Bobby charles album

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Bobby Charles

Bobby Charles pioneered the musical genre known as ‘swamp rock’ – he wrote the early rock n roll classic “See You Later, Alligator” (best known via the version by Bill Haley & the Comets). Another early gem penned by Bobby Charles was “Walking to New Orleans” as recorded by Fats Domino. He also appeared at the legendary “Last Waltz” concert in 1976 – in which he performed “Down South in New Orleans” accompanied by The Band and Dr. John.

But the main reason that musicians like Andy Cabic of Vetiver sing his praises (and cover his songs) is for Bobby’s 1972 self-titled album released on Bearsville. Despite numerous CD reissues through the years, this is the first time in decades that the seminal album has appeared in its original vinyl LP format.

A virtual who’s who of classic ‘roots’ rock – the album features 10 Bobby Charles classics supported by the likes of Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel of The Band, long time Neil Young sidekick Ben Keith, Bob Dylan’s former running mate Bob Neuwirth, session maverick Amos Garrett, the esteemed Dr. John, Geoff Muldaur and several others.

But this is far from an all-star jam session – this is an ensemble record in the truest sense of the word – with each musician simply supporting the Louisiana vibe that flows thru the 10 song collection of country, blues, R&B, and folk that all have that distinctive Bobby Charles signature sound. Album also includes the slow burner “Street People” as featured on Country Funk 1969-1975, Volume 1.

Perhaps Dr. John said it best “I think all of Bobby’s songs have something to offer at all times, for all people.”

Light In The Attic now offers Bobby Charles re-mastered from the original tapes, packaged in a beautiful gatefold sleeve and waiting for heads to turn on and tune in ‘round the globe.


Bobby Charles

On the third disc of this wood-paneled box set of Louisiana singer Robert "Bobby" Charles Guidry's lone album from the 1970s, there's a half-hour interview with radio disc jockey Barry Hansen, better known as Dr. Demento. They laundry-list the records released that week in 1972, ranging from a posthumous Jimi Hendrix LP to John Fahey, Tim Buckley, Bonnie Raitt, Nazareth, Wet Willie, and Martin Mull. To which Bobby Charles comments in his gentle, stoned Cajun drawl: "It's too bad, a lot of good ones just have to get lost. It's unexplainable, but they just do." To which Hansen replies: "Well... a lot of times they get picked up the second or third time around."

Warm and crackling as a campfire, easeful and understated, all of it suffused with Charles' nuanced blend of humor and empathy, this 1972 eponymous album was one of the "good ones" that got lost. Think of this as the second or third time around for the album to finally find its people-- and there should be plenty of them. Considering that 4/5ths of the Band served as Charles' back up group here (augmented by Dr. John and Neil Young pedal steel guitarist Ben E. Keith), this is-- simply put-- one of the most sublime Americana records ever cut.

Charles' story started two decades earlier, when he wrote and recorded R&B standards like "See You Later, Alligator" and "Walking to New Orleans". The story goes that Chess Records signed the then-14-year-old sight unseen after he sang them "Alligator" over the phone. When he arrived in their Chicago offices, though, Leonard Chess flipped out: Not because Charles was underage, but because he was white. After touring through a pre-integration South, he wound up in Nashville by the late 1960s. A marijuana rap led him to head further north, where he ultimately fell in with the musical community centered around Woodstock, N.Y., recording at Dylan manager Albert Grossman's Bearsville Studios.

From the opening twang and snare snap of "Street People", it's clear Charles' songwriting acumen had grown beyond his early R&B roots. Over the slinking beat, he details an itinerant life of what one would label a "bum." But rather than spin some tale of hard luck and woe, Charles makes drifting from town to town and panhandling for spare change sound idyllic. "Wouldn't trade places with no one I know/ I'm happy with where I'm at," he drawls. A cowbell accents the punchline: "Some people would rather work/ We need people like that."

