It is taking longer than expected to fetch the next song to play. The music should be playing soon. If you get tired of waiting, you can try reloading your browser.


Please check our Help page for information about troubleshooting Pandora on your browser.

Please ensure you are using the latest Flash Player.


If you are unable or do not wish to upgrade your Flash Player,
please try a different browser.


Please check our Help page for information about troubleshooting Pandora on your browser.
Your Pandora Plus subscription will expire shortly.
More Info
No Thanks
Your Pandora Plus trial will expire shortly.
Restore
Close
close
Your Pandora Plus trial subscription will expire shortly. Upgrade to continue unlimited, ad-free listening.
Upgrade Now
You've listened to hours of Pandora this month. Consider upgrading to Pandora Plus.
More Info
No Thanks
Close
Hi . Pandora is using Facebook to personalize your experience. Learn MoreNo Thanks
 Upgrade  sign up   |   help   |  
-0:00
0:00
Change Skin

Free personalized radio that
plays the music you love

Now Playing
Music Feed
My Profile
Create a Station
People who also like this

Bobby Mitchell

Bobby Mitchell & the Toppers were part of the wave of New Orleans rock & rollers who followed in the wake of Fats Domino and Lloyd Price. Although the group had limited success (their best known song, "Try Rock 'n Roll," climbed into the R&B Top 20 nationally, and "I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday" was a smash in numerous localities without ever charting nationally) and broke up in 1954, Mitchell remained a popular figure in New Orleans R&B for 35 years.

Bobby Mitchell (August 16, 1935-March 17, 1989) was born in Algiers, LA, the second oldest of what were eventually 17 children in a family that made its living fishing the Mississippi River -- Mitchell himself contributed to the family's well-being by cutting and selling wood. When he was ten years old, Mitchell got a job after school making deliveries for a liquor store, and it was while hanging around the store that he started singing -- he was good enough then that people gave him nickels and dimes for his performances.

Mitchell played football in school until an injury sidelined him permanently, after which he joined the school chorus. By the time he was done with school, the music teacher was giving him solos on numbers such as "Ol' Man River" and "You'll Never Walk Alone." At age 17, he was in his first singing group, the Louisiana Groovers. By that time, Mitchell was falling firmly under the influence of R&B, most especially the sound of Roy Brown.

Mitchell wrote his first original song, "One Friday Morning," a doo wop-style ballad, which he cut as a demo with help from a teacher with a tape recorder (still a relative rarity in 1952). That tape got auditioned at a local radio station, and this led to the formation of a backing group called the Toppers, consisting of Lloyd Bellaire (tenor), Joseph Butler (tenor), Willie Bridges (baritone), Frank Bocage (bass), and Gabriel Fleming (piano). Vocally, they were influenced by acts such as Clyde McPhatter and the Dominoes, although they also listened to the records of Roy Hamilton and Nat King Cole. One factor that prevented them from coming up with a firmer direction of their own at the time was their youth -- Mitchell was barely 17 at the time.

Eventually, they hooked up with producer Dave Bartholomew, and at his urging they cut some demos for Imperial Records. The group did as asked, but at the time it seemed as though it wasn't going to work out too well. The six of them were walking eight miles each day to the studio to practice with Bartholomew, and in the end Imperial only wanted Mitchell, until the singer insisted that it was all of them or nothing. Bartholomew relented, and in the meantime, the group had its first original song, "Rack 'Em Back," written by Joe Butler in response to the clowning on those long walks.

This became the B-side of their debut single, while a Lloyd Bellaire original, "I'm Crying," was the A-side. Released in May of 1953, it didn't sell well, although it was a beginning -- Mitchell's voice was powerful and extremely expressive but quirkily uneven in the beginning, which made recording him tricky; the Toppers' singing was smooth, and the backing, by Lee Allen on tenor sax, Earl Palmer on drums, and Red Taylor on baritone sax (with Bartholomew on trumpet), was as solid as any rock & roll cut in New Orleans during that era. On stage in those early days, however, the group's instrumental backing was Gabriel Fleming's piano.

