Bobby Marchan

So back the other week there or whatever I was sayin how I might gets around to writing more about that Gumbo mix didn’t I? I believe I did, mostly that was ‘cos I couldn’t be writing a whole lot at the time and I felt bad about it. Still, this guy is on there, with ‘Quit My Job’ a number that pretty much all of us can relate to. Now, If I was to say Marchan was a interesting figure who never did get due credit like he deserved then I reckon I might about be doing him some kinda disservice there. His story is like some ridiculous movie hollywood wouldn’t make. John Waters coulda wrote it. That picture at the top is about the only one of him from the 50’s-60’s (when he did most of his recording) that you ever see and it ain’t even any good.

So from the top then lets get to it, he ain’t New Orleans born and it ain’t his real name. Bobby arrived in New Orleans working as a drag act in The Powder Box Revue. Like a lot of folks he liked it so much there he stayed, working his drag act at the Dew Drop Inn and Tijuana club (he’d have been far from alone, they used to have a lot of female impersonators on back then). He’d be pretty good at it too it would appear. Seems he caught the eye (and ears) of Huey ‘Piano’ Smith down there. The story goes that when Smith brought along Johnny Vincent from Ace records to see if he’d sign him, Vincent left thinkin’ he’d signed a female singer.  Dr John too admits to meeting him first as Roberta/Loberta and later Bobby and not realising it was the same guy.

So. Bobby becomes part of Huey’s new act the Clowns. They have a couple of pretty big hits but soon Huey gets tired of being out on the road preferring to sit back at home in New Orleans writing. In a typical move of the time the band, still billed as Huey Smith and The Clowns carry on touring without him and New Orleans piano legend James Booker takes his chair. Marchan is by this time pretty much leading the band under someone else’s name and ain’t getting no credit for it. When the first album comes out with just Huey’s big smiling face on the front, Bobby is understandably kinda pissed at the situation. Seems The Clowns weren’t exactly a bunch of photogenic guys. So, they put out a couple records as Bobby Marchan & The Clowns. Then Huey writes this song. Everybody knows right off that it’s a big hit. Vincent however has watched the rise of Elvis and decides he’ll have a much bigger hit with a young white guy on the tune. So he has Marchan’s vocal scrubbed and gets Frankie Ford to record ‘Sea Cruise’. Big, big, million seller hit. (It was on the old gumbo mix.)

That’s about it for Bobby and he goes on back to wowing people with his drag act. Still what we got here for you are all tunes recorded after his time with The Clowns. A few years further on and Bobby approaches Fire records about doing ‘There is Something On Your Mind’ it goes real well and so he starts to make some records again. He also recorded the original of ‘Get Down With It’, later a massive hit for Slade (and at the time the first serious money he’d made out of this whole rock ‘n’ roll thing). Also here for you we gots a later reworking he did of one of his hits with The Clowns. It’s good. Not as good, but it’s good.

There Is Something On Your Mind pt1

There Is Something On Your Mind pt2

Get Down With It

Rockin’ Pnuemonia (and the boogaloo flu)

all that ain’t enough for one honest to goodness obscure R&B hero/drag queen he later got involved in setting up Cash Money records in some kind of way that’s never seemd to be clear.

Mercy, that’s a long ol’ post right there. You can see why I took my time getting around to it. More to come when I has the energy friends.

~ by Mumblin' Earl on April 5, 2011.

One Response to “Bobby Marchan”

  1. […] and a few covers of it for your enjoyments. Hill played drums with Huey “Piano” Smith/Bobby Marchan and Professor Longhair, who said he was the only drummer who could keep up with him and was a […]

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