WARREN STORM-THE HUEY MEAUX YEARS.
Warren Storm-The Huey Meaux Years.
Often, an artist or band spends a large part of their career working with the same producer. That producer seems able to get the best out of the artist or band. Musical history is littered with examples. However, despite this success, there’s often the temptation to change producer. It’s as if the artist is keen to see whether the grass is greener. That can prove fatal. After changing producer, a previously successful artist’s career can head south, and often never recovers. That’s always the risk. It was a risk that Warren Storm wasn’t willing to take.
Warren Storm first worked with Huey Meaux in 1964, and they worked together right through until 1982. During that eighteen year period, Warren Storm was a prolific recording artist. By the time he parted company with Huey Meaux in 1982, there was still plenty of music left in the vaults. So much so, Huey Meaux was releasing singles bearing Warren Storm’s name right through to 1986 This twenty-two year period was the most successful and productive period of Warren Storm’s career. His story began in 1937.
The future Warren Storm, was born Warren Schexnider on February 18th 1937, in Abbeville, Louisiana. Warren grew up in a musical house. His father Simon, was a talented musician and a member of the Rayne-Bo Rambler. He taught Warren to play drums and guitar. By the age of ten, Warren was already a talented musician, and as good, if not better than many older musicians.
So when Simon couldn’t make shows, he had a ready made replacement in Warren. He made his debut for The Rayne-Bo Ramblers aged ten or eleven. The audience didn’t notice. Seamlessly, Warren fitted into The Rayne-Bo Ramblers’ line-up. Soon, other bands looking for a drummer, were giving Warren a call. It seemed almost seemed inevitable that Warren was going to embark upon a career as a musician.
By the time he was sixteen, Warren was the drummer in two local bands, the Herb Landry Band and Larry Brasson’s Rhythmaires. People were soon taking notice. Warren had an impressive voice, and with rock ’n’ roll making its presence felt, he was in the right place at the right time.
So was his friend Bobby Guidry. He ahad adopted the name Bobby Charles, and was making a name for himself as a budding teen idol at Chess Records. This inspired Warren to form his own group, The Wow-Wows.
It was around the time Warren formed The Wow-Wows, that he began using the name Warren Storm. With his new name, the next step for Warren was for The Wow-Wows to release a record.
In 1957, The Wow-Wows recorded a couple of songs at the local radio station, and sent out tapes to various record companies. Nothing became of these tapes. So in late 1957, Warren’s friend Cliff Le Maire drove him to audition for producer J.D. Miller, who was already an experienced and successful songwriter and producer.
Warren’s audition for J.D. Miller went well. So much so, that he was soon cutting his debut single. It was a cover of Prisoner’s Song, which gave Vernon Denhart a hit in 1928. Thirty years later, and Prisoner’s Song was given a makeover. Warren Storm’s version took on a Fats Domino influence. When J.D. Miller heard the completed song, he decided to send the song to Ernie Young at Nashboro Records, in Nashville.
Ernie Young liked what he heard, and released Prisoner’s Song on his Nasco pop imprint. This Ernie thought was the perfect label for Warren’s debut single. He proved correct. Soon, Prisoner’s Song went from a local to a national hit. It started climbing the charts, but peaked at just number eighty-one in the US Billboard charts on the spring of 1958. To promote the single, Warren played at local dances. He couldn’t travel further afield, as he was in the National Guard.
This certainly hampered Warren’s nascent career. When he released sophomore single, Troubles, Troubles, Troubles it reached the Cash Box charts. However, it didn’t reach the US Billboard 100. This Warren put down to being unable to tour extensively. Personal appearances and radio play were the way singles were promoted in 1958. With Warren’s personal appearances limited, his singles failed to find a wider audience. History repeated itself when neither So Long, So Long, nor I’m A Little Boy (Looking For Love) charted. Just like Troubles, Troubles, Troubles, neither single found the audience they deserved. For Warren this was a disappointment. However, when his Nasco contract ended, J.D. Miller kept faith with Warren.
