So when we get in toward the mid '50s and people
started calling it rock and roll was it the same beat? Did the beat change
between rhythm and blues and so-called rock and roll?
Well here again there was rhythm came into play.
The... the notes didn't change very much for the... the melodic instruments
ah from rhythm and blues to rock and roll. Where the rock and roll came in
was the white beginning to change, adding their ah new things to it and it
became rock and roll because the disc jockey in Chicago, he called it rock
and roll as opposed to rhythm and blues because a lot of people list...
wouldn't let their kids... white kids, listen to the... the black station
that was playing the rhythm and blues, but they'd listen to them. They let
them listen to the rock because this was something that had began being
invented from that by the white population and the white musicians and
because they were white musicians, then the parents would let the white kids
listen to the radio and listen to those musics and that's the way it became
rock and roll, but it all stemmed from that rhythm and blues stuff that ah
had started here, which we made a little dirtier from what the older guys
were playing. We just added a little more rhythm to it and... and ah made if
funkier as I used to... used to always say. Supposed to have credited with
first time using that in re... in respect to music, make it funky because
um, funky was something we always used when something smelled bad so we was
trying to relate to making music smell bad.
Contrary to like whites will say, he's in a funk. We didn't use it like
When we say it's funky, it stunk.
When you would
play on a rock and roll session, like a Little Richard session or later Fats
Domino sessions, Red would you do anything differently when you're blowing
horn than you would have done in the old days in a R and B
Not really I mean the thing is
what we would do is to go into the studio, listen to the rhythm changes
sometimes it varied from straight R and B to other little chords that were
put in a little things and on the spot, we would try to come up with a
concept that would fit. We'd try something one time and sometimes it would
wake right off the bat, sometimes it didn't. We'd have to change it. It was
hit and miss, but we had no idea when we first went into the studio, what we
were going to play. We had no idea.
about that in relation to the sessions that Dave ran on Fats, you know
starting with They Call Me The Fat Man in 1949 and then into the early '50s,
what do you think it was about Fats Dominos records that appealed so broadly
at that time?
I'd like to say
Could you start
again and use his name so we'll know who you're talking about?
Ok. Ah, with Fats Domino, I think his popularity ah,
was in the fact that he was very uncomplicated, very straight ahead, no
gimmicks or anything else and the beat, the beat just flowed along and you
know, it wasn... wasn't a complicated thing at all.
And his material was something that you heard once
and you could sing it right away, not maybe remember the lyrics, but you
hummed the melody with... just stuck right with you because it was so
simple. You could relate to it immediately even non-musicians could relate
right away because it was that simple and uncomplicated and it was also, his
sound if you will... as we were talking about it, his sound ah that he did
was very rem... reminiscent of what you later heard ah Professor Longhair
doing ah, and that all went way back to guys who... piano players in the...
in the neighborhood bars like Bernell Santiago and... and ah what's the old
guy that was on this documentary with Alan and ah...
Washington who was... who was the guy that actually Professor Longhair used
to listen to all the time and copy playing in the Caledonia and ah it was
Toots Washington that really was the forerunner as far back as I can
remember and Bernell Santiago who played those ver... basic New Orleans feel
like ah just plum caught a few notes on the piano and became fantastic
pianist from doing just that.
Fat's records really
crossed over and sold millions. Was he doing anything new?
No because I would say... I would say wh... what his
records became so popular even among the ah, the white faction of bl...
music listeners is because he was very easy to sing immediately right after
and ah, and at the risk, I don't want to sound insulting, but at the ri...
the fact that they were less musical in this particular idiom then it make
it a lot easier for them to accept and to emulate because he was so
What were those sessions like? Maybe you
could just describe a little what it was like to go into a session with Dave
and Fats in those days.
Oh ah, Dave was a
very hard taskmaster. He wanted it his way and that's the way it would be
and we had no problem with that. Ah I often say that it really used to rub
me the wrong way because he used to have all the horns playing unison [hums]
and I'd get so sick of those same things over and over, but it worked and he
knew what he was doing. He... it worked, very simple, and to the point, you
know what I mean, but that's the way it was. We'd go into the studio and ah,
he says, this is what I want you to play and we'd play it like that and it
worked. Another interesting thing, the first thing ah, They Call Me The Fat
Man was a split session with Jewel King and she had the hit out of the split
sect... session. They did Three Times Seven, she was the... the hit out of
that, strange as it may seem and then after that you never heard anything
about her again.
