CASE TWO: Lee Bates
Our second case comes by popular request, and begins, as many cases do, at Funky 16 Corners...
The story so far:
Larry Grogan had this to say last October:
"...Obie Leroy Bates was born in New Orleans in 1941. By the early 60’s the aspiring singer was doing time as Chris Kenner’s valet. He recorded his first 45 ‘Bad Bad Understanding’ for the White Cliffs label in 1967. After White Cliffs went out of business, Kenner brought him to Instant, where he would re-record the tune for his debut 45.
Bates vocal style was seriously influenced by the (by then) late Otis Redding, and he tips his hat to Redding in the arrangement to ‘Bad Bad Understanding’ by lifting the horn line from Redding’s ‘Something is Worrying Me’ (the single was produced by Huey Smith). The flip side of that 45, ‘Simon Says’ is a funky dance craze number. Bates would go on to record a total of eight 45s for Instant, one of which – not surprisingly – was a cover of ‘Sitting On The Dock of the Bay’.
Its Bates' second 45 for Instant that brings us here today. I’ve been digging for NOLA 45s for a long time, and it’s unusual that I grab one and don’t recognize any of the names on the label. This is one of those times…Aside from Bates, the songwriters (Dozeir, Sigler, Broonier & Phillips - maybe Phil Phillips???) and the producer (the almost certainly pseudonymous ‘Alias Ducey’ ) were unknown to me. I’ve since found out that Ducey/Ducie eventually recorded a 45 for Instant with a group celled the New Orleans Poets, ‘Singing La Dee Dah’ (Instant 3326). As to who he actually is, I have no idea and would welcome any info readers might have. ‘International Playboy’ is a rough slice of funk with some great wah-wah guitar, hard drums and a wild vocal by Bates. The lyrics are a hilarious world tour of Bates’ international conquests, including the declaration:
My name is known in old Hong Kong
I’m just as famous as Egg Foo Yung!
The flip side is a pretty straight-ahead cover of Melanie's big hit 'Look What They've Done To My Song'.
As far as Bates other 45s go, the only other one I’ve heard is ‘Mean Mistreater’, and it’s excellent. According to Jeff Hannusch in ‘The Soul of New Orleans’ many of Bates Instant 45s were local hits (Hannusch also mentions that Bates’ White Cliffs era band included none other than George Porter and Zigaboo Modeliste).Bates went on to record a number of 45s for local labels (including one for the later incarnation of Sansu records). He continued to perform locally, and recorded at least two LPs in the 90’s, one of which, ‘Stop Leanin’ On The Wall’ was composed almost entirely of Otis Redding tunes..."
To which Dan Phillips added:
"The songwriters are Ugene (sic?) Dozier, BR Broomer, Lee Phillips (no relation) and Bunny Sigler. Definitely not a Louisiana crowd. I got that off of the BMI website, which is a good source for songwriter info, as is ASCAP, and the US Copyright Office (also good for dating songs, at least when they were registered).
In his first book, Jeff Hannusch says that Lee Bates was one of the artists Huey Smith produced for Instant. This song from 1970 would probably fall during Huey's days there, don't you think? Don't know otherwise what's up with that 'Alias Ducey'. Never saw it before. But for another possibility, Earl Stanley did some Instant producing during that era..."
Larry replied with:
"Y'know...I didn't even think to look beyond NOLA for the source of the tune (duh...). Sigler (i.e. Bunny) should have been the tip-off (s well as Gene Dozier - as in Gene Dozier & The Brotherhood, "Hunk of Funk" etc.), and I dropped the ball..."
An anonymous commenter also added:
"When I lived in NO,Bates had a local hit called Project Queen,which WBOK played for a while. Can't find the song anywhere now."
So far so good.
Detective Dan then went on to post this tune this past January on the always excellent Home Of The Groove:
"I found this single along with another by Lee Bates (Obie Leroy Bates) within the past month in some bins at a reasonable price and grabbed ‘em, as I had nothing by him on vinyl, just a few sides on CD comps. Bates, Mississippi-born and New Orleans-raised, is a rather minor figure in the annals of New Orleans soul whose unschooled vocal style owes much to the great Otis Redding; but you can also occasionally hear the influence of his former boss, Chris Kenner, too.
