The songs we have come to love as New Orleans classics have been reborn over the years. Each rebirth helped expose the songs to a brand new audience. Here are some of the rock artists who introduced New Orleans to the rest of the country.
Dave Edmunds- I Hear You Knockin’. A 1955 single from Smiley Lewis became a top five chart buster when British roots rocker covered it in 1971. The song is also the source for my bad pun when playing new music by Michael Kiwunuka. “That was Michael Kiwunuka, but you can’t come in.” That’s why I get paid the medium bucks.
Devo- Workin’ in a Coal Mine. A bigger hit for Lee Dorsey in 1966 when it was titled “Working in THE Coal Mine,” I would bet that the Devo version is what most people remember today. Who would have thought that the staccato rhythms of Devo would be suited to this soul classic? The Spud Boys from Akron, that’s who.
Warren Zevon- A Certain Girl. Like the previous song, it was written by the immortal Allen Toussaint, who penned “A Certain Girl” for Ernie K-Doe. But it was Toussaint’s “Mother in Law” that hit big for Ernie while this catchy number would find its biggest audience with the Warren Zevon version in 1980. The Yardbirds also did a version.
The Belle Stars- Iko Iko. This one goes waaaaaaaaay back to 1953, but it wasn’t until the mid-60’s when the Dixie Cups recorded the classic version that its place in history was secure. When the Belle Stars first released their cover in the early 80’s, the reception was modest compared to its re-issue as part of the “Rain Man” soundtrack. Never underestimate the power of a blockbuster film to catapult a song on the charts. Reached #10 in 1989. I really prefer the Dixie Cups. Yes. Even to the Dr. John cover.
Ron Howard-Blueberry Hill. Yes. Opie. Academy Award Winning Director. As Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, Ron Howard used Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill as his unofficial theme song inspiring who knows how many Fonzie fans to head to their local record store to inquire about part of an oldie they keep hearing on TV.
and the first version I ever heard of “Rockin’ Pneumonia” was by Johnny Rivers on an AM transistor radio.
Gotta go home now. I hope someone saved me some gumbo.