"I'm Crying" sold well in places like Cincinnati and Houston, but Mitchell and his group were unable to appear there to push the record any further, largely because of their ages and the fact that they were still required to attend school. Additionally, they weren't able to play any nightclubs even locally because they were underage, so they played high school dances, parties, weddings, and events at places like the American Legion Hall. Their recording career continued with more sessions resulting in classics such as "4x11 Equals 44," a rock tune built around a set of popular lottery numbers.

Mitchell had trouble juggling the requirements of a career with school, and the Toppers endured until early 1954, when they finally split up after a session that included two hot songs, the raucous "School Boy Blues," with its killer guitar intro by Justin Adams, and "Sister Lucy," the latter highlighted by a Lee Allen solo. "Sister Lucy" ended up as the B-side of a local double-sided hit with Bellaire's "My Baby's Gone"; "Sister Lucy" pulled in white listeners, while Bellaire's song reached the black stations and clubs.

The Toppers' breakup came about because of the military draft, which claimed the members as they turned 18. Lloyd Bellaire joined the Army, while Frank Bocage joined the Navy, and Joseph Butler and Willie Bridges joined the Air Force. They did cut one more session late in the year but essentially ceased to exist in the spring of 1954. Ironically, just at that moment "My Baby's Gone" and "Sister Lucy" became local hits. Mitchell and the Toppers were suddenly in serious demand, and with Gabriel Fleming he organized a new group called the King Toppers.

The local success of "My Baby's Gone" was never repeated nationally, and his next record, "Nothing Sweet As You"/"I Wish I Knew," failed to chart. Mitchell was inactive in the studio for 1955. He returned to recording early in 1956 with a song tailor-made for the period, "Try Rock 'n Roll," one of those tunes meant to exploit the now-popular music style and name. That record made it to number 14 on the Billboard R&B chart, although it did far better than that in certain cities, and Mitchell was now getting booked onto all-star shows as far away as New York and Los Angeles.

In 1957 Bartholomew received a song by a Cajun writer named Roy Hayes called "I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday" and gave it to Mitchell to record. It became a hit locally in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Kansas City, among other places, and got Mitchell a spot on American Bandstand. Mitchell also proved something of a surprise to promoters and disc jockeys in those cities where he'd never played before, because they assumed, on the basis of that record, that he was white.

Mitchell's sporadic success on Imperial ended in 1958, as the label dropped most of its New Orleans acts except for Fats Domino. He continued performing and recording, now trying to support a wife and her three children by a previous marriage. He signed with a succession of smaller labels in the early '60s, along the way working with Dr. John. By the mid-'60s, the couple had eight children and Mitchell's career had stalled. He still played shows in Houston and Mobile, but his records weren't selling -- he was back with Imperial Records very briefly, and then returned to Rip Records, where he'd previously cut a couple of singles. Those sides for Rip and Sho-Biz were among the finest songs that Mitchell ever recorded, but were largely unheard.

A heart attack in the early '60s brought an end to his career on the road. Mitchell continued performing in New Orleans, where he remained a music celebrity for the next 29 years, performing regularly and eventually finding new recognition. Toward the end of his life, he also saw the first money from his original Imperial recordings with the release of a reissue LP, I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday. Mitchell became one of New Orleans' most visible and forthcoming '50s veterans. He passed away in 1989 after years of worsening illnesses, including diabetes, kidney failure, and two further heart attacks.

Many of Mitchell's early recordings were influenced by the dominant musical personalities of his day, including Roy Brown, Roy Hamilton, and, especially, Fats Domino, which was understandable since he shared the same producer and was on the same label. His voice had a distinct quality all its own, however, which became recognizable once he became comfortable in the studio. The Toppers, who ceased working with Mitchell after mid-1954, were a somewhat unpredictable group musically, mostly owing to their ages, and their sound was consciously derivative of numerous vocal groups of the period, especially the early Drifters. With Bartholomew's top session men backing them up, however, their records were solid New Orleans R&B at its best, and many of the records are classics of the sound from that era, if not on a par with those of Fats Domino then certainly residing on the level just below his and Lloyd Price's. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Snatch And Grab It!

