Allen Toussaint

It was a pleasure to meet Allen Toussaint in New Orleans at Jazzfest '89 just prior to his concert at the civic auditorium. He graciously signed an autograph and dedicated his song: "What do you want the girl to do" to us during the show on account of our upcoming nuptuals.

b. 14 January 1938, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA d. 2015. This influential artist first came to prominence as the touring piano player with Shirley And Lee. The duo's producer, Dave Bartholomew, began using Toussaint on several recording sessions, including those of Smiley Lewis and, on a handful of occasions, Fats Domino. The artist's solo debut came in 1958 with hisWild Sounds Of New Orleans album. One of the tracks, "Java", later became a hit single for trumpeter Al Hirt. Toussaint then joined the emergent Minit Records label as a producer. His first release, Jessie Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo - Part II", was a US Top 30 hit in 1960 and paved the way for similar exemplary work with Irma Thomas, Aaron Neville and Ernie K-Doe. Such artists often recorded Toussaint's songs, several of which were credited to his "Naomi Neville" pseudonym.

Toussaint's work was not restricted to one outlet and local singer Lee Dorsey recorded several "Neville" compositions for the New York-based Fury label. Drafted into the US Army in 1963, Allen's career was temporarily sidelined, although he continued playing with the on-base band, the Stokes.

On return from military service in 1965, he formed a partnership with fellow producer Marshall Sehorn. Lee Dorsey was again the lucky recipient of several exceptional songs, including "Ride Your Pony", "Get Out Of My Life, Woman" and "Working In The Coalmine". Sansu, the label formed by the two entrepreneurs, was also responsible for releases by Betty Harris and the Meters, while the duo also set up their own recording studio, Sea-Saint. Toussaint's own career continued with his self-titled 1971 album whose highlight was the excellent "From A Whisper To A Scream". Life, Love And Faith (1972) was not well received, but Southern Nights (1975) was much stronger and featured the original version of "What Do You Want The Girl To Do?', later covered by Boz Scaggs and Lowell George. Allen's gifts as a songwriter and producer were continually in demand. The Band, Dr. John, Elvis Costello and Paul Simon are only a handful of those who have called upon his talents.