New Orleans is one of America’s great musical cities. It always has been. That’s been the case for the last hundred years. Back since the delta blues, and later Dixieland provided the soundtrack to New Orleans at play, the city has given the world some of the most talented and successful musicians. This includes everyone from Dr. John,  and Professor Longhair to gospel great Mahalia Jackson, Big Star’s Alex Chilton, singer-songwriter Randy Newman and jazz saxophonist Lester Young. That however, is just the tip of the iceberg. The Big Easy’s roll call of musical greats includes many more, including Eddie Bo.

Eddie Bo was born on 20th September 1930, in New Orleans. While his father was a carpenter, Eddie’s mother played the piano. She was a talented player, who had been influenced by one of New Orleans’ musical legends, Professor Longhair. So, it’s no surprise that when Eddie discovered music, he decided to play the piano.

With his mother and Professor Longhair’s help and guidance, Eddie Bo was soon developing into a talented musician. Growing up, Eddie began to discover and explore New Orleans’ musical heritage. His older cousins, who were all traditional jazz musicians, became Eddie’s musical guides and mentors. Soon, with his cousins guidance, Eddie was absorbing New Orleans’ proud musical past. Before long, it looked inevitable that Eddie would become a musician. However, Eddie was enlisted and two years in the U.S. Army interrupted Eddie’s musical career.

For the next few years, Eddie’s career was put on hold. Then when Eddie’s tour of duty was over, he enrolled at the Grundwald School of Music. This was where Eddie learned to read and write music. He also learned how to improvise. It was also during this period that Eddie discovered bebop.

Soon, Eddie had fallen under the spell of the bebop greats. Back then, this included Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. They influenced Eddie. So much so, that he formed The Spider Bocage Band. 

For a while, The Spider Bocage Band were busy. They played all over New Orleans. However, the times they were a changing. By 1954, rock ’n’ roll and R&B were beginning to prove more popular in New Orleans. At the vanguard of this musical revolution, was Fats Domino. Eddie looked at Fats Domino and realised he was earning far more than jazz musicians. For Eddie Bo, this was a eureka moment. That day, Eddie Bo turned his back on jazz.

Two years later, in January 1956, twenty-six year old Eddie Bo was ready to make his recording debut. We Like Mambo, which was released on Ace Records, was credited to Eddie Bo. This wasn’t strictly true. While Eddie played on the single, so did another famous pianist, Huey Smith. Despite this, Eddie Bo’s career was underway. However, he never released another single on Ace Records.

Johnny Vincent had signed Eddie on a short contract. However, despite realising just how talented Eddie was, Johnny spent the next few months recording other artists. So, when Eddie’s contract expired, he was free to sign for another label.

This time, Johnny signed to the Apollo label. Its glory days seemed long gone. When Eddie’s debut single I’m Wise was released, it flopped. Later, Little Richard used I’m Wise as “inspiration” for Slippin’ and Slidin,’ his million selling single. This proved profitable, despite Eddie having to split the royalties with the writers of I Got The Blues For You, which “inspired” I’m Wise. This was the only one of Eddie’s singles that proved profitable.

Eddie’s next four singles all failed to chart. Despite their quality, Eddie’s singles passed record buyers by. For Eddie this was a disappointing chapter in his career.  So, he left Apollo in the spring of 1957, and signed to Chess Records.

Paul Gayten, Chess Records head of A&R in New Orleans, offered Eddie a two single deal. Neither single was a success. Oh-Oh proved popular in New Orleans, but nowhere else. Three years later, the B-Side My Dearest Darling, was covered by Etta James and reached number thirty-four in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number five in the U.S. R&B charts. Again, Eddie was making more money when other people covered his songs. While this was more than welcome, Eddie’s career as a singer seemed to have stalled. He left Chess Records after the two single deal expired, and rejoined Ace Records. 

Having left Chess Records, Eddie Bo briefly signed to Ace Records. He only released one single, I Love To Rock ’N’ Roll. Just like his earlier Ace Records release, I Love To Rock ’N’ Roll flopped. Eddie Bo, it seemed, couldn’t buy a hit. His career seemed at the crossroads. 

Things got so bad, that Eddie was working as a carpenter. He couldn’t make a living out of music. Then one day, Joe Ruffino, the owner of the Ric and Ron labels, got in touch with Eddie. Joe, who had formed Ric and Ron a year earlier, in 1958, wanted a new office built. Eddie who had been taught carpentry by his father, was given the job. When the two men goth talking, Joe realised his “carpenter” was actually a singer-songwriter. So, they hatched a plan.  As soon as Eddie’s contract at Ace Records was over, Eddie signed to Ric and became the ninth artist to sign to Joe Ruffino Ric and Ron labels.

