Today were honoring Classie Ballou, the creole rocker from South LA who currently leads his family band out of Waco, Texas. Classie and the family band will be appearing at the Jazz Fest today, and the Stomp’s own Alison Fensterstock profiles Ballou in today’s Times Picayune.
To get you in the mood, here is the smoldering “Classie’s Whip:”
The TP explains the origins:
Ballou moved on to play sessions at J.D. Miller’s legendary studio in Crowley, performing with Cookie Thierry (of Cookie and the Cupcakes), Carol Fran, and on dozens of Excello Records swamp blues, swamp pop and R&B sides. He also recorded on his own, cutting diverse blues, R&B and Latin-inflected tracks such as the wild instrumental rocker “Classie’s Whip” and the genre hybrid “Crazy Mambo.”
“Believe it or not, I’m a mambo freak, ” he said. “I always had a horn section. I just like that kind of rhythm. I like that New Orleans rhythm, too. I’m labeled as a blues band, but I can play everything.”
He proves it on “Crazy Mambo:”
The article goes on to chronicle the Stomp’s modus operandi when it comes to coaxing a musician to play their own classic material:
After Padnos prevailed upon Ballou to switch out chestnuts such as “Mustang Sally” [in his set] for nuggets such as “Classie’s Whip, ” the guitarist decided to roll with it. Fluent as he is in multiple musical languages, he’ll be speaking Classie in the Blues Tent today.
“Ira always tells me, ‘We don’t want to hear no BB King or Muddy Waters or Fats Domino. We want to hear the stuff you recorded when you were 29 years old and 30 in the waist, ‘ ” Ballou said, laughing. –”We don’t want to hear nothing but Classie Ballou.’ ”
“The Jazz Fest didn’t ask me what I was going to play, but I’m gonna follow that train and just be strictly original, more or less.”
Classie is also one of the three featured musicians in the Ponderosa Stomp film where he explains how he came up with “Classie’s Whip.”
As Michael Hurtt describes on the Ballou’s Stomp bio – the family band’s performances are not to be missed:
Ballou’s live shows are the kind of take no prisoners affairs where-unlike so many of his contemporaries–he’s guaranteed to play ’em all, throwing in his amazing versions of “Jambalaya”, “Mathilda,” “Guitar Rhumbo,” “Honky Tonk” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” Classie’s family band features son Cedric (bass), grandson Cedryl (drums, accordion) and daughter CeChaun (sax, guitar and drums), all of whom have been taught to play by the master, resulting in an old school musical approach crossed with a youthful exuberance that belies the era they grew up in. Thus, when they tackle one of Classie’s old numbers, it sounds exactly like the original record; likewise, if you hear ’em do “Tutti Frutti” it’ll be injected with every subtle nuance that’s been lost by everyone else in the last forty years. Simply put, Ballou and his wrecking crew are one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands you’ll EVER see, end of the story.