Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Fird Eaglin Jr. was one of the greatest guitarists in the history of New Orleans music, a self taught genius who could play fluently in any style and had an encyclopedic knowledge of songs. An operation to remove a tumor blinded him when he was a baby. Snooks began copying the songs he heard on radio and records at age six and became a session player in New Orleans during his teens, playing on Sugarboy Crawford's iconic hit "Jockomo" and leading the popular local band the Flamingos, which also included Allen Toussaint. Eaglin began his recording career in 1958 with Folkways records, which documented him playing songs by Leadbelly and other musicians in the blues street music tradition that was then considered a subtext of folk music. Those sessions were reissued on the 2005 Smithsonian Folkways release New Orleans Street Singer, which showcases his soulful vocals and completely unique fingerpicking style. Beginning in 1960 Eaglin really clicked with Imperial Records under the auspices of producer Dave Bartholomew, making a series of great R&B sides featuring his distinctive voice and single line guitar work backed by an excellent band. Highlights of that era include "Yours Truly," "Cover Girl," "Don't Slam That Door" and "That Certain Door." Eaglin was one of the many forgotten New Orleans artists whose careers were resurrected by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival when he was paired with Professor Longhair at the 1971 festival. He reignited his legend on the Jazzfest stages and revived his recording career on Black Top Records in the 1980s, releasing four albums with the label, including Baby, You Can Get Your Gun(1987)," Out of Nowhere (1988) and Soul's Edge (1995). In 2003 the live Soul Train from Nawlins came out on P-Vine records. Eaglin continued to play at Mid City Lanes with George Porter Jr. offering sympathetic backup on bass until last year.