Who was/is Jessie Hill ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Part 1
Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Part 1
This giddy, bibulous recording came along in the wake of another call-and-response hit, What’d I Say, and broke out of New Orleans to become a nationwide smash ('Billboard', incidentally, lists Part 2 as the hit). Jessie Hill (the feminine spelling was the one he used) was born in New Orleans’ lately submerged 9th Ward on December 9, 1932, and claims kinship to several of the city’s musical families. Legend has it that he acquired Ooh Poo Pah Doo from a local blues pianist, Big Four.
Hill himself allowed that he’d copped the intro from one of Dave Bartholomew’s warm-up routines. “We started playing ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ as a gimmick,” Hill told Jeff Hannusch. “But it got real big everywhere we went.” Unconvinced of his ability to land a recording contract, Hill tried to sell the song for $35 to Joe Ruffino of Ric and Ron Records, but Ruffino told him to go see Joe Banashak at Minit Records. “I needed some money,” Hill told John Broven. “Now Joe Banashak always treated me like I was his son. He never liked me to be bummin’ for nuthin’, so me and him got together and I went and recorded it. Five days later, Ruffino took to beatin’ his desk, sayin’, ‘Look, I done lost that for thirty-five dollars.’” Banashak more or less bears out Hill’s story. “Jessie came in with this tape. It was so pitiful looking. It was all spliced up and kept breaking when we tried to play it. But I listened, and I said, ‘Man, he’s got something.’” With Allen Toussaint on piano and David Lastie on tenor sax, Jessie Hill created an irresistible chant, based loosely on the rhythms underpinning the Mardi Gras Indian chants. Recorded on January 14, 1960, Banashak rushed it out to coincide with Mardi Gras, and its fame spread quickly from New Orleans to other markets.
It’s true that Banashak created some of the buzz by phoning his distributors with fake orders, but before long the demand was real enough, and Ooh Poo Pah Doo reached #3 on the R&B charts and #28 on the Hot 100. It was, though, the only hit of any substance that Hill ever enjoyed. He moved to Los Angeles and back to New Orleans, and died in September 1996. By then, Ooh Poo Pah Doo had been covered by Ike & Tina Turner, Paul Revere, the Righteous Brothers, Wilson Pickett, Rufus Thomas, Mitch Ryder, and many others. Sequels included Hill’s own Can’t Get Enough Of That Ooh Poo Pah Doo and Chubby Checker’s Ooh Poo Pah Doo Shimmy.