1. Snatch And Grab It

2. Boogie Woogie Blue Plate

4. For You My Love

5. Baby Please Don't Go

6. I'm Gonna Dig Myself A Hole

7. Ain't Gonna Do It

8. Mr. Highway Man (Cadillac Daddy)

9. That Chick's Too Young To Fry

10. It Went Down Easy

11. Hydramatic Woman

12. Little Richard Boogie

14. Tiger Man

15. No Place Like Home

16. Don't Knock

17. Night Life

18. Don't Change Your Pretty Ways

19. ...What That Is!

21. Poor Me

22. Tom, Dick 'n' Harry

23. Zoom

24. Goin' Round In Circles

25. Dearest

26. I Want You To Be My Girl

27. Oh My Baby's Gone

28. Goodnight Sweetheart, It's Time To Go

29. Yes Sir

30. Tim Tam

32. The Wobble

33. Beach Party

x

Track List: The Cosimo Matassa Story

Disc 1

1. Got A Brand New Baby

2. Four O'Clock Blues

3. Don't Jive Me

4. Tra-La-La

5. Teejim

9. Stormy Weather

10. My Ding-A-Ling

11. Reeling And Rocking

12. Lawdy Miss Clawdy

13. Chee Koo Baby

14. Sweethearts

15. I'm Gone

16. Teachin' And Preachin'

17. Bouncin' The Boogie

18. Early Sunday Morning

20. Country Gal

21. Baby

22. New Bon Ton Roulay

23. Got No Use For You

24. Long Distance Blues

25. I'm Thankful

26. Little School Girl

27. I-Yi

28. Candy Girl

29. Don't Leave Me Baby

30. The Things That I Used To Do

Disc 2

1. Well, I Done Got Over It

2. Tipitina

3. Let's Have Some Fun (Honey)

4. Jock-A-Mo

5. I Didn't Want To Do It

6. You're The One

7. Blue Monday

8. Baby's Gone

9. Sister Lucy

10. 'Til I Say Well Done

11. Every Dog Has His Day

12. Bluesy Me

13. Give It Up

14. Nobody But You

16. That's Enough

18. Cat Music

19. Drunk Drunk Drunk

20. Ain't Gonna Do It

21. I Want To Be Loved

22. Toy Bell

23. You Know Yeah

24. Runnin' Wild

25. It's Too Late Now

26. Real Gone Lover

27. Low And Lonesome

28. Country Woman

29. Say Baby

30. That Night

Disc 3

1. What's It All About?

2. Handwriting On The Wall

3. Mardi Gras Mambo

4. Your Time's Up

5. Eternally Yours

6. Boom Boom

7. Feel So Good

8. I Hear You Knocking

9. Travelin' Mood

10. I Remember

11. Baby

12. So Glad

14. I'm Just A Lonely Guy

15. Tutti Frutti

16. Do Baby Do

17. Who's Been Fooling You?

18. That Girl I Married

19. Rich Woman

20. I'm In Love Again

21. On Bended Knee

22. See You Later, Alligator

24. My Blue Heaven

25. Try Rock'n'roll

26. No No No

27. Long Tall Sally

28. Slippin' And Slidin'

30. Take It Easy, Greasy

Disc 4

1. Rip It Up

2. Ready Teddy

3. Let The Good Times Roll

4. Everybody's Whalin'

8. Rock 'n' Roll Dance

9. The Girl Can't Help It

10. Heebie Jeebies

11. Don't Blame It On Me

14. Down Yonder (We Go Ballin')

15. Shame, Shame, Shame

16. Oooh-Wow

17. (Everytime I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone

18. Rockin' At Cosimo's

19. Stepping High

20. I Feel Good

21. I'm A Fool About Your Love

22. All The Time

24. Ain't Got No Home

25. Hickory Dickory Dock

26. Just To Hold My Hand

27. Oooh-Wee Baby

28. Back Home To Me

29. You Can Fly High

30. Those Lonely, Lonely Feelings

Comments

Don't have a Pandora account? Sign up

We're sorry, but a browser plugin or firewall may be preventing Pandora from loading.

In order to use Pandora internet radio, please upgrade to a more current browser.

Please check our Help page for more information.

It looks like your browser does not support modern SSL/TLS. Please upgrade your browser.

