During the early 1960s, the New Orleans record scene was red hot. Among the unforgettable hits streaming out of Cosimo Matassa's funky recording studio on Governor Nicholls Street were Walking To New Orleans by Fats Domino, Mother-In-Law by Ernie K-Doe, Ooh Poo Pah Doo by Jessie Hill, Do-Re-Mi by Lee Dorsey and But I Do by Clarence Henry.
In New Orleans itself, you can add to this list of perennial favourites Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Loan Me A Handkerchief by Danny White, and Men Of War by the Rouzan Sisters from the Frisco label. The Danny White records sold in excess of 100,000 each in New Orleans and along the Gulf coast, but hardly a box elsewhere.
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye was pure gold, and or it should have been. A bitter-sweet ballad of betrayed love written by Al Reed, it was a natural hit. But Frisco, like many indie labels before and since, just did not have the resources to handle a national hit, and it was something of a mistake to place national distribution with another small organisation, Arlen Records of Philadelphia. And so a major hit was lost. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye should have had the same success as the later, similarly ethereal, Tell It Like It Is by Aaron Neville.
Now at last, we are putting the record straight by releasing not only the original 45 of Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, but also a stereo out-take with Danny advertising an upcoming gig in 1963 at Harlem's Rockland Palace.
Frisco Records was formed in 1962 by chicken restaurateur Connie LaRocca and disc jockey Hal Atkins, right in the midst of all those seeming never-ending New Orleans R&B hits. LaRocca and Atkins must have been impressed by the hit strike rate of other local independent labels such as Ric/Ron, Minit/Instant and AFO.
During its lifespan of some four years, Frisco released 20 singles featuring Danny White, Wanda Rouzan and the Rouzan Sisters, Willie West (later lead vocalist with The Meters), Porgy Jones & the Polka Dots, and Al Adams (actually label co-owner Hal Atkins). Most of the sessions were produced at Cosimo's famous studio with all-star session men such as Art Neville, Dr. John, Alvin Robinson and Smokey Johnson. The chief musical director was Wardell Querzerque, who masterminded later hits such as Barefootin' by Robert Parker and Groove Me by King Floyd. The band sound is big and fat with that irresistible second-line beat. A notable thing about the Frisco recordings is the quality of the songwriting from the pens of the highly respected Al Reed and Earl King.
Not everything was recorded in New Orleans. In 1964 Danny White was sent to the Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee where he was produced by the upcoming team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Can't Do Nothing Without You and My Living Doll come from this session, with accompanists including the Memphis Horns and the Hi Rhythm Section.
This high quality material from Frisco, much of it in stereo, has never been reissued in any form, and charts the progression of New Orleans music from classic R&B to early soul. The story is pulled together by noted New Orleans historian Tad Jones. This time out, the Frisco recordings will be heard far and beyond the Crescent City.
The Frisco Story is a welcome addition to our growing New Orleans R&B catalogue, spearheaded by the two series, Fats Domino's Imperial Singles and Gumbo Stew (from the AFO label) and not forgetting all those great Specialty releases.
by John Broven