Saturday, February 11, 2006

King Floyd ~ A Good New Orleans Story

In the early 70's, New Orleans had become the favorite destination of many of the touring bands as a convenient location for a lay-over to relax for several days. The Crescent City offered a warm climate for a brief vacation combined with it's fabulous restaurants offering the luring tendency to overindulge in any capacity that one could imagine. There was music, dancing, parties and it was all there on Bourbon Street. As part of my job as the Regional Promotion Director for Atlantic Records, it was my responsibility to be familiar with the territory and canvass the community while frequenting many of it's attractions. And of course after numerous trips to the French Quarter, I made it part of my dossier to know all the hot-spots, and all of the not-spots. If only expense accounts could talk.

The city has a rich tradition of music heritage and offers a colorful back-drop for entertainment ranging from Jazz, Blues, Cajun and Zydeco Music. These multiple influences produced a masterful mix of sounds and rhythms. A great deal of the history of Atlantic Records and it's artists had deep roots in these categories which greatly influenced American Music. Bourbon Street's music history was similar to the Memphis Beale Street legend and conveyed the black musicians expressive display of feelings. These two regional areas produced timeless music that sounded both old and new at the same time. Many music legends first got their start in New Orleans such as; Fats Domino, Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, Professor Longhair, Al Hurt, Pete Fountain, Gatemouth Brown and Dr. John among others. Not surprisingly, New Orleans radio played a pivotal role in the initial successes of many of the regional artist. This association between the city's musical background and its longstanding relationship with the media dictated great expectations for a newly assigned promotion representative. New Orleans was, in a sense, a starting gate for many of Atlantic's artist to test their wings. These were big shoes to fill for a promotion man and I had my work cut out for me.

Local independent distributors were the lifeline for record companies to place product into the mom and pop record stores located throughout each region. If ever there was a breeding ground for the single (a 45 RPM record) to prosper it was definitely in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas ranking among the strongest. Commonly referred to as 'Swamp Country', the area produced a distinctive culture of people that often purchased records before they would purchase food or clothing. Locals even had their own dialect and pronounced words like "no" as "neux" and communicated the word "yes"-with only a simple nod of the head. On most occasions, when there was a local record breaking in this area, Atlantic Records would be the first label to be offered the national distribution rights. Such was the case when Chimneyville Records had a huge local hit and needed the marketing strength to maintain its momentum. "Groove Me" by King Floyd was a local song that had become an absolute monster smash in which record stores couldn't keep in-stock while retail traffic continued to beat a steady path to their counters. Atlantic rushed to the rescue and inked a distribution pack with Chimneyville to distribute King Floyds hit record. Problem was however, there wasn't any pop music airplay to maintain the growth.

Atlantic Records sought a remedy for the pop airplay dilemma when I received a call from the New York office with the instructions to escort King Floyd to the Top Forty radio stations in New Orleans. There had been strong resistance from the pop music formant to program this record with the programmers thinking the song might alienate some listeners with its hard edge-funk. My task was to smooze over any negative stigmatisms by intoducing the mild mannered King Floyd to the Program Directors, all of which were white middle-class executives. In putting the two together, I contacted radio personnel whereas they were encouraged to meet with the local artist depending upon location. New Orleans was a city with thousands of four-star restaurants some of which even employed actual French Chefs and waiters to serve the distinguished patrons. An intense search was made for an elegant meeting place to provide the proper ambiance for the occasion. In spite of a city of famous cuisine and unlimited resources, King Floyd insisted that all parties meet at his favorite eating place, the downtown New Orleans Walgreens Cafeteria. Amidst the back-drop of panhandling street people and the blaring sounds of police sirens, the meeting took place at the cafeteria without a hitch. By the time that all parties had choked-down there 99 cent plate lunches, King Floyd had charmed the program directors into taking a chance on playing his new record. Days later, "Groove Me" became a instant smash at the formant that had previously been a reluctant holdout. It didn't take long for the areas record distributors to cash-in on huge sales that were generated by this newfound pop airplay. In nearby Shreveport, Louisiana, Stan's Record Distributor broke all regional sales by selling a whopping 300,000 single copies of King Floyd's "Groove Me."

King Floyd's chocolatey-velvet voice was reminisense of fellow New Orleans' Arron Neville and Lee Dorsey. Just sprinkle-in a little Caribbean Reggae, New Orleans Funk and Jackson Mississippi Rhythm and you got the bright talent of King Floyd.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How would you write off a cafeteria meals as your company expense ?

Very interesting.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Val Richard said...

"Groove Me" what a killer hit! It rates up there with a heavy funk quotient like "Mr Big Stuff" Classic Jackson Mississippi Soul. We've lost another good one to the Lord's All Star Soul Revue.

5:42 PM  

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