Johnny Jenkins – 1970 – Ton-Ton Macoute!
Johnny Jenkins‘ Ton-Ton Macoute is a fine bowl of Southern gumbo. Aided and abetted by the likes of Duane Allman (this started as an Allman solo disc, but when he formed the Allman Brothers Band, Jenkins put his vocals over the tracks best suited), Dickey Betts, and those great guys from Muscle Shoals, Jenkins cooks on such cuts as “Down Along the Cove” from the pen of Bob Dylan, and Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone“.
But it is Dr. John’s “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” which shines here and is the one which folks will recognize as the basis for Beck’s hit “Loser”. On the slippery “Blind Bats & Swamp Rats” you can almost feel the heat and humidity rolling out of the bayou.
Great Southern funk & roll for the discerning listener. It even includes educational liner notes which tell the tale behind each cut.
A1 I Walk on Gilded Splinters 5:23
A2 Leaving Trunk 4:07
A3 Blind Bats & Swamp Rats 4:46
A4 Rollin’ Stone 4:48
B1 Sick and Tired 4:11
B2 Down Along the Cove 3:03
B3 Bad News 3:21
B4 Dimples 2:40
B5 Voodoo in You 4:42
This album actually started life as a solo Duane Allman project but hit the rocks when he changed management and formed The Allman Brothers Band. Inheriting another artist’s album doesn’t sound ideal but under the careful handling of Johnny Sandlin and others this project carried on after a brief hiatus and eventually came to fruition. The record that followed ended up featuring many of the same musicians and instead of Allman it succeeded in introducing the world to the considerable talents of one Johnny Jenkins.
The choice of Jenkins as the man to front this material seems logical from the outset. He has one of those voices that is equally at home in both a rock music setting and a stripped down acoustic blues setting (not to mention his credentials as a soul singer as evidenced on “My Love Will Never Die” – one of two tracks included that did not make it onto the original vinyl album). He is backed by a strong group of musicians throughout including Allman himself playing everything from dobro through to electric guitar; Johnny Sandlin or Butch Trucks on drums; Robert Popwell on bass; Paul Hornsby on Wurlitzer piano, and Pete Carr on guitar. There’s a definite southern feel to almost everything on here and the inclusion of the percussionist Jaimoe on some of the tracks also adds a touch of New Orleans to parts of the album.
One glance at the choice of songs also assures us that this promises to be a high quality set: Sleepy John Estes, Bob Dylan, John D. Loudermilk, John Lee Hooker. Not a bad bunch of songwriters I’ll think you agree. The two tracks recorded live in the studio with a full band and additional female backing vocals are particularly strong, especially the excellent “Voodoo in You“. At the other end of the spectrum, the acoustic “Rollin’ Stone” allows us to appreciate Jenkins’ guitar playing over the top of a rhythm tapped out on a piece of 4 x 8 plywood on the studio floor.
Listening to this album only serves to highlight what a great shame it was that Jenkins chose not to follow up this recording with any new material until the final decade of his life. Ton-Ton Macoute! shows that surrounded by the right people he was capable of releasing records that matched those of far more established artists.
This remains an underrated gem.