Not only did J.D. Miller continue to release Warren’s singles on his Zynn and Rocko labels, but employed him as a session player. He accompanied blues greats like Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester, Slim Harpo, Lonesome Sundown and Katie Webster. At one point, Warren was so busy with session work, that his solo career was put on hold. Then in 1960, Warren decided it was time to concentrate on his solo career.
There was a potential problem. Warren was still contracted to J.D. Miller. However, J.D. Miller was content to lease Warren out.So Warren headed to Nashville, to work with producer Paul Cohen. He had put together a band featuring some of the city’s top session players. They would accompany Warren on four tracks. This included Warren’s next single Bohawk Georgia Grind. It was released on Top Rank, but didn’t sell well. Paul Cohen cut his losses, and don’t release the other two tracks. For Warren, it was another disappointment. Although Warren was down, he wasn’t out.
In 1962, Warren signed to Dot Records. J.D. Miller had cut a deal with Randy Wood at Dot Records. Under the terms of the deal, Warren would cut two singles. Sadly, neither Gotta Go Back To School, nor Warren’s cover of Take The Chains From My Heart were commercially successful. To rub salt into the wound, a few months after Warren’s cover of Take The Chains From My Heart flopped, it gave Ray Charles a huge hit. It seemed the only luck Warren had, was bad luck.
Later in 1962, things took a turn for the worse, when Warren stopped working for J.D. Miller. This meant there was no more session work. For Warren, session work provided him with an income, valuable experience and the chance to make new contacts. With his career seemingly at the crossroads, Warren had no option but to become a Shondell.
With nothing on the horizon, when Warren was asked to join The Shondells, he jumped at the opportunity. Warren became The Shondells lead singer. With Warren at the helm, The Shondells recorded one album, At The Saturday Hop. The Shondells also played live, and this kept Warren busy until he met Huey Meaux.
Warren Storm and Huey Meaux first met in 1964. By then, the self-styled Crazy Cajun was the top producer in South Texas. Previously, he had transformed the career of many artists. Producer Huey Meaux was just what Warren Storm needed. It had been six long years since Warren Storm had enjoyed a hit single.
At the time Warren met Huey, Warren Storm hadn’t a recording contract. That had been the case since Warren left J.D. Miller’s employ. Luckily, Huey owned several record labels. He also owned parts of other labels. There would be no problem getting Warren’s singles released. First, though, Huey Meaux had to find the right song for Warren.
For his first session with Warren Storm, Huey Meaux took his latest signing to Cosimo Matassa’s New Orleans’ studio. No expense was spared. The band featured some of the city’s top musicians. Mac Rebennack, the future Dr. John was bandleader and pianist. With this all-star band behind him, The Gypsy takes on a Swamp Pop makeover. It became Warren’s debut for Huey.
The Gypsy was released as a single, on Sincere, with I Walk Alone on the flip side. When The Gypsy was released, it sold well locally, but never translated into a nationwide hit. Since then, Warren’s version of The Gypsy is perceived as a Swamp Pop classic.
Following the release of The Gypsy, Warren released Love Me Cherry, with Jack and Jill on the B-Side. It was recorded in a simular Southern style, but again didn’t fare well outside the South. Neither did Warren’s next two singles. Four Dried Beans, which featured Don’t Fall In Love was Warren’s third Sincere single. Commercial success eluded Warren during the rest of 1964.
When Warren released his first single of 1965, it was a case of deja vu. Your Kind Of Love which was cut with a 2/4 time signature. On the flip side was the Warren Robb penned ballad, Memory Tree. Despite the quality of both sides, commercial success passed Warren by. By then, Warren was wondering if he was ever going to ever be more than a local success?
By then, seven years had passed since Warren Storm’s debut single launched Huey Meaux’s career. Since then, the only commercial success that Warren enjoyed was regionally. With that in mind, much consideration was give to what would be Warren’s next single. Eventually, Slow Down was chosen and released on the Sincere label. Sadly, history repeated itself when Slow Down passed record buyers by. Still, the search for a hit went on. So, Huey switched Warren to his Kingfish label.
