Ain't It The Truth : Eddie Bo©2006JCMarion


Edwin Joseph Bocage was born in New Orleans in September of 1930. He was a member of a well known musical family in the area which included his mother who was an accomplished pianist. From the Algiers section of the city, his uncles and cousins Peter, Charles, and Henry, were all members of various bands in the New Orleans scene such as with Sidney Bechet, and it was natural that young Eddie should follow in their footsteps. He joined the army in the late forties and after his service was ended he returned to New Orleans and decided to study music at the nearby Grunewald School. It was there that he began to appreciate the styles of the modern jazz players like Art Tatum, Errol Garner, and Oscar Peterson. Another influence on his "ear" was the style of his mother which embodied the many distinct sounds of his native city. He soon became part of the music scene in New Orleans where he was originally known as "Spider" Bocage, and formed a band that was used as backups for a number of national R & B artists when they came to play in the city.

In July of 1955 Johnny Vincent who was a producer with Specialty Records, formed his own company located in Jackson, Mississippi, to be called Ace Records. One of the first records out on the new label that August . was by Bocage listed as Little Bo. The songs were "Baby" and "I'm So Glad" on # 501. The record did not do much on the sales charts and so by early 1956, Bocage found himself on Apollo Records based in New York. Now on record as Eddie Bo he recorded "I'm Wise" and "Happy Tears" on Apollo # 486. Most people don't know it, but "I'm Wise" became a huge hit for Little Richard under the title "Slippin' And Slidin". Eddie Bo's version was a hot seller in places like Cincinnati where it was the number seven record, and number two on the R & B charts in New Orleans. In April Bo and his band with Amos Milburn get ready to tour the Pacific Northwest through the summer. Because of his Apollo success, Ace Records released "We Like Mambo" and "I'm So Tired" on # 515. The songs were recorded earlier with Huey Smith. In June "Please Forgive Me" and "I'll Be Satisfied" is released by Apollo on # 496. The next month "I Cry Oh" and "My Heart Was Meant For You" was out on Apollo # 499. Late in November Ace releases "Tell Me Why" and "Hey Bo!" on # 504.

In February of 1957, a curious thing happened in Toronto, Canada. A radio programmer started playing Eddie Bo's 1955 recording of "We Like Mambo" as a lark and soon everybody wanted a copy of the song. In March Bo plays Chattanooga along with Ruth Brown and Chuck Willis. That same month Apollo releases "Dearest One" and "Too Much Of A Good Thing" on # 509. That was the last side for Apollo as the label dropped Bo but he did not stand idle for too long. The Chicago giant R & B independent Chess / Checker contacted Bo and soon he was recording for them. In early 1958 "Every Day Every Night" and "Indeed I Do" was released on Checker #877. He had very little luck with that record but his recording of "My Dearest Darling" (with "Oh Oh" on the flip side) was a big seller in his home city and also in a big part of the Southeast. The song later became a hit record for Etta James. In February of 1959 Ace records came out with another Eddie Bo record from a previous session. This time it was "I Love To Rock And Roll" and "I'll Keep On Trying" on Ace # 555. "Trying" surprisingly gets good airplay and sales in New Orleans. By August Eddie had once again switched labels - this time to Ric, located in the hometown of New Orleans and headed by Joe Ruffino. "Hey Baby" and "I Need Someone" on Ric # 962 is released in short order. Late in the year "You Got Your Mojo Working" and "Everybody Knows" is out on Ric # 964.

In 1960 Eddie Bo made a few more records for Ric including "Tell It Like It Is" and "Every Dog Has Its Day" on # 969, "Ain't It The Truth" and "Warm Daddy" on # 974, "It Must Be Love" and "What A Fool I've Been" on # 977, "Check Mr. Popeye" and "Now Let's Popeye" on # 978 (his best seller for the label), "Dinky Doo" and "Everyone Needs Love" on # 981, and "Baby I'm Wise" and "Roamin-Itis" on # 989. During the sixties Eddie recorded for a number of labels including Swan, Rip, Chess, Arrow, Blue Jay, and At Last. By the end of the decade Bo had modernized his sound into a hard edged rhythmic funk sound with such tunes as "Pass The Hatchet" and "Hook And Sling (parts 1 and 2)" on Scram, and "Check The Bucket (parts 1 and 2)" on his own Bo-Sound # 5551. Into the seventies Eddie did a bit of music production and recorded a few albums of his work, but mostly played local gigs around New Orleans. However a talent that large cannot stay sequestered for too long a period of time. In the early nineties Eddie Bo was "re-discovered" by a whole new audience and European tours, a television documentary, and new recordings were produced. Eddie seems somewhat comfortable these days in his status as a "living legend", and a part of the magnificent tradition of New Orleans performers (especially pianists) that have defined that city and its place in American history.

For those not initiated there are a number of cds featuring the music of Eddie Bo. The best example of his early years beginning in the fifties is a hard to find cd for Famous Groove called "I Love To Rock And Roll" with 29 tracks including his duos with Inez Cheatham; "Check Mr. Popeye" from Rounder is a 14 track retrospective of his sides for the Ric label; "The Hook And Sling" for Funky Delicacies are songs with the Soul Finders on 15 tracks; and the interesting and different "New Orleans Solo Piano" for Night Train. And - last but not least - Eddie's own revitalized BoSound label with two recent cd releases : "Nine Yards Of Funk" and "We Come To Party". For more information on everything Eddie Bo, he maintains an interesting web site keeping the history alive !

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