Al 'Carnival Time' Johnson: Carnival Time
Al 'Carnival Time' Johnson (vocals)
Carnival Time: The Best of Ric Records (Volume One) (Rounder 2075)
Al 'Carnival Time' Johnson (vocals),
either Hungry Williams or Walter Lastie (drums); Placide Adams or George Davis (bass); James Rivers, Robert Parker and/or Lee Allen (tenor sax); Justin Adams or Edgar Blanchard (guitar), Dr. John (piano).
Composed by Al Johnson.
Recorded: New Orleans, 1959 or 1960
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Fifty years after it was recorded, this song still shows up on the airwaves at Mardi Gras time in New Orleans. It was such a defining hit for Al Johnson that the song became his nickname. "Everybody's having fun," the song proclaims—except for Mr. 'Carnival Time' himself. This classic New Orleans single was long a sore spot for Johnson, who was unable to secure rights to the royalty stream until 1999. Instead, he earned a living as a cab driver while others celebrated with his song playing in the background. Gaining control over his composition hardly signaled a turnaround in Johnson's life, and he lost his house in Hurricane Katrina, was forced to relocate to Houston, and only recently got a Habitat for Humanity home back in his home town (in Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis's "Musicians' Village"). What a contrast between the man and his music. This is a quintessential good time, partyin' tune with a big back beat and an extroverted vocal that is the closest thing to an invitation to a saturnalia allowed on the radio, circa 1960. The recording quality is abysmal, even by standards of the era. But it sounds a little bit better after each bottle of beer.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia
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A History of New Orleans Music in 100 Tracks edited by Ted Gioia