In the early 1960's, Bates, a former dockworker, was Kenner's valet, driver and general caretaker, as the successful singer/songwriter was a profligate drunk. While on the road with Kenner, Bates got a chance to start singing and was soon regularly opening the shows. In 1964, Bates recorded a demo to present to studio and label owner, Cosimo Matassa, who liked what he heard and did a session with Bates. The resuling single, “Bad, Bad Understanding” b/w “I’m Forever Crying” was released on White Cliffs, but was not successful, although it did help Bates to start getting gigs of his own. He doesn’t seem to have recorded again until the early 1970’s, when Kenner recommended him to Instant. Over the course of the next five years or so, Bates had at least eight singles released on the label, until it finally went under in 1977. Subsequently, he led a band that regularly worked on Bourbon Street during the 1980’s, and released a solo CD about eight years ago.
“Mean Mistreater” b/w “I Do Things Come Naturally” was Lee Bates’ fourth Instant single. His Otis Redding affinity is evident here in his very strong, soulful vocal. Written and produced by Huey Smith, the simple, fairly straight-ahead arrangement has a groove more reminiscent of Stax than New Orleans; but, still, it's got great in-the-pocket drumming with brief hi-hat syncopations at the start of every bar (is there a name for that, drummers?), an effective bass line, tasty guitar chops, and understated horns..."
Well there ya go, folks. I really don't have much to bring to the table here, but there is definitely a LOT more information than we had to start with on our first case. (I'm sure you will find out, as I did, the absolutely maddening fact that a google on "lee bates" brings up about a gazillion references to Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote the lyrics to 'America The Beautiful', and may or may not be gay...).
Good luck detectives!
(and remember, just because we've opened case two doesn't mean case one goes away... oh no! I'm not resting till we at least have an actual PHOTO of Joe, and hey, one of Lee too for that matter!)
Dan added this:
"...I have done some further reading on Earl Stanley recently and find that he and his band, the Stereos did a lot of recording as a back-up band in New Orleans, using different names. For example, they were Roger and the Gypsies of "Pass The Hatchet" fame (with the added Roger Leon, who wrote the main riff, and, of course, Eddie Bo, who later overdubbed his vocalisms). Stanley has been a longtime side musician (guitar and bass), going back to his early days playing in a band with Mac Rebennack when they both were teenagers. He formed the Stereos in the early 1960's, wrote songs, and also did some production work, as I mentioned. He well could be Alias Ducey/Ducie, and his band could be backing up Bates on Instant 3307, as well as playing on 3326. But that is supposition. I'll dig some more and see what I can find. Of course, all this is somewhat tangential to Lee Bates at the moment; but ya never know..."
(tangential? what'd he eat a dictionary for breakfast or something, folks?) Just kiddin', Dan. Thanks!
Larry Grogan said:
"Interesting you should mention Earl Stanley. I have a Seven B 45 by Art Sir Van that I believe features Earl Stanley & The Stereos. I also recall (hazily) that they were involved in other stuff as well. I'll have to do some digging..."
...and more evidence just keeps rollin' in!
Detective Colin Dilnot (who I'm just learning is quite the soul heavyweight in the UK...) provided us with THIS:
Not only a photo... but the story "straight from the horse's mouth", as they say!
The CD was released on Magnolia Records, New Orleans in 1998, and as Lee said it is comprised almost entirely of Otis covers...
Colin also posted this discography of Lee's 45s:
(which we've been updating as the facts come in...)
White Cliffs 270 Bad Bad Understanding/I'm Forever Crying 1967
Instant 3304 Simon Says/Bad Bad Understanding 1970
Instant 3307 International Playboy/Look What They Done To My Song
Instant 3310 Gonna Make You Mine/Why Don't You Write 1971
Instant 3313 Mean Mistreater/ I Do Things Come Naturally 1971
Instant 3316 Three Trips Around The World/Running Around 1971
Instant 3316 Three Trips Around The World/You Won't Do Right 1971
Instant 3318 Project Queen/Girl Listen To Me 1972
Instant 3321 Key To My Heart/Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay
Instant 3323 Slowly/Help Me Make It Through The Night 1974
Instant 3329 What am I gonna do/Your love is slipping away
1XChains 7011 What Am I Gonna Do/Your Love Is Slipping Away 1975
Sansu 1002 Shake Baby Shake/Disco Version
Sansu 1003 Dance With Me/All That Matters (Is Love) 1976
Sansu 1005 Something You Got/Dance With Me
Sansu 1009 Wishing, Waiting & Hoping/Easy,Easy
Magnolia 300 Overnight Sensation/Hooked On A Feeling 1981
Magnolia 400 Get 'Em And Hit 'Em - 3 versions on 12" 1983
Magnolia 500 You Blew It/You Blew It (instr.) 1985
Ichiban 119 Searching For Love/What Am I Gonna 1987
Soul Sound 1988 Does It Mean You Love Me (duet with Sharon Henderson)/All That Matters 1988
Dan had this to say about MAGNOLIA 300:
"...Wardell Quezergue arranged the B side. And, hey, I know the engineer, who got credit on the single. He was working at Sea-Saint back then. I'll try to track him down. Been awhile. . ."
