Ignored Obscured Restored
I had plans to go back to New Orleans – one of my favorite cities – for the French Quarter Festival in April. But yesterday they announced that it would be postponed until October. :^(
To help get me psyched for the Fest, I read the most important book to document the historical importance of New Orleans to the early development of R&B and Rock and Roll in the ‘50s and ’60. Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans was written in 1974 by Brit John Broven, an authority on the subject of Louisiana music.
The book told a story about a white artist that recorded in Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans named Jerry Byrne. I’d never heard of him, so I had to check out his most popular song – “Lights Out” (1958).
How is it that I have not heard of this song before now? This kicks ass!!! It has everything you could want in a rockabilly song – A wild vocal, a honking sax (played by Harold Battiste), and a killer piano solo pounded out by Art Neville (of the Neville Brothers). As accurately summarized by Broven, it “contains all the power, energy and excitement that is the essence of rock ‘n roll.”
The track was co-written by Seth David and Mac Rebennack (Dr. John) who was Byrne’s cousin!
And the lyrics have the rebellious attitude that is essential for early rock songs. It opens like this:
Standin’ on my front porch Grabbed her and I kissed her Boy was I surprised when I saw her little sister Lights out, lights out I’m glad now the lights were out Sister knows more about What to do when the lights go out Mother looked at me She was a-peepin’ through the window The way she looked at me Boy, I thought I was a sinner
“Lights Out” was popular regionally but never found a national audience. How did that happen? It shouldda been a hit!
I hope you’re as happy as I am to have discovered this classic, early rock song. It will be on many of my playlists in the future.
Enjoy… until next week.