Elsewhere, there are organ-gurgling numbers about new love and community gossip, lilting ballads about watching butterflies, honking barroom numbers about growing old, and gentle, country-tinged numbers about spending all day in bed with your honey. And then there's the ode to Jesus to save him from his followers. All of it gets delivered with a sly grin and at a pace with which you might sip a beer on a back porch, cast a fishing line into a creek, or barbecue a rack of ribs: slow, unhurried, a sunny afternoon ahead of you.

Some 25 previously unreleased tracks augment the original 10-song album, ranging from the pleasant to revelatory. There are differently mixed singles, three songs released only on a Japanese box set, some half-baked songs, but also the sound of Charles' shuffling toward a follow-up album that he never quite got around to finishing. Or, as he put his M.O. on one chorus: "(I'm) staying stoned and singing homemade songs." There's the Band's telltale funk on "Why Are People Like That?", Dr. John's piano commingling with Garth Hudson's gospel organ swells on the elegant crest of "You Came Along". Fans of Will Oldham's Arise Therefore will swoon for demos of Charles dueting with the Band's Rick Danko over a sputtering drum machine.

When this set was originally made available through Rhino Handmade back in August (it's in stores now via distribution partner Light in the Attic), mid-album track "He's Got All the Whiskey" was already an album highlight. So it's uncanny hearing both it and "Street People" in a post-Occupy mindset. About as loud as "Chappelle's Show"'s intro, Dixieland horns, Danko's bass, and a snare's pop skitter about as Charles gripes: "He got all the money." It, of course, follows that "The Man" also has all the "whiskey/ power/ women," the biggest crime of it being that "he won't give me none." It's a simple protest from Bobby Charles-- good-natured at its heart-- and hopefully it won't get ignored this time around.

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Forgotten series: Bobby Charles – Bobby Charles (1972)

New Orleans native Bobby Charles, long a proponent of the genre of music lovingly referred to as swamp pop, recorded this project not in the Bayou State wetlands but at Bearsville studios in Woodstock, N.Y. Rick Danko and John Simon, famous for their associations with the Band, co-produced the album with Charles.

Charles had actually moved to Woodstock in the early 1970s, long after his song “See You Later Alligator” was a 1956 hit for Bill Haley and the Comets. He set up shop at Bearsville with the help of famed manager Albert Grossman. The result of this musical Louisiana boy woodshedding up north resulted in a collection of funky country grooves, muddy rutted melodies and rustic songwriting.

Sometimes known as the lost Band album because of their relationship with the record, this obscure 1972 classic is brimming with guest stars — local and from out of town, names big and small — who produce unpretentious roots, rock and soul music. A glance at the laundry list of supporting musicians illustrates the wealth of musical power represented on the record.

Four out of the five members of the Band are credited on Bobby Charles, and I am of the opinion that there are some moments where the guitar work sounds suspiciously like the apparently missing Robbie Robertson. (He was, after all, pictured at the sessions.) Also included are Amos Garrett, Ben Keith, Bobby Neuwirth, Dr. John, David Sanborn, Geoff Muldaur, Ben Keith and John Till among others.

The home-cooked and intimate production values from Danko and Simon then serve to stir the jambalaya pot. The only unfortunate factor remains a lack of definitive song credits for who played on what tracks, even all these years later. The credit note in the album reads: “All Musical Arrangements Homemade,” which is fitting due to the records collaborative and rustic elements.

Bobby Charles opens with the sideways strut of “Street People,” a slippery analysis of the separation between the people of economy and proponents of the road. A bopping country bump pushes the groove, underlined with shimmery back-porch slide guitars. The second track, “Long Face,” sounds as if it fell off of the second side of a Band record. What is unmistakably Levon Helm’s woody thump on drums, Garth Hudson’s swirling fingers on organ and Rick Danko moving air on bass equates to a track that sounds as rich and practiced as its supporting instrumentalists. Rumor is that Dr. John helps out on guitar and John Simon on piano respectively, though it could be Richard Manuel on keys, as well. The auditory elements of the track remind one of the time when key production values were patience and warmth. The groove of the song is addictive, and its saloon sensibilities illicit a local flavor.

