Fats Domino got the world to dance

His hometown and the world mourn his passing on October 25, 2017. Click on my show in honor of his 87th Birthday and read the blog post I wrote in 2015.

Fats Domino turns 87 today. While perhaps debatable everywhere else, in my mind he’s the real King of Rock n’ Roll.  And, he also has his professional DNA in ska and reggae.

“Be My Guest” hit 8 in the popular music charts in 1959–one of four Domino songs that got into the Top 40 that year. Not bad, considering he only recorded six songs.

Fats Domino was not only a major force in Rock n' Roll, he help inspire sk.
Fats Domino was not only a major force in Rock n’ Roll, he helped inspire ska.

“Be My Guest” marked a decade of Domino getting young people of all backgrounds to dance together. And with lyrics like “Come on baby and be my guest/Come join the party and meet the rest,” Domino made it a world dance party.

That dancing was particularly important in Jamaica where disk jockeys held dance parties in the street. As the unofficial northern capital of the Caribbean, New Orleans has had a long history with Jamaica. Island workers would arrive in New Orleans to work in canefields and return home with armloads of R&B records. Many argue that ska developed its rhythm from the shuffle and boogie beats that were emanating from Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans at the time.

New Orleans early Rock n' Roll inspired the Ska rhythm that evolved on the streets of Jamaica.
New Orleans early Rock n’ Roll inspired the Ska rhythm that evolved on the streets of Jamaica.

“Be My Guest” was a huge hit in Jamaica and its 4/4 time with the drummer hitting hard on the offbeat apparently became the foundation of ska.  Its not that Fats was the only inspiration. Professor Longhair, Smiley Louis and other R&B stars of that period were essential. But Domino was top dog, often covered (e.g. Super Cat’s My Girl Josephine) and paid homage in songs like Derrick Morgan’s “Fat Man.”

Bob Marley said reggae started with Fats Domino, according Rick Coleman, author of “Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”  Whether it did or not, there are lot of people on this planet dancing because of Antoine “Fats” Domino. That alone is worth honoring the day of his birth.

New Orleans funk band plays the I-5 tour this week

Galactic, an ever evolving New Orleans band that tours nationally, will be on the wet side of the Cascades this coming week.

On Thursday February 26, Galactic will take the stage at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo before rolling down to Seattle’s Showbox on Friday and finishing its tour of Interstate-5 at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Saturday.

(From Left) Jeff Mercurio, Ben Ellman, Dan Vogel, Jeff Raines and Stanton Moore.
(From Left) Robert Mercurio, Ben Ellman, Rich Vogel, Jeff Raines and Stanton Moore.

The band formed in 1994 and was inspired by The Meters and other funk bands playing in Benny’s Bar, a long-gone uptown establishment located not more than a football field from where the Nevilles used to live. The band’s original name Galactic Prophylactic was quickly shortened while it led a second wave of New Orleans funk bands.

The first decade, Galactic was powered by the vocals of journeyman R&B and soul singer Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet.  With its jam band tendencies, the group developed a loyal following for its live shows.

While the band has gone through a number of personnel changes over the years, the core of the group includes founding members Jeff Raines (guitar), Robert Mercurio (bass), Stanton Moore (drums) and Rich Vogel (keyboards). Also, saxophonist Ben Ellman, who produced Trombone Shorty’s first two albums, has been a long-time mainstay of the band.

After the departure of DeClouet in 2004, the band got into producing its own music using loops and samples and invited a wide range of mostly New Orleans talent into the studio with them. Ya-ka-may, probably my favorite Galactic album, includes Irma Thomas, Trombone Shorty, John Boutte, Katey Red, Big Freedia, and Big Chief Bo Dollis. The first song also includes a sample from the fright night show Morgus the Magnificent.

Robert Mercurio on bass for Galactic
Robert Mercurio on bass for Galactic

According to reviews of this tour, the band is reaching back to its roots, while still keeping it contemporary. Check out recent releases “Higher and Higher” featuring JJ Grey and “Dolla Diva” with a duet by Maggie Koerner and David Shaw of The Revivalists. For this tour, Erica Falls is handling the vocals — an excellent choice of a New Orleans singer whose talent far exceeds her current public recognition. But perhaps not for long. Here’s an article that got her on the cover of Offbeat.

