Born: December 25, 1929 | Died: January 25, 1976 Primary Instrument: Vocal
Chris Kenner - R&B vocalist, composer
Another New Orleans original whose songs live on forever, Chris Kenner was a hard-drinking longshoreman who pretty much kept to himself. He also happened to be a brilliant songwriter. In 1957 he came to Dave Bartholomew at Imperial Records with a song he had written that was so good he was signed on the spot. “Sick And Tired” climbed to #13 R&B that summer and to #14 when Fats Domino covered it the following year.
Kenner brought his next song to pianist/producer Allen Toussaint, and together they worked it up into the phenomenal “I Like It Like That, Part 1.” The record took off, and would spend over 4 months on the charts in 1961, making it to #2 both R&B and Pop charts. Kenner later received a Grammy nomination for the song.
Probably the most well known of Kenner's compositions, though, is the fabled “Land Of 1000 Dances.” Based loosely on a Gospel song Chris used to sing in his early days (Children Go Where I Send Thee), it didn't do much when it was first released in 1962, but Atlantic got behind it a year later and it cruised to #77 on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1963. The song later became a hit for Cannibal and the Headhunters (1965) and Wilson Pickett in ’66. Probably one of the most covered songs of all time, they just don't come much better than this.
Toussaint did a couple more singles with him before he got drafted, and Kenner would return to the label off and on to be produced by Sax Kari and Eddie Bo, but his charting days were over. They say that he drank up or gave away his considerable royalty checks as fast as they arrived, and he sadly pulled a three year stretch in Angola starting in 1968. After that, things were never the same. He died of a heart attack in 1976.
Source: Red Kelly