Born 9 December 1932, New Orleans, Louisiana
Singer / pianist / drummer.
One of the most distinctive records to come out of New Orleans during the early sixties was undoubtedly Jessie Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo". Instantly recognizable, the raggedy, stomping blues has inspired over a hundred cover versions
Hill's first musical experience was as a drummer at the age of seven. At 15 he played in a dixieland band and at 19 formed an R&B group called the House Rockers, which included the brothers David and Melvin Lastie. The group stayed together for only one year. Jessie briefly worked as a drummer with Guitar Slim (1953-54), Professor Longhair (1955) and Huey 'Piano' Smith (1958) before re-forming the House Rockers in 1958, abandoning the drums to sing. After Hill performed "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" as a gimmick at his gigs, Joe Banashak of Minit Records heard the song and agreed to record it. On one amazing day in 1959, Minit signed Jessie Hill, Benny Spellman, Irma Thomas and Aaron Neville to join Ernie K-Doe on the fledgling label's roster. Allen Toussaint became the creative force behind Minit, arranging, producing, playing on, and writing a staggering number of regional and national hits from 1960 until he was drafted into the army in 1963.
"Ooh Poo Pah Doo, Parts 1 & 2" was recorded on January 14, 1960, during a split session with Allen Orange. Arranger Allen Toussaint accompanied the House Rockers on piano, but in truth he thought that Hill's song was rather silly. It was Part 2 that became the hit side, reaching # 3 on the R&B charts and # 28 on the Billboard pop charts. Hill embarked on a tour of the northern theatre circuit, but it was cut short after The House Rockers collectively quit when they found out he was keeping some of the money for himself.
Hill's next record, "Whip It On Me," charted for one week at # 91, but he couldn't get much else going. A one-hit wonder, yes, but surprisingly there is no entry for him in Wayne Jancik's Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders. He recorded seven singles at Minit, bowing out appropriately with "Can't Get Enough Of That Ooh Poo Pah Doo" in 1962. "Jessie got stuck in a rut", claimed Banashak. "He wouldn't write any new material, so I had to rely on Allen Toussaint. All Jessie wanted to do was light candles and put gris-gris stuff all over his house. He couldn't get it together." Allen Toussaint told Jeff Hannusch that supervising Hill's sessions was a difficult task. The man was irrepressible and determined to enjoy recording as much as possible.
After leaving Minit in 1962, Hill moved to Los Angeles where he became a moderately successful songwriter, penning songs for the likes of Sonny and Cher, Ike and Tina Turner and Iron Butterfly. One of his co-writers was Mac Rebennack, the future Dr. John. Together they formed their own publishing company. He also co-wrote with Willie Nelson. Meanwhile Hill continued to record, for labels like Downey, Kerwood, Wand (duets with Shirley Goodman of Shirley and Lee fame) and Chess, but nothing got even close to chart success. In 1971 he had an album release on the Blue Thumb label ("Naturally").
Hill returned to New Orleans in the mid-70s but found musical employment hard to come by. For a spell he drove his own taxi - "The Poo Cab" - which helped to supplement his scant musical income. However, as his drinking and narcotics use escalated, he racked up a series of DWI infractions, and in short order he lost his license altogether. On occasion he still fielded a band for small jobs around the city and opened the bill for Fats Domino's rare local engagements. But his live appearances were hastily assembled affairs with pickup bands and for a time Hill was homeless. Several benefit gigs were held in his honour, but did little to revive his personal or profes- sional fortunes. He finally succumbed to heart and kidney failure in 1996, aged 63.
More info : http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jessie-hill-p86693/biography
CD : Golden Classics (Collectables, 16 tracks, 1990). This is a reissue of an LP of 16 Minit sides on Charly CRB 1169 (1987), called "Y'All Ready Now?".
Discography : http://www.soulfulkindamusic.net/jhill.htm
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