A summer musical wave of New Orleans headed our way

Our pleasant summers typically create a musical wave of touring performers in our region.  Today’s show explores the music of performers from New Orleans (and Lafayette)  who will be touring our area soon.  And there’s a bumper crop so start listening while I tell you more about upcoming shows.

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Quintron is rumored to be headed to Olympia around the July 4 holiday.

Delfeayo Marsalis, Dr. John and Donald Harrison Jr. get us started. And sadly, these performers will not be playing our area any time soon.

However, Quintron, an eclectic organist and inventor from New Orleans, will do shows in Portland and Seattle and is rumored (from a reliable source) that he will be performing in Olympia most likely on July 5.  He does an instrumental version of Ernie K-Doe’s New Orleans hit “Certain Girl.”  I also play Ernie K-Doe’s “Here Come the Girls” because Ernie is the patron saint of my show and this blog, and he has a connection with Quintron.

Albanie Falleta, a solo swing guitarist and vocalists, will be at Traditions Cafe in Olympia on June 24. Originally from Monroe, Louisiana but now living in New Orleans, Falleta has performed at Traditions before and has been building a devoted local following. Her “Black Coffee Blues” kick  off the second full set of this show.

Grammy Winner Rebirth Brass Band returns to Seattle for two shows at the Tractor Tavern (“Why Your Feet Hurt”) and Big Sam’s Funky Nation (“Hard to Handle”) will grace Mississippi Studios in Portland the Nectar Lounge in Seattle.

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Helen Gillet and her cello are slated to perform for the first time in Olympia on July 12.

Helen Gillet, a cellist from Belgium who relocated to New Orleans about 15 years ago, will be performing in Olympia in July. And Davis Rogan, who performed in Olympia this February just booked a return engagement here for mid-August.  You’ll hear examples of their music as well as others playing in the area, including Pine Leaf Boys, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Better than Ezra, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, The Revivalists and Marc Broussard. It’s a great line up and you can see when and where they’re playing on my concert page. 

Three years of Gumbo YaYa

Hello.  Today’s show marked three full years of airing a show about New Orleans music in a town over 2200 miles away from the Crescent City.  My thanks to community radio station KAOS and its listeners and supporters for letting me do this show.

Inkedcb_bday_LIThe show kicks off with Theryl “Houseman” Declouet with his infamous introduction regarding the third world status of New Orleans at a Galactic concert and flows quickly into Shamarr Allen’s “Party All Night.”  Al Hirt takes a turn and so does patron saint of this website and the show, Ernie K-Doe, with his classic “A Certain Girl.”  Who is she? Can’t tell ya.  I have reggae and hornpipes, jazz and blues and an amazing live airing of the Radiator’s 7 Devils from the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  It was that concert that cinched the deal for me that I would be coming back to New Orleans as often as I could.

Here’s the edited show from today (September 7, 2017) marking three years.  Thank you for listening.

K-Doe and Quintron — Another example of New Orleans musical gumbo

Politics may make strange bedfellows but strange bedfellows can make for some awesome and unique music.

For proof, check out “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” or one of my favorite events, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival where a wide range of musicians are often put on the stage together  to some magical effect.

But a musical melting pot is not new to New Orleans which has been stirring up the world’s cultures for three centuries. Congo Square is widely considered to have been the cauldron for brass bands and ultimately jazz. All it takes is a place for musicians of different stripes to gather, meet and mix it up.  A place, let’s say, like just about any bar in New Orleans.

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Ernie K-Doe is Emperor regalia outside his Mother-in-Law Lounge. The bar was named after his number one pop chart hit from 1961.

How about the Mother-in-Law Lounge? Founded originally to create a play space for one of New Orleans most famous eccentric R&B stars and the patron of this blog, Ernie K-Doe, the Mother-in-Law operated from 1992 to 2009. Here’s how Ben Sandmel, author of Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans described the lounge:

“. . .delight ensued from the lounge’s welcoming environment and the surreal sensory overload that walloped all who crossed the threshold. This physical entrance doubled as the conceptual portal into Ernie K-Doe’s eccentric parallel universe–a festive and unfettered happiness reigned supreme. . .The lounge’s hybrid ambience combined elements of a juke joint, a mosh pit, an R&B museum, and a cinematic set from Satyricon.”

