Yvette Landry – Taking The World, By Storm
University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press
Yvette Landry knows a bit about music – in addition to be a mother, an adjunct college professor, and a noted author, she is a Grammy nominated vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, appearing on more than twenty recordings including four under her own name. Growing up in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, she was surrounded by a melting pot of musical influences that spanned Cajun, black Creole, country and blues. But she spent many a night dancing to the unique sounds of swamp pop, which blended the best of those genres into a unique musical gumbo.
To celebrate the music, Landry has put together a loving tribute to the “Godfather of Swamp Pop,” singer and drummer Warren Storm (Warren Schexnider). Starting with a foreword by another fine Louisiana vocalist, Marc Broussard, Landry takes readers through Storm’s storied career utilizing the interview format. She asks questions, giving him the opportunity to provide a wealth of information. What makes the book all the more interesting are the photographs that are intertwined with the text, starting with a B&W of Storm at the age of three, holding a ball in his lap.
Taking after his father, who played a variety of instruments with drums as his primary choice, Storm was surrounded by music growing up. The family regularly tuned in the Grand Ole Opry radio show, often featuring the youngster’s favorite singers, Hank Williams Sr. and George Jones. Practicing on his father’s drum set, Storm became good enough to play in his father’s band , in addition to an invitation to join the high school band his senior year, even though he could not read music. As a teenager, he befriended a fellow music lover, starting a life-long friendship with Bobby Charles, the famed songwriter. Storm relates how he was driving the car while Charles composed one of his memorable hits, “Walking To New Orleans”.
Landry gets Storm to discuss his first bands, leading to a friend’s introduction to the legendary producer J.D. Miller in Crowley, LA, who produced Storm’s first record on the NASCO Records label. The double sided hit had “Mama, Mama, Mama” backed with a reworking of a standard, ‘The Prisoner’s Song”. Selling over 250,000 copies, the record ignited Storm’s career, drawing huge crowds for the singing drummer’s live performances. Other records followed, as well as appearances on a wealth of recordings as a session drummer, including titles by blues legends like Lazy Lester, Lightnin’ Slim, and Lonesome Sundown. In 2002, he cut an album for St. George Records in Chicago, Dust My Blues, that featured backing by Studebaker John.
The book is divided into sections, each one packed with plenty of photos. The ones focused on his career come first, highlighted by one covering his time with Lil’ Band Of Gold, a group flush with top-notch Louisiana musicians including Steve Riley and C.C. Adcock. Landry also delves into Storm’s family life and the many celebrities and musical legends that he has met over the decades. One exceptional color photo shows Storm with guitarists James Johnson and Rudy Richard, Lazy Lester, and drummer Jockey Etienne, all of whom played with Slim Harpo, and singer Carol Fran. Later sections cover his awards and promotional photos spanning the years.
Interspersed throughout the book are commentaries from friends, writers, and fellow musicians that attest to Storm’s place in the history of Louisiana’s music. The closing section highlights the latest chapter in Storm’s recording career, a new album that finds him revisiting songs from his past with help from an all-star cast including slide guitar wizard Sonny Landreth and saxophonist Derek Huston, another Lil’ Band of Gold member. There are a few minor editing misses, with Tex Ritter’s name spelled “Ridder” underneath a promo shot with his named spelled correctly at the bottom, and on page 104, Texas musician Doug Sahm’s name is correct in the left hand column on the page, becoming “Sham” two paragraphs later in the right column.
Many thanks to Yvette Landry for this beautiful tribute to one of the many musicians who have made lasting, meaningful contributions to music while rarely getting the praise and adulation commensurate with their accomplishments. Be sure you get a copy of this book to understand why Warren Storm is indeed the “Godfather of Swamp Pop”!
(For more on the companion CD, Taking The World By Storm, see Rainey Wetnight’s review for Blues Blast – http://www.bluesblastmagazine.com/warren-storm-taking-the-world-by-storm-album-review/