Friday, 31 July 2015

Bama Lama Ding Dong

Born in August 1939 in Fairfield, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, Cleveland Josephus Eaton II is an American jazz double bassist. A genuine prodigy, he was playing piano at the age of five, saxophone by the time he was eight and trumpet two years later. When he reached 15 he was introduced him to the tuba and string bass.

Best known for his work with the Ramsey Lewis Trio and the 17 years he spent with the Count Basie Orchestra, Cleveland Eaton has played with both jazz and pop artists during his long career: Ike Cole, Minnie Riperton, George Benson, Henry Mancini, Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstein, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and many more big names have benefited from having the man dubbed “the Count’s Bassist” play on their sessions. Eaton has also performed live with Nancy Wilson, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis, Jr., Julie London, Brook Benton, Lou Rawls, Herbie Hancock, The Platters, The Temptations and The Miracles among others.

In 1974, he began performing and touring with his own group, Cleve Eaton and Co., the following year releasing Plenty Good Eaton, now considered a funk classic. In 2004 his group became known as Cleve Eaton and the Alabama All Stars.

The two tracks on this 45 – Bama Boogie Woogie and The Funky Cello – originally appeared on Eaton’s 1976 album Instant Hip. Pete Waterman (yes, that Pete Waterman) heard the album, sniffed a disco hit and placed the tracks with the short-lived Gull Records here in the UK (home to Judas Priest and Typically Tropical). Issued as a single in 1978, the release was followed by an album, also called Bama Boogie Woogie, which compiled tracks from Instant Hip and Plenty Good Eaton. Waterman cheekily bagged himself a credit (for A&R Co-ordination) for doing little more than posessing a pair of ears.

The ‘lyrics’ to Bama Boogie Woogie (composed by Eaton himself) are

Get yourself together – yeah!
Do it any way you wanna do it
Do it any way you wanna
Do it any way you wanna
Bama Boogie
Bama Boogie Woogie
Do the Bama
The Bama Boogie Woogie

And that’s it (or variations of that) for the song’s entire length. The words to The Funky Cello are even better:
Hey hey hey!
This dance is called the Funky Chell-oh-ho…

Again, that’s the entire lyric. Utter tripe. 

His official website states that ‘Eaton’s version of Bama Boogie Woogie became a phenomenal best seller in the United Kingdom’. It didn’t: it entered the UK singles charts at 64, rose the following week to 35 and then started to spiral downwards. Even the addition of a blue vinyl 12” version couldn’t arrest its descent. It’s an awful record. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with the instrumentation, but the vocals are a classic example of everything that is wrong with disco music: insipid, pointless lyrics that should have been erased from the master tape before the tracks ever saw the light of day. and they're noxious, burrowing away at your brain like an earworm. Try as hard as you will to do otherwise, you'll find yourself suddenly singing 'This dance is called the funky chell-ohh-hoh' at the most inopportune moments.

According to The Birmingham Weekly (May 2009), Eaton was diagnosed with oral cancer. In January 2011 his official website reported that was is cancer free. I hope he continues to enjoy good health, but sincerely wish that the great man never attempts disco again.



  1. Definitely have to agree with you about these clunkers, but Eaton did have another go in the disco field. And I think a better effort was made. Radio Trent tried to make this a hit, but didn't get very far.

  2. Since the whole point of disco was to dance, why would you have lyrics in the first place? I think that both of these tracks (plus many others) would have worked quite well as instrumentals


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