...and detective Mark pointed out:
"Wilson Pickett did a version of International Playboy on his "In Philadelphia" album, where it is credited to Ugene Dozier / Bunny Sigler / Bernard Broomer / Lee Phillips."
...we should have some more mp3s up real soon! Keep it comin' y'all!
As regards the great Wilson Pickett version of "International Playboy", Dan reminded us that it was also released as the flip of "Engine Number 9" on Atlantic 2765, while Larry pointed out:
"Pickett's recording of 'International Playboy' is the original. Two of the composers, Bunny Sigler and Gene Dozier were working in Philly with Gamble/Huff, who produced the 'Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia' LP."
Now, shortly before departing for the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans (making us all just green with envy...), detective Dan posted INSTANT 3304, the re-recording of Lee's original "Bad, Bad Understanding" over at The Home Of The Groove (where he also plugs good ol' 'soul detective' as well!).
(On another note, be sure to check out John Ridley's brand new site; Deep Soul Heaven. It's where it's at!)
Here's a couple of tracks recorded ten years apart that show off Lee's ability to inject deep soul into just about anything!
dance with me
This remake takes an incredibly annoying 'Orleans' song and gives it this 70's bar band disco treatment that has to be heard to be believed! You go Lee! The label says it was produced by Isaac Bolden, a local New Orleans record man who hit big when Jean Knight's You Got The Papers (But I Got The Man) was picked up from his SOULIN' label by Atlantic/Cotillion in 1981. Any further info on him, detectives?
SOUL SOUND 1988
all that matters
Here's Lee ten years later giving a kind of Isaac Hayes on Safari spin to fellow Crescent City soul singer Tony Owens' local hit. Once again the record was produced by Isaac Bolden, and written by him as well. Great stuff!
And then there's this:
This flyer is posted on Emperor Ernie K. Doe's always entertaining site. The "beneficial" was held at the legendary Mother-In-Law Lounge in March of 2000. They don't mention what Lee needed help with... anybody know? Medical bills? We need to find this out... I mean, the "Stop Leanin' On The Wall" CD was the last any of us has heard from him. It's eight years later. Think he's OK?
ALL of this incredible stuff, the music, the pictures, and everything was sent in by Super Detective Colin Dilnot. Check out the work he's done on the great Laura Lee. The real deal. Thank You Colin!
Detective "anonymous" Lyle (he's deep undercover...), pointed us in the direction of a Soul Express article about Lee from March of '98 when the 'Stop Leanin' On The Wall' CD was released. Colin sent me some scans of the piece. I was going to try and summarize it, but (hoping I'm not getting into copyright issues - ala soulwalking...) I decided to post the whole thing:
(if you click on these, the full size images are actually readable...)
There ya go... as you can see, Lee exhibits a paranoia worthy of Chester Burnett, but it's certainly an interesting article nonetheless! To be fair, though, this whole 'Second Otis' label they slapped on him must have sucked. (Remember the story in Sweet Soul Music - when Percy Sledge told Wilson Pickett he sounded like Otis Redding down in Muscle Shoals, the wicked one basically chased him from the building!)
A look at the Soul Express online discography doesn't really add anything new. Ours is more comprehensive actually, except for the glaring omission of his WHITE CLIFFS debut... duh! I'll fix that, and add the year of release of each record from their site as well. Thank You Soul Express, Colin and Lyle for digging this up!
When I started thinking about doing this site, this is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind. I mean, we all know that the 'Brits', as they call them, have been going to school on deep and obscure soul for years, and writing about it in deep and obscure (to us on this side of the pond, anyway) soul magazines that are difficult, if not all but impossible, to track down. The information is out there, and it's up to us to find it. Great work, guys.
Colin has sent me a RAFT of mp3s, and we'll get 'em up here a bit at a time. Here's a cool one from 1971:
you won't do right
This song was apparently an alternate B side on some pressings of this single (it's not the same song as the Naomi Neville penned track of the same name that appeared as the B side of INSTANT 3256). It cooks! I shoulda saved this one for the B side, huh?
