Politics may make strange bedfellows but strange bedfellows can make for some awesome and unique music.
For proof, check out “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” or one of my favorite events, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival where a wide range of musicians are often put on the stage together to some magical effect.
But a musical melting pot is not new to New Orleans which has been stirring up the world’s cultures for three centuries. Congo Square is widely considered to have been the cauldron for brass bands and ultimately jazz. All it takes is a place for musicians of different stripes to gather, meet and mix it up. A place, let’s say, like just about any bar in New Orleans.
How about the Mother-in-Law Lounge? Founded originally to create a play space for one of New Orleans most famous eccentric R&B stars and the patron of this blog, Ernie K-Doe, the Mother-in-Law operated from 1992 to 2009. Here’s how Ben Sandmel, author of Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans described the lounge:
“. . .delight ensued from the lounge’s welcoming environment and the surreal sensory overload that walloped all who crossed the threshold. This physical entrance doubled as the conceptual portal into Ernie K-Doe’s eccentric parallel universe–a festive and unfettered happiness reigned supreme. . .The lounge’s hybrid ambience combined elements of a juke joint, a mosh pit, an R&B museum, and a cinematic set from Satyricon.”
Not surprisingly, the lounge attracted an eclectic mix of clientele particularly while Ernie was still alive. One regular was Robert Rolston a young keyboardist with his own eccentricities. Performing under the name of Quintron , he developed a style of punk, electronica, dance music that he dubbed “Swamp-Tech” –often performing with his artistic partner and wife, under the name of Quintron and Miss Pussycat.
Ernie became friends with Quintron and in a way served as a mentor. Speaking of K-Doe, Quinton is quoted as saying “To him there was no failure onstage; he held stuff up with energy and emotion and screaming and shouting and turning disaster into glorious, successful, beautiful music. . . It was K-Doe’s music that made us gather around him–the way that K-Doe would perform. He was as punk as anyone.”
Quintron engineered and produced Ernie last two recorded songs, taped in the Mother-in-Law lounge. He also coaxed Ernie to be in his surreal infomercial created for one of his musical inventions called a drum buddy. Together, they performed Fever. You got to see it to believe it. And here’s the full 49-minute infomercial.
I’ll be playing Ernie K-Doe, Quintron and many other New Orleans soul and R&B greats on my next show. Tune in. Or listen to the edited podcast of that show (K-Doe and Quintron are saved for the last part of the program)