January 31 2011
Al Johnson "It's Carnival Time"
If you were going to be a one-hit-wonder in New Orleans, then you should do it like Al Johnson. And be consoled by having your song become a Mardi Gras standard, played throughout Carnival season year after year. Sad but ture, Johnson lost the rights to “Carnival Time” when it was first released and spent years in litigation until he finally reclaimed them in 1999. It embittered him about the music business and he has not performed or recorded regularly for decades.
Johnson's recording career spans three singles which were recorded between 1956 and 1960 in New Orleans. As Alvin Johnson, his first, “Old Time Talkin’” b/w “If I’ve Done Wrong”, for Aladdin received limited distribution and sank without a trace. He was still in high school at the time. In 1958 , he recorded “Lena” b/w “You Done Me Wrong” for Ric Records; and the single did fairly well locally. His final, fateful record, “Carnival Time” b/w “Good Lookin’” came out on Ric 967 during the 1960 Carnival season, but was overshadowed by Jessie Hill’s “Ooh Poo Pah Doo”, which was the hot record of the season. It wasn’t until the next year that Johnson’s song caught the public’s attention for the first time; and it remains popular throughout Southern Louisiana this time of year. Unfortunately, by the time it hit, he had gone into the service and didn’t get out until 1964. By then, the British Invasion had begun, his label was no more, the entire New Orleans recording scene was in decline, styles had changed, and Johnson was driving a cab.
The session that this was recorded in had many notable New Orleans players on it apparently and most notably, Mac Rebenack , AKA Dr. John, played piano on this particular take. Of course it's a fine taste of New Orleans R&B and it evokes the situation we're moving towards nicely. Mardi Gras is still a month away, but with these Mardi Gras Moments, we'll make sure you're in the right mood...
-up next... Trombone Shorty and big brass sounds from Tremé