Monday, June 10, 2013

Music: Swingin' with Daddy G. and Gary U.S. Bonds at the B.B. King Blues Club

Text and photos by George Molé

On Wednesday night, June 5, I made what turned out to be a happy last-minute decision, and went after work to see the classic R&B singer Gary U.S. Bonds at B.B. King's, the great music club on 42nd Street.

Bonds is best known for his 1961 hit "Quarter to Three"...

Gary U.S. Bonds

...which, I hadn't realized previously, is sort of a paean to the saxophonist Gene "Daddy G." Barge, and Daddy G.'s band, the Church Street Five. And it is Daddy G. who does the unforgettable sax work on that song. Check out the lyrics:

"Don't you know that I danced, I danced till a quarter to three
With the help, last night, of Daddy G.
He was swingin' on the sax like a nobody could
And I was dancin' all over the room.

"Oh, don't you know the people were dancin' like they were mad,
It was the swingin'est band they had ever had.
It was the swingin'est song that could ever be,
It was a night with Daddy G.

"Let me tell you now,
I never had it so good
Yeah and I know you never could
Until you get hip with that jive
And take a band like the Church Street Five.

"Oh don't you know that I danced,
I danced till a quarter to three
With the help last night of Daddy G.
Everybody was as happy as they could be
And they were swingin' with Daddy G.
Blow Daddy!..."

Well, Daddy G., now 86 years old, still works with Bonds, and was there at this show. And, wow, he still makes that saxophone walk and talk.

Bonds (l.) with Gene "Daddy G." Barge

At one point Bonds left the stage and Daddy G., joined only by a bassist and, later, a guitarist, sang and played a long meditation called "Way Back Home," that could only be compared to some of Van Morrison's deepest work for otherworldly beauty.

Daddy G.

The entire show was otherworldly, Bonds at the top of his game and joined by a few noteworthy friends.  At one point Southside Johnny (apparently without any Jukes) dueted with Bonds.

Bonds (l.) with Southside Johnny

Later, Chubby Checker came out and did "The Twist."
Left to right: Chubby Checker, singer Dee Dee Sharp and Bonds

I hadn't realized that this song was anything but pop fluff, but Checker is a deceptively serious and powerful performer in person, and "The Twist" ran through the small room like a locomotive.

Chubby Checker

A great show overall. And afterwards, I hung around and got to chat with both Bonds and--even cooler in a way, he being Bonds' muse--Daddy G. himself.

Your correspondent with Daddy G.

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