Even die-hard fans of New Orleans rhythm & blues would be hard pressed to tell you much about Ernie Vincent. Nevertheless, the guitarist is one of the city’s more talented and active musicians. His band The Top Notes have been a fixture in New Orleans since the early 1970s, working their own shows as well as backing many other artists.
Vincent’s life journey began in 1945 in Thibodeaux, Lousiana. “A lot of people don’t know much about me because I haven’t had a record out in a while,” said Vincent. “I’ve always been the kind of guy who likes to work in the background supporting others rather than drawing attention to myself.” However, with the upcoming release of his latest effort, Original Dap King, on January 13, 2023 via Cornelius Chapel Records, the tides are set to change.
Tracked in April of 2021 at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, Mississippi with Bronson Tew and Matt Patton at the helm, and drums and bass, respectively. Ernie was able to stretch out his guitar prowess and rip every solo on the album with Jimbo Mathus on keys and leading the band along with his Squirrel Nut Zippers’ horns and strings, Taylor Hollingsworth on some extra guitar, and Schaefer Llana with AJ Haynes on the backing vocals. What’s left is a fiery offering of funky blues with equal measures of soul and rock’n’roll interspersed for a delectable bayou audible feast. Funkier than last weeks gumbo with a psych blues side order.
While Vincent refers to himself as a basic blues player, his deep knowledge of the guitar and its limits is what sets him apart. “I started playing guitar in the ‘60s when rock’n’roll first started happening,” said Vincent. “I made my first guitar by my own hands and learned how to play all the Jimmy Reed songs.” Luckily while residing in Meridien, MS, Vincent received hands-on instruction from the town’s resident bluesman.
“There was an old fella named Po’ Will that could play all kind of blues on the guitar,” added Vincent. “I woodshedded with him and he showed me all the John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins boogie stuff, and Muddy Waters too.” After his “apprenticeship” Vincent formed his first band, The Alpines, and as soon as he returned to the Crescent City enrolled at Houston’s School of Music. It’s been said that Po’ Will also taught Mr. Vincent the perks of moonshine as well.
“I learned to read and write music there. That really helped my career. You see, even though there’s a lot of great musicians around here in New Orleans, not a lot can read music. As a result, my band picked up a lot of extra work. A lot of artists at that time didn’t take the band on the road but they carried their sheet music,” Vincent explains. “Often times they’d hire us because we could read their charts and lay it out better than they’d even heard before.”
“We backed folks like Matilda Jones, King Floyd, Ernie K-Doe, Rufus Thomas, ZZ Hill, Solomon Burke, and just about every popular R&B act that came through New Orleans.” Together that group became Ernie and The Top Notes, smashing out funky numbers like the timeless “Dap Walk” and the flipside to that 7” – 45rpm single, “Things Are Better.” It’s fitting that now as we approach 2023, it’s Ernie’s time to shine with this new record of 10 songs mostly written by Ernie with help by Patton and Mathus and a choice cover of a legendary metal band.
Ernie Vincent’s new album Original Dap King comes out on vinyl, CD and digital/streaming platforms on January 13, 2023 via Cornelius Chapel Records. Click here to pre-order.