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.
June not only holds the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States (Juneteenth or June 19), it is also African American Music Appreciation Month. Though my show is no longer airing live, you can still listen to recordings of the series of shows I made last year in honor of this month.(Use the links below to go to the page then activate the embedded player on that page.)
The June 3rd, 2021 show covers the post World War II music scene in New Orleans where Jump Blues evolved into R&B and then later got called Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The June 10th, 2021 show is about Jazz with references to stories about Basin Street, Danny Barker, Storyville and New Orleans dancehalls.
The June 17th, 2021 show makes a pretty solid argument for why New Orleans should also be considered the birth place of Funk.
Finally, I really enjoyed doing a Black Music Month appreciation show the year before where I provide some history on the month’s recognition and some great music. But for the record, every show is a celebration of African American Music because without African Americans, there would be no New Orleans music.
Kim and I are still driving around the country. And I thought I’d share a few shots with you all. (A reminder that I’m not doing the show anymore but I’m in reruns and you can find past shows here.)
Since Lafayette, we’ve been to Mobile, Tampa, Savannah, Atlanta, Asheville, Nashville, Memphis and we are now headed back home.
My favorite music experience to date has been at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta where we heard and saw Lulu the Giant. First, the attic is a great place to see music. A genuine listening room with a back patio with a video feed for the loud partiers and talkers. Second, Rachael Shaner delivers her original music with an amazing voice. Third, she has excellent taste in band members, especially Daniel Malone who is not only a fun personality, but a drummer with a unique style. They are based in Savannah. Check them out and you will thank me.
Asheville is a wonderful music town but I don’t think I quite hit it at the right time. Still, we were able to see several live acts on the street and in no-cover venues such as the S&W Market and we saw Ash & Eric at the Isis Theater upstairs loft.
Later, we cruised the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping at the music center to catch their daily performances in the center’s breezeway. I liked the exhibits at the center too.
At the Blue Ridge Music Center
Nashville was a bit overwhelming particularly downtown. But we got up into Midtown and found a few neighborhood bars, most notably Bobby’s Idle Hour where we were pleasantly surprised to see and meet Annie Ford who has lived and performed in New Orleans and Seattle. We caught a review of songwriters at Third and Lindsley and fell in love with Ray Stephenson and Byron Hill, particularly when they performed together.
Of course we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and did the RCA Studio A tour and then rolled to Memphis and immediately stopped at the Stax Records Museum. We hit Memphis on a Sunday and Monday so music was a bit light. Beale Street was actually pretty tame which was nice. Memphis reminds me of Olympia, just bigger. Lots of potential with some great steps forwards but still struggling with empty storefronts. The Civil Rights museum consumed most of our day but we did have a nice evening at B.B. King’s Club on Beale Street.
But we had to keep moving and it was in Ste. Genevieve, the oldest permanent European settlement in Missouri, that we stumbled into our Rockwell moment. After the urban experience of Nashville and Memphis, walking about an historic, rural town on a slow night was quite pleasant, despite the banker hours of the shops. I did find a collectible shop open whose owner had his radio tuned loudly to KDHX St. Louis. A big blast community radio station that was like a hybrid between Seattle’s KEXP and Olympia’s KAOS. Professional (but volunteer) deejays dish up a great variety of tasty music. That station carried us almost to Kansas City the next day.
After dinner walk while looking for a tavern, our ears led us to a community band playing in the parking lot of the local school at sunset, performing music by W.C. Handy and others. They even had a cart selling snoballs. The fireflies sparking up around us, dancing to the music was pure lagniappe.
To mix it up on Gumbo YaYa, I often played music from acts from Baton Rouge and Lafayette. But until this week, I had barely passed through those towns. A musical evening in Lafayette and a quick blues festival stop in Baton Rouge began the process of remedying that experience gap.
Kim and I have been driving about a bit since the last show and we’ve caught music in Bend, Oregon (The Pinehearts), some stray live tunes in Moab, Utah and Santa Fe, and a hoedown at the Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin. But we hit the main music vein when we got to Lafayette.
We caught a few bands downtown and at the Blue Moon Saloon but the big strike was the “Medicine Show” a showcase of student and faculty performances from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Traditional Music Program. The program was celebrating 25 years of providing guidance to young musicians in the history and practice of Cajun music, zydeco, bluegrass, blues and other root styles.
Accomplished students with famous last names such as “Benoit,” “Sonnier” and “Guidry” offered up songs such as “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane,” “Give Him Cornbread,” and “Zydeco Stomp.” In all, five distinct student groups took the stage led by some of the all-star cast of this amazing music program.
