George Wein’s influence in New Orleans will live forever

I cannot imagine what the New Orleans music scene would look like today without the half century legacy of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. So it should be no surprise that I give a nod to the recent passing of George Wein, one of the founders of the festival in this week’s show

First though, Fats Domino kicks off the program with one of his less well-known hits “I’m Ready.” A song that charted in the spring of 1959 with Domino cautioning: “Talking on the phone is not my speed. Don’t send me no letter, ’cause I can’t read. Don’t be long, ’cause I’ll be gone. We’ll go rock and rolling all night long.”

George Wein was a jazz pianist with his own nightclub and record label when he was hired in 1954 to organize a music festival in Newport, Rhode Island. The Newport Jazz Festival was a smash and he was invited to replicate that success in other communities, including New Orleans. While it took several years for the New Orleans festival to manifest, it appears that Wein was pivotal in helping to develop the concept of an affordable event with multiple stages where audiences were free to roam about and sample a variety of music. In short, the modern music festival. (though the affordability issue today is debatable.)

Wein was a regular performer over the years at the festival and I feature in this week’s show his 2003 performance of “Back Home Again in Indiana” from the Smithsonian Folkways 50th anniversary JazzFest compilation. You’ll also hear Beausoleil from that same compilation in recognition of that band’s upcoming performance in Olympia. See my calendar page.

But before Wein and after Domino, I feature a different kind of New Orleans music set starting with Quintron & Miss Pussycat’s “Shoplifter.” The distorted organ post-punk dance sound may not be what you think of as New Orleans music, but it is very much part of the New Orleans music scene. Galactic follows up with “Shibuya” — a very deep track from their release recorded live at Tipitina’s along with Papa Grows Funk’s “Gorillafaceugmopotamus!” and Lena Prima’s “Frog Legs Man.” It’s one wild set and I dare you to listen to all 25 minutes of it.

Noted for her clarinet and saxophone, Aurora Nealand is multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer.

Later in the show, I highlight four projects by Aurora Nealand who has been recognized by DownBeat Magazine for her ability to perform with clarinet and soprano saxophone. So you will hear her work with nightclub mainstays Panorama Jazz Band and The Royal Roses. You’ll also hear from her unique rockabilly project Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers and her original solo project called The Monocle which has been brought to life in a fully staged adaptation a few year’s back.

Tank and the Bangas, Lakou Mizik, Alex McMurray and the New Orleans Swinging Gypsies follow along with others including two covers of “I’m Ready” by Davell Crawford and someone named “George” from an unmarked Jay Miller recording included in the Swamp Pop by the Bayou compilation.

Thanks for tuning in.

Swinging into African American Music Appreciation Month

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.),

Fats Domino (left) and Dave Bartholomew generated a mountain of hits, enjoyed by a broad audience.

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.

I also do a set of music by the stable of artists who worked with Allen Toussaint Ernie K-Doe, Benny Spellman, Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey, Eldridge Holmes and Diamond Joe.

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.

Digging deep for October New Orleans music show

For this week’s show, I casually thumbed (digitally) through my collection of roughly 15,000 songs -almost all from Louisiana and mostly from New Orleans. I selected mostly songs that I haven’t played in awhile if at all, including breaking into a new release by a band I just got acquainted with The New Orleans Johnnys. You can start the show now which begins with Jon Cleary doing “Big Greasy.”

The Beatles hanging with Fats Domino

After Cleary sings and I get on to say “hi,” I play Paul McCartney’s version of “I Want To Walk You Home” from the two-disc Fats Domino tribute release. There’s no secret of the high affection McCartney has for Domino. And McCartney’s rendition of the song can best be described as loving. And there’s much more to love in that same set including Irma Thomas covering Nora Jones’ “Thinking About You” and Alex McMurray’s “The Get Go.”

The second set includes two great jams, one from a band not from New Orleans but is well regarded there. I pulled “Once You’re There” by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe from a live recording featured on a WWOZ release. Charlie Wooton Project follows it with “Fulton Alley” — providing over 16 minutes of fine musicianship.

