The '50s R&B Show this week will celebrate the life and music of a true New Orleans original -- Earl Stanley. Earl Stanley's body of work, though tragically unsung, is a piece of the raucous and colorful puzzle that is New Orleans Rock'n'Roll in its heyday. Stanislaus Earl Oropeza passed away May 12 at age 83.
The immortal "Pass the Hachet," the 1966 New Orleans classic whose inspiration came from a simple guitar riff by Earl's cousin Roger Leon, saw an unexpected resurrection via '90s and 2000s cinema. It was heard on the soundtracks of Desperado and Colombiana; a cover version was included in Super Troopers. Earl always opined that of all the recordings he wrote and produced, "Hatchet" was the worst -- just a novelty throwaway. It nonetheless is his most well-known tune and has garnered a worldwide cult following.
With his guitarist, Mickey Tardo, Earl wrote and produced "Gypsy Woman Told Me" and "A Million Tears Ago," two major gulf coast hits of the mid '60s that feature the silky smooth vocals of Eddie Powers.
Earl's lengthy and varied musical credentials include playing bass with Mac Rebennack's early bands; backing the likes of Roland Stone, Chuck Carbo, Frankie Ford, Eddie Lang, Big Boy Myles, Sugar Boy Crawford and Jimmy Donley in the studio; kicking off the recording careers of New Orleans notables Kathy Savoie, Eddie Powers, Art Sir Van and Lenny McDaniel; acting as proprietor of the tiny (but coveted by collectors) Ring Records and Thunder Recording Company of the '60s; leading a seemingly endless string of bands (many, the same group of musicians under various aliases) including the Stereos, the Links, Mickey and the Failures, the Phinxs and the greatest ever of all rock sobriquets -- Ronnie Reverb and the Equalizers!
Stanley's bass can be heard on "Morgus the Magnificent" by the Ghouls, "Just a Moment" and "Preacher's Daughter" by Roland Stone, "Aw Who" by Bat Carroll, "I Cried a Tear" by Gerri Hall, "Chinese Bandits" by the Cheerleaders, "Our Teenage Love" by Jerry Raines and countless other tracks possibly numbering in the hundreds.
Music was Earl's entire world. If it can be said that anyone ate, slept and breathed music, it was Earl. I first met him at Bonvillain's Music shop nearly 25 years ago. I'm very fortunate to have enjoyed many lengthy conversations with him over the years -- just two music lovers enthusiastically talking at length about what we loved. I'm also thankful for witnessing the unforgettable performances of Earl and Eddie Powers, mostly at Mo's Chalet in Metairie -- the most authentic of New Orleans scenes that can never be duplicated and will forever hold a special place among my fondest music memories!
Joining me in the studio Tuesday night will be some of the singers and musicians in the Earl Stanley stable of artists who worked with him in the recording studio and on the bandstand stretching back to the '60s. We'll hear recently recorded chats with singer Eddie Powers and Jay Wolfe (one of Earl's '60s-era drummers) with their memories of Earl. Many of the tracks I'll be playing are rare gems from Earl's personal collection that he was kind enough to allow me to make copies of over the years. For a very personal touch, also included will be snippets from a bedside chat with the man himself from just over two months ago.
For a deeper look into Earl Stanley's storied career, I highly recommend these two pieces by music writer, historian and preeminent Stanley fan Michael Hurtt. https://www.offbeat.com/
The on-air celebration of Earl's music will happen this Tuesday, May 23, from 7 to 10 p.m. central time on WWOZ 90.7 FM and wwoz.org.