Well what happened in
that instance, I may relate, is ah, when we first went on that tour with
Fats, ah, it wasn't supposed to be Fats as the headliner, Jewel King's
record sold more than the Fat Man Three Times Seven. Jewel King's husband
was a band leader here and because she was the star of the package, she
wanted her husband's band to go out Jack Scott, was the guitar player and he
had a good band around town, but ah, when Lew Chudd said no, ah, it was
because Dave was already on the contract to Imperial for his first record so
then Dave was also had found Fats and found Jewel King and whatever other
Imperial artists that... became from here, so naturally ah Lew wanted to use
Dave's band on this tour, which was a flop incidentally, this particular
tour but ah, Jewel King wouldn't go and that was her big mistake. You never
heard anything about her since and she had the bigger record of the
What was Fats like in the studio? Was he a
Very shy man and still is
to a great degree, very shy withdrawn person. Ah he was no problem at all,
ah whatever Dave said, went at that particular point and ah we had to
conform strictly to what he was doing because he wasn't very musical at that
time. He did the boogie-woogie and the triplet things like he did on
Blueberry Hill and those kinds of things. This is what he did. This is all
he knew how to do so we had to conform to that and with Dave's making the
things so simple, is what made the things hits records, us conforming
strictly to him and not trying to create... you couldn't get too far away
from what he was doing because then you'd have a mish mash of music
Were you surprised when those records sold
so widely in the white market?
I'd like to
say, yeah. I'd like to say something about that. Yeah, I... I was quite
surprised as a matter of fact when you talk about Fat... what... what he was
like in the studio, you have to realize he hadn't been a big star. It's only
after you become a big star that you become difficult. Believe in your press
reviews. You know I mean I've seen artists going into a studio and you put
an arrangement behind them, they get a hit and the next time they come back
because they had a hit, they start telling the band what to do and they're
not qualified, you see. So at that time Fats had no idea he was going to be
as big as he eventually got. So he was very mild and whatever you say,
That's why many times, you're asked,
did you have any idea you know in interviews I'm sure Red it's happened it's
happened to you.
Tell me about how you recorded
I'm Walking with Fats and then when you moved to L.A. you were hired with
Well of course the ah, the... doing
it with Fats it just had been decided to do I'm Walking...
Let's just start again and you use the title of the song in
Well actually when ah, when I'm
Walking was done with Fats Domino, it was Dave that wan... wanted something
particularly different from the usual thing we had done so I tried up a
whole bunch of things and he didn't like that. He didn't like, I said, well
I don't know what do you want? He said I don't know what I want so I kept
trying something and finally I said, well why don't I do something
completely away from the cymbals and I thought about starting it with the
old bass drum parade beating and going to the snare and playing like the
snare parade kind of thing and he said, that's what I want so based on that,
it was a hit. It wasn't Fats first hit, but when I moved to California
shortly after, the reason I wound up doing that with Ricky Nelson is because
he wanted to do a cover so when he found out I... I was there, he... they
hired me to... his father ah, ah Ozzie Nelson hired me to come and do this
cover the.. drum beat just like it was and they... they made the arrangement
as close as they could to Fats' arrangement and I think it was Jimmy Haskell
that did the arrangement, I think. I'm not sure but at any rate ah, based on
that is why be... later began doing a lot of other things with Ricky because
after talking with Ozzie which we would do on purpose to get in a long
conversation and he'd begin reminiscing about the band and we'd go into
overtime and... but ah, we'd used... used to reminisce about the fact that
when he used to come her to the... the whe... the Fairmount which was then
Let's pick up the story again. I
want to make sure we get it. Just from where you moved to California and
then you were hired to play the same style on Ricky Nelson's
So at, ah when I moved to
California, I was hired by Ozzie Nelson to ah, to do this cover of Ricky's
of I'm Walking, which was a big hit for Ricky also because he wanted the
same drum beat and he found out I was... they hired me to do it and ah, and
it was a very big hit for Ricky and I wound up doing a number of other
things with Ricky because we talked with Ozzie and he'd get to reminiscing
about the old band days when I was working at the Roosevelt, which is now
the Fairmount, his band used to come in there all the time, Ozzie Nelson and
ah Harriet Hilliard, Ricky's mother was a singer and we'd get to talking
about that and he'd just go on and on and we'd run into overtime and Ricky's
brother David was born here in New Orleans at the time and this was what
intrigued him that I remembered that, but I was working at the Roosevelt
then as a busboy.
Was that a pretty common thing
in those days, white artists covering black records could still sell a lot
Well they found out that ah as a
white aud... audience they had more white people so they would sell more
records. Ah, it wasn't something that was done ah, in the beginning when it
was rhythm and blues because it was supposed to be not nice music at all, so
you didn't have white artists doing black music. It wasn't acceptable, but
when it crossed over ah, to the white audience, and it was a song that did
well with blacks and with some whites, they said well hey, this is a good
vehicle. We'll make even more money you know. So it started out being more
It would be listened to because
it was Ricky Nelson or Pat Boone. It would be listened to why they wouldn't
listen to Fats record. Just because it was bl... black music. Same music,
different singer singing it so it would be able to be used in
You know I think that... that
ah, Fats Domin... Domino more than any black artist I know at that time ah
was accepted by whites more than any artist black audience ah artist I know.