Later in 1965, Warren Storm released They Won’t Let Me In on the Kingfish label. Tucked away on the B-side, was the most left-field cut of Warren’s career, Sitting Here On The Ceiling. It showcased a slightly psychedelic sound, which was very different Warren’s previous recordings. However, when They Won’t Let Me was released, commercial success eluded the single. Huey Meaux’s decision to move Warren to a a label didn’t result in a change of fortune for Warren.
Two years after signing with Huey Meaux, Warren cut one of his most soulful songs, The Bad Times Make The Good Times. Penned by Robert Stone, Warren delivers a tender vocal against a backing track Huey sourced from New York. At that time, Huey was determined to get Warren on a major label. Warren had the talent, but the majors didn’t bite. Then when The Bad Times Make The Good Times was released on the Pic label, in 1966. Sadly, this soulful opus didn’t find an audience. Where did Warren go now?
The answer was to the Tear Drop label. On Tear Drop, Warren delivered an Otis Redding inspired cover of Tennessee Waltz. On the flip side was Don’t Let It End This Way, a vastly underrated song, which shows the soulful side of Warren Storm. Tennessee Waltz was distributed nationwide in 1967. Huey must have thought that Tennessee Waltz was going to give Warren his breakthrough single. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and Warren’s search for a hit continued.
By then, Huey must have been struggling to come up with a new idea. So, he suggested remaking Prisoner’s Song, which was Warren’s debut single. It gave him a minor hit in 1967. Nearly a decade later, and Prisoner’s Song was recut and issued on a newly revived Sincere label. The B-Side was a cover of Honky Tonk Song. However, despite the undeniable quality of both songs, the passed record buyers by. Psychedelia was the new kid in town. Warren’s sound was perceived as yesterday’s sound. For Warren and Huey, it was a case of stick or twist.
They decided to twist. So, Huey took Warren into the studio one more time. At the Grits ’n’ Gravy Studio, Jackson, Mississippi, Warren cut his next single Down In My Shoe. Huey sold the single to Atlantic. However, when the time came to release Down In My Shoe, Atlantic were too busy with their major artists to concentrate on Warren’s Atlantic debut. For Warren, it was a case of so near, yet so far. After this, Warren and Huey went their separate ways.
When Warren and Huey parted company for the first time, there were still plenty of unreleased tracks in the vaults. For whatever reason, Huey decided not to release them. Meanwhile, Warren was working with one of Huey’s rivals.
Following his departure from Huey’s employ, Warren returned to J.D. Miller. He cut some classy singles for J.D. The rest of the time, Warren played live and worked as a session player. Meanwhile, Huey had gone up in the world.
By 1974, Huey was a successful producer. He recorded Freddy Fender’s cover of the country standard Before The Next Teardrop Falls. It reached number one on the US Billboard 100 and US Country charts. All of a sudden, Huey Meaux’s services were highly sought after.
For the next four years, Huey was hot property. Columbia agreed to distribute Huey’s new label, Starlight. With the ink hardly dry on the contract, Huey had signed three artists to the Starlight roster, Freddy Fender, Tommy McLain and Warren Storm.
It wasn’t unexpected that Huey and Warren would renew their partnership. Warren had played on some Freddy Fender sessions, and Huey wanted to record Warren again. The Starlight deal made this possible.
The first single Warren cut for Starlight, was a cover of the Gulf Coast classic, Please Mr Sandman. On the flip side was Things Have Gone To Pieces. It was released in 1979, but never found an audience. So, two months later, Huey suggested Warren cut But I Do in a honky tonk style. The B-Side was a Huey Mueax song, Think It Over. History repeated itself when But I Do failed commercially. Maybe it would be a case of third time lucky?
He’s Got Nothing On Me But You was chosen as Warren’s third single for Starlight. On the flip side was King Of The Dance Halls. When He’s Got Nothing On Me But You was released, it advertised a new album from Warren Country By Storm. Sadly,the album never materialised. That was not surprising as Warren’s third single for Starlight had also flopped. This proved to be the last single that Warren Storm released for Starlight. It looked like the end of Warren and Huey’s partnership?