At Ric and Ron, Eddie Bo released nine singles. They feature on the recent Ace Records’ release, Baby I’m Wise-The Complete Ric Singles 1959-1962. It’s a twenty-two track compilation, which includes a quartet of tracks that were recorded by Eddie at Ric, and released by Rounder in 2013, four years after Eddie’s death. However, Nothing Without You, Satisfied With Your Love, Ain’t You Ashamed and I’ll Do Anything For You show how Eddie Bo had evolved, and developed, as a singer and songwriter. These four tracks were also a reminder of what music lost on March 18th 2009, the day Eddie Bo died. Fifty years prior to Eddie’s death, he had just signed to the Ric label.

Now signed to Ric, a new chapter began in Eddie Bo’s career. His debut single was Hey There Baby, which Eddie cowrote. Using the alias Edwin Bocage, Eddie and Larry McKinley penned Hey There Baby, an upbeat, driving slice of R&B. On the flip side was I Need Someone, a bluesy ballad written by Eddie. With growling horns for company, Eddie delivers a needy vocal. It oozes quality, and could just as easily have been released as a single. Sadly, Eddie’s Ric debut flopped. This was an inauspicious start to Eddie’s Ric career.

November 1959 saw Eddie release his second single on Ric, You Got Your Mojo Working Now, which Bill Allen and Eddie wrote. It’s another slow, bluesy and soulful song. The B-Side, Everybody Knows, was another Eddie and Larry McKinley composition. Just like his debut single, both songs oozed quality. They should’ve found a much wider audience. That wasn’t to be. You Got Your Mojo Working Now neither sold well, nor received any radio play. Still, Eddie Bo was looking for that elusive hit single.

Down but far from out, Eddie returned with his third single Tell It Like It Is, which he cowrote with Bill Allen. It’s an explosive dance track released in early 1960. Straight away, it grabs your attention, and doesn’t let go. Eddie testifies his way through the track, while the band match him every step of the way. The B-Side, Every Dog Got His Day is another dance track, written by Eddie and New Orleans DJ and musical impresario Larry McKinley. Despite its undeniable quality, Tell It Like It Is passed record buyers by. For Eddie this was a disappointing time.

The only consolation was, that the songs he was writing for other artists on the Ric and Ron artist were proving successful. Joe Ruffino it seemed, was willing to give Eddie some leeway?

Unlike many label owners, Joe Ruffino was willing to allow Eddie time to develop as a singer. Despite three consecutive singles failing to chart, Joe gave Eddie another chance. For Eddie’s fourth single, Warm Daddy was chosen. 

Eddie had written the bluesy Warm Daddy with Bill Allen and Frank Douglas. On the B-Side was Ain’t It The Truth Now which Eddie and Daris Burnam cowrote. It’s almost too good to be tucked away on a B-Side. This slice of R&B is a real hidden gem. Sadly, neither Warm Daddy nor Ain’t It The Truth Now were heard by a wider audience. History repeated itself when Warm Daddy failed to chart. This resulted in a rethink from Joe Ruffino.

After the first four singles Eddie Bo released for Ric flopped, Joe Ruffino decided something had to give. Many label owners would’ve shook Eddie’s hand and called it a day. Not Joe. Eddie was still proving hits for other artists on the Ric and Ron roster. So, Joe couldn’t let Eddie Bo go. Having thought about the situation, Joe thought the answer lay in strings.

It Must Be Love, another of Eddie’s composition was chosen as Eddie’s fifth single. Joe Ruffino had decided to change Eddie’s sound. So, he added strings to It Must Be Love. He did the same to the B-Side, the rueful What A Fool I’ve Been. Sadly, Joe’s master plan didn’t work, and It Must Be Love didn’t come close to troubling the charts. However, Joe’s strings transformed It Must Be Love, into a quite beautiful, Sam Cooke inspired ballad. While Joe’s plan hadn’t worked, he wasn’t ready to give up.

