14 years after Katrina and Louisiana is still losing its coastline

This year’s recognition show of Hurricane Katrina floats downriver to the disappearing wetlands of Louisiana’s coastline. Get it started and read on.

This is my fifth show recognizing the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and this year I chose to address the existential issue of whether our country is prepared to hold on to a critical part of its ecosystem and culture – through music (of course).

Perhaps I was affected by reading recently Mike Tidwell’s book “Bayou Farewell” where he details his experiences hitching rides through the bayous of southern Louisiana, working on shrimp and crab boats along the way and basically embedding himself in the Cajun and Vietnamese communities — two refugee populations who have found a home in the delta of the fourth longest river in the world. I found his culturally sensitive approach to an environmental book appealing but also heart breaking.

Tidwell’s book was written and released a few years before Hurricane Katrina but the specter of what a large hurricane could do to the increasingly barren coast runs throughout the book basically serving as a predictor of the damage that was caused by Katrina’s storm surge. Tidwell is also the founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

One of the most telling stories from his book is when riding out to check crab traps with a local named Tim, he heard the story of how Tim, when he “was a kid” would land his boat by a tree on the bank of a canal dug out by Texaco. The now dead tree trunk stuck out of the water 50 feet from shore. The reference to being a kid stopped the author cold because it made the boat pilot “sound like an old man looking back on a long lifetime. In reality he’s seventeen, looking back maybe ten years. It’s happening that fast.”

Fast . . .At the cumulative rate of about 30 square miles a year. The good and sad part of this story is that unlike climate change, a solution to this problem doesn’t require worldwide buy in, but rather a commitment of resources to increase diversions of fresh water carrying much needed nutrients and sediment into the state’s coastal areas. For less than one-third of the annual cost of occupying Afghanistan, this problem could be largely licked.

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana has done the research, developed the plan, and has been advocating and actually doing things to move the issue forward. But it needs our support. Similarly, the Voice of the Wetlands, a nonprofit volunteer-based organization with the same goal, has been attempting to raise awareness, particularly through its annual music festival in October.

In telling this story, I play the music of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Irma Thomas, Tab Benoit, Del Rey, Eric Lindell, Marcia Ball, Sonny Landreth, Helen Gillet, and many others. Thanks for tuning in and please consider subscribing. Cheers.

NOLA musicians are on the Veteran’s Day honor roll

In preparation for today’s show (two days before Veteran’s Day), I made an attempt to identify New Orleans musicians who had served in the military so I could play them to start off my show.  Go ahead and click the podcast so you can listen while you finish reading this.

I did not find a source of information that was comprehensive so my list of New Orleans musicians who are veterans is far from comprehensive. If you know of one that I missed, please let me know. I’ll be happy to include them in a future recognition.

Herb Hardesty on Sax
Saxophonist Herb Hardesty served with the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Herb Hardesty, long-time saxophonist for Fats Domino but also had a solo career, signed up with the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941.  While playing with the Army band, Hardesty learned to play the saxophone (he had been playing trumpet). He served in World War II as part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen (99th Flying Squadron). I do not possess any of his solo work, so I played Domino’s When My Dreamboat Comes Home which features two fine solos by Hardesty.

Like Hardesty, guitarist Edgar Blanchard was stationed in Europe during World War II before coming back to form the Gondoliers and be the bandleader at the Dew Drop Inn. I played his Stepping High recorded in the Cosimo Matassa studio in honor of his service.

Paul Gayten led an Army Band in Biloxi for his military service before migrating to New Orleans and kicking off his musical career. Arguably his greater accomplishment was his work as an A&R man for Chess Records but my show has him singing Just One More Chance.

lloyd price korea
Lloyd Price’s music career was interrupted when drafted and sent to Korea.

Lloyd Price had  five top 10 R&B hits under his belt including the number 1 song  Lawdy Miss Clawdy when he got drafted and sent to Korea in 1954.

In an interview with Bill Forman of the Colorado Springs Independent, Price argued that the military draft policies were racist, applied disproportionately on Black Americans.  “I never was supposed to go because I was my family’s sole supporter, and it was against the law to take more than four boys from the same family.”

By the time he returned, the field had gotten more crowded with singers like Little Richard. But he bounced back with hits like Stagger Lee and Personality and later he started his own record label. On the show, I  play his 1953 song, Tell Me Pretty Baby.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Al Hirt was a bugler in Army during World War II.  He plays Diga Diga Doo on today’s show which would have been a much cooler way to wake up soldiers than Reveille.  I also play songs by Dale Hawkins and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to recognize their service.  And I finish with “Working in the Coal Mine” by Lee Dorsey who spent World War II in the Navy before starting his music career in New Orleans.

Two other NOLA performers who didn’t make it in the show but have military service are Ellis Marsalis and Ernest Joseph “Tabby” Thomas.

Today’s show also features a lot of other great music and two more clips from my interview Irvin Mayfield and Kermit Ruffins including one where Ruffins demonstrates the differences in brass band beats by banging on the bar at his Mother-in-Law Lounge on Claiborne.

A dozen years after Katrina

The 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans has been marked by deadly flood waters around the planet–from Houston to Bangladesh. Today’s show, originally aired on KAOS and presented in edited form below, is dedicated to all flood victims.  As weather intensifies in the future, we all run the risk of being weather victims.

This week’s show starts with wetland preservation advocate Tab Benoit, singing “Shelter Me.”  Clarence “Gatemouth” “Brown follows with his seminal song “Hurricane.”  Mr. Brown died of cancer on September 10, 2005 after having to evacuate his Katrina-damaged home in Slidell (near New Orleans) two weeks earlier. Marva Wright re-enacts the ground level experience in New Orleans during the flooding in “The Levee Is Breaking Down” and the Free Agents Brass Band perform their song of survival “We Made It Through the Water.” Here’s the complete playlist.

Here’s where I archive all my recorded shows.