If you need help, please email: pandora-support@pandora.com.

In order to use Pandora internet radio, please upgrade to a more current browser
or install a newer version of Flash (v.10 or later).

In order to use Pandora internet radio, please install Adobe Flash (v.10 or later).

[64, 123, 100, 119, 122, 97, 64, 118, 108, 90, 80, 71, 76, 116, 125, 74, 91, 70, 71, 113, 109, 68, 67, 65, 90, 118, 123, 80, 117, 122, 71, 83, 84, 107, 86, 67, 104, 113, 111, 73, 106, 67, 119, 113, 79, 102, 118, 75, 103, 103, 93, 107, 78, 112, 67, 97, 111, 107, 93, 97, 110, 112, 90, 106, 66, 79, 96, 94, 95, 92, 84, 127, 91, 99, 87, 69, 110, 75, 87, 92, 96, 104, 97, 79, 67, 83, 117, 67, 66, 79, 72, 65, 121, 72, 66, 108, 105, 113, 102, 80, 115, 70, 121, 75, 69, 118, 117, 119, 101, 95, 108, 69, 118, 112, 69, 107, 84, 95, 93, 76, 94, 73, 96, 100, 88, 98, 87, 69, 75, 116, 70, 119, 91, 110, 125, 125, 126, 69, 74, 94, 69, 87, 76, 114, 123, 114, 73, 97, 123, 118, 106, 64, 104, 85, 110, 70, 90, 73, 104, 69, 108, 92, 97, 93, 70, 98, 112, 85, 96, 105, 87, 71, 124, 67, 73, 122, 76, 109, 115, 70, 108, 101, 75, 127, 91, 113, 126, 96, 92, 80, 64, 97, 72, 111, 89, 77, 92, 100, 99, 68, 80, 92, 102, 114, 88, 88, 88, 84, 77, 90, 85, 85, 86, 88, 70, 121, 92, 109, 85, 92, 82, 98, 125, 109, 100, 93, 94, 71, 77, 93, 77, 69, 119, 101, 114, 92, 93, 102, 95, 118, 102, 108, 119, 79, 72, 124, 121, 80, 96, 108, 77, 82, 119, 85, 90, 88, 116, 118, 125, 118, 78, 76, 110, 110, 74, 88, 66, 106, 91, 110, 64, 88, 83, 118, 64, 107, 84, 87, 98, 116, 99, 117, 66, 75, 69, 100, 69, 86, 106, 112, 113, 67, 107, 121, 74, 69, 71, 106, 109, 91, 76, 118, 66, 112, 118, 101, 74, 117, 74, 72, 80, 111, 111, 71, 100, 84, 77, 127, 104, 91, 73, 119, 120, 102, 123, 97, 87, 89, 69, 86, 75, 103, 113, 105, 68, 73, 126, 96, 114, 123, 124, 68, 93, 100, 65, 113, 91, 69, 94, 112, 66, 118, 106, 77, 113, 89, 112, 116, 71, 100, 116, 104, 77, 95, 71, 125, 65, 89, 71, 125, 83, 108, 87, 119, 80, 127, 106, 106, 90, 103, 75, 96, 111, 66, 70, 118, 119, 72, 71, 126, 75, 101, 113, 65, 78, 121, 108, 107, 103, 107, 92, 94, 69, 71, 123, 105, 70, 97, 90, 64, 115, 78, 122, 113, 126, 123, 108, 109, 73, 102, 83, 104, 109, 74, 75, 82, 64, 93, 91, 99, 120, 75, 106, 94, 123, 111, 122, 122, 70, 114, 109, 113, 103, 71, 91, 108, 65, 98, 67, 117, 109, 117, 111, 103, 96, 77, 93, 73, 87, 102, 101, 89, 68, 73, 81, 104, 107, 96, 71, 107, 87, 116, 84, 105, 112, 66, 98, 92, 96, 76, 113, 93, 94, 121, 126, 123, 109, 108, 82, 118, 76, 86, 122, 76, 107, 121, 115, 95, 87, 66, 83, 66, 71, 124, 72, 99, 73, 79, 104, 99, 101, 122]