Jesse Hill

This Artist was not very famous, but the song he recorded in 1960, I absolutely loved, and still do.  I was spending a lot of time that year in Washington D.C., seeing a girl friend at the time.
There was another person that I met, Jim Perry, who recorded that song on the East Coast. But sorry Jim, this was the version for me–

Jesse Hill

(9 December 1932, New Orleans, Louisiana — 17 September 1996, New Orleans)

Video:  Ooh Poo Pah Doo:

1.  Ooh Poo Pah Doo Part II/ Minit 607/ May 1960/ #28

Jesse was a pianist who played a lot in New Orleans.  Working with Allen Toussaint, Jessie recorded a song he wrote called “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” Parts 1 & 2 in the Spring of 1960.  The record was released on the New Orleans label Minit.  The chanting sounds and rhythmic beat made the Part 2 side of the record a national hit.

By his teens, Hill was playing drums in local bands, and in 1951 he formed his own group, the House Rockers. After periods performing as drummer with Professor Longhair and then Huey “Piano” Smith, he formed a new version of the House Rockers in 1958, which enabled him to focus on singing with the band.

The origins of “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” reportedly lie with a local pianist known only as Big Four. Hill scribbled down the lyrics and melody, later fleshing it out with an intro cribbed from Dave Bartholomew. It was honed to a fine edge on stage, before Hill cut a demo that he shopped to local record labels, finally recording a session at Cosimo Matassa‘s studio produced by Allen Toussaint.

Upon its early 1960 release, it emerged as a favourite at Mardi Gras, eventually selling 800,000 copies on its way to cracking the Billboard R&B chart top five and the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart top 30.

Further recordings in New Orleans were less successful, and he moved to California to work with fellow New Orleans musicians including Harold Battiste and Mac Rebennack.

In this period, he wrote songs recorded by Ike and Tina Turner, Sonny and Cher, and Willie Nelson. A 1972 solo album was unsuccessful, and he began to suffer financial difficulties exacerbated by a drinking problem. These problems continued after his return to New Orleans in 1977, and several benefit gigs did little to revive his personal or professional fortunes.



3 responses to “Jesse Hill

  1. Wow, another trip down memory lane. I think that the first time that I heard this song was at Crang Plaza in the early sixties, being performed by Little Caesar and the Consuls. I was in a band called the Emeralds and we were just starting up and used to go to Crang Plaza to see other bands so we could get an idea what the local music scene was all about. Another song that I first heard again performed by the Consuls was “Mashed Potatoes” but I don’t remember the name of the original recording artist. Keep those hits on coming.

  2. The original record is great fun and a pocket that always got the dancers going. Little Caesar and The Consuls were the last band I know of who were doing Ooh Poo Pa Doo. Great NOLA fun and nonsense.

  3. I saw Jessie at Tippatina’s in New Orleans in ’95 with Dr. John. He was still rockin’.

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