The faculty includes, among others, Nathan Williams Jr. of Lil Nathan and the Zydeco Big Timers, Chas Justus of the Revelers, Chad Huval with Beausoleil, Blake Miller of the Red Stick Ramblers and Pine Leaf Boys, Gina Forsyth solo fiddler/songwriter and Lee Allen Zeno who played with Buckwheat Zydeco. All of the faculty performed, including coming together for an “Instructor All-Stars” performance. That was followed by another long set by an ad hoc group that included Zachary Richard, Sonny Landreth, Henry Hample, Ward Lormand, Gary Newman and Danny Kimball.
The next day, Kim and I drove into Baton Rouge, hooked up with Bill Boelens who co-hosts Dirty Rice on KRVS in Lafayette and Back Down the Bayou on WPVM in Baton Rouge. We got on downtown for the blues festival and caught Roddie Romero and Michael Juan Nunez as they were performing Romero’s “The Creole Nightingale Sings” from his excellent Gulfstream release from 2016 (Show featuring my interview with him.) This fan boy moment of meeting these two musicians after their set (and getting Nunez new record) was made even greater when Bill introduced me to Larry Garner who was sitting in the audience preparing to catch the next act. This Louisiana Blues Hall of Famer has three of his records on the KAOS blues shelf and I’ve drawn from them regularly over the years.
Wrote more than I really wanted to do, just needed an excuse to show off these pictures.
I have hung up my headset and retired the show with this week’s farewell program. I’m healthy . . .just hewing to my philosophy of ending activities when they are still fun to do. I’ll explain this a bit more but first go ahead and demonstrate your multitask abilities by starting the show while still reading.
Since September 8 2014, I have produced a weekly radio show that features “Just a Little Bit of Everything ” which is the title of the Herb Hardesty’s 1961 single that kicks off the first full set of music. However, the common element has always been a strong connection with New Orleans and Lafayette.
The show broadcast live from the KAOS studio on the campus of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, first on Mondays and then later on Thursdays. A few years back, community station KMRE (Bellingham) began running edited versions of the show on Fridays. More recently, the show has aired on KOCF (Fern Ridge), WPHW (Hartwell) and occasionally other stations that participate in the Pacifica Network. In all, I produced about 380 episode with over 300 of them available to listen through this website.
When I first started as a volunteer deejay with KAOS , I considered a show featuring exclusively New Orleans music. But worried about the limited format. Over the course of my first year doing a morning drive-time show, I found myself digging into the KAOS music collection and was surprised by the depth of music coming out of the city –my birthplace and home for most of childhood.
So that’s what I’ve done, play songs by musicians such as Earl King who kicks off the show with “No City Like New Orleans,” Johnny Adams who swings through “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You,” and Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses jamming through “Minor Drag.”
I’m not a fan of long goodbyes but I also believe its important that radio stations provide closure when a show ends (as opposed to abruptly changing format with no warning). So I made it a finale show and asked listeners to call in and say hi. And over a dozen did! My favorite comment was from a listener who said she was going to JazzFest this April as a result of what she had heard on the show. (I couldn’t have received a better report card.)
Today’s show takes a sentimental walk through some previously covered material, including “St. James Infirmary” a personal lifelong favorite which has an interesting pedigree. Here’s more detail on that history. This week’s segment includes a clip from the Treme TV series featuring Wendell Pierce riffing off that song in the Touro Emergency Room.
Later, I play the original version of “Basis Street Blues” by Louis Armstrong and hint at its fascinating history detailed more in a previous show and post including how that song acquired lyrics which then resulted in the City of New Orleans returning the “Basin Street” name after eliminating it during a blush of civic post-Storyville shame (I guess tourism promotion beat out virtue and vanity). Satchmo scats on this early pre-lyric version of the song.
The Treme Brass Band does a great job on “Darktown Strutters Ball” a song with lyrics and a title that has caused me concern and in which I explore in a show and post.
I touch on the topic of Nine Lives a book by Dan Baum about people’s lives in New Orleans — originally sent to write about Hurricane Katrina, Baum ended up with a book detailing unique aspects of New Orleans culture such as Mardi Gras Indians, and marching bands. I play a song about Tootie Montana in today’s show.
This week’s show also includes a couple of clips from interviews including a funny description by Irvin Mayfield of his good friend Kermit Ruffins. You’ll also hear Kermit sing from his Happy Talk release. Here’s the interview of Kermit and Irvin in Kermit’s Mother-in-Law club about their album collaboration.