Because the COVID-19 restrictions are still keeping me from the KAOS studio, my shows are not broadcast live allowing me to do longer sets and fewer breaks. And this week, I did some deep dives for music by John “Papa” Gros, Herlin Riley, Little Sonny Jones, Lil Rascals Brass Band, Helen Gillet, and Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet.

Near the end of the show, I do two tracks by The New Orleans Johnnys which I believe used to perform under the moniker “N’awlins Johnnys.” If so, I appreciate the change. They’re not a gimmicky band for tourist. Thier new album “Outta Ya Mind” delivers original New Orleans funk rock songs. I look forward to hearing more from them. You’ll also hear another track from the latest record by the prolific octogenarian Bobby Rush.

Oh, I forgot to mention the reason for the moon picture on the Mixcloud bar. Miss Sophie Lee sings “Blue Moon.” Tonight is a full moon which means later in the month, we’ll get another one . . . a blue moon. Cheers. Drop me line and consider subscribing.

Gumbo YaYa Attempts to Clear the Air with Fire and Smoke

If smoke has been getting into your eyes lately, perhaps its also worth getting it into your ears with this week’s show featuring “Fire” by Rebirth Brass Band and “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” by Buckwheat Zydeco.

The first full set attempts to exorcise the fire and smoke demons bedeviling the West Coast — though a rational climate policy would be a far better approach. I start with”Something in the Air” by Kid Eggplant and the Trad Melatauns and written by Papa Eggplant (aka Sidney Snow) and featuring Bruce Brackman on clarinet.

In recognition of the passing of Frederick “Toots” Hilbert, the show dives into a Jamaican-theme set starting with Toots and the Maytals performing the classic Fats Domino hit “Let the Four Winds Blow.” It’s an appropriate choice given the pivotal role Domino and songs like “Be My Guest” (which you will also hear) play in helping to shape early Rock Steady and Reggae music. The set progresses from there culminating in Bonerama’s “Sun Lion” and returning to the clarinet with Dr. Michael White’s take on Bob Marley’s “One Love.”

Lee Mohler (second from left) with Artesian Rumble Arkestra at Honkfest West in Seattle.

Lee Mohler joins me at that point. Lee is a trumpet player for the Artesian Rumble Arkestra — a collective of Olympia-area musicians who best exemplify, at least locally, the spirit of New Orleans second line music. Lee also serenaded our children and their classmates on an overnight school field trip playing “Taps” while they crawled into sleeping bags on a gymnasium floor in the Columbia Gorge in what feels like about two hundred years ago. Lee and I have visited New Orleans together and he shares some of his love for the music with Smoking Time Jazz Club playing in the background.

I also recognize the passing of blues guitarist Bryan Lee who held down for many years a regular stint at the Old Absinthe House. Lee has 17 albums to his name but I thought, given his passing, I would honor him with a very upbeat original song from his all-Gospel final release – Sanctuary.

Maria Muldaur, Shamarr Allen, Sarah Quintana, Guitar Lightnin Lee, Spider Murphy and over a dozen others join us to fill out two hours of music from New Orleans. Thanks for tuning in. Consider subscribing which means you’ll get a notice every time a new show posted. Cheers.

African American Music – What I Love About New Orleans

This week’s show honors African American Music Month which is not much of a reach for a show of New Orleans music. Without the musical creations of African Americans, there would be no Gumbo YaYa program. (See this and that.) This week’s show only features musicians of African descent.

President Carter initially named June as Black Music Month in 1979. President Obama renamed the month with a proclamation that said “Songs by African-American musicians span the breadth of the human experience and resonate in every corner of our Nation — animating our bodies, stimulating our imaginations, and nourishing our souls.” He got that right.

