Love, Beads & Mardi Gras Chicken

Valentines Day and Fat Tuesday are once again closely aligned to allow for a show of bittersweet love songs and songs for a bittersweet Mardi Gras. And for good measure, a chicken named “Renard”tossed into the radio show pot.

Once again, the nomadic Easter, which moves around based on the proximity of the full moon to the spring equinox, has caused Mardi Gras to land close to Valentine’s Day. So I’ve mashed them together with an hour of love songs and hour of Mardi Gras tunes. Read on and listen on (player is above) for another mash up story.

Charlie Gabriel, vocalist and clarinetist, on “I Think I Love You.” (Photo – American Routes, WWNO Public Radio)

Love songs, like their subject, can have a sharp edge – as evidenced by my opening track from Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Clarinetist Charlie Gabriel sings the band’s original song “I Think I Love You” which at least starts off sounding like love is reciprocated. But then, the flowers die. Fortunately, Camile Baudoin, guitarist for the Radiators, follows up with the more optimistic “It’s You I Love.”

This Valentine show seemed like a good time for a rare Gumbo YaYa airing of Aaron Neville’s big hit “Tell It Like It Is” — the song that turned his career around and an anthem for those who no longer wish to have their heart stomped on. The theme carries on with Yvette Landry & the Jukes (“I Need Somebody Bad Tonight”), Ingrid Lucia (“My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms”), Shotgun Jazz Band (“I Love You So Much It Hurts”), Clarence “Frogman” Henry (“I Don’t Know Why But I Do”), and Donna Angelle’s crush song for Boozoo Chavis, “Old Man’s Sweetheart.” And somewhere in there, you’ll hear an excellent cover of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” by Gal Holiday.

The turn toward Mardi Gras happens after Louis Armstong and Lil Hardin do “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” – a love song despite the damage done by lyrics written over a decade after the recording that actually made “barbecue” barbecue.

Aaron’s brother Art was 16 when he sang with the Hawkettes on the classic “Mardi Gras Mambo” — the song that kicks off the second hour of the show. All the songs in that set are great but I want to draw attention to the less-often heard “Hey Mardi Gras, Here I Am” by Chuck Carbo who grew up in the Zion City part of New Orleans in 1930’s and sings about Mardi Gras in an R&B swinging style.

Another highlight is the voice of Davis Rogan who comes on at about 90 minutes into the show to introduce a song he wrote with his wife Stephanie, “Mardi Gras Chicken.” Rogan, who earlier in his musical career formed a band that blended hip hop with New Orleans brass and funk, checked another item off his mash-up bucket list with “Mardi Gras Chicken”– portraying the Cajun/Creole Mardi Gras tradition known as Courir de Mardi Gras or Grand Courir with a New Orleans Mardi Gras brass band sound — including a bass line originated by Tuba Fats and performed by fellow Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band alumn Kirk Joseph. The song follows the fortunes of “Renard” the chicken who is chased by Courir revelers led by “Louie.”

Davis Rogan as “Louie” and Stephanie Rogan as the wily “Renard” re-enacting their “Mardi Gras Chicken” song during last year’s Mardi Gras celebration. (Courtesy of the Rogans)

The show finishes with a few songs depicting and honoring the highly original cultural phenomenon that can be witnessed in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day (If you’re lucky) – Black Masking Indians.

Happy Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras to you all. Thanks for tuning in. Let me know what you think of the show and consider subscribing using the widget in the right hand column. Cheers!