A Gumbo Soundtrack for Your Summer Trip

Why should a little global pandemic stand in the way of a virtual summer trip.

​”Good times are down the road. . . .Mama won’t let me go. ” If sung today, Marcia Ball might sing her line as “COVID won’t let me go.” But why should a little global pandemic stand in the way of a virtual summer trip. Put your virtual mask on, click the sideways arrow in the box below and let’s get this week’s musical journey started with a ride on the “Magic Bus” courtesy of Billy Iuso.

You can go “Down the Road” with Marcia Ball in a “Big Old Rusty Car” by Big Al and The Heavyweights, on an “August Night” (Preservation Hall) going from “Austin to Destin” with Davis Rogan, on the Next Train (Ted Hefko and the Thousandaires), in the “Dog Days” (Little Queenie) of “High Summer” (Alex McMurray)​ and if you’re not “King of the Road”(James Booker cover)  by then you can “Go Out on the Road” (Hurray for the Riff Raff) on “Southern Nights” (Allen Toussaint’s long version). And that’s just the first half of the show.

Jimmy Carter had just moved into the White House when Glen Campbell’s “Southern Nights” began its climb to being the number one song in both the Billboard’s pop and country charts. But that version is nothing like the song delivered by the man who wrote it. Allen Toussaint started as a teenager working to shape the sound of New Orleans R&B with the help of Irma Thomas (who sings a Toussaint song later in the show), Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey and The Meters. But when he sings his autobiographical “Southern Nights,” he becomes a young city boy exploring the fascinating yet spooky outdoors in the backwaters of Louisiana on a weekend trip to visit relatives who don’t quite speak the same language. Yea, nice thing about a virtual trip like this is you don’t need to worry about the mosquitos!

Another song where it’s probably better to hear it than experience it is”Dog Days” by Leigh Harris (Little Queenie). In less than six minutes, this song covers all the aspects of the August heat in New Orleans. “How many baths can you take in one day.”

The second half of the show is a mixed bag of music featuring a bit of reggae by a no longer active Rock Steady group from New Orleans (007) and Dr. Michael White covering Bob Marley’s “One Love.” Later listen to Irma Thomas pivot on stage in a live recording to do a song she hadn’t sung in years. The band helps out with the forgotten lyrics with a great little jam near the end on “Hittin’ on Nothin.”

The show finishes with a Bon Bon Vivant number, “The Alchemist.” Abigail Cosio and Jeremy Kelley and their merry band of friends and musicians have created a relaxed and yet deceptively high tech presentation for their weekly live Facebook shows . The sound is great. The visuals are fun with camera work that puts you in the intimate room with them. You can watch the roughly one-hour shows at 5 p.m. West Coast time on Sundays or any time afterwards as a recording. And now because of some sort of magic that Jeremy hooked me up with, the same performance will show live on the Gumbo YaYa Facebook page.

Jeremy Kelley and Abigail Cosio of Bon Bon Vivant with friends and band members are providing a quality live feed of their weekly Sunday shows.

As I write this, I’ve been informed that COVID-19 virus was discovered in the building where the KAOS studio is located. As a result, the studio is in lockdown and the Olympia broadcast of the show will be postponed one week. Meanwhile in Bellingham (the City of Subdued Excitement), KMRE will be airing this week’s Gumbo YaYa two hours earlier this Friday (5 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.) because of its airing of the virtual Subdued Stringband Jamboree. But you can listen to the full show now. Thank you for tuning in.

Active NOLA musicians play their own compositions in today’s show

The concept for today’s show originates from our need at KAOS to periodically record the composer when we put up our play list on Spinitron. This got me thinking a bit more about how musicians are compensated for the airing of their music. Start the show and then read on.

Broadcast Music, Inc. is one of four United States performing rights organizations, along with the ASCAP, SESAC and Global Music Rights. It collects license fees on behalf of songwriters, composers, and music publishers and distributes them as royalties to those members whose works have been performed. 

As I understand it, the broadcast of music over a terrestrial radio station generates income for the composer but not for the performer. However, the streaming of the song on the Internet possibly generates revenue for both the performer and composer. I write “possibly” because there are a lot of “if’s” which I don’t have the brain bandwidth to understand. Also, the amount of money per spin is a small fraction of a penny.

The relevant piece of information here is that because BMI does a spot check on what we play, requiring us to list the composer, I decided to do a show that featured exclusively NOLA musicians playing their own compositions. I added an additional requirement that the musician be active — or at least still alive.

So here is what you’ll hear: Paula (Rangell) and the Pontiacs performing her original song . The prolific Alex Murray performing one of his originals. Flow Tribe doing their unique “Oh Yea.” Tin Men performing an original by band member Washboard Chaz Leary. Meschiya Lake performing a song by her sousaphone player Jason Jurzek. And on it goes. We cover jazz, blues, rock, and stuff in between.

