The Adios Lounge would be remiss if it didn’t acknowledge the passing of Jerry Wexler, who died Friday at the age of 91. I’ve often said that if I could live anyone else’s life in history, I’d live Jerry Wexler’s.
He coined the phrase “rhythm and blues” while writing for Billboard.
He helped create rock ‘n’ roll and soul music while working A&R for Atlantic Records.
He nurtured the early career of a young Duane Allman.
He was the first producer to realize Willie Nelson‘s artistic vision, midwifing Nelson’s transition from frustrated Nashville outsider to pot-smoking Austin visionary.
He helped one of my favorite musicians, Doug Sahm, produce two albums of genre-defying badassery that showcased his talent as a one-man American roots jukebox.
It’s probably fair to say that Jerry Wexler had a bigger impact on my musical taste — and record collection — than just about any other non-musician and for that I owe him heartfelt gratitude. He was a giant among men. RIP Jerry.
A few years ago, Wex gave friends a 20-song CD featuring favorite songs from his half-century career in music. Here’s a link to download this mp3 playlist, but below are videos of each song, with a few diversions, and my occasional notes. Enjoy!
- Download Wex’s 20 (113 MB; 1:03:30)
1. Professor Longhair – Tipitina (1953)
Professor Longhair with The Meters
Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA
March 24, 1975
The original recording was one of Wex’s first sessions with Atlantic. This video was shot 22 years later and features Fess playing with The Meters. This is actually a great story, as both acts were hired by Paul McCartney to play his Venus And Mars record release party on board the Queen Mary in Long Beach. As it happens, Mick Jagger was in attendance, fell in love with The Meters because he’s not stupid and has functioning ears, and invited them to open some dates for the Stones on their 1975 and ’76 tours. True story.
2. Ray Charles – I Got A Woman (1954)
3. Big Joe Turner – Shake, Rattle, And Roll (1954)
4. LaVern Baker – Tweedlee Dee (1954)
5. Champion Jack Dupree – Junker’s Blues (1958)
Jack Dupree – vocals, piano; King Curtis – sax; Cornell Dupree – guitar; Jerry Jemmott – bass; Oliver Jackson – drums
Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland
June 17, 1971
Champion Jack Dupree‘s slow, languorous ode to staying high as you can be from the 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival. His backup band is the great King Curtis and his King Pins, only two months before Curtis would be stabbed to death by a junkie shooting smack in front of his Manhattan brownstone.
6. Drifters – There Goes My Baby (1959)
7. Ray Charles – What I’d Say (1959)
Live in São Paulo, Brazil
September 22, 1963
One of my favorite performances of “What’d I Say” committed to celluloid. While Ray and the Raelettes are at the peak of their soulful powers, Wilbert “G.T.” Hogan‘s faux-rhumba beat on drums — based on Milt Turner’s original drum pattern — is the foundation upon which the soulful genius is built. If you don’t like this, you are obviously an android sent from the future and you must be destroyed.
8. Solomon Burke – If You Need Me (1963)
9. Booker T. & The MG’s – Green Onions (1962)
Njard Hallen, Oslo, Norway
April 7, 1967
One of the 4-5 greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time at their mid-’60s peak. This video is culled from the famous Stax tour of Europe in 1967. Great footage of the band, especially the underrated Al Jackson, Jr., one of the greatest drummers of his era. You can build condos inside that fucking pocket.
10. Wilson Pickett – In The Midnight Hour (1965)
According to the wikileaky, a jukebox belonging to John Lennon was discovered during an auction of Beatles memorabilia. Apparently, Mr. Ono Sideboard bought the jukebox in 1965 and filled it with 40 singles to take with him on tour. “Midnight Hour” was one of those singles. This video clip is part of a 2004 documentary and I’ll forgive Sting’s pompous mug appearing at the beginning because we also get Steve Cropper explaining the origins of the Wicked Pickett’s signature song.
11. Aretha Franklin – Respect (1967)
12. Dusty Springfield – Son Of A Preacher Man (1969)
13. Dr. John – Iko Iko (1972)
Sunday Night (later called Night Music), Show 104
“(‘Iko Iko’) was written and recorded back in the early 1950s by a New Orleans singer named James Crawford who worked under the name of Sugar Boy & the Cane Cutters. It was recorded in the 1960s by The Dixie Cups for Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller‘s Red Bird Records, but the format we’re following here is Sugar Boy’s original. Also in the group were Professor Longhair on piano, Jake Myles, Big Boy Myles, Irv Bannister on guitar, and Eugene ‘Bones’ Jones on drums. The group was also known as the Chipaka Shaweez.
–From the Dr. John’s Gumbo liner notes
The song was originally called ‘Jock-A-Mo,’ and it has a lot of Creole patois in it. Jock-A-Mo means ‘jester’ in the old myth. It is Mardi Gras music, and the Shaweez was one of many Mardi Gras groups who dressed up in far out Indian costumes and came on as Indian tribes. The tribes used to hang out on Claiborne Avenue and used to get juiced up there getting ready to perform and ‘second line’ in their own special style during Mardi Gras. That’s dead and gone because there’s a freeway where those grounds used to be. The tribes were like social clubs who lived all year for Mardi Gras, getting their costumes together. Many of them were musicians, gamblers, hustlers and pimps.”
—Dr. John in the Dr John’s Gumbo liner notes
Get yer “Iko Iko” on at Star Maker Machine.
14. Doug Sahm – (Is Anybody Going To) San Antone (1973)
“Jerry Wexler always used to tell me how he could holler and scream with the promotion people, but if their hearts weren’t into it, they just weren’t into it. Now Atlantic is a small part of the Warner monster and Wexler can’t do that soulful thing with all his new people anymore. It’s like a new era had dawned: the new people go the new way. And Wexler resigned, bless his heart.”
Watch Doug Sahm and the original Texas Tornados perform “San Antone” in 1975 at I’ll Be Just As Gone.
15. Willie Nelson – Bloody Mary Morning (1974)
Pilot episode of Austin City Limits
October 17, 1974
One of the greatest performances by one of the foremost practitioners of American music. Keep in mind this is pre-Red Headed Stranger and even pre-Austin City Limits, since the producers had no idea whether the show would be picked up. In fact, most people don’t realize that Willie quit music in 1971, only to start up again after returning home to Texas in ’72. Living in Austin, Willie saw cosmic cowboys like Doug Sahm pack the Armadillo, showing him that maybe there was a market for Willie’s unique brand of americana. By 1973, Willie inaugurated his July 4th picnic, signed to Atlantic Records, and formed his kickass Family band with sister Bobbie (piano), Mickey Raphael (harmonica), Bee Spears (bass, died in 2010), Jody Payne (steel guitar), and Paul English (drums, the Paul in “Me And Paul”).
“Bloody Mary Morning” was also included in my ode to LA, The Pitfalls of the City are Extremely Real.
16. Sanford & Townsend – Smoke From A Distant Fire (1977)
I think this is the winner of the “Which one of these is not like the others?” award. Hey, they can’t all be “What’d I Say.”
17. James Booker, Winin’ Boy Blues (1978)
18. Etta James – Take It To The Limit (1978)
Nice overview of Etta’s career circa the early ’80s.
19. Dire Straits – Lady Writer (1979)
20. Bob Dylan – Gotta Serve Somebody (1979)
Jerry Wexler talks Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming (1 of 3)
Jerry Wexler talks Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming (2 of 3)
Jerry Wexler talks Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming (3 of 3)
For a thorough Wexlerography, try our old friends at All Music Guide.
Finally, if you haven’t read Wex’s autobiography, Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music, whatcha waitin’ for, son???