Have you ever had a song stuck in your head, yet you didn’t know the artist, didn't know the title, didn't know the words and only had a vague recollection of a melody--but that melody was strong enough to keep you haunted, hunting high & low in a seamlessly never-ending search...no, ... QUEST, to find it? Well folks, I did and this record was my "white whale" for years.
Now dig while I bore y’all with the details…
Back in the late 70s, my sister would wake me up for school every morning and the radio in our room was always set to either "WBLS" or "92 WKTU-FM" (thems iz NYC radio stations for the uninitiated). Both stations primarily spun R&B & Dance Music but I remember that the KTU DJs would always throw in some odd-sounding stuff during their morning shows. Now when I say "odd-sounding," I just mean odd to my ears at the time, since the tunes were usually novelty records and material they strayed far from their ordinary programmed playlist. I was 6 or 7, but I remember hearing stuff like the Waitresses' "I Know What Boys Like," Coati Mundi's "Me No Pop I", and "Eugene" by Crazy Joe & The Variable Speed Band.
One morning, I heard a song that caught my attention. They played it a few more times over the following weeks but I always missed the station ID breaks in-between sets where they'd back-announce the songs so I never got a title or artist to hang on the song. The few listens were all it took for the melody of the hook to get stuck in my brain. That unknown melody would randomly play on repeat in my head over the next 4 years before I finally decided to do something about it. The only problem was, by the time I’d decided I liked the song enough to want to own it, it had long since been dropped from rotation and the station's format had changed since I'd heard it in it's original form so I had no way of tracking it down or finding out who it was or what it was called
I don’t know how, but somehow I got the notion that the song I wanted was sung by Kid Creole & The Coconuts. Maybe it was because their stuff had the same kinda vibe as the track I was looking for…who knows. Still, being a kid with basically no income, it took a loooong time but I started buying up Kid Creole records one by one when I could afford to. I was usually semi-disappointed with each one because although each one was a gem in its own right, none of them had the song I wanted. I did figure out that this cat by the name of August Darnell was the common link between all the Kid Creole stuff I’d been buying and the Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band 45 of “Cherchez La Femme” fame I‘d already had at home and that kinda had that same sound. Armed with this nugget of knowledge, I began snatching up anything and everything with Darnell’s name on it. Over the years that followed, I wound up collecting all four Savannah Band albums as well as a bunch of material from Creole/Darnell offshoot projects like Coati Mundi, Machine, Don Armando’s 2nd Avenue Rhumba Band, and Cory Day. After all this I still was no closer to finding my mystery song and just about gave up the hunt cuz it was just costing way too much dough.
Cut to my freshman year of college, during which time I worked nights at a NYC record store where I met up with a “music connoisseur” who mentioned he was a huge Kid Creole fan. I sang him the melody and he said it sounded familiar but he couldn’t remember the title or artist but was sure it had something to do with August Darnell. I finally had some sort of confirmation that I was on the right track and with that, the hunt resumed. One night a few months later, during my lunch break, I stopped in to Bleecker Bob’s in Greenwich Village and rifled thru his “Kid Creole” section (they would sometimes lump related artists together in the same bin). I pulled up this colorful, self-titled album that I’d never seen before by a group I’d never heard of calling themselves Gichy Dan's Beechwood #9. I flipped it over and sure enough...BAM!...there was Darnell’s name all over the back of the jacket. I was already down to my last few dollars for the week but I couldn’t resist the gamble, so I walked out of the store that night, flat-broke with a new addition to my stacks tucked under my arm. I subsequently ran back to work, pulled my handy Mister Disc portable turntable out of my locker and dropped the needle on it….SUCCESS!!! The track was “Laissez Faire” and my search was finally over.
As I mentioned above, Gichy Gan's Beechwood #9 was a side-project of writer/producer/musician August Darnell while he was still part of Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band. The story goes that Darnell had written a number of tunes that Savannah Band wound up not using so he called upon the talents of Frank "Pago Pago" aka "Gichy Dan" Passalaqua and vocalist Lourdes Cotto along with a huge roster of musicians whose names would adorn many Darnell-produced album covers in years to come. In 1979, the ensemble delivered their sole LP on the RCA label. In the following year, Darnell would go on to release the first of many albums under his Kid Creole alias. In 1981, a single called "Cowboys & Gangsters" was released on Island Records' ZE subsidiary. This would be the last official Gichy Dan project.
Gichy Dan's Beechwood #9 is long out of print on vinyl and might give you a hard time if you're looking for a clean copy to call your own. Still, you can try your luck here. If the vinyl frontier isn't for you, fear not good people, because an official CD reissue of the album is slated for release sometime in the very near future. When it drops, you should be able to nab a copy here.
Featured cut: "Laissez Faire"
Listen to my vinyl rip here.