Lost Classics! Bobby Charles
Last year, the New Orleans Times Picayune called Bobby Charles a “lost legend.” That is perhaps the only way to describe Robert “Bobby” Charles Guidry, a coonass who came out of Louisiana in the 1950s and became one of the first important songwriters of the rock and roll era. Bobby Charles, as he became known, was a recording artist for Chicago blues/R&B label Chess Records but he made his impact as a songwriter: “See You Later Alligator” for Bill Haley & the Comets; “Walking To New Orleans,” one of Fats Domino’s greatest hits; and “(I Don’t Know Why I Love You) But I Do,” for Clarence “Frogman” Henry.
By the late 1960s, Bobby Charles ran with the likes of Bob Dylan and in 1971 he found himself in Woodstock, N.Y., recording a solo album with Rick Danko and members of the Band. The result, his self-titled debut, was released in 1972 and its songs mixed Charles’ swamp rock with the Band’s brand of Americana. In addition to Danko, drummer Levon Helm, pianist Richard Manuel, organist Garth Hudson and New Orleans stalwart Dr. John played on the album. This is more than just hippie music – it’s a classic of what we would later call “roots rock.” He appears on the Band’s Last Waltz album (but not the movie) singing “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans.”
Today Bobby Charles is plagued with health problems including a bout with cancer. He has recorded on and off over the years but makes a decent living off royalties from his old songs. Bobby Charles promised in that Times Picayune story from 2007 that he has enough songs to make a new album. Hearing some new songs from this legend would be welcome indeed.