Georgie Fame

Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames were at the top of the singles chart in the UK with ‘Yeh Yeh’ on this day in 1965.

The song was originally recorded by legendary Afro-Cuban jazz percussionist and band leader Ramón “Mongo” Santamaria in 1963, and later that year, at the Newport Jazz Festival, with lyrics by Jon Hendricks of American jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross (by now Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan).

Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames were one of the most popular, and most jazz-influenced, R&B bands on the London club circuit in the Sixties. They had two other UK chart-topping singles: ‘Get Away’, in June 1966, and ‘The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde’, in December 1967. The latter was also a Top Ten hit stateside.

Singer, pianist and organist Georgie, a founder member of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, also enjoyed a successful solo career and became a much sought-after hired-hand; indeed, he can be heard on On an Island, played and acted as musical director on all of Van Morrison’s albums between 1989 and 1997, and has also worked with the likes of Count Basie, Eric Clapton, Gene Vincent and Muddy Waters.

Here’s the song, anyway. Get a load of the front row. And you thought only the youth of today has a tendency to appear empty-headed and expressionless.

Just kidding, kids.

The topic today, then, as I hear you scratching your puzzled brows: recommended, possibly jazz-influenced, tracks from your favourite keyboardists and organists (as opposed to pianists, as we’ve already covered them).

I can’t decide if it would be best to spend an hour or so listening to the glorious music that Richard Wright composed before or after I attempt this exercise. The one thing I can be sure of is that I will not be the only one likely to question whether there has ever been anyone I have enjoyed listening to more.

Wikipedia has a list of Hammond organ players, which of course includes Richard, and has reminded me of a few talented others. For example, Dave “Baby” Cortez, who also recorded ‘Yeh Yeh’ in 1965 and apparently gave us the first pop/rock hit to feature the organ as the lead instrument (‘The Happy Organ’ in 1959, which was also Billboard’s first instrumental Hot 100 No. 1, fact fans).