The glaring question still remains: What has Lee been up to since 1998?
Dan Phillips (that veritable font of New Orleans facts) pointed out that "You Won't Do Right" was "written by one Earl Oropeza. That's Earl Stanley. He took "Stanley" for a stage name from his middle name, Stanislaus. Anyhoo, I am pretty sure that track would have been produced by Earl and featured his band, as well."
"Now, on to Isaac Bolden," he said, "who you note produced Sansu 1005, which attempts to tap the Barry White demographic. Mr. Bolden produced a number of sessions for Sansu in the mid to late 1970's. At the time, looks like Bolden worked mainly with the locals, while Toussaint concentrated on the national acts that labels sent to him for the treatment (and paid the big bucks). Besides Bates and others, I know Bolden also did several records on Tony Owens, including "All That Matters", for Sansu, leased to other labels. For more detail on Bolden's work with Owens (he discovered Tony), see my HOTG piece."
His excellent "HOTG piece" gives a lot of background info both on Owens and Isaac Bolden as well. Grapevine Music released a comprehensive collection of Owens' work called I Got Soul (complete with excellent liner notes by Paul Mooney) just last year. His original version of "All That Matters" was leased to Buddha Records and released in 1975, but it was the B side, "I Don't Want Nobody But My Baby", that garnered some local airtime, and the record died.
NOW, new detective Peter Hoogers sent along an e-mail with scans of SANSU 1003 (I'll put 'em up as soon as I get the audio together...), which, he astutely noticed, I had neglected to add to our Bates discography even though Cies had brought it to our attention in the 'comments' early on... another new addition to our team, one John McGuigan, corroborated Cies' other possible additions, and added one of his own; MAGNOLIA 400, which was apparently a 12' single released in 1983. I've made the changes... thanks, guys, and welcome aboard... Cies, I apologize for dropping the ball there as well!
In the true spirit of international harmony, I'd like to post this unreal tune. The mp3 was provided by Colin in the UK, while the label scan came from the vaults of detective Dan here in the US...
INSTANT 3313 B
I do things come naturally
Our man Lee just goes OFF on this one, kind of like Chris Kenner on acid! Woo-Hoo!
Dan: "Chris Kenner on acid....man, that's kind of a scary thought - since he was well enough out of control on alcohol. I am surprised Bates had any vocal cords left after the screaming session on this one chord wonder. Did you know that this song was originally done by the Pitter Pats, one of Huey Smith's offshoot groups, on Instant 3285 in 1967? It had a female lead vocal (Gloria Franklin, I think) and was a slower, quite different, far less compelling, take on the tune. I'm glad Huey had Lee go crazy with it. There's not much there musically, really, but hearing him hold forth is worth it."
Detective Soul Pope said:
"Concerning Lee Bates great deep soul side "Waiting, Wishing and Hoping" on Sansu 1009, the same song was also performed by Tony Owens on Soulin 146. Of course Lee Bates version is in another league!!"
Let's check it out:
SANSU 1009 B
wishing, waiting, and hoping
The Tony Owens record was released in 1968. This one is from around 1976. Lee sure has his Otis Redding thang goin' on, huh? The Isaac Bolden production is kinda like Stax moves to Philadelphia... I love it!
Detective Peter Hoogers sent us a bunch more scans, not only on Lee, but on Joe Haywood as well. We'll be getting to those. He also pointed out:
"In Jeff Hannusch's book The Soul Of New Orleans there's a short chapter on Lee Bates, but it doesn't contain much new information (except that he was born in Magnolia, Mississippi, not New Orleans!)."
(I totally had zoned on this one, myself... with the book sitting not three feet away!) He went on to say:
"On Martin Lawrie's Eddie Bo discography, he mentions that apart from Instant 3321 there's another Eddie Bo produced Lee Bates 45 on Instant. I'd love to know which one that was, but doubt that it's any of the Instant 45s in your current discography."
The always inquistive Lawrie had written:
"I know there is one more Eddie Bo collaboration with Lee Bates on INSTANT as I owned and sold it a few years ago but can't for the life of me remember what it was?"
It doesn't look good.
A search of the Social Security Death Index yielded this:
12 Aug 1938 - 24 Dec 2004 (V) 70126
(New Orleans, Orleans, LA)
Although the birth year is different from the one given in the Soul Express article, the birth DATE is the same... I guess Lee was lying about his age, like so many other folks in his business.
