Patience Valentine - Woman In A Man's World (SAR 157)
Woman In A Man's World
Harold Battiste had 'the touch'.
After studying music at Dillard University, he found work as a music teacher in New Orleans' public schools. In 1956, Harold and fellow Dillard graduate Ellis Marsalis travelled to Los Angeles to jam with Ornette Coleman. In love with the concept of 'modern' jazz, he made some demo recordings while he was out there, hoping to shop them around to some west coast labels.
Bumps Blackwell was getting ready to cut a session on the recently 'crossed-over' Sam Cooke. Blackwell had big plans for Sam, and had pulled out all the stops, going so far as to hire the decidedly whitebread Lee Gotch Singers to sing background vocals. "Sam had this song called You Send Me," Battiste told John Sinclair, "it was a nice little thing but it didn't say nothing, so he told me to change the words, and make this verse the second verse and something like that... we had some singers there in the studio, and they didn't have anything to sing, so I wrote out some parts for them... at the session, man, Art Rupe came in, and he wigged! He didn't go for that. 'What you got Sam doing here? It sounds like white folks on there!'"
Allen Orange came and auditioned, and they turned them down. I had Irma Thomas - I mean, everybody around here, I had a shot at. Because I did auditions on them and sent them off to Art Rupe, and he passed on them." (Imagine?) The requisite Rock 'n' Roll records Battiste did produce for the label on folks like Art Neville and Jerry Byrne went nowhere, fast.
Joe Jones. Released on Ruffino's Ric imprint, You Talk Too Much was making some local noise, "...but me and Joe felt we could make this a big record," Battiste said, "Joe was a real hustler, and we went out all through the South in his station wagon, stopping at every radio station that had an antenna... that was just about the time Fidel Castro was doing his marathon speeches, you know, in Cuba, so Joe started playing off that. He wrote a letter to Castro, and sent him a record... By the time we got to Chicago, we had got an answer back from Castro! One of his boys, they wrote back a nice little letter..."
Jet magazine with this letter from Castro, congratulating us, and they ran a little feature. And the record really began to take off behind this publicity." You gotta love it.
Lloyd Price was performing at a club 'out in Coney Island'. Scraping together enough change for two tokens, they took the subway to where Lloyd was playing and he helped get them back on their feet, arranging a meeting with infamous Roulette Records chief Morris Levy. Jones had neglected to tell Battiste (or Joe Ruffino for that matter) that he had already signed a contract with Levy, and had actually cut a version of 'You Talk Too Much' for Roulette in 1958 that hadn't been released. Levy went ballistic, summoning Ruffino to New York to threaten him with a lawsuit (and Lord knows what else). "After Roulette got Joe's throat there," Harold told John Broven, "boy, I was scared to death... that's the Mafia!" Once the smoke cleared, Levy had made Ruffino an offer he couldn't refuse, re-released the single on Roulette, and asserted his right to Jones' contract, sending Harold home with his tail between his legs.
"After that I started thinking about the way things worked in the recording industry and what could be done about it," he told Sinclair, "...it seemed to me that as musicians on the one hand, and as Blacks on the other, we had to do something to reclaim the ownership of the music we produced so that we would be the ones to profit from it, if there were profits to be had. So I started talking to the cats about this, and we formed A.F.O. as a means of gaining some control over what we were producing. The original shareholders and board of directors were also like the house band, what we called the A.F.O. Studio Combo: Red Tyler, Melvin Lastie, Roy Montrell, Chuck Badie and John Boudreaux."
Sonny Bono, who had been in charge of Specialty's Los Angeles office just as Harold had been in New Orleans, put him in touch with Juggy Murray at Sue Records in New York. The fact that Murray was a black man fit nicely with the A.F.O. vision and they signed on with him. Now distributed by Sue, the label's second single, I Know by Barbara George, shot straight up to the top, spending a month at #1 R&B in early 1962.
...but there was a problem.
