Eaglin is accompanied by Fats Domino’s rhythm section plus David Lastie, Ron Levy and Ronnie Earl on his first Black Top album
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Snooks Eaglin, the legendary New Orleans blues and R&B singer and guitarist, passed away on February 18 of this year. That city’s Offbeat magazine described him as “a one-of-a-kind guitar player who could play an unbelievable run with his amazing (seemingly double-jointed) fingers in a repertoire that ranged from Beethoven to R&B; thus his moniker: ‘The Human Jukebox.’” Eaglin, who first recorded in 1958, began a five-album run on Black Top Records with 1987’s Baby, You Can Get Your Gun, which All Music.com awarded 4½ stars. The album will be reissued on Hep Cat Records through Collectors’ Choice Music on April 21.
Other Black Top reissues set for April 21 are Ronnie Earle & the Broadcasters’ Peace of Mind and Deep Blues, Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets’ Sins and The James Harman Band’s Cards on the Table.
Fird “Snooks” Eaglin was born in New Orleans in 1936. Like his contemporary, the late James Booker, Snooks delighted in guiding his listeners through unexpected musical labyrinths. On Baby, You Can Get Your Gun, his first Black Top release, Snooks voyages from blues at its most sophisticated, covering Percy Mayfield’s “Baby Please,” to blues of the most nasty, suggestive variety, on “Nobody Knows.” There are shuffles done in a style unique to Snooks — “Mary Joe” and “Baby, You Can Get Your Gun!” (originally cut by Earl King for Ace Records). There is the James Brown-inspired “Drop the Bomb!” and a tribute to the Ventures called “Profidia.” There’s a nod to the sanctified realm of gospel on Smiley Lewis’ “That Certain Door,” and both “Oh Sweetness” and Pretty Girls Everywhere” are evocative of the music Snooks created during his association with Professor Longhair. (Snooks abruptly exited an upstate New York recording session with ‘Fess during the ‘70s because the sound of snow falling kept the blind guitarist awake all night.)
Snooks’ musical career has been likewise eclectic. He was the lead guitarist in 16-year- old Allen Toussaint’s first band, The Flamingoes. In 1958, he was recorded by folklorists Harry Oster and Richard Allen under the direction of the eminent band leader Dave Bartholomew. Snooks recorded ten singles for Lewis Chudd’s Imperial Records from 1960-61. Then, in 1974, he was the featured guitarist on the Wild Magnolias’ debut album of revisionist Mardi Gras Indian songs. For more than three decades, Snooks had been one of the Crescent City’s most popular entertainers. In a town dominated by awesome pianists, he was the ruling guitarist.
Snooks’ accompanists on Baby, You Can Get Your Gun included Joe “Smokey” Johnson and bassist Erving Charles, Jr., otherwise known as the rhythm section of Fats Domino’s orchestra; David Lastie, who supplied the sax breaks on his uncle Jessie Hill’s 1960 hit “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” (and is part of a notable Ninth Ward musical family); Ron Levy, who spent seven years at the piano and the Hammond B-3 in B.B. King’s touring combo and has recently been featured with Roomful of Blues, and Levy’s long-time close friend Ronnie Earl, whose guitar propelled Roomful of Blues and a notable solo career.
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