George Porter Jr. remembers his debut solo album, 1990’s Runnin’ Partner, as a watershed moment in his development as a solo artist.
“That was like the seed that eventually grew into me wanting to do more solo stuff,” he said. “By that time, there was no Meters. There was not enough camaraderie between any of the four players to ever look like there was a chance of playing again, so I was on my own at that point. I pretty much knew I had to do it my own way.”
The 10 track album grew out of an earlier session recorded on cassette tape that also bled over to the Searching for a Joyride album, which wasn’t released until 2005.
“We recorded that earlier live at a firehouse on Carondelet right off of Louisiana Avenue,” Porter said. “In fact, Eddie Bo actually bought the firehouse at some point after we had done this project.”
Louie Ludwig engineered that earlier session for John Autin’s Rabadash Records, but Porter envisioned something bigger than a cassette making the rounds.
“I have no clue how I’d even be able to find that cassette!” he said.
Back in 1990, Rounder Records did find that early firehouse recording, though, and approached Porter about making a record for them.
Runnin’ Partner was born as an album, and later grew into a band name.
“On that original recording, it was kind of a combination of new songs and some Meter cover songs,” Porter said. “The record that eventually came out on Rounder was a combination of original songs and songs that had been recorded earlier with a band I called Joyride.”
Woven through all this intertwining of Porter’s past and present material was Porter’s drive and determination to stand on his own musically.
“That was the beginning of the journey,” he said. “I think there was knowledge of the Meter pocket that remained on that album. I kind of opened up more to more jazz sounds with horn solos and stuff like that. I think we kind of leaned on what eventually became the jam community with the horn sections and stuff like that.”
When it came time to write the new material, Porter started with what he has always found the easiest: the groove.
The lyrics, as always, came later.
“Lyrics to me are probably the hardest part to songwriting,” he said “I’ve always kind of depended on someone else perfecting the lyrics that I write. The lyrics that I write are foolish sometimes, I think. I say ‘hee, hum,’ and ‘oh.’ I get a melody out of that stuff, and then I get someone to help plug the lyrics in later.”
Twenty-five years later, Porter has released a 10 solo albums, a number he simultaneously doesn’t believe and thinks is too low.
“I really should have more!” he said. “If I was really taking care of my business, I really should have an album a year. But, hey, I’m working hard.”