So this is it. I’m done creating new shows though you can listen to the 300 shows available through this website. I’m looking to travel a bit more and explore even more new music. And I’m going to keep this blog going. I suspect it will be quiet for a few weeks but don’t be surprised if I return with non-radio show type posts regarding music. Thanks for listening. But to keep in touch, you should subscribe .(right hand column)
Mardi Gras is over but the dancing can continue with the help of over two dozen New Orleans acts ready to kick off March in style. Start the show to hear Jason Ricci and Joe Krown offer up some “Real Good Funk.”
Big Sam’s Funky Nation rocks the opening of the first full set with “Feet on the Floor” followed by Marcia Ball’s “Right Back In It” and a retro disco-like cover of “Fly Me to the Moon” by Dr. Brice Miller’s alter ego Ecirb Muller’s Twisted Dixie.
It’s not all funk cause the second full set is loaded with hot jazz by Meschiya Lake, Jacques Gauthe, Shotgun Jazz Band, Treme Brass Band, and Smoking Time Jazz Club.
The show switches gears but still stays danceable with The Iguanas and Panorama Jazz Band, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and The Neville Brothers.
Where’s the R&B? Next set features Irma Thomas and Ernie K-Doe (Patron Saint of this Blog). Later Lloyd Price demonstrates why he is an underappreciated progenitor of ‘rock n’ roll.”
And so the show rolls and rocks and boogies with additional help from Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes, John Lisi & Delta Funk, Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet, The Meters, Professor Longhair, Dana Abbott and Professor Longhair.
Enjoy the show and stay tuned for next week’s farewell show. Last Gumbo YaYa!
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.”
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!
This week’s show offers some rare New Orleans jazz tracks as I dive into the use of the KAOS turntables — revealing in the process some studio maintenance needs. But hey, you probably won’t notice when you use the player below
There was a time when Bourbon Street was known for its jazz clubs such as Louis Prima’s brother Leon’s 500 Club, Famous Door, Pete Fountain’s Quarter Inn, and Dan’s Pier 600 where Al Hirt performed regularly before opening his own club on the street. Those performances are memorialized by a 1958 album titled “Al Hirt “Swingin’ Dixie!” at Dan’s Pier 600 in New Orelans. You’ll hear two tracks from this classic including Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” to open the show.
I embraced Compact Disc technology. I loved the ease of use, the clean sound and the long play. But I hung on to my turntable and my modest collection of LPs. And as the years have passed, I’ve gradually added to the collection. Reading liner notes are definitely easier with the larger LPs. Somewhere in my record shop dives, I came up with Al Hirt recorded at Dan’s Pier 600.
Back in the late 70’s after my Dad died and I was preparing to move to the West Coast, I wanted to have something to remember him by so I went through his collection of records and selected Bunk Johnson’s 1953 release “The Last Testament of a Great New Orleans Jazzman.” You’ll hear a couple tracks from that somewhat ragged album. You’ll also hear from a handful of other LPs, including Willie Humphrey’s “New Orleans Clarinet” released by Smoky Mary Phonograph Company.
During the show, I noticed that the studio’s Turntable 1 had a disturbing hum and no music coming out of one channel, so I stopped using it. I filled in with CD versions of New Orleans jazz numbers by Meschiya Lake, the New Orleans Jazz Vipers, Smoking Time Jazz Club, the New Orleans Swamp Donkeys, Tuba Skinny, Aurora Nealand and a lengthy Mardi Gras medley from the first album of the band that was titled at that time ReBirth Jazz Band. The result is two hours of music from New Orleans that many folks associate with the city. I’ll get back to funk, R&B, rock and country from the city next week. Meanwhile, enjoy!
This month’s Gumbo YaYa dance party arrives a week late but will still leave you breathless if you try to boogie to the full show.
John Fred & his Playboy Band kicks the show off with “Down In New Orleans” and I keep it in the swamp pop and R&B realm for a couple more songs with help from Lil Buck and G.G. Shin. But then Jon Cleary moves in with a little funk and Lynn Drury kicks up to rock with “Sugar on the Floor.”
Later, a blues set features Kenny Wayne Shepherd (from Shreveport), Benny Turner and 81-year-old Little Freddie King who is still performing live to local New Orleans audiences. Later, blues fans will recognize Mama Boys backing up Ghalia and Guitar Lightnin Lee with “Amsterdam.”
Brass bands, swing and rock fill out the show. By the time Buckwheat Zydeco cranks up “Hot Tamale Baby” anyone my age will be on the couch looking for the oxygen tank. But hey, there will be a smile on my face as I desperately suck in air. Enjoy!
I will take full credit for the brilliant alignment of this week’s show theme and the live studio performance of Bon Bon Vivant in the KAOS studio on the campus of The Evergreen State College. Why not? Start the show and read on.
