Monday, November 22, 2010

Jessie Hill - "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" - Minit, 1960

This one's a real stomper!  After some call and response oohs and ahhs, Jessie yells "I'ma tell ya 'bout Ooh Poo Pah Doo!".  Apparently Ooh Poo Pah Doo has something to do with "creating a distrubance in you mind".  This song certainly creates a disturbance on the dancefloor! Born on December 9th, 1932 in New Orleans, Jessie Hill was a lifetime musician, performing in bands from his high school years.  After working as a drummer with Professor Longhair and then Huey "Piano" Smith, he put together the House Rockers in 1958.

The origins of this particular song are interesting. Apparently it was actuallly penned by a local "winehead" piano player known only as "Big Four".  Jessie caught him performing this tune a scribbled down the lyrics on a paper bag.  The intro was borrowed from Dave Bartholomew.  The House Rockers then added the song to their repertoire and it quickly became a crowd favorite.  After shopping this song unsuccesfully at Ric/Ron, Jessie finally found a taker at Minit Records.  Allen Toussaint was brought in to produce the session, but since he didn't really get the tune he wasn't able to add much. “I didn’t think ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ made much sense,” admitted Toussaint. “I thought songs had to be more expressive. But when I saw the effect it had on people, I began to look at things differently.”
After starting out as a local Carnival favorite, "“Ooh Poo Pah Doo" slowly built up steam over the course of a year till it broke nationally, peaking at #3 in Billboard’s R&B chart and #28 on the pop chart.
Unfortunately, Jessie and the House Rockers were never able to replicate that early success.  But he did cut a few more tunes in the "nonsense words" vein, here are some from my collection.

Jessie did have a short and rather successful stint on the West Coast, but problems with alchohol and a nasty temper made it hard to be productive for long.  After returning to New Orleans his worsing personal and financial condition alienated him from most of his friends. He passed away in 1996 from heart and kidney failure on September 17, 1996 and was buried under a plywood grave marker in Holt Cemetery.

For those wanting more detail, I highly recommend this bio:
We've talked about Minit before here (  All you need to remember is that if you see a 45 on this label, just grab it. In my experience, there are far more hits than misses in the Minit catalog, especially in the earlier releases.
And, the clip!

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