Black Music Month – New Orleans Funk Edition 2021

A deep dive into Funk marks my third show in honor of African American Music Appreciation Month. In addition to celebrating another cultural gift to the world by African Americans, the show makes a pretty solid argument for why New Orleans should also be considered the birth place of Funk.

Get the music started and read on.

While James Brown is widely considered the originator of “Funk,” his work is built off of rhythms that derive from New Orleans. (Read Benjamin Doleac and Alexander Stewart for the academic explanation.)

The Meters, who formed in 1965 but didn’t release a record until 1969, combined those New Orleans rhythms (Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste) with George Porter’s bass, Art Neville’s organ and Leo Nocentelli’s guitar to make early funk classics like “Cissy Strut” and “Look-ka Py Py.” On the show you’ll hear a later song of the band’s “Funkify Your Life.”

As the in-house studio band for Allen Toussaint’s Sansu Records, the Meters provided the backing vocals and rhythm for a wide range of music by Lee Dorsey, Robert Palmer, Albert King, Etta James, the Pointer Sisters, LaBelle and Paul Mccartney. In fact, it was at McCartney’s record release party (Venus and Mars)  in New Orleans when Mick Jagger heard the Meters and arranged for the band to tour with the Rolling Stones.  In this week’s show, you’ll hear other Sansu artists including Betty Harris and Danny White. 

Later, you’ll hear a track from the seminal Wild Tchoupitoulas record which brought together the four Neville brothers as they assist their Uncle George Landry (Big Chief Jolly) record the first major release of a full Mardi Gras Indian album. It was this project that resulted in the brothers coming together as a band. 

You’ll also hear contemporary funk musicians who are still performing Walter Wolfman Washington, Corey Henry, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Sierra Green, Rebirth Brass Band, Soul Rebels and Hot 8 Brass Band. It’s two hours of funk — another great music form that would not exist if not for the fertile creativity of African American artists. 

Next week, the last show for this year’s African American Music Appreciation Month will focus on Blues and Zydeco. Please consider subscribing.

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.