"All them cats I used to work with," says Oliver, "they said, 'Man, you got so much soul. How do you get them people with that umbrella?'"
After a lifelong career as one of New Orleans' most popular entertainers, this -- incredibly -- is Oliver Morgan's first album. It is classic New Orleans soul and R&B, as masterfully produced by the city's great maestro, Allen Toussaint. Like one of Oliver's shows, if this doesn't get you on your feet dancing, Jack, check your pulse, 'cause you dead!
Oliver grew up in the amazingly musical neighborhood of the Ninth Ward, smelling the fish cookin' at Saturday night fish fries and paying a quarter to see his neighbors Fats Domino and Smiley Lewis. He sang in church and next door: "Eddie Bo and Professor Longhair used to stay by Jessie Hill's house. And we all used to be jammin' in this front room!"
Oliver first recorded in 1961 as "Nookie Boy," a nickname his aunt gave him as a child, on the AFO label that included many of the city's great musicians.
"During that time I used to want to be like everybody else," says Morgan, "and James Brown came on the scene. And Smiley Lewis told me, 'Nookie Boy, stop doin' that and be yourself! You got a lot of soul with you!' That's when I got my umbrella. I said, 'I'll get me something goin'.' I was the first one to start bringin' the umbrella into the nightclub." Oliver put the joy of the second line jazz parade into his act.
In 1963 Gene Norman, owner of the L.A.-based GNP-Crescendo label, was in New Orleans looking for some jazz, but instead recorded Oliver's "Who Shot The La La" at Cosimo Matassa's studio with musicians including Eddie Bo, Mac Rebennack and Roy Montrell. The record got airplay up North, leading to bus tours with the likes of Jackie Wilson, Don Covay, Wilson Pickett and Jerry Butler. But, of course, Oliver's greatest fame was at home.
"I remember the time at the Masque Lounge," smiles Oliver mischievously, "I used to bring all the people down along the Chef Menteur Highway, man, and block all the traffic up! The police came there and said, 'Oliver, man, bring 'em in the club!'"
In the late 60s Oliver recorded some fine soul records produced by Eddie Bo for the Seven-B label. "My all-time idol was Otis Redding," says Oliver. "Man, that cat had so much soul! I was on some shows with him. He didn't have no steps or nothin', but he'd sing and stomp his feet--'AWWW CAW CAW CAW!'"
A bit of Redding's legendary rasp can be heard in Oliver's voice. Several of the songs here pay tribute to Oliver's friends from the past -- Lee Dorsey, Joe Tex, Chris Kenner -- but only as Oliver can do it. "I Love Rhythm and Blues" is likewise a fitting tribute to his city and its music.
As Oliver says, "It's a shame they don't have any kind of place where you can get some good ol' handclappin' music." In fact, they do. Whether it is in New Orleans or in Europe -- where Oliver tours constantly -- or, now – finally -- in your home, one of those places is wherever the La La Man's music is heard.
On the I'm Home album, Oliver Morgan recorded 10 tracks with some excellent NO based artists including Allen Toussaint piano on organ, Scott Goudeau guitar, Charles Moore bass, Bernard "Bunchy" Johnson drums, Tracy Griffin trumpet, Craig Klein trombone, Brain "Breeze" Cayolle tenor sax, Cindy Mayes baritone sax and Sean Tauzier guitar.
He had contrary to some reports also had another album out in the early 90's called "Do The Nitty Gritty which is worth looking out for with covers of his classics.
You can read 2 obituaries here:
Oliver Morgan RIP
With Oliver Morgan Ponderosa Stomp 2005