Leonard James and His Orchestra—Boppin’ and A-Strolllin’ (Decca)
By Phast Phreddie Patterson
Leonard James was a high school friend of Mac Rebbenack—AKA Dr. John the Night Tripper. They went to different high schools together. James was also a saxophonist and bandleader during those days, the mid fifties. Rebbenack originally played bass when he hooked up with James, because there was already a guitarist in the band, Earl Stanley. Rebbenack wanted to play guitar in the band, so he tricked Stanley into buying one of the first electric basses in New Orleans, effectively switching their positions in the band. Rounded out by drummer Paul Staehle and pianist Hal Farrar, this was the core group led by James at this time—and most likely the players on the album they recorded for Decca Records in 1958.
The group didn’t seem to have a steady singer at the time—of the five who worked with the band, several were in and out of jail. Perhaps this is why Boppin’ and A-Strollin’ is an instrumental record.
But what a record! Each of the 14 tracks is an excellent example of fifties New Orleans R&B. James’ saxophone playing is sufficiently greasy; Rebbenack employs a cheesy tremolo effect on his guitar; and the beat is pure Crescent City. If you are a fan of Mac’s song “Storm Warning” from the same period, you will love this stuff. You will recognize the sound from the first track, “Cornfield.”
Most of the album consists of mid-tempo pieces—good to stroll to. “Hot Springs” is a thinly disguised re-write of “Harlem Nocturne,” but played with a grind-worthy feel. James’ saxophone is dominant throughout the album and on “Chicken Hop” he displays a strong Big Jay McNeely influence.
All of the compositions are credited to Leonard Dauenhauar (probably James’ real name), Cosimo Matassa (who owned the main studio in town, where these recordings were most likely made) and Malcolm Rebennack. Other than that, there is no information regarding the musicians on the album. The front cover consists of a drawing of folks doing the stroll (one supposes) and the back cover describes and illustrates the dance.
The ARChive copy is a pink label promo.
For more information regarding this early period in Dr. John’s career, dig this.
Also, read Dr. John’s autobiography, Under a Hoodoo Moon.
Subject: Leonard James and His Orchestra—Boppin’ and A-Strolllin’ (Decca)
I know for a fact that Eddie Punch (age 18) played the drums on this LP.
Very cool! Thanks!
Following should be a complete list of the musicians on the LP:
Leonard James – Tenor Sax
Malcolm Rebbennack (aka Dr. John) – Guitar
Sandy Meier – Electric Bass
Carol Battistella (aka Bat Carroll) – Piano
Edward Punch, Sr. – Drums
Cosimo Matassa was in the Recording Control Room
Malcolm Rebbennack, Carol Battistella and Eddie Punch were with a band called “The Spades”.
Alex “Sandy” Maier, my Dad!
Eddie Punch was my godfather and uncle. He passed away October 28.
would love to hear this!
Dear Phast Phreddie,
Would love to hear it as well. If you like reggae let me know.
And of course New Orleans, have some, but I just know about this
album be reputation!
All the very best
I just recently got hold of this album, and though I like the groove and the sound, frankly speaking, Leonard James is not exactly a top-class saxophonist. He plays nice lines, but his sound isn’t very big – kind of cheesy even in places. I wished he would have let Mac play more guitar solos!
Just found a copy of this Lp. Had no idea what it was and from the jacket thought it would be an “old man’s R&R cash-in big band” stinker. As soon as the needle dropped I thought “Storm Warning”. What a cool find!
Missed you at the Rhino reunion. Was a gas. Cheers, O
Just found out today (3-22-2012) that Leonard James (Dauenhauer) is my uncle by marriage. He married my dad’s sister. I knew he played music but I knew nothing of his musical history.
I spoke today for the first time to his son, my first cousin. We lost contact years ago when he was a baby when Leonard (by then in the air-force) got transferred to England and took the family with him.
I’d love to get a copy of the album. Any help in doing so would be appreciated.