Statue of Buddy Bolden in Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans

While the first jazz record was by the all-white Original Dixieland Jazz Band — the bandleader and drummer were sons of Sicilian immigrants, the earliest practitioners were mostly of African-Americans. No recordings exist of Buddy Bolden and his band, but many consider him to be the closest that jazz comes to having a father. Close followers Jelly Roll Morton and King Joe Oliver perfected their craft in New Orleans before taking it to New York and Chicago. Meanwhile, Oscar “Papa” Celestin and Kid Thomas were keeping the home fires burning by continuing to perform in New Orleans. You’ll hear music from all these African-American musicians in the first full set of the show.

Becky, a listener and fan of New Orleans, provides an intro for the second full set featuring Roy Brown’s Good Rockin’ Tonight, Dave Bartholomew‘s “Country Boy” and Fats Domino‘s first recording “The Fat Man.” Also in this set are less heard songs by New Orleans singers including one by Patsy Vidalia — a performer who might be a trans woman in this era but who in the 50’s found comfort singing as a “cross dresser” in night clubs.

The third set is New Orleans blues –a genre that is exclusively embedded in the African American experience yet is copied and propagated throughout the world by musicians of all backgrounds. Lizzie Miles, Lead Belly, and Champion Jack Dupree nail down that set.

The New Orleans Spiritualettes and the Treme Brass Band provide gospel numbers in a set that then rolls into two other brass band numbers, including “Who Dat Called Da Police” by New Birth Brass Band.

A few years back while performing on television, Miley Cyrus drew attention to a dance move called “twerking” but the music and dance moves that go with it are very much African American creations and also very much from New Orleans. You’ll hear the first “Bounce” record that could be played on the radio with a set that includes The Neville Brothers, Leyla McCalla, Professor Longhair and James Booker. You might call it the miscellaneous set since I really can’t cover all the styles of African-American music in two hours. Where’s the funk, Sweeney?! (sorry)

I finish the show with songs representing Mardi Gras Indians, the Northside Skull and Bones gang and Zydeco. Thank you for tuning in.

Black Lives Matter!

Photo of the Joy Theater Marquee by Davis Rogan. Photo of Mardi Gras Day participant and his shirt by Mary Groebner.

Bartholomew shaped the sound that became rock and roll

With this week’s show, I try to capture in music the place in rock and roll history of Dave Bartholomew, who passed away recently. You can get the show started now and then read on.

Born on Christmas Eve in 1918, Dave Bartholomew was already a bandleader by the time he entered the Army during World War II. As a member of the 196th Army Ground Forces Band, he gained experience in writing and arranging music. By the end of the 40’s with the war over and with folks ready to dance, he led one of the hottest bands in New Orleans becoming part of the evolution of swing into R&B.

Fats Domino (left) and Dave Bartholomew generated a mountain of hits, all recorded from studios run by Cosimo Matassa.

The pivotal year for him was 1950 when he released his first big hit “Country Boy “(which starts the first full set of the show) and he met, recruited into the studio and recorded Fats Domino, scoring a big hit right out of the box with “The Fat Man” (also featured in the first set). His 14-year work relationship with Domino became one of the most celebrated collaborations in rock and roll. Bartholomew wrote and co-wrote many of Domino’s songs, arranged the horns, performed on his records and basically managed the musicians both in the studio and on tour.

During this time, he worked with many other New Orleans artists through his relationship with Lew Chudd and Imperial Records. One of of these talents was Smiley Lewis who you’ll hear singing the original recording of “Blue Monday.” Other artists were Pee Wee Crayton, Shirley and Lee, Snooks Eaglin and Lloyd Price (for Specialty Records). You’ll hear them all performing songs written or arranged by Bartholomew.

A fine musician (trumpet) and singer, Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame as a non-performer in 1991 — largely because of his deep involvement with Cosimo Matassa’s J&M studio in New Orleans and, according to his Hall of Fame bio, his ability to shape “the rhythmic orientation of that city into a sound everyone would come to know and love as rock and roll.”

