James 'Big Sambo' Young
Huey P. Meaux produced Big Sambo’s first and biggest hit record, “The Rains Came,” in 1961. “We recorded ‘The Rains Came’ at Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans,” recalls Meaux. “James had an unusual voice, the vocal we had on the record was really haunting. As soon as we recorded it, I knew we were gonna have a hit.” The single sold over a half a million copies.
Big Sambo recorded other songs, like “Barking Up The Wrong Tree” (under the name James Young and the Housewreckers) and toured the United States, playing sessions in Los Angeles. He couldn’t get a hit though, and eventually settled back in his hometown with his family.
Young worked for the City of Port Arthur beginning in 1972 as a crew chief for Solid Waste services. His love of music and entertaining drew Young to the Port Arthur Civic Center when it opened in 1979.
Civic Center director Carroll Albrittion recalls: “We need crews to clean up the Center after each show. Big Sambo came up and offered to work, because he said he knew entertainers and wanted to see the shows.”
As people realized who James Young was, the Jaycees asked him to play in their second Fifties rock show. Thankful for the chance to perform again, Big Sambo constantly visited Mrs. Elise Boneau at Boneau’s Record Shop. Mrs. Boneau, and others who knew him remembered him as a kind and generous man with a heart of gold.
“Every day he would come in, and every day I would get a big bear hug,” says Mrs. Boneau.
After his 1981 concert at the Civic Center, Big Sambo, the star of the night, helped clean up the hall.