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Jumpin' At The Mardi Gras, CD (£11.50)
Another first from the Modern Records archives comes a retrospective of the magnificent Joe Lutcher, a Louisiana born alto-sax player and vocalist who led his own band in Los Angeles. His sister was the famous hit-maker Nellie Lutcher, who even played at the London Palladium during the early 50s.
Joe Lutcher was one of the leading exponents of the post-war West Coast R&B movement. He was skilled at both jazz and jump blues. With his band, the Society Cats, he was a top draw at many of LA's Central Avenue Night clubs. Lutcher was a musical relative of Eddy "Cleanhead" Vincent and Louis Jordan. He had several hits on Capitol and Specialty in the 40s. Jules Bihari signed Lutcher to Modern in 1949. On his second Modern release Lutcher dipped back to his Louisiana roots with Mardi Gras (Modern 20-672). In a short time the song became a radio and juke box favourite in New Orleans, where it gained a Territorial Tip in the trade papers and resulted in a national rhythm and blues chart hit for him the same year, 1949. The song later prompted cover versions by Roy Byrd (Professor Longhair) and Fats Domino under the name Mardi Gras In New Orleans.
Also in 1950, Lutcher jumped into the race for R&B covers of a recent country hit called Rag Mop. After that he left Modern and had a few one-off releases for London, Peacock and Masters Music. He gave up a successful music career to become an evangelist and influenced Little Richard to quit the rock'n'roll scene at the height of his popularity to go to Bible College.
He now lives in LA, but sadly has turned down interviews about his early career, which he considers to be the devil's music.
However, this new compilation of his vintage sides for Modern will fill in the gaps of his short recording career, when his music was played on the nation's jukeboxes. Much of his Modern work is laced with the rhythms of his Louisiana heritage. His alto sax playing has a high-pitched voodoo quality that will excite. A master musician who gave it all up in full flight, although he operated his own little gospel label during the 60s.
By Ray Topping