I am late getting this column together this week. It’s usually ready roll by noon on Wednesday, and here it is pushing 6:00 p.m. I have a good excuse though. As you may know, I moved to Jamestown, RI back in January. Once I got here, one of the first things I did was to get in touch with the local paper, a weekly called The Jamestown Press. They were kind enough to give me a job writing local interest stories. When you are a freelance writer, you take all kinds of jobs to help make ends meet, and this one is actually kind of fun.
Oh sure, I get some rather mundane stories to cover, but I also get stories like the one I worked on today. A lot of sailboat racing goes on Narragansett Bay, which separates Jamestown from the more well known city of Newport. Today was the start of a race known as Transatlantic Race 2011. A fleet of yachts set sail from Newport heading for a finish line is nearly 3,000 miles away at a place called Lizard Point in England. Of the greatest interest was a boat called the Maltese Falcon, a 289′ mega-yacht that is hardly your typical racing sailboat. She has 15 sails, and her masts are turned hydraulically to take maximum advantage of the wind. That’s the Falcon at her dock at the Newport Shipyard that you see below.
But this is supposed to be a music column, right? I can almost hear you saying “hey, save that stuff for The Jamestown Press.” Wait, I’m getting to the music. You see I got to be on the press boat for the event, and watched the start close up. That’s why I’m running late. Tough job, huh?
So, in honor of my little boat trip today, I give you “Sea Cruise” by Huey “Piano” Smith. I also give you “Sea Cruise” by Frankie Ford. There is a sordid little tale that goes with these two records. Smith, a New Orleans music giant, initially wrote, produced, arranged, and performed the song for Ace Records. In 1959, Ace, in their infinite wisdom, erased Smith’s vocal, and substituted one by Frankie Ford that they deemed more energetic. Of course it may have had something to do with the fact that Ford was little more, uh, white.
History records that “Sea Cruise” by Frankie Ford was an enormous hit. The record sold over one million copies, and attained Gold Disc status. But that’s Smith’s backing track, and that’s why you see his name on the disc, in small print below Ford’s. Sometimes questionable decisions lead to positive results. That doesn’t always justify those decisions though.