ROCKIN' SIDNEY (By Phil Davies)
Born Sidney Semien, 9 April 1938, Lebeau, Louisiana
Died 25 February 1988, Lake Charles, Louisiana
Heavily influenced by local legends like Slim Harpo and Cookie & the Cupcakes, Sidney began playing harmonica and guitar professionally while in his teens, and made his first R&B-styled recordings on the Fame and Jin imprints during the late 1950s; his first regional hit, "No Good Woman," appeared in 1962. Perhaps his best known song of that era was You Ain't Nothing But Fine, covered later by the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Rockpile & Geraint Watkins. He was often backed by George Lewis on harmonica and Katie Webster on piano.
Between the mid-1960s and the late 1970s, Sidney cut well over 50 singles for the Louisiana-based Goldband label, working in a variety of contemporary blues, soul and R&B modes; none proved successful, however, and upon learning the accordion he began playing zydeco. He issued his first true zydeco record, Give Me A Good Time Woman, on the Maison de Soul label in 1982; two years later he cut My Zydeco Shoes Got The Zydeco Blues album , which included the track "My Toot Toot."
Ole Sid cut it in his home studio playing everything but the incredibly naff drum machine! Although Sidney himself was reportedly unhappy with the song, it became a local jukebox hit, and soon regional radio stations began playing it regularly.It became an underground hit locally and thanks to Cleon Floyd, manager of r&b singer (and uncle to) King Floyd, it became a huge New Orleans hit. He heard the crowd's reaction to the song at a bill headlined by Solomon Burke. Cleon was also the President of then Orleans Street Jocks Association and took 20 copies of the 45 back to the city, he had to reorder more very quickly. By Mardi Gras time it was a jukebox and record hop smash, many artists included a cover in the huge Jazz & heritage festival that May.
In time, the single became a grass-roots smash, selling well over a million copies on its way to charting in the U.S. and even winning a Grammy Award. There were many covers from Fats, Doug Kershaw, Jimmy C Newman, John Fogerty, Jean Knight (US disco hit on Atlantic)and Denis LaSalle (her Malaco disco version charted in the UK). Huey Meaux got the original leased to Epic and they managed to get Rockin' Sidney into the country top 40. Iit even charted in the UK, Rockin Sidney spending one week at number 98 in the pop charts, which is sadly one more week than many of our heroes got!!
The innuendo laden catchphrase Don't Mess With My Toot Toot caught the public's imagination. Toot is derived from the French word Tout, meaning all or everything. In Cajun French it was used as a term of endearment for a loved one. The kids no doubt linked it to body parts or even cocaine!! The world went Toot Toot crazy in 1985.
While Sidney never again reached the same commercial peaks, he remained one of zydeco's most notable artists, setting up his own label, Bally Hoo, and touring regularly until his death on February 25, 1998.
Thanks to AMG and John Broven's cd notes.
Rockin' Sidney -My Toot Toot - Ace cd
More info: http://www.offbeat.com/objuly2002/masters.html
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