Not surprisingly, the lounge attracted an eclectic mix of clientele particularly while Ernie was still alive. One regular was Robert Rolston a young keyboardist with his own eccentricities. Performing under the name of Quintron , he developed a style of punk, electronica, dance music that he dubbed “Swamp-Tech” –often performing with his artistic partner and wife, under the name of Quintron and Miss Pussycat.

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Mr. Quintron shares K-Doe’s affinity for bold, brash performances where there is no such thing as a mistake.

Ernie became friends with Quintron and in a way served as a mentor. Speaking of K-Doe, Quinton is quoted as saying “To him there was no failure onstage; he held stuff up with energy and emotion and screaming and shouting and turning disaster into glorious, successful, beautiful music. . . It was K-Doe’s music that made us gather around him–the way that K-Doe would perform. He was as punk as anyone.”

Quintron engineered and produced Ernie last two recorded songs, taped in the Mother-in-Law lounge. He also coaxed Ernie to be in his surreal infomercial created for one of his musical inventions called a drum buddy. Together, they performed Fever. You got to see it to believe it.   And here’s the full 49-minute infomercial.

I’ll be playing Ernie K-Doe, Quintron and many other New Orleans soul and R&B greats on my next show.  Tune in. Or listen to the edited podcast of that show (K-Doe and Quintron are saved for the last part of the program)

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)

Toussaint infused New Orleans sound into pop music

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Allen Toussaint plays the National Anthem at the Superdome. Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The French Quarter Festival, which showcases local music, could not have scored a better opening headliner this year than with the hometown artist whose creativity has nurtured the New Orleans sound for over a half century. (Listen to the show that complements this post.)

Allen Toussaint was a teenager when he first sat in on Earl King’s band and regularly scored gigs at the legendary Dew Drop Inn.

It wasn’t long before he found his way to the center of the known Rock n’ Roll universe at the time, Cosimo Matassa’s studio, where he laid down piano tracks on recordings by Fats Domino, Huey “Piano” Smith, and Aaron Neville. But it was when he joined Minit Records that his creativity became apparent to the world. Using his parent’s living room as rehearsal space and testing ground for new material, he assembled a parade of hit singles by Jessie Hill, Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey and this blog’s patron saint, Ernie K-Doe.

Ernie K-Doe best recordings were aided by the songwriting, arranging and producing of Allen Toussaint.

As a keyboard savant, Toussaint could accurately reproduce and synthesize the city’s revered legacy of piano professors, especially the style of Professor Longhair. But as a songwriter and arranger, he was able to weave the full panoply of New Orleans rhythms, vocal traditions and spirit into a clean appealing style for the pop market. In fact, he, along with K-Doe, were responsible for the sole number 1 pop chart hit recorded in New Orleans,  “Mother-in-Law.” (A song written before Toussaint was married and had one.)

Later, he started his own record labels providing a platform for local and national musicians to access the New Orleans sound. With The Meters as his studio house band, Toussaint was a key force behind the New Orleans funk sound that developed in the 70’s. A prolific songwriter, his music has been performed by The Rolling Stones (“Ruler of My Heart”), The Who (“Fortune Teller”), Bonnie Raitt (“What Do You Want the Boy To Do”), Devo (“Working in the Coal Mine”),  Al Hirt (“Java”), The Doors (“Get Out of My Life Woman”),  Jerry Garcia (“I’ll Take a Melody”), Glen Campbell (“Southern Nights”), Robert Palmer (“Sneaky Sally through the Alley”), The Pointer Sisters (“Yes, We Can Can”) and many more.

Linda and Paul McCartney performing with Allen Toussaint in his New Orleans studio in 1975.
Linda and Paul McCartney performing with Allen Toussaint in his New Orleans studio in 1975.

