Hard Way to Live When You Live Like You’re Dead

Sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing with a show until its all put together. Then it’s like a musical version of a Rorschach test. Except there’s no need for a psychology degree to interpret the opening song by Bon Bon Vivant with “It’s a hard way of living when you’re dead. . .when you’re living like you’re already dead.” (You can hear that song right now when you start the show in the box below. )

It’s not surprising that the longer the COVID period stretches on, the more I think about Prince Prospero in The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe. Not that I’m ready to leave the castle. Or give up on masks and hand sanitizer. But the castle doesn’t have to be a prison.

The New Orleans Suspects catch that spirit of escape with “Neighborhood Strut” followed by All That, a band featuring Kirk Joseph and Davis Rogan, taking us back to the 1970’s with “Roll With It.” Sunpie Barnes declares”I don’t want no more of dem black beans, cornbread, molasses” in “Down in the Bottom.” Later, after Irvin Mayfield’s “The Elder Negro Speaks” serves as a recognition for the late Congressman John Lewis (who fortunately didn’t accept the status quo), Cyril Neville and the Royal Southern Brotherhood sing their protest anthem “Stand Up.”

With the ability to gather in front of live music gone for the time being, we live in the era of virtual festivals. Which does have the advantage allowing us to experience New Orleans without getting on a plane. I plug the upcoming Satchmo SummerFest which will be doing Louis Armstrong inspired cooking demonstrations on local television and musical performances shared on the festival’s Facebook live page  on Saturday, August 1 and Sunday, August 2. The annual festival is in honor of Louis Armstrong’s birthday. “Yes, I’m in the Barrel” a 1925 Armstrong Hot Five recording heralds this event in the show.

Other highlights of this week’s program include a 10-minute plus version of “Hold ‘Em Joe” featuring bluegrass and New Orleans musicians and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux – performing before a live audience at the Maple Leaf Bar. Spencer Bohren covers Hank Williams’ “Mind Your Own Business.” Allday Radio directs us to “Get Over Me, I’m Over You.” Terrance Simien and his Zydeco band performs “Johnny Too Bad.” And much more. It’s two hours of music from New Orleans. Thanks for tuning in.

The smile beneath the mask, the festivals that we’ll miss

Six weeks into our Shelter in Place and this week’s show looks at the smiles behind our masks, the festivals we are missing and the ways we are coping. You can start it now as I share with you more details.

This show includes four more messages from New Orleans musicians – Tiffany Pollack, Charlie Halloran, Louie Ludwig and Noah Young. But the show starts with Shotgun Jazz Band’s “Smile” in recognition of the pleasant expressions that our cloth masks cover.

This weekend would be the start of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Also this weekend, in Olympia, we would normally hold our Spring Arts Walk and Procession of the Species. I don’t wish to diminish the significant economic aspects of community celebrations, but for me, Arts Walk, the Procession and other such events serve as a mirror where we can collectively see ourselves. There’s no way to virtually replicate that but I can try.

The first full set features three songs from New Orleans Jazz Fest Past — Flow Tribe performing in 2012, gospel rocker Raymond Myles in 1994 and a very special performance by The Radiator at the first Jazz Fest after Hurricane Katrina — another catastrophe where recovery was made more difficult by a less than competent federal emergency response.

Tiffany Pollack signs on at the 23 minute mark to introduce herself (formally an embalmer!) She and her cousin Eric Johanson knocked it out of the park with last year’s Blues in My Blood record. You’ll hear a couple tracks from that one and her jazz single “Comes Love.” Check out her shows on her Facebook page and YouTube channel every Monday and Friday starting at 6 p.m. Left Coast time or 8 p.m. New Orleans time.

Like all of us, I’m getting tired of drinking at home. I miss that wonderful randomness of going to a bar or club, seeing what I see and hearing what I hear. It’s kind of back to that community mirror thing where I feel a sense of belonging. Doc Souchon starts the next set with a drinking song, followed by Dwayne Dopsie‘s “Harry’s Creole Bar.” Taylor Smith, from a previous radio interview, talks about his neighborhood bar Horace’s where he and his band the Roamin’ Jasmine recorded their last record from which you’ll hear “I Can’t Believe You’re in Love with Me.” I finish with a less than savory bar ballad by Little Freddie King, “Mixed Bucket of Blood.”

