Report, wrote Birdland and even played on Miles Davis' Bitches Brew.

Oh, well, I digress. Enjoy the early Larry Williams. He's one of a kind.

[Bad Boy] (This album is also available to emusic subscribers here.)

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Jazzfest Update: Honey, Where You Been So Long just posted a song from Bruce Springsteen's new album, We Shall Overcome: The Songs of Pete Seeger. It's terrific. According to Sunday's New York Times, this is the band that Bruce is bringing to Jazzfest. He'll be on Sunday night at the same time as the Meters. Another quandary! How will I ever choose?
How, indeed?

More trivia: that Rock 'N Roll album just came about as the result of a lawsuit about Lennon's admission that he'd lifted the line "Here come ole flat top" from a Chuck Berry song.

wikipedia makes it sound like Lennon was happy about making the album but I remember from a biography I'd read that he sounded fairly scornful about both the settlement and the various recordings that resulted from it.

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