Archive for Huey P. Meaux

Huey P. Meaux, R.I.P.

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2011 by 30daysout

Huey P. Meaux

Huey P. Meaux, the legendary and controversial Southeast Texas music producer who discovered the Sir Douglas Quintet, Freddy Fender, “Jivin’ Gene” Bourgeois and Barbara Lynn, died Saturday at the age of 82.

Meaux had been in federal prison since 1996, when a police raid of his Sugar Hill studios in Houston uncovered evidence that Meaux participated in child pornography, sex with underage females and drug possession. He skipped bail and ran to Mexico, but he finally gave up and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Meaux was released because of failing health and he lived in Winnie, where he died on Saturday.

Meaux, known as the “Crazy Cajun,” was a barber by trade and a radio DJ in Port Arthur, Texas, in the late 1950s. He would do a radio show on KPAC on Saturday afternoons, playing Cajun music for the transplanted coonasses who came to Texas to work at the oil refineries. One day Meaux got a visit from one of those refinery workers.

As Meaux told it, “He walked in with blue jeans and bare feet and these big thick glasses like Clark Kent. He wanted me to record his rock and roll band … I told him I didn’t know what the hell I was doing but if he was OK with that, then let’s get down to it.”

Huey Meaux's letterhead

The guy was Gene Bourgeois, soon to be known as “Jivin’ Gene.” In the old KPAC studio those days they had a Magnecord mono reel-to-reel, and Huey hung a ribbon mike from a boom. The drums, he put way back to keep them from overpowering everything and he put Bourgeois in the toilet to get the proper echo on his voice.

“Yeah, I really did sing in the shitter,” Bourgeois told me once. “But it was because I was so shy, I didn’t want anyone looking at me when I sang.” Anyway, the song was “Going Out With The Tide,” and after Huey sent it to Jin Records owner Floyd Soileau it became a regional hit. Jivin’ Gene’s next tune was produced by Meaux in Crowley (at J.D. Miller’s studio): “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” which is not the Neil Sedaka hit.

This song got more radio airplay, and eventually it was leased to Mercury Records, which put it out nationally. “Breakin’ Up” went to No. 69 on the pop charts in 1959, and Huey Meaux was on his way.

In 1962 Meaux produced a Beaumont singer, Barbara Lynn, and the song “You’ll Lose A Good Thing,” which rose to No. 8 in the Billboard charts. Meaux also signed Big Sambo, whose “The Rains Came” was a modest hit and Sunny and the Sunliners, who got a nice chart ride with “Talk To Me.”

In 1965, Meaux heard a bunch of kids from San Antonio who played a weird mix of rock and roll and Mexican music; he noticed first that it was a lot like Cajun music and then that it kinda had the same beat that stuff like the Beatles and the other British Invasion groups were doing. So he told the boys, “Grow some hair and let’s go cut some of this shit,” and the Sir Douglas Quintet cut their very first hit, “She’s About A Mover,” in Houston. Meaux produced their hits until the band got freaky and moved to San Francisco in the late 1960s.

Huey Meaux, with unidentified artist (or secretary) sitting on his lap in the 1980s.

Meaux also revived the career of Freddy Fender, who was an ex-con with a mechanic’s job when he cut “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” in 1975. Also cut in Houston, the song was first released on Meaux’s Crazy Cajun label before being leased to Dot, and then it went all the way to No. 1 on the pop charts. “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” the followup, was also a Top 10 hit.

After Fender, Huey Meaux was content to cut regional artists in Texas and Louisiana. In 1984, Cajun/zydeco artist Rockin’ Sidney created “My Toot Toot” which got some airplay in the region and Meaux stepped in to get it signed to Epic Records, on which it rode into the country Top 40. It was the first zydeco record to get airplay on major rock, pop and country radio stations of the day.

Meaux always was loyal to his artists, and he never failed to offer a colorful story or two about working with them. His conviction and imprisonment was, like Phil Spector’s, a sad and pathetic end to a legendary music career.

MP3: “Going Out With The Tide” by Jivin’ Gene

MP3: “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Jivin’ Gene

MP3: “The Rains Came” by Big Sambo

MP3: “She’s About A Mover” by the Sir Douglas Quintet

Joe Nick Patoski article in Texas Monthly about Huey Meaux

YouTube: Huey Meaux on KPFT-FM, Houston, in 1974

Rock Moment: Big Sambo Comes Home

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , on January 10, 2010 by 30daysout

James Young, a.k.a. Big Sambo

In Port Arthur, Texas, there’s an unlikely tourist attraction – or it would be a tourist attraction if more people knew about it.  It’s called the Museum of the Gulf Coast, and once you get past the typical everytown historical artifacts you come to a section called “Music Legends,” which spotlights the talent who were born, raised and lived in Southeast Texas.

Of course there’s Janis Joplin, Lonnie Brooks, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, George Jones, Jivin’ Gene … the list is quite long.  This section of the museum is more than worth the entry fee, because it’s richer than the better-known Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  You can hear the music, but many times you don’t get the great stories.  Today I want to share with you one of those stories: the tale of Big Sambo.

In June 1983, a man named James Harold Young died in Port Arthur.  Earlier in his life, he was known as Big Sambo, a saxophone-playing R&B singer with a beautiful singing voice.  A few days after he died, this is the story that appeared the Port Arthur News:

On June 19, 1981, the Port Arthur Civic Center jumped and throbbed to the sound of rock and roll.  Dancers choked the aisles as more than 2,000 concergoers embraced the second annual Jaycees’ Fifties rock revival show.

Probably the biggest hit of the night was a soft-spoken, unassuming musician whose saxophone and voice mesmerized the crowd.  For James “Big Sambo” Young, it was a big night; playing before his hometown, it was the proudest moment of his life.

Last Friday, at 1:08 a.m., James “Big Sambo” Young died at Park Place hospital.  His heart stopped too soon at the age of 45; he was buried on Tuesday.  The area and the world have lost an immense talent.  We have all lost a great friend.

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It’s Time To Enshrine Doug Sahm!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 4, 2009 by 30daysout

sir_doug1 

If there were a Mount Rushmore in Texas of our state’s greatest musical artists, the head of Douglas Wayne Sahm would rightfully be there, next to Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  “Sir” Doug Sahm is the godfather of Texas music and during his career he brilliantly covered rock and roll, country, blues and of course Tex-Mex.  Today’s Austin music scene – in fact all of Texas music – would not be the same without the influence of Doug Sahm.  So why isn’t he in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Sahm performed as a teenager on the streets and stages of his hometown San Antonio but in 1965, producer Huey Meaux gathered a motley group of musicians around Sahm and tried to beat the Beatles at their own game.  The Sir Douglas Quintet had a hit with “She’s About A Mover” – cut at Meaux’s Sugar Hill studios in Houston – and audiences soon realized the musicians weren’t British moptops at all.

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