In 1973, Toussaint had a big hand in producing and performing on Dr. John’s album “In The Right Place.” Two years later, Linda and Paul McCartney moved their entourage to New Orleans to collaborate with Toussaint in his New Orleans studio on their album “Venus and Mars.”

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011. If there’s any question of whether being a senior statesman of New Orleans music has diminished his chops, you need only look as far as his grammy-nominated, post-Katrina collaboration with Elvis Costello, “The River in Reverse,” for evidence that at 77, he still has it.

In addition to being a producer, bandleader, arranger and songwriter, Toussaint is an accomplished pianist and stands with the great New Orleans piano “professors.” Toussaint will take the stage at the French Quarter Festival on April 9 at 3:45 p.m. but you will be able to catch his music on my next show this Monday. (Here’s the recorded show)

Community Stations like KAOS; WWOZ make a difference

Picture yourself at Tipitina’s in the early 80’s preparing to catch some funk by Zigaboo Modeliste and George Porter, Jr., and just as the band is about to begin, a microphone descends from the ceiling.

In the early years of WWOZ, Tipitina’s was the home of the station.

You would have been witnessing an early, glorious moment in community radio. Located in the beer storage room above the uptown New Orleans night club was the nascent community radio station, WWOZ. With that simple, low-tech approach, the station was able to broadcast a live performance–launching a 30-year tradition of supporting local music.

WWOZ has come a long way from that beer closet and now is readily recognized as the “Guardian of the Groove” in New Orleans.

While serving a smaller market, KAOS has a similar reputation for supporting the often overshadowed music scene in Olympia.

With the KAOS Fall Member Drive and the WWOZ Fall Member Drive, I thought it timely to talk about my two favorite radio stations and why financial support is essential to both.

Like many, I listen to more than one station. But I only pledge to KAOS and WWOZ.  I pledge to KAOS because its my default station that I listen to the most, providing a wide range of music and programming. I pledge to WWOZ because I love New Orleans and its music. Listening to the station connects me, albeit remotely, to the city I was born in. Without WWOZ, I would not have had the confidence to launch Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa – a show that wouldn’t exist without KAOS.

Here are the features I like about these stations.  They both are non-commercial, community radio stations. They both invite and train members of the community to volunteer as on-air hosts (deejays). While being “volunteer powered” means they’re not as slick as some commercial radio stations, the hosts convey an authentic, honest voice, portraying Olympia and New Orleans in a way that gives me a deeper understanding. These deejays work in the same community, walk the same sidewalks,  drink at the same bars (you get the idea.).

Both stations are cheerleaders for local music, regularly announcing live music events, hosting studio performances and interviewing musicians and other performers. This boosterism can matter.  In 1987, KAOS hosted the the first radio broadcast of Nirvana and this summer, Seattle’s Vaudeville Etiquette was written up by the music tracker CMJ because of airplay it received on KAOS.

Just last week, local musician Greg Black stopped by the KAOS table at Arts Walk and offered the station his new CD, recorded two blocks away at Dub Narcotic Studio. You’ll hear it, along with other local music, on KAOS.

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Ernie K-Doe, New Orleans singer and lounge owner, was a deejay with New Orleans community radio station WWOZ.

And like WWOZ whose shows have been hosted by musicians like James Booker, David Torkanowsky and Ernie K-Doe (this blog’s patron saint), many of the KAOS on-air hosts are musicians themselves.

Both stations offer more than music. WWOZ , owned by the same folks who bring us Jazz Fest, focuses on programs that delve into the music and culture of New Orleans. KAOS has a broader mission, providing alternative perspectives such as National Native News, Counter Spin and Workers Independent News. as well as locally produced public affairs programs like Parallel University, Speaking of Wellness and the one I contribute to, Community Connections Report.

Strong listener support for these stations are crucial. The additional funding helps enrich the quality of the programming. But it also demonstrates to underwriters and funders that the station is a valued resource worthy of their support. Please take the time to pledge to KAOS and pledge to WWOZ this week or whenever you read this.

Larger than Life K-Doe is patron saint of this blog

Meet Ernie K-Doe, a New Orleans performer and a character in a city of characters. He is now officially designated: Patron Saint of this Blog.

I have no idea what the criterion is to be a blog’s patron saint or even if this is a good idea. I suspect for someone who called himself Emperor of the World, Ernie might consider this gig slumming.  Then again, from what I’ve read, he was a generous and warm fellow despite his boastful swagger.

Ernie K-Doe’s claim to fame is the song Mother-in-Law (written by Allen Toussaint) which became the best-selling record in America in May 1961, topping the pop chart for one week and the R&B chart for five weeks.  No other New Orleans artist has ever reached the top with a song recorded in New Orleans. Fats Domino sold a mountain of records but never had a number one hit.

And Ernie K-Doe never let you forget his claim to fame. Not in his performances nor in his outrageous stints as a volunteer deejay for community radio stations WWOZ and WTUL–where his code phrase was “Burn K-Doe Burn.” He would say there are only two songs that will stand the test of time: Star Spangled Banner and Mother-in-Law.

But its not his R&B career that qualifies him as patron saint though it is an essential part of his resume. It has more to do with his stint as a community radio deejay given that this blog supports my radio show Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.  But what puts him over the top for patron canonization is what the Times-Picayune describes as “a robust and unexpected second act as an eccentric, only-in-New Orleans icon.”

Ernie’s turning point was meeting Antoinette Dorsey Fox–a woman with many talents including her ability to sew outlandish outfits to match his personality and to provide love and focus to a man who had taken the textbook life crash of a one-hit wonder.

Ernie in full Emperor regalia outside Mother-in-Law Lounge

Antoinette opened the Mother-in-Law Lounge at 1500 N. Claiborne Street in the shadow of Interstate 10 where K-Doe could perform as well as tend bar.  The lounge became a kitschy memorial to his career, including outsized murals of K-Doe and a jukebox that played his hit every 20 minutes — sometimes accompanied by the real-time K-Doe who kept a wired microphone nearby.

Despite being renovated after Katrina, the lounge closed after Antoinette died in 2009. Kermit Ruffins later bought it and reopened it this year with many of the murals restored.

I recommend reading Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans by Ben Sandmel. The New Orleans writer/folklorist makes it easy to feel a connection to Ernie even though we’ve missed our chance to meet or see him perform. He died in 2001.

Not that death stopped him. A local sculptor was able to adapt a mannequin into a life-size and lifelike rendition of Ernie. For a few years after his death, Antoinette dressed and brought the statute to gatherings around town, including a fundraiser for the benefit of New Orleans cemeteries.  In 2002, the benefit was held at Saint Alphonsus Catholic Church where I once subbed as an altar boy in the 60’s. Apparently the church was also used by Anne Rice as a setting in her novel The Witching Hour.

Antoinette with the Ernie K-Doe statue

Sandmel takes the story from here:   

“Although decommissioned as a place of worship and then reinvented as an arts center, Saint Alphonsus kept its full array of Catholic statuary in place. This holy horde looked on as the Madame Tussaud-esque K-Doe was plunked down in its sacred midst. A bodyguard named Cisco accompanied Ernie’s effigy. He stood stock-still by his charge’s side lest anyone should feel prone to K-Doe kleptomania. But almost everyone else at the church was in frenetic motion.  A zydeco band set up in front of the altar and cranked out upbeat two-steps and slow, low-down blues. This irresistibly danceable blend inspired the cemeteries’ more extroverted friends to twirl, bump and grind by the baptismal font, with their Lestat costumes and Goth garb all a-flutter.  At evening’s end Antoinette disassembled and packed up the statue like all mannequins, it is sectional–with the disarming comment, ‘I’m working poor Ernie to death!’”

Ernie and Antoinette

Poor Ernie. Now you gotta be my patron saint as well. I’ll be playing Ernie’s Certain Girl — a New Orleans favorite on the September 15th show on KAOS starting at 10 a.m.

POST SCRIPT: And I’ll honor his birthday on the February 23rd show.