Songs Of The Day 4/10/2015: Bobby Marchan – “There's Something On Your Mind 2” + “You’re Still My Baby, Pt. 2”

We Need to Talk: Even within the vibrant cultural patchwork of New Orleans music, Bobby Marchan’s career was one of the most intriguing and exceptional. As a youngster he grew up equally taken with blues music and drag performers. He started working as a female impersonator in his twenties, for a troupe called the Powder Box Revue. Also according to his 1999 obituary in The Independent, Marchan relocated to New Orleans and became emcee at Club Tijuana, also adopting a drag persona. The Southern tradition of female impersonation and drag shows, especially in New Orleans, stretches back to the 1930’s. Vintage establishments like the extinct Club My-O-My put on renown revues that drew equally enthusiastic gay and straight audiences. It only became a “problem” when the forces of fundie religion and anti-Commie dingbats found a new revenue stream in defining and hunting down “subversives.” Anyway, never mind. The point is that Marchan became a NOLA superstar and from time to time “discussed make-up with Little Richard.”

When New Orleans emerged as the earliest center of R&B – well, to be honest, it was the earliest center of three-quarters of all damn 20th century popular music – Marchan briefly transitioned into the mainstream and scored a #1 national R&B hit in 1960 with his interpretation of Big Joe McNeely’s “There’s Something On Your Mind” – but it was the second part of his recording, the mainly spoken-word portion, that drew the attention. It’s a weird, uncomfortably impassioned description of a theoretical love triangle that ends badly for all participants. That such moral ambiguity, not at all uncommon in straight blues music, found its way to national acclaim in the early ’60s is pretty telling. Even inspirational, in a way that excites cultural anthropologists, which I hope we’re all training to become. As a bonus I’ve thrown in the very similar “You’re Still My Baby, Part 2,” which zeroes in on the forlorn desperation without quite so much of a body count.

Some other fun facts about Bobby Marchan: He was once the personal valet for Rudy Ray Moore – Dolemite himself. He operated his own local version of The Gong Show in the ’80s and ‘90s. In the latter years of his life he was one of the founders of Cash Money Records, the label that brought you Lil’ Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Juvenile – although, despite everyone giving Marchan credit for the genesis of Cash Money, nobody’s exactly sure what he did. He may have just gone to Kinko’s for business cards. We just don’t know. Or at least nobody's telling.

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