Born Warren Joseph Schexnider, 18 February 1937, Vermilion Parish, Louisiana
Swamp pop singer / drummer.
For fifteen years or so I thought that Warren Storm was an Afro-American, because he could imitate Fats Domino so well. Around 1984 I bought John Broven's book "South To Louisiana", which has two pictures of Storm in the photo section. To my surprise I discovered that he is white.
Warren Schexnider was born in 1937 in Vermilion Parish, some 20 miles south of Lafayette in Louisiana, and moved to nearby Abbeville as a young child. He got his musical inspiration from his father, who played drums, accordion and fiddle. Warren made his musical debut in 1952 when he sat in for his father (as a drummer) on a dance job and he continued playing country and Cajun music throughout his years at Abbeville High School. In 1956 he formed his first group, the Wee-Wows and changed his name to Warren Storm. A club owner introduced him to businessman/producer/ songwriter Jay Miller, who owned a recording studio and ran several tiny independent labels out of Crowley, Louisiana. Miller also produced for other labels, in particular Ernie Young's Excello label (from Nashville) and its pop subsidiary, Nasco. After a successful audition for Miller, Warren was placed on Nasco and had his first session for the label in May 1958.
Warren Storm's very first record, "The Prisoner's Song" (a million seller for Vernon Dalhart in 1924) entered the Billboard Hot 100 on 25 August 1958, at # 81. The next week it was # 90 and the week after that the record dropped off the charts. Storm would never have a national hit again, in spite of the high quality of many of his recordings. The flip of "Prisoner's Song", "Mama Mama Mama" was almost too good to be on the same single ; it could have been a hit in its own right. Three subsequent singles on Nasco ("Troubles, Troubles", "So Long, So Long" and "I'm A Little Boy", all from 1959) were in the same, Fats Domino-type, style, but were at best local hits. After the Nasco contract expired, Storm continued recording for Jay Miller's own Rocko and Zynn labels in the hope of gaining the attention of national labels. In 1960, he recorded "Bohawk Georgia Grind" for Top Rank, in Nashville (with Grady Martin, Hank Garland, Floyd Cramer, Boots Randolph and Buddy Harman), but a few months later Top Rank went out of business, to Warren's great disappointment.
A session in New Orleans for Dot followed in 1961, resulting in two singles. By 1963 he was playing with the Shondells, a popular trio with Rod Bernard (of "This Should Go On Forever" fame) and Skip Stewart. The group recorded for the La Louisianne label and had a residency on 'Saturday Hop' on KFLY- TV in Lafayette.
From 1963 until 1967 Warren recorded for Huey Meaux's labels (Sincere, in particular). Highlights from this period include "The Gypsy"/"I Walk Alone" (1964), "Jack and Jill" (1964, written by Joe Barry), "They Won't Let Me In" (1965) and "Tennessee Waltz" (1967). There was an isolated release on Atco in 1968, followed by a few lean years without a recording contract. In 1973 he went back with J.D. Miller, who had started a new label called Showtime, and tried his luck with country and western material. Again Miller tried in vain to break Storm outside of Louisiana. Warren briefly returned to Huey Meaux and his Crazy Cajun label in the early 1980s, before recording a strong version of Ben E. King's "Seven Letters" in 1983 (for the South Star label of Nashville, with backing from superstar group Alabama). But a return to the national charts was not to be.
Warren Storm continues to play the clubs and lounges of South Louisiana and records the occasional CD for local labels. Today he performs with Willie Tee and the Cypress Band and as a member of the swamp pop supergroup Little Band of Gold. An inspiration to local young musicians, he revels in the title 'The Godfather Of Swamp Pop'. In 2010 he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
He is also an excellent drummer, with a style that was heavily influenced by New Orleans drummers Earl Palmer and Charles "Hungry" Williams. During the 1959-1965 period, Warren was session drummer for Jay Miller's studio band, accompanying swamp-blues stars Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Slim, Lazy Lester and Lonesome Sundown and many other acts. Saxophonist Lionel Prevost and pianist Katie Webster were part of the same stellar session group.
In 2013, Ace Records in the UK included "Oh Nell" by Warren on the "Boppin' By the Bayou Again" CD and presented it as a previously unissued track. But it has been included on a Various artists LP ("Tag Along", Flyright LP 516, UK) in 1976.
Further reading: John Broven, South To Louisiana (Pelican Books, 1983), page 246-250.
Official website : http://www.warrenstorm.com/
Discography : http://warrenstorm.com/disc.htm
Acknowledgements : John Broven, Pete Hoppula.
Dik, July 2013
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