Like Spiders Runnin’ On The Keys

Well now friends, here’s a guy been hangin’ around in the back there a good bit recently, all inconspicuous like. Looks like the in-con-spic-you-us type right? This here is James Caroll Booker III, son of a preacher man, bayou maharajah and in the words of Dr. John “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano player New Orleans has ever known.” I guess it’s on account of all my recent posts about the good Dr. that Booker might finally get his due here. He popped up a couple times on that mix I done and what with Jack White puttin’ me in mind of  ‘Papa was A Rascal’ I guess I just got wore down. ‘Let the crazy guy come on over and play the piano’. We got fer you him doin’ Earl King’s ‘Let’s Make A Better World’, which also features on the Dr’s ‘Desitively Bonnaroo’ here recorded live in Montreaux with a band behind him – a lot of Booker’s recorded output consists of concert recordings made in the late 70’s, mostly just him at the piano like on this great version of ‘Papa Was A Rascal’ recorded at his regular gig at The Maple Leaf (two albums on Rounder were compiled from tapes of those shows, ‘Resurrection of The Bayou Maharajah’ from which this version comes and ‘Spiders On The Keys’ both are great) Last up we got a version of ‘Junco Partner’ from what became known as ‘The Lost Paramount Tapes’ with Dr. John’s Night Trippers band which Booker was a member of at the time. He later took the song for the title track of his solo debut and when Booker sings ‘six months ain’t no sentence’ he knows what he’s a sayin’ havin’ already served just that much outta two years in Angola on drugs charges. Story goes another time he was up on a drugs bust in Philadelphia and talked the judge out of jail time on account it would make worse his homosexuality which, like his drug habit, he claimed he was tryin’ to put right. Eventually even the sympathetic Dr. John had to kick him out of the band ‘cos no-one wanted to share a room with him no more. Legend has it Booker signed on to play with about four other acts, took the tour advances and split back to New Orleans. As for how he lost his eye the stories vary, one has it he’d got hisself paid for the same thing three times by the publisher and tried it a fourth. So yeah, the stories are legion, his discography is like a sack full of squirming snakes and he’s an undeservedly unknown genius. You couldn’t make the guy up. Still, Lily Keber is making a documentary about his life and music called ‘Bayou Maharajah’ – goin’ pretty well I take it but not yet done, there’s a trailer here for you to watch that’ll let you know a little more about him and the esteem in which he is held by other musicians, they gots  a website too with a bunch more stuff including a Bunny Matthews strip featuring real, live, transcribed Booker gibberish (did I not mention the crazy? people close to Booker seem pretty convinced he had some mental illness. I don’t think it was ever backed up by a actual doctor but in them days being gay woulda been enough to reach for the electro-shock so he was probably wise to stay clear) and they still fundraising for it if your money’s burnin’ a hole…

Tico Tico/Papa Was A Rascal

Let’s Make A Better World

Junco Partner No2

~ by Mumblin' Earl on May 2, 2012.

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