Thursday, September 24, 2015

THROWBACK THURSDAY: A House in New Orleans

The House of the Rising Sun
There is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun.

And it's a bed and breakfast in Algiers Point.

No kidding. And according to the website of The Rising Sun, owners Kevin Herridge and Wendy Portier, who have operated the business since 1999, aren't shy about promoting their B&B with the famous song that started out as a lament about a whore house ... unless it was a lament about some correctional facility.

Herridge and Portier acknowledge that their business is not the original House of the Rising Sun. And it probably hasn't been the ruin of many a poor girl. (Or boy.)

"There is a house on St. Louis Street ... in the French Quarter, whose owners claim to be the original House of the Rising Sun brothel, purportedly ran by a Madam named Marianne LeSoleil LEVANT (French for Rising Sun) between 1862 and 1874." the site says.

Also there was a Rising Sun Hotel on Conti Street, but it burned down in 1822. But various other businesses called "Rising Sun" in the French Quarter subsequently rose and fell in the 1800s. There's a good chance that none of these were the "real" House of the Rising Sun. It easily could be a fictitious place.

"Rising Sun has been performed by a huge variety of folk, blues, hillbilly, rock 'n' roll and who knows-what-else artists for more than 80 years, and undoubtedly longer. Here are a few:

Like most people my age, I came to the song via the huge hit by The Animals in 1964. Just a couple of years before, Bob Dylan sang an acoustic version on his first album. He'd learned it from Dave Van Ronk.

Alan Lomax recorded a young girl named Georgia Turner in eastern Kentucky singing it in 1937.

Only problem is, Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster recorded a commercial version three years before.

Nina Simone did an wild gospel-fired version. (An earlier version of this post mistakenly said this version is on her 1962 Nina at the Village Gate album. It's not.)

In 1970 a Detroit band had a hit with a psychedelic version.

The most recent version to grab my attention is a jaunty little number called "In New Orleans (Rising Sun Blues)" on Dave & Phil Alvin's new album Lost Time.

So if you want to spend some time in sin and misery, check out my Spotify playlist below. It includes versions from Joan Baez to Jello Biafra, not to mention covers by Billy Lee Riley, Lead Belly, Roy Acuff, a garage-rock version by The Barbarians, a doo-wop take by Jerry Lawson, some funky Chambers Brothers, and more Enjoy.

For more deep dives into songs, check out The Stephen W. Terrell Web Log Songbook

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