Thursday, June 17, 2010

Screamin' Jay and the Little Demon

One of my very favorite performers is Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
I guess you could call him a blues singer...though that isn't quite right...in any event, what is great about him is that he is friggin' bizarro...and amazing to watch.
His stage persona is what I love best about him.  A Vincent Price of the Blues...you might say.
...a kind of voodoo priest with some stylin' threads including zebra striped loafers.   Often emerging from a coffin, his performances would encorporate everything from rubber snakes, fake tarantulas, to boar's teeth around his neck and in his nose.  Oh...I need to mention Henry.  Henry is his cigarette smokin' skull mounted on a staff.
Screamin' Jay is from Cleveland and had desires to be a opera singer in the style of the famous African American opera star Paul Robeson, but that never came to fruition.  Instead he created his own operatic style...and I mean "style".  He never made it really really big, only a few hits but became a cult favorite.  One of my favorite albums is "Black Music for White People".   His most famous song was "I Put a Spell on You".  Originally designed to be a ballad he added the snorting and rambing's after some hard drinking...which got it banned from radio stations.  Instead of retreating he forged ahead with even more weirdness.    I found a video of him performing it...what a trip...to say the least:

You might have seen him in Jim Jamusch's film Mystery Train.  Screamin' Jay plays a night clerk at a hotel....steals the whole movie in my humble opinion.  Here's a scene...this scene has a few musical greats in it other than Screamin' Jay...it opens with Joe Strummer (lead singer of the Clash) riding in the pickup...then throughout the clip you can hear Tom Waits as the voice of the DJ.  Check it out.

Now the reason I'm rambling on about Screamin Jay is that I was in the studio listening to him the other day and created something in honor of his song "Little Demon".

This is my Little deMon...it's funny how what you're listening to can guide you in a direction.
In honor of the late great Screamin Jay Hawkins....
   I called him Screamin' Demon.

So here's to Screamin Jay...that cat is wild.

7 comments:

burgundybelle said...

I couldn't catch the lyrics so don't know Little Demons story, but he doesn't look all that evil. Kind of like the Devil's Spawn, but not a bad kid.

Janet Bocciardi said...

How did I get this far in life and not hear of this cool dude?! I bet he'd be honored by this tribute and might even have found a kindred spirit...

deb said...

Funny, I'm putting together a New Orleans imix fully appropriate for our highly anticipated NOLA workshop, and Screamin Jay just happens to hold a few spots on my playlist.... I will unveil the playlist to share with whomever wants it as we get closer and closer

Gilding Lilies said...

Tooooo cooool! I loved the video and your little demon is great!

Sharmon Davidson said...

The little demon is awesome, and so is Screamin' Jay! I have to tell you that while watching the video, I almost peed my pants laughing- he is just too cool!

An Evolving Artist @ Swallowcliffs.blogspot.com/ said...

Hey Mike: Great post! Love the screamer!

al_frank2000 said...

Is this little demon for sale? Or perhaps a trade: www.negrofrankenstein.daportfolio.com