Joe’s strings were retained for Eddie’s next single, Dinky Doo and the flip side Everybody, Everything Needs Love. Both tracks were penned by Eddie. Harold Battiste arranged and produced both tracks. He also brought the A.F.O. Combo onboard to accompany Eddie. The introduction of Harold, the A.F.O. Combo and Joe’s strings worked. Capitol Records hearing Dinky Doo, decided to lease the track. Things looked as if they were looking up for Eddie Bo. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Dinky Doo disappeared without trace. Eddie would only released one more single during 1961

This was I Got To Know, which was written by Harold Battiste and Melvin Lastie. It was released late in 1961, and finds Eddie in fine voice. Having vamped his way through the first thirty seconds of I Got To Know, a whoop paves the way to his homage to Ray Charles. Then on the flip side, Eddie turns his hand to balladry on Bless You Darling. We hear another side to Eddie, on a song that epitomises the New Orleans’ sound. Sadly, Eddie’s final single of 1961 failed commercially. Again, Eddie’s career was at a crossroads.

While Eddie’s singles failed to chart, he was still providing singles for other artists on the Ric and Ron roster. When Eddie wasn’t writing songs or recording, he wasn’t above turning his hand to some carpentry. He  designed and built Ric and Ron’s offices. However, sadly, Joe Ruffino wouldn’t get much use out of his new offices.

As 1962 dawned, Eddie released Check Mr. Popeye as a single. This was one of many Popeye dance tracks being released at this time. On the flip-side was Now Let’s Popeye, which instructed newcomers how to do the Popeye dance. Both tracks were penned by Eddie and proved hugely popular in New Orleans. So much so, that Check Mr. Popeye nearly made it into the U.S. Billboard 100. However, it stopped just short, at number 102.  Soon, though, Check Mr. Popeye was being heard further afield. 

So, Bernie Binnick of Swan Records was encouraged to license Check Mr. Popeye by DJ Dick Clark. He proceeded to promote the single on his television program American Bandstand. Despite Bernie sending copies of Check Mr. Popeye to DJs across America, the single just couldn’t break into the U.S. Billboard 100. For Eddie Bo, this was the closes he got to a hit on Ric. His next single proved to be his last.

Later in 1962, Eddie released Roamin-Titis. This was another song Eddie had written. Baby I’m Wise, a remake of Eddie’s Slippin’ and Slidin’ featured on the B-Side. Given the quality of both sides, everyone at Ric had high hopes for Roamin-Titis. On its release, it was hailed as the finest single Eddie had released on Ric. Despite the rave reviews, Roamin-Titis didn’t come close to making it into the U.S. Billboard 100. That meant Eddie’s nine Ric singles had failed to chart. For Eddie, this was the end of the road. His time at Ric was over.

For Eddie Bo his time at Ric had come to an end. He had enjoyed four years at Joe Ruffino’s label. While commercial success had eluded Eddie, he wrote a number of successful singles for artists on the Ric and Ron roster. However, still, Eddie Bo wanted to forge a career as a singer. It didn’t look like this would happen at Ric. So he moved on, just as Ric and Ron were thrown into chaos.

Ever since Joe founded Ric, he had worked tirelessly. Eventually, all the years of long days and hard work caught up with Joe Ruffino in August 1962. He died suddenly of a heart attack. His family and the wider New Orleans’ music community were shocked.

With Joe gone, his two sons were left to run the Ric and Ron labels. They tried to follow in their father’s footsteps. That, however, proved impossible. Eventually, Joe’s brother-in-law Joe Assunto took over the running of Ric and Ron. By then, the Ron label was on its last legs. It released its final single in August 1962. By then, Eddie Bo had moved on.

For the rest of the sixties, Eddie Bo moved between labels. He never seemed to stay at a label long. Eddie was a musical nomad, who constantly was seeking somewhere to call home. Maybe, Eddie was looking for somewhere like Ric?

Ric had been a special place for Eddie Bo. Joe Ruffino had proved patient, allowing Eddie Bo to develop and mature as a singer and songwriter. Eddie repaid Joe’s patience and faith, penning hits for a number of artists on Ric and Ron’s roster. Despite this, commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Eddie Bo, who at Ric, never reached the heights he could’ve and should’ve.

While commercial success eluded Eddie Bo at Ric, his career continued right up until his death in 2009. During his career, Eddie Bo proved a versatile and talent performer. What’s more, Eddie Bo was loved and respected in equal measures. While Eddie Bo never enjoyed the fame and fortune some of contemporaries did, he enjoyed an enviable longevity. His determination to reinvent himself ensured this. However, between 1959 and 1962, Eddie Bo was already one of the stars of the New Orleans R&B and soul scene. The nine singles Eddie Bo released on Joe Ruffino’s Ric label are proof of this. They feature on Ace Records’ recent release, Baby I’m Wise-The Complete Ric Singles 1959-1962 which features Eddie Bo, as he became one of the rising stars of the New Orleans’ thriving and vibrant R&B and soul scene. 










Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: