Host of Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa - a two-hour radio show featuring the music of New Orleans -- every Thursday starting at 10 a.m. (PST) on community radio station KAOS 89.3 FM Olympia, Washington -- www.kaosradio.org. Show also airs on Fridays, 7 p.m., KMRE, 102.3 FM, Bellingham.
As COVID cases begin to rise again, bands that thought the coast was clear are starting to announce their tour plans, or in some cases, already getting out there and performing. This week’s show features those New Orleans acts with plans to tour the Northwest as well as new records released in recent months.
There’s other music in this two-hour show (featuring the KMRE edit version), including Helen Gillet, Kevin Sekhani, Josh Garrett, Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton, Egg Yolk Jubilee to cite a few.
The funky Meters jump on around the 35 minute mark to do a live version of “Fire on the Bayou” from the 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Once again, COVID has cancelled this very important event to the New Orleans economy. The news sucks but the song is good.
This fire season over 100 large fires have incinerated two million acres of land in the U.S. And new fires are reported each day. . . Let’s play some music, starting with Rebirth Brass Band’s “Fire.” (you can listen to the show while still staying on this page using the player below)
While New Orleans sits on the western side of the hurricane season, Olympia sits on the western edge of the fires. We might be mostly safe from the flame but the smoke is creating a haze and red hue to our sunlight. Air quality is holding but is vulnerable to a shift in the winds. New Orleans Suspects kick off the first full set with “You Got the Fire” carried on by Mike Doussan’s “Breathe” and Papa Grows Funk “Fire in the Garage.” The Royal Southern Brotherhood finish the set with “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire.”
Fire and smoke in song are metaphors usually for love though Randy Newman’s “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” covered by Papa Mali seems more about destruction. Alexey Marti does his instrumental “Fire Land” and Trombone Shorty performs “Fire and Brimstone.” You’ll even hear the patron saint of this show, Ernie K-Doe, say his trademark “Burn K-Doe Burn.”
Midway through the show, we take a break from the fire for “Indian Summer” one of my favorites of Eric Lindell along with a radio edit version of Tiffany Pollack’s “Crawfish and Beer.” In honor of Davis Rogan coming to Olympia, I play an All That song and Buckwheat Zydeco does Bruce Springsteen’s “Back In Your Arms.”
But I eventually bring it back to theme of fire aided by Bon Bon Vivant’s “Burn” and New Birth Brass Band’s “Smoke That Fire.” The topic gives me an excuse to play the nine-minute live version of “All Our Fire” by Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes at the Maple Leaf Bar and I finish the theme with the Neville’s “Fire on the Bayou.” And somewhere before that, Davell Crawford does “Fire and Rain” with Nicholas Payton doing his interpretation of that song on trumpet.
There’s more music that follows. The player is above and you can listen from this page. Just don’t let smoke get in your eyes.
Tiffany Pollack & Co. hits the post-pandemic music scene with momentum from a brand new record that opens up new avenues for this singer, songwriter, band leader and occasional mortician. One song kicks off this week’s show which she calls in on about an hour later for a live KAOS radio interview. (The episode below is the KMRE version of the same show and airs in Bellingham on Fridays).
Following up on the success of her blues album recorded with cousin Eric Johansen, New Orleans-based Pollack collected a dozen of her original songs, went to Memphis with her band and recorded Bayou Libertywith the assistance of producer and blues musician John Nemeth. But its far from a blues album. In the course of our conversation, we both agreed our favorite track is Mountain, a Western style number featuring pedal steel and sweet vocals. Others songs channel honky-tonks, early morning smoky (now smoke-free) nightclubs and sticky-seated dives where you go mainly for the crawfish and beer.
As a mother of three, she also shares how her kids do a good job of keeping her in her place, no matter how bright her music star shines. And yea, she talks briefly about how as a licensed funeral director she still gets called in to do services for that short-handed business.
A great find of fresh okra at the Olympia Farmer’s Market last weekend inspired a set of music featuring two versions of Mr. Okra — a song written by Sonia Tetlow and Craig Klein in honor of Arthur James Robins (Mr. Okra) who drove a colorful vegetable truck through the streets of New Orleans with sing-song amplified announcements of available produce. He died in 2018 (NPR story). To introduce that song, I play a brief clip from an earlier interview with Craig Klein about the process of writing that song with Tetlow. Later in the set, Monk Boudreaux sings a Jamaican-inflected “Mr. Okra Man” – in his own take of the street vendor. The set ends with the Tin Men’s “The Darling of the Okra Strut” which, best I can tell, really has nothing to do with the mucilaginous vegetable. (However, it did get me thinking about whether okra are interstellar aliens! Afterall we call them “pods.”)
This week’s show also includes another set of Cajun music, thanks to Olympia-area producer and musician Calvin Johnson’s secret stash of collectible 45 rpm records. This time, I throw in a live recorded song by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys from Bill Boelens Festivals Acadiens 1991-1997.
The show’s first full set rocks with Cowboy Mouth’s early hit “Jenny Says” and The Radiators urging us to “Never Let Your Fire Go Out.” Later Tommy Malone sings “All Dressed Up,” the Honeypots perform “Witness”, Los Hombres Calientes does a send up of “George Porter” and Davis Rogan’s gives us his original song “Fly Away.” Davis, by the way, will be performing in Olympia on August 26 in a house concert. Message me to learn more about it. Thanks for tuning in.
Tiffany Pollack & Co. at the “Legendary” HiHo Lounge pre-COVID.
Coco Robicheaux’s “Working Man” kicks off this week’s musical exploration of our love-hate relationship with working and, more specifically, holding a job. Inspired by our worldwide collective midlife crisis over how we value (and pay for) work, the show can be heard right now using the player below.
Jobs – Can’t live without them and often can’t live with them. Shotgun Jazz Band (“Get a Working Man”) and Chubby Newsome (“Find a Job”) lay down the first part of that equation. And then Spider Murphy’s “Mr. Money Talks” and Jon Cleary’s “Viva La Money” pile on.
I get up in the morning and kiss my love goodbye and I come home in the evening in time to say goodnight.
Coco Robicheaux “Working Man”
The horns of Bonerama support Billy Pierce’s “Paycheck to Paycheck” while Kid Eggplant puts a more modern twist on the job scene ( “building a website for my business”) with “Workin’ Stiff.”
Most musicians have to work day jobs . . .at least initially. But even after Lee Dorsey hit it big with “Working in the Coal Mine” he worked at his body repair shop. Galactic does an instrumental version of that classic number in this show. You’ll hear Dorsey sing “Work, Work, Work” and “Gotta Find a Job.”
Mem Shannon’s “Payin’ My Dues” explores the frustrations of being a musician “Drove 1200 miles to play a club and the sign on the door said this joint just shut down. . .” Keith Stone sings about how its “Time to Move On” and Davis Rogan, with some indelicate radio necessary editing by me, airs out his grievances with three of his former employers with help from Cheeky Blakk in “I Quit.” This Davis original inspired the HBO “Treme” scene where you actually see and hear Cheeky Blakk sing the chorus the way it was meant to be sung (when not on the radio.) And here’s the original unedited Davis Rogan version.
It all degenerates from there in a cannabis (“Let’s Go Smoke Some Pot” by Dash Rip Rock), gin infused (“I Got Loaded” by Creole String Bean”) and drug-induced (“Medicated” by Honey Island Swamp Band”) blur.
One of the biggest differences now that I’m back doing live shows in the KAOS studio (aside from more verbal screwups) is the ability to use the turntable. This week’s program spins some collectible 45s, celebrates Larry Garner’s birthday, relives DJ Davis’ memories of his ’89 Camry and witnesses Jello Biafra’s take on a Dr. John classic
But first, we get in the zone with Los Po-Boy -Citos’ “Cool Man” with Naughty Professor, Robert Ward and Charlie Wooten extending the vibe into the next set.
Larry Garner built a solid reputation in Europe as a blues musicians but he’s never forgotten his home, Baton Rouge, or the issues of the everyday person. His songs are personal and relatable. I barely scratch the surface of his music catalog, playing one song from each of the three records in the KAOS library. But it should be more than enough for you to want to learn more about him.
While sharing some shade beside Ward Lake on one of our “heat dome” days, I had the opportunity to chat with Calvin Johnson (the Northwest one, not the New Orleans CJ). Shortly after, he loaned me a box of singles (that play on turntables at 45 rpm) from independent labels Swallow, Cajun Jamboree and Crazy Cajun records. Like Johnson’s K Records , these studios helped bring music to the world that might not otherwise have been recorded. On this show you’ll hear Marc Savoy, Rodney LeJune, Rockin’ Sidney, Joe Bonsall and the Orange Playboys, and Vin Bruce.
Last week’s show included a fun number by Dee-1 called “No Car Note” where he sings about how loves his ’98 Honda — largely because its paid for. This week, you’ll hear DJ Davis Rogan (who is a bit older than Dee-1) sing the praises of his ’89 Camry. It’s my nod to my gearhead listeners.
Other treats in this week’s Gumbo YaYa include Jello Biafra performing “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” with an ad hoc New Orleans band led by Fred LeBlanc (I also play a track by Egg Yolk Jubilee which is the horn section for Biafra’s performance) , Bonerama doing Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” and Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint’s “River in Reverse” collaboration.
If you’re looking for the song that perfectly captures what it’s like to live in the kind of heat we have endured during this record breaking summer check out the first song on this week’s show. . . But stick around for ice cream and fireworks.
If the heat has caused you to change your shirt or take more than one bath in a day then you’ll appreciate “Dog Days” written and sung by Leigh Harris, better known as Little Queenie. In addition to her steamy lyrics, the song features a gravity-defying sousaphone performance by Matt Perrine. The song is the opening track from her 2006 Polychrome Junction.
The show bounces between the twin themes of Independence Day and Summer with songs like Dee-1’s “No Car Note” expressing the economic freedom of owning a vehicle that is paid for to George Lewis’ “Ice Cream.” Later, Louis Armstrong and his Hot 5 show off their improvisational “Fireworks” from a 1928 recording.
Stay with the show and you’ll hear “Freedom” — the live 1991 Mardi Gras performance by Rebirth Brass Band in honor of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. Louie Ludwig sings “God Hates Flags” and Dr. John and Tab Benoit do “We Ain’t Gonna Lose No More.”
Henry Gray does “Cold Chills” and Dr. Michael White covers “Happy Together.” Gal Holiday sings “Found Myself Instead” followed by The Soul Rebels with “Living for the City.” In short, I’m back to my usual mix of jazz, country, blues, rock, and funk.
Have a safe holiday and remember Little Queenie’s words: “It’s not the heat, its the humidity.”
Two more distinct African American music genre close out my month-long celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month. Be prepared to to hear some of the top Blues and Zydeco artists of Louisiana when you click the sideways arrow below.
Little Freddie King who is still active at 80 kicks off the show with “Louisiana Train Wreck.” You’ll also hear Professor Longhair, Slim Harpo, Lightnin’ Slim, Snooks Eaglin, Marva Wright and many more.
The last 30 minutes of the show features Zydeco, another genre of music created by African American Creoles who settled in the more rural parts of south Louisiana , mixing French dance songs with Blues. Clifton Chenier sings the song that allegedly gives the music its name, having to do with the way the French word for green beans sounds when sung in this style.
In addition to this show broadcast on June 24 and 25, these are the other shows in 2021 in honor of African American Music Appreciation Month:
A deep dive into Funk marks my third show in honor of African American Music Appreciation Month. In addition to celebrating another cultural gift to the world by African Americans, the show makes a pretty solid argument for why New Orleans should also be considered the birth place of Funk.
Get the music started and read on.
While James Brown is widely considered the originator of “Funk,” his work is built off of rhythms that derive from New Orleans. (Read Benjamin Doleac and Alexander Stewart for the academic explanation.)
The Meters, who formed in 1965 but didn’t release a record until 1969, combined those New Orleans rhythms (Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste) with George Porter’s bass, Art Neville’s organ and Leo Nocentelli’s guitar to make early funk classics like “Cissy Strut” and “Look-ka Py Py.” On the show you’ll hear a later song of the band’s “Funkify Your Life.”
As the in-house studio band for Allen Toussaint’s Sansu Records, the Meters provided the backing vocals and rhythm for a wide range of music by Lee Dorsey, Robert Palmer, Albert King, Etta James, the Pointer Sisters, LaBelle and Paul Mccartney. In fact, it was at McCartney’s record release party (Venus and Mars) in New Orleans when Mick Jagger heard the Meters and arranged for the band to tour with the Rolling Stones. In this week’s show, you’ll hear other Sansu artists including Betty Harris and Danny White.
Later, you’ll hear a track from the seminal Wild Tchoupitoulas record which brought together the four Neville brothers as they assist their Uncle George Landry (Big Chief Jolly) record the first major release of a full Mardi Gras Indian album. It was this project that resulted in the brothers coming together as a band.
You’ll also hear contemporary funk musicians who are still performing Walter Wolfman Washington, Corey Henry, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Sierra Green, Rebirth Brass Band, Soul Rebels and Hot 8 Brass Band. It’s two hours of funk — another great music form that would not exist if not for the fertile creativity of African American artists.
Next week, the last show for this year’s African American Music Appreciation Month will focus on Blues and Zydeco. Please consider subscribing.
As part of my month-long celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month, this week’s show is devoted to New Orleans jazz created by musicians of color. Check it out with the player below. (Last week’s show focused on R&B)
Drummer Joe Lastie, a product of New Orleans Ninth Ward and a family of musicians, starts the show with a song he produced with Big Chief David Montana that honors the resilience of the love for New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina survivors. It’s a modern song steeped in the musical traditions that formed jazz.
While the origins of jazz are grist for scholarly debate, one thing is crystal clear to me. The music bubbled up from the creative cauldron of people of color living, working and playing in New Orleans. For more details (without getting scholarly), I like the National Park Service webpage on this topic written in part by Dr. Michael White and Ellis Marsalis. You can read that page while listening to the show which carries on with some of the more well-known pioneers of jazz: Jelly Roll Morton, King Joe Oliver, Bunk Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Kid Ory and Lil Hardin. Okay, so Hardin was from Memphis but she ended up in Chicago with a scrum of New Orleans musicians and she helped whip them into shape, writing and arranging some of the earliest recordings.
You might find interesting this page on Onward Brass Band (also featured in the show) which tells the story of Paul Barbarin, Louis Cottrell, Danny Barker and others in that band. Check out the picture of them drinking (champagne?) with Janis Joplin.
This week’s show takes a deep dive into the swinging, danceable music that got folks bumping body parts in such a way that it helped create a boom in babies, giving my generation its name. You can listen to this first of my June episodes in celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month using the player below.
As far as I’m concerned, all the music I enjoy is connected directly,or at least indirectly, to African American musicians and songwriters. So its not a stretch to do a month of music featuring exclusively African American artists. This week’s 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.
After Percy Mayfield kicks off the show with a personal song about returning to Louisiana to settle down, I get down to business with Champion Jack Dupree’s “Junker Blues” a much covered song that served as a basis for several other R&B numbers such as Fats Domino’s “The Fat Man” and Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” (You’ll hear all of them.),
You’ll hear some songs that are considered on the short list for “first Rock ‘n’ Roll song” — a designation that will never get settled but is fun to argue about. This means Louis Jordan, Roy Brown and Erline Harris take the radio stage.
New Orleans was a hot bed for the nascent R&B scene. When Dave Bartholomew, no slouch performer himself, got Antoine Domino into the J&M (Cosimo Matassa) studio, he propelled the city into the sites of other record companies who sent their scouts out to find the next star. Smiley Lewis, Larry Williams, Chick and Chuck Carbo and the Spiders, the Barons, Earl King, Larry Darnell, Little Mr. Midnight, Huey “Piano” Smith, L’il Millet, Shirley and Lee all scrambled into the studio and cut 45’s that got folks dancing.
When music industry executives adopted the term “Rhythm and Blues” or “R&B” to replace “race music” they probably were just trying to make the marketing term less offensive to African American audiences. But it also set the stage for a crossover to white audiences. Fats Domino, whose shows resulted in white and black audiences dancing together (and sometimes causing problems as a result) was the first big crossover African American artist.
But it seems like it was Little Richard, sent to New Orleans by Specialty Records, who blew the doors open. Little Richard didn’t record the first Rock ‘n’ Roll song but after “Tutti Frutti” and “Rip It Up” (which you’ll hear), the line between Rock and R&B was gone. Domino used to say that what he played didn’t change but but they called it did.
Well whatever you call it, you’ll get almost two hours of it in today’s show in honor of African American Music Appreciation Music. Thanks for listening.