Sunday, June 05, 2011

Benny Spellman RIP

Yet another New Orleans great has passed away - this time Benny Spellman, whose deep voice provided the baritone backing on Ernie K-Doe's Mother in Law and whose excellent 1962 Minit single Lipstick Traces is one of my all time New Orleans R and B favourites. Benny never had a big hit but he was a member of Huey Smith's Clowns for a while and you can catch his distinctive vocals on quite a few Allen Toussaint-related tracks of the time. Fortune Teller - the B-side of Lipstick Traces - was covered by the Rolling Stones and the O'Jays among others. Benny later recorded for the Watch and Alon labels and had minor successes with The Word Game for Alon, which was leased to Atlantic, and with Sinner Man for Sansu.

Benny was 79 and lived in Pensacola, Florida. He suffered a stroke in the early 90s which restricted his personal appearances but I did see him perform live once. This was at the Dew Drop Inn Revisited show at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans during Jazzfest, 1993, when he appeared alongside Lloyd Price, Roland Stone, George French, Bobby Marchan and Marva Wright. My photo shows him at the show. I have two LP compilations of his work - one on Charly and another on the New Orleans Bandy label - which show just how good he was. And here is his greatest side, Lipstick Traces.

There's a great article on the excellent Red Kelly blog


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