IBnA Thursday: Sugar B and the Churros

***This is the first in a series of band & album reviews. Thursday is one of the worst days of the week, right after Mon/Tue/Wed/Sun/Sat, but hopefully expanding your mind with fresh, musically related blog posts will help. If not, there’s always Facebook.

“Sugar B” a.k.a. Samuel Barnimon only released a handful of songs during his May – July 1995 tenure as a musician, but during this short time period the world was given access to some of the smoov-est tunes known to man, woman, or child.

Born and raised in the town of Opelousas, Louisiana (pop. 16,000) Mr. Barnimon was the 4th of 3 kids, and regarded from a young age as a strange child, with even his mother admitting in 1993 that “Sugar is a weirdo of the highest order.” Not much else is known about his childhood, though lore has it that he gained his nickname after an incident in which he hid in a 50 pound bag of sugar during a game of hide and seek, which is also believed to be responsible for his early onset juvenile diabetes at the age of 9 and two halves.

Although the Zydeoco style was largely dominant on the local music scene, Sugar B sought a new direction when he began playing in early May 1995. His unusual approach to instrumentation, including the electric ukelele and trading spoons for 2 month old churros when playing washboard, set him apart from other local and regional musicians. He also stated on several occasions that “good music needs lubrication” which gave rise to his cultivating a practice known as “pre-larding” instruments. By melting lard and slathering it over his various musical items, he created a smooth and controversially sexy experience for both the musicians and audience alike.

There is scant evidence of how Sugar B came to name his backup band, the Churros. One possible reason could be attributed to a trip he made to Southeastern New Mexico to visit Norman Petty’s studios in Clovis, New Mexico, which had several restaurants that served this delicacy. The theory is supported by a protective order dated November 1994 from the Clovis Police Department which references “disturbing behavior, including slathering lard all over the front door and entrance way to Petty studios.”

Regardless of the reasons, in May of ’95 Sugar put together an odd and yet groovy backing band, featuring Partridge Sammy on bass, Trammel Tragaluga on the drums, Marcel Marcel Marcel on the double violin, and his sister Samaletta Sue Chenier playing the bamboo saxophone.

By far the pinnacle of his short but impressive catalog is the cult hit “Lard is the word” which was a success on the regional scene with over 749 plays in the St. Landry Parish area, mostly via the on again off again HAM Radio station WLRD, operated by Sugar B’s cousin, Marietta Mackleby, who was widely believed to be in love with Sugar but afraid to act on her feelings. Other songs also received significant airtime in the tens of plays, including “Syrup and Soy Sauce” and “Chaste and Chassis aren’t the same thing, apparently”

Although they only released two EPs, Sugar B and the Churros are regarded as pioneers of the “slick rock” genre, a position supported by their influence on late ’90s bands such as Paraquet and the Paraquets, GerfherdBlabberGonzo, and Challulla is Crying On My Tennys, many of whom went on to cover SB&C songs, and even performed a tribute concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2005.

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