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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Howard


Updated: Apr 3, 2019

I love the surprise of finding a classic Harlan Howard song that is reimagined or unfamiliar to me. I am most impressed when artists take a well-known song and make it their own. I love how different Candi Staton’s 1970’s version of “He Called Me Baby” is from Patsy Cline’s 1960’s version. I love that Joss Stone thought enough of the Joe Simon 1963 hit to remake it in 2003 on her album, The Soul Session. Those songs are often on repeat at Harlan Howard Songs. So when I got an email from a friend referencing a version of “The Chokin’ Kind” by Allen Toussaint that I had never heard, I had to check it out.

I’m a fan of Allen Toussaint. He was a kind and seemingly gentle man with a wealth of talent. We asked him to speak to the Leadership Music class of 1997, I believe, for songwriter’s day; and he said yes. He was very soft spoken and gracious, but generous with his time. He sat at the piano and entertained us. I was sorry to read that he passed in 2015, but smiled when I read, he was on tour in Spain doing what he loved, entertaining. Not a bad way to go.

So, when I heard his version of “The Chokin’ Kind” on the seventeenth anniversary of Harlan’s passing, 3/3/02, it made me smile. Thanks for the gift, Harlan, even if I’m late to the party! Allen Toussaint’s version is from 1971, from the album, Toussaint. I love how groovy his version is juxtaposed with Harlan’s “three chords and the truth” approach to songwriting. No frills, no garnishes, meat and potatoes only, trim the fat. That was indicative of Harlan’s style, simple. He was the consummate editor. If there was a word he could leave out and not change the meaning of the song, he got rid of it.

Lots of artists have cut, “The Chokin’ Kind.” The artists are as varied as their treatment of the song. To mention a few, I like Waylon Jennings rendition. Charlie Rich had a country hit on it in the 70’s. I love Joe Simon’s R&B version, complete with horns. John Richbourg produced Joe Simon version. Richbourg was a disc jockey and producer who made a name for himself playing R&B music on radio station, WLAC, in the 50’s and 60’s. I also found a funky version by Urban Mystic. Perennial and personal favorite, Delbert McClinton puts his soulful touch on the classic, Harlan Howard song. You are welcome to find your favorite version of “The Chokin’ Kind” on your preferred music source.

Respectfully written, Melanie Smith-Howard

March 4, 2019

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