The very active (when not Sheltered in Place) trombonist and bandleader Charlie Halloran joins us next at the 55 minute mark where he shares with us what he has been up to under the COVID restrictions. He introduces his latest record from his calypso group (Charlie Halloran and the Tropicales) from which you’ll hear two tracks. I also spin one from Charlie Halloran and the Quality 6.

New release by Sierra Green

The next set features tracks from new releases by Cowboy Mouth, Sierra Green & the Soul Machine and the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. Later, Noah Young joins the show to introduce his latest record by the band Slugger and you’ll hear “Take a Breath” featuring Ray Wimbly and Mykia Jovan. I also spin”Starkist” from Slugger’s previous release. The set is finished by a track from the new Jason Marsalis Live — just released by Basin Street Records.

Louie Ludwig first got my attention with his record I Got Nothin to Say. Later when most folks were still figuring out what had gone down during the 2016 election, he released the song and video “Troll Factory.” Now, Ludwig has turned his attentions more fully to film making and was working on a documentary about the New Orleans music recording history. However, as he explains in his comments on the show, the project has turned into a weekly video report focusing on the COVID-19 effects in New Orleans. His latest one is about the loss of the festival season.

There’s a bit more in the show but its nice to have some surprises. Please support these musicians and the others I’ve featured in previous shows. You can support me (emotionally) by subscribing to this free blog (go back to the top and look to the right).

More NOLA Acts making the I-5 Circuit

More acts from Louisiana and particularly New Orleans are visiting the relatively cooler Northwest during the summer. This show showcases some of those groups so get it started and the read on.

As far as I can tell, Billy Iuso is not visiting the Northwest. He seems content rocking out clubs like Tipitina’s and Chickie Wah Wah in New Orleans. Yet, his “Trippin’ Over Dragons” opens the show. Deacon John sings an old-style swing number for you to open an R&B set before we get on to three that you should make a point to catch when they’re in the Northwest.

Bon Bon Vivant will be in the KAOS studio August 1 and performing in Olympia August 2.

Bon Bon Vivant will be in the KAOS studio during my show on August 1 and will perform at Octapas Cafe in Olympia the next evening. The band’s new song “Pinkerton” from their Live at the Circus should be sufficient temptation for you. Shamarr Allen follows with his unique take on the Gnarls Barkley number “Crazy.” Trumpeter-extraordinaire Shamarr will be in Seattle, Portland and Tacoma in mid-August. The set finishes with Rebirth Brass Band’s “Take ‘Em to the Moon.” Rebirth will be playing Seattle, Bellingham and Vancouver BC next week. (By the way more details are available on my calendar page.)

How about Marcia Ball? I play her number “Watermelon Time” to get your mouth watering for her two evenings of performances in Seattle in August. Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes takes a rare turn on the piano to highlight his gigs and appearances at the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival at the end of July.

If you’ve made it through the show so far then you’re ready for some zydeco with three groups that played the Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland last week (Chubby Carrier, Lil Pookie and Feufollet). A second set kicks off with Dwayne Dopsie who will also be up in Vancouver B.C for the Vancouver Folk Fest.

Later in the show you’ll hear Sonny Landreth (playing Mt. Vernon in August) and Frog and Henry (playing all over the region in August). I provide an encore performance of Shamarr Allen and finish the show with a track off of the Bonerama does Led Zeppelin record.

Thanks for listening and please subscribe. Thank you.

Mouth Watering Jazz Fest Food Inspires This Week’s Show

Perhaps the hardest part about listening to the WWOZ live feed of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is hearing the on-air hosts talk about the food. Shrimp and lump crab ravigote, fried green tomatoes, catfish almondine, Key Lime tart, crawfish strudel — for starters. Listen to today’s show to be subjected to similar punishment with appropriate musical accompaniment.

Crawfish sack and crawfish beignets served by Patton’s Caterers at Jazz Fest this year.

The show starts with the basics of greens, gumbo, red beans and fried fish. Or put in terms of songs: Champion Jack Dupree’s “Cabbage Greens #1,” Rebirth Brass Band’s cover “Shrimp and Gumbo,” Professor Longhair’s “Red Beans” and Charmaine Neville’s inspired version of the the Louis Jordan classic “Saturday Night Fish Fry.”

During the air breaks you’ll hear descriptions of food sold by vendors at Jazz Fest such as fried crab cake with smoked tomato and jalapeno tartar, alligator pie, crabmeat stuff shrimp — just to name a few.

I do songs about catfish stew (Bobby Rush), chicken (C.J. Chenier) and a wide range of other songs from coffee to sweet potatoes.

Crawfish strudel with white chocolate bread pudding served by Cottage Catering at Jazz Fest this year.

At one point, I list off all the dishes served at Jazz Fest that have crawfish in it. There’s lot of them as well as good old spicy boiled crawfish where you “Suck the Heads and Squeeze the Tip” following the Radiator’s song advice.

I also do a sweet set and list of menu items on desserts near the end. So stay with the whole show. And thanks for tuning in.

Here’s what one day at JazzFest 2018 looked like

Thank you Anch and Scott for covering my show the last two weeks while I journeyed the length and depth of Florida visiting relatives. My trip started with a couple of nights in New Orleans, including the last day of Jazz Fest.  Here’s some pictures from that day.  Don’t forget to tune me in this Thursday (May 24) to hear these folks.

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Rode our bikes to the festival grounds and saw this control box painted to honor Deacon John Moore

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Original member of the famous Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band, Leroy Jones and his group entertained in the Economy Hall Tent.

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Keeping the tradition alive, the Young Pinstripe Brass Band at the Jazz and Heritage Stage

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Nice to see the truck, sad to remember that Mr. Okra died this year.

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George Porter (on bass and tie dye) and his Runnin’ Pardners held down the Gentilly Stage.

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Great opportunity to see the famed Zion Harmonizers in the Gospel Tent

 

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Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue rocked the Acura Stage to close out the festival.

A trip to French Quarter Fest and celebration of Johnny Dodds

In today’s show, we take an imaginary, real-time visit to French Quarter Festival happening right now and we celebrate the 126th anniversary of clarinetist Johnny Dodds’ birthday. Here’s the edited version of the show which you listen to while reading this.

IMG_1454Overshadowed by the older and more well-known New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which starts later in April, the French Quarter Festival packs over 300 music acts (roughly 1,700 musicians) into four days starting today.  Celebrating its 35th year, this free festival is the largest showcase of Louisiana musicians with stages scattered throughout the French Quarter. Some of the more well-known acts playing this year include Cyril Neville, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Irma Thomas, Jon Cleary, Little Freddie King, the Lost Bayou Ramblers,  and Amanda Shaw.

And while I do play Neville and the Lost Bayou Ramblers later on the show, I start the show with a real time experience. Through the magic of radio and with a vivid imagination, I take you directly to the French Quarter to the stages and play music by musicians who are performing in real time synchronized to the airing of my show (10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays). This requires precision math on my part since I have to convert the Central Standard Time New Orleans-based schedule to the Pacific Standard Time reality of my radio show.

We start by running over to catch the last song of the Panorama Jazz Band performance on the Big River Stage in Woldenberg Park, before heading back toward the Quarter on Decatur Street to hear Tuba Skinny playing on the Jack Daniels Stage.  And because we can run fast in radio life, we can haul butt over to the Hilton Tricentennial Stage to catch the Preservation All-Stars.

After a little break with showcasing other artists featured later in the festival, we go back to real time with Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue performing at the River Stage again. And then we dash to Tropical Isle Hand Grenade Stage to catch Alex McMurray. During this imaginary real-time tour of the first day of French Quarter Fest, we also hear Banu Gibson.

johhny dodds
Johnny Dodds was born on April 12. 1892 and was part of the first generation of jazz musicians in New Orleans.

Later in my show, I honor Johnny Dodds, a first generation jazz musician who performed with Joe “King” Oliver. He and his younger brother, the drummer Warren “Baby” Dodds were part of Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven.  In honor of his birthday (April 12, 1892), this show dives into two versions of the same song that feature dual solos by Dodds.  The songs have different titles and different release dates though they were recorded back to back by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven.

S.O.L. Blues and Low Gully Blues feature Armstrong and Johnny Dodds at their peak, doing technically difficult and brilliant solos. S.O.L. Blues was recorded on May 13, 1927 in Chicago for Okeh records but was not released until Columbia Records got a hold of the collection 15 years later. The original release version went under the title of Gully Low Blues and was recorded the next day, May 14.  Both versions have their merits but I play them because I love the amazing tempo shift that Dodds pulls of during his solo. For more on this, check out Ricky Riccardi’s blog.  I also play a favorite, Dippermouth Blues, recorded by  King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in April 1923, because it contains a famous Dodds solo.

I’ve got other fun stuff on this show including Dana Abbott, Yvette Landry, the Subdudes and Eric Lindell, just to name a few.  Thank you for reading and listening. Please consider subscribing.

New Orleans festival season offers more than JazzFest

The New Orleans festival season is fast approaching. While the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is the crown jewel of the season, there are reasons for the music tourist to consider visiting the city at any time during the long festival season other than JazzFest. Here’s a few.

The Crowds.  New Orleans is a tourist town year round but it can be overwhelming during Mardi Gras and JazzFest. During those peak times, restaurants and nightclubs are a harder to get into and lodging is more expensive. Go before or after JazzFest and the city feels more relaxed and accessible.

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Glen David Andrews performing at Jazz in the Park (Louis Armstrong Park) in 2013.

Free Outdoor Concerts – New Orleans offers some wonderful outdoor concerts showcasing local musicians in a festival atmosphere. There are two exceptional, easy to get to concert series that run through the spring. This year, “Wednesday at the Square” features Marcia Ball, Amanda Shaw, Tab Benoit, Flow Tribe, Honey Island Swamp Band, Kermit Ruffins, Anders Osborne and Soul Rebels. This downtown show held in Lafayette Square usually features an opening act, runs from 5 to 8 p.m. and is surrounded by ways to purchase food and booze. On Thursday evenings, Louis Armstrong Park comes alive with Jazz in the Park. This event attracts more locals with chairs and picnic baskets but you’ll still find sustenance and drink in this park just across historic Rampart Street from the French Quarter.

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Local dance group performing at Freret Street Festival

Neighhorhood Festivals –  Only in a New Orleans neighborhood festival would you find youth dance groups and more established artists like Bonerama, Mississippi Rail Company, Tank and the Bangas, and New Breed Brass Band. That was just a sampling of the three stages last year that defined the boundaries of the Freret Street Festival, one of the early season neighborhood festivals in New Orleans. Neighborhood festivals run throughout the year, except for JazzFest. Check the festival schedule and sample a few online such as the Bayou Boogaloo –- definitely on my bucket list for a future visit. You’ll find most New Orleanians are incredibly social—almost to a fault. Go to a neighborhood event or establishment and if you are reasonably gregarious, you will meet locals who will happily share their opinions on bands, restaurants and the best route to take to your next event.

IMG_1454French Quarter Festival – This four-day event attracts more audience than the more well-known seven-day JazzFest. The difference is that the stages are scattered about the French Quarter and they are free, making it easy for the casual daily tourist to get sucked into the music. Whereas JazzFest adds a healthy dose of world and national music acts to their line up of local performers, French Quarter Festival is almost exclusively local musicians. Held two weeks before JazzFest, it’s the first major festival of the season. If you’re already staying in or around downtown, you won’t need to taxi or bus to the fairgrounds as you would with JazzFest. Last year French Quarter Festival headlined with Allen Toussaint, who later joined in a delightful conversation with Deacon John about Cosimo Matassa at the festival’s interview stage. I can’t tell you how fortunate I felt to be in the audience for both of those events.

freret-street-festival-2Lagniappe. Regardless of when you go, relax. You won’t be able to do it all. Things will get in your way, like torrential rain storms. Last year, I had set my mind on catching Irma Thomas at the big stage by the river at French Quarter Festival but when I saw a mass of dark clouds headed my way, I reluctantly ducked into the House of Blues courtyard. What a break. Not only did I stay dry but I became acquainted with the talent of Sarah McCoy and Colin Lake –two performers who were able to keep playing despite a very heavy rain. The Irma Thomas show was cancelled. Slow down, take care of yourself and enjoy the moment because you’re in New Orleans, baby!

P.S. JazzFest is a hoot and you should do it, particularly if you haven’t and have always wanted to. Here’s my five things you should know about JazzFest.

Portland Blues Festival serves up a sweet NOLA line up

Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival seems to have a serious jones for New Orleans music.

In previous years, the festival has held Second Line parades, filled its dancing stage with Zydeco and Cajun music and featured New Orleans acts such as Rebirth Brass Band, Galactic and the Stooges Brass Band. But this year, as we approach the 10-year anniversary of Katrina, the festival doubled down putting together a stellar New Orleans line up for its Friday (July 3) show.

Yes, we’ll get a return performance by Galactic, a versatile funk and soul band that hit the I-5 Tour as recently as February.  This time, the band will feature Macy Gray on vocals as the band harkens back to its soul and R&B roots when Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet fronted the group. Galactic takes the Brewery Stage at 9 p.m.

Allen Toussaint looking over his shoulder at a Paddlewheeler cruising the Misssissippi while performing at French Quarter Festival this year. He'll be playing by the Willamette River this Friday.
Allen Toussaint looking over his shoulder at a Paddlewheeler cruising the Misssissippi while performing at French Quarter Festival this year. He’ll be playing beside the Willamette River this Friday.

But the headliner for the day is Allen Toussaint (7 p.m. Brewery Stage).  This uber-talented composer, producer and pianist extraordinaire is closely aligned with the New Orleans R&B and funk sound. He was there from the beginning and now at 77, he continues to prove he can do full justice to his amazing legacy of songs.

“Working in a Coal Mine,” “Mother-in-Law,” “Lipstick Traces on a Cigarette,” “Fortune Teller,” “Sneaking Sally through the Alley,” “Night People,” “On Your Way Down,” “Ride Your Pony,” “Yes, We Can” and so many more song that you’ll recognize.  This guy has made a boat load of money from others singing his songs. The pleasant surprise is how ass-kicking good he is when he sings them.

He started his own New Orleans-based record label in the 60’s and he was the first to do a major recording in New Orleans (with Elvis Costello) after Katrina. He’ll have just returned from performing in London when he takes the waterfront stage on July 3 and I’m struck how the Portland setting is so similar to the French Quarter Festival stage where I last saw him perform in April. His band and performance will be as sharp as the suit he’ll be wearing.

Another New Orleans star attraction is Charmaine Neville. Daughter of saxophonist Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers, Charmaine has toured the world but has stayed closer to home in recent years. She and her band will dish up a jazzy soul set at the Brewery Stage starting at 5:15 p.m.

(From Left) Jeff Mercurio, Ben Ellman, Dan Vogel, Jeff Raines and Stanton Moore.
Galactic will perform at the Waterfront Blues Festival on Friday as part of a New Orleans line up.

Likely to hop on the stage with Charmaine is her former band leader now Portland resident, Reggie Houston. This native New Orleans saxophonist has been making Portland a hipper place ever since he called it home in 2004. With over two decades of performing with Fats Domino, you know Houston and his Crescent City Connection band is going to rock the Brewery Stage (3:45 p.m.)

Other highlights include venerable guitarist Paul “Lil Buck” Sinegal (First Tech Stage, noon), Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band (First Tech Stage, 8:15 p.m.) and the Dog Hill Stompers (Front Porch Stage, 10 p.m.)

See you there, but if you miss it, I’ll be playing some of what I hear on my show on Monday.  Have a safe Fourth of July.

Louisiana delta-inspired music taking on a cry for help

Thanks to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High and hundreds of others, there is little doubt that our environment influences music.

The waters that flow through Louisiana originate in 31 states.
The waters that flow through Louisiana originate in 31 states.

 So it should be no surprise that musicians who reside at the tap end of North America’s largest drainage system write songs about rivers, wetlands, swamps and bayous.

Draining all or part of 31 states, the Mississippi River creates a powerful structure for creatives of all types to tell their stories.

In Louisiana, its the swamp that inpires many to “pole the pirogue down the bayou” (Jambalaya). These musicians may not really have swamp water running through their veins (Fire in the Bayou) but they know how to use the water’s magnetic pull to enliven a song.

Sitting at the soggy end of the 2,300 mile system, Louisiana and its bayou communities (including New Orleans) use the river, and its essential estuaries, as a lush backdrop for setting the mood–from boogie to blue.

In recent years, the music has been paying back in the struggle to restore and revitalize the delta environment. The flow of sediment of the Mississippi is less than half of what it was a century ago due to engineering the river to serve too many purposes. This means essential delta beds are not being replenished. Combine this steady decline in sediment, with the speed of climate change, and the bayou and the life and music it supports becomes more fragile by the day.

Tab Benoit started the Voice of the Wetlands to raise awareness about the importance of revitalizing the river system.
Tab Benoit started the Voice of the Wetlands to raise awareness about the importance of revitalizing the river system.

Voice of the Wetlands, started by Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit, is a non-profit focused on raising awareness about the loss of the wetlands in southern Louisiana.

And as you might expect by an initiative launched by a musician, it uses the music of the Delta to reach the right ears, including performances before Republican and Democratic National conventions and an annual festival in Houma (about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans in bayou country).

The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars often headlines the festival. Over the years, this recording and live performance ensemble has included Benoit, Dr, John, Cyril Neville, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, George Porter Jr., Waylon Thibodeaux, Anders Osborn and many others. This year’s festival is in October.

Muskrats, alligators, junebugs, and other critters crawl from the swamp into the music.
Muskrats, alligators, junebugs, and other critters crawl from the swamp into the music.

I’ve got close to a full two-hour show of songs about the bayou and bayou country so please tune in this Monday on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa (or catch it on archive) to hear Muskrat Ramble, Bayou Boogie, Swamp Funk and Junebug Waltz and others.

Also, I’d be honored if you subscribed to this blog. (upper right hand corner of this page.)

Music and history carry on despite rain during French Quarter Festival

In New Orleans, the show must go on unless you can’t keep the musicians dry or if lightning threatens the audience. Over the course of the 2015 French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, we had a good bit of rain and a few lightning bolts.

So periodically, stages have been closed, including Tricia Boutte’s show right as she was beginning. Bummer!

A hard rain on Friday pushed crowds under cover. Saturday and Sunday also had rained out venues at times.
A hard rain on Friday pushed crowds under cover. Saturday and Sunday also had rained out venues at times.

The highlight for me today was indoors though when Allen Toussaint and Deacon John sat down with author John Broven. The one-hour program started with Toussaint going right to the Steinway and banging out his hit originally done by Irma Thomas, “It’s Raining.” This time, Deacon John sang it, with a few appropriate ad libs.

The stated purpose of the program was to reminisce about Cosimo Matassa and the heyday of New Orleans R&B and early Rock n’ Roll–a period of time that launched the careers of both Allen Toussaint and Deacon John. More on Mr. Toussaint and more on Mr. Matassa.

Allen Toussaint (piano) played
Allen Toussaint (piano) played “It’s Raining” and Deacon John sang at the French Quarter Festival Conversations on Louisiana Music.

Of Cosimo and his studio, Toussaint said “It was our doorway and window to the world . . .He and Dave Bartholomew put us on the map. . .He (Cosimo) saw the big picture long before we did cause we were just having fun. “

Deacon John described getting discovered by Toussaint at the Dew Drop Inn one night and the next day going into Matassa’s studio to help Ernie K-Doe record “There’s a will, there’s a way.”

As I mentioned in my previous post, I won’t be hosting this Monday’s show. Anch of Sundrenched will handle affairs and I plan to call in during the show. Consider subscribing to this blog so you can be alerted the next time I post. (see upper right hand of page)