I Change My Mind"
recently spent two weeks in Los Angeles to join
forces with Jerry Williams, Jr., better known as "Swamp Dogg."
Swamp produced my new CD, Can I Change My Mind, which includes
eight songs written by Swamp Dogg especially for me. The CD was released
on December 10, 1999. We are now accepting orders.
went very well in L.A. Although we were on a tight schedule--two weeks
is not a lot of time to complete a CD--Swamp has a great work ethic and
keeps things moving with the help of his wife and business partner Yvonne
was most pleased with the musicians that Swamp assembled for the project.
A young guitar player from Austin, Texas named Landis
Armstrong was staying with the Williams to work on my project, a project
by Wilson Williams (formerly of the Platters, I think), a tour in Trinidad
with Swamp, and a Swamp Dogg CD. Landis was with a band called King Soul
in Austin that has backed up Swamp Dogg for his performances there, and
he currently plays in a band called the Privateers that does mostly Booker
T & the MGs covers. He is an excellent guitarist in the Steve Cropper/Teenie
Hodges/Jimmy Johnson mold.
we were there, Landis, Swamp, and I taped
a segment of "Art Fein's Poker Party," a cable-access
music interview TV show that airs in Los Angeles and on cable stations
throughout the U.S. Art is a cool guy (he's a rockabilly nut who used
to manage the Blasters and the Cramps, among others), and we
had a ball. I sang "Crack Crack, When You Comin Back" and
"Can I Change My Mind" from the new CD (accompanied only by
Landis on acoustic guitar), along with "Bring It On Home to Me"
(Sam Cooke) and "Memory Pain" (Percy Mayfield). We also heartily
recommend Art's monthly grousing column Another Fein Mess.
bass player was Vince Jefferson, who has been
with Barry White for about 15 years. The keyboard player on most of the
stuff (in addition to Swamp) was Edell Shepherd,
another Barry White alumni who is currently with Otis Day and the Knights.
He is a deep, churchy kind of player, and singing with him was very inspiring.
The drummers, Craig Kimbrough and Andre Robinson,
both have played with Little Milton. We also used a percussionist named
Raegae Clark, formerly with the Gap Band, on one song (Can I Change My
Mind). The horns were arranged by Jerry Peterson,
formerly with Tower of Power, and Skip Waring. Jerry plays the sax and
flute solos. Two of the songs have rather lush string arrangements that
were programmed by Benjamin Wright, who works as Gladys Knight's arranger.
We went to Mr. Wright's house one night, and his walls were adorned with
gold records from Michael Jackson ("Off the Wall"), DeBarge,
the Temptations, Gladys Knight, and many others.
is a short rundown of the songs. All the songs are written by Swamp with
the exception of "One In a Million" and "Can I Change My
Mind." By the way, the CD will initially be released on the Green
Dolphin label. The release date is December 10, 1999 if everything goes
as planned. Caveat: Things rarely go as planned in the music
Crack, When You Coming Back - This song has nothing to do with the
illegal substance of the same name. Swamp has had success with songs that
utilize nonsense sounds in the title (e.g., Love Being Your Fool), and
he applied that formula here. This is a real romper stomper. I will always
retain the vision in my mind of Swamp standing up at the acoustic piano
during the fade at the end, banging away on the keyboard like Little Richard
All Mine - We were initially talking about covering either I Second
That Emotion or Ain't That Peculiar, and I was kind of lukewarm about
doing so. As a result, we were short at least one song, so Swamp stayed
up all night one night and wrote this one. When he presented it to me
the next morning, I got so excited I threw my hands up in the air and
broke the glass on the light fixture above my head in Swamp's music room.
This is a great soul song with the Trapped By a Thing Called Love/Precious
Precious/Make Me Yours groove. (I recorded Precious Precious on my live
CD in 1984.)
Know It's Your Party - Yvonne's favorite, a nice uptempo song with
great lyrics and great horn parts. It has kind of a New Orleans R&B
feel. I predict that this is going to be the new Eldorado Cafe.
Magic Hour - My favorite on the CD. We gave it the pure Memphis/Otis
Redding treatment. There was great chemistry in the studio when we were
cutting the rhythm track, and as a result, we wound up using the reference
vocal that I sang at the time as the final vocal on this song.
- A very cool midtempo song built around an infectious repetitive guitar
figure. This is one of a few songs with a distinct country feel--which
is okay with me.
Is Love (And What Makes You Think You Deserve Some) - This is the
first of two ballads that Swamp gives the full production treatment thanks
to Benjamin Wright's string arrangements. I love this song, especially
the surprising and unusual lyrics. I expect this to become a staple of
my live performances for many years to come. Swamp originally wrote it
for Aaron Neville, who passed on it. His loss.