The one exception to my self-imposed active musician rule is Leigh Harris’ wonderful “Dog Days.” Harris, known as Lil Queenie, is struggling with cancer. Here’s here fundraising site for her hospice care. All the rest of the performers heard on this show can be seen live usually playing around the New Orleans area.

I enjoyed creating this show and I bet you’ll enjoy listening to it. (did you get it started yet?) Please consider subscribing. Cheers.

A Full House: Three Kings and Two Shows

I’ve got two shows to share with you this week because I had to dash off last week and didnt’ have a chance to edit and upload until now

Start with this one which has three “kings” in it.

little freddie kingI celebrated Little Freddie King’s birthday with a song by him followed by a song by his namesake, Freddie King.  (That’s two of the kings). Little Freddie King is actually Fred Martin and he turned 78 last week.  I spin “I Used to be Down” from his latest release.  To get to that song though, I “force” you to listen to two jazz and rhythm and blues sets that include  tracks from new releases by Jon Cleary,  Sabertooth Swing and Tin Men. I hope you can survive and stick with the show for the third king.

Later in the show, I do a set of songs that Elvis Presley popularized, including Smiley Lewis singing “One Night of Sin.”  Elvis took the melody but toned down the lyrics so it was moreof  a love song and less of a confessional.  I did this so I could talk about “The King” a documentary about the American Dream viewed from the perspective of Elvis Presley’s life.  I interviewed the director, Eugene Jerecki for a different program, and I include a one-minute clip of that interview where he describes the amazing music in this movie.

The July 26 show celebrates saxophonists Kevin Harris’ birthday by playing “Swampthang” from the New Orleans Suspects live album recorded at the Maple Leaf club.  Kevin Harris, who performs with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, blows his horn with with the Suspect’s Jeff Watkins that must made that old nightclub feel like it was coming down.  This song alone is worth playing the show but you’ll also hear  Lil Queenie (and Dog Days by Leigh Harris), Dr. John, Charmaine Neville, Lena Prima, Slim Harpo, Zigaboo Modeliste, Larry Garner, Tab Benoit to name a few.

More women are taking the music stage in New Orleans

The obvious struggle by Republican candidates in their most recent debate to think of an American woman deserving to be on the $10 bill once again illustrated the dearth of awareness of women’s role in our history.

This issue is brought home to me almost every time I map out music for my New Orleans show. Perhaps because my knowledge and music library is not as extensive as I would like, I struggle to bring gender balance to my shows, particularly when  I play early jazz, R&B, funk and brass bands. But I also sense that New Orleans is no different than the broader music world where female musicians have struggled to get into the spotlight.

Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, was a pioneer in a male-dominated New Orleans R&B scene.
Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, was a pioneer in a male-dominated New Orleans R&B scene.

Finding music I can play that feature early New Orleans jazz women is pretty much impossible.  I only have a little more luck when I move into the New Orleans R&B era. Lots of great music recorded out of J&M Recording Studio heyday, but with the huge exception of Irma Thomas, and also Shirley Goodman, its mostly guys.

With the help of Jeff Hannusch’s book “The Soul of New Orleans – A Legacy of Rhythm and Blues,” I have learned about Jean Knight (Mr. Big Stuff), Martha Carter,  Mathilda Jones, and Barbara George.  And, of course, the Dixie Cups.

If you don’t recognize some of those names, you’re not alone. Finding their music to play on the radio takes work.

Similarly you might recognize Marva Wright and Charmaine Neville but what about Leigh Harris (Little Queenie) or jazz singer Germaine Bazzle? Many excellent female musicians  worked in New Orleans during the 20th Century but their recordings are sparse and scarce.

Fortunately, change is happening.  While it still doesn’t feel balanced, there is an increasing number of New Orleans-based women musicians who are getting recognized in our new century.  Helen Gillet, Aurora Nealand, Kelcy Mae, and Ingrid Lucia are carving a living out of the NOLA music landscape. Perhaps the most well-known in recent years is Alynda Lee Segarra who is the driving force behind Hurray for the Riff Raff.

And there’s growing recognition.  New Orleans Women In Music, founded in 2007, promotes the careers of women musicians through information, network and other support.

Debbie Davis is a member of the New Orleans Nightingale collective which has help put a spotlight on New Orleans female musicians.
Debbie Davis is a member of the New Orleans Nightingale collective which has help put a spotlight on New Orleans female musicians.

The New Orleans Nightingales is a marketing collective with whom Ingrid Lucia has produced a compilation featuring 19 female musicians.  Here’s the website description: “Steeped in the musical traditions of early American music, the ladies of the New Orleans Nightingales bring new life to this hundred year art form through new compositions, vibrant live performances and a commitment to the idea that traditional jazz and folk music is still evolving.”

I’m going to tip the gender balance scale of my next radio show, leaning heavily on the double X chromosome for my tunes.   Here’s the edited version of the show on Mixcloud.