E: Where were you born?
EV: I grew up in Thibodeaux, Louisiana. I moved to New Orleans at a young age.

E: Your father started you in music, right?
EV: Well, my dad dabbled with guitar and harmonica. And my uncle was famous juke joint player in the Thibodeaux area. We had like 5 guitar players in the family!

E: When did you start pluckin’?
EV: At age 19, I picked up the guitar. I always wanted to play, but wasn’t able to afford a good guitar. In 1964, I started playing. I grew up listening to Bobby Bland, James Brown. I was from a black neighborhood - at the time we had all the soul stuff, the great hits from James Brown. Curly Gibbons, I knew him in my childhood. He was a friend of my father’s. He was a guitar player from outside of Baton Rogue and he lived next door. On the weekend he’d have fish fries and would have the corn liquor and all that - just like in the old days - and he’d say, “Come on and play something for me!” I started practicing and doing some things. Willie Tee lived around the corner. Earl King was there too. It was the neighborhood thing.

E: What informed your fledgling style?
EV: The neighborhood. But also hearing things from juke boxes. My style was informed by varying sources. Style could be from anywhere.

E: Did you ever take lessons?
EV: I took about 12 lessons, at a school on North Claiborne – Houston’s School of Music. Curly was a basic influence. And Herlan Delpy, a Mexican looking guy, who played strictly the Zydeco sound. A big influence. He never played the New Orleans type funk or blues, but he had that hot, hot rhythm. He played down in the bayou, at all the Cajun joints. Places where you couldn’t get to the joint - except by boat. Up in Golden Meadow.

E: What were you playing when James Brown turned r&b into funk?
EV: During that time, by playing with Herlan at the speed and tempo he played, I updated my rhythm and reaction more than the guys around me in New Orleans. I developed my syncopation. If you’re around New Orleans, you learn how to adjust to play for different people, with different bands. I learned how to get the feel of different groups.

E: When did you form your own band, the Top Notes?
EV: I put the Top Notes together in 1971 or 1972. Each person in the band had a personality. My mentality was always “Discipline with your playing.” New Orleans musicians lacked discipline ‘cause it was always free. In that “free” they’d learn syncopation - they’d add this, take away this. It was just always a good time playing. The mechanics were there, but overpowered by the syncopation and the freedom.

E: One things for sure, the Top Notes are marked by those syncopated New Orleans drums!
EV: Basically, a drummer can play a lot of things. A tambourine can hold the beat. The drummer can weave in and out of it. What happened with us was - a song starts off but ends in a jam. The drummer goes for his! When you’re playing in New Orleans, you have to play on a second line. But also the old blues thing. And also the jazz influence. In a mixture. As a drummer you have to play all those different rhythms. You have to know those different rhythms. So when you have a funk jam, it’s a fusion.

E: And the fusion your group put together grabbed elements from all over America!
EV: My intention was to be national from day one. Not just New Orleans.

E: When did you record “Dap Walk?”
EV: “Dap Walk” was recorded 1972. In the early part. We recorded it at Cossimo Mattassa’s.

E: THE studio in New Orleans.
EV: Everybody recorded there - even Little Richard. All the stuff he did was done right there in New Orleans.

E: Did you record it live?
EV: Yup, using the same guitar I got now. A Gibson E 130. The wah wah was a Crybaby.

E: And what’s the creaking song throughout the track?
EV: That creaking is the wah wah! Things weren’t as scientific as they are today. I didn’t even hear the creak, but the recording picked it up. I didn’t even hear it in the mix down. My ears weren’t as sharp as they are now. That was our very first recording.

E: How old was the group that recorded “Dap Walk?”
EV: That particular group wasn’t even six months old. The members were “Dap” (John Peters) on bass, Peter Rooster on drums. He was a Mardi Gras Indian. He played all types of drums – timbales, traps, etc. John Ross was our original drummer. He couldn’t make it to rehearsal on Friday before the Saturday recording date, and I wasn’t sure if he was gonna make the recording session. I called Peter for that rehearsal. He came in, and I said, “See you on Saturday.” That’s how it went. Peter was more rhythmic than John anyway. John was more of a commercial-type drummer. Trumpet: Lawrence Bowie. Trumpet two was Freddie green. Sax was Nathaniel Gaines. The shouting in the beginning was Louis Kimball. He was a singer in another band. We only did two or three takes. I produced it and did all the arrangements. I did all of the chord charts and everything.

