Bobby Charles (Robert Charles Guidry) died this week, he’d been sick with cancer for years. An excellent bio/obit from today’s New Orleans Times-Picayune can be found here. He’s best known for writing tunes for Billy Haley (See You Later Alligator), Fats Domino (What A Party, Walkin’ To New Orleans), Clarence “Frogman” Henry (I Don’t Know Why I Love You), and Joe Cocker (The Jealous Kind) as well as cutting an excellent LP for Bearsville backed by members of The Band in the 1970’s (find it here). He also made some excellent sides for Chess in the 50’s and Imperial in the 60’s. On the premise of buying a few of the Imperial singles that I needed I visited him way out in the south Louisiana bayou in 1999, but when I got there he had no records, although he was quite friendly and I’m glad I went. Bob Dylan recounts a visit to Charles’ home in his book Chronicles Vol. 1. Here’s a few of my favorite tunes by Bobby Charles– No Use Knockin’, On Bended Knee (in session), Take It Easy, Greasy, Grow Too Old, Put Your Arms Around Me, I Ain’t Gonna Do It No More, Alligator Stomp, I’d Like To Know. In his own way he defined the south Louisiana rock’n’roll sound as much as anyone. He didn’t play an instrument, and he hated to perform live (he was cut out of the movie The Last Waltz, although he performed at the show, I assume to make room for Neil Diamond and more close ups of Robbie Robertson. He also canceled a 2007 Jazz Fest performance at the last minute), but he created some of the greatest music you’ll ever hear. Rest in peace Bobby Charles.
18 thoughts on “Bobby Charles 1939-2010”
This man was an original. The first record of his that I found was a 78 of Take It Greasy/Time Will Tell, which I found at a thrift shop back in 1981. Man when I got home and played that I was in heaven. Shortly after that I picked up the excellent import Chess Masters. Not a bum cut on there; featuring the immortal line: I got my alligator shoes–I love rhythm and blues — but I believe I'll turn square for you. PURE GENIOUS! I think he also did some work with the revamped Butterfield band up in Woodstock in the 70's. RIP Robert Charles Guidry.
Nice post, as usual. I'm sorry to quibble, but I believe 'Rockin Bicycle' is one of the tunes written and sold by Jimmy Donley. Jimmy needed a business manager (and a therapist) in the worst way. As uncomfortable as Bobby Charles was in the spotlight, he was way more functional than Jimmy.
” but I believe 'Rockin Bicycle' is one of the tunes written and sold by Jimmy Donley. Jimmy needed a business manager (and a therapist) in the worst way. As uncomfortable as Bobby Charles was in the spotlight, he was way more functional than Jimmy.”You're right! I'll fix it. Jimmy Donely's story is quite sad, and incredible. I assume you've read Johnnie Alan and Bernice Larson Webb's bio of Donely Born To Be A Loser (Jadfel, 1992), quite a read!
Don't recall the Dylan story in Chronicles, but there's a cool story of Dylan, Neil Young and The Band, trading songs backstage at a show in the 70s–Bobby Charles steps up and sings “The Jealous Kind” and after that gem, no one else even attempts another song. Bobby was a rare, sweet talent. He also provided a lot of great swamp pop material, incl. “Big Boys Cry”. Johnnie Allan did a great version of “Your Picture” and Tommy McLain did a slew of Bobby's songs, too–in particularly, his aching version of “I Hope”. Doug Sahm's version of “Tennessee Blues” is sublime, too.
I have the Bobby Charles ” Chess Masters” LP from the 80's as well as the Bearsville LP — Great stuff.Correct me if I'm wrong, but for some reason, even though just about everybody who was anybody at Chess eventually had a CD of their material released, it never happened with Bobby Charles. I always wondered why that was.
“Correct me if I'm wrong, but for some reason, even though just about everybody who was anybody at Chess eventually had a CD of their material released, it never happened with Bobby Charles. I always wondered why that was.”They did issue a cd, although only in Japan as far as I can tell. It was called simply Bobby Charles: Chess Masters and had his complete Chess output. I wonder why his Imperial sides have never been re-issued, they haven't even shown up on any compilations. I've always loved At The Jamboree and What A Party….
Suggs from Madness told me that Ian Dury played Small Town Talk as one of his Desert Island Discs on the BBC radio show of that name. Suggs had never heard it – but brought his tape of the show to every party he went to for months afterwards and insisted on playing it to everybody, despite the fact that it faded out after the first chorus… Can't imagine anybody minded too much, it's a song that sends chills up your spine like nothing else I know.
Thanks for the info about the Japanese CD. I've never seen it but it sounds like a straight reissue of the Chess Masters LP, which was all 9 singles, A&B sides. Unless there was some unissued stuff on the CD.
“ounds like a straight reissue of the Chess Masters LP, which was all 9 singles, A&B sides. Unless there was some unissued stuff on the CD.”There's 28 tracks, the un-issued tunes are Why Can't You, Over Yonder, Teenagers, Tell Me Baby, Your Picture, and Lovesick Blues. It was isssued in '96 by Japanese MCA/Chess (MVCM-22078), good luck finding one today. The photo used in the posting is also the one on the cover of said CD.
I guess that Leornard Chess auditioned Bobby over the telephone and thought that he had discovered an up and coming black artist. He was a bit shocked to find otherwise. In an interview with Shane Bernard Bobby said he met Fats after a show in Abberville when he was 14 and pitched “See You Later Alligator” Fat's said he didn't know about doing any songs about alligators. Glad they eventually hooked up. I'm sorry to hear that he passed. Are there any audio interviews with him out there for the listening? I would love to hear one.
great stuff. i posted the flip to this a lil while back…RIP
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nice post thnks fro sharing
Chess eventually had a CD of their material released, it never happened with Bobby Charles. I always wondered why that was.
This man was a legend of his time, I am sorry to hear about his death, May he Rest in Peace.
We all must mourn to his death, as well all have lost a person who was a magician in the field of music.
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