They really latched onto what he was doing. Whites really latched onto what
Fats Dom... in fact, Fats Domino was bigger with white audiences than he
was... ever was with black audiences.
gears a little bit here and talk about Little Richard another person that
you guys played with. Tell me about when you first saw and heard Little
Richard. What your impressions of...
You have to realize that he came in
with this high pompadour on his head with a collar that was made ah like an
oriental up in the back and I saw him, I said the dragon lady from this...
from the cartoon, you know that I saw in the movies… and ah actually we had
recorded with so many different people until ah we weren't really ah phased
by a new audi... artist coming in ah, but Richard was really...
it was really different you know and ah when he came in and we listened to
what he was doing and we changed our whole concept of what... about Little
Richard. He wasn't a joke anymore.
it was because he was the first of the ah rhythm and blues and rock artists
ah what have you that wore a costume all the time as opposed to on the
stage. He was, you know he'd wear pretty much the same thing on the stage
that he wore on the street. He was always dressed in that to let you know I
am a performer.
What about his singing style. Was
that something new to you in those days?
What was unique about Richard is that he sang more words than anybody I ever
heard on a record. When you listen after some of the things that he's...
he's recorded, ah, there's so many words that he had to get in along with
the music man, you know, I had never heard anybody do that. So it was a
different thing that I'd ever heard, you know I... I hadn't heard anybody do
that many words in... and get them in. If you just listen at some of those
things, you now, and we'd do forty takes.
The thing about it was as fast as those words and as many words as he used,
there's something about his ah not perfect diction, but there was something
about the... the clipped way he did it that you were able to understand
these words as fast as they were said, you know and...
Can either or you imitate it a little bit. Give us an idea
I wouldn't attempt to. I would
say one thing, he had a line that really cracked us up and I forgotten what
tune it is, he said ain't what you do it's the way how you
do it. It ain't what you eat, it's the way how you chew
He was always coming up with things
like that. He was poetic.
But now you know
what's strange about that, there was a lady that didn't get any of the
credit that she should of that did a lot of the song written, Dorothy
Labostry. She did a lot of things that were instrumental in... in Little
Richard hits. She would come in and alter the words to a song that were too
risque you know. She did a lot of work and ah nobody even ah very...
insiders know who she was but most of the pub... the public don't even know
ah who Dorothy Laborstry was and she was instrumental in a lot of songs that
And there was quite a few of
those things that ah other people took credit for and she got no credit
Tell me a little bit about that
session that Tutti Frutti came out of. Could you just tell the story as you
remember it like the session was kind of ordinary, that's what I've heard
and then you all took a break, came over to the Dew Drop and Richard started
fooling around with Tutti Frutti and then... tell me how you remember
You see the thing is, that... that...
how stories come about. I don't ever remember ah recording and then leaving
and... and coming to the Dew Drop Inn going back. We did it there.
I don't ever remember recording being done here
No I don't either.
I don't ever remember us doing no
Well how did the Tutti Frutti session come about? Was the
song too risque and you had to stop and...
I don't know if it was that particular tune, but I know there was some
things that ah, ah one of the tune, I can't recall which one it was but ah,
they say that the words were too risque so Dorothy Labostry changed the
words. Ah in the studio with Little Richard ah, we worked a lot with Bumps
Blackwell and ah... you know he would say well guys this is the way tune
goes. Richard you do it near the rhythm section, drums and everything. This
is what we going to try and we tried and not everything we tried the first
time worked. So it was hit and miss and we had no idea whether it was going
to be a hit or no. We just went in and we did the recording. If it was a
hit, we remembered the tune, if it wasn't a hit, we forgot it.
You know there was another thing that we didn't know
about that when he came here and he said, now this is what we going to try
and it was because he was trying to get... he came here to record with
this... with this particular group, but then getting here, he tried to
extract more from us then he really needed to because what we didn't know at
the time, if you look at the Little Richard box set now, you will see that
most of the things that we did, were the hits he had and a lot of those
things had already been done with the Upsetters and were turned down. The
ones that they used were the ones that we did here and ah, and he would you
know... we didn't know that at the time because we didn't... I had never
heard of Little Ri... Richard having recorded before he came here and
recorded with us, but those things had been done already by Speciality in
California and he didn't like them and if he did like them when he... when
he came here and heard this group doing things, he decided to use this group
on... and many of them were the same things he had already done, which we
didn't know so he was trying to get more out of us without us knowing
that... I guess he figured that if we knew that it had been recorded already
I mean why he wanted to them with us. We wouldn't have put out as much as we
did, you know what I'm saying so he used a bit of psychology on us in
that... in that respect.
Yeah, but see
Little Richard was not the first artist that we had recorded that had hits
as such. We were the studio band and that came about through accidentally
because we would go with Dave bands and we'd do a remote with his band over
at the J and M on Rampart and ah, ah, ah, Domaine and we would go on
Sundays, you recall and that's how we came to know Cosmo Matassa.
We do radio broadcast there.