E: How did you come up with the song?
EV: Usually I come up with the idea and then I reinforce that with the band. Give the band licks to play against what I’m playing. Writing that song, basically Sly and The Family Stone and the wah wah thing was big – this was even before “Shaft.” I had a Pro Fender reverb amp and I got phased off into the wah thing.

E: How did you arrange it? And why all the breakdowns?
EV: At that time the people used to get up on the floor and dance immediately. All of the breaks – I always did ‘em. What it does is create excitement. Anticipation creates excitement. I loved the big band sound. There’s always “Ba da ba da da da BA!” You understand? All of that, that’s why I had all those horns. The record was supposed to be part one and two. Part one was gonna end with the “Get it!” That was gonna start part two. All we did was shorten the front part. It was gonna end cold. We chopped it down ‘cause Albion Ford (owner of Fordom Records) said he wanted another song. “Do something different. it might make your chances better,” he said. So we went back to rehearsal.

E: And came up with “Things Are Better.”
EV: I was sitting with my guitar. I hit that riff. They said, “We like that!” Within 20 minutes, we were doing the B side. Did it with sax ‘cause Nathaniel came up with the head. From that point we worked a bridge. When we did that, with the bridge and the break part, Peter said, “Why don’t we put something in the middle?” He hit that (melody change) in the middle. We said, “OK, we’ll take the break and let the horns do that.”

E: Wow, a look into the creation of a Top Notes song! Why the name “Dap Walk” for your stellar A side?
EV: “Dap Walk” was named for our bass player. “Dap” had bad feet. He couldn’t walk on a pebble on the street. He walked tender foot. We all called him “Dap,” and ‘cause of the bass stuff on that song we named it “Dap Walk.”

E: Tell me about Raymond Winnfield, and his sublime vocal version of “Things Are Better.”
EV: Raymond Winnfield, that another Top Notes record that came out. I wrote the lyrics. Raymond was a car guy, a mechanic, who did work with Albion and all that. He knew Albion before I did. Raymond was a friend so he had him go record.

E: What happened to the Top Notes after that record?
EV: We played behind different groups. Solomon burke, Joe Tex, Joe Simon etc. We played on the Mason Strip and the top acts came through there. They would give us the songs - half of the time I wouldn’t see them until we got to the club and I would go to the dressing room to make sure that the key I rehearsed in was correct. We’d play before they got on. People responded well to us.

E: And when you played “Dap Walk?”
EV: They would jump up and hit the floor. During the time all the ghetto songs were out. That was the phase. “Dap Walk” was a happy song. We stayed together as a group for about a year. “Dap” was in it for many years though.

E: What happened to the band?
EV: We had a break up at one point. I was booking, handling arrangements etc. And we were playing at Galloway’s Club. I didn’t know what was happening, but the band wanted to do other things. You know how bands get - excited. I said, “We gotta take our time, do some new recording.” We were in and out of town a lot. But they wanted more money and all that. I said, “If you think you can do better, show me what you can do. Ya’ll figure it.” John came back to the band, things fired up here or there. But I said, “You’re telling me what I should do, show me what you can do.” This was about ‘75. I said, “OK, y’all do that.” We broke up about a month. But the guys came back and asked me to get back in charge of stuff. That incarnation was together until ‘79 or ‘80. Peter died in a car wreck in the early ‘80s. “Dap” moved over the lake, to Slidell. John is in the city - somewhere. Bowie is in Texas. Freddie and Nathaniel - no one knows.

E: You guys were one helluva band, let me tell you that.
EV: Thinking back to those days, let me tell you something - we were a good band. We didn’t sound like New Orleans. I prided myself in sounding more commercial. I practiced off of Howard Roberts, Kenny Burrell – the jazzy blues. We would pack houses everywhere we went.

E: Playing heavy funk, no less.
EV: I believed in doing a show. Most people in New Orleans are laid-back playing, I believe you hit the band stand, fire it up and kick it! We was one of the hottest band around.