Marshall Sehorn had brought Murray's New York competitor Bobby Robinson down to New Orleans in the Summer of 1961 to cut Lee Dorsey's Ya-Ya. "I tried to hire Allen Toussaint to play piano on Dorsey's sessions," Robinson said, "but Allen was 'on staff' for another record company... Harold Battiste, who was another great New Orleans musician, got the band together for me. He wrote the arrangement overnight." Robinson, of course, couldn't resist printing 'Arranger: H. Battiste' on the label as it beat George's A.F.O. single to the top of the R&B chart in November of 1961. "I didn't know anything about that shit, man, New York and all that, Harold said, See, me, I'm still thinking like Muhammad: we're all Black cats, you know what I mean? We'll supply all y'all's music, man, we got plenty of it here, there's no use fightin' over a record - we'll just do another one!" But Murray was pissed off, and his relationship with Harold was never the same. By May of 1962, he had succeeded in luring Barbara away from her hometown, and signing her directly to Sue, effectively sounding the death-knell for A.F.O as a national hit-maker.
SAR label (along with former Pilgrim Traveler J.W. Alexander) which shared much the same vision as A.F.O.. For his part, Sam was impressed with Battiste, and the two became fast friends. "It was obvious," Harold told Peter Guralnick, "that he wanted to be more than a popular singer, that he wanted to be involved in social things." Just as he had done for Specialty back home on Claiborne Avenue, he floated the idea of creating 'Soul Stations' in the heart of the black community in Los Angeles to audition local talent that would otherwise be shut out by the recording establishment.
Tennessee Waltz. Sam then made sure Harold was in the house when he cut the mighty, mighty A Change Is Gonna Come two days later... Installed at the Soul Station, the Combo became SAR's 'house band', and by March of 1964 Battiste had been named the label's 'Chief of Productions'.
Things were finally looking good.
John Broven, "of all the cats in the world to die under those circumstances, Sam didn't deserve that." He most certainly did not. Although J.W. Alexander would valiantly try to carry on, without the support of Sam's widow Barbara, SAR was doomed to fail. Released in March of 1965, this amazing record we have here today, 'Arranged and Conducted by Harold Battiste, Jr.', would be the final SAR release. With it's lush minor-keyed orchestration and subject matter, at first glance it appears to be an answer record to James Brown's It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World...
BMI, Brown co-wrote his #1 R&B smash with his then girlfriend (and sometimes back-up singer) Betty Jean Newsome. A demo version of the song had been recorded in Chicago in June of 1964, but it remained unreleased until it surfaced on the great Star Time boxed set in 1991. Our Patience Valentine track here was co-written by J.W. Alexander and his then girlfriend, Carol Crawford, and was apparently released before the Brown demo was cut. Not much seems to be known about Crawford (or Patience Valentine for that matter), but it all just seems like too much of a co-incidence...Baby Don't Go, which got some local airplay in the Fall of 1964, but apparently not enough to keep Reprise interested.
I Got You Babe to the top slot on the Hot 100 for three weeks that Summer. Re-released by Reprise, Baby Don't Go would break into the top ten during the same time frame. After a few more releases, Harold was finally given label credit as Sonny and Cher's 'Arranger & Conductor', and would go on to be the Musical Director of their hit TV show for the next fifteen years.
Gold Star Studios, Battiste helped get work for the New Orleans musicians he knew from the Specialty and A.F.O. days, including a young piano player named Mac Rebennack. As legend has it, Harold and Mac hatched the concept of Dr. John the Night Tripper (loosely based on Need You, an unreleased song Jessie Hill had written for Prince La La at A.F.O.) during unused Sonny and Cher studio time that ATCO had already paid for. Reportedly, Ahmet Ertegun was not amused.
Alvin Robinson and King Floyd for a short-lived Mercury subsidiary label named Pulsar. With little or no promotion from the parent company, these records went nowhere and, by the early 70s, the 'N.O., LA in L.A.' recording scene had pretty much ceased to exist...
A true visionary, Harold Battiste's spirit will live on...
...This Is How We Do It In New Orleans.
UNFINISHED BLUES: MEMORIES OF A NEW ORLEANS MUSIC MAN. Co-written with fellow UNO faculty member Karen Celestan, it was published by the Historic New Orleans Collection in 2010. Click here to listen to a WWNO interview in which Harold discusses the book with our pal Fred Kasten.