“I Must Be In A Good Place Now” continues the pastoral attitude of the record, beginning like an outtake off of the Band record Cahoots. Slow and easy, Charles’ encouraging and gentle vocals lounge on the airy instrumentation. The backing group plays as one on this fantastic track, with no single instrument discernible as they stitch themselves into a delicate, lacy supporting sound. “Save Me Jesus” begins with a sweet audio verite moment, with the listener ushered into a take in progress. The soft soulful swing reeks of the moist moss and hearty dark earth of Louisiana. The instrumental backing sounds like the core studio group of Amos Garrett on guitar, Jim Colegrove on bass and N.D. Smart on drums, with the band acting like a lonesome country tire swing pushed by a Bearsville breeze. Lyrically, the song is a hopeful wish for help from Jesus, as Charles has finally lost all hope in humanity. His deadpan delivery is an additional highlight.

“He’s Got All the Whiskey” trickles down the rain spout, with horns and acoustic guitars patiently coalescing together under Charles wordless moans. He sets the beat with hand claps before the drums drop in and the song becomes a display of down-and-dirty gutbucket soul. A collection of horns rise from the horizon, an illuminated mist composed of Garth Hudson, David Sanborn and John Simon interweaving and winding around one another in a stunning and breathy series of blasts. Charles accompanying vocal melody becomes a mantra of jealous statements sung from a comfortable easy chair.

Side two begins with the Charles/Danko co-written “Small Town Talk,” a track which Danko would also record on his later solo debut. This idiosyncratic song starts on a whistle and continues with some spongy Dr. John keyboards, supported by Levon’s one and only groove. Charles’ matter-of-fact vocals sit nicely inside the airy burlap arrangement.

A gentle country lilt follows, as “Let Yourself Go” is highlighted by Ben Keith’s weeping pedal steel work — absolutely breathtaking. This particular song would slot into one of that era’s Poco or Flying Burrito Brothers albums nicely. “Grow Too Old” is a big song with an immense sound and substantial step. I am going to take a chance and say that Richard Manuel plays piano, and possibly sings harmony on this song — due to the fact he would later play it in his own solo concerts, and that it sounds like him at times. Regardless, the song slams around joyously on trebled guitar, rock and roll piano and hot horn playing, securing the vibe of the sessions in a perfect way. The performance is one of the finest on Bobby Charles and one of Charles greatest songs.

Keeping the foot stomping going, “I’m That Way” again features the multiple talents of Ben Keith, this time on slick Dobro. The song features a hillbilly groove and an apathetic attitude, recalling a rollicking back road run through the Catskill Mountains. “Tennessee Blues” closes Bobby Charles with an epic and emotive ballad that defies genre classifications. What is believed to be Amos Garrett’s delicate gold-leaf guitar filigreed dress the song in geographical specific country soul. When Garth Hudson’s accordion appears during the verse, the song levitates through the trees and into the air, becoming a rare bird in flight. Charles’ floral melody line, childlike in its gentle delivery, eases through the leafy green chord changes. During the instrumental segment the song turns sepia, its corners worn smooth into timelessness.

Fast forward more than four decades, and Bobby Charles’ self-titled 1972 release has gained what notoriety it has today through its association with the Band, and various famous musical principals. What its legacy should be based on in addition to this fact is its timeless and beautiful songs.

Already known for his songwriting prowess prior to this, Charles developed a period-piece gem containing music of multiple classifications built around truthful and original themes. He had no issue collecting an impressive arsenal of sympathetic musicians to express his composed ideas because of his acquired notoriety and respect with the artists themselves. Rock aficionados will appreciate the representations of country rock, as well as the roots aspect of the record, all of it so beautifully brought into focus through honest musicianship and masterful songwriting.

