K-Doe, Kermit, Morgus, others join Gumbo YaYa’s 300th show

This week, I celebrate six years of spinning New Orleans music on KAOS. Longevity does not suggest popularity since a show’s survival on community radio mainly depends on the ability to understand and follow FCC and station rules and a stubborn consistency on the part of the DJ. I often wonder what Olympia and Bellingham listeners must think when they hear musicians with names like Kermit, K-Doe and Quintron from a city over 2,600 miles away.

But its my show’s birthday and I’ll do what I want to. So for my 300th show in celebration of six years on the air, you’ll hear music from those names and many more. That is, if you click the sideways arrow above to listen. Or if the player is not visible (sometimes happen) here’s the link to the show.

This live album gives some idea what Vaughan’s was like during Kermit’s 20-year Thursday night gig..

This week’s celebfation provided a good reason to start off with “Happy Birthday Hallelujah” by the Brass-a-Holics. Then I transport to the dance floor of Vaughan’s thanks to songs by Kermit Ruffins and Corey Henry. These two musicians have anchored the Thursday night live show at this Ninth Ward lounge for three decades. Vaughan’s only offers live music one night a week but its a helluva night. Just ask Jay Mazza who wrote a book about it.

Ingrid Lucia follows up with an enticing invitation for a “Midnight Rendevous” and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes drive home my desperate desire to hang out in a crowded bar listening to live music with another jam from their recent Maple Leaf live double-disc release.

Then the crazy stuff starts with Morgus the Magnificent. One of the original late night TV fright show hosts, Morgus was created by Sidney Noel Rideau who did some other amazing things in his 90 years on the planet. But when he passed away last week, the city mourned for Morgus and his various stints on New Orleans television in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s – – and beyond in the form of reruns. I’ve written about Morgus more extensively here. On this week’s show you’ll hear an early R&B favorite “Morgus the Magnificent” and Galactic’s inspired use of one of his skits in “Friends of Science.” The Iguanas, John Mooney and the Soul Rebels, Alexey Marti, Bon Bon Vivant,the Hot 8 Brass Band and the New Orleans Nightcrawlers fill out that set.

Ernie K-Doe is the patron saint of this website and as well as Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa so he has to make an appearance on my annual celebrations. Quintron introduces him with his take on K-Doe’s “Certain Girl” and just as the earworm drills in, Ernie takes over with his original version of that song. Why? “Can’t Tell Ya.” (You’ll also hear a little bit of K-Doe when he deejayed for WTUL.). And here’s more about the interesting relationship of Quintron and K-Doe.

Louis Armstrong, Jean Knight, Slim Harpo, Aurora Nealand, some more brass bands, Allen Toussaint and many more join the party if you wish to hang with me for the full two hours of music. As a birthday present, consider going to the upper right hand corner of this page and subscribing to weekly alerts about the show.

Oh, and if you forgot to click the sideways arrow, here it is again:

Tipitina’s keeps the legacy alive while contributing to the future

Professor Longhair may have memorialized the corner of Rampart and Dumaine in “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” but his memory and spirit live on at a different street corner, Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas, in a music venue that bears the name of another of his classics, “Tipitina.”

A bust of Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland Byrd) sculpted by Coco Robicheaux stands guard at the entrance of the New Orleans music venue that bears the name of his song Tipitina. – Photo by Alex Brandon / Times-Picayune archive

Rampart and Dumaine is the original location of J&M Studios, run by Cosimo Matassa. The location is recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a landmark site and it’s a laundromat – with mixed but generally positive Internet reviews.

Tipitina’s, on the other hand, is a great example of how cool stuff can happen out of love for music and doing the right thing. Just as Preservation Hall is dedicated to keeping New Orleans jazz alive, Tipitina’s was conceived with the notion of honoring the city’s early R&B and Rock ‘n Roll legacy.

When the venue opened in 1977, it’s goal was to provide a public performance space for aging and almost forgotten R&B and Blues artists like Fess (Henry Roeland Byrd), Jessie Hill, Snooks Eaglin, Earl King and others. Tips was born from an act of love by a group of investors who collectively and affectionately became known as the “fabulous fo’teen.”

Neville Brothers in front of the Longhair mural at Tipitina’s. Photo by Leon Morris from the WWOZ website.  WWOZ’s early years were spent located above Tip’s in the beer storage room.

The venue also provided a platform for other local musicians, such as the Radiators, Little Queenie and the Percolators, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Continental Drifters and the Neville Brothers.

Tipitina’s in those earlier years was quite a bit different than it is today.  Music author Jay Mazza described a summer show this way:  “Sometimes it was so humid in the place that the clouds of smoke seemed to be seeded with water.  The smoke hung low in the room. Both bands and patrons alike were soaked to the bone within minutes. A trick learned early on was to bring extra shirts for changing between sets. . . Still everyone loved the place . . there always has been an amazing vibe associated with Tipitina’s.”

While the venue provided many great musical moments in the late 70s and early 80s, it struggled financially and eventually shuttered for about a year and a half. When it reopened in 1986, a major renovation made it far more attractive for musicians and their patrons. The warehouse-like building was opened up, creating a balcony level with higher ceilings, better circulation, improved bathrooms, and air conditioning.

Tacoma band Girl Trouble performing at the Capitol Theater this month. Like Tipitina's the theater has a history of providing local groups a platform to perform.
Tacoma band Girl Trouble performing at the Capitol Theater this month. Like Tipitina’s the theater has a history of providing local groups a platform to perform.

This is a nice example of how some key changes could make an Olympia venue more attractive.

Tipitina’s also kicked up their bookings, continuing to stage local artists but adding national and international acts to the mix, building a worldwide reputation.

To get an idea of the artists who have performed at Tipitina’s, check out its index of musicians, some of whom are honored with additional recognition on the sidewalk outside: the New Orleans Walk of Fame.

Tipitina’s honors New Orleans musical legacy inside and outside with its Walk of Fame.

Another cool feature of Tipitina’s is its Foundation. It’s not every place where you can rock out to amazing music, with the understanding that profits go to support the very music scene you’re enjoying.  The Foundation purchases instruments for Louisiana schools, provides ongoing youth music workshops, offers an after school jazz and digital recording program under the artistic direction of Donald Harrison, Jr. and provides a a statewide network of workforce development and job skills training centers for musicians, filmmakers and other media professionals.

Jazz artist Donald Harrison, Jr. heads up the Tipitina’s internship program.

And you never know what you’ll find at Tips. An Olympia friend told me about how she and her partner on a NOLA visit wandered into the uptown bar on a late Sunday afternoon, ordered a beer and found themselves drawn into a Cajun Fais Do Do.

So next trip to NOLA, put Tips on your list. Until then, you can catch many of the musicians who perform there on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, every Monday from 10 a.m. to noon on your community radio station, KAOS.