I finish out my Bartholomew segment with covers of Bartholomew/Domino songs by Galactic, George Porter Jr., the Roamin’ Jasmine and Allen Toussaint. Federal streaming rules limit how many songs I can play of one artists so I didn’t play “My Ding-a-Ling” a Bartholomew song made famous by Chuck Berry. In prepping for the show, I noticed a fairly significant difference between Berry’s version and Bartholomew’s. While Berry caught some controversy over the suggestive lyrics of his version, he probably would have gotten in even more trouble had he used the lyrics sung by Bartholomew in the original recording.

Bartholomew’s family carries on the tradition of music making. Here is an OffBeat Magazine article that tells you more.

The rest of the show focuses on the music of Louisiana acts that will be performing in the Northwest this summer. I hope you have the chance to see one of these artists live. Here’s the schedule. Thanks for tuning in.

Celebrating Birthday of Swamp Pop Pioneer

If you grew up with the phrase “See You Later Alligator,” chances are you are also familiar with the hit song by Bill Haley and the Comets. Today’s show features songs by the songwriter (Robert Charles Guidry) who wrote and originally recorded that record.

However, the show starts with Dr. John singing “Let the Good Times Roll” which you would know by now if you would just click the arrow below.

Born February 21, 1938, Bobby Charles is noted for being an early adopter and developer of the “swamp pop” sound that originated from south Louisiana’s Acadiana region. Swamp Pop had its heyday in the early 60’s but has seen a resurgence with recent releases by Roddie Romero, The Revelers and Yvette Landry. The latter featuring covers of Bobby Charles songs, including “Yea, Yea Baby” which you’ll hear in the show. I also play Fats Domino’s “Walking to New Orleans” and Bobby Charles” rollicking rendition of “Take It Easy, Greasy.”

Today’s show kicks off though with a solid set of jazz with Dr. Michael White, Tuba Skinny, Kid Ory, Smoking Time Jazz Club, Louis Armstrong, and Eight Dice Cloth.

This show also features some Cajun music and another set of Mardi Gras inspired songs, including Los Hombres Calientes’ “Mardi Gras Second Line.”

Stick with the show into the second hour and you’ll hear Maria Muldaur’s naughty version of “Trombone Man Blues” and a sweet, bluesy cover of “If I Had a Hammer.” The show finishes with Jon Cleary’s “Zulu Strut.”

Thanks for tuning in.

Valentine Show Seeks to Make Love a Bit Easier

I know I’m buying into the whole commercial thing of doing songs about love on Valentine’s Day. So what! Once you start the show with the Tin Men’s cover of “I’m in Love Again,” you won’t care either.

I mean, you can’t go wrong with a song about love where the besotted one (in this case Fats Domino who originally sang the song) suggests to his new lover “Baby, don’t you let your dog bite me.”

Earl King takes it up a notch with his “Love is a Way of Life” from his Sexual Telepathy album. Teedy Boutte follows that up with a cover of “Piece of My Heart.” But really it was all a set up for me to play “Ten Commandments of Love.” Yea, if you’re still with me by then, you are a softy.

Cover of Lindell’s album – Matters of the Heart

Eric Lindell provides a more contemporary original rhythm and blues tune called “You Look So Good in Love,” followed by The Iguanas edgy “Nervous.” Kelcy Mae rocks out the end of the set with “(Don’t Be Stupid with) My Love.”

Yvette Landry & the Jukes do the hit off her new album, “I Need Somebody Bad,” (“because I just lost somebody good.”) The Write Brothers follow that up with another lost love song “Losin’ You” and Snooks Eaglin takes on the classic “Careless Love” to finish that set of frustrated love songs.

The next set features some great jazz with Kid Thomas, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Shotgun Jazz Band, finishing with Maria Muldaur’s version of the Blu Lu Barker number “Loan Me Your Husband.”

Michael Doucet, the force behind BeauSoleil, turned 68 on Valentine’s Day so I do a set of his music.

I take a short Mardi Gras music break – yes, its still Mardi Gras season — before finishing with one last love song set with Lynn Drury, Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Big Al and the Heavyweights. If you hang in there for this set, you’ll get a treat of Lenny Kravitz singing “Whole Lotta Loving” with Rebirth Brass Band and Trombone Shorty backing him up .

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Gumbo YaYa asks “What Do You Want?”

Back in the 80’s, I think I played the grooves off my Tubes album with the song “What Do You Want From Life.” The last line regarding a “baby’s arm holding an apple” never failed to crack me up. In this show, I’m perhaps just a bit more of serious in my pursuit of an answer from the perspective of New Orleans music. Go ahead, get it started . . .you might need to.

What do you want from life? if its Slim Harpo, its money, not alibis. But for Scott Ramminger, its without a doubt a new body. (I can relate). Fats Domino is content if you’ll just let him walk you home. But John Mooney feels like hollerin’ instead. Dr. John would like to make sure New Orleans can mourn properly in a post-Katrina song.

Lots of musicians need love, don’t we all. Johnny Adams needs a lot of loving while Yvette Landry needs somebody bad (since she just lost somebody good). Carol Fran would be happy just to be “be’d with”. Chubby Carrier channels Bad Company with “Feel Like Making Love.”

Some needs are a bit hard to explain, like the Radiators “I Want to Go Where the Green Arrow Goes” while others are relatively clear (sort of) such as Marcia Ball’s need for “The Right Tool for the Job.”

Rebirth Brass Band makes it clear they feel like “Busting Loose” while Charmaine Neville is happy with a good song and Albanie Falletta seeks “Someone to Dance With.”

My hope is you’ll at least need to listen to a bit of the show and let me know what you think by subscribing or leaving a comment. Cheers.

New Orleans loaded with African-American musical history

Today’s show honors African-American History Month (February) with a musical tour through jazz, R&B, funk, Mardi Gras Indian, hip hop and bounce music from New Orleans.  Start the show by clicking the arrow below and then read the rest of my show notes.

New Orleans may have been founded by the French, rebuilt by the Spanish and bought by the U.S., but its the African ingredients that make the New Orleans cultural gumbo so rich.

King Oliver
King Oliver’s Creole Band, featuring a young Louis Armstrong.

The very short story is that the rhythms of Africa and the Caribbean blended with European instruments in New Orleans to create jazz.  But it was African-Americans, many who were descendants of slaves, who made the music happen.

 

The show’s first set features Sidney Bechet who came from a musical middle-class family that lived in the Marigny neighborhood. I follow him up with a quick race to contemporary times with Dr. Michael White and Doreen Ketchens.  It’s a strong set of clarinet solos.

The second set kicks off with Louis Armstrong and follows with two of his mentors King Oliver and Kid Ory.   Jelly Roll Morton, who started playing the New Orleans brothels at 14, starts off my last set of jazz. Morton is followed by Kid Thomas who was faithful to the New Orleans jazz tradition throughout his career that spanned from the 1920’s to 1970.  But 100+ year old Lionel Ferbos wins the longevity award and sings “Pretty Doll/Ugly Child.”

The show moves into R&B with a rollicking three-piano version of Boogie Woogie with Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington and Allen Toussaint. But its Deacon John’s “Jumpin’ in the Morning” that gets your ass shaking.   Somewhere in there, I talk about the Dew Drop Inn and include an excerpt from an interview of Kenneth Jackson about his grandpa, Frank Pania who started the Dew Drop Inn and was part of a civil action that ended arrests for racial mixing.

dew drop inn
The Dew Drop in during its heyday.

Which made that a good time to play Fats Domino, whose concerts were the site of at least four major riots. Some blame the music, some blame the alcohol but Rick Coleman who wrote a biography of Fats Domino contends that the riots were at least in part incited by racial mixing in a time period when much of our country recognized and practiced “apartheid.”

The show rolls on with only African-American musicians and vocalists, including a set of Black Creole music of South Louisiana, which is often called “Zydeco.”  And I closed the show with “Get Lucky” with bounce artist Big Freedia performing with the Soul Rebels.

I hope you enjoy the show and consider subscribing to keep getting my latest shows.