Monday, May 31, 2010

Rock Family Tree: Sneakin' Sally

I love discovering unexpected connections between bands, musicians, or songs that I hadn't previously known about. With a little effort (aka research online) I've been able to uncover countless examples where I'll learn that: a song I've known for some time was actually originally performed or written by someone else of note (see previous post re: The Band covering Marvin Gaye's Baby Don't You Do It), that one famous band was born out of another famous band (e.g., Neal Schon leaving Santana to help form Journey), or that well known musicians sat in to help another artist record an album (e.g., Stephen Stills first solo album in 1970 featured appearances by Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Jimi Hendrix, and Booker T. Jones in addition to David Crosby and Graham Nash).

It was a new discovery tonight that led me to write this post. To set some context, just yesterday morning while shopping at Burlington Records off of Church Street in downtown Burlington, VT, I picked up a vinyl copy of Robert Palmer's first solo record Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley. I was first introduced to the title track from this album in late 1997 when I'd read that Phish had resurrected it in their setlists after the song had been shelved from their live concerts for over eight years. After listening to the song a number of times back then and also hearing Phish play it live on 8/8/98, I was immediately drawn to it, with its relentlessly funky groove.

Fast forward to tonight where I was reading up on the album after dropping the needle on my new purchase. I was very surprised and very excited to read that Palmer was backed on the original 1974 recording of this particular song by some of my favorite musicians of all time, namely the original New Orleans funk pioneers The Meters (Art Neville, Leo Nocentelli, George Porter, Jr., and Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste) and Little Feat lead guitarist Lowell George. I have been a fan of these other musicians for over ten years and had no idea that they were the musical force behind Robert Palmer's solo debut with Sally. In fact, the Meters and Lowell are featured as Robert's backing band on half of the album (4 of 8 songs), with Lowell George playing on a total of five of them. On the last track, one not featuring the Meters or George, an appearance is made by none other than Steve Winwood on piano. Not bad company for a guy to start off a solo career after three unsuccessful albums with a band called Vinegar Joe. Palmer's second solo album, Pressure Drop, including the title track cover of the Toots and the Maytal's hit, found Robert backed this time by the full Little Feat lineup, including friend Lowell George on lead guitar. On one other track on this record, legendary Motown bass player and Funk Brother James Jamerson lends his skills.

Take a listen to the original Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley, featuring Robert Palmer, the legendary Meters, and the incomparable Lowell George:

Bonus Facts [Source: Wikipedia]:

- This same year, 1974, Paul McCartney invited the Meters to play at the release party for his Venus and Mars album aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones was in attendance and was greatly taken with the Meters and their sound. The Rolling Stones invited the band to open for them on their Tour of the Americas '75 and Tour of Europe '76.

- Neal Schon was asked by Eric Clapton to join Derek and the Dominos, but since Santana called Neal only a few days earlier, he decided to join Santana instead.


WeightStaff said...

"Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones was in attendance..."

As opposed to the OTHER Mick Jagger?? ;)

Nice post. Rock 'n Roll "family trees" always fascinated me. I did not know about the Neil Schon invitation to join Derek and the Dominos (though I'm having a hard time trying to picture Eric Clapton singing "Wheel in the Sky.") Thankfully, things worked out for a reason...


WeightStaff said...

God bless the Meters. And God bless Neil Schon. No wait. Just the Meters.

I actually just wanted to try out my new iPad and that was the best I could come up with. For some reason watching Sean Combs on Inside the Actors Studio wasn't generating any new posts. Go figure. I do love the iPod though. And it's 1:45 am.