As has been proved many times in the music industry, never rule anything out. Three years later, Warren and Huey renewed their partnership. My Heart Is Bleeding was released as a single in 1982. On the B-Side was Blue Monday. Sadly, despite its quality, it failed commercially. That proved to be the case with the followup We’ll Sing In The Sunshine, with I’ve Shed So Many Tears on the flip side. It was released later in 1982, but never realised its potential. That was the end of the road for Warren and Huey.
Never again would Warren Storm record for Huey Meaux. That didn’t mean that Huey didn’t release the odd Warren Storm single. This included (If I Ever Needed You) I Need You Now and Jealous Woman in 1983 on his Crazy Cajun label. Three years later, in 1986, The Rains Came and Sometimes A Picker Just Can’t Win were released as singles on Crazy Cajun. Huey had plenty material in the vaults. Then in 1988, Huey released (I Can’t Treat You Like A Lady)You Need Someone Who’ll Be Mean To You as a single. It failed to make any impression on the charts. By then, Warren’s recording career was continuing.
Having split with Huey, Warren signed to Jay Jackson’s South Star Records. He released two soulful singles Seven Letters and Valley Of Tears. Then when South Star Records closed its doors, Warren came full circle, when he signed to Master Trak Records, which was run by J.D. Miller’s son Mark. Warren released singles like Day Dreaming, My Girl Josephine and This Could Go On Forever. It was vintage Warren Storm.
It was as if Warren Storm was rolling back the the years to the period between 1964 and 1986. During that period, Warren Storm and producer Huey Meaux forged a successful partnership. This proved to be the most productive and successful period of Warren Storm’s career. Many of the singles Warren Storm released were successful regionally. Sadly, Warren Storm only enjoyed the hit singles. However, it was with Huey Meaux that Warren Storm released some of the best during his long and illustrious career.
Now aged eighty, Warren Storm hasn’t retired. Music is in his blood. Warren has been making music since before he went to school. It’s been a constant throughout his life. Sadly, Warren Storm didn’t enjoy the commercial success many forecast early in his career.
After the success of his debut single Prisoner’s Song in 1958, Troubles, Troubles, Troubles gave Warren Storm a minor hit. It looked like Warren Storm was about to enjoy a long and successful career. Sadly, it never worked out that way. Despite releasing a string of singles that oozed quality, Warren Storm never replicated the success of his first two single. He spent the rest of his career chasing that elusive hit single. This included three separate spells with producer Huey Meaux. Even with Huey producing Warren Storm, commercial success and critical acclaim eluded him. There was a reason for this.
Music was changing, and Warren Storm’s music was perceived as yesterday’s sound. In the sixties, the British Invasion and then psychedelia derailed Warren Storm’s career. By the time they renewed their acquaintance in 1978, disco was providing the soundtrack to America. Despite releasing a trio of quality cuts in 1979, they passed most people by. Warren Storm was out luck. It wasn’t a case of third time lucky. When Warren Storm and Huey Meaux teamed up for one last shot at the title in 1982, it was too late.
Warren Storm’s time had come and gone. A new musical era was unfolding. Boogie, hip hop, house and electronica were all part of what the hipsters considered a rich musical tapestry. Others begged to differ.
They knew that not all good music finds the audience it deserves. Instead, of becoming a national hit, singles are just local hits. That was the case with Warren Storm. He was well known in Texas and Louisiana. There he is a local hero. His music was appreciated. Now thirty-three years after Warren Storm and Huey Meaux cut their last songs together, belatedly, Warren’s music is finding a much wider audience. No wonder. Warren Storm’s musical legacy is a rich one. Some of the best music of Warren Storm’s long and illustrious career was recorded during the Huey Meaux years.
Warren Storm-The Huey Meaux Years.
- Posted in: Country ♦ Country Rock ♦ Rock 'n' Roll ♦ Zydeco
- Tagged: Huey Meaux, J.D. Miller, Prisoner’s Song, The Rayne-Bo Ramblers, The Shondells, The Wow-Wows, Warren Schexnider, Warren Storm