New Orleans deserves more recognition for its funk

This week’s show is a funky one.  Get the show started by clicking the Mixcloud arrow then read how Ohio scooped New Orleans on the funk

meters.jpgA recent NPR story about Dayton, Ohio having a Funk Hall of Fame took me a bit by surprise.  It’s not that I have anything against Ohio though I resent the tendency of their vote for president seeming to count more than mine. And yes, there are some fine funk bands from Dayton (Ohio Players, Heatwave, Zapp, etc.).

Like many though, when I think of funk masters, I think James Brown, George Clinton and, well, The Meters.  In the late 60’s, Art Neville (keyboards), George Porter, Jr. (bass), Leo Nocentelli (guitar) and Zigaboo Modeliste (drums) became the studio band for Allen Toussaint backing hits like “Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky,” sung by Lee Dorsey. And while they didn’t make it as big as some of the mid-70 funk bands, The Meters, along with James Brown, are widely considered to be the originators of the funk sound.

But its not that simple.  The Meters were influenced by New Orleans parade rhythms, Professor Longhair,  and Earl Palmer, who before moving to Los Angles to be part of the famed “Wrecking Crew,” was part of the Cosimo Matassa studio band that created many of the early R&B hits by Fats Domino and Little Richard.  The same Little Richard sound that James Brown cited as being an influence on his funk sound.

So why isn’t the Funk Hall of Fame in New Orleans?  Probably for the same reason there’s not a decent Jazz or R&B museum in New Orleans. Dayton made it happen and New Orleans didn’t.   Well, least the music is good. Other acts on this show include Corey Henry, Galactic, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Dr. John, Eddie Bo, New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Jon Cleary, Papa Grows Funk and Walter “Wolfman” Washington.

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.