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Big Chief

Eddie Bo

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About this video:

Shot in April of 2008 in New Orleans at the Sound Cafe. 

This is a fragment of the New Orleans classi "Big Chief."

In the beginning of the clip can hear Eddie Bo urging his fellow band members on.

This clip shot captured Ken McCarthy of FoodMusicJustice.com demonstrates some of the magic of New Orleans.  Legendary, world class musicians regularly show up to play at tiny neighborhood venues just for the love of the music .

This evening we were lucky enough to catch one of master musician's Eddie Bo's last performances in the city.

Eddie Bo: 1930 - 2009

Eddie Bo came from a long line of ship builders with the male members of his family being bricklayers, carpenters and masons by day and musicians by night. Eddie’s mother was a self-taught pianist in the style of friend, Professor Longhair. The Bo Family was involved in the traditional jazz community with cousins Charles and Henry plus Peter, who played with Sidney Bechet, contributing to jazz orchestras before the Second World War.

Eddie graduated from Booker T. Washington High School before going into the army. After his army stint, he returned to New Orleans to study at the Grundwald School of music. There he learned piano, music theory and to sight read, and arrange music. It was at this time that he was influenced by Russian classical pianist Horowitz and was introduced to bebop pianists Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson.

Like a lot of other local musicians Eddie frequented the premier blues venue in town, the Dew Drop Inn on LaSalle Street. Eddie began playing in the New Orleans jazz scene and went under the name of Spider Bocage, later forming the Spider Bocage Orchestra. He made a switch to R&B after deciding it was more popular and brought in more money. In the 1950s he and a group of New Orleans musicians toured the country supporting singers Big Joe Turner, Earl King, Guitar Slim, Johnny Adams, Lloyd Price, Ruth Brown, Smiley Lewis, and The Platters.

His first released record was in 1955 for Johnny Vincent’s Ace Records. In 1961, Eddie had a hit with the novelty dance song “Check Mr Popeye”. His next release, on Apollo Records, was “I’m Wise” which Little Richard later recorded as “Slippin’ and Slidin'”. Eddie also wrote “My Dearest Darling” for Etta James which put her at the top of the R&B charts and “In The Same Old Way” for Tommy Ridgley.

In the soul era he recorded the renowned “Pass The Hatchet” under the nom de disque, Roger and the Gypsies for Joe Banashak’s Seven B label as well as Fence of Love and SGB (Stone Graveyard Business) under his own name.

In 1969, at the height of funk, he penned and sang “Hook and Sling” (Scram Records) which reached No. 13 on the R&B charts in that year. It was his biggest hit since “Check Mr Popeye” and was recorded in just one take. The next year saw another hit with “Check Your Bucket” on his own Bo-Sound imprint.

He produced and arranged records by such artists as Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, Art Neville, Chris Kenner, Chuck Carbo, Irma Thomas, Johnny Adams, Mary Jane Hooper, Robert Parker, The Vibrettes, and The Explosions.

Eddie Bo worked and recorded for more than 40 different record labels, including Ace, Apollo, Arrow, At Last, Blue-Jay, Bo-Sound, Checker, Chess, Cinderella, Nola, Ric (for which his carpentry skills were used to build them a studio), Scram, Seven B, and Swan.

In the 1970s Eddie, absorbed in the renovation business, disappeared from the music scene only to rise up again at the end of the decade with two albums, “Another Side of Eddie Bo” and “Watch for the Coming,” which he produced himself. In the 1980s and 1990s he recorded with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and resurrected his Bo-Sound label. He joined Willy DeVille play on two DeVille records, Victory Mixture and Big Easy Fantasy, and he toured with DeVille as well. He later joined up with Raful Neal and Rockin’Tabby Thomas playing and recording under the names The Louisiana Legends, The District Court and The Hoodoo Kings.

He bought a doctor's office and salon on Banks Street which he and his sister converted into an eatery for Bo’s fans called "Check Your Bucket" after his 1970 hit. Like Bo’s home and recording studio it was hit by Hurricane Katrina while Bo was on tour in Paris. Due to Bo’s carpentry and bricklaying skills he took on the task of completing the hurricane damage repairs himself.He won many music awards including two Lifetime Achievement awards from the South Louisiana Music Association and Music/Offbeat Best of the Beat and was named New Orleans' music ambassador to Pakistan.

In 1999, an electrical fire destroyed the Tulane Avenue building that housed the health food store he owned with his sister. Mr. Bo also lived in the building. The fire claimed his two keyboards, along with master tapes of unreleased and previously released recordings, musical charts he had painstakingly written over the years, and a collection of his own classic 45s.

Scores of musicians -- contemporaries as well as younger musicians influenced by him -- volunteered to perform at a benefit concert in the wake of the fire. "It gives me a deep, deep feeling of not really knowing how people care, until you have to experience something like this," he said. "Then you really know who your friends are."

His most pressing need, he said at the time, was to replace his keyboards. "I'll try everything I can to get another keyboard," he said, "because I'm lost without something to play."

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