COOKIE AND THE CUPCAKES
Cookie and the Cupcakes were a seven-piece Afro-American outfit from Lake Charles, Louisiana. They are best remembered for their 1959 hit "Mathilda", the unofficial anthem of swamp pop music. Cookie was the nickname of Huey Thierry (1936-1997), the leader of the group and one of the two lead singers, along with Shelton Dunaway. Both men also played the tenor saxophone. The band was formed in 1952 as The Boogie Ramblers, originally led by Shelton Dunaway ; Huey Thierry joined a little later. Other original members were Marshall Laday (guitar), Ernest Jacobs (piano), Joe 'Blue' Landry (bass), Sidney 'Hot Rod' Reynaud (sax) and Ivory Jackson (drums). They made their first recording in 1955, for Eddie Shuler's Goldband label, "Cindy Lou"/"Such As Love". "Cindy Lou" is perhaps better known in a version by Gene Terry (1958), also on Goldband. The Boogie Ramblers cut several other numbers for Goldband, but these remained in the can until 1976, when Shuler released the 11-track LP "The Legendary Cookie and the Cupcakes" (Goldband GRLP 7757). This album also included some 1960 tracks that Shuler had purchased from Mercury.
By 1956 Thierry started singing most of the lead vocals and the band was eventually renamed Cookie and the Cupcakes. In 1958 they signed with George Khoury's Lyric label in Lake Charles and with their second record for the label they hit the jackpot : "Mathilda" peaked at # 47 on the Billboard charts in March 1959. Huey "Cookie" Thierry, who co-wrote the song with Khoury, sang lead. In his book about swamp pop music, "South To Louisiana" (1983), John Broven writes : "If swamp-pop has a signature tune, an anthem, it has to be the quintessential 'Mathilda'. (...) Even today everyone accepts that if a local band plays Mathilda and nobody dances, the musicians may just as well pack up and go home." "Mathilda" was too big for Khoury to handle and national distribution was taken over by Judd Records, owned by Jud Phillips, Sam's brother. "Mathilda" made an enormous impact on the vibrant South Louisiana music scene and quickly became the model for numerous other swamp pop ballads. It would undoubtedly have gone higher with a bigger company behind it. The hit version should not be confused with the (inferior) 1962 remake, which is sometimes presented as the original on a number of compilations.
The follow-up, "Until Then", was also picked up by Judd, but this time there were few takers. Much better was the flip-side, "Close Up the Back Door", which showed a strong Hank Ballard influence.
Following their success, the band toured as opening act for Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino. However, the group mostly played in the Texas / Louisiana region, with many performances in New Orleans hotel clubs.
In 1959, Cookie and the Cupcakes were the back-up group for Phil Phillips on the classic "Sea Of Love", swamp pop's biggest hit (# 2).
Apart from an isolated session for Mercury in August 1960, Cookie and the group stayed with the Lyric label till 1965. They didn't return to the charts until 1963, when a remake of Big John Greer's 1952 hit "Got You On My Mind" went to # 94 (distributed nationally by Chess Records). Cookie and Shelton Dunaway shared the lead vocals this time. The quality of the musicianship on the Lyric recordings is in general very good. Especially the accompaniment is first-rate, with a prominent place for the piano of Ernest Jacobs. These recordings were assembled by Floyd Soileau on two Jin LP's in 1974 and 1978 and later on a Jin CD in 1993. Then, in August 1965, Thierry moved to Los Angeles, unexpectedly and without an explanation, leaving the Cupcakes to continue without him. He was replaced as lead singer by Little Alfred (Alfred Babineaux, 1944-2006), but by then new black sounds ruled the airwaves and swamp pop declined in popularity. With Ernest Jacobs as the new bandleader, the group continued for several years but disbanded in the early 1970s.
In 1992 Jacobs found Thierry in Los Angeles and managed to persuade him to return to Louisiana. Cookie was tragically confined to a wheelchair following two automobile accidents in California. Cookie and the Cupcakes were reunited with Thierry, Jacobs, Dunaway and guitarist Marshall Laday in the line-up. They even performed in the Netherlands at the Blues Estafette in Utrecht, in 1995. Thierry passed away in 1997, after which the band was led by Little Alfred, until his death in 2006. Marshall Laday died in June 2012 at the age of 86.
More info : http://acerecords.co.uk/kings-of-swamp-pop
Discography : http://monola.net/ddcookcu.htm
CD : Cookie and the Cupcakes, Kings Of Swamp Pop. (Ace CDCHD 142). 30 tracks from 1955-1963. Released in 2001. Liner notes by Shane K. Bernard.
Acknowledgements : John Broven, Kierstan Gordon, Shane K. Bernard.
Dik, March 2014
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