To die on Christmas Eve... man.
I could be wrong. I hope I am.
Well I kind of felt bad after my last update... (you know, 'Oh, by the way, Lee's dead').
I'd like to take this opportunity to offer the heartfelt condolences of all of us here at Soul Detective to Lee's family and friends, and to thank him for providing us with all this great music.
Detective Colin Dilnot burned us a copy of Lee's Magnolia CD from 1998 (along with some more of his singles), and dropped it in the mail before he left for New Jersey last week. It finally got here last night. Thank You Colin!
I wanted to post this track, the last one on the CD. If you look at it as the last thing Lee ever recorded, it's kind of touching, man.
I Wanna Say I Love You
An absolute winner. Bates is really singing on this one. Co-produced with Reginald Toussaint (Allen's son), it's got that Sea-Saint feel to it. The great guitar lead is provided by "Cluster" Lee, anybody know who that is? It was written by Rudolph Laurent. A quick check of the BMI database shows him as the composer of 9 songs, including two more that were recorded by Bates; "You Blew It" and "Get Em And Hit Em". The songs are published by Home Stretch Music. Here is the contact info as listed on the BMI site:
HOME STRETCH MUSIC CAE/IPI #: 49326471
Phone: (504) 241-2230
Contact: HOME STRETCH MUSIC
C/O LYNN C CAVANAUGH
4600 FRANCISCO VERRETT
NEW ORLEANS, LA
On the back of the CD, Lee thanks Lynn Cavanaugh for her support as well. Who is she? I called the number. It has been disconnected. While that certainly should come as no surprise after the flood and everything down there, It's still too bad we couldn't reach her.
Dan: "Rudolph Laurent produced "Overnight Sensation" on Magnolia 300. Lynn Cavanaugh co-wrote the other side, "Hooked On A Feeling" (NOT the BJ Thomas hit) with Joe Broussard (who, by the way, wrote for Quezergue's Big Q Productions in the early 70's). And, at present, I have no clue about 'Cluster' Lee..."
I'm leaving for New Orleans on Thursday. I'll poke around a little while I'm down there, and see what I can turn up.
Alright folks, like I promised, I did poke around a bit in New Orleans. I spoke to the "mule & buggy" drivers down by Jackson Square, hoping to locate Tony Owens. They told me that Tony hasn't made it back home yet post-Katrina, and that they weren't sure where he was living now.
I also ran into Clarence "Reggie" Toussaint at his father's gig at Snug Harbor. I thanked him for the great production job he did on "I Wanna Say I Love You", and he confirmed Lee's 2004 demise. Cause of death: cancer.
Now, while I was gone, Dan posted INSTANT 3329 - Your Love Is Slipping Away over at Home of the Groove, along with some interesting info on Emmanuel Morris Jr. and Teddy Royal... check it out.
New detective Carl K had this to say:
"You ask, who is Lynn Cavanaugh of Home Stretch Music. Here's the answer. She was a beautiful person with a wonderful soul who sang like a bird. She actually sounded like Dionne Warwick back in the 60's (long time ago). Originally from Miami, Florida, she left for New Orleans sometime in the 70's. I heard the sad news she passed away around the year 2004 (before the hurricane Katrina event) at the young age of 54. I am sure those of us who knew her as her friends will miss her a lot."
SO, without further ado, here is the song the much loved Ms Cavanaugh co-wrote in 1981:
MAGNOLIA 300 B
hooked on a feeling
It's got this disco thing happenin', like most everything else from around that period... I love the bass!
Thanks for all the input, guys!
Hello, folks. I recently received a nice note from Señor Chubba, one of the legendary Mystic Knights of the Mau-Mau down in New Orleans.
He said that he was lucky enough to have been at that 2000 'beneficial' for Lee at the Mother-In-Law Lounge. He also recalls the days when Emperor K-Doe did his guest spot on WWOZ, often giving a 'shout-out' to both Lee and Tony Owens. He has tapes of some of those shows somewhere, he said and, if he ever finds 'em, he promises to make us a copy...
The main reason he got in touch with us, however, was to report that Tony Owens will actually be performing at this year's Ponderosa Stomp on May 2nd. How cool is that?
I Need, I Need Your Love
Here's a sweet number from 1968 that was written and produced for Tony by Isaac Bolden. If you haven't done so already, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of I Got Soul, the excellent Owens retrospective released by Grapevine in 2005.
I just got my Stomp tickets over the weekend.
Thanks, Chubba... can't wait!