Popularized by Al Hirt as a trumpet piece, this instrumental was written and originally recorded by the New Orleans producer/songwriter Allen Toussaint
with piano as lead instrument.
Born in 1938, Toussaint got a gig in the mid-'50s touring with the duo Shirley & Lee ("Let The Good Times Roll," #20 in 1956) on piano. He also played sessions around New Orleans, including one for Fats Domino.
With the music scene burgeoning in the city, a producer for the RCA label named Danny Kessler would audition musicians, sometimes using Toussaint or Mac Rebennack
for piano accompaniment. One of these auditions took place at Cosimo Matassa's Cosimo Recording Studio, where according to Matassa, 150 musicians showed up. None of the applicants moved the needle, but Kessler was impressed with Toussaint and offered him a deal. He asked Toussaint to write some instrumental songs, and the young pianist came up with 12 tracks that Kessler produced.
These songs were released on an album called The Wild Sounds Of New Orleans
, credited to "Tousan," a compact pseudonym for Toussaint. Issued on the RCA Victor label in 1958, the album didn't get much attention, but in 1962 Floyd Cramer covered one of the tracks: "Java." His piano version went to #49 US, and the following year the song got the attention of Al Hirt, whose trumpet rendition running 1:55 went to #4.
Even before Hirt's hit cover, Toussaint's career was taking off. He got a job as staff producer at the Instant and Minit labels in 1959, where he wrote and produced the Ernie K-Doe #1 "Mother-In-Law
" and Chris Kenner's "I Like It Like That (Part 1)."