Mardi Gras in New Orleans – Where Wearing a Mask has a Dual Purpose

Parades are rolling, crowds are gathering and there is the usual mayhem (both good and bad) that accompanies the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Next Tuesday is Mardi Gras and this week’s show provides the soundtrack to get you ready to “Do Whatcha Wanna.”

The first voice you’ll hear after I start the show is Kermit Ruffins rallying the troops (in this case Rebirth Brass Band, Trombone Shorty and Irvin Mayfield) for an extended second line pulled from the Los Hombres Calientes collection. And you’ll later get the feel of being there as music rolls by first with the Mardi Gras Indians Fi Yi Yi and the Mandingo Warriors rapping out their rhythm and then with The Original Pin Stripe Brass Band giving you that feel of watching a parade band go by – first the music a bit distant, then the volume increases as it comes to where you are standing, blasting away in your face and then it recedes as it moves on down the street. Pretty cool given the song, “Dancin’ at the Mardi Gras,” was recorded in a studio.

Al “Carnival Time” Johnson steps up next — not to sing the song that gave him his middle name but rather — to sing a new song in honor of the socially responsible new parade krewe, “Krewe of Red Beans.” Not only does this Krewe raise money and perform services that benefit the city’s arts and entertainment culture, they strive to create a fun parade event that everyone can enjoy and feel good about. Yes, I get on my soap box a bit but you can cut to the chase and read their “Costume Code of Ethics.”

Other aspects of Mardi Gras is explored by music, including the first all-female parade krewe, Krewe of Muses, noted for their parade throws of decorated shoes. Lena Prima sings her song “Muses Shoes” and Liese Dettmer sings about her experience with the super Krewe parade Endymion. Later, Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes portrays the two century old tradition of skull gangs leading his “We Are the Northside Skull and Bone Gang.”

Picture from the Original Northside Skull and Bone Gang facebook page.

You’ll hear a couple versions of “Mardi Gras Mambo.” The original, of course, featuring Art Neville and The Hawkettes but also one by Fredy Omar Con Su Banda. I like them both.

Cha Wa, Wild Magnolias, Bo Dollis, and Monk Boudreaux lay on some stylized Mardi Gras Indian music. The Melatauns do “Outta Be in the Quarter” and Chuck Carbo sings “Hey Mardi Gras (Here I Am).” There’s some other surprises because, its Mardi Gras!

Happy Fat Tuesday!

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Mama Don’t Like It But I Do – You Too?

This month’s Gumbo YaYa dance party starts off with Smiley Lewis’ “Mama Don’t Like It” an R&B spinoff of the even older “Mama Don’t Allow” standard. And a fitting start to the September dance party edition of Gumbo Ya Ya. If you can read this while dancing, go ahead and start the player below.

First, a nod to the victims of the Gulf of Mexico storm Ida, hitting Louisiana and Mississippi with Category 4 winds and picking up sky loads of water that created flash flooding in New Jersey and New York City. This is the time of year that I have produced a show-long annual recognition of Hurricane Katrina – a tradition I decided to retire this year.

This first long set of songs and a set later in the show were all recorded in the famous Cosimo Matassa studios which was located in the French Quarter in the 1950’s and 1960’s. You’ll hear some you expect such as Fats Domino and Little Richard but also Jessie Hill, Shirley & Lee, Paul Gayten, Roland Cook, Chris Kenner and The Showmen. These songs got the country to dance and still works for me.

The show allows you to catch your breath (because you are dancing to all this, right?) with a waltz by Shotgun Jazz Band and gradually works the pace back up to a frenzy with Tuba Skinny, Meschiya Lake, and Chloe Feoranzo. Later, Eddie Bo (“Check Your Bucket”), Earl King and two from the Meters allow us to show off our more funky moves.

Later in the show, if you have the stamina, we spin some Zydeco and a bit of salsa — thanks to Terrance Simien, Donna Angelle, Fredy Omar and Jon Cleary.

Al “Carnival Time” Johnson recording “Red Beans”

A little after the 30 minute mark, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson sings his new song “Red Beans”— a tribute to the Krewe of Red Beans which has been doing great work in supporting New Orleans’ entertainment community. Here’s more on them.