Eddie Bo - Biography
By J Poet
Eddie Bo is one of the most unique pianists to ever come our of the rich New Orleans music scene. Almost unknown outside the Crescent city, Bo recorded for dozens of labels throughout his career including Apollo, Ric, Ace, Chess, and about 35 other important indie R&B logos, but never scored a big hit under his own name. An early single, "Baby I'm Wise," was adapted by Little Richard for his "Slippin' and Slidin'," and his 1962 single “Check Mr. Popeye” almost scored, but covers by Chubby Checker and Huey “Piano” Smith diluted its impact. His local hits included "Every Dog Has Its Day" and "Tell It Like It Is" and he wrote the Etta James hit "My Dearest Darling." In the studio he played piano, produced and arranged for Art Neville, Chris Kenner, Irma Thomas, and many more. He never made a proper album under his own name until Check Mr. Popeye (1988 Rounder), but his hundreds of singles are prized by collectors of R&B, funk and New Orleans soul. In The Pocket With Eddie Bo -- New Orleans Rock & Roll, R&B, Soul, & Funk Goodies 1955 to 2007 (2008 Vampi Soul Spain) is a collection of Bo’s work for himself and other artists. It includes his singles "When The Finger’s On The Funk,” “Check Your Bucket,” “Can You Handle It,” “Gotta Have More", and "We Like Mambo" as well as "Something You Got" by Barbara George, "Shelly's Rubber Band" by Curley Moore & The Cool Ones, and "Garden Of Our Trees" by The Explosions and 20 more. Bo runs a restaurant and recoding studio called Check Your Bucket and still plays regularly at Tipitina’s.
Edwin Bocage was born in New Orleans’ 9th Ward in 1930. He family worked in construction, but all played music at night, including his mother who played Professor Longhair style piano; she learned from Longhair, who was a neighbor. Bo had cousins that played in Sidney Bechet’s band as well. After WW II, Bo studied music at the Grundwald School and took piano, music theory, and arranging. He played bebop and classic music, but hung out at the Dew Drop Inn where he picked up the blues and R&B. Hoping to make a living with his music, he put together the Spider Bocage Orchestra to play R&B and rock. The band was good enough to be hired to back up touring acts like Big Joe Turner, Earl King, Guitar Slim, Johnny Adams, Lloyd Price, Ruth Brown, Smiley Lewis, and The Platters. He began recording as Eddie Bo in 1956 with “My Heart Was Meant For You” on Apollo. Local hits included “I Love To Rock and Roll” (1958 Ace), "Baby I'm Wise" (1962 Ric) and “Check Mr. Popeye” (1962 Ric) almost was a national hit, but covers by Chubby Checker and Huey “Piano” Smith diluted its impact. His local hits included "Every Dog Has Its Day" and "Tell It Like It Is.” Etta James covered his 1957 Chess single "My Dearest Darling" and scored a hit in 1960. Bo also was involved in production and session work for people like Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, Art Neville, Chris Kenner, Chuck Carbo, Irma Thomas, Johnny Adams, Mary Jane Hooper, Robert Parker, The Vibrettes, and The Explosions. In The Pocket With Eddie Bo -- New Orleans Rock & Roll, R&B, Soul, & Funk Goodies 1955 to 2007 (2008 Vampi Soul Spain) collects some of Bo’s singles and work on recordings of other artists. I Love to Rock and Roll (1994 Famous Groove) is dedicated to Bo’s early singles
Bo’s piano style got funkier and odder as time went on, with one critic calling him the Thelonious Monk of New Orleans piano players. In 1969, his Scram single “Hook and Sling, Pts. 1 & 2” broke into the R&B Top 40, but it was his last chart entry. In 1970 he started his own label, Bo-Sound, and scored locally with the funky workouts “Check Your Bucket” and “Pass the Hatchet.”
Bo stopped playing full time in the 70s and set up a construction business, but released sporadic albums of new music including Another Side of Eddie Bo (1979 Bo-Sound) and Watch For The Coming (1984 Bo-Sound). In 1988, Rounder records introduced Bo to a national audience with the album Check Mr. Popeye (1990 Rounder Select), a record of stunning virtuosity. New Orleans Solo Piano (1995 Night Train) showed the 65 year old in top shape blending boogie, be bop, R&B, and second line strut. Shoot from the Root (1996 Soulciety) features Bo and a smoking band laying down classic R&B groves and soulful ballads. In 1990 he began collaborating with Willie DeVille; Bo played piano and wrote new tunes for the albums Victory Mixture (1990 Orleans) and Big Easy Fantasy (1996 New Rose France.) In the wake of these discs, Bo brought back his Bo-Sound logo for several new recordings including Nine Yards of Funk (1998 Bo-Sound), We Come to Party (2001 Bo-Sound) and Saints, Let’s Go Marchin’ In (2007 Bo-Sound.) He still tours internationally and plays frequently in New Orleans at Tipitina's.
Bo has a Congressional Lifetime Achievement Award in Jazz & Blues, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the South Louisiana Music Association and a New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation Award for preserving classic piano playing and New Orleans’ R&B traditions.