Erica Falls, a talented New Orleans singer who has performed with Irma Thomas, John Fogerty and Sting, is the lead singer for Galactic on its current tour.

Individually, Galactic band members are highly active musicians and music producers involved in a wide range of other projects, including some with Seattle saxophonist Skerik (who will be in Portland Maine on Saturday). This week’s I-5 tour is an excellent chance to catch them live. But if you can’t do that, I’ll be playing my favorite Galactic numbers on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa on Monday.   (Sneak tip:  I will have tickets to the Portland show to give away.)

Also, consider subscribing (upper right hand column). I write regularly about New Orleans music, particularly as it relates to the Northwest.

Olympia marching band rumbles through downtown

The Artesian Rumble Arkestra brought the spirit of Carnival to Olympia last night when it processed through 11 downtown bars for its second annual pub crawl.

artesianpub crawl
Here’s the 2016 Pub Crawl Schedule for Tuesday

News Flash- The band is going to rumble for Fat Tuesday 2016 on February 9 


We caught up with the band at McCoys and in a scene sort of reminiscent from the first episode of Treme when Rebirth Brass Band gathered at a bar prior to a parade, we watched the band regroup and prepare for its assault on Fourth Avenue. But first, they played Iko, Iko.

Artesian Rumble Arkestra marched through downtown and 11 pubs last night, carrying the spirit of carnival with them.
Artesian Rumble Arkestra marched through downtown and 11 pubs last night, carrying the spirit of carnival with them.

Over the next two hours, they worked their way through Obsidian, Eastside Tavern, Le Voyeur, The Clipper, 4th Ave Tavern, and Dillinger’s. Then they turned right toward Budd Bay on Capitol and stopped at the Brotherhood before finishing up at Rhythm and Rye. Prior to us hooking up with them, the band had serenaded drinkers at the Fish Tale Brew Pub and Cryptatropa.

The music was fun and so was the notion of mixing it up. I enjoyed watching the different reactions of patrons as a full blown brass and percussion band entered their space. Not to mention the colorful dancing of Steve Passero. The pool players at 4th Ave whose games were temporarily interrupted took it in stride and danced while the computer-engrossed patrons of Obsidian took a couple of songs to get into the mood. The folks at Clipper didn’t want the band to leave. Too bad we don’t allow “go cups” in Olympia like New Orleans does.

The spirit was infectious, with folks joining the parade as the journey down Fourth Avenue continued.
The spirit was infectious, with folks joining the parade as the journey down Fourth Avenue continued.

It was a prime opportunity to once again experience the liberating effect of music, which affords us the opportunity to lift ourselves out of the moment. The history of New Orleans is very much entwined with music and its ability to nudge us out of our ruts. When Jazz and Rock n’ Roll emerged, traditional power structures were unnerved, partly because the music brought together people of all colors to dance and sing but also because the music’s message was empowering to those who were not expected to have that power.

My favorite venue was the hallway of the Securities building, allowing the band to serenade patrons at Dillingers and Rumors Wine Bar.
My favorite venue was the hallway of the Securities building, allowing the band to serenade patrons at Dillingers and Rumors Wine Bar.

I look at the wonderful folks who comprise the Artesian Rumble Arkestra and I see people who are liberated by their music and the instruments they play. How cool for them (and those in their path last night) to use Fat Tuesday as an excuse to share that love with others.

I know this blog and my show is about New Orleans music but I also live in Olympia where I’m lucky enough to get in the path of Artesian Rumble Arkestra.

I’m on a journey to learn about New Orleans music, consider subscribing using the button on the top right column. Tune in on Monday if you can.

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Carnival Season ends with a bang on Fat Tuesday

Happy Carnival, y’all!  (Here’s a glimpse at Fat Tuesday in Olympia)

If you’ve been catching my show, you know that carnival season started on January 6. And it ends on Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday), February 17.  One last blowout before Lent begins. In the last week alone, over 20 parades have rolled through the streets of New Orleans. There are so many activities and traditions encompassed by the New Orleans carnival season, that its best if you go to the source.  To get a feel for a street parade, check out the site’s live cameras.

