Born Edwin Joseph Bocage, 20 September 1930, New Orleans, Louisiana
Singer / pianist / producer.
It is doubtful if many artists anywhere have had their records released on as many labels as Eddie Bo has. But unlike many of his contemporaries of the 1950s, he managed to keep abreast of the continual changes in popular music trends over the years. Versatility was the name of the game. Eddie has recorded blues, R&B, rock 'n' roll, soul, freak-out music, novelties, funk, speciality dance records and instrumentals.
Eddie Bo came from a family (Bocage) that was legendary in the traditional New Orleans jazz community ; cousins Peter, Henry and Charles had all made important contributions playing with the finest jazz orchestras prior to World War II. After serving in the Army, Eddie returned to New Orleans to study piano and music theory at the Grunewald School of Music. It was here that he developed a unique style of piano playing and arranging that incorporated complex be-bop voicings, influenced by his mother (a self- taught pianist like Professor Longhair), Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. Of course, Professor Longhair was a major influence on Eddie as well. Ultimately the combination of styles that became Eddie Bo's trademark were a fusion of New Orleans rhythm and blues, jazz and funk. In a career that spanned over more than 50 years, Bo has allegedly made more 45's than any artist in N.O. other than Fats Domino.
His first disc was issued under the name Little Bo : "Baby"/"So Glad", which was the second release (Ace 501) on Johnny Vincent's Ace label. Eddie's first record under the name Eddie Bo was "I'm Tired"/"We Like Mambo" (Ace 515), though the B-side was actually by Huey Smith (who later rerecorded the song under the title "We Like Birdland"). These two Ace singles, both from 1955, were followed by five 45's on the Apollo label in 1956-57. The first of these, "I'm Wise", was adapted by Little Richard into "Slippin' And Slidin'", a # 33 pop hit on the back of the even bigger hit "Long Tall Sally" (# 6). A nice little earner for Bo, though the songwriting credit for "Slippin' And Slidin'" eventually went to four people : Edwin Bocage, Albert Collins, Richard Penniman and James Smith. His next stop was Chess / Checker (1957- 1958). The pounding rocker "Oh Oh" (Chess 1698), written and recorded with Paul Gayten, must rank as one of the best of his early records, along with "I'm Wise". The B-side of "Oh Oh", "My Dearest Darling" was picked up in 1960 by another Chess artist, Etta James, who scored a # 5 R&B hit (# 34 pop) with this Eddie Bo composition. After Chess it was back to Ace for a great rock n roll single : "I Love To Rock and Roll" (Ace 555, 1958).
According to some people, Eddie's "most impressive" (Jeff Hannusch) or "most rewarding" (John Broven) work was done for the Ric label between 1959 and 1962. That is a matter of taste. Commercially, the most successful of these singles was "Check Mr. Popeye" (Ric 987, 1961), which was leased to Swan Records of Philadelphia for national distribution and started a popeye dance craze. But Bo had to wait until 1969 for his sole chart entry, "Hook And Sling, Part 1" (# 13 R&B, # 73 pop), on the Scram label. Eddie recorded very prolifically during the 1960s, for a host of New Orleans labels, but there were hardly any sessions in the 1970s. During this decade he concentrated on his own record label, Bo-Sound, and on producing other artists, like Irma Thomas, Robert Parker, Art Neville, Chris Kenner and Johnny Adams. After a failed attempt at running his own club, Eddie moved to Florida and retired temporarily from the music business, but in 1989 he was back in New Orleans and resumed playing music. He toured Europe as part of a New Orleans package that included Dr. John and Mink Deville and became a regular visitor to Europe and Japan. As a result of a fire, Bo lost him home / business and all his possessions on March 17, 1999. Undeterred, he kept on releasing records and gigging full-time until his death (from a heart attack) in 2009. His energy was infectious and he never failed to move a crowd, be it at the Jazz Fest, the Rock 'n' Bowl, the Ponderosa Stomp or at his own Check Your Bucket Cafe. Eddie Bo was certainly one of the most prolific and versatile New Orleans R&B artists of all time. But his records were uneven and for fans of rock n roll there is little of interest beyond his 1950s recordings.
Obituary : http://www.offbeat.com/2009/05/01/eddie-bo/
Discography (incomplete) : http://www.eddiebo.com/discography.html
CD's : I Love To Rock 'n' Roll (Famous Groove FG 971052). 29 tracks from 1955-63.
Acknowledgements : John Broven (Walking To New Orleans) ; Jeff Hannusch (obituary in Now Dig This # 314, May 2009) ; Mike Leadbitter / Neil Slaven, Blues Records 1943-1970.
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