Jesse Thomas

Jesse ThomasThe artist I’m highlighting on this page isn’t the Louisiana born bluesman Jesse “Babyface” Thomas who recorded with distinction for almost eight decades on labels like Victor (pre second world war), and Miltone, Club, Swing Time and Specialty (post war). But confusingly this Jesse Thomas was also from the Pelican state but recorded all his four 45s from the 60s in New Orleans.

His first two singles were recorded under the direction of the legendary Crescent City pianist and latterly producer Huey “Piano” Smith for label owner Johnny Vincent, and all 6 sides are prime examples of that wonderful good time R & B that made the city’s music so unique. Superb syncopated rhythms, Huey’s unmistakeable keyboard style and big horns. Thomas’ Ace 45 features what sounds like a Huey Clowns outtake on “That’ll Get It” coupled with a furious slab of parade ground rhythm driven R & B on “I’m Boss Yeah”. The rare Teem 45 slows down the pace a bit on “All Of My Love” but the uptempo “Can It Be Love” has rightly had a little dance action from the R & B crowd.

TeemBut Jesse Thomas’ penultimate 45 from the golden age – another very scarce one – is by far his best release for true soul fans. “Bases Are Loaded” has a good few fans among the dancers, but it is the outstanding deep ballad on the other side ListenShould I pay Dues that really gets to me. This Tail-Gate release, bearing all the hallmarks of a Wardell Q arrangement, and produced by the tiny label’s owner Theus Braden is as good as that other Tail-Gate winner by Jackie Avery. And that is saying something. Love the rhythm and lead guitar combination and the subdued horns – and of course Jesse’s hoarse, emotionally tortured vocals.

Jesse’s only White Cliffs outing as “Young Jesse” continues his "sports" theme, is very rare indeed and despite the title isn’t the sort of New Orleans sound that the Eddie Bo funk crowd enjoy. But it is more magic R & B from Huey Smith – this time sounding like a Pitter Pats track on Instant. No wonder as it was written by Brenda Brandon who was that group’s female lead voice, and sings background on this song.

By the 90s Thomas was in the NY / New Jersey area gigging with groups like the Gin Mill Kings and recording a new CD called – appropriately – “Easy In The Apple” as it featured mostly Big Easy hit tunes like “Ya Ya”, “Sick And Tired” and “Jock-A-Mo” recorded in the Big Apple. Let’s hope he continues to prosper for a long long time.


Ace Tail-Gate Young Jesse


Can it be love / All of my love ~ TEEM 1001 (1961)
I'm boss yeah / That'll get it ~ - ACE 5001 (1964)
Bases are loaded / Should I pay dues ~ TAIL-GATE 1002 (1966)
Funky funky football / Pt 2 ~ WHITE CLIFFS 268 (1967)

Special thanks to Mr Fine Wine for the excellent suggestion.

Notes ~

1. You can find "I'm Boss Yeah" on the Westside UK Huey "Piano" Smith CD Havin' Fun (WESM 560) and "That'll Get It", "Can It Be Love" as well as two unissued Jesse Thomas tracks "Chitlins" and "Baby Won't You Turn Me On"" on the same labels "That'll Get It" Huey Smith CD (WESM 595).

2. Part 1 of "Funky Funky Football" is on the Charly UK CD of Huey Smith material "Pitta Pattin'" (CD CHARLY 225).

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