Bon Bon Vivant is scheduled to play its first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this year. If all goes well, it will be the first JazzFest since 2019. Last week, I featured New Orleans bands who are scheduled for the first weekend of the venerable festival. And as luck would have it, Bon Bon Vivant is scheduled for the second week. So you’ll hear this exciting band perform five of their songs live in the KAOS studio “Last Night’s Glitter,” “Ship is Sinking,” “Nature Vs. Nurture,” “Lady Luck, ” and “Tracks.”
You’ll also hear other New Orleans acts featured on the second weekend lineup of JazzFest, including Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Irma Thomas, New Orleans Nightcrawlers, New Orleans Jazz Vipers, Meschiya Lake, Ted Hefko, Sarah Quintana, John Mooney and, of course, Trombone Shorty who traditionally closes the festival but for this show opens it.
Back to Bon Bon Vivant, this is their second visit to the KAOS studio but the first since the pandemic. In fact, it was the first studio appearance of any band in the studio since the pandemic. It was fun to see the studio gradually fill up with curious Evergreen students involved in the station — well until they all had to go to class. Journeyman studio engineer and recent Evergreen graduate Isaac Chavez handled the work of getting the five-piece band in the tight quarters and sounding right.
Between songs, you’ll hear Abigail Cosio and Jeremy Kelley (wife and husband team) with the help of other band members talk about what it has been like to be a musician in New Orleans and touring in this era, about being scheduled for JazzFest for the first time, how they met and their ties to the Northwest. You’ll also hear some great information about the Krewe of Red Beans -a group, which could have just been one of a dozen parade party clubs, that has turned into a fundraising and brainstorming dynamo focused on nurturing the art and music culture of New Orleans. The Krewe parades on Lundi Gras (the day before Mardi Gras) and enlists Bon Bon Vivant as one of its bands. The Krewe also allows members from around the world, including me, to join and support their mission. You’ll hear all this in the first hour. I hope you’ll listen to this creative band and check them out. They are very good at doing online performances as well.
Of particular note of this live recording is that you can clearly hear the original lyrics sung by Abigail (also written by her) with the help of her sister Glori and Jeremy.
Here’s hoping that the third time really is the charm. After two years of planning great line-ups only to be COVID cancelled, Jazzfest has once again tantalized our live music taste buds with the promise of a New Orleans Spring we haven’t seen since 2019.
This week’s show indulges in that hope by working through some of the local New Orleans acts that will be performing at the Fair Grounds Race Course in the last weekend of April restarting a tradition that ran unbroken from 1970 until two years ago.
To say that this year’s festival is a big (add expletive) deal is an understatement.
This week’s show starts with Don Vappie, a world class banjo player who sings in French and English and helps sustain the Creole sound with his Creole Jazz Serenaders. Every song afterwards is by a musician scheduled to take the stage on that first weekend, including Jon Cleary, Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band, Alexey Marti, Aurora Nealand, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, the Original Pin Stripe Brass Band and Delfeayo Marsalis.
JazzFest is a chance for musicians and music lovers alike to remember and honor those that have died. In the first weekend, special events are scheduled to mark the passing of Ellis Marsalis, Jr. , Dr. John, Spencer Bohren, and George Wein. Also, the Hot 8 Brass Band will perform — a band that has lost too many of its band members, including its bandleader and founder Bennie Pete last summer. You’ll hear Spencer and Bennie in this week’s show.
As usual, the lineup includes non-New Orleans acts such as Lionel Ritchie, the Avett Brothers, Foo Fighters and The Who. But you won’t hear them on my New Orleans music show. Not that I do a particularly good job of covering the over 100 New Orleans area acts that will be performing. I only had time for 26 songs in this two-hour show.
However, you will hear a classic recording by Clarence “Frogman” Henry who will be part of a “New Orleans Classic Recording Revue” with the Dixie Cups and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. And despite the name, its not all jazz so this show’s mix includes the New Orleans Spiritualettes, Cha Wa , Jamie Lynn Vessels and Lakou Mizik which is a Haitian band that has recorded in New Orleans.
Another musician you won’t hear at JazzFest but will certainly see is Jon Batiste. He’s featured in the official festival poster created by Terrance Osborne whose work can be easily seen and purchased at his studio on Magazine Street. Batiste will not be able to make the festival but his spirit will preside. The Osborne image conjures up Batiste’s grammy-nominated song “Freedom” and its accompanying video of dancing in the streets.
Next week I’ll feature music by acts scheduled for the second week including Bon Bon Vivant which is touring the Northwest right now and will be performing in Tacoma on February 2, 2022. Yes, 2/02/2022. And then the next morning, they’ll be in the KAOS studio with me. Subscribe so you don’t miss it!