Stephen Lewis

Stephen Lewis

A creative writing major at SUNY Brockport and freelance writer from Upstate New York, Stephen Lewis maintains a music-focused site called Talk From the Rock Room: He has also written for UpstateLive Music Guide and Ultimate Classic Rock. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]

Stephen Lewis

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Tags:Bobby Charles, Forgotten Series, John Simon, new release, Rick Danko, Stephen Lewis, The Band

Bobby Charles - He's Got All The Whiskey

Bobby Charles

Bobby Charles

Birth nameRobert Charles Guidry
Born(1938-02-21)February 21, 1938
Abbeville, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedJanuary 14, 2010(2010-01-14) (aged 71)
Louisiana, U.S.
GenresSwamp rock, R&B
Years active1950s–1990s
LabelsBearsville, Stony Plain, Proper, Rice 'n' Gravy Records, Chess Records, Imperial Records

Musical artist

Robert Charles Guidry (February 21, 1938 – January 14, 2010),[1] known as Bobby Charles, was an American singer-songwriter.[2]

Early life[edit]

An ethnic Cajun, Charles was born in Abbeville, Louisiana, United States,[3] and grew up listening to Cajun music and the country and western music of Hank Williams. At the age of 15, he heard a performance by Fats Domino, an event that "changed my life forever," he recalled.[4]

Career and highlights[edit]

Charles helped to pioneer the south Louisiana musical genre known as swamp pop. His compositions include the hits "See You Later, Alligator", which he initially recorded as "Later Alligator", but which is best known from the cover version by Bill Haley & His Comets, and "Walking to New Orleans" and "It Keeps Rainin'", written for Fats Domino.[3]

"(I Don't Know Why) But I Do" was an early 1960s song that Charles composed, which Clarence "Frogman" Henry had a major hit with,[3] and which was on the soundtrack of the 1994 film, Forrest Gump. His composition "Why Are People Like That?" was on the soundtrack of the 1998 film, Home Fries.

Because of his south Louisiana–influenced rhythm and blues vocal style, Charles sometimes has been thought to be black, when he was white.[5]

Charles was invited to play with the Band at The Last Waltz, their November 26, 1976, farewell concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. In the concert, Charles played "Down South in New Orleans", with the help of Dr. John and the Band. That song was recorded and released as part of the triple-LP The Last Waltzbox set. The performance was captured on film by director Martin Scorsese, but did not appear in the final, released theatrical version. Charles did, however, appear briefly in a segment of the released film—in the concert's final song "I Shall Be Released". In this segment, his image is largely blocked from view during the performance. That song, sung by Bob Dylan and pianist Richard Manuel, featured backup vocals from the entire ensemble, including Charles.[6]

He co-wrote the song "Small Town Talk" with Rick Danko of the Band.[3] "The Truth Will Set You Free (Promises, Promises)" was co-written with Willie Nelson.[7]

Charles continued to compose and record (he was based out of Woodstock, New York for a time) and, in 1995, he recorded a duet of "Walking to New Orleans" with Fats Domino.[7]

In September 2020, Bob Dylan featured Charles' song "All the Money" from Charles' 1972 album, Bobby Charles, on Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour: the Whiskey episode.


In September 2007, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame honored Charles for his contributions to Louisiana music with an induction.


