Before there was Snoop Dogg, there was Swamp Dogg. Jerry Williams, already an experienced recording artist in his late 20s, took that moniker and launched a venturesome if part-time career as a purveyor of funky soul music. Over the years since, Williams has worked as a producer and songwriter for other artists. With Gary "U.S." Bonds he wrote "She's All I Got" for Johnny Paycheck, which in 1971 reached No. 2 on the U.S. country singles chart; with Charlie Foxx he wrote "Count the Days" for Inez and Charlie Foxx (of "Mockingbird" fame; more recently he wrote music for the writer Ben Greenman's fictional "Rock Foxx" character. But his two earliest Swamp Dogg releases – Total Destruction To Your Mind (1970) and Rat On! (1971) – have long been overdue for a re-release. Now, crisply remastered and available March 5 on CD and vinyl, they're ready to shine afresh and perhaps attract a new audience.
After all, Rodríguez – whose two albums came out in '70 and '71, and who is an exact contemporary of Williams – has made something of a comeback, and he didn't even have a music career in the interim. And unlike Rodríguez, no one needs to go "searching for" Swamp Dogg; he's right here, at his own actively maintained website.
The Unknown Legends of Rock 'N Roll described Swamp Dogg's songs as "Like a strange combination of Sly Stone's progressive funk with Frank Zappa's lyrical absurdism," a description especially apt for the first album. The leadoff and title track of Total Destruction To Your Mind, a funk masterpiece, has been covered by Galactic and other groups in the years since, but they couldn't possibly have surpassed the original. (You can hear a snatch of it in Swamp Dogg's promotional "jingle":
With a punchy, high tenor voice that sometimes sounds a bit less polished than those of more famous soul singers like Jackie Wilson or Sam and Dave, but is every bit as biting and with a freestyle quality all its own, Swamp Dogg was clearly the master of his own universe on these recordings. "His vocals have always been for me both very energetic and very sad," says Greenman, a longtime fan. Lyrically, Swamp Dogg manifests three preoccupations (he wrote some of the songs by himself, others in collaboration with Troy Davis or Gary "U.S." Bonds.) There are calls for equality and social justice, songs about love and jealousy, and a related concern with babies and children. But he tends to tinge all of them at times with a kind of psychedelic absurdity. "Total Destruction" expresses a non-specific sense of being downtrodden and a vow of revenge: