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Mama Don't Like It! 1950-1956

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Album Review

Smiley Lewis recorded for a few labels, but the sides he cut for Imperial in the first half of the 1950s were his most enduring. This fine anthology has 33 of them, including the songs for which he will be most remembered, even if they achieved their greatest success via other versions: "I Hear You Knocking" (covered by Fats Domino and, much later, Dave Edmunds), "One Night" (done with cleaned-up lyrics by Elvis Presley), and "Blue Monday" (also covered by Domino). Championed by critics and collectors but forgotten by most of the general population, Lewis was perhaps the greatest exponent of New Orleans R&B during this period bar Lloyd Price and Domino himself. As famed New Orleans musician/arranger Dave Bartholomew was involved in these recordings (as he was with Domino's), it's hard to imagine that fans of Domino and the like won't enjoy this collection. It's true that it isn't as varied as Domino's work, and that the aforementioned songs are the most memorable and strongest of the lot. Less youthful and pop-friendly than Domino and Price, Lewis' foggy vocals and the crack New Orleans R&B backing nonetheless exuded a similar exuberant charm, though he was less adaptable to the oncoming rock & roll explosion than his local peers were. There have been more elaborate Lewis collections, but this is a fine, good-value entry point, with good liner notes and a sessionography of his Imperial recordings.

Biography

Born: 05 July 1913 in DeQuincy, LA

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

Dave Bartholomew has often been quoted to the effect that Smiley Lewis was a "bad luck singer," because he never sold more than 100,000 copies of his Imperial singles. In retrospect, Lewis was a lucky man in many respects -- he enjoyed stellar support from New Orleans' ace sessioneers at Cosimo's, benefited from top-flight material and production (by Bartholomew), and left behind a legacy of marvelous Crescent City R&B. Born with the unwieldy handle of Overton Lemons, Lewis hit the Big Easy in...
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Mama Don't Like It! 1950-1956, Smiley Lewis
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