Charles collapsed in his home near Abbeville and died on January 14, 2010.[8][1]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Bobby Charles among hundreds of artists who lost material in the 2008 Universal fire.[9]



  • Bobby Charles, 1972 (Bearsville Records)
  • Clean Water, 1987 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records/Zensor Records)
  • Wish You Were Here Right Now, 1994 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records)
  • Secrets of the Heart, 1998 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records/Stony Plain Records)
  • Last Train to Memphis, 2004 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records/Proper Records UK)
  • Homemade Songs, 2008 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records)
  • Timeless, 2010 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records)
  • Better Days: Rare Tracks On Bearsville, 2011 (Bearsville Records) – Recorded 1974[10]


  1. ^ abKeith Spera (January 15, 2010). "Bobby Charles, Louisiana songwriter, dies at 71". Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  2. ^Obituary The Guardian, January 15, 2010.
  3. ^ abcdColin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 456. ISBN .
  4. ^"Bobby Charles". Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  5. ^Obituary The Times, January 30, 2010.
  6. ^[Liner notes]. In The Last Waltz [LP]. Warner Brothers Records Inc., 1978.
  7. ^ ab"CD Album: Bobby Charles - Wish You Were Here Right Now (1995)". Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  8. ^"Swamp pop legend Bobby Charles, 71, dies | The Advertiser". January 14, 2010. Archived from the original on February 29, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  9. ^Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  10. ^"Bobby Charles | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 19, 2021.


  • John Broven, South to Louisiana: Music of the Cajun Bayous (Gretna, La.: Pelican Press, 1983). ISBN 9780882893006
  • Shane K. Bernard, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996). ISBN 978-0878058754

External links[edit]


Charles album bobby

Bobby Charles: Bobby Charles

[cover art]

[CD back cover] [CD song list]

Co-produced by Rick Danko and John Simon, Bobby Charles was the perfect marriage between the good-time Danko side of the Band and Bobby Charles Guidry's own swampy cajun roots. On the opening "Street People", Bobby sounded like a Bowery version of Randy Newman; on "Long Face", he was a bayou Lee Dorsey. Behind him Rick put together a wonderfully loose sound somewhere between the Muscle Shoals Swampers and the band Allen Toussaint had used for his great Minit productions in the '60s. With guest appearances by Garth, Levon, and Richard, as well as Mac Rebennack and Woodstock guitar maestro Amos Garret, it was certainly a far more enjoyable record than Cahoots.
-- Barney Hoskyns, Across the Great Divide

The musician credits on Bobby Charles are not very detailed. This has lead to discussions about who's playing what instrument on what track (see e.g. the notes by Tappenden and Palermo.) The probably most correct personnel listing for the Bobby Charles LP is based on information from Jim Colegrove and Geoff Muldaur.

A 1999 CD rerelease of Bobby Charles on the Castle label features four bonus tracks and liner notes written by Ivan U. I´mac.

The nice Japanese Bobby Charles home page is a good starting point if you want to know more about Charles.

Bobby Charles was reissued by Rhino in 2011, as a 3-CD set with loads of previously unreleased tracks.


(*: bonus tracks on 1999 rerelease)
  1. Street People (B.Charles)
  2. Long Face (B.Charles)
  3. I Must Be in a Good Place Now (B.Charles)
  4. Save Me Jesus (B.Charles)
  5. He's Got All the Whisky (B.Charles)
  6. Small Town Talk (B.Charles/R.Danko)
  7. Let Yourself Go (B.Charles)
  8. Before I Grow Too Old (B.Charles/A.Domino/D.Bartholomew)
  9. I'm That Way (B.Charles)
  10. Tennessee Blues (B.Charles)
  11. * Homemade Songs (Charles)
  12. * New Mexico (Charles)
  13. * Rosie (Charles)
  14. * Small Town Talk (Charles/Danko) [single mix]

Bobby Charles - Bobby Charles - 1972 - LP - Bearsville BR2104
Compact Discs:
Bearsville/Victor Music Ind. Inc. VDP-28045, 1988, Japan.
Stony Plain 1202, 1994.
Bearsville/Pony Canyon Inc. PCCY-00725, 1995, Japan.
Bearsville Records/Castle Music ESM CD 675, 1999 (with bonus tracks.)

AMG Rating: 5 (out of 9)

Bobby Charles \u0026 Rick Danko - New Mexico


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