Matter How You Turn or Twist It - What Swamp did with this song,
which did not sound like much to me when I first heard the demo, is remarkable
and evidence of his skill as a producer. Andre Robinson layed down a groove
that is as comfortable as an old pair of slippers, and the band and I
fell right into it. The instrumental break features two flamenco guitars
(!), and it all works.
I Change My Mind - I've been singing this one for about 30 years.
I recorded it with Roy Buchanan on the Livestock LP, and I've played it
every night with all of my bands since. When we rehearsed this song at
Swamp's house, I got very excited by the gospel feel that Edell Shepherd
was giving it, and we went with a very uptempo feel, entirely unlike what
I do in my live performances. With added percussion, the song has an almost
Afro-Cuban feel to it. It is trendy without, I hope, being too obvious.
In a Million - This song was submitted to Swamp by two songwriters
from Florida, Peter Brown and Frank Fuchs. It has more of a pop sound
than most of the things on this CD, with complex musical changes and Ben
Wright's string arrangement. I tried to approach it the way I would a
Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, O'Jays, or Manhattans song--a style
that I personally love but that I don't often get to work in. I'm very
pleased with the vocal performance that Swamp was able to elicit from
the Sugar - Every soul and country CD needs a good cheating song,
and this is it.
out Swamp Dogg's Web site--currently
under construction, but like Swamp Dogg himself, getting better every
is what the Virgin Encyclopedia of R&B and Soul has to say
about Swamp Dogg:
eccentric performer first recorded as Little Jerry, during the 50s. His
subsequent releases were as varied as the outlets on which they appeared,
although Williams did achieve a minor hit in 1966 with "Baby, You're
My Everything." He later forsook a conventional direction by assuming
his "Swamp Dogg" alter ego. Although the artist is well known
for his production and/or songwriting work for Irma Thomas, Patti LaBelle,
Doris Duke, Z.Z. Hill, and Solomon Burke, his solo work is equally of
value. His first album, Total Destruction of Your Mind, has become
a classic, incorporating the sound of early Stax recordings with the rock
style of the late 60s and early 70s. The artist embraced the bayou inflections
of Tony Joe White and John Fogerty, while his songs betrayed a lyrical
wit and oblique perception rendering them unique. Such titles as "Mama's
Baby - Daddy's Maybe," "Eat the Goose (Before the Goose Eats
You)," and "The Love We Got Ain't Worth Two Dead Flies,"
(a duet with Esther Phillips) provide a taste of this performer's vision."
is another bio of Swamp, from the All-Music
Guide at CDNow:
One of the
great characters in rock and soul music is Jerry Williams, better known
as the eccentric, idiosyncratic, and always entertaining Swamp Dogg (no
relation to Snoop Doggy Dogg). A Virginia native, Williams invented his
own legend by claiming that he had little proper schooling, only to wake
up one day and find himself a musical genius (his words). Actually, Williams
is very talented, and an early association with Jerry Wexler and Phil
Walden led to him working for a number of years as a producer, engineer
and occasional songwriter with Atlantic in the '60s. At decade's end,
however, he decided that the time was right to unleash Swamp Dogg's singular
view of the world on an unsuspecting public. The initial result was one
of the most gloriously gonzo soul recordings of all time, Total Destruction
to Your Mind. Along with living up to its title, it was a renegade
chunk of not-quite-commercial music, with an unforgettable (though fuzzy)
cover shot of the portly Dogg in his underwear. Although undeniably great,
Total Destruction to Your Mind is one of the most obscure soul
records ever made. That, however, has nothing to do with the music, which
rocks in a way reminiscent of Solomon Burke or Wilson Pickett. It may
have to do with Dogg's worldview, part libertarian politics, part Zappa-style
critiques of commerciality and capitalism, and part horny male, the latter
defining for better and worse his view of women. Although he spent years
working in the industry, Dogg was simply not the standard-issue soul type.
And that was good. Dogg has continued to make records, albeit infrequently,
since 1969, some good, a few great, and most all extremely difficult to
find. With contemporary soul (Boyz II Men, En Vogue, Mary J. Blige) sounding
increasingly mannered and sterile, Dogg's yelling, screaming and general
craziness is missed. Thankfully, he hasn't disappeared for good, although
he only makes records when he feels like it. His last release, Surfin'
In Harlem, came out in 1991. And as is often the case with quirky
"legends," what he's up to at any given time is the source of
wild speculation. It would be wise to not count him out; just when you
think this Dogg is down and out, he sneaks up and bites you. ~ John Dougan,
recent years, Swamp has had great success as a songwriter and producer
for Tracy Byrd, Travis Tritt, Huey Lewis, LeAnn Rhimes, and Patty Loveless,
and he was recently at the top of the Billboard charts with "I Got
One For Ya" by Kid Rock on Atlantic Records.