My family (my Dad's taking the picture) as we head to Canal Street for the Mardi Gras parades.  I didn't get to wear a beret.
My family (my Dad’s taking the picture) as we head to Canal Street for the Mardi Gras parades in the early 60s. I didn’t get to wear a beret.

It’s been a long time since my last Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I was 10 years old. Our family tradition was to camp out at my Dad’s office just off Canal Street and watch the major parades pass.

It was quite a party at the office with a potluck table loaded with fried chicken, gumbo, King Cake and a wide variety of liquor bottles. At that time, in the 60’s, the big  parade on Mardi Gras Day was, and perhaps still is, the venerable Rex. However, the parade was referred to as “formaldehyde on wheels” by a character in the HBO series Treme.

The unique Zulu parade was almost mystical to me at the time, an elusive parade with no printed parade route that tossed coconuts and had ass-kicking music. The Times Picayune and MardiGras.com have done a great job of posting photos and videos of parades during the carnival season and I’m impressed by the intimacy of some of the parades.  They remind me of of my favorite parades that used to roll down Freret Street and Carrollton Avenue. Parade routes are more limited now but even still some of the parades offer that neighborhood feeling–quite a contrast from the Bourbon street image of Mardi Gras often portrayed to the rest of the world.

Big Chief Bo Dollis brought the music and rhythms of Mardi Gras Indians to music lovers everywhere. He died January 20 after a long illness.
Big Chief Bo Dollis brought the music and rhythms of Mardi Gras Indians to music lovers everywhere. He died January 20 after a long illness.

One tradition that continues to grow in awareness is the Black Indians of Mardi Gras. Even with the growth in popularity, its still a lucky person who can catch sight of a Mardi Gras Indian gang doing their thing on the streets on Fat Tuesday. I’ll be doing Mardi Gras and party music in general on my show on Monday.  If you miss the show, you can catch it later and other episodes, on MixCloud.

Until then, “throw me something, mister!”

You can listen to the Mardi Gras show.

Careless Love follows carefree path to our ears

“Oh love, oh careless love, you’ve fly to my head like wine.”

Words of caution during this season of Valentine? Perhaps. But it’s also the opening to another enigmatic traditional song with uncertain origins that has become a New Orleans standard.

Like St. James Infirmary, Careless Love took its form from the 19th Century folk tradition. The song didn’t get locked down until it was recorded in the 1920’s, most notably Bessie Smith’s recording with Louis Armstrong on cornet. Even since then, the song’s lyrics have been malleable, adapted to jazz, blues and even bluegrass.

Buddy Bolden, holding the cornet standing in back, was never recorded but he is likely the reason why Careless Love is New Orleans standard today.
Buddy Bolden, holding the cornet standing in back, was never recorded but he is likely the reason why Careless Love is a New Orleans standard today.

The song’s strong association to New Orleans is most likely the result of Buddy Bolden who performed the song regularly at the turn of the 20th Century.  Buddy Bolden and his band performed a more bluesier and improvised form of ragtime and inspired jazz pioneers such as Kid Ory, King Oliver and Bunk Johnson who followed.

While there are no recordings of Bolden and his band, there are literally hundreds of other recorded versions of Careless Love, including those by Pete Seeger, Janis Joplin, Lead Belly, Madeleine Peyroux, Big Joe Turner, Nat King Cole, and Ray Charles.

Contemporary New Orleans artists, such Miss Sophie Lee, carry on the New Orleans tradition of performing Careless Love.
Contemporary New Orleans artists, such as Miss Sophie Lee, carry on the New Orleans tradition of performing Careless Love.

As for New Orleans musicians, Careless Love has been recorded by Kid Ory,  Sidney Bechet,  Bunk Johnson,  Dr. John,  Fats Domino, Snooks Eaglin, Champion Jack Dupree and the Preservation Hall Band.

Even today, you’ll hear it played on the streets (Tuba Skinny) and in the nightclubs of New Orleans (Miss Sophie Lee at the Spotted Cat).

And you’ll hear it on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa (probably more than once) this Monday.

Happy Valentine’s Day.