Allen Toussaint was a session pianist in New Orleans. Some of the musicians that worked with Toussaint during this period were Earl Palmer (drums), Alvin “Red” Tyler (baritone sax), Nat Perrilliat (tenor sax), Roy Montrell (guitar), Frank Field (bass), Charles “Hungry” Williams (drums), Melvin Lastie (cornet) and Justin Adams (guitar).

Born in 1938, Allen Toussaint grew up in a shotgun house in New Orleans. He learned piano as a child, taking lessons from a neighbour.

One of Toussaint’s greatest achievements was writing and producing the classic recording of “Mother-In-Law”, performed by Ernie K-Doe in 1961, which was Pop number one week-ending 22nd May 1961 and also R&B number one the same year. This was the first million-seller produced by Toussaint. Before he became principal producer for Minit Records, he played as a session musician for a few years. During this particular period he played on various recordings by Fats Domino and Lloyd Price.

Toussaint’s next major success was the song “Ya Ya”, performed by Lee Dorsey, on the New York black-owned label Fury Records (Fury 1053), in 1961. This reached number seven on the Billboard 100 Singles Chart, with a million copies sold. He then went on to have more successes with Lee Dorsey for the rest of the sixties.

Allen Toussaint in Toronto 2010

By ataelw – https://www.flickr.com/photos/8053388@N06/5247511179/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76119911

Toussaint hired a group of musicians known as the Meters, a funk rhythm section that created a more modern sound for the city to compete with Memphis, Muscle Shoals and Philadelphia. Founding members of the band included Art Neville, a future member of the Neville Brothers. The members of this band are considered by many people to be the founding fathers of funk. They started working together around 1967 when Art Neville (keyboardist) recruited George Porter Jr., Joseph (Zigaboo) Modeliste and Leo Nocentelli as core members of the band. By the time Art formed the group he had already been a prominent figure in the New Orleans music community for approximately fifteen years. The band is featured on the gold album “Nightbirds”, recorded by Labelle and produced by Toussaint in 1975. You can hear their funky beat demonstrated on the million-selling track entitled “Lady Marmalade”.

During the early 1970s Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn opened Sea-Saint Recording Studios, a state-of-the-art studio, to compete with Memphis, Muscle Shoals and Philly studios. From these studios Toussaint and Sehorn produced Etta James, The Meters, Labelle, and Albert King.