Al Scramuzza introduced the retail sale of crawfish to New Orleans in the 1950s, and opened the Bayou Seafood Company on this corner in 1960. Just as important to his bona fides as a New Orleans character, he was gloriously shameless (he once ran for State Representative with the slogan “Don’t be a looza, vote for Scramuzza.”) He started a record label from his seafood store in 1962, and named it Scram.
Things really got going when Scramuzza hired Eddie Bo. Born Edwin Bocage (1930-2009), Bo came from a family of musicians, studied at the Grunewald School of Music, and spent years backing R&B stars on the Chitlin Circuit. He was a versatile pianist and singer, and a ready collaborator who knew his way around a studio—his song “I’m Wise” became “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” one of Little Richard’s biggest hits. He was a ringer for Scram as an artist, songwriter, arranger, producer, and A&R man.
Bo teamed up with the phenomenal drummer James Black to anchor the Scram studio band, which recorded mainly at Jazz City Studio. They notched a national hit in 1969 with Bo’s funk instrumental “Hook and Sling,” which featured a heavy dose of Black’s stuttering drum work. They also released a ditty called “Do the Crawfish” by Assumarks Derfla (read it backwards).
Eddie Bo developed a young singer named Sena Fletcher, who, as Mary Jane Hooper, cut a slow burner called “Teach Me” that caught the ear of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records. Wexler, who’d recently launched Aretha Franklin to stardom, tried to buy Hooper’s contract but Scramuzza wouldn’t sell. Wexler told Hooper to call him when she got out from under Scram, but she never followed up. Her father, a preacher, didn’t want her gallivanting to New York to sing secular music.
Scarmuzza’s venture as an impresario wrapped in the early 70s, as his seafood business expanded across this entire city block. He updated its name to Seafood City and produced a series of DIY television commercials in which he starred as a doctor prescribing crawfish to treat various ailments. He also wrote the accompanying jingle (Seafood City is very pretty, down on Broad and St. Bernard!) which still rings in the ears of New Orleanians of a certain age. He closed Seafood City in 1993, and, as a nonagenarian, wears a silver crawfish on a chain around his neck.
From WGNO TV in 1990, Al Scramuzza discusses his culinary and musical legacies.
A brief history of Seafood City including its classic TV commercials, introduced by Ronnie Virgets in a shirt that depicts dogs playing poker.
From 2006, Eddie Bo performing his Scram Records hit "Hook and Sling."
From the 2017 Ponderosa Stomp Music History Conference, Scram Records artist Mary Jane Hooper in conversation with WWOZ DJ Neil Pellegrin.