Mardi Gras in New Orleans – Where Wearing a Mask has a Dual Purpose

Parades are rolling, crowds are gathering and there is the usual mayhem (both good and bad) that accompanies the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Next Tuesday is Mardi Gras and this week’s show provides the soundtrack to get you ready to “Do Whatcha Wanna.”

The first voice you’ll hear after I start the show is Kermit Ruffins rallying the troops (in this case Rebirth Brass Band, Trombone Shorty and Irvin Mayfield) for an extended second line pulled from the Los Hombres Calientes collection. And you’ll later get the feel of being there as music rolls by first with the Mardi Gras Indians Fi Yi Yi and the Mandingo Warriors rapping out their rhythm and then with The Original Pin Stripe Brass Band giving you that feel of watching a parade band go by – first the music a bit distant, then the volume increases as it comes to where you are standing, blasting away in your face and then it recedes as it moves on down the street. Pretty cool given the song, “Dancin’ at the Mardi Gras,” was recorded in a studio.

Al “Carnival Time” Johnson steps up next — not to sing the song that gave him his middle name but rather — to sing a new song in honor of the socially responsible new parade krewe, “Krewe of Red Beans.” Not only does this Krewe raise money and perform services that benefit the city’s arts and entertainment culture, they strive to create a fun parade event that everyone can enjoy and feel good about. Yes, I get on my soap box a bit but you can cut to the chase and read their “Costume Code of Ethics.”

Other aspects of Mardi Gras is explored by music, including the first all-female parade krewe, Krewe of Muses, noted for their parade throws of decorated shoes. Lena Prima sings her song “Muses Shoes” and Liese Dettmer sings about her experience with the super Krewe parade Endymion. Later, Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes portrays the two century old tradition of skull gangs leading his “We Are the Northside Skull and Bone Gang.”

Picture from the Original Northside Skull and Bone Gang facebook page.

You’ll hear a couple versions of “Mardi Gras Mambo.” The original, of course, featuring Art Neville and The Hawkettes but also one by Fredy Omar Con Su Banda. I like them both.

Cha Wa, Wild Magnolias, Bo Dollis, and Monk Boudreaux lay on some stylized Mardi Gras Indian music. The Melatauns do “Outta Be in the Quarter” and Chuck Carbo sings “Hey Mardi Gras (Here I Am).” There’s some other surprises because, its Mardi Gras!

Happy Fat Tuesday!

Author: Tim Sweeney

Host of Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa - a two-hour radio show that featured the music of New Orleans. It aired from September 2014 through March 2022, broadcast live on KAOS in Olympia and as a recording KMRE Bellingham and some Pacifica Network stations. Maintaining blog for a while longer.

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