Born Edgar Vernon Blanchard, 17 August 1924, Grosse Tete, Louisiana
Guitarist, bandleader, arranger.
Edgar Blanchard was widely regarded by his peers as one of the most gifted guitarists on the New Orleans music scene, of which he was a permanent feature from 1945 until circa 1965. In his teens he learned to play both the guitar and the banjo. After serving in Europe in World War II, he played in Paul Gayten’s band. By 1947 he was in charge of the resident band at the Down Beat Club on Rampart Street, with Roy Brown as one of the vocalists. In the late 1940s he formed his own band, the Gondoliers, with whom he performed until his death. An early version of the Gondoliers had a two-guitar line-up with Ernest McLean. In the 1960s the group included Dimes Dupont (alto sax), Alonzo Stewart (drums), Frank Fields (bass) and Lawrence Cotton (piano). The band was renowned for its stylistic versatility and worked in both black and white clubs in and around New Orleans.
Although Blanchard frequently played on sessions, he seldom recorded under his own name. He made his recording debut for Don Robey’s Peacock label in Houston in 1949, with “Creole Gal Blues”/“She’ll Be Mine After Awhile”. In 1950-51 Blanchard went on the road with Roy Brown (who scored hit after hit at that time), becoming the bandleader and playing on a number of his sessions. Between 1953 and 1958 he did session work for Atlantic (Joe Turner, Professor Longhair, Ray Charles), Specialty (Little Richard, Lloyd Price) and Chess (Clarence Frogman Henry, Bobby Charles, Paul Gayten, Eddie Bo).
In August 1956 Blanchard recorded two singles under his own name for Art Rupe’s Specialty label, “Mr Bumps” (dedicated to A&R man Bumps Blackwell), coupled with “Ricki-Ticki-Too” and “Steppin’ High”/“Sweet Sue”. The latter record was also released in Holland and Belgium on the Moonglow label. “Steppin’ High” featured Blanchard’s pupil Roy Montrell as second guitarist. These were all instrumentals, but Blanchard also recorded two vocal numbers for Chess, “Lawdy Mama”and “Old Folks” (1957 or 1958). “Lawdy Mama” is an exciting rocker, but it remained unreleased until 1978. In 2016 the song was issued on a vinyl single, on the French Gondolier label. Also in 1958, Blanchard and some of the Gondoliers cut a good single for Argo (5326), “Loud Mouth Annie”/“Heaven Or Heartbreak”, which came out in 1959 under the name of Myles & Dupont. They were pianist Warren Myles and saxophonist Dimes Dupont, who wrote and sang the tunes. “Loud Mouth Annie” is not on YouTube, unfortunately. (Nor is “Knocked Out”, mentioned below.)
Later in 1958 Edgar started working for Joe Ruffino’s Ric and Ron labels, as guitarist, arranger and musical director. He supervised all early Ric studio sessions, but in mid-1959 he was replaced by Harold Battiste. The first single release on Ric was an instrumental by Blanchard, “Let’s Get It”/“Lonesome Guitar”. This was soon followed by a single credited to the Gondoliers, which coupled an instrumental, “Knocked Out” with a vocal (by Gerri Hall, of Huey Smith’s Clowns), "You Call Everybody Darling”, on which Blanchard played banjo. The use of the Gondoliers on the early Ric and Ron sessions was instrumental in ushering in a new sound for New Orleans R&B and a new era of studio musicians such as Allen Toussaint and Mac Rebennack.
In 1961 Ric released a comedy album, “Let’s Have A Blast With the Gondoliers”, which included a 14-minute version of “Tom Dooley”, but "there was little musical content of note”, according to John Broven, in his masterful book “Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans”.
In 1964 Blanchard recorded six blues tracks for Minit with the Prince Royals, including “Tight Like That”, which remained unissued until 1981. These were his last recordings. Edgar Blanchard died in 1972 of cirrhosis of the liver, aged only 48. Recordings on which he can be heard as a session player include “Long Tall Sally”, “Slippin’ and Slidin’”, “Rip It Up”, “Ready Teddy” (all by Little Richard), “Good Rocking Tonight” by Roy Brown, “Tipitina” by Professor Longhair , “Honey Hush” by Joe Turner and “Lights Out” by Jerry Byrne.
Discography : http://wdd.mbnet.fi/edgarblanchard.htm
There is no CD overview of Blanchard’s recordings. His best numbers (“Mr. Bumps”, “Steppin’High”, “Let’s Get It”, “Lawdy Mama”) are available on several compilations.
Acknowledgements : John Broven